Rookie Corner – 225 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 225

A Puzzle by Shabbo

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today it’s the return of Shabbo. 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 excellent crossword from Shabbo with some good wordplay and humour thrown in.  In a few places there were some minor points on the wordplay where the clues could have been polished and some of the cryptic definitions were perhaps on the easy side.  However, these did not detract from the overall quality of the crossword.  The commentometer is a creditable 3/28 or 10.7%


1 Genetic donors found in outskirts of Palma (6,3,6)
FATHER AND MOTHER – The outskirts of Palma are PA and MA.  Expand these to get the answer.

9 Worryingly entrust eccentrics (7)
NUTTERS – An anagram (worryingly) of ENTRUST.

10 Scathing extract from newspaper perhaps (7)
CUTTING – Double definition.

11 Northern Ireland in race to make final matches (3-2)
RUN-IN – The abbreviation for Northern Ireland inside a three letter word for a race.

12 He has designs on getting under one’s skin (9)
TATTOOIST – Cryptic definition of someone who draws patterns on the body.  

13 Drop into the pub first for cheap conversation (5,4)
LOCAL CALL – A five letter word for a pub before (first) a four letter word meaning drop into.  A minor niggle but “drop into” as a phrase does not give the final four words of the clue – it would give a phrase  ending in “on or in”.  It would need to be “drop in” to work.  Whilst you could argue that you need to separate the into so that the “to” becomes a positional indicator, this would not work here as the word for the pub comes first and, in any event, unindicated separations like this are not acceptable to some editors.  The “the” could have been omitted.

15 American soldiers return letter (5)
SIGMA – Reverse (return) a two letter abbreviation for American and a three letter abbreviation for soldiers.

16 Novello linked with unknown piano key (5)
IVORY – The first name of the composer Mr Novello followed by a letter used in algebra to indicate an unknown quantity. A minor point but Chambers indicates that for piano keys the plural is required.  I don’t think that this justifies the use of the solution in the singular as the plural is used as a collective noun for the set of keys.

18 Protected prisoner did time (9)
CONSERVED – A three letter word for a prisoner followed by a six letter word meaning having done time in prison or in the armed forces / police etc.

20 Adapt or I will join the French revolutionary leader (9)
EDITORIAL – A four letter word meaning adapt or amend followed by the OR I from the clue and a reversal (revolutionary) of the French feminine form of “the”.

23 More unusual to see lion perhaps with nothing to lose (5)
RARER – A description of a lion by reference to the sound that it make without the letter O (nothing to lose).  The link words “to see” don’t work as you have DEFINTION to see WORDPLAY but you should have WORDPLAY to see DEFINITION.

24 Kiln in moor produces hot snack (7)
TOASTIE – A four letter word for kiln in which hops are dried inside a three letter word meaning to moor or dock somewhere.

25 African, Welshman and Scotsman (7)
IVORIAN – A four letter Welsh name followed by a three letter Scots name.  As the Welsh name has already been used in 16a, it would be been better to have found a different way of cluing this or the other clue.

26 Come down hard and exercise pets with no lead (4,4,3,4)
RAIN CATS AND DOGS – A phrase 5,4,3,4 meaning to exercise felines and canines without the initial letter (with no lead).


1 He might be undertaking a late assignment (7,8)
FUNERAL DIRECTOR – The profession of someone one who attends to the needs of the bereaved for the burial of the deceased.

2 I can’t get worked up about the other ship (7)
TITANIC – An anagram (get worked up) of ICANT around a two letter word for sex (the other).  As the letters to be rearranged are treated a as unit (the anagram indicator works on them collectively) the cryptic grammar does not work here as you have A get worked up rather than A gets works up.

3 Outside times lost for ever (9)
ETERNALLY – A ten letter word meaning outside without (lost) the letter representing times.

4 Rise in old savings account is a benefit (5)
ASSET – Reverse (rise in) the name of an old savings account.

5 Last month 50% of athletes joined on two day event (9)
DECATHLON – The abbreviation for the last month of the year, the first four letters (50%) of the word athletes and the ON from the clue.

