Rookie Corner – 280 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 280

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.

Gonzo returns with a much improved crossword.  The was a good deal of inventiveness in the wordplay and whilst it was tough in places, it could all be teased out with a little patience.  The only clue that really did not work was the combination at 16a/8d.  The commentometer reads as 2 /27 or 7.4%.


6 Believes broadcasts about Partition (8)
SWALLOWS – A four letter word meaning broadcasts (in the horticultural sense) around a four letter word for a partition dividing two rooms.

8 Is inundated with news about Poles (6)
DROWNS – A reversal (about) of a four letter word meaning news followed by the two magnetic poles.

9 Campbell perhaps nestling in inglenook (4)|
GLEN – The answer is hidden (nestling) in the final word of the clue.

10 One stuck in revolting bed’s long-suffering (5)
STOIC – The letter representing one inside a reversal (revolting) of a four letter word for bed’s.

11 Staff Association (4)
CLUB – Double definition with the first being a type of mace.

12/27 Met Dec. through Feb. with Italian team pursuing Cumbrian? (8,6)
NORTHERN WINTER – The abbreviation for with and a five letter name of an Italian football club after (pursuing) a description of a Cumbrian in terms of the geographical location of Cumbria.

14 See 15 Down

16/8D Failed to score with this bird? That’ll get you down (5,4)
EIDER DUCK – A homophone (un-indicated) of I’D A DUCK.  The question mark does not work as a homophone indicator and you need a subject in the wordplay to make the clue work.  Perhaps Heard sportsman’s report of lamentable score with this bird.

17 Group goes back to exploits on vacation in the Lakes (5)
MERES – A reversal of a three letter American group of musicians followed by the outer letters (on vacation) of exploits.

21 Libra nullifies retrograde phase of the moon (5)
LUNAR – The answer is hidden (phase) and reversed (retrograde) in the first two words of the clue.

22 Extension to play on Broadway leads to Evita receiving Tony, and movie deal (8)
OVERTIME – An anagram (deal) of ERT (the first letters – leads – of Evita receiving Tony) MOVIE.

24 Crop oats occasionally for waterfowl (4)
COOT – The odd letters (occasionally) in the first two words of the clue.

25 Pack, one taken onboard with winch (5)
HOIST – A four letter word meaning a pack or large group includes (taking onboard) the letter representing one.  Try to avoid repeating letter indicators such as one for I.

26 Scout hotel for golf film (4)
HAZE – A four letter word meaning to scout or watch closely with the initial G (golf) replaced by H (hotel).

27 See 12

28 Providing a fix by the solar zenith? (8)
AMENDING – The solar zenith is noon when the morning comes to an end.


1 Number over 50 with broad backing for Labour (5,2)
DWELL ON – A reversal (backing) of an abbreviations for any number and over, the Roman numeral for 50 and a four letter word meaning broad or bawdy.

2 Campbell, perhaps, or a copy with 1:1 equivalence (4)
CLAN – A five letter word meaning a copy with the ONE (1) replaced by AN (one).

3 Floor of a sea-loch has absorbed tritium (7)
ASTOUND – The A from the clue and a five letter word for a sea-loch include (has absorbed) the chemical symbol for tritium.

4 Dog chases rook and vagrant tern at the same time (10)
CONCURRENT – A three letter word for a mongrel dog after (chases) a three letter word meaning rook or cheat followed by an anagram (vagrant) of TERN.

5 Is 21 cycle favouring separation? (7)
INSULAR – An anagram (cycle) of IS and the answer to 21across.

7 Carouser heading off with fisherman (8)
OYSTERER – A nine letter word for a carouser (usually spelled with an I but here with a Y) with the first letter removed (heading off).

8 See 16 Across

13 Three-piece pirate attire which hasn’t aged badly (10)
TRIPARTITE – An anagram (badly) of PIRATE ATTIRE after removing the two letter abbreviation for aged.

15/14 Despot – favourite target here for revolution (5,3,5)
PETER THE GREAT – A three letter word meaning favourite followed by an anagram (for revolution) of TARGET HERE.

18 Rustic taking US car not quite over mountain pass (7)
BUCOLIC – A make of US car without the final K around (over) a three letter word for a mountain pass.   Using over as a containment indicator in a down clue jars as it means above in this context.

