Rookie Corner – 213 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 213

A Puzzle by Marg

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today’s new setter is Marg. 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.

A highly creditable debut for Marg.  This was a fun and well constructed crossword with lots of different clue types.  In a couple of places, a slightly different synonym would have added to clue and there was one clue where the double definition was a little too much based on the same root word one as a noun and one as verb.  Nevertheless is means that the commentometer reads at 1/26 or 3.8%.  Another one like this and I suspect that Marg will not spend much time in the Rookie Corner.

A small point to watch is in the grid construction.  The clues for 13a, 1d, 6d, 16d and 17d had less than 50% checking letters.  Too many solutions with level of cross-checking makes the grid solver unfriendly.  I don’t think it was an issue here but it is something to be aware of when creating the grid.


7 Avoiding expression of disgust, finished a tense passage (6)
THROAT – A seven letter word meaning finished without the UGH (avoiding expression of disgust) followed by the abbreviation for tense.

8 These drinks could make it squeal (8)
TEQUILAS – An anagram (could make) of IT SQUEAL.

9 Lozenge made from ancient hulled millet (8)
PASTILLE – A four letter word meaning ancient followed by the central letters (hulled) of MILLET.

10 Put in enclosure (6)
INSERT – Double definition though very closely aligned in meaning.  Perhaps a different clue type would have avoided having very closely associated meanings.

11 Challenge of French intended (8)
DEFIANCE – The French for “of” followed by a six letter word for someone you are about to marry (intended).

12 Closer to claret than rosé, however you look at it (6)
REDDER – A palindrome (a word that read the same either way – however you look at it).

13 Insurance against losing one’s marbles? (5-6)
CRASH-HELMET – Cryptic definition of something the a motor cyclist wears to avoid injuries to the head.

18 Caught you tucking into mashed limes for breakfast (6)
MUESLI – A homophone (caught) of YOU inside an anagram (mashed) of LIMES.

20 Reverse entry to reveal secret (8)
BACKDOOR – A four letter word meaning reverse followed by a four letter word for an entry.

22 Bound to be working (4,2)
TIED UP – Double definition, the second in the sense of being busy or occupied doing something.

23 De Niro reflected, conserving energy and taking time to get in position (8)
ORIENTED – Revers (reflected) the DE NIRO from the clue with the insertion (separately) of the abbreviations for energy and time.

24 Notices method to gamble with no unknown (8)
PLACARDS – A phrase meaning meaning a method to gamble such as poker or blackjack without the Y (with no unknown).

25 Antiquated European invested in a precious metal (3-3)
AGE-OLD – The A from the clue and a four letter word for a type of precious metal includes the abbreviation for European.


1 He arsed about, getting fleeced (7)
SHEARED – An anagram (about) of HE ARSED.

2 One lying down after wine becomes rounder (8)
PORTLIER – A four letter word for a type of fortified wine followed by a four letter word for someone lying down.  Perhaps wordplay with a different root to the word required in the solution would have been better – One supine after wine…

3 Hot cake – only one left! (6)
STOLEN – A type of German cake (I think cake is fine) without one of the Ls (only one left).

4 Run into landed gent with large rodent (8)
SQUIRREL – The abbreviation for run inside a six letter word for a landed gent followed by the abbreviation for large.

5 Let off steam riding in this sedan (6)
HISSED – The answer is hidden (riding in) THIS SEDAN.

6 Block arrival soused with German beer (7)
BARRIER – A three letter abbreviation for arrival inside (soused with) a four letter word for German beer.

8 Sailor’s reaction to the sight of sperm? (5,3,5)
THERE SHE BLOWS – Cryptic definition of what a sailor see when seeing a type of whale.

14 Special mouth exercise found on line can’t be trusted (8)
SLIPPERY – The abbreviation for special followed by a three letter word for mouth, the abbreviation for physical exercise and the abbreviation for railway (line).

15 Risk destruction by Fury (8)
ENDANGER – A three letter word for destruction followed by a five letter word for fury or rage.

16 Heard foreign car bulges oddly (7)
AUDIBLE – A four letter word for a type of German car followed by the odd letters in BULGES.

17 Seriously confused by loser (7)
SOBERLY – An anagram (confused) of BY LOSER.

19 Corrupt head of state gone, finally caught in charge (6)
SEDUCE – The first letter (head of) of state followed by the last letter (finally) of gone and then the abbreviation for caught in a three letter word for a charge.

21 Finish with a kiss after making short climb (6)
CLIMAX – The CLIMB from the clue with the final letter removed (short) followed by the A front he clue and the letter representing a kiss.  Again, an synonym for climb would have perhaps added to the clue – short ascent…?

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 213

  1. Very enjoyable, competently put together puzzle. The couple that caused some delay were 19d where it took a while to sort out the wordplay and 10a, for no particular reason that we can see now. Lots to smile at and a few to titter over.
    Thanks Marg.

  2. Very enjoyable but the clue count being on the low side, resulting in a lot of ‘black,’ did slightly spoil it.

    Top two clues – 13a and 8d.