6 Alfresco party put in the shade (5)
OUTDO – Split 3-2, the solution would suggest an alfresco (open air) party.

7 Calling a cab in bad weather? (7)
HAILING – Double definition.

8 Wright’s grandson struggling with moral code (6,3,6)
RIGHTS AND WRONGS – An anagram (struggling) of WRIGHTS GRANDSON.  The anagram here is not helped by the fact that the first five letters of the solution appear in the same order in the first work of the clue.  Perhaps “Put up with grandson struggling with moral code” would have disguised this better.

14 Building drawer for wren possibly (9)
ARCHITECT – Single definition described two ways.  The convention is that you can capitalise common nouns to deceive but that you should not have a proper noun in lower case.

15 Last weapon outside could be bloody (5,4)
SWEAR WORD – a five letter word for a bladed weapon around (outside) a four letter word meaning to last or endure.

17 How to make paper increasingly attractive? (7)
ORIGAMI – A cryptic definition of the art of paper-folding – soon to be televised I hear on a paper view channel.

19 I go green at first with dizziness (7)
VERTIGO – A four letter word for heraldic green before (first) the I GO from the clue.  As we have had first as a positional indicator perhaps a different indicator could have been used in one of the clues.

21 Difficult topic for alcohol supplier (5)
OPTIC – An anagram (difficult) of TOPIC.

22 Sounds like a high flying canine (5)
LAIKA – A homophone (sounds) of LIKE A.  Perhaps an imperative verb sound, rather than sounds, would have given a better indicator here.

30 comments on “Rookie Corner – 225

  1. That was fun to solve. The four border answers fell without too much of a fight so we had plenty of checking letters to work with. The biggest hold up, which doubled the time for the solve, were a couple of clues in the SE, 22d and 25a. The clues that we liked best were 17d with its interesting use of ‘increasingly’ as well as 20a and 22d.
    Thanks and well done Shabbo.

  2. Thank you Shabbo, that was enjoyable. Solved completely but some parsings have eluded me and I will wait for the full review on those.

    I really liked that only one of the border answers was an anagram.

    I think you might get into trouble for the lower case W in 14d. I think I understand that you were trying to create some misdirection but, unless I am mistaken, peoples’ names still have to be capitalised.

    Boy oh boy, 22d was a real memory test which had to be helped by the checkers. Fortunately(?) I was around at the time of the event.

    I really liked 13a, 18a, and 5d.

    Well done and thanks again.

  3. I enjoyed that – thanks Shabbo.
    As Senf said it’s good that only one of the 15-letter answers involved an anagram. Most of the clues have meaningful surfaces (16a perhaps being an exception). The cryptic grammar doesn’t work in 2d but I did like your use of ‘the other’.
    The clues I liked best were 20a, 6d and 17d.

  4. An enjoyable crossword that didn’t take long to solve. I think 22d may hold up a few who weren’t around at the time and won’t have the canine in question in their memory banks

    Thanks to Shabbo and, in advance, to Prolixic

  5. Welcome back Shabbo – if you’ll forgive me saying so, not very taxing this one and a quick solve without any big hold-ups.

    I agree that there’s a Ximmie-contravention in 14d, regarding the lower-case “w”. Perhaps some solvers will pass that over, but not all!

    Re Gazza’s comment on 2d – I’m wondering whether something like “I can’t bother about the other ship” works better? Just an idea. Personally, I’m OK with the clue you wrote, but others won’t be!

    Goodies? The first one that strikes me is 3d – excellent wordplay, the star clue of the puzzle, I’d nominate. Reminds me of a novel by Isaac Asimov – hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler! 20a and 15d also deserve honourable mention – great misdirection!

    I enjoyed 25a, good surface – but it’s a pity about the similarity with 16a! I’ve had this happen in one of mine, where the same word appears in two different places….

    22d I agree might baffle some not of my generation – needs some GK. And 13a might be another one to perplex younger solvers – we have so many means of “cheap conversation” nowadays that the expression may not ring a bell?

    Hope this helps. Look forward to more, keep them coming! L.

  6. Great stuff, Shabbo. I really liked this. As others have commented it was not at all difficult but it was very enjoyable thanks to your smooth surfaces, accurate wordplay and humour.

