Rookie Corner – 227 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 227

A Puzzle by Zplig

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have a puzzle from Zplig, another setter making his debut. 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 to Zplig our latest rookie to these shores though I see he had previous form in Australia were he sets of a crossword magazine.

There was a lot of promise in this crossword though in places, I think that his enthusiasm for the twin themes of knights and chess ran away with him and led to some clues being a little too off kilter to be fair to the solver.  Some of the cryptic grammar requires attention but this can easily be addressed.

The exuberance comes at a price on the commentometer reads as 11/33 or 33%


7 That man sadly welcomed a year in the mountains (9)
HIMALAYAS – A three letter word meaning that man and a four letter word meaning sadly include the A from the clue and the abbreviation for year.

8 Wifeless? Sort of Queen Gwen’s type (5)
GENRE – An anagram (sort) of ER (Queen) GWEN without the abbreviation for wife (wifeless).  Although abbreviations can be used to indicate part of the letters to be rearranged, it is better to use abbreviations where there no doubt about the letters to be used otherwise it strays into indirect anagram territory.  Given that Queen could be Q, Qu or any of the regnal cyphers of the current and past Queens, this is perhaps on the wrong side of the line.

9 Worry was stemmed after seat’s secured for everyone taking a crash course? (6,3)
BUMPER CAR – A four letter word for worry has the final letter removed (was stemmed) after a three letter word for seat or bottom all going around a three letter word meaning for everyone.  Tense is important in the surface reading.  Perhaps “Worry’s stemmed after seat’s secured for everyone” to keep it in the present tense.  Also whilst you can have verbal phrases to define a noun, I am not convinced that “taking a crash course” indicates the solution fairly.  Perhaps “Worry’s stemmed after seat’s secured for everyone in vehicle”

10 The King succeeded this guy essentially (5)
UTHER – The central letter (essentially) of GUY followed by (succeeded) the “THE” in the clue and the abbreviation for king. Superfluous words should be omitted where possible.  There the “this” plays not part in the wordplay and could be omitted.  Again there is no definition as such and as an &Lit, it is not precise enough to define the exact king required.

12 The revolution campaigned for this city (6)
TEHRAN – An anagram (revolution) of THE followed by a three letter word meaning campaigned.

13 Broke down any leads! (8)
ANALYSED – An anagram (broke down) of ANY LEADS.

16 Saw for cutting, perhaps? (7)
PROVERB – A three letter word meaning for and the type of word of which cutting is an example.

19 Wounded in Japan united against Marxist adherent (7)
INJURED – The IN from the clue followed by the abbreviation for Japan, the abbreviation for united and a three letter word meaning a Marxist adherent.

22 Ruined cavalier; one atop another? (8)
PERCIVAL – An anagram (ruined) of CAVALIER after changing one of the A’s to a P “one atop”.  Whilst some editors allow lift and separate clues where you have mentally split ATOP to A TO P, not all will do so.  Also, where it is permitted, there is invariably an unwritten rule that the split has to be a word sound break in the word.  Not sure if people would described the solution as a ruined cavalier.

25 A decaf blend – it’s showy without much substance (6)
FAÇADE – An anagram (blend) of A DECAF.

27 King’s conclusion; to be sick in a castle? The opposite with this! (5)
GRAIL – The final letter (conclusion) of king followed by the chess abbreviation for a rook (it is not a castle – that is the move where the rook and king exchange places) and a three letter word meaning to be sick.  Where is the definition?  It is so tangential to be unfair to the solver.

28 Burning, turning, and killing – the work of Morgana? (9)
EVILDOING – Reverse (turning) a four letter word meaning burning and follow with a word meaning killing.  Killing would lead to “doing in” not doing on its own.

29 Lancelot used a bit of this to help forget (5)
LOTUS – The answer is hidden (a bit of this) in LANCELOT USED.

30 “Be1x? Crazy!” – Souped-up hater of kibitzers (9)
XENOPHOBE – An anagram (crazy) of BE ONE X around a three letter word for a Vietnamese soup.  Where do I begin?  The definition is so wide of the mark, it is unfair to the solver.  The soup is an obscure word.  I cannot see that souped-up means put the soup in and, like the Queen clue earlier” it is bordering on an indirect anagram


1 Female soldier returned safe as the first to leave in 2007? (6)
FIGURE – The abbreviation for female followed by a reversal (returned) of soldier and a four letter word meaning safe with the first letter removed.  A minor point, but the cryptic grammar would be improved if you omitted the “as” to give “Female soldier returned safe – first to leave in 2007?

2 As Karpov was beaten this man took his place (8)
KASPAROV – An anagram (was beaten) of AS KARPOV.

3 A knight standing by a king, or a girl standing by a boy (6)
PATRON  – A three letter girl’s name followed by a three letter boys name.  I am not sure that the definition here is the most helpful as the King rather than the knight would be the solution and not the reverse.  Also, with a down clue A standing by B almost suggests a reversal of A followed by B.

