Rookie Corner – 249 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 249

A Puzzle by Zplig

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a third 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.  His third crossword maintains the difficulty levels from his previous crosswords.  Often this comes from trying to overcomplicate the wordplay which sometimes obscures the good clues.  On the difficulty level, this grid was very solver unfriendly.  There were ten entries where there was less than 50% cross-checking.  This should be avoided.

The commentometer reads at 6/32 or 18.75%.


7 Politician‘s staff comes with conditions (9)
STATESMAN – A six letter word means conditions followed by a three letter word meaning to staff.  Looking the cryptic reading you have “Politician is/has staff comes with conditions”.  As the cryptic reading should also make a grammatical sentence, perhaps “coming” would be better “Politician has staff coming with conditions”.

8 Legally hinder web site? (5)
ESTOP – The abbreviation for electronic or on-line followed by a four letter word for a site.

9 Gal’s pals, Pat and Sid – cryptically they’re all a disappointment! (5-4)
KNOCK-BACK – A reversal of gal’s, pals, Pat or Sid gives a word that, when added before a reversal indicator gives a phrase meaning a disappointment.

10 Mindful telecom provider created Family Pack (5)
BEGOT – The abbreviation for British Telecom include a three letter word for mind (mindful).  As mindful means bearing in mind, the container indication seems to me to be the wrong way around.

12 Princess from Ireland’s tip betrayed by European (6)
ISOLDE – The first letter (tip) of Ireland followed by a four letter word meaning betrayed and the abbreviation for European.

13 Cold drink breaks old worker’s liver (8)
OCCUPANT – The abbreviation for cold and a three letter word for a drink inside (breaks) the abbreviation for old and a three letter insect worker.

16 Outstanding piece of cricket! Last out in a close contest (7)
OVERDUE – A series of six balls in cricket followed by another word for a close contest between two people with the final letter removed.

19 States start to interrogate in camera – crazy (7)
AMERICA – The first letter (start to) interrogate inside an anagram (crazy) of CAMERA.

22 She’s missing a buzzer, hold in the mail (8)
ABSENTEE – The A from the clue followed by the name of an insect that buzzes around (hold) a four letter word meaning “in the mail).  For the cryptic grammar to word the wordplay should be “holds in the mail”.  The surface reading here does not make much sense.

25 Retreat? Retreat! Retreat? Run away! No way! (6)
DENIAL – A three letter word for a retreat or place to hide away followed by a reversal (retreat) of a four letter word for a retreat with the abbreviation for run removed.

27 Bookkeeper orders flesh (5)
SHELF – An anagram (orders) of FLESH.  As orders comes before the letters to be rearranged, ordering would give a better cryptic reading.

28 Zippo lighter & Romeo y Julieta? (4,5)
LOVE MATCH – A four letter word meaning zippo or nothing followed by another word for a lighter.

29 A free duck (5)
AVOID – The A from clue followed by a four letter word meaning free.

30 Radical coursework eclipses university associates (2-7)
CO-WORKERS – An anagram (radical) of COURSEWORK without (eclipses) the abbreviation for university.  Eclipsing might give a better cryptic reading here.


1 Supports made from threads showing no resistance (6)
STANDS – A seven letter word for threads of cotton without (showing no) the abbreviation for resistance.

2 Bare-bones crossword puzzle – one must be scrupulous! (8)
STICKLER – The central letter (bare-bones) of crossword followed by a seven letter word for a puzzle.

3 Functional and posh; black fur (6)
USABLE – The single letter abbreviation for posh followed by a type of black fur.

4 Peaceful Young Prince caught over there in Scotland (7)
HALCYON – The three letter word for the young prince Henry followed by the abbreviation for caught and a three letter word of Scottish extraction meaning over there.

5 Undercover to stop slippery killer? (6)
ASLEEP – A three letter word meaning cover inside (to stop) a three letter word for a snake (slippery killer).  Whilst not universally accepted, words such as undercover in the wordplay alone are sometime seen where you have an un-indicated split to get under and cover, this is not to be encouraged for combining the definition and the wordplay.

6 Companies against protection for one not ready (6)
COCOON – The abbreviation for company twice followed by a two letter word meaning against.

11 Turncoats’ trick (4)
SCAM – Turn a four letter word for coats.  Not all editors would accept the need to lift and separate the turn and coats.

