Rookie Corner – 238 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 238

A Puzzle by Zplig

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a second puzzle from Zplig. 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 Zplig with another tough crossword.  Although not to everyone’s taste, it was solvable with a lot of time and patience.  This one took me three or four visits to the grid.

The commentometer reads 5.5 / 28 or 19.6%.  Whilst still high, this is a distinct improvement on Zplig’s first crossword.  I think that removing some of the obscurities and a little more attention to the cryptic grammar of the clues would help.  Although the overall level of the clues was tough, in many cases they were fair and there were some nice definitions.  One other point to watch is to keep the wordplay in the present tense where possible.


1 Gay politician’s campaign against Southern cowards (8)
MILKSOPS – The name of a US politician who was the first to be openly gay followed by a two letter abbreviation for campaign or operation and the abbreviation for Southern.  Whilst the clue is not wrong, expecting solvers to know the name of a gay American politician is a big stretch.

5 City contest the Observer caught (6)
WARSAW – A three letter word for a battle or contest followed by a word meaning what an observer caught.

9 Rascal caught in a lie making shoes (7)
BROGUES – A five letter word for a rogue inside the abbreviation for bullshit (lie).

10 During brief recreation, fellow turned to a soft-soled shoe (7)
CREEPER – A four letter word for a contemporary or colleague (fellow) inside a three letter abbreviation (brief) for recreation all reversed (turned).  I think that the structure wordplay to definition is ok though turned “to find” might have prevented quibbles.

11 Explosive opening to Advent – bishops covered the shortest prayer (1-4)
A-BOMB – The first letter (opening to) of Advent followed by the abbreviation for bishop twice around (covered) a two letter mantra or prayer.  Where possible try to keep wordplay in the present  tense.  The bishops still are covering the prayer in the solution.

12 Was once privy to details Graeme bore in error? (9)
GARDEROBE – The surname of the Goodie Graeme with the final letter removed (details) followed by an anagram (in error) of robe.  The structure of this clue definition to wordplay does not work.  Also for the cryptic grammar to work correctly, you need detailed or, in this clue, you could have to detail so that the to give the imperative instruction to remove the final letter.

13 “Perceptive Conservative character that descended into madness” – quoted on the radio (5-7)
CLEAR-SIGHTED – The abbreviation for Conservative followed by the name of a mad Shakespearean King and an homophone (on the radio) of cited (quoted).

17 Disease minimised in hotbed (12)
TUBERCULOSIS – The name of a disease whose abbreviation (minimised) is found in hotbed.

20 Imitate G-d in farce – wasn’t so severe (9)
MITIGATED – An anagram (in farce) of IMITATE GD.  The definition give the wrong part of speech, the solution means made less severe.  As you need only to move the I and the G is is not much of an anagram.

22 Good drops a little bit (5)
GRAIN – The abbreviation for good followed by drops that fall from the sky.

23 Shoes for sale – worn (7)
LOAFERS – An anagram (word) of FOR SALE.

24 Lieutenant stopped touring envoy for trivial matter (7)
NOVELTY – The abbreviation for lieutenant inside (stopped) an anagram (touring) of ENVOY.  Another clue where the wordplay could have been put into the present tense with stops rather than stopped.

25 I‘m determined the pro’s odd (6)
SETTER – A three letter word meaning determined followed by the odd letters of the pro.  When looking at the cryptic reading you have definition am wordplay which does not work.

26 Hacking measure added new login input (8)
USERNAME – An anagram (hacking) of MEASURE includes (added) the abbreviation for new.  Another clue where adding, rather than added, would have been better.


1 Mafia syndicate boss passed over decorative bonnet (3,3)
MOB CAP – A three letter word for the mafia followed by the name of a mafia (syndicate) boss without the O (passed over).

2 View of bathroom floor – intro to nacre (4,2)
LOOK ON – A three letter word for a bathroom or toilet followed by the abbreviation for knock-out and first letter to nacre.

3 Wrangler almost cops bullet and luckily extinguishes racketeering leads (9)
SQUABBLER – A five letter word for a group of policeman with the final word removed (almost) followed by a type of small bullet used in air-rifles and the initial letters (leads) of luckily extinguishes racketeering.

4 Office makes specific adjustments for future doctors (13)
POSTGRADUATES – A four letter word for an office followed by a nine letter word meaning makes specific adjustments.

6 Live on the soulless and rocky edge (5)
ARETE – A three letter word meaning live followed by the outer letters (soulless) of the.

