Rookie Corner – 222 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 222

A Puzzle by bob

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

The latest setter to offer a debut puzzle in Rookie Corner is bob. 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.

Bravo Bob.  As debut crosswords go, this is up there with the best.  The cluing was tight and well indicated with only two or three minor points to raise.  If Bob can continue this standard, his tenure as a Rookie will be short-lived.

Although the grid was an awkward one, this is explained by the large number of birds and literary references in the crossword.

The commentometer is a very creditable 2 / 39 or 4%.


1 Look askance in case of grid winning medal (4)
GOLD – A letter word meaning look is reversed (askance) and put in the outer letters (case of) of grid.

4 Flier featuring female facial feature with sides swapped over (5)
FINCH – The abbreviation for female followed by a facial feature with the pairs of letters swapped (sided swapped over).

7 Taking partial break: I wish to be antipodean (4)
KIKI – The answer is hidden (taking partial) in BREAK I WISH.

9 Revolutionary soldiers getting into study plan (6)
DESIGN – The plural abbreviation for American soldiers is reversed (revolutionary) an put inside a three letter word for a study.

10 Assorted rags clothing men etc. essentially (8)
GARMENTS – An anagram (assorted) of RAGS around the MEN from the clue and the middle letter (essentially) of etc.

11 Eccentric hairstyle not taking short time, feathered one (4)
HAWK – A six letter word for an eccentric haircut without the initial MO (not taking short time).

13 Seed of trouble’s beginning after peacekeepers’ U-turn (3)
NUT – Reverse (U-Turn) the abbreviation for United Nations (peacekeepers) and follow with the first letter (beginning) of trouble.

14 Clutch thick hair having doffed cap (5)
HATCH – A six letter word for thick hair without the initial letter (having doffed cap).

15 Look round taking in opening of Brighton pavilion (6)
GAZEBO – A four letter word meaning look and the letter that is round go include (taking in) the first letter of Brighton.

18 One in military police, 14, going across (6)
REDCAP – Another name for the bird given by the solutions to 1 across and 4 across.  I don’t like the un-indicated need to split the 14 to give 1, 4 to get the solutions required.  Perhaps 1/4 going across.

21 PM’s fringe disorder (6)
MAYHEM – The name of the Prime Minister (at least at the time of typing though whether this will be the case by the time you read this is anyone’s guess) followed by a three letter word for a fringe.

23 Swallowed depression, returned first place (6)
LOCATE – A three letter word meaning swallowed or consumed after a reversal (returned) of a three letter word for a depression or pass in a mountain.

26 A Charlie having sex the wrong way with Charlie in lofty place (5)
ATTIC – The A from the clue followed by a three letter word for a Charlie or prat with the IT (sex) reversed (the wrong way) and the letter represented by Charlie in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

28 Need you see contents? (3)
USE – The answer is hidden in (contents) YOU SEE.

29 Bird missing Heather with heavenly body (4)
STAR – The name of an eight letter bird without the LING at the end (missing Heather).

31 Corbyn in government forgetting about admitting millions forcing entry (8)
JEMMYING – The first name of Mr Corbyn and the IN from the clue and the abbreviation for Government without (forgetting) the abbreviation for about and including (admitting) the abbreviation for millions.

32 Man on board that is green like me (6)
ROOKIE – A four letter name of a chess piece (man on board) and the abbreviation for “that is”.

33 This maybe ends in sorrow: no wonder ahead (4)
WORD – The final letters (ends in) of the final four words of the clue.

34 Excited by good date tinkering with DIY (5)
GIDDY – An anagram (tinkering) of G (good) D (date) DIY.

35 The enemy that flies? (4)
TIME – Double definition or single definition with a cryptic sense, the second being the word the begins the phrase (X flies when you are enjoying yourself) or X flies like an arrow. 


2 A delegate backtracking since nothing works (5)
OPERA – Reverse the A from the clue, a three letter word for an agent and the letter representing nothing.  The since in the clue sits awkwardly and a way should have been found to remove it.