4 Lady took the heart of foward knight? (7)
GALAHAD – A three letter word for describing a girl followed by a five letter word meaning forward with the middle letter removed. Forward is misspelled in the clue.  The cryptic grammar does not work here as the clue instructs you to add the central letter not to add the letters after the central letter has been removed.  Perhaps “Leading lady’s first to dismiss base knight”

5 Watch Carlsen trying to secure the result (6)
SENTRY – The answer is hidden in (to secure) CARSEN TRYING.

6 Pie, or it’s cooler (6)
BREEZE – Double definition, the first in the sense of easy and the second a cooling wind.

11 Knight chasing foot soldier (4)
PAWN – A three letter word for the foot of an animal followed by a single letter abbreviation for knight.

14 Whirling river is what’s often seen with Gawain (3)
SIR – Reverse (whirling) the abbreviation for river and the IS from the clue.

15 Dishonoured man lost his footing (3)
DUD – A four letter word for a man without the last letter (lost his footing).

16 Narrowly defeat by one in dominoes (3)
PIP – Double definition

17 Blade said to inspire fear (3)
OAR – A homophone (said) of a word meaning to inspire fear.  Not wrong but a point to watch with this type of clue is that with the homophone indicator in the middle of the clue, the solver does not know whether the indicator operated on the “blade” or “to inspire fear”.  If possible, the clue should make it clear – perhaps “Blade to inspire fear we hear”

18 French bank split up a while ago (4)
RIVE – An archaic form (a while ago) of a word meaning split up is also the French word for a river bank.

20 Peacekeepers keep constant watch on the Strip (8)
UNCLOTHE – The abbreviation for United Nations (peacekeepers) followed by the abbreviation for constant, a two letter word meaning watch and the “the” from the clue.  The keep here seems out of place as it indicates a form of containment that is not required in the solution.  Peacekeepers’ constant watch on the strip would have worked as well.

21 Oscar (51st) contender (7)
OLIVIER – The letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet represented by Oscar followed by the number 51 in Roman numerals a four letter word for a contender.  Apparently, he was a contender for an Oscar in the 51st awards ceremony but knowing this type of general knowledge is arguably too detailed for a clue.  More importantly, the st in 51st is misleading as it plays no part in the solution and solvers might be expecting a solution with LIST in it.

23 Implant? Deeply egotistical – not really organic or therapeutic, for starters (6)
ENROOT – The initial letters (for starters) of the third to eighth letters of the clue.  Although punctuation can usually be disregarded, the ? between implant and deeply, breaks the definition and therefore is unfair on the solver.  The surface reading is not the best in this crossword.

24 The Knights of the Round Table, perhaps, caught student on a quest losing their way (6)
CLIQUE – The abbreviations for caught and learner (student) over (on) the quest from the clue without (losing) the abbreviation for street (way).  The cryptic grammar here does not quire work.  The a should have been omitted from “a quest” as it does not feature in the solution and the “their” would have been better omitted or changed to “the”.  Perhaps “The Knights of the Round Table, perhaps” caught student on quest getting rid of holy man”

25 Nothing left against Merlin? (6)
FALCON – A two letter abbreviation for nothing and the abbreviation for left followed by a three letter word from the Latin meaning against.  The abbreviation for nothing used here is fair game and has been used in several Independent crosswords and at least one Toughie.

26 Knight stopped by an English flower (6)
DANUBE – A three letter word meaning to knight someone includes (stopped) by the AN from the clue followed by the abbreviation for English.

27 comments on “Rookie Corner – 227

  1. Certainly a clever puzzle with a lot of themed answers that had us working very hard. Figuring out that it was a pangram helped with the last to solve, 6d.
    Thanks Zplig.

  2. It definitely helps to solve this puzzle if you know a bit about the theme. It does have a touch of the ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ about it too. Having said that, there are also some really good clues

    I particular like the ‘seat .. for everyone’ in 9a; the &lit ness of 10a and 2d. I’m presuming the ‘foward’ in 4d should be forward but that doesn’t seem to be to help with the ‘heart’ part? There are a couple of clues where I can’t really see a definition and another couple I can’t parse but I’m sure Prolixic will explain in due course

    I have a feeling that, although this is your first Rookie corner puzzle, it isn’t your ‘first’ crossword.

  3. The more I got into this puzzle the better I liked it – thanks Zplig. As well as the main theme there seems to be a mini-theme about chess (although Rabbit Dave will splutter at 27a).
    There are a couple I can’t fully parse (30a and 4d – I presume there’s a typo in the second) and some of the surfaces (e.g. 19a and 30a) don’t mean much. My ticks went to 10a, 22a, 25d and 26d.
    Looking forward to your next puzzle.

  4. Some clever stuff and a good debut here at Rookie Corner – well done Zplig!

    I thought 10, 26 and 11 in particular were super clues! Following on from Gazza’s comment, there seemed to be ‘Knights Various’ around the puzzle, which I took to be the extended theme. 22 and 8 might worry some of the stricter clue writers. And I agree with CrypticSue above re. a couple of definitions.

