Rookie Corner – 245 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 245

A Puzzle by Laccaria

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It’s been a while since we had a puzzle from Laccaria.  Enjoy!  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.

Another good crossword from Laccaria, with some nice clues to savour.  However, as with previous puzzles, there are rather too many loose ends that need tidying up.  Particularly, there were a lot of repetitions in the wordplay that a final review and edit could remove.  These loose ends mean that the commentometer is 4.5/29 or 15.5%.  This is high but easily remediable.


1 Remote transmitter initially picked up last Sunday afternoon – radio? (6)
PULSAR – The first letters (initially) of the final six words of the clue.

4 Opens chat about training (5)
GAPES – A three letter word meaning chat around the abbreviation for physical exercise (training).

8 Answer not concerning small body of water (4)
POND – A seven letter word meaning answer without (not) the abbreviations for concerning and small.

9 This is very sour personality, following rejected reference which separates Powers (6,4)
ACETIC ACID – A two letter word for personality followed a reversal (rejected) of a four letter word for reference or quote inside (which separates) the abbreviation for alternating current twice (as powers is in the plural).

10 King and queen feed horse buns here (6)
BAKERY – The abbreviations for king and the current queen inside (feed) a three letter word for a horse.

11 Will manager almost kill off research to start with? (8)
EXECUTOR – A seven letter word meaning kill with the final letter removed (almost) followed by the initial letters (to start with) of off research.

12 Make aware, Nessie is traced originally at sea (9)
SENSITISE – An anagram (at sea) of NESSIT IS T (traced originally).

14 Labour’s first idiot head (4)
LOAF – The initial letter (first) of labour followed by a three letter word for an idiot.

15 Nothing in returned bill for junk? (4)
BOAT – The letter representing nothing inside a reversal (returned) of a three letter word for a bar bill.

16 Possibly irons suit after whip-round (4-5)
GOLF CLUBS – One of the suits in a deck of cards after a reversal (round) of a word meaning whip.  I think that the solution should omit the hyphen.

20 Please start with one ripe variety of sausage (8)
PEPERONI – An anagram (variety) of P (please start) ONE RIPE.  Grammatically, start on its own does not mean the initial letter and we have also had start as an initial letter indicator in 11a.  Some editors would not allow wordplay OF definition with the OF as the link word.

21 Senseless man initially out to throw away stunted fruit (6)
NUBBIN – A four letter word meaning senseless with the first letter (initially) of man removed followed by a three letter word meaning to throw away.  Perhaps an indication that the solution is an Americanism should be added.

23 Upset police officer to cut a dash, given time (10)
DISHEARTEN – The abbreviation for Detective Inspector (police officer) followed by a five letter word meaning to cut and a two letter word for a printer’s space or dash with a T (time) included (given). Technically, the “en” is a space or gap in the printing and the en-dash is a dash of equivalent length.  This does not make the dash synonymous with the space.  Given on its own is a weak containment indicator.  As Encota said, “given time inside” would have improved the surface reading and the cryptic instructions.

24 Uncouth chaps are right about one point (4)
OIKS – A two letter word meaning right around (about) the letter representing one and the abbreviation for south (point).  The cryptic reading of definition ARE wordplay does not work.  The are could be omitted to solve this.

25 Worthless award without a thousand taking exercise (5)
EMPTY – A four letter word for a theatre or TV award omits second M (without a thousand) and includes (taking) the abbreviation for physical training.

26 Playwright owes Kermit a part (6)
WESKER – The answer is hidden in (a part) OWES KERMIT.


1 Soldiers brought up to check about 11’s concern (7)
PROBATE – The abbreviation for Territorial Army (soldiers) is reversed (brought up) and included inside (about) a five letter word meaning to check or investigate.

2 Left in charge to dish out (5)
LADLE – The abbreviation for left inside (in) a four letter word meaning to load or charge.

3 A nasty criminal kidnaps, at first, Lucian Freud? (7)
ANALYST – An anagram (criminal) of A NASTY includes (kidnaps) the first letter of Lucian.  We have had a number of “firsts” to indicate initial letters.  A greater variety in use of indicators improves the crossword.

4 Flyer has old coin, one used further South (6)
GLIDER – The variant spelling of an old Dutch or German coin has the I moved down (one used further south).  As we have had one for I in 24a, ideally a different indicator should have been used on of the clues.

