Rookie Corner – 270 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 270

A Puzzle by Gonzo

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

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 Gonzo.  This crossword shows the promise of the setter but looking at the commentometer, there has not been much improvement since the previous crossword.   The anagram count is a little lower.  Perhaps reducing some of the complexity of the wordplay would help improve the surface readings.  The commentometer reads as 5.5/30 or 18.3%.


1 Handed money over to a child to make organ stop (8)
DIAPASON – A four letter word meaning handed money reversed (over) followed by the a from the clue an a three letter word for a male child.  I think that the over is potentially doing double duty as really “handed money over” is required to make the first four letters of the solution but there is then no reversal indicator. 

5 Fish with a brief smear of aromatic bulb (6)
GARLIC – A three letter word for a fish followed by a four letter word meaning smear with the final letter removed (brief).  Some editors will not allow wordplay of definition.

10 Those who unearth skeletons for Trump alone failing to see the point in afterthoughts (15)
PALEONTOLOGISTS – (American spelling – for Trump).  An anagram (failing) of ALONE, the TO from the clue, a two letter word meaning see and a four letter word meaning point all inside a fro letter abbreviation for an afterthought.

11 Drifting about Gateshead and mouth of Tyne, gets craft to give a tow (7)
TUGBOATS – An anagram (drifting) of ABOUT G (first letter – head – of gates) T (first letter – mouth – of Tyne).  Some editors will not allow single words to be split to give, for example, gate’s head or maiden head.

12 Not much weight given on reflection to relief scheme (7)
DIAGRAM – A four letter word for a light weight after (given on) a reversal (reflection to) of a three letter word for relief.

13 Group seizing letters, shortly brought back to heel (8)
STILETTO – A three letter word for a group around (seizing) a reversal (brought back) of an abbreviation for literature (letters) followed by the TO from the clue.  I think that to get from letters to literature with the abbreviation then needed is a little indirect.  I would be tempted to have used books or even literature here.

15 Such an ape could make any repast a shambles (5)
SATYR – A compound anagram where the solution with AN APE makes an anagram (shambles) of ANY REPAST A.

18 Dancer kiddy regularly getting right up your nose (5)
ACRID – The even letters (regularly) in the first words in the clue.

20 Wing removed, son messed with a civil aircraft’s electrics (8)
AVIONICS – An anagram (messed) of ON (son with the first letter – wing – removed) A CIVIL

23 Picked up a couple of joints to have after a little goat’s entrails (7)
KIDNEYS – A three letter word for a little goat followed by a homophone (picked up) of KNEES (a couple of joints).

25 Discharge in body of tumour (7)
SARCOMA – A three letter word for an electrical discharge inside a four letter word for a body.  Some editors will not allow clues that have the structure wordplay of definition.

26 Run amok with smart gun? I love it – it’s too exciting! (15)
OVERSTIMULATING – An anagram (run amok) of SMART GUN I LOVE IT.

27 Guarantee premier avoids blame (6)
ENSURE – A seven letter word for blame with the first letter removed (premier avoids).

28 Son having consent to accommodate “fluff” succeeded getting chromosomes paired up (8)
SYNAPSES – The abbreviation for son followed by a three letter word for consent including (to accommodate) a three letter word for fluff and the abbreviation for succeeded.  Take care when you have complex wordplay such as this as the resulting surface reading can make little or no sense as in this clue.


1 Cover tax case for the Record (6)
DEPUTY – A four letter word for tax goes around (case for) an abbreviation for a record.

2 Reptile has the whole of Eire up in arms? Quite the contrary (9)
ALLIGATOR – A three letter word meaning the whole of followed by a reversal (up) of the abbreviation for Republic of Ireland around a three letter word for a gun.  Quite the contrary tells us that the gun goes inside the reversal rather than what the previous part of the clue suggests.

3 Salamander scattering a couple of eggs in Manx flat ale regularly (7)
AXOLOTL – A couple of Os go separately (scattering) in the even letters (regularly) of MANX FLAT ALE.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Regularly was used in 18a.

4 Musicians essential to concoct études (5)
OCTET – The answer is hidden in (essential to) the final two words of the clue.

6 Dogscoats (7)
AFGHANS – Double definition, the second been a type of sheepskin goat.

7 Class berk content to make you beam (5)
LASER – The inner letter (content) of the first two words of the clue.

8 Tangled mesh in mind’s fabric (8)
CASHMERE – An anagram (tangled) of MESH inside a four letter word meaning mind.

9 Boy, one I note coming back round in bloomers (8)
GLADIOLI – The I from the clue and a three letter word meaning note received (coming back) around (round) a three letter word for a boy and the letter representing one.

