Rookie Corner – 208 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 208

A Puzzle by Raven

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This is Raven’s second puzzle in Rookie Corner. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Raven.  I think that this was not a tough as his first crossword.  There was a lot of attention to the wordplay in the crossword and some good misdirection.  However, as with his first crossword, the use of abbreviations needs attention.  In particular, setters should only use abbreviations that are recognised by one of the major dictionaries.  There were some stretched definitions as well in a couple of places where, in an effort to maintain the surface reading of the clue, the accuracy of the definition was sacrificed.

The grid has a number of entries with fewer than half of the letters cross-checked.  As these clues also did not have the initial letter checked, this adds a level of complexity.

In terms of the commentometer, today’s scores on the doors are (5/24) or 20.8%


1 Immediately happy ending, American, tacked onto Doctor Who? (9)
ANONYMOUS – A four letter word meaning immediately followed by the last letter (ending) of happy, a two letter abbreviation for a doctor the abbreviation for United States (American).  Even with the question mark, the definition is a bit of a stretch.

8 Prepared for war in bad dream, with some overwhelming fear (5,3,5)
ARMED AND READY – An anagram (bad) of DREAM followed by a three letter word for some around (overwhelming) a five letter word for fear.

11 Writer with lie about being related to Johnson? (6)
PENILE – A three letter word for an instrument used for writing followed by an anagram (about) of LIE.  The definition is a slang expression for the male reproductive organ not related to any individual.

12 Criticise doctor’s regressive examination for cancer (8)
BLASTOMA – A five letter word meaning to criticise followed by a two letter abbreviation for a doctor reversed (regressive) and the abbreviation for advanced as in A-Level (examination).  A couple of points on this clue.  The abbreviation for doctor has already been used in a 1a so a different abbreviation should ideally has been used.  Also to clue the A for examination is misleading as the A is short for Advanced and not examination.  A on its own is not an examination.

14 Record for sleepers perhaps – not one bed empty (10)
TRANSCRIBE – Remove the I (not one) from a word for a type of transport of which sleepers are an example, follow this with a four letter word for a child’s bed and an abbreviation for empty.  E for empty is not a recognised definition in the dictionaries for Empty.  As mentioned in his first crossword, setters should use only abbreviations recognised by one of the main dictionaries.  Also the structure of the clue with definition for wordplay does not work.  It should be wordplay for definition.

15 Stable future homeowner spoke of? (4)
BYRE – A homophone (spoke of) of buyer (future homeowner).  Perhaps spoken of would be better grammatically.

17 Deli working is shiftless (4)
IDLE – An anagram (working) of DELI.

18 Scrambler maybe given short time to salvage energy lost (10)
MOTORCYCLE – A two letter word for a short period of time followed by the TO from the clue and a word meaning to salvage or reuse without an E (energy lost).

20 Striving for equality, give weight to animal disability (8)
HANDICAP – Double definition, the first used in racing terms to describe equalising the weight of horses and the second (closely related) a disability.

21 Heavyweight completes trek primarily deficient in salt (6)
ALKALI – A four letter word for a trek with the first first letter removed (primarily deficient) followed by the name of a world champion heavyweight boxer.  I suspect that whilst salts may have the chemical ph property of the solution, this does not make the solution salts.

23 Lenient ethics irritated philosopher (13)
LIECHTENSTEIN – An anagram (irritated)  OF LENIENT ETHICS.  In terms of definitions, there is no well known philosopher of this name.

24 Ancient German rye bread fermented (9)
GREYBEARD – The abbreviation for German followed by an anagram (fermented) of RYE BREAD.


2 Unnecessary hassle on Saturdays (8)
NEEDLESS – A six letter word meaning irritate or hassle followed by two letters S (Saturdays).  S for Saturday is not a recognised definition.  To get the required letter requires a two step solving process to get from Saturday to the Jewish Sabbath to the required abbreviation as S.

3 Need a try, getting nothing even close (4)
NEAR – The odd letters (getting nothing even) in the first three words for the clue.  Perhaps with nothing even would be better.

4 One might overlook the third eye, being unintellectual? (10)
MIDDLEBROW – A cryptic definition of what might sit above a third eye on a persons forehead.  I would not say that the answer being unintellectual – it is mid-way after all.

5 On edge of misfortune as yields reduced (6)
UNEASY – The answer is hidden in (reduced) in MISFORTUNE AS YIELDS.

6 Taoiseach initially governed, rested, then left on jaunt over to America (13)
TRANSATLANTIC – The first letter (initially) of Taoiseach followed by a three letter word meaning governed, a three letter word meaning rested, the abbreviation for left and a five letter word for a jaunt.

7 Unconventional dictionary is arranged by chapter (13)
IDIOSYNCRATIC – An anagram (arranged) of DICTIONARY IS followed by the abbreviation for Chapter.

9 Draw attention to small round swollen belly (9)
SPOTLIGHT – A six letter word meaning small around a three letter word for a fat or swollen stomach.

10 Stuntman survived generation, died in retirement (9)
DAREDEVIL – A reversal (in retirement) of a six letter word meaning survived, a three letter word for a generation or period of time and the abbreviation for died.

