Rookie Corner – 273 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 273

A Puzzle by Raymond

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Raymond is the latest 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 Raymond.  There was a lot of strong cluing in the crossword but in too many instances it became too indirect with clues to clues or stretched synonyms.  I think a greater attention to precision in the wordplay and avoiding overly complicating things would help improve the overall feel and accessibility of the crossword.  The commentometer reads as 6 / 32 or 18.7%.


1 Sign over money in case of administration judgement (6)
– A three letter word for a sign or hint goes around (over) the abbreviation for money and the resulting letters are put into the outer letters (case) of administrations.

4 This one might give recitations of a cultural nature (8)
– The solution with the “one” from the clue make an anagram of recitations.

10 Moves to release second single from “Old Towns” (7)
– A two letter prefix meaning old and another word for large towns without the second I (to release second single).

11 Lend support (7)
– Double definition, the first to lend money and the second to promote or put further or support a cause.

12 Quiet sort starts to chat away merrily with a drop of lager inside (4)
– The initial letters (starts to) of the fifth to seventh words of the clue include the first letter (a drop) of lager.

13 The useless nag presses Dicky (10)
– An anagram (dicky) of NAG PRESSES.  The definition here is somewhat indirect as you have to get from the meaning of useless  = carried along by other’s efforts = the solution.

15 Creeping dead out for grand practice at Halloween (6)
– A six letter word meaning creeping has the D (dead) removed and replaced by a G (grand).  Another clue where the definition is somewhat vague.  There is nothing other than hooliganism to suggest that throwing eggs is a practice at halloween.

16 Did suggest added strength for central Germany (7)
– Replace the middle (central) D in added with the Latin word for force.  I think that the “central” here is to far removed from the added to make it a fair indicator that you need to replace the central letter in it.  I think that where you are going to use a foreign word, such as the Latin for force or power, it is better to use the direct translation of the word in the dictionary rather than a synonym for that word.

20 A day doing word searches starting in early May? (7)
ADVERBS – The A from the clue and the abbreviation for day followed by the part of speech representing a doing word and the first letter (starting) of searches.  I am not convinced that x starting means the start of X.  Also, I think that may is an auxiliary verb rather than an example of the solution – maybe would be the form required to define the solution.

21 Remove covers of Sunset Lens in camera (6)
– The inner letters (remove covers) of the fourth and fifth words of the clue.

24 Really slyly chip a shot (10)
PHYSICALLY – An anagram (shot) of SLYLY CHIP A.

26 Champ taken to bits (4)
BYTE – A homophone (taken) of BITE (champ).  I don’t think that taken gives the necessary meaning of heard other than indirectly as taken = received = heard.  Double steps like this should be avoided as A = B and B = C does not necessarily mean than A = C.

28 Almost essential new fish (7)
CRUCIAN – A seven letter word meaning essential with the final letter removed (almost) followed by the abbreviation for new.

29 Keeps rambling about becoming John Lennon? (7)
AIRPORT – That which is now known as John Lennon used to be Speke (an anagram (rambling about) of KEEPS).  This is a clue to a clue.  I think that the required two step wordplay is too much of a stretch for the solver.

30 Small tips hold second shelves (8)
SUSPENDS – The abbreviation for small followed by a six letter word meaning tips or inverts around (hold) the abbreviation for second.  I think for the cryptic grammar to word, holding would be better to avoid A hold B. 

31 Russian banker I’d caught followed…. (6)
OBEYED – A two letter Russian river (the seventh longest in the world) followed by a homophone (caught) of I’d.


1 …. information gathered by special CIA drugs operations (8)
AGENCIES – A three letter word meaning information inside an anagram (special) of CIA ES (the ES being drugs).  I think that the borders on being an indirect anagram as you have to get from drugs to ecstasy an then pluralise it.

2 As was one not ready for games? (9)
UNCHANGED – Cryptic definition for someone who has not yet put their sports kit on.

3 Puts away folding seat (4)
EATS – An anagram (folding) of SEAT.

5 For such assistance as might be raised in case….. (8)
ROADSIDE – Pass.  Any suggestions welcome.

6 ….short term withdrawal from negotiations leads to new developments….. (10)
INVENTIONS – Remove (withdrawal from) the TER (short term) from a thirteen letter word meaning negotiations.  I don’t think that negotiations is the correct synonym.  The thirteen letter word implies more mediation with a third party facilitating between opposing parties rather than the direct discussions between them.

7 … support involving partners is stressed (5)
TENSE – A type of support used in golf includes two partners in bridge.

8 You might be shot saying this (6)
CHEESE – Cryptic definition of what you say before a photo is taken.

9 American units all turned out as expected (5)
USUAL – The two letter abbreviation for American followed by the abbreviation for unit and the ALL with the final letter removed (turned out).  Collins has the U as singular not plural and I am not sure that turned out means remove the final letter so I have probably misunderstood the wordplay here.

14 Not sure it’s the kind of article she’d wear in grey (10)
INDEFINITE – I don’t know how to classify this .  The first and last words seem to be a double definition and the article worn by she would give ashen that does not define the solution.