7 Props to good guys eating up unfinished pork (8)
SUPPORTS – The abbreviation for saints (in the plural) includes (eating) the UP from the clue and the PORK from the clue with the final letter removed (unfinished).

8 Spooner’s wench marries – they’ll blow you away! (8)
WARHEADS – A Spoonerism of WHORE (wench) WEDS (marries).

10 Second person involved with sacrament’s ending? More than one (13)
CORESPONDENTS – An anagram (involved) of SECOND PERSON T (the final letter – ending – of sacrament.  Although the clue suggests the answer as a whole, it is not the clearest of definitions with the inclusion of sacraments.  A tighter definition would have been better here.  The solution should be 2-11.

14 Run one rule back-to-front for exam (5,4)
GOING OVER  – A two letter word meaning rule followed the letter representing one and a word meaning rule with the back letter moved to the front.

15 Litmus test on University’s influence (8)
STIMULUS – An anagram (test) of LITMUS followed by the abbreviation for university with the ’s maintained in the solution.  I am not keen on test as an anagram indicator.

16 Six-pack stretch isn’t practical (8)
ABSTRACT – The name of the muscles forming a six pack followed by another word for a stretch of land.  

18 Trouble raised after prosecutor introduced husband’s girl (6)
DAHLIA – A two letter word meaning prosecutor followed by a three letter word for trouble reversed includes the abbreviation for husband.  Again, introducing husband would be better.  Also, as a girl’s name this is obscure though the wordplay is clear.  

19 Limits to Eastern Zymology and Medicine? It can start something (6)
ENZYME – The outer letters (limits to) of the third, fourth and sixth words of the clue.  An enzyme promotes the speed of a reaction rather than starting it.

21 Fools turn to the Right over ‘endless gender’ (5)
GEESE – A three letter word used in equestrianism to indicate a move the right followed by a three letter word meaning gender with the final letter removed.

11 comments on “Rookie Corner – 238

  1. For me, this falls into the ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ category. had a mighty struggle unpicking most of the clues, although it did help that for a while I thought we were heading for a pangram, but I can’t seem to find an X.

    12a There are a number of Graeme’s I thought of before I solved the clue on definition and then realised which one I wanted
    10a the enumeration should be 2-11 – if it had been I might have ‘seen’ this earlier

    I have a number of other things I could say but I’m supposed to be doing the day job so I’ll leave it for others.

    Sorry Zplig but for me the wrong sort of hard work to be entertaining.

  2. Quite a tricky puzzle I thought. There’s a footy theme here and I thought that it was going to be a pangram but it’s a couple of letters short (unless I’ve got some answers wrong).
    Some of the grammar doesn’t really work, e.g. ‘details’ in 12a should really be ‘detailed’ and the answer to 20a is a transitive verb which doesn’t fit the wordplay.
    There are a couple of fairly obscure people referenced – the gay politician in 1a (whom I didn’t know) and the elderly comedian in 12a (I do know him).
    I can’t account for one of the letters in 3d.
    Some of the surface readings don’t make a great deal of sense (e.g. 7d and 21d).
    The clues I liked best were 13a and 24a.
    Thanks Zplig – I’m sure you’ll find Prolixic’s review helpful.

  3. Hi Zplig

    congratulations on this second puzzle!

    well I have a full grid, but I hadn’t parsed 1a, 12a, and 21d, though I now see 12a, thanks Gazza – yes, it needs to be detailed and the “to” doesn’t really fit. I didn’t know the gentlemen anyway. Looks like I don’t know the gay mp either.

    I found this hard, and i needed the reveal button.

    I’ll add some comments, mainly personal preferences, no doubt prolixic will give you a comprehensive review.

    9a probably ok, but i would have preferred lies rather than a lie

    10a it gets used, but if you think about it, “to” is not the most elegant of links

    11a. a stylistic suggestion – no unnecessary past tense. keep present tense wherever possible. wordplay in the past can seem odd, though sometimes the clue requires it. Here though, cover (which i think is legit given 2 B’s) and covering work just as well, hence would be preferable

    20a – in my books, this is cheating a bit to get the anagram fodder

    25a classic cryptic grammar error. Definition am wordplay.The I is the definition, hence does not have a first person attribute, it is now just a “thing”. “Am” does not work as a link, it should be “is”. Just “I determined…” works fine!

    8a love the spoonerism but the surface has an unfortunate singular / plural mismatch.

    10d it took me a while to understand that the semi&lit nature of this worked – again slightly unfortunate that it’s a plural and you need the last three words. It’s not a word that lends itself easily to use as a plural.