5 Lucy, perhaps with ease, to fry with this? (6,3)
PEANUT OIL – The name of cartoon strip (without the S) in which Lucy appears with Charlie Brown and a three letter word meaning to facilitate or ease the progress of something.  Whilst Lucy was a character in the cartoon strip, she is not a peanut so this was a little bit of a stretch for the solver.

6 Derivative result of bad cornering (4-3)
SPIN-OFF – Double definition, the first being something like merchandise sold off the back of a successful film and the second where a car goes out of control through poor cornering.

7 Rebels sit angrily in hearings concerning church (13)
SECESSIONISTS – An anagram (angrily) of SIT inside (in) an 8 letter word meaning hearings with the resulting letters going around (concerning) the abbreviation for Church of England. Concerning is not a good containment indicator.  Whilst concerning can mean about (in the sense of related to) and about can mean around (in the sense of containing), this does not mean that concerning means containing.

13 Chips and peas cooked in vessel (5-4)
SPACE-SHIP – An anagram (cooked) of CHIPS PEAS. The answer should probably by (9) not hyphenated as 5-4.

15 Queen is here for hairdo (7)
BEEHIVE – Double definition of where a queen of the insect variety might be and a type of hairdo, names for the shape it forms.

17 Pay for our European neighbour: not right to keep in! (7)
FINANCE – The name country at the other end of the channel tunnel without (not) the abbreviation for right but including (to keep) the IN from the clue.  As we have already had not and keep as indicators, the double repetition here unfortunate.

18 It obstructs view of motorcyclist bearing left and heading to Northampton (7)
BLINKER – A five letter word for a motorcyclist includes (bearing) the abbreviation for left and the first letter (heading to) of Northampton. Another repetition of left for L.  Also an indication that the two letter are inserted disjunctively would be fairer for the solver.

19 Lawyer, not one to keep books (6)
NOTARY – A four letter word meaning not one includes (to keep) the abbreviation for Old Testament (books).  A third use of to keep as a containment indicator.  Also “not one” translates to “nary a”, not nary on its own.

22 Conway first welcomed by man without back-stop (5)
BLOCK – A five letter word meaning a man without the final letter (without back) includes the first letter of Conway.  Conway first does not indicate the C.  It would have to be Conway’s first.  Also, many editors will not permit the wordplay to be elided with the solution as in “back-stop”.

34 comments on “Rookie Corner – 245

  1. A top quality Toughie level puzzle put together by a setter of considerable skill and experience we thought.
    The last one in and a real struggle to get sorted was 7d.
    Lots of really good clues so we won’t play favourites.
    Thanks Laccaria.

  2. An excellent puzzle which wouldn’t be out of place in a national broadsheet – thanks Laccaria.
    My only queries related to the use of ‘concerning’ as a containment indicator (7d) and the hyphens in the 16a and 13d answers.
    There are a lot of ticks on my printout – I’ll just list 6d, 15d and 19d.
    I don’t think you should be in the Rookie Corner, Laccaria, but wherever they appear I look forward to your future puzzles.

  3. Really enjoyed that – thanks Laccaria.
    Lots of really good clues – I noted 3d, 13d, 14a, 4a, 4d, 6d.
    A few thoughts &/or misunderstandings on my part:
    – 23a Both the grammar & the surface might be improved by adding ‘inside’ to the end?
    – 9ac Blimey!
    – 7d Not sure i’ve parsed this right. I can only get there by using ‘concerning’ to mean ‘about’ to mean a C&C_Indicator. If I’m right then this is stretching it!!
    – 5d’s ‘Lucy, perhaps’ was new to me. I won’t say more here to avoid spoiling
    – 19d – I didn’t quite get this one & I failed to parse 1d too
    – 22d I’m not a fan of the short-hyphen used in this way though may just be me being over fussy
    Overall: very good, many thanks!

    1. E. I really like reading these expert comments on Rookie puzzles, they often reveal setting nuances that are new to me. 22d: may I ask what you mean by a “short-hyphen”. Aren’t all hyphens “short”?

  4. A proper toughie and no mistake. Lots to enjoy amongst the head-scratching. My particular favourite was 15d. I share some of Encota’s thoughts, especially with regard to Lucy

    Thanks to Laccaria and in advance to Prolixic

  5. Welcome back, Laccaria.

    A puzzle of two halves for me, the left side I managed unaided without recourse to any help, the right side I found far, far harder, and I would not have finished it without electronic assistance.