19 One lad all at sea during boat trip (7)
HOLIDAY – An anagram (at sea) of I (one – again) LAD inside a three letter word for a boat.

20 Combative women 3 fellows with editor’s sacking (7)
AMAZONS – A six letter word meaning the as the answer to 3 down and a four letter word for university fellows have the abbreviation for editor removed.

23 Cleaner fish (4)
CHAR – Double definition.

26 Fell run? You can’t…! (4)
– The word that completes the phrase “you can run but you can’t ????”.

41 comments on “Rookie Corner – 280

  1. A great puzzle — congratulations, Gonzo! My favourite was 28a, closely followed by 6a and 8a. I don’t see why you need the Broadway reference in 22a, and I found 19d (is this an indirect anagram?) and 26d difficult and probably don’t fully understand them.

    1. I think I for ‘one’ in 19d is OK. 26d is one of those ‘I didn’t know x could mean y and/or z’ clues

      1. It appears quite a lot in Times crosswords which is what fixed it in my mind (eventually!)

  2. We found this a real challenge but did eventually get a filled grid although there are a couple where we will come back and have another look at the parsing. We’ll agree with Atrica for favourite clues.
    Thanks Gonzo.

    1. Think we have everything parsed now. 20d ended up being very clever. Another couple where we had to do some more thinking were, the justification for removing a couple of letters for the 13d answer, and the substitution required for 2d. Both gettable though.

  3. Even this famed non-spotter of themes couldn’t help to spot this one fairly early one given that it is one of my specialised subjects (and that of my much missed sister whose particular favourite was 27/19)

    Thanks to Gonzo for the great crossword and in advance to Prolixic for the review

  4. I found this one tricky, especially in the NW corner, but a very enjoyable challenge. I did spot the theme but, having never read the book, probably missed a lot of the references.
    I don’t fully understand 16/8d – is the first word meant to be a homophone?
    I ticked 8a, 1d and 2d but my favourite was 28a.
    Thanks to Gonzo for the entertainment.

        1. I’m from Derbyshire and we go for total economy in pronunciation – “er” is far too long and cumbersome for us busy people. Up here it’s “reada”, not reader. :-)

  5. I found this tricky too. Some very clever constructions, including one or two where I must be missing something. Theme lost on me even with CS’s pointer
    This was doubtless a good puzzle, though the grid isn’t the most helpful and I’m not overly keen on cross-referenced clues and split answers. Made it a little disjointed for me

    Well done and thanks Gonzo

  6. That was properly hard. Some serious thinking needed to sort out 2 and 20, and 28 was pretty savage too: those three are my clear favourites. Needed a dictionary to understand why 13 was fair. Thought 2 or 3 liberties were taken, but I won’t draw attention to them. Theme nicely done. Thanks Gonzo.

  7. Welcome back, Gonzo.

    I had vague recollection of a previous Rookie puzzle with a similar theme, and BD’s archive confirms it was by Mucky in June 2017 (No. 167). He often comments on Rookie puzzles, so will probably drop by later. A few answers are common to both puzzles, unsurprisingly.

    I thought this was Gonzo’s best puzzle to date, not easy but not impenetrable by any means, although I share LbR’s twin reservations. 16a is missing a homophone indicator I think, and I agree with Gazza on the choice of favourite clue, i.e. 28a.

    Many thanks, Gonzo, it’s great to see you progressing as a setter.

  8. Found this tough but enjoyable. Theme wasn’t much help to me as I needed others’ hints here to see it (my fault). 13, 15 and the very neat 11 were my picks of the bunch. Thanks, Gonzo.

  9. I’m afraid this one wasn’t for me. It took a long time to solve and I was left with quite a lot of ‘umms’ and question marks, particularly where parsing was concerned. Having gathered from previous comments the intended justification of 16/8d, I just threw in the towel.

    Sorry to be so negative Gonzo and such a shame – the book series in the theme was one of my childhood favourites.