14 Important figure in the Caliphate (3)
ALI – The answer is hidden (in) CALIPHATE.  The definition here is a little too unspecific.

15 Trade contents dispatched by a Russian Caravan perhaps? (3)
TEA – The outer letters (contents dispatched) of trade followed by the A from the clue.

16 Eggs on virtuous acting leads (3)
OVA – The initial letters (leads) of the middle three words in the clue.

17 Hermes delivers the odd letter or two (3)
EMS – The odd letters of the first word of the clue.  For the cryptic wording to work, letters needs to be in the plural otherwise you only have one odd letter from the clue.

18 Looks like it’s from a common bit in the Bible? (4)
UNTO – Split the answer 2-2 and the solution looks (fancifully) as though it could be the reverse of to (giving the from in the clue) and the answer is also a common word in the bible (8326 times in the King James version).

20 Pillages sustained pillages (8)
RANSACKS – A three letter word meaning sustained or organised followed by a word meaning pillages.

21 Can a loser change? Nothing in it (7)
AEROSOL – An anagram (change) of A LOSER include an O (nothing in it).  Change ought to come before the words to be rearranged as it operates as an imperative verb.

23 Retreat? Retreat? They’re endless – don’t mess about! (6)
BEHAVE – A three letter word for a resting place (retreat) and a five letter word for a harbour (retreat) each with the final letter removed.

24 Writer James pens cold exposé turned puff piece (6)
ECLAIR – The initials of the author of Fifty Shades of Grey around (pens) the abbreviation for cold and followed by a three letter word meaning expose.  Putting the accent on the final e changes entirely the meaning of the word and therefore cannot be used to indicate the final part of the solution.

25 Genius mad woman heads out rambling (6)
DAEMON – An anagram (rambling) of AD OMEN (mad and women with the first letters (heads) removed).  As admitted, there is an error in this clue as the clue should be women not woman.  With women, a different deletion indicator would be needed as heads would have to be in the singular to make sense of the surface reading but this would then not indicate removing both initial letters.

26 A blend of notes sung in harmony (6)
ACCORD – The A from the clue followed by a homophone (sung) of another word for a blend of notes played together.

19 comments on “Rookie Corner – 249

  1. We found that very hard and there are still a couple that we haven’t been able to solve yet, 10a and 18d. A few others where we are not sure of the parsing and will maybe come back to these later.
    We think we have got 25d but suspect that there is a typo in the clue and it should have ‘women’ instead of ‘woman’.
    Thanks Zplig.

    1. I did wonder about a typo in 25d but then grammatically “heads” should be changed to “head” rendering the surface nonsensical.

  2. I found this very tough and largely impenetrable with some complex constructions, several strange definitions and a lot of meaningless surfaces. The further I got with it the less I enjoyed it, I’m sorry to say. I took a look back at this setter’s previous Rookie offerings and unfortunately I don’t think Zplig has taken on board the earlier comments, although clearly a lot of work has been put in to construct this.

    I can’t solve 10a and I have a lot of parsing queries which I will wait for Prolixic to unravel.

    On a positive note, I thought 16a, 29a & 26d were excellent.

    Thank Zplig.

  3. It was tough but not so tough that I was forced to give up and come back later.

    Although the device used in 9a 25a and 23a is a good one, I’m not sure that we need three of them in one crossword. I did put a * by 9a as I smiled when I worked out what was going on, but then it made what had to happen with the other two fairly obvious
    There’s some odd bits of very good sneakiness, eg 27a.
    I bet I won’t be the only one looking at 1d, and removing the R from threads and trying to make an anagram of the remaining letters
    I have ? by a couple of clues and look forward to Prolixic’s review to explain them

    Thanks Zplig – I got on best in the SW corner and then worked my way round finishing in the NE so I would say you still need to work a bit on the difficulty/incomprehensibility level of your crosswords.

  4. There are some very clever bits here and I found it pretty tough. I finished up by revealing a letter in 18d and I still don’t understand the clue. Also I don’t fully understand 2d.
    As 2Ks say above 25d seems to require more than one woman.
    I thought that 9a and 5d were very good but my favourite was 25a.
    Thanks Zplig – perhaps you could be a little more gentle next time.

