Rookie Corner – 215 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 215

A Puzzle by Wire

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today’s we have a second puzzle from Wire. 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 Wire with a fine crossword with a well pitched degree of difficulty.  The wordplay was for the greater part well thought out with only a few niggles but nothing major.  I would much rather have the wordplay in order than have the wordplay sacrificed for a perfect surface reading.  Getting the two to work together with wordplay and surface reading being seamless is  something that will come with practice.  The commentometer reads 3 out of 27 or 11.1%.


1 Fabulous bird photos catch chicken circling duck (7)
PHOENIX – A three letter informal word pictures around (catch) a three letter word for a chicken around the letter representing zero or a duck.  For the cryptic reading to work, catch would be better capturing as we need the structure A capturing B circling C.

5 See 18 Down

10 Male Irish singer returned having pulled, sporting a low hairline (10)
MONOBROWED – The abbreviation for male followed by the reversal of an four letter name of an Irish singer and another word meaning having pulled as in used oars in a boat.

11 ‘I hear you are back in for gin?‘ (4)
RUIN – A homophone for you are (I hear) reversed (back) followed by the IN from the clue.

12 Old King Samuel ran amok across North East (8)
MENELAUS – An anagram (ran amok) around (across) the abbreviation for North East.

13 Improve opinion of umpire, regularly at Edgbaston’s opener (6)
UPRATE – The odd letters (regularly) in UMPIRE followed by the AT from the clue and the first letter (opener) of Edgbaston.

14 Woman in the drug business (4)
ESME – The abbreviation for Ecstasy followed by the abbreviation for Small to Medium Enterprise (business).

15 Low level of speed (have fixes during interval) (6,4)
SNAIL’S PACE – A five letter word meaning fixes or hammers in inside (within) a five letter word for an interval.  Perhaps omitting the “have” would improve this slightly as the cryptic reading of definition have wordplay or definition – have A in B is not the smoothest.

17 Arrived cradling small amphibian; to hospital…could be sinister (4-6)
LEFT HANDED – A six letter word meaning arrived or disembarked around (cradling) a three letter word for a small amphibian.

21 Hoover is one to finally interrogate lady of distinction (4)
DAME – A three letter word for a structure of which Hoover is an example (is one) followed by the last letter (finally) of interrogate.  A to B as charade indicator is just about ok.

23 They provide support when walking around the county (6)

STAFFS – Double definition for walking sticks and the abbreviation for a Midlands country.

25 Cool army jacket conceals space primarily for ‘medicinal’ canteen (3,5)
HIP FLASK – A three letter word meaning cool followed by a four letter word for a type of army jacket around (conceals) the first letter (primarily) of space.  To be picky, the word army jacket stands as a noun to indicate an adjective as it is a type of jacket that is required.

26 Subdue Liberal’s habit (4)
COWL – A three letter word meaning subdue followed by the abbreviation for Liberal.

27 Set a clue about blokes in charge of the Christian church (10)
ECUMENICAL – An anagram (set) of A CLUE a three letter word for blokes and the abbreviation for in charge.

28 Went on and on in flagrante delicto (6)
RANTED – The answer is hidden (in) in FLAGRANTE DELICTO.

29 See 7 Down


2 Marksmen’s leader split off to find owls, perhaps (7)
HOOTERS – An eighth letter word for marksmen with the final letter removed (leader split off).

3 Part divided by operation? Bolt together to become one (9)
ELOPEMENT – A word for a part of something around (divided by) the abbreviation for operation.

4 Old drains reconstructed – that’s progress (7)
INROADS – An anagram (reconstructed) of O (old) DRAINS.

6 He had a bird on his arm in bar north of City (3,4)
ROD HULL – A three letter word for a bar before (north of) a port city.

7/29 Distressed Rosa re-emerges sapped of energy, getting ‘password incorrect’? (5,7)
ERROR MESSAGE – An anagram (distressed) of ROSA RE-EMERGES after removing an E (sapped of energy)

8 Nerve starts to show conductance, indicated by a twitch (7)
SCIATIC – The initial letters (start to) of the forth to sixth words of the clue followed by the A from the clue and a three letter word for a twitch.