    I have to differ from the first two commenters, much as I respect them, as I felt there were too many repetitions and niggles for this to be considered a top quality puzzle. As well as the duplication of “here” and “this” as definitions, which are probably excusable, I noticed “start”, “first” and “initially” were all repeated as initial letter indicators, “not” cropped up more than once as a deletion instruction, and “keep” was used twice as a containment indicator. Since the setter acknowledged after his previous puzzle that he hadn’t spent enough time reading through the clues after finishing it, I’m very surprised that he has permitted even more repetitions to creep in this time. Editing is so crucial to turning a good puzzle into a great one.

    Like Encota and CS, I did wonder if “Lucy” on its own was fair to solvers, and I suspect my friend Rabbit Dave will not be happy with the unindicated Americanism at 21a (a new word to me). There were a couple of other instances where the cryptic grammar is open to debate.

    My favourite clue was 13d.

    Thank you, Laccaria.

  6. Thanks Laccaria. Great stuff.
    I also think this is way better than a rookie puzzle, inventive and quite challenging in parts. Of course I made life harder from square one by confidently entering RATS as my first one in for 24a.

    I liked 13d, 15a, 16a, though as gazza mentioned, 13d is one word in brb and 16a is two words.

    15a (and I think less obviously in 2d) has a common origin in the two meanings which really makes it two descriptions of one meaning

    I thought 4d was not the more common alternative spelling, though i think i have seen it.

    Like others, I didn’t like “concerning” in 7d.

    chambers doesn’t list the second half of 6d, so i think it at least deserves a question mark.

    19d chambers adds an “a” to get a meaning of “not one”, not that I would have known that.

    5d i am really not sure Lucy can be said to be one of these, and I’m not sure about ease as a synonym, if i have parsed right.

    22d might as well be correct and add an apostrophe S in Conway’s. And backstop is not hyphenated, making this an even harder clue to get past an editor (except possibly the guardian).

    18d it could be said there is no indication that the two insertions are separate

    Hope these notes are of some use, obviously they are just one person’s thoughts. Very enjoyable, thank you again

  7. Definitely Toughie territory and required a bit of research for some of the definitions.
    Some cleverly constructed clues and certainly a sense of satisfaction when the grid was finally filled but I didn’t find it a particularly enjoyable puzzle. A few more clues of the 15d variety would have made a world of difference.

    Thank you, Laccaria, perhaps you’d consider a little more light-heartedness in your next one?

  8. Overall, a good puzzle so thanks and well done Laccaria.

    No problem with Lucy or the short hyphen, but I did find some of the answers kind of clunked into place, which stopped it just short of being a really good, satisfying puzzle. I thought some of the indicators could have been better disguised or made more diverse, as Silvanus has noted.

    Funny how tiny details can make or break a puzzle and this would have benefited a minor tweak here and there, for me – whether that’s a style thing or the final polish, I don’t know.

    As I said, overall a good puzzle so thanks Laccaria

  9. Quite a contrast to today’s back-pager (if I can call it that as it wasn’t even on the penultimate page!) This was certainly tough in parts but I did find it mostly enjoyable. A few comments:

    – A couple of the surfaces were rather strained although most were fine.
    – 21a was a new word for me and I was not a happy bunny when I looked it up in my BRB.
    – I can’t parse 1d.
    – I couldn’t parse 7d. From the definition and checking letters, it could have been either “reversionists”, which I bunged in, or what I suspect now is the correct answer having looked at the preceding comments.
    – I don’t confess to knowing all the “rules” but is it OK in 18d to have two separate insertions but only a single indicator?
    – Is Conway in 22d relevant or is it just a name beginning with C plucked out of the air?

    Thanks for the challenge, Laccaria.

  10. Have to admit defeat.
    Left side complete but really stuck in the right hand side.
    Got a few though but have some problems with the grammar.
    Can we really say that Lucy is one in 5d? Are all the characters considered as such?
    The other one was the answer to 18d. Always thought it was only plural. I see now that the BRB defines it as a verb so maybe the clue should start with “obstruct view”.
    I shall wait for the review for the missing answers.
    Thanks to Laccaria for the workout.