3 Sea and sex on the beach? (5)
DRINK – Double definition, the second being a type of cocktail.

4 Relative in France, boundlessly rich, source of easy money (7)
FINANCE – A three letter word for an elderly female relative inside the IVR code for France, the inner letters (boundlessly) of RICH and the first letter (source of) of easy.

5 Messed-up loveless goth in dark (5)
NIGHT – An anagram (messed up) of GOTH IN without the O (loveless).

6 Dog endlessly biting female is more savage (7)
HARSHER – A five letter word meaning to dog or pester without the final letter (endlessly) goes around (biting) a three letter word meaning a female.

7 Ken, zealot, oddly got into submissive position (5)
KNELT – The odd letters in the first two words of the clue.

8 What can mark up one at post (8)
WATCHMAN – An anagram (up) of WHAT CAN M (mark).

12 Judge group of ladies grand (3)
WIG – The abbreviation for Women’s Institute followed by the abbreviation for grand.

16 Remains absent, second husband (3)
ASH – The abbreviations for absent, second and husband.

17 One awake at 5, miserable, head slumped right down (3)
OWL – A three letter word meaning miserable has the first letter (head) moved to the end (slumped right down).

19 Work: In the end, without point (3)
DOT – A two letter word meaning work followed by the final letter (in the end) of without.

20 Hot stuff in the style of writer Nesbo circling (8)
JALAPENO – A phrase 1,2 meaning in the style of and a three letter word for a writing instrument has the first name of the writer Nesbo.  I don’t know how well known the writer is and whether this could be simplified if it relies too much on general knowledge of more obscure authors.  Perhaps described by Nesbo/ woman.

22 Taking off legwear, first pair removed by Mike (7)
MOCKING – Replace the first letter letters from type of women’s leg wear and replace them with the letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet represented by Mike.  Perhaps replaced by Mike would be better.

24 Variable recall: variable without doubt (7)
CLEARLY – An anagram (variable) of RECALL followed by a letter used in algebra to represent a variable.

25 Pig upbeat, leaving pub drunk (3)
EAT – Remove (leaving) an anagram (drunk) of PUB from upbeat.

27 Chicken measured 35 English going for independence (5)
TIMID – A five letter word meaning having measured the answer to 35 across with the E (English) replaced by I (independence).

28 Pushed drug cocktail containing ecstasy (5)
URGED – An anagram (cocktail) of DRUG includes (containing) the abbreviation for Ecstasy.

29 One should be prepared to yell if temperature drops (5)
SCOUT – A five letter word meaning to yell has the H (hot) replaced by C (cold) (if temperature drops).

30 Principle of equivalence centrally: X=10 million (5)
AXIOM – The middle letter (centrally) of equivalence followed by the X 10 from the clue and the abbreviation for million.  As we have already had millions in 31, perhaps a different indicator should have been used in one of the clues.  Perhaps in this one you could have X = 10 millimetres / 2.

60 comments on “Rookie Corner – 222

  1. There are still a couple of answers where we are not sure of the wordplay, 3d and 18a so we will come back to these later. Noticed a theme when we solving and then the more closely we looked the more we found. Thought for a while we were heading for a pangram too but in the end it wasn’t.
    Enjoyable solve and nice to be included.
    Thanks bob.

      1. I was tempted to mention in my comments that a 3d (at least the second part) tastes delicious but thought that could land me in just as much trouble as the contents of 26a did on a previous occasion.
        There – I’ve said it……………!

  2. Thanks bob, quite enjoyable, although I did have to do a few ‘reveals’ to confirm that what I thought was the answer actually was and some of the parsings are still eluding me.

    I think a major comment has to be the grid you have used which gives a high clue count and 31 of your 39 clues have 6 letters or less. What I (eventually) did for my first puzzle and what I am doing for my second puzzle is to use a grid that has been used by one of the regular DT setters. Not that I am going after national recognition, but that, presumably, at least means that the grid has passed muster with the DT puzzle editor.

  3. Hello, I’m bob. Many thanks for the early replies. I’ll be unable to respond to comments again until I get home from work, read and digest any feedback, have a little cry, etc. so I just want to say a couple of things early doors.