14 Poles in a fair pickle in Texas subject to paralysis (8)
TRANSFIX – The abbreviations for North and South (poles) inside an anagram (pickle) of FAIR all inside the two letter abbreviation for Texas.  I would omit the A from “a fair” as it suggests that is is part of the letters to be rearranged.

16 Court notices attempt to make a study of faults (9)
TECTONICS – An anagram (attempt) of CT (court) NOTICES.  I cannot see how attempt makes a suitable anagram indicator unless you have a two stage process attempt = shot = in pieces.

17 Rector coming out of cab smash with broken spine (8)
BACKBONE – An anagram (smash) of CAB BROKEN without the R (rector coming out).  Smash is in the wrong tense as the wordplay becomes A smash with B.  Smashed cab with broken spine would work.

19 Padre’s sermon enthralling Abigail (7)
DRESSER – The answer is hidden (enthralling) in the first two words of the clue.  As the definition is a definition by example, this should be indicated with a question mark or a for example.

21 Art briefly in ascendant, taking the lead in blissful state (7)
NIRVANA – The ART from the clue with the final letter removed (briefly) and the IN from the clue all reversed (ascendant) includes a three letter word meaning the lead.

22 Judges fruit on the radio (6)
GAUGES – A homophone (on the radio) of gages (fruit).

24 Darned gash – alternately, dross (5)
DREGS – The odd letters (alternately) of the first two words of the clue.

25 Forward from the beginning? (5)
SAUCY – A quizzical (hence the ?) rendering of SOURCEY (from the beginning).  The question mark is not sufficient to indicate that there is a homophone as well a a quizzical rendering of from the beginning.

29 comments on “Rookie Corner – 270

  1. Hi all,
    All my apostrophes appear to have encoded wrongly in the clues – I will contact Big Dave.

    1. Your replacement file didn’t work either so I’ve changed them manually.

      Could be a difficulty with transferring between Mac and Windows, although I haven’t had that problem before.

      1. Thanks!
        Note to anyone else compiling on iOS: turn off Smart Punctuation (fancy left and right quotes).

  2. We had the extra challenge of the strange printout but we soldiered on regardless and managed to get it all worked out. Last one in was 22d but eventually the penny dropped. Quite a tricky puzzle for us and plenty of aha moments to keep us challenged and entertained. Hard to pick a favourite but we’ll go for 23a.
    Thanks Gonzo.

  3. I am sure that Cryptic Sue will be happy to see comments from the foreign correspondents this week!

    Even with the attack of the gremlins on the apostrophes I was able to complete the puzzle. Although I confess to resorting to some electronic assistance, use of the reveal button to confirm answers, and there are some parsings that are eluding me for which I will wait for Prolixic’s review.

    I think that Prolixic might comment on the ‘A’ in 14a. The clue can be read for it to be part of the anagram material which it cannot be, so, it appears to be superfluous.

    Joint favourites – 1a and, like the 2Ks, 23a.

    Thanks Gonzo.

  4. Quite tricky – took me a while to get going – I didn’t find the apostrophe problem to be a problem, but I do have a considerable number of clues with question marks by them as I have no idea how I get from clue to solution

    Thanks to Gonzo – I too was a fan of 23a – and in advance to Prolixic when he explains the several I don’t understand

  5. Pretty tough stuff but an enjoyable challenge – thanks, Gonzo.
    I think I’ve managed to parse everything except 2d but I suspect that Prolixic will have quite a few suggestions to make.
    I liked 5a and 13a but my favourite was 23a. Least favourite (for the ‘orrible ‘omophone) 25d.

    1. I think 2d is ok. all – <Republic of Ireland, around gat (gun). It was the 'orrible one that I couldn't work out, so let's call that quits.

        1. I see what you mean. Bearing arms can mean just carrying a gun though can’t it – or is that just armed? (or am I defending a lost corner!).

  6. Thanks Gonzo, quite entertaining
    I found it all pretty fair – the only ones I didn’t get to the bottom of were 2d (I have a doubtful explanation) and 25d which I see now thanks to Gazza’s hint. I’d like that one if the homophone had been indicated, despite thinking it better to avoid ‘missing r’ type homophones.
    My favourites were 1a 1d 7d 12a 22d.
    Your last had rather a lot of anagrams. There are fewer here but it still felt like a lot, perhaps because alternate letter and hidden word type clues (of which 5?, also quite a lot) are similar in that all the letters are there in the clue.
    A few question marks:
    16d I was surprised when I realised it was an anagram clue, don’t think it’s properly indicated
    25d didn’t get ‘from the beginning’
    15a nicely done with the construction, very clever. I think you’re relying on the whole clue as definition; if so, I’m not sure it gets close enough.