  11. Well, I solved this without too much difficulty, and particularly liked 1ac and 3dn. 5dn was really ingenious and called for some lateral thinking; the question mark was certainly needed there. Lateral thinking also needed in 9ac for the two powers. 4dn had me trying to parse a coin to the value of £1.05 till I checked in the BRB for an alternative spelling for a foreign coin; similarly BRB to the rescue for the spelling of 20ac. With others I question the hyphenation in 16ac and 13dn, and I’m not sure if the latter should be one word or two, nor if it can be described as a vessel. 22dn definitely takes us into Guardian territory but I personally don’t find that a problem as my rgular daily solve, the Indy, occasionally strays in that direction.
    But there were plenty of good clues; 1ac and 3dn I’ve already mentioned; others include 11ac and 1dn.

  12. Thanks Laccaria, I really enjoyed this, although I got stuck on the parsing of 1d (having assumed the soldiers to be Other Ranks) and assumed that 4d was ‘Guinea’, and looked no further. Definitely a much higher standard than a typical Rookie offering. Well done.

  13. Very enjoyable. I had to reveal B at 22, due to a little knot of unsolved answers, including NUBBIN, which I didn’t get and have never heard of. I wonder why you introduced someone called Conway to get a C? Oiks are just kids who don’t/didn’t go to public school, aren’t they? More a measure of their parents’ wealth than their ‘couthness’, I would have thought. I’m surprised Encota didn’t make a ‘same-both-sidesy’ comment on LADLE. One of the meanings of ‘lade’ is (from memory) “dish out as from a ladle”.

    Glad to see you’ve managed to dial down the difficulty level to ‘doable’ (by me — well, very nearly!)

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – especially the parsing of 19d where I’d got tangled up trying to make NOT (libr)ARY fit into the picture.

  15. Thanks to Prolixic for explaining my missing answers.
    Thanks again to Laccaria for the challenge.

  16. On the comment on the ‘are’ in 24a:
    In last Friday’s Times there was this:
    Servant who could be Eritrean (8), for RETAINER
    Doesn’t the ‘who’ in this clue do the same as the ‘are’ in 24a, i.e. treat the solution not as a word-object but as itself?

  17. Thanks all for the comments, thanks to Prolix for the analysis, and thanks to BD for hosting. All right, not as good an assessment as I might have hoped for, but that’s life.

    When someone, above, said “you shouldn’t be in Rookie corner” I’m interpreting that as, perhaps my clueing style doesn’t fit what is expected of a RC submission. No disrespect meant to BD and Prolix! I’ve been thinking this for quite a while now. This site does a brilliant job at introducing us to the work of many excellent new setters, some of whom have indeed moved on to more exalted circles! I just think I never manage to be quite on-target, as far as RC is concerned.

    Where I go from now on, I don’t know, I don’t think there are any options that would work for me. :(

    Incidentally, “whynot” in his post above, is on to something! There are nine letter “C”s in the puzzle, I just happened to choose 22d for some reason. And why is there (seemingly) no theme? Anyone who’s curious, could try googling – although googling just the word itself won’t help much. And I should have known I’d have trouble with “back-stop”. I intended a rather wry comment on the current (British) political turmoil, and originally wrote it without the hyphen, which would have elicited even louder howls of anguish (cf. one of the clues in last Saturday’s Guardian Prize….). Apologies to all those who found it a problem. Others have done worse!

    So long for now. L.

    1. I am pretty certain that the comment about not being in the Rookie Corner was an encouragement that you should aim for the NTSPP slot rather than an indication that your cluing style is unsuited to the slot. The Rookie Corner allows for all cluing styles. I try to indicate where a particular style will not find favour with some editors. However, in terms of comments, I don’t count editorial differences towards the score.

      As I mentioned in the preamble, the main issue was not the standard of cluing itself but rather the number of repetitions. Setting a crossword requires an almost fanatical attention to detail and precision in the cluing, whatever the style of cluing. The only real cluing error was the use of concerning as a containment indicator that did not work. If you could get someone to test solve your next crossword and ask them to pay particular attention to any loose ends in the cluing, it should result in a great overall improvement in the overall feel of the crossword whilst maintaining your style of cluing.

      1. Of course I understood the meaning of the comments above, and apologies to Gazza, and others, for deliberately choosing to misinterpret their post.