    I’m aware of the grid: how could I not be when in my eagerness to include certain words, I saddled myself with 39 clues to write? Phew. The next grid will certainly have fewer and longer words. Naturally I won’t be making such a rookie error again.

    A huge thank you to Big Dave for hosting my first puzzle and to all who have a look at it and especially those who take the trouble to leave a comment, long or short.


    1. bob – Test solvers (and advisers) help tremendously. My ‘final’ first grid and its content bore no resemblance to my ‘first’ first grid. Many words that I would have liked to include had to saved for another puzzle. The objective of developing a themed puzzle may be more of a hindrance than a help and should, perhaps, be left for a time when more experience has been gained.

  4. Congratulations to bob on a fine debut. The clues all seemed to work and there’s a theme as well. The surface of some clues (e.g. 1a, 27d) is not terribly meaningful but I think that’s a fairly minor drawback in a very impressive first puzzle.
    The clues I liked best were 18a (my last to parse and very devious), 32a, 4d and 29d.

  5. Hi Bob,

    Many thanks for your first puzzle which is very creditable – well done! There is some excellent wordplay and some delightfully deceptive definitions. You’ve also really got the hang of writing very plausible surfaces, which suggests that you’ve written some before. Either way, I’m impressed :-)

    The only two areas that I noticed more than once that might benefit from a bit of honing are Container&Contents indicators and Linkwords.

    20d OK is ‘Hot stuff in the style of writer Nesbo circling (8)’: Great construction; it feels there must be a better Container&Contents indicator for the surface,
    e.g. Hot stuff in the style of writer Nesbo is gripping (8), or something similar. There are so many C&C Indicators to choose from such that there’s almost always one that improves the surface as well.
    Similarly 9ac looked like its indicator might be improved too.

    On Linkwords, perhaps 29a as an example? I try and avoid ‘with’ as it doesn’t, to me at least, seem cryptically correct, i.e. A with B (or vice versa) doesn’t appear to mean ‘get definition A using wordplay B’ or similar.

    I could find 10 obviously thematic entries and at least two more on an extended theme (aside: this appeared to define largely the grid you selected). I’m sure I’ll have missed some, though!
    I also particularly liked 24d, 32a, 21d, 10a, 15a, 23a & 3d.

    Overall I really enjoyed this. I haven’t yet parsed 18 and will look out for Prolixic’s review.


    Tim / Encota

  6. Hi bob
    Great puzzle, congratulations
    I think, beyond the obvious connected entries, there’s a bit of literary theme going on too which would account for the funny grid. All very clever.
    Favourite clues, 3d, 10a.
    Nearly all of the clues have good and original ideas in. If I were to suggest one thing, it would be to try and incorporate the ideas into the clues so they read less like shorthand notes. However, that’s only a matter of taste, and nothing to quibble about.

    1. Indeed there is a literary theme! I made the connection between 22D and 8D fist, and then took a closer look at the grid. Very clever.

  7. Hello bob, welcome to RC and well done on producing a creditable puzzle.

    Overall I enjoyed the solve, spotted the theme for a change and nothing really jarred.

    I do have one or two accuracy queries, but I will leave it to Prolixic to iron out those few ( ie the ‘s in 21a, absent for ‘a’ 16d and I thought 18a has a touch of double duty – but perhaps it’s a semi all in one..?) The odd iffy surface will improve with time, no doubt..

    Thanks again bob, look forward to your next.

    1. 21a read ‘has’ for ‘s, brb has a for absent, and i can’t see any double duty in 18a – though i was mislead for some time.

      1. I’ll take your word for it that ‘a’ is an abbreviation for absent – I did check Collins BBB and Chambers online, and didn’t find it.
        I am clearly failing to understand 18a. Perhaps I am not understanding the theme properly – please excuse my ignorance!

          1. Thank you Gazza – I read that clue all wrong. I shan’t elaborate :oops:
            Apologies bob :smile:

          2. I did find another, albeit tenuous, way to parse 18a but I’m sure your idea is the correct one.

  8. Welcome, bob.

    As Encota rightly says, a very creditable first effort which will certainly not produce any tears when you read the comments, of that I’m pretty sure. Fear not.