  10. Thanks all, this was fun to set so I’m glad most of you enjoyed it. I managed to work in some theme references in the clues too, as you may have spotted.
    22a, Atricia the US and UK usages are quite different – almost opposites.
    19d ‘Independent…’ would have fitted the story quite as well.
    16/8 I reckoned the question mark to be sufficient homophone indicator – and I did clue it two ways.
    I know some people don’t like cross-references, but I think they have a place if used lightly.
    Any liberties taken were knowingly so! And Porcia found it ‘properly hard’ – the biter bit :)

    1. I’m sorry, a mere question mark is not an adequate homophone indicator. I recall you had the same issue in your last puzzle, it’s a habit to get out of quickly, I’d suggest!

      1. Yep – nearly posted exactly that! Sorry Gonzo, but I don’t see how a question mark could possibly indicate a homophone

      2. As well as the fact that a question mark won’t do there’s no subject in the clue – so if the homophone is meant to lead us to “I’d a” (which doesn’t work at all for me anyway) you’d need something like “Setter failed to score …”.

        1. I considered that and rejected it – it didn’t gel with the second half of the clue. The implication is that it is the solver who has failed to score, and thus would say ‘I’d a’, and it would get the solver down.
          We often omit the subject in idiomatic speech – ‘Had a good day at work?’
          Let’s not overthink it anyway.

  11. Spotted the theme but too late for it to help. Some great clues, though, such as 10ac, 19dn and 20dn with its reference to 3dn. But also some dodgy ones, e.g. 16/8 and I’m totally baffled by 26dn (assuming I’ve got 26ac and 28ac right).

  12. Thanks Gonzo. Like others have said, enjoyable and tough. A couple I couldn’t get to the bottom of (the 1:1 equivalence, and the I’d a).
    One thing I don’t understand that the review hasn’t cleared up: what is the Met in ‘Met Dec. etc …’ ?
    Thanks for the mention, Silvanus. Funnily enough I twigged the theme when I got ‘Clean fish’; in my puzzle I think I had ‘Clean fish and cook over fire’ for the same word, so after I got that I started looking for COAL and BURNERS, but maybe that one was just in by coincidence. Some nice themed clues, as well as solutions: pirates, Poles, sickbed, and I particularly liked 19 which suggested Roger. I wondered if the Campbell clues were also a reference to Lake Coniston?

    1. Thanks Mucky,
      I see the review has lost its underlining for the definitions, so the Met is part of the definition – ‘meteorological’. I thought that would get picked up as a liberty.
      I haven’t read the stories since I was a child, but recently read a collection of Ransome’s letters. The CHAR and Campbell links are coincidence, but I’m glad you picked up on the We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea reference, if I understand you aright.

      1. I have added the highlighting for the definitions. Apologies for the earlier omission. I think I must have been half-asleep last night given the number of things I forgot to do!

  13. Thanks for the review Prolixic. I take your point about the repetition of indicators, though it’s not something that spoils the solving experience for me personally.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and the explanation of a couple of bits of parsing that had escaped me.

  15. Thanks for the review, Prolixic. I’m afraid I still don’t see what “on Broadway” is doing in 22a. Doesn’t the clue work perfectly well without it?

    1. Hi,
      ‘Overtime’ in the sense of ‘extension to play on the sports field’ is N American usage.
      In British English ‘overtime’ is extra time spent at work, whereas the sporting sense is ‘extra time’.

  16. Although, speaking as a pedant, I recently visited Maidstone in Kent where there is a (wide) street called “Broadway”. So I’m not sure that “on Broadway” necessarily means “in the USA”…!

  17. This was one of your toughest ones for me, Gonzo. I slogged my way along, but had to reveal 5 clues in the NW, and read Prolixic’s review for several parsings. I read all the books long ago, but I’m never on the lookout for themes, so missed it until reading the other comments here. On the plus side, favourites were 15, 18 and 28.

    1. Sorry to hear it was a slog Void. I didn’t set out to make it more difficult than my others – just the way the elegant clues fell out I guess.

  18. Interested to note Prolixic makes no comment re “Cumbrian” being equated to “Northern”.
    As a Scot, I’ve been warned about making clues too geographically specific. To me Northern is not Cumbrian.
    A bit like having to be careful with homophones that rely on having a specific accent. eg “for” (pronounced “fur” in parts of Scotland)

    1. Fair point Rex. I toyed with making it ‘Lombard’, as Lombardy is the Italian lake district (more or less) and its provincial capital happens to be Milan. I don’t think that would have been popular though. How would you clue it?

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