17 All from when you dropped your boxers the day before over the back of Sainsbury (9)
EVERYBODY – A bit of an otter this one with the resulting surface reading not being the greatest.  The abbreviation for date of birth (when you dropped), the outer letters (boxers) of your and the three letter word for the day before all reversed (over) the final letter (back of) Sainsbury.

18 Got old boy dancing in date (8)
OBTAINED – The abbreviation for old boy followed by an anagram (dancing) of IN DATE.

19 Put distorted  events in papers (8)
INVESTED – An anagram (distorted) of EVENTS inside a two letter word for papers.

22 Aspic essence features strong flavours (6)
SPICES – The answer is hidden (features) in the first two words of the clue.

23 Take home free crystal (5)
CLEAR – Triple definition.

25 I’m truly after it (5)
YOURS – The word that can precede truly in correspondence.

27 Cold tea’s taken in bed (4)
CRIB – The abbreviation for cold followed by a homophone (taken) of teas.  Avoid repetition of wordplay indicators.

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 273

  1. Well we got a full grid and after revealing letters find that we only got one wrong, but there are still quite a few where we cannot work out the parsing. Maybe we will come back to these later.
    There are some really good clues here and we did enjoy these but eventually just found it a bit of an unrewarding struggle and put it aside.
    Thanks Raymond.

  2. As the 2Ks say, there are some good clues here but sadly they are outweighed by the number of clues I have ? by as I can’t parse them, and I couple where I’ve put NQ (not quite right). I did particularly like 8d

    Thanks Raymond – I suggest you work on your surface readings as several of my ?s are by clues that don’t make sense as a sentence. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic

  3. The pleasure from doing a Rookie puzzle on Monday mornings comes from never knowing what one’s going to be faced with. I found this one very tricky and there are four clues where I haven’t yet sorted out the wordplay. Some of the definitions (e.g. ‘The useless’ in 13a) are a bit vague.
    On the plus side I did enjoy the battle. There are some cracking clues and Raymond is obviously a very talented setter. I particularly liked 4a, 2d, 8d, 14d and 25d.
    Thanks Raymond – you might consider making your next puzzle a bit easier.

  4. Hi Raymond
    Thanks for the puzzle. It was hard, but the clues were (mostly) very good. I don’t know if there are actually any bad clues, but I don’t understand the wordplay in a few (the John Lennon & Sainsbury ones particularly, & 5d) despite having had a good think about it. I expect there’s just a bit too much cleverness in some of them.
    Lots of ticks inc. 4 11 13 20 (don’t quite get the definition but loved the wordplay) 24 & 31 across
    6 8 (favourite) 14 & 23 down.
    Look forward to another.

      1. Encouraged to have another look, got it now thanks. Yes, it all fits together very well.
        I think it was the ‘your boxers’ that threw me. Mainly because I missed the trick, but also because ‘your’ doesn’t need an indicator to give those letters so I was looking for something else for the boxers.
        Any hints for the John Lennon one?

          1. Oh, I see. That’s dodgy, isn’t it? The wordplay doesn’t take you to the solution. It’s like an indirect anagram, with the indirectness moved to a different part of the process.

        1. Just got there. Deceptively simple, but various loaded words deceived. Prolixic’s hint will give you it.

  5. Very cleverly clued in places and quite a struggle to finish; a slightly uncomfortable solve. I’d say you can afford to be simpler and smoother.

    I like a penny-drop moment when I twig a clue – too many today were met with a ‘what?’ rather than D’oh! There are one or two repetitions and quite a lot of ellipses.

    Overall, a competently put together puzzle so well done and thank you Raymond.

  6. Thank you to all who have taken the trouble to solve and comment, very much appreciated. I would be interested to hear more detail of where the parsing and definitions seem unsatisfactory, but I gather ( as a fairly new user of this site ), that that often comes after the review.

    1. Welcome to the blog Raymond

      You are right – in fairness to the reviewer, detailed analysis is usually held back until after the review has been published.

    2. Welcome to the blog

      We tend not to discuss Rookie crossword clues individually until after Prolixic has done his review, not least because some weeks once we’ve all provided our thoughts and suggestions, it doesn’t leave him much to review. All will become clear in the morning

  7. Welcome Raymond.

    Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy solving your debut puzzle, for me many of the clue constructions crossed the line between being clever and being unfair on the solver or too much of a stretch. When very experienced solvers and reviewers who posted earlier cannot parse many of the answers, that is usually a good sign that the wordplay needs to be less ambitious.

    Had I not resorted to electronic assistance, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have ever completed this. I’m not happy about “taken” as a homophone indicator, and was even less enamoured with it being repeated. I think it was good that the grid was generally obscurity-free, except for 28a perhaps, and I liked 8d and some of the simpler anagrams, like 24a and 3d.

    Prolixic will suggest which areas to work on before your next puzzle, I do hope you’ll follow his invaluable advice. Thanks, Raymond.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it. I did notice that I had used “taken” twice as a homophone indicator but by then I had already made a couple of corrections to the submitted puzzle so I thought I’d leave it and take the flak.