13 Grant royal reform in haughty manner (10)
ARROGANTLY – Aan anagram (reform) of GRANT ROYAL.

16 Gangrene’s covering most of nerve – to lift, one uses a chisel!… (8)
SCULPTOR – A reversal (to lift) of a word describing gangrene with the final S from the ’s in the clue around a word for nerve or courage with the final letter removed.

19 …One separates dead flesh from affected person! (6)
MINCER – Double definition for something used to chop meat and an affected person.

22 Planter chopped stake (4)
ANTE – The answer is hidden in (chopped) PLANTER.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner – 208

  1. That was hard work and there are a couple where I can’t find justification for the meaning of the definition. I don’t think that ‘salt’ is right for 21a and Google cannot find for me a philosopher for 23a who is spelt as required for the answer and suspect that Raven meant us to find the one who does not have the first E in their name. Still scratching my head about the Johnson in 11a too.
    Lots of very clever wordplay for many of the clues giving good Dooh moments.
    Thanks Raven.

  2. Very nice puzzle Raven – good to have something to get one’s teeth into on a Monday.

    I’ll get the obvious howler out of the way first. 23a – the answer given is the spelling of the country – not the similar-sounding philosopher. A pity to have that blemish in such a good puzzle.

    Lots of good clues – the ones I ticked to begin with (ones I got early) were later outclassed by many others.

    One of the good features. I thought, was addictiveness. As soon as I saw 1a – and failed to get it cold – I just had to get it – ie to generate crossers in the hope of getting it with that extra help. In the end I went around most (not all) of the houses before I got it. Very curly definition – but on reflection fair I think – especially with the “?” attached.

    Single letter abbreviations are always good for a petty quibble. I wondered about E for empty (14a) – but presumably you see that on fuel gauges – so that should be OK. A for examination (12a) 9A-levels I suppose) I was less keen on but there’s probably dictionary support, or some such, for it. Personally I like abbreviations to come from common knowldege – trawling dictionaries should be a last resort.

    5d was a very well buried embed – maybe others will get to it quicker – I usually only twig those anyway after exhausting all other possibilities – except when they are very plainly signalled.

    6d I liked as a very smooth charade – also 9d – but for my favourite I’ll come back to 1a.

    Many thanks for the fun. You kept me busy for a good while, The rest of Monday’s batch of puzzles will now have to wait until later.

  3. A word of warning for those solving on-line. The solution to 18a has a typo in it and so the correct answer will not be accepted. 5d also has the wrong letter at the end of the word. Although the answer that is accepted on-line is a word and fits the definition, it does not correspond with the wordplay.

    I have ask Big Dave to correct the relevant solutions as I do not have access to change the files, so this should be resolved at some point.

  4. Pretty tough with some very clever touches – I enjoyed the struggle. Thanks Raven.
    It seemed to be a bit morbid, with gangrene and cancer.
    A couple of the single-letter abbreviations aren’t in Chambers and I can’t find the 23a philosopher – apart from that it all seems fine (I did know the Johnson referred to – probably from years of solving the Private Eye crossword).
    It took me ages to spot the well-hidden 5d answer. I have lots of clues ticked – I’ll just list 8a, 20a, 4d and 9d.

  5. I found this very tough and I’m still deciding whether I enjoyed myself or not.

    Like JS said, it is a shame you have the country rather than the philosopher in 23a. I did like 8a and 4d

    Thank you for the Bank Holiday brain stretching and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review

  6. Welcome back, Raven.

    I remember your debut puzzle last Autumn as being extremely tough, so when I had solved half the puzzle in average Rookie time I was prematurely patting myself on the back, only for the second half to take twice as long! Overall though, I’d say it was a little more solver-friendly than your first crossword, although there are still a couple I’m struggling to parse.

    Like your debut, there was much to admire with many excellent surfaces, but once again I felt that several clues either had dubious definitions (e.g. 1a, 21a, 4d) or dubious abbreviations (e.g. “empty”, “examination”). My repetition radar bleeped with “mo” twice clued as “doctor”, and the “definition for wordplay” construction in 14d jarred too. The less said about 11a the better probably! Against that, my ticks went to 8a, 24a, 2d, 6d, 7d and 10d.

    As proved with Solemate recently, it’s not always easy in a second Rookie puzzle to match the quality in one’s debut, and, despite many excellent elements, I felt it didn’t quite reach the heights achieved last time. One piece of advice for your next puzzle would be to check and double check acceptable abbreviations and spellings of people’s names, it may seem tedious, but it is well worth going that extra mile.

    Many thanks, Raven.

  7. Goodness, that was depressing, Raven – did you intentionally set out to make it that way?
    Unlike Silvanus, I found this every bit as difficult as your debut puzzle and confess to almost giving up at one stage.
    Others have already mentioned ‘iffy’ abbreviations and the faux pas in 23a – I wonder whether you get anyone to test solve for you?

    I’d pick out 20a & 9d as the best of the bunch but have to admit that I didn’t derive much pleasure from the solve. Not sure whether that was down to the difficulty level, avoidable errors or subject matter!

