Rookie Corner – 291 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 291

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 heard from Laccaria, but not 200 years! 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 Laccaria.  This was much improved with greater attention to detail and far fewer repeated used of wordplay indicators (though not wholly eliminated).  The theme was well used for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick.  The commentometer reads as 1.5 / 29 or 5.1%.


1 Good job I escaped from fifth State: shut out! (5,3,5)
THATS THE STUFF – An anagram (out) of FIFTH STATE SHUT after removing the I (I escaped).

8 Help sure disrupted round! (8)
SPHERULE – An anagram (disrupted) of HELP SURE.

9 Film inside of horse before it’s even born (6)
FOETAL – A two letter Spielberg film inside a four letter word for a young horse.  Perhaps the “even” could be omitted here.

10 Swimmer is healthy, after first washing (5)
WHALE – A four letter word meaning health after the first letter of washing.  Some editors will not allow first X to represent the first letter of X.

12 They decide on well-cooked English rib steak (3-6)
TIE-BREAKS – An anagram (well-cooked) of E (English) RIB STEAK.

14 Her Majesty almost meeting, in Malaga, that good friend of 20‘s (8)
QUEEQUEG – The title of Her Majesty with the last letter removed (almost) followed by the Spanish (Malaga) for that and the abbreviation for good.  Although technically correct, the process of finding the definition is maybe too convoluted.  When you look as 20 down, you have to look to 17 across, which to solve, you first have to solve 25 across.  In a themed crossword, this may be acceptable but too much use of linked clues like this can be off-putting for solvers so should be used sparingly.

15 Dig up dried red gelatine extract (6)
DREDGE – The answer is hidden (extract) in the third to fifth words of the clue.

17/20 Celebrated 25, stupidly sell him a camel (4,2,7)
CALL ME ISHMAEL – An anagram (stupidly) of SELL HIM A CAMEL.

19 Setter’s superior briefly lives with back trouble (8)
MYELITIS – A two letter word meaning the setter’s followed by a five letter word meaning superior with the final letter removed (briefly) and a two letter word meaning lives.

21 Nasty little boys are back to crudely suck drinks here? (9)
STARBUCKS – Revers (are back) a flve letter word for for nasty boys and follow with an anagram (crudely) of SUCK.

23 Colour of own hair, tied evenly (5)
WHITE – Even letters of the third to fifth words of the clue (ignoring the spaces).

25 Cricketer prone after stumbling to Cover Point (6)
OPENER – An anagram (after stumbling) of PRONE around (to cover) the abbreviation for East (point).

26 Companion to take around, as an afterthought, for drink (8)
SCHNAPPS – The abbreviation for companion with a four letter word meaning to take a photo around it followed by the abbreviation of postscript (an afterthought).

28 They stop entering into discussions about birds returning to young, bringing edible larvae initially (8,5)
CHASTITY BELTS – A five letter word for talks or discussions about a reversal (returning) of TITS (birds) and the initial letters of tenth to thirteens words of the clue.


1 Ace spinner (3)
TOP – Double definition, the second being a child’s toy.

2 Darker patches are invaded by flower pushing up (7)
AREOLAE The ARE from the clue includes a reversal (pushing up) of ALOE (flower).

3 Put out objections raised (4)
STUB – A reversal (raised) of a four letter word meaning objections.

4 Observant journalist supports ambassador in Guatemala at first (7)
HEEDING – The abbreviation for editor under (supports) the abbreviation for an ambassador all followed by the IN from the clue and the first letter of Guatemala.  Try to avoid using repeated indicators such as first for the first letters.

5 Boneless, but faint unpleasant smell has gone (4-6)
SOFT BODIED – A four letter word meaning faint followed by the abbreviation for body odour and a four letter word meaning deceased (has gone).

6 The Spanish twice support country over European guitar (7)
UKELELE – The Spanish for “the” repeated (twice) under (support) the abbreviation for United Kingdom (country) all over the abbreviation for European.  Another repetition of a wordplay indicator with “support” used in 4d.