    My favourite was 25a with 3d & 6d hot on its heels.

    Many thanks Shabbo and in advance to Prolixic.

  7. Thanks Shabbo, all enjoyable and quite gentle
    I liked the slighter tougher ones better, on the whole. A few, such as 12a, 1d, 7d just seemed a little too transparent.
    24a, 25a, 26a (I wondered if you might have left out ‘hard’?)
    2d (you do sometimes see fodder treated as plural if it’s more than one word, which seems ok in principle to me), 3d, 6d, 15d, 19d
    In 14d I liked ‘building drawer’, also the sense of it, but didn’t like that the two halves of the clue were both the same thing
    In 22d – I had to guess the second letter (couldn’t remember if it was e or not). I suppose the fourth letter might have been different too. Perhaps you should have indicated all the letters in the wordplay.

  8. Welcome back, Shabbo.

    Probably your best puzzle yet, with very good surfaces generally, mostly sound wordplay and a sprinkling of humour. I enjoyed the solve a lot.

    In addition to noting down similar minor quibbles to previous commenters, my least favourite clue was 8d. Quite apart from the fact that the majority of the letters in the anagram fodder appear in the same order as in the answer, the first word is also a homophone of the first word of the solution! I really think you would have been much better off looking for a completely different anagram.

    Like RD, my favourite clue was 25a (the start of a joke, perhaps?). Ticks also went to 10a, 18a, 1d, 4d, 7d and 15d. I think “turn” instead of “go” (from the answer) for 19d might have been a useful improvement.

    Congratulations and well done, Shabbo.

    1. I did think that it’s a shame 25a and 13a aren’t consecutive clues, because they’d read so brilliantly run together!

  9. Thanks Shabbo, that was simple and fun.

    Silvanus has posted my thought exactly on 8d, and there’s a touch of that in 11a, too. I think 14d is a weak clue/idea, W or not.

    22d a homophone of a GK Russian dog’s name is a little unfair to the solver I would suggest.

    I particularly liked 2d 17d & 20a, but also enjoyed the peppering of ‘increasingly’, ‘the other’ and such like.

    Well done – look forward to your next.

  10. Hi Shabbo.

    I really enjoyed this. Easier end, yes, but clues which took longer for me to get included 11a 13a, 20a and 15d – all of which (bar 11a which I’m not so keen on) were on my list of likes.

    In addition to the things already mentioned, I had teeny tiny question marks over the single ivory (16a), the “the” in 13a and the linking part of 23a (which clue I did like). My issue with 22d was not remembering the dog, though I wasn’t around at the time, but that I think “sounds [x]” doesn’t really indicate sounds like [x], so you’d need the “like” to do double duty.

    I also really liked 2d, plural fodder notwithstanding. Speaking of which, there have been discussions about this in another place. See Arachne’s and Sil’s comments here.

    Other top clues for me were 25a and 6d.

    Many thanks Shabbo, and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Hi Kitty,

      Many thanks for the link about the singular/plural debate which I hadn’t seen previously. Very interesting. Although Arachne seems to have decided that, if it’s needed for the surface, then it’s okay, I suspect most other setters would be very reluctant to go down that path, although I can almost guarantee that a certain Antipodean contributor might well chip in later with his usual “rules are made to be broken” mantra!

    2. Thanks for bringing the singular/plural debate to our attention, Kitty. I suppose it depends on whether the fodder is treated as a phrase or as separate words. It’s interesting to see that Arachne remains orthodox in her treatment of “on” – so many setters (including Dada – see 10a in today’s back-pager) flout that convention that I’ve stopped flagging it up in my blogs.

    3. Kitty, thanks for that illuminating link. I’ve seen the sing/pl question raised before and have been persuaded by Arachne’s viewpoint. Re the use of “on”, I mentioned this point at the weekend in respect of Shed’s Guardian Prize where there were two clues using “on” contrary to Times guidelines. No one else mentioned it, so I think we can confidently say that the Guardian’s editor and solvers are content to see “on” used either way.

      Guardian Prize 27,567 by Shed

  11. Nice to see you back again, Shabbo, and with another enjoyable puzzle.
    As others have already mentioned, there were a few places where improvements could have been made but the same could doubtless be said of most crosswords!