    I will be interested to read what Prolixic thinks of ‘caught’ as a homophone indicator (assuming I have got that right) in 18a..

    Defeated on the parsing on one or two, so I will wait for the review for those.

    Thanks Marg.

    1. caught is fine as a homophone indicator, as in did you catch/hear what he said?

    2. 26 lights is quite a respectable number, I think. Just browsed the Guardian library, and grid “M03” has only 24 lights – although admittedly four of them are 15-letter ones! That grid probably isn’t used very often.

      I’m well aware that many solvers regard grids with “unch”s around the edges as ‘unfriendly’, but as a solver I don’t have any problems with that. It’s true they tend to make grid-filling a bit easier for setters.

  3. I thought this as a very good debut puzzle indeed. My only quibble is that the “cake” in 3D is surely more like bread than cake. I had ticked several clues but my favorite is 8D, which raised a big smile. Thanks and well done Marg.

    1. ‘Cake’ works fine for me. Remember Marie Antoinette’s famous (but probably apocryphal) utterance which, in the original French, reads “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!”. Brioche too is more like bread than cake.

  4. I’d be very surprised if this were Marg’s first puzzle – it’s well constructed, witty and pitched at an ideal level for the Rookie slot. I solved it immediately after the DT back-pager and have to say that I enjoyed this one more.
    I have lots of ticks on my paper but I’ll pick out just three clues – 3d, 8d (LOL) and 19d.
    Thanks Marg – let’s have more like this.

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Marg.

    A very accomplished debut I must say, pretty good surfaces for the most part, some clever constructions and a nice amount of humour all made for a very enjoyable and fairly solver-friendly puzzle.

    I think Chris is right, the BRB does define the “cake” in 3d as “bread”, nevertheless this was my overall favourite clue. Worthy mentions as well for 7a, 11a and 8d.

    A very well-deserved low score on the Commentometer awaits, I suspect. Many thanks and more soon, please.

  6. A very neat first puzzle with some very good surfaces – many thanks Marg!

    And, as others have said, I’d be very surprised if it is your first?

    My favourites were 3d and 14d. Last one in was 13a.

    I look forward to your next one …

  7. This is a great first rookie puzzle – pitched exactly right, nice short clues, good variety of clue types, plenty of ways in and (for me anyway) a slightly trickier SW to finish. Congratulations Marg – excellent – hard to believe this is your first? I liked ‘riding in’ in 5d. 12a, 7a, and plenty more, well, most of it really.

    I was hooked as soon as I saw “a tense passage” in 1a, and 1d made me smile. There is some clever misdirection where words often used as indicators are used differently.

    My only comments would be there are two occasions where a tricker synonym might have been called for, “one lying down” and maybe ascent instead of climb or something in 21d. The surface works beautifully in 10a but the two definitions are a bit related. I also wondered whether charge maintained the part of speech when translated 19d. Hope that is useful.

    Excellent stuff, I look forward to more

    1. Thanks so much Dutch. I agree with you about 10a, 2d and 21d, as does Prolixic – see my comment below. In 19d I had in mind ‘caught in charge’ = indicted

  8. Thanks Marg
    It was obviously a good puzzle about three clues in. I liked the sailor one, slightly disappointed there wasn’t some disgusting joke in the solution,, though maybe there is. I’ll look forward to your next.

  9. This was excellent, Marg – nicely challenging and great fun to solve. Gazza and Silvanus have said pretty much what I was going to say so I won’t repeat their comments except to add that this wouldn’t have been out of place as a DT back-pager with your beautifully concise cluing and great attention to surfaces.

    I have just three very minor comments:

    10a – the two definitions are rather similar albeit one is a noun and the other a verb.
    12a – I thought it might be slightly better to replace “however” by the more precise “whichever way”.
    23a – if I have parsed this correctly, the tense of the definition is wrong; shouldn’t it be “having got in position”?

    My podium choices are: 7a, 13a, 8d & 19d but many of the others wouldn’t be out of place to join them.

    Very well done and thank you, Marg. Please keep them coming.

    1. For 23a I took ‘to get’ to be linking words with the definition being ‘in position’.

    2. Thank you! You make a good point about 12a, but I chose ‘however’ thinking that shorter might be better.

  10. I too would imagine that this is far from the first crossword produced by Marg.

    I solved it very early on a busy morning but looking at the solved grid, I can see that I have no ?? and a few * by clues I liked, so a very good effort for a ‘Rookie’ indeed

    Thanks to Marg for the crossword and in advance to Prolixic for the review

  11. Very good work, no complaints, not the toughest but extremely competent. This setter promises great things!

    Like others, I took a while to parse 19d (LOI), but now I see it, it all works out fine. Only one I’m not sure about is 13a (CD perhaps?) but no doubt that’ll be explained.

    In 20a the definition is perhaps a bit loose re grammar. And in 21d I’d have changed the last word in the clue, make it a bit more cryptic!

    Favourite? I’ll nominate 3d – excellent surface with good misdirection!

    And well done for getting an ‘awkward’ letter in as a crosser! Many setters would shy away from this sort of thing.

    Thanks Marg, well done!