  7. Hi Gonzo,
    Many thanks for the enjoyable puzzle. I seem to have lost my attempt at posting – so here’s a second go!
    The notes I made whilst solving are attached.

    1a I like the surface. I’ve heard some grim organ-playing in my life!
    5a doesn’t really need the ‘a’.
    10a ‘for Trump’ as a US_indicator is fine
    11a Interested to hear Prolixic’s view
    12a good surface
    13a Good to see ‘to’ as part of the wordplay [you use it quite a lot elsewhere as a filler or linkword]
    15a I didn’t know this definition. Wordplay good, I think; surface slightly muddled?
    18a good
    20a ‘wing removed’ feels a little too terse in the wordplay for me. I probably couldn’t have resisted using the aircraft maker Short in there somewhere too!
    23a Definitely not a veggie’s meal! Good surface.
    25a There seems to be an unwritten rule about avoiding words that may be seen by some solvers as ‘depressingly medical’. This might be one such word – not sure.
    26a clever clue
    27a I think this deletion instruction is ok
    28a The wordplay and def are fine; not so sure about the surface
    1d great clue
    2d ok; what the ‘on the contrary’ applies to is slightly ambiguous (i.e. does it include the up or not) but all is fine!
    3d wordplay and def ok; surface is bordering on the surreal
    4d ok
    6d ok
    8d good clue
    9d good clue
    14d I liked ‘subject to paralysis’ here
    16d anagram indicator not quite right. ‘Short court notices failing …’ may be slightly better?
    17d ‘smashed cab’ would work better, I think. Else the anagram indicator needs to work on words before and after it, which looks untidy.
    19d fine
    21d good
    22d fine
    24d ok
    25d doesn’t this need a homophone indicator? Not sure that QM does that.

  8. Hi Gonzo. Enjoyed that. Completed without buttons and (I think) everything understood except: what’s the point of Trump? (in 10): there must be something I’m missing, because everything adds up in your other clues.
    I thought the anagrams were very well disguised, so they didn’t overwhelm.
    I was uneasy about some things though: definitions (23, 28), indirect anagram (16), unindicated homophone (25), 1st letter indicator (27) , singular for plural(?) (2), spare articles (5, 10, 14). I’ll be interested to read later what I’ve misunderstood..

  9. On first read through I wondered where on earth our setter was going to with all of the gobbledygook – isn’t technology a wonderful thing!

    Certainly not an easy solve but I learned a couple of new things along the way, which has to be good. I have several question marks which await elucidation from Prolixic and I do wish Gonzo would pay more attention to surfaces – makes such a difference to the enjoyment level when a clue reads sensibly.

    Leaving the above out of the equation, my top two were 5a & 1d. As mentioned by Encota, I think I’d try to steer clear of clues such as 25a in the future.

    Thanks for bringing us another puzzle, Gonzo.

  10. Welcome back, Gonzo.

    I’m not sure if it was the miserable weather or the apostrophe issue that put me on a negative footing to start with, but I found this much more of a slog than a pleasure to solve unfortunately.

    I thought too many liberties were taken with many of the constructions, for example in 25d a mere question mark isn’t an adequate substitute for a homophone indicator, and several of the surfaces were pretty unconvincing, 28a, 3d and 24d being possibly the worst offenders. 5a is “wordplay of definition” (it should really be the other way round), and most of my other queries have already been mentioned by others.

    17d almost earned a tick, but, like Encota, I think “smashed cab” would have been much better.

    There were certainly plenty of good ideas in evidence, but for me their conversion into decent clues often came up short.

    I do hope I’ll warm more to your next one. Thanks, Gonzo.

    1. Sir Hubert Parry must be spinning in his grave every time someone plays that video!

    2. Thank you so much for that, Atrica. I wonder whether the groom was fearing that his bride would burst into tears!

  11. Thanks for the challenge Gonzo, a fair effort.

    There is a slight lack of variety. For example, I happened to solve 24 then 18 which are basically the same clue, and ‘alternate’ and ‘regularly’ are fairly obvious since neither really fits the surface. More than one ‘son’ in attendance too.