9 Request place inside, being circled by one flogging tickets for a song (5,3,5)
TWIST AND SHOUT – A five letter word meaning place inside a four letter word for a request or desire with a four letter word for a ticket seller outside (circling around).  Have used circled as a containment indicator previously, perhaps a different word should have been used here.

16 Reportedly go door-to-door selling glasses and kitchen containers (5,4)
PEDAL BINS – A homophone of peddle (go door to door selling) and a four letter abbreviation for binoculars (glasses).

18/5 Health advice from politicians after refreshing year out (3,4,6)
EAT YOUR GREENS – The name of an ecologically friendly political party after an anagram (refreshing) of YEAR OUT.

19 Plain beret suavely covers when receding (7)
AUSTERE – The answer is hidden (covers) and reversed (when receding) in BERET SUAVELY.

20 Run down piano is in key (7)
DEPLETE – The abbreviation for piano inside the name of a key on a keyboard.

22 Dupe Ollie’s funny friend into having an American car (7)
MUSTANG – The name of Oliver Hardy’s comedic companion inside (into) a three letter word for a dupe or fool.  The construction A B into to mean B inside A is not the most elegant of constructions.

24 Loud man with Tesla…he has conviction (5)
FELON – The abbreviation for loud followed by the first name of Mr Musk, the creator of the Tesla car.

43 comments on “Rookie Corner – 215

  1. That took some thinking about but we did get it all sorted in reasonable time with plenty of smiles and chuckles along the way. Our last one was 14a, perhaps because the acronym was one we did not know, but checked in BRB.
    Thanks Wire, nicely done.

  2. I seemed to be a long way down the Across clues before I found one I could readily solve, so I thought this was going to be tough. However, my experience was similar to 2Kiwis in that it all fell into place reasonably quickly after that and there were some fun clues on the way.

    Overall your wordplay is generally very strong. Some clues have excellent surfaces too such as 27 and 8; others are slightly confused or ‘busy’ in the surface (e.g. 17 & 15) and don’t give conjure up the same clear image and therefore misdirection. I particularly enjoyed 27, 8, 6d and 4 – very good clues!

    I’m more than happy to email you more comments that I made as I solved – ask Big Dave to put us in touch by email if yes. There are too many spoilers to add them here.

    In summary, a very enjoyable puzzle – many thanks!

  3. Unlike Encota, I got going early on in the Across clues – 10a followed by 15a 21a – which conjures up an interesting vision from the solutions alone :)

    Some of the surfaces need a little work. My last two in were 11a and 14a and I do wonder whether another xSxE word in the latter might have made a more solver-friendly clue. There were also quite a few clues which required a bit of knowledge (not exactly general or specialist, but things the solver needed to know to solve the clue) My particular favourite was 2d.

    Thanks to Wire and in advance to Prolixic

    1. Thanks for your comments, CS. I agree…some clunky surfaces…I did struggle with them!

  4. Lots to like here – thanks Wire. Initially I thought it was going to be pretty tricky but it all came together smoothly in the end. I loved the 3d definition (Bolt together to become one). I liked 10a, 16d and 20d but my favourite was 6d.
    More like this would be very welcome.

    1. Thanks Gazza. 6d seems to be the overall favourite. Lord knows why I decided to include that one…must have had a childhood flashback/ nightmare

  5. Welcome back, Wire.

    I was delighted to see so many improvements from your debut puzzle a few months back, well done indeed on bucking the recent trend and avoiding the pitfalls of “second puzzle syndrome”.

    The surfaces may not have been ultra-smooth in certain cases, but credit where credit’s due, they were a lot better than your last effort and all made sense to me. Only a couple of quibbles – “circle” was repeated as a verbal containment indicator in 1a and 9d, and the cryptic grammar in 1a requires “catching”, or “would catch” perhaps, instead of “catch”. Otherwise I really enjoyed the puzzle and felt that you have made big strides forward.

    My printed page is littered with ticks, in particular 23a, 25a, 26a, 4d, 16d, 18d/5a and 24d, but I awarded double ticks to 10a and 6d.

    Excellent stuff, Wire, many congratulations and thank you for the entertainment.