        And apologies to BD for saying things that I shouldn’t have, in an E-mail.

        It’s just that I don’t feel able to make that extra effort to meet the high standards expected of a setter. Sorry, but I’m right out of ideas, inspiration or motivation.

        If I ever get put on the ‘right’ meds things may be different…. :(

        1. Please don’t be put off by what you obviously see as negative comments but which are really attempts to be helpful. As I said in my original comment I thought your puzzle was really good (and certainly more entertaining than many we find amongst those published nationally).

          Personally I don’t worry too much about repetitions (and often don’t even notice them unless they’re very blatant, e.g. in adjacent clues). In any case, as others have said, these are minor points that can be picked up by a test solver.

          So I hope that you’ll continue to produce puzzles for our enjoyment.

    2. I too am sure that the RC comment refers to your cluing being back page standard, and you are to be congratulated on that.

      Have another go Laccaria. I’m no expert – but should you wish to, BD can put us in touch and I will happily test solve and provide feedback.

  18. Belatedly having another look in here….

    I’ll say no more about the whys and wherefores of whether my amateur-setting efforts are any good: I’ve said enough. At the moment the hobby is on ‘hold’…

    I’ll just say this: there is a “Conway” connection, though not the ones mentioned.

    Whether anyone who actually discovers the obscure theme, finds it edifying – well, that’s up to them! I did it mostly for my own amusement, I’ll admit!

    The key is to google “Conway” – but not on its own!

    1. Laccaria – I would like to reiterate my earlier offer, and also would like to share with you an email from a nationally published setter that I received today:

      “Just to say : I have worked through amendments following your suggestions. I would say the puzzle is now 100% better, as is always the case.

      So thank you again.

      (BTW I saw on RC that you have extended your kind support to poor Laccaria. He ( or she) is clearly frustrated at not getting to the next level. A test solver like yourself is exactly what he needs. I remember the first lists of feedback you gave me around a year ago. They were quite lengthy!)”

      As P said ‘Setting a crossword requires an almost fanatical attention to detail and precision’ – that’s me, but even I can’t do it in my own creations.

      Don’t give up Laccaria, I’m happy to help and it is only minor tweaks, after all.

      All I want in return is to know what the C thing is about, give us a clue!

      1. Hi Roy,
        Just noticed your belated addition, and feel it needs an even-more-belated response. I’m a “he” btw :)

        Please understand, my dry period is more to do with writer’s block (or whatever the setter’s equivalent is), and the state of my health, than it is with critical reviews. In fact, I may be guilty of ‘inventing’ negative feedback as an excuse for dropping out. I wouldn’t be the first to do that!

        And I am aware that most of the feedback – here and in other places – has been pretty good. Sorry to all (BD especially) if I don’t always appreciate it!

        If I have any beef at all, it’s more about the review of my previous puzzle on RC – the one with the “ladybird” theme – where I thought the assessment of one (and only one) clue was a teeny bit harsh. But I ought to accept the judgement of those with more experience…

        I should also add that I do have two or three ‘mentors’ already, who have been most helpful with other puzzles of mine. Just that I didn’t send the above puzzle to any of them beforehand. I wanted to see how it would wash without external help! I think the reception, in the circumstances, was better than I expected – although I thought differently at first.

        Anyway, if you, or anyone else on this blog – does want to E-mail me, feel free to send to quintusx2[at]aol[dot]co[dot]uk. Note this is an anonymous webmail which I only use as a ‘transfer’ – I’ll give out my general e-mail to any bona fide correspondents who show up there.

        Moreover, despite my ‘run dry’ state, I did make an effort and complete a puzzle which was already a work-in-progress when I submitted this one. I put it on 1across/YourPuzzles a few days ago, if anyone wants to take a look. A mini-theme, a lot more obvious than the above!

        As to the obscure theme in the above. Well, perhaps I was wrong to put in a theme which was mainly an amusing exercise for myself, and unlikely to evoke any “aha!” moments amongst any of the solvers. Having said that, the key is to google “Conway” along with one or other of the theme-words in the grid. There are ten themers, but I’m not going to say which they are! After a few guesses, a pattern may emerge.

        No further hint should be needed, but I couldn’t resist adding this (which pertains to just one theme-word). Make of it what you will:


        Cheers, Laccaria

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