    I’ve no doubt that you have talent – could we perhaps have a bit more joie de vivre next time.

  8. Definitely a slow solve, and I might had finished if I had not spelled 23A incorrectly which made 19D impossible. I have some parsing questions that no doubt Prolixic will resolve tomorrow. I leave the scrutinizing to the experts among us! I found it satisfying to be able to sort (most) of the clues out, so I’m not unhappy. Thanks Raven.

  9. I assumed 11a referred to Boris, which seemed fair enough. I’m almost disappointed to learn there is American slang involved.

    I shall comment on the grid. This is a hard grid, and if that is not intentional, then it may be something to think about. 8 longish answers have more unchecked than checked squares, including an unchecked first letter. Another 6 have an unchecked first letter. So before you even start, you’ve made the puzzle harder for half the clues. It is worth thinking about the grid, which should have good connectivity between quadrants (not a problem here) and not too many extra unchecked squares.

    Diseases are touchy. Yes they are words and we are all grown up, but some solvers may be suffering and there is no point adding to their misery.

    I agree with Sylvanus that there are some not quite right definitions and unusual abbreviations. 1a may seem clever at first, but a closer look suggests the definition is not accurate. I would suggest 19d does not separate dead flesh either, and the ‘from’ doesn’t really work. Also I don’t think salvage is the same as the translation – so the message is never sacrifice accuracy for cleverness.

    I really liked 3D with the “even close” beautifully hiding the indicator. I was less keen on the indicators in 5d and 22d. I don’t think they quite convey what is meant. Chopped could be lose a last letter etc. At least I would hope things are equally chopped from both ends.

    9d works, but since small also clues just S, there is some confusion. You can decide whether that is a distraction you want or not.

    16d, not sure “to lift” is in the optimal verb form in the cryptic grammar, many alternatives might read better.

    Hope that helps, look forward to next

  10. In 23a someone’ll have to fill me in on the exact philosopher referred to – even after dropping the first E! I turned up several people of that name in Wiki – including the painter Roy (the only one I’d heard of) – but none of them could strictly be described as philosophers.

    People weren’t thinking of the rather similar-sounding name Wittgenstein, by any chance?

    Apart from that, I found this very difficult and used ‘Check’ in several places. Like Kiwicolin, I don’t agree that an ‘alkali’ is a salt. I guessed at a slangy interpretation of ‘johnson’ but I think even Paul in the Grauniad might have shied away from such a clue!

    I also tend to shy away from homophones, but 15a is so neat that I’ll forgive the slight grammatical error (should be ‘spoken’ rather than ‘spoke’).

    Good work Raven, all in all.

    1. Strangely, if you google ‘philosopher’ and the (incorrectly spelt) answer you will find the French lady with her name spelt correctly.

      1. Thanks Senf – problem solved! Would it be perverse of me to still comment, I’ve never heard of the good lady – but then philosophy isn’t my strong point!

  11. A tough and, for me at any rate, a not very satisfactory solve. As others have said, some definitions were not really accurate, and the single-letter abbreviations are not in common use. Also ‘doctor’ was used twice to clue ‘mo’.
    But I thought 19dn was quite clever, if a little gruesome-sounding; I also liked 10dn and 24ac. And 11ac was my first one in – but only because ‘Johnson’ came up in a clue elsewhere recently.
    A good effort but not as polished as it could be. (No doubt someone will say the same of my next Rookie Corner appearance).

  12. On the subject of abbreviations, I didn’t have any problem with S=Saturday; never even thought of converting it to ‘sabbath’. It may not be in dictionaries but is frequently encountered in train/bus timetables etc as SO or SX – Saturday only/excepted. Which does raise an interesting point about to what extent is it pemissible to use one letter from a multiple-letter abbreviation.

    Oh, and by the way, the recent use of ‘Johnson’ I referred to was by Wiglaf in the Indy on 15th March.

    1. A straightforward rule about single letters from multiple letter abbreviations. Don’t use them. For example RAF means Royal Air Force but this does not mean you can use Royal to clue an R or Air to clue an A. Force for F is OK as it is an abbreviation in its own right.

      To reiterate the point made in the review. Setters should normally use only those abbreviations used in one of the main dictionaries.

      1. You often see “fellow” for F, but that’s only in abbreviations such as FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) really, isn’t it? It is listed separately in Chambers, but is it ever used bare?

  13. Agree with what’s been said about abbreviations and grid design, but apart from that this was a terrific puzzle.
    My favourites were 15a, 18a, 21a, 23a, 24a, 3d, 4d, 6d, 7d, 10d and 16d. Failed to finish though on the intersecting 20a and 19d, but double definitions are not really my strong point.
    Thank you Raven.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, particularly the information about Mr Johnson. I’d heard of Mr J Thomas but not his counterpart!

  15. Thought it was very good.
    Loved the charade in 6d and the reversed one in 10d.
    8a has a great construction and surface so has 9d.
    Could go on.
    Keep them coming.
    Thanks to Raven and to Prolixic

    1. Jean-Luc, where were you last week when we needed a native French speaker to tell us if “en velo” is “on bike”?

Comments are closed.