  5. Quite a tricky – and bumpy – ride. Some very inventive ideas on display, but one or two where the surface seemed a tad forced to make the wordplay.

    I noted the word split required for 10a & 11d, the fodder error in 25d, not sure the definition is spot on for 21d and 2d & 18d do seem strange. The simple 27a probably my pick.

    Thanks for the entertainment Zplig, and thanks in advance to Prolixic, I will read the review with interest.

  6. Not for the first time, I’m on the same page as RD here, it was more of a slog than a pleasure to solve unfortunately.

    There was a lot of invention evident from this setter yet again, but I do think that some of the constructions were too clever. I’m not sure either that I’ve ever seen three exclamation marks in a single clue before.

    My favourite was 9a.

    Thanks, Zplig.

  7. Thanks, Zplig
    I liked a lot of it, but revealed quite a few letters too to keep me going. I thought the NE particularly had too much trickery packed into too small a space, with too few crossers. In 5d, I find ‘undercover’ quite unnecessary as a trick – with a space, it makes sense and is still on the hard side.
    I don’t understand 2d, 18d or the site part of 8a.
    Liked 9a and 28a among others

  8. Thank you all for the initial comments! 25d does seem to be a typo – oops!
    I think for next time I have to challenge myself to make an ‘easy’ grid. I think with my three attempts now I will compile a ‘difficulty gauge’ from the comments that I can work with (I don’t really have anyone to relay clues off of, but I think this should be enough information now).
    Sorry for the difficulty I have tried to make them fairer, but clearly unsuccessfully :p

    Some clues were harder initially, but as said I definitely need to make like a ’10-points of anagrams’-like checklist. ‘1-point of handwavey-gobbledygook’ per grid perhaps.

    I look forward to Prolixic’s review.

  9. Finally got to the end of this one but have to say that I didn’t particularly enjoy the solve. As RD said, it doesn’t appear that the setter has taken on board the comments made about his previous offerings in Rookie Corner. Such a shame as there were some good ideas on display here in the likes of 9&16a plus 5&26d.

    Thank you, Zplig, but please can you scale back on ‘trying too hard’ and also pay more attention to surface reads.

  10. I give in and finally admit defeat – please could we call it quits or whatever roughly equal is – I did, just about, manage half of it.
    Of the answers I’ve got I don’t quite understand why, or even if, some of them are right – maybe they’re wrong.
    I really liked 9a (eventually – took me ages to get the first word ) :roll:
    I think it’s very brave of someone to stick their head up for people to shoot at – well done to Zplig for having the courage to do so and thank you for the crossword – it’s kept me mithering away for a very long time.
    I look forward to tomorrow’s review and thank Prolixic in advance.
    Because of 2d I wonder if there is some kind of connection with Australia. Why are you called Zplig?

    1. You may be right Kath, he posted this on his last puzzle:

      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.

      1. It was a total guess – having given up on trying to make 2d ‘skeleton’ I had roughly alternate checking letters in and hit on the answer – not one I’d ever heard of so I asked the nice and helpful Mr Google and he had heard of it.

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which answered all my questions – especially those concerning 18d!
    I do hope that Zplig takes careful note of your comments.

  12. Found it quite hard also and needed Prolixic to solve the last few.
    Made a couple of mistakes along the way.
    Thought 16a was Overarm for an outstanding piece of cricket and Ruth in 18d thinking it could be something you find in a common.
    I wonder if all these reversals made me go a bit dyslexic but I really feel there’s something wrong in 8a unless a stop is a site.
    Nobody noticed, so it must be me.
    Always a pleasure to have a go at the rookie.
    Thanks to Zplig and to Prolixic.

  13. Like others I guess, failed to parse much of this and needed the CHECK button several times.

    But I do not have a problem with lights with less than 50% crossers – just so long as they conform with Ximmy rules (no consecutive unchecked letters). I honestly don’t see why a 5-letter light with 2 crossers, or a 9-letter one with 4 crossers, is a problem! Surely if the clueing is fair one shouldn’t need to depend on the crossers anyway.

    Oh and by pure coincidence: exactly the same grid is used in yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) Qaos in the Guardian. If it’s good enough for Qaos, I reckon it’s good enough for RC!

    Thanks anyway Zplig. Keep ’em coming!

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