    I have a few notes I took as I solved that I am more than happy to share by email, if you wish. Let BD know if yes and he can put us in touch. [Adding them here would spoil too much for others]

    I look forward to Prolixic’s review tomorrow.



  5. Thanks for the puzzle, Zplig. A themed pangram, that’s quite a task for a Rookie.

    There are a few I am not sure about eg 8a, 22a, 30a (shouldn’t that be Bxe1 anyway?) and 25d – is that really the abbreviation F.A. for nothing?

    I liked the more concise 16a & 26d and 4d might have joined those, but I can’t piece together the wordplay.

    Many thanks for the puzzle and look forward to your next.

            1. Again, yes, but that is a euphemism. Does the original meaning have a place in a cryptic crossword, that’s what I am questioning.

              1. I’m happy with nothing in the clue triggering FA in the answer, whether it’s slang, euphemistic or whatever. But I don’t know what the reviewer will make of it…

  6. Welcome, Zplig.

    Unlike Gazza, I have to say that the more I got into this one, the less I enjoyed it unfortunately. Whilst it was undoubtedly clever to include so many themed answers, I couldn’t help feeling that in many clues the setter was trying to be TOO clever. 30a is a case in point – the surface is meaningless as far as I can tell, the parsing impenetrable (to me at least) and the definition far too stretched. In the end, as I wasn’t enjoying the puzzle, I resorted to electronic assistance to shorten the solve, something I rarely, if ever, do.

    Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid, although I would like to see how the setter performs without a theme in his/her next puzzle.

    Thanks, Zplig.

    1. Thank you, Silvanus. That precisely mirrors my experience and you’ve saved me the trouble of writing it all.

      However, well done, Zplig, you’ve got some clever ideas on show and I know you will have put in a lot of effort to produce this, but, I feel the same as Silvanus that overall it was not my cup of tea.

  7. **This was posted as a reply to Silvanus**
    I think the idea is the scenario of someone watching a game of chess, seeing Bxe1 or Be1+ and declaring it a crazy move.

    In my view there are two problems here: Firstly a kibitzer is an onlooker or commentator, not necessarily a stranger or someone the answer would necessarily a ‘hater of’.

    Secondly, it is an incorrect indirect anagram, at best, as far as I can tell.

    Does seem extremely forced to fit the theme.

      1. Hi guys,

        it is an indirect anagram (with 1= ONE being indirect) of “B + E + ONE + X” (and I now realize, as noted by LetterboxRoy it should be Bxe1, I haven’t notated a game since High School and mis-remembered). And then it is full of Vietnamese soup – this soup is very popular in Sydney, but having lived in London for almost a year now I realize you don’t really have a Vietnamese community so that probably makes it considerably harder.
        A Kibitzer is a commentator that should not be interacting with the game ( I wouldn’t call a professional commentator a kibitzer for example). I do agree it was a stretch of a definition, so fair enough :p

        The surface was meant to be someone outside the game suggested Bxe1 and the player declares it as crazy, but partially because they hate kibitzers.

    1. No wonder I couldn’t parse 30a – I took the third character of the clue to be a lower-case L.

  8. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Zplig.
    I have to admit that this was well outside of my comfort zone and some of the surface reads were rather cringeworthy.
    After making sterling efforts, I eventually revealed letters to get the last four and can’t say that I totally understand the answers even now!

    I did like 25 & 26d but over all this was not for me.

    Apologies, Zplig – I look forward to the review from Prolixic and hope you might bring us a more solver friendly puzzle next time.

  9. Well Zplig I really enjoyed chewing on this one on and off most of today, still stuck on two in NE corner. Favourites 22 ( atop simply brilliant) and 25d.
    A great debut. Thank you

  10. I confess that I was completely unable to do this.
    I did have a quick look but, having got only a couple of answers, I didn’t have enough to go on to keep trying – I have the attention span of a gnat.
    I didn’t manage to spot the theme and, having read the previous comments, I suspect it’s something that I know nothing about.
    Oh well, whatever, as they say!
    Thanks and congratulations to Zplig for having the courage to have a go.

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which has cleared up the issues I had with this one.
    One question – if the ‘a’ is removed from the clue for 24d, what is left to represent the ‘i’ in CLIQUE?

    1. Jane, I too read the ‘a’ as standing for the ‘I’ in CLIQUE and in fact wondered if Prolixic would comment adversely on that. Presumably the intention is that a (indefinite article) = one = i (Roman numeral)?

  12. I finished it eventually with my last ones in being 9ac, 3dn and 4dn – the latter two of which I was unable to parse satisfactorily. Like others I got the impression that the setter was trying to be too clever. The best clues were generally the non-themed ones, such as 7ac, 16ac, 25ac and 5dn. I also rather liked 13ac, but surely ‘broke down’ is doing double duty as definition and anagram indicator – maybe a question mark rather than an exclamation mark would have served to point this out.
    In my own (limited) experience it’s probably best to stick to one idea/theme at a time. I set a puzzle some time ago which had a perimeter nina and was also a pangram – but to acheive that I had to resort to a really obscure word which generated quite a bit of adverse criticism.
    So here’s looking for a happier experience next time.

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