    1. I take it the ‘awkward’ letter is in 8ac/4dn. Actually, having got 8ac, it made 4dn a bit of a doddle.

      1. Correct, but I didn’t want to give too much of a spoiler before Prolixic has his say. Yes, a help to the solver, but a right pig for the setter!

  12. Nothing to add other than congratulations on a very well constructed puzzle.

    Thanks Marg, keep it up!

  13. Thanks so much everyone for your warm welcome and supportive comments. I’m feeling very relieved! Also quite chuffed, because this actually is my first attempt at creating a cryptic crossword. I made it a while ago for someone special, and didn’t plan to make it public. I had to adapt it a bit to make it suitable for here. With that and trying to improve it, it does look rather different now to how it did back then.

    Oh, and current affairs forced me to update 12a last week, because it was: ‘Hesitation after Home Secretary offers way to maintain direction (6)’ That’ll teach me for trying to be topical …

    I also have to thank Prolixic – not just for the (nervously anticipated!) review but for his guide to cryptics. If my attempt is any good it’s because of that, as well as reading the commentary on this blog. Must also mention two friends who looked at earlier drafts and gave feedback and advice for which I am very grateful indeed – thank you so much ladies!

    I’ll come back to respond to individual comments after Prolixic has made his review. I’m really happy to have so many helpful suggestions to take on board if I feel brave enough to attempt another puzzle.

    1. Welcome to the blog Marg. Congratulations on excellent first crossword. The review will be up at midnight.

    2. Simple – just follow the instructions. If only. I am reminded of Vincent Jopp in Wodehouse’s The Heel of Achilles who took up golf and achieved scratch on his first morning on the links.

      “Go out and buy me a set of clubs, a red jacket, a cloth cap, a pair of spiked shoes, and a ball.”

      “One ball?”

      “Certainly. What need is there of more?”

      “It sometimes happens,” I explained, “that a player who is learning the game falls to hit his ball straight, and then he often loses it in the rough at the side of the fairway.”

      “Absurd!” said Vincent Jopp. “If I set out to drive my ball straight, I shall drive it straight. Good morning, Mr. McHoots. You will excuse me now. I am busy cornering Woven Textiles.”

    3. Marg. I haven’y had time to solve this one, but have quickly read the review and must congratulate you on an excellent first cryptic puzzle. Unlike some rookies you have composed succinct, well-written, valid clues with good surfaces instead of trying to “run before you can walk” by producing an absolute Stinker or Toughie with your first effort. Sublime, first-rate, concise clues and certainly professional enough to grace the back page of the DT. Well done!

  14. Great stuff! My LOI was 11, DEFIANCE, for which I used a word search. Not that happy about the def in that one, but I notice no one else has challenged it.

    With low connectivity between quarters, two CDs for the crucial long ones in the middle made things difficult. 8d was very amusing but I don’t think 13a is right: one’s ‘marbles’ are the wits, not the head, aren’t they? I had to get all the crossers before reluctantly filling it in.

    Also lip=mouth seemed not quite right? Maybe ‘cheek’ (=insolence=lip) could have been better?

    I have no problem with STOLLEN= cake and am surprised to see it defined as ‘bread’ in Chambers. I note that it descibes it as rich and sweet with raisins and icing sugar. If that’s not cake, what is? Btw, I saw another clue based on stollen/stolen recently. Can’t remember where, but maybe another Rookie? (No suggestion of plagiarism intended! Just saying).

    Apart from those niggles, it was an excellent puzzle with tight and varied wordplay and credible surfaces. Favouites were 23, ORIENTED, 25, AGE OLD, 1, SHEARED 3, STOLEN, 4, SQUIRREL, 8d, THERE SHE BLOWS, 15, ENDANGER and 16, AUDIBLE

    1. W, 14d. I think lip = mouth is fine here. Lip = mouth (as in “too much mouth” or “mouthing off”) = backchat = cheek = insolence. They’re all pretty much the same?

    2. Thanks for the detailed comments and kind words.

      In 11a, I thought the definition works in a context like ‘The French are objecting to the new rules. Their defiance/challenge is understandable.’

      Jay used a stollen/stolen clue in his cryptic the week before last (long after my clue was in place, by the way!).

      It was interesting to note people’s reactions to the cryptic definitions. I wasn’t at all sure about either of them, so was happy that people seemed to enjoy them.

      1. Cheers, Marg. STOLLEN was the best clue. Such a perfect surface, riffing on ‘go like hot cakes’. I used to love the stuff too, but I’ve forsworn sugary stuff since.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic.

    (In 7a there is the A from the clue to be inserted too, and there’s a minor typo in the explanation of 8d.)

    I agree about 10a – I think that was a case of being too enamoured with the surface.

    For 2d and 21d I was working quite hard to avoid the “Rookie error” of making the puzzle too hard, and chose the wording I did to ensure easy access points in each quadrant. I obviously overcompensated there, but now that I have a better idea of difficulty I can take that on board for next time.

    Thanks again, and many thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to solve and leave a comment. I won’t reply to you all individually, but every word is much appreciated.

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