    1. Yes…the error in 1a is obvious…I’ve read that clue countless times and still missed it. Thanks for your kind comments

  6. Thanks Wire
    Very enjoyable, quality clues. Apart from being well-constructed and varied, there are some really good cryptic definitions which add to the pleasure: bolt together .. stood out, also man with a bird, man with Tesla I particularly liked. You’ve also managed to disguise the breaks between definitions and wordplay very well, which is deceptive and, for me, a sign of good clues.
    Many ticks including 1a, 5a/18d, 23a, 28a, 24d, 3a, 20d, 27a, 26d. I think 27a was my favourite, as it reads very well and you’ve combined all the elements seamlessly. 5a/18d close second.
    I revealed 14a, and don’t get it, unless it’s to be read as * is **, as a sort of business motto – hope there’s something I’m missing.
    The only one I thought a bit clunky was 22d, in which I didn’t like your word order, with ‘into’ going after.

    1. The last three letters of 14a are the abbreviation for a small or medium enterprise (i.e. business).

      1. Ah, i had also split it (1’1,2).. like toys r us, i guess. but your split follows the clue more directly

      2. Thanks for clearing that up, Gaza. Not one I’ll be using’s obviously not as well known as I had thought!

        1. I’m very familiar with the abbreviation for business, having submitted countless european grants (where you get extra points for including a few businesses like this) – still, i missed it.

        2. I also read it like ‘Toys-r-us”, but recognised the abbreviation (from another puzzle!) when P spelt it out. I did click Confirm on it to be sure.

    2. Thanks for your comments, Mucky.. 22d I really knew wasn’t quite right….I had rather hoped it would get under the wire (ahem)

  7. I had to reveal the first letter of 14A before I got the answer, and like Mucky I don’t understand it. The 2Kiwis note that it’s an acronym, but I don’t see it in my version of the BRB. Some good clues here, some surfaces a bit clunky, and a couple of clues that I will need to wait for the review to clarify. Overall, enjoyable. 6D is tops for me, but 2D is not far behind. Thanks Wire.

    1. 4a see gazza’s comment above – the last 3 letters are an acronym, which i did not see

  8. Thanks Wire

    I thought this was excellent. The quality is similar to the dailies, i think.

    only very minor comments – I agree with the cryptic grammar in 1a (and I find it annoying to find such errors in the dailies – they do happen sometimes)

    I’m not sure the Yoda-like construction in 22d and 9d is to be encouraged, but obviously you see this in the dailies too, with one setter in particular excelling at this style.

    I didn’t know the name of the man with Tesla, but when i looked him up i realise i probably should have.

    I’m not convinced you need the quotes in 25a, but fine as is.

    My last one in was 14a, I had to reveal the first letter – guess it turned out harder than you expected.

    17a I’m not keen on ‘to’ as a juxtaposition indicator, best to avoid it i think which is easily done – but again, you will see this in the dailies. If it’s part of an infinitive, fine.

    10a took me a while, until i saw pulled. i can only see it as a noun in the dictionaries.

    Very good indeed. a good level of difficulty, where things appear hard at first but slowly the checkers help – the way it should be. good grid, and clever inventive clues. congratulations.

    1. Thanks Dutch. Yes, Yoda-style has certainly crept in. Glad you thought the difficulty level overall was okay…still find that tricky to judge

  9. Welcome back, Wire, good to see that you are prepared to put your metal to the test again.
    Like others, I thought this was going to be a tough solve, but in the event it was easier than expected although I did have to make a couple of leaps of faith with the woman into drugs and the loud man with Tesla.
    Unfortunately there are two old kings whose names use the anagram fodder in 12a (or it’s the same guy with different spellings!) and I opted for the wrong one until 3&4d became impossible.

    Still some work to do on surface reads – 15&17a being cases in point and perhaps you could think about giving solvers a more friendly intro to the puzzle so that they are not deterred at the outset.

    I have a couple of question marks which will await the review from Prolixic but my top scores are going to 3,6 & 16d.

    Thank you, Wire, hope to see you again ‘ere long.

    1. Cheers Jane. Yes, I think you are right about giving an easier start…it’s a consistent point made by virtually everyone.