    I know someone who’ll comment later who will particularly enjoy the theme, I did wonder why it seemed to peter out somewhat in the bottom half of the grid though. Talking of the grid, Senf’s advice is pretty sound, it’s best to avoid home-made grids wherever possible.

    Very little to raise eyebrows from a technical perspective, but some of the surfaces were a tad clunky or unnatural, and that’s something to work on for next time.

    I had numerous ticks on my printed page, but my top clues were 10a, 13a, 14a, 15a, 32a, 4d, 6d, 17d and, last but not least, the very clever 29d.

    Well done and congratulations on a fine debut. Many thanks, bob.

  9. Thank, Bob. I enjoyed this a lot. There are a few I have yet to fully parse, but that’s par for the Rookie course for me. 32A made me smile.

  10. Welcome to the corner, bob, and many thanks for the theme – much appreciated here.

    This came across as a good debut puzzle but I do hope you’ll put more thought into surface reads in the future. Prolixic is doubtless correct when he says that these are of lesser importance than technical accuracy but they do make an enormous difference to the pleasure for the solver.

    I have several queries but as others better qualified than myself haven’t mentioned them I’ll leave commenting until after the review.

    Top three for me were 15&32a plus 28d with a smile for 3d.

    Many thanks – I hope we see many more offerings from you in the future.

  11. Thanks bob and congratulations, an excellent debut. Technically it looks pretty solid. and some clever surfaces, e.g. 28d. i liked ‘if temperature drops’. You even have an &lit! very clever. I also liked the self-referential 32a.

    i didn’t understand the parsing of 18a until i spotted the theme – a great mislead. The ‘going across’ makes it fair, i think.

    My only worries were ‘since’ in 2d, sides vs e.g. halves in 4a (not quite sure sides is enough to say what you mean, but the clue is solvable), and I was confused about the first Charlie in 26a, i must be missing something.

    well done – and a theme as well, what an excellent effort.

    1. just marvelling at the literary theme now – well, guess it’s all related. very clever.

      1. Yes, the literary reference had somehow escaped me as well until now. I remember seeing quite the most brilliant performance of that work by the resident cast at Mold Theatre some years ago. So much more inspiring than the endless toil over dissecting the book in our English Lit. classes at school.

    2. I may be wrong but I took the first Charlie in 26a to be ‘tit’ with the ‘it’ (sex) reversed.

      1. You will understand that, after my previous ‘egg on face’ experience, I chose to stay away from commenting on that particular clue!

  12. Wow! What an excellent debut, Bob, with so much to like: two themes, two nicely topical political references, mostly good surfaces, some clever misdirections and all delivered with touches of humour.

    I can’t parse 11a or 19d and a few others needed some perseverance to unravel.

    The instruction within 22d would make more sense by replacing “removed” with “replaced”, and for 27d I can’t find ID as an abbreviation for independence in my BRB.

    I have many, many ticks and I’ll give special mentions to 15a, 21a, 32a, 4d, 17d and my favourite 29d.

    Very well done, Bob, and please keep them coming.

    1. Hi RD – I’ll give it a go:-

      11a You need to take a rather eccentric hairstyle and then remove the 2 letter abb for ‘a short time’ from the beginning of the word to give you the feathered one.
      19d A two letter word for ‘work’ followed by the last letter of ‘without’.

      27d Don’t forget the past tense suggested by the clue – you only need one letter to stand for ‘independence’.

      1. Thanks very much, Jane.

        Hairstyles are not my specialist subject, and I couldn’t get past “op” or “on” for work even though I had the answer and saw that the “t” came from without. How stupid is that?

        27d – very clever!

    2. Hi RD – 11a add the usual short time to the front of your answer to get a hairstyle, of sorts.
      19d the first two letters are ‘work’ and the last letter of the 5th word
      27d ‘measured 35’… it’s replace E for I

      18a was my massive balls-up bugbear.