  8. Being completely honest, I probably revealed as many answers as I solved in this one. Even now, I have ‘umms’ and question marks galore over my print-out.
    From the ones that I solved unaided, I picked out 8d as my favourite.

    Sorry, Raymond, I did try very hard but failed time and time again. Perhaps try for something a little more accessible next time?

    1. Thank you for trying Jane!
      I thought I had included one or two “headscratchers” but I seem to have overdone it.

  9. I’m very much in line with Silvanus and Jane on this one although, perhaps surprisingly with hindsight, I completed the SW without much problem, needing only to check that answer for 28a did indeed exist. The other three corners were a very different kettle of fish and my page is littered with question marks awaiting Prolixic’s wise words tomorrow. I also hope these will give you the direction you need to use your obvious talents to create more accessible puzzles for solvers.

    The excellent triple definition in 23d was my favourite, and I particularly liked 24a & 8d.

    Thanks Raymond and good luck with your next one.

  10. I may be in a minority here, but until my last four clues (5, 16, 23 and 29) I found this accessible and great fun. I’ve encountered the John Lennon trick before but I don’t understand how this clue works. I thought 25 and 26, in particular, were excellent. Thanks, Raymond.

  11. Quite tough, and I still have trouble parsing a couple. Some v good ones – 8d (nice oblique definition), 19d (topical surface reading). I found 29a v convoluted, though I got there in the end. Two clues used the same homophone indicator., ‘taken’, which seems to me very vague anyway. Pretty nice puzzle overall, though.

  12. Thanks Prolixic for the review and the hint to Speke earlier.
    For 5d it is “a’s might be raised in case” i.e. to AA !
    I needed wordsearching to finish this, certainly very tough and some looseness as Prolixic has pointed out.
    I thought the Es in 1d were fair play, but found the definition abstruse.
    The definition in 2d is ‘As was’, with the definition intertwined with the wordplay, otherwise the wordplay would give a noun not an adjective.
    Thanks Raymond for the challenge.

    1. Also in 9d I struggled, not finding U for unit(s) in Chambers. The ‘turned out’ means remove the content I think.
      In 14d I read it as ‘one of this kind of article, when placed around “she”, makes a word meaning “grey”‘.

      1. Thank you Gonzo, yes you have pretty much nailed the intended parsings there.

        1. It’s the singular or plural number, not case. That’s an entirely different beast. Very enjoyable puzzle overall though: slippery clues that keep getting away from you even after you’ve got what must be the answer are fun to disentangle. Does depend on everything being painstakingly accurate though.

  13. Thank you for the review Prolixic, you have identified several areas where I should be more careful – especially 20a ( I don’t know where I got the idea that “may” is an adverb ); 30a – “holding” would be much better; and the sloppy double use of an iffy homophone indicator.

    There are some others though which I would stand by:

    13a Where the anagram is fairly simple I think it is reasonable to have a less simple definition. I considered “the driven”, but I thought that too obvious for experienced solvers.

    15a “Egging” at Halloween may be unwelcome but it is a common practice.

    16a My Collins and my SOED give strength as synonyms of “vis”. The are three Ds ( Germanys ) in “added” – the solver is instructed to replace the central d with vis.

    2d This is intended as a double definition “as was” and “one not ready for games” ( e.g. PE ),

    5d “as”- plural of “a”, raised from lower to upper case to give AA

    6d My Chambers thesaurus gives negotiation for intervention

    9d Collins gives “U” as an American abbreviation for units. As American is the first word in the clue I thought that this was fair. As Gonzo points out, “turned out” is to be read as “emptied ( e.g. turned out his pockets )

    14d The definition is “Not sure”, the rest is word play

    17d Can anyone enlighten me as to what “otter” means here?

    1. Not sure what the problem is with the def for passengers. I thought it was perfectly adequate and nicely disguised. SOED has something like ‘a team member who does no effective work’. I also liked the clue because of the 3 7 3 7 5 letter counts, which made it unclear what the fodder was for the anagram.
      I didn’t know egging was Hallowe’en practice until 2005, but then I found out. Very difficult to wash off bricks.
      I didn’t get the as to AA device. I like it, have used as in a clue myself to remove a’s from an anagram and have also seen is used for I’s. But really it’s only going to be spotted working backwards from the solution, and once you have the solution what you’re looking for in the wordplay is confirmation of the actual letters that make up the solution word. You have provided something different – as the review says, a clue to a clue. Along with 29a, it might work on its own (your) terms, but those terms are not the usual ones understood by most solvers. I spent a little while looking for another compound anagram (like that for artistic) using ‘raised’ but couldn’t find the extra OD.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and the help with parsing some of those clues – particularly 13,15,16& 20a. I’ve never heard of throwing eggs at Halloween (fortunately!) and the nearest I could get with 13a was thinking of a dick(e)y seat in a carriage.
    By the way – I thought CALM was a perfectly valid answer for 12a and was surprised that no-one else seems to have fallen for that one. Certainly made a mess of 2d for a while!

    1. You’re not alone, I had calm at first too.

      Thank you for the review Prolixic.

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