  10. Biggest penny drop was 6d. So annoying as I am sitting in front of my TV magazine with a picture of Jeff Panacloc on the front page. Obviously a new generation is already lurking in the wings.
    Failed on 14a.
    Loved the little stories in 10a, 17a, 21a, 27a, 16d and 18/5.
    Not to forget 25a too.
    Can’t remember ticking so many clues in a rookie.
    Thanks for the great fun.

    1. Thanks, Jean-luc…I have had to Google Jeff Panacloc as I was unaware of his existence!

  11. I liked this although I had some problems unrelated to the puzzle itself. I went wrong on 23ac having read the last word of the clue as ‘country’ instead of ‘county’. And there seems to be a glitch in the software; 14ac was my last one in and I mistyped it but still got the completion message which threw me completely as I then couldn’t understand other people’s comments.
    Clues I particularly liked were 3dn and 26ac; in 26ac I’m not sure if the answer is an example of synecdoche for a word in the clue, or if both the answer and that word are examples of synecdoche for something else, but in either case it’s a great clue. Sorry if that’s a bit involved – I’m trying to avoid creating a spoiler.
    I do have reservations about one or two clues, but others have already flagged up their own comments on them.

    1. I think that message is an ‘it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts’ sort of message. I’ve been fooled by it a few times, and now always press check straight after it appears.

    2. Hi Exit, oh dear….software problems don’t help! Glad you got there in the end though!

  12. I thought 14a was perfectly gettable, and I enjoyed this very much, and look forward to the next.

  13. Great puzzle Wire

    Witty and original – several real peaches – friendly grid – generally good surfaces and the “also ran” clues were also fine.

    Specifically I ticked 10a, 11a, 28a, 6d, 9d, 16d and 18d/5a.

    No quibbles from me.

    In fact you probably headed off quibbles from certain self-styled pedants by starting 11a with “I hear” – txt msg abbreviations are increasingly well supported by the latest editions of most major dictionaries now so strictly a pun/homophone indication should be unnecessary.

    Does that mean it’s unnecessary padding if you put one in? Not in my book if it helps the surface reading. So long as it does some work (even if that work is unnecessary) it’s not padding. I see other schools of thought on that point so I know that’s not universally accepted. It makes life difficult as times (ie dictionary additions and common usages) change.

    Anyway – great fun – not desperately hard but a really good brain-teaser – and you let me win in the end.

    Many thanks for the fun.

    1. Thank you JS…it seems to have gone down better than my first attempt, which is the main thing! Thanks for your feedback…very helpful.

    2. It is a rare pedant that is self-styled. Most of the derogatory styles you use are your own.

  14. Thank you to Prolixic for the review and to you all for having taken the time to do my RC#2 and for leaving such helpful feedback. Surfaces ( again!), word orders and ‘busy clues’ seem to be the main areas to sort out.

    Tiime to double click on the CC icon, File, New…see you all next time! 😎

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and thanks to Wire for responding to all of the comments. I look forward to seeing RC mark 3 with its doubtless elegant clues and perfect surface reads!

  16. Really good puzzle, just the right degree of difficulty for me. Loved “bolt together” etc and the “bird on the arm”. I knew who that was before I could remember his name and got it from checkers, solving wp later. Lovely indirect ref to that most crosswordy of birds, the emu, too, whether or not intended.

    Is ‘ruin’ really a word for gin on its own (LOI)? I know ‘mothers’ ruin’ (cockney rhyming slang) and the internet tells me of ‘blue ruin’. No-one else has queried it, I notice. I probably just don’t spend enough time hanging around in pubs.

    Well done, Wire. Thanks for the fun

  17. Forgot to say: I thought “in flagrante delicto” was a brilliant hidden clue. I don’t think it needs P’s double ‘in’: cryptically, the answer is in “flagrante delicto”, which is what’s so delicious about it, especially with the italicisation disguising the boundary visually too.

    1. Hi Whynot, I must say, I thought ‘ruin’ might have caused some flak…so was quite chuffed that no one seemed to mind it. And I don’t even like gin! Thanks for your feedback. W

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