      (Oops, Jane beat me to it)

  13. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Bob
    My first impression was that this was a “fussy” grid with too many three- and four-letter words and I thought it would be a nightmare to solve.
    But there are some really great clues to be found here as well as a bit of a theme; and in view of the news today of resignations 21 might be seen as topical – a bit of serendipity on Big Dave’s part?
    So what clues did I like? 7ac, 7dn, 12dn, 15ac, 17dn, 21ac, 22dn, 23ac, 29dn, 31ac and your self-referential 32ac. Actually I think you missed a trick with 15ac as you could have given the last word an initial capital – Brighton Pavilion being a well-known building in that city and also the name of a parliamentary constituency.
    I wasn’t too happy with 10ac as either there’s no definition or the definition is in the middle of the clue and doung double duty. 18ac I got from the definition but could’t follow the reference to 14. In fact I thought the the definition didn’t quite mean the same as the answer, but the BRB just about admits it.
    I’ve found the comments on my efforts here to be constructive and helpful – I hope you find the same with yours.

    1. Thanks Exit. Sorry the grid threatened to give you nightmares. I’m glad it seems that you will in fact sleep peacefully.

      10ac was my attempt at an &lit – not an attempt I would have dreamt of making, but then I saw the rags anagram and the men in the middle.

      Yes, you’re right that I missed a trick – I did have Brighton Pavilion in mind, just forgot to capitalise it fully. You are also right about the comments here being constructive and helpful. Many thanks.

  14. Excellent debut, and with this sort of work you won’t be a 32a much longer!

    A few quibbles – let’s get those out of the way first. I think in 14a the definition doesn’t quite fit. In 23a I wasn’t sure if “depression” quite fits what is intended here – maybe it does, loosely! In 26a I may be in need of a bit more GK for this one – can’t quite parse it. Likewise 3d, 18a. In 16d I’m not sure about the ‘absent’ – though ‘second husband’ works OK. In 20d I had to guess part of the wordplay – GK lacking again! 27d also a bit iffy maybe (why “measured”?). All these probably Prolixic will be dealing with tomorrow.

    The grid? Some people won’t like it, especially the preponderance of 3-letter lights (7 if I’ve counted right) but definitely a help with your theme!

    But against that many gems. Too many to single out individually, but I have to mention the belly-laugh when I saw 21a! Couldn’t have timed it better, considering today’s news events! :-)

    And I like the way you’ve managed to juxtapose 1a/4a, and 13a/14a, to give added spice to your theme. I guess 5d/17d also fit together, though in a different sense!

    Clue Of The Day? Hard to pick one out. 29d maybe.

    Keep up the good work. Hope to see more of you.

    1. a col is a depression, see chambers.
      3d, 18a -the parsing is as per prolific’s review
      a for absent is in chambers
      27d measured time = timed

      1. I see how 27d goes now – I was adding ID to TIM(e) but ID isn’t an abbrev. for “independence” anyway (I suppose “I” is – as in certain compounds like UDI). I suppose a ‘col’ is a depression in a ridge, somewhere you can pass over the mountains – OK.

        And I now see the parsing for 3d and 18a – with Prolix’s help! I’d never have thought of that cocktail – and even in my drinking days, I’d never have plucked up the courage to ask for one at the bar (I had enough trouble, once, when I was asked to order a “screwdriver” at a British pub…. :-( )!

        I’m familiar with “redwing” and “redpoll”, but I wasn’t aware that “REDCAP” is another name for Goldfinch (American possibly?), but I suppose it’s logical – although the red patch is on the bird’s face, not its ‘cap’. If there’s any British bird that cries out to be dubbed “REDCAP”, it’s got to be the Green Woodpecker surely, in which the cap is very distinctive. As regards 18a, I agree with Prolix that the wordplay is a bit clumsy.

        But enough of this negative stuff. I don’t think a rookie setter’s ability should be judged purely on the strength of their not-so-perfect clues. On the whole this is such a good puzzle, I’d have been happy to see it in the Grauniad any day! (Although Hugh wouldn’t accept that grid).