    14d chambers has the answer hyphenated

    15d not sure how much i like test as an anagram indicator, if i have parsed right.

    18d just a comment, girl of course has many possible answers but if it is defined by wordplay, as here, then that is a lot fairer than having it as part of the wordplay

    19d I think this challenges giovanni for vague biochemical definitions, but this is 20a by the very clear wordplay. Also, enzymes catalyse, so to me they speed up rather than start

    There were a lot of clues I liked – including 17a, 23a, 26a as my favourites.

    Thanks for sharing the puzzle and congratulations again on putting it all together.

  4. Welcome back, Zplig.

    My thoughts mirror exactly the opening and concluding comments of Crypticsue. I felt that, on too many occasions, the wordplay contained obscurities or was excessively opaque, it’s not always easy to get the balance right, but for the second time now the setter has cranked up the difficulty factor too much in my view. I managed eventually to complete the whole of the bottom half unaided, but I found the top half of the puzzle considerably more difficult, and needed electronic assistance to finish.

    There were some very clever ideas in evidence, like “was once privy” and “bathroom floor”, but in these and many other cases, such invention was often let down by the rest of the clue. One of the weakest clues I felt was 20a for several reasons, firstly I hate contrivances like “G-d” in any clue, secondly the anagram fodder required only two of nine letters to be rearranged, and thirdly the definition is a transitive, not an intransitive verb. There were several other instances of faulty cryptic grammar and/or unconvincing surfaces unfortunately.

    I thought the best clue overall was 23a, with 13a also worthy of a tick.

    Thanks, Zplig.

  5. Hi Zplig – I thought this was mostly fairly sound, but quite a few surfaces are rather forced to accommodate the wordplay. There is not a great deal of misdirection as such, so slightly lacking in the penny-drop department.

    Still one or two I don’t understand but well done, thank you, and keep ’em coming!

  6. I was really hoping that Zplig would pay more attention to surface reads and scale back on the ‘too clever by half’ elements for his second puzzle but it seems that was not to be. Such a shame when he obviously has some good ideas in the likes of ‘was once privy’.

    I did quite like 24 &13a (with reservations about the surface of the latter) and would give a mention to 4&16d but think there is still quite a big learning curve to be negotiated.

    Thanks to Zplig and I look forward to the review from Prolixic.

  7. As it happens, I only solved your first rookie the other day as it was waiting in my in tray.
    Found today’s much harder but found the workout quite fair.
    Good penny drop moments when I found the right Graeme in 12a and the American politician in 1a.
    It was good to tease out the definitions from the wordplay in a lot of clues.
    The Spooner made me laugh.
    Thanks Zplig.

  8. Surprised to find only 7 comments – I wonder if a lot of solvers found it too tough to finish so aren’t able to comment. I certainly found this a struggle, only finished with some electronic help and I must say that my reaction is much the same as crypticsue’s and silvanus’s.
    I did like 13ac, thugh, and once I remembered the word for a rocky edge I thought 6dn was a good example of concise but clear cluing.
    The idea behind 12ac was good, but unfortunately didn’t lend itself to satisfactory cluing; I must admit I can’t see how the clue could be re-written without losing the necessary ambiguity in the meaning of ‘privy’. Maybe it’s one of those ideas for a great clue that one gets from time to time but eventually (and reluctantly) has to abandon as unworkable.
    But I look forward to your next puzzle.

  9. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – I’ve learned a few new things today! I didn’t know the BS abb. (American slang, apparently), the bullets or the fact that GEE is used to indicate a turn to the right – I only knew of GEE UP.

    Thanks again to Zplig – I’m sure you’ll take on board Prolixic’s advice.

  10. Thank you all for your comments! Especially Prolixic,

    I did try to take on the advice of last time, so it was good to see Prolixic note that – now the advice is more specific as my grid didn’t have a complicating theme making a lot of forced clues. That being said there was still quite few forced clues in this grid, e.g. I just really liked “Was once privy to”, but as Exit said, perhaps it was never to be :p

    I am surprised that BS hasn’t caused any offence like FA did last time – but that doesn’t really bother me.

    In terms of the names, I suppose that Milk film with Sean Penn from a while back must have been released in a very memorable time of my life since I remember so much about it (I didn’t even see it).

    I will definitely focus a bit more on cryptic grammar, as I am sure when that is clearer it makes the clues a slight bit easier.

    As a funny aside:
    I grew up solving the DA crossword (popular cryptic crossword writer in Australia), his are notoriously difficult. I always (sardonically) maligned them for being so purposely difficult. After all this feed back it feels very ironical.

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