    I was not too keen on the more obscure words in a Rookie puzzle; keep it simple I’d say. I’m no snowflake, but words such as 25a should be avoided in my book unless you’re doing a Nina or theme etc.

    Also think that while the surface amuses, the definition for 23a (amongst others) is iffy.

    I do appreciate what it takes to create an interesting, original puzzle but in all honesty I did start to lose enthusiasm which is a shame as there are some decent ideas, which are simply not polished up.

    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your next.

  12. I haven’t read others’ comments in detail so some of mine may repeat – or possibly contradict – theirs.
    Anyway, once I’d sorted out the gremlins this was generally accessible apart from the SE corner where, in particular, I only got 25ac and 21 dn from definition and crossing letters – the wordplay made no sense at all to me. And I only got 15ac by looking up the (fortunately few) possible words with the crossing letters in Chambers. Elsewhere there were some excellent clues and a few that I thought a bit iffy:-
    1ac – ‘organ stop’ immediately suggested the answer for anyone with an interest in music
    10ac – ‘Trump’ immediately indicated American spelling to me as, by coincidence, Kairos used the same device in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday puzzle.
    12ac – the clue is not clear as to what part of the wordplay involves reversal.
    20ac – ‘wing removed’ is a bit vague as to which letter of ‘son’ and ‘civil’ needs to be omitted.
    19dn – a great clue but it assumes a certain level of general knowledge
    25ac – very neat but I’m not sure if the question mark is sufficient indication for both a homophone and the formation of an adjective from a noun.
    3dn – I thought this was good. I particularly liked the potential misdirection in that ‘Manx’ is sometimes used to indicate removing the last letter (the ‘tail’ on the analogy of a Manx cat) of a word but not here.
    22dn and 28ac – Brilliant!
    I’ll look forward to your next one.

  13. OK puzzle, fairly taxing. 15a (which I had to reveal in the end) (seems to me inaccurate in that it has 2 anagrinds, and in 16d the anagram is very iffy. Faves 1a and 17d (nice surface readings).

  14. I haven’t read all the comments because so many of them are so long – this is just my feelings.
    First of all thank you and well done to Gonzo.
    I found it very difficult and probably wouldn’t have carried on for as long as I did had it not been chucking it down with rain all day – my attention span is about that of a gnat.
    I’ve done about 3/4 of it – most of the bottom right corner is empty.
    I don’t really understand some of my answers but I think they have to be right.
    I agree with those who have said that clues like 25a should probably be avoided – that’s nothing to do with the fact that I can’t do it!
    Of the ones that I managed to get I liked 5 and 11a and my favourite was 23a.
    Thanks to Gonzo and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. I don’t read the long posts either, Kath. I’d rather wait for Prolixic’s ever-excellent expert review for absolute clarity.

      No disrespect intended to those who like to offer their own analyses, but I don’t really see the point.

  15. Incidentally, does anyone really think that the current POTUS would spell 10a that way? More like “palyon…wtf is this? Science? Fake news, folks!”

  16. Thanks, everybody.

    Prolixic, your explanation of 20a doesn’t quite match the letters needed for the answer. Presumably the ‘L’ is the wing? (It was still sufficient as a hint to put me on the right lines, though!)

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I certainly needed it to sort out the parsing of some of those clues.
    I note that you made no comment about the subject matter of 25a – do you have a view on that type of clue?

  18. Thanks to Big Dave for publishing and to Prolixic for the review. Thanks to the rest of you for taking the time to comment.
    1ac ‘handed money’ is in the passive voice – ‘he was handed money/paid’ – so ‘over’ is not doing double duty.
    20ac I intended the L to be indicated by ‘wing’ as in the wing of a building – Chambers has that as a meaning of ‘el’ so pushing the boundary a bit there :)
    28ac the intended story is ‘Boy meets girl. Boy gets permission for her to sleep over. Boy gets girl pregnant’.
    2d I too justified ‘arms’ for GUN by ‘the right to bear arms’.
    16d I struggled for an anagram indicator here – I originally had ‘Court section arranged’ but didn’t like the surface.
    17d ‘smashed cab’ would be fine but I am happy with the clue as-is since ‘smash’ is being used as a noun in the wordplay as well as the surface (‘an act of smashing’).
    19d No example here, just capitalisation as misdirection – ‘abigail: n A lady’s maid’.
    25d I think a homophone indicator would have been misleading here – there is no such word as ‘sourcey’ after all. It’s a pun.

    Glad some of you enjoyed it. See ya.

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