        All the best,

  15. Many thanks for the welcomes and comments – too many to reply to all, but every one is most valuable, and I’m so grateful to you for taking the time to solve and comment on my puzzle.

  16. Thank you very much for the review, Prolixic.

    Not to quibble, just to clarify my thinking, here are my responses to some individual comments:

    It was a risk to include 18ac, but I wanted to see what people thought of it. It was a relief when Gazza selected it as a favourite, but I take the lesson from the majority view

    29dn also felt like a bit of a risk, so I’m very happy with the response to that one

    2dn, I thought that ‘since’ worked in the sense of ‘after’

    20d, I thought Jo Nesbo was widely known – my bad, as the kids say

    22dn, I saw the split of the wordplay as {taking off legwear, first pair removed} by {mike}

    30dn, I very much liked your idea of mm/2 – very nice indeed

    Many thanks again for the review, and for your very kind and encouraging introductory comments.

    1. replacing since with after would give you a solid clue, wouldn’t it? I think of Since as temporal, while after could also be spatial which is what you want.

      1. Yes, you’re beginning to convince me. Linguistically space and time get used the same way all the time. Or is that used the same time all the way? … OK, maybe that has convinced me.

        One of my test solvers didn’t mind it and didn’t even mention it until today. The other wrote in his notes that he wasn’t initially keen on ‘since’, but now sees how it works and likes its use in the surface reading. That encouraged me to keep it.

        1. I got what you meant with “since”, but I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I think Dutch has hit the nail on the head with the space/time thing, and “after” would have been perfect as it’s either.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – no marks for artistic impression as was to be expected!
    I’m still uncomfortable with the use of ‘askance’ to illustrate a reversal, bit of a bridge too far I felt.

    Well done to bob on his score on the commentometer – hope that boosts your confidence for next time.

      1. Well I’d certainly think thrice before using it again.

        I’ll work on my surfaces for you too, Jane.

        1. I wondered about “askance” too. I realized what you meant once I had the correct candidate answer, and took it you meant “in a different direction”, though it’s really “off to the side” isn’t it?

  18. Excellent first puzzle, bob. You’ve got it. Apart from the couple of points I’ve mentioned in threads above I think my only other quibble is the 14 for 1&4. I didn’t understand it and in fact I lacked the GK for it to be useful anyway. I did, however, know that Redcap is a nickname for MPs and I’d already seen a bird thing going on so np! I’m pleased to say I solved the whole 39 clues without resort to help, but not without some enjoyable chewing. Still not too sure about the literary theme. Can you elucidate, please?

    1. Don’t tell me: sex on the beach (which I didn’t know of as a cocktail or understand till P explained) is made with tequila, maybe, so it’s about Tequila Mockingbird, right?

      1. Sadly it’s not – what a brilliant inclusion that could have been. Still laughing here!

        1. Glad you liked it, Jane. It doesn’t seem to have brought me any closer to the actual theme. I’ve since spotted Night Porter which I haven’t seen/read(?). Is that it?

          1. You’ve already mentioned one of the themes, Whynot. Try looking up the cast members in your newly developed cocktail!
            The second theme was, of course, my favourite feathered friends.

      2. Hahaha. I did have some tequila … but I drank it.

        As Jane said, the theme is birds, with the three Finches from Tequila 22dn-bird also hiding in the grid. When I found the linked 8d could fit in too, that was a bonus.

        1. Thanks bob (and Jane). I only knew the story was about racial injustice snd featured a lawyer. I would have recognised the name, AF, if I heard it but not known where from. I’ve read the Wikipedia and I think I get it all now. Very cleverly done.

          As a bonus, I’ve learnt why the pop group the Boo Radleys are so called, which by coincidence I was wondering recently.

    1. Hmm… just tested that link and it goes to a site about “faux hawk”. Faux link! It’s supposed to be the return from Google image search of thawk, so you can diy if you can be bothered.

      Forgot to say: DOT was my favourite and I thought the short links between sections made it reasonably easy to get about the unusual grid.

      Cheers, bob.

      1. Thank you, Whynot. I liked that clue too. Well, who knew a t hawk was a haircut?

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