    I particularly appreciated the touches of humour in several of the clues – solving is a much more pleasurable pastime with a smile on one’s face.

    Pick of the bunch for me were 1a/d plus 17&22d.

    Many thanks, look forward to your next outing.

  12. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Noticed the non capitalised architect but wasn’t bothered.
    The homophone in 22d made me laugh.
    Thanks to Shabbo for the great fun.

  13. Very nice , not too hard and I liked the gentle humour .
    I liked all the border clues and many others .

  14. As ever, very grateful thanks to you all for your kind and constructive comments.

    I wrote this about three months ago and had not revisited until this morning. In the cold light of day, I do not think it was one of my better efforts, so your kind comments are appreciated, if somewhat unwarranted!

    I concur with all of the constructive criticism and accept there are one or two weak clues. I do recall struggling to populate the last parts of the grid and probably should have started again. I can only apologise for Laika!

    8d is a poor anagram, 14d probably would have been better as a cryptic definition using just the first two words, “turn” would have been better than “go” in 19d and I could have changed the wording in 2d to avoid the singular/plural trap.

    Anyway, enough self-flagellation. At least I seem to have made some of you smile!!

    Thanks again. Shabbo

    1. No need for the self-flagellation Shabbo! I have learnt enough myself, to know that the art of compiling is very much a self-improvement process, especially in the early stages. I’m sure you have more of a “good feeling” about your more recent effort(s) – if you have any. I know I have!

      And in amongst the below-par clues which I and others have highlighted, there are definitely some Royal Flushes. As we have pointed out!

      My next “appearance” in this parish will be with a puzzle I did over six months ago – when I see it again I’m sure I’ll realise all the flaws in it, which I though were OK, back then.

      Incidentally, no need to apologise for Laika! It’s the Russians who should be apologising. I remember, back in the days of Sputnik mania, another kid in the school playground, explaining to me that they had poisoned Laika while she was in orbit. I cried and cried!

  15. Prolixic, thanks for the review, although I did have to groan at the 17d homophonic comment!

  16. Thanks, Laccaria. I was born just after Laika was sacrificed for the Soviet good, but I hope that this old dog can learn new tricks and benefit from the very helpful advice above.

    I will spend more time on compiling when I retire again (the first attempt was woeful – I lasted a month!).

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Have to say that I wasn’t at all worried about the ‘ivory’ – how strange that it apparently can’t be used in the singular.

    As Shabbo said – loved the pay per view gag!

  18. Re IVORY/-IES: It’s a bit passé nowadays seeing as ivory is no longer used for piano keys (I have a 19th century piano still keyed in ivory, I don’t know what the legal position would be if I tried to sell it…. )

    So I don’t know if it matters whether you use the singular or plural here. A few people still use the old colloquialism tickle the ivories to mean, “play the piano”. Not an expression I’d use – could lead to an angry argument!

    1. In fact, my old Chambers (1988) gives “a piano key” as one def for ivory. Btw, “tickling the ivories” was an answer in a puzzle (by Paul, maybe”), which made me aware of this alternative version of the “tinkling the ivories” I was familiar with.

  19. Greetings, Shabbo! I enjoyed this very much. Apart from that, it’s all been said, except that (@Prolixic) I believe “could be” is part of the def for 15d, and I don’t understand the alternative clue for 8d.

    1. I agree with you about Prolixic’s version of 8d. Can’t parse it. Shabbo’s version is grammatically OK but rather weak for the reasons given.

      Re “tickle/tinkle the ivories”, I remember a colleague of mine – rather older than me and he’s since died sadly – using that expression. He was a fairly accomplished pianist and organist in his spare time. We were stopping over at a hotel during a business trip, he noticed there was a piano in the bar area and asked the barman “mind if I tickle the ivories?”. The barman said “go ahead” so he gave us all a first-rate performance for the rest of the evening!

  20. Very late to the party having had a busy week. When I got round to it I solved the puzzle quite quickly and didn’t really have any quibbles apart from wren instead of Wren – although following the convention can be a bit of a giveaway unless you can contrive to put the proper noun as the first word of the clue. Overall, an enjoyable solve.

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