7 Cup side substitutes one Pole for another (5)
FLASK – A five letter word for a side with the N replaced by an S (one pole for another).  Perhaps the definition here is too inexact.

11 African ethnic group has a university accommodated (5)
HAUSA – The HAS and A from the clue includes (accommodated) the abbreviation for university.

13 Zealous official flyer injected with preparation of curare and uranium (10)
BUREAUCRAT – A three letter word for a flying mammal includes an anagram (preparation of) CURARE U (uranium).

16 Expensively adorned for hearing? Shame! (5)
GUILT – A homophone (for hearing) of GILT (expensively adorned).

18 Shower of rain, old girl! (7)
LORINDA – An anagram (shower of) RAIN OLD.

19 Succeeds in flying kites, to a degree (5,2)
MAKES IT – The abbreviation for Master of Arts (a degree) followed by an anagram (flying) of KITES.

20 See 17 Across

22 Issue of global hot-spot – right away! (5)
TOPIC – A hot region of the planet without the abbreviation of right.  

24 I’m surprised at British man appearing in Bible (4)
AHAB – A three letter interjection meaning I’m surprised followed by the abbreviation for British.

27 Drink up yellowish liquid (3)
PUS – Reverse (up) a three letter word meaning drink.  Another repetition with up following the pushed up in 2d.

17 comments on “Rookie Corner – 291

  1. A very clever Toughie level puzzle that had us working hard and needed a bit of electronic help to finish. 28a held out for a long time and very satisfying when we eventually worked it out. Thought that 18d was a bit obscure to be defined simply as ‘girl’ even though it was a straight anagram.
    An enjoyable solve that we did appreciate.
    Thanks Laccaria.

  2. Thanks Laccaria, I don’t think I tackled any of your previous puzzles but this one was very enjoyable and, as the 2Kiwis suggest, approaching a Toughie classification. I did need some electronic assistance to complete it but, in part, that may have been the onset of fatigue as this was the third puzzle of my Sunday evening (not counting two Quickies).
    I also agree with the 2Kiwis on 18d – obscure but aided by the anagram.
    Although it was a ‘war and peace’ clue, I did like 28a.
    Thanks again.

  3. Great stuff with lots to enjoy and an enjoyable theme – thanks Laccaria.
    The anagram count is a little on the high side and I don’t like the ‘first washing’ in 10a but really there’s very little to quibble at.
    My ticks went to 19a, 25a, 24d and (mainly for the LOL definition) 28a.
    More like this would be very welcome.

  4. Thanks Laccaria
    I found that much more accessible than previous puzzles, but with a good mix of tricky ones too.
    I liked the celebrated 25 particularly, and also 25 itself (though I think the capitals are wrong). 19a was last in, and I needed a dictionary to find it, but the clue’s fair enough. Given the first and fifth letters, I wonder why you didn’t have another solution there, but maybe you wanted to limit the amount of thematic content.

  5. Well done, Laccaria; it’s nice to see you making a steady improvement from puzzle to puzzle, and this one is certainly your best to date. This was certainly a tough challenge requiring some specialised knowledge for which I needed some help from Google.

    I would never describe 7d as a cup; surely it is a bottle or other narrow-necked container? The definition for 28a is very clever as is the (rather verbose) wordplay. Generally your surfaces are good and your cluing is accurate which will keep solvers satisfied. 25a was my favourite.

    Many thanks, Laccaria. Please keep them coming.

  6. Very nice, with well done theme. Favourites 14, 17/20, 25, 28 (although, pace Senf, I’m not sure War-and-Peace is the epithet to use for the word play in this particular case), and 24 (for its aha! moment). My only quibbles were 10’s ‘first washing’ (shoorly ‘Swimmer’s left in water, in good health’), and the cheeky adverbial ‘PS’ in 26.

  7. Welcome back, Laccaria.

    Good to see that your mojo has apparently returned! I think this was the first puzzle of yours that I’ve completed unaided (even if it did take quite some time), and I was very pleased that the frustrating niggles that seemed to bedevil your previous efforts have largely been eliminated. Having said that, “up” was repeated as a reversal indicator in 2d and 27d.

    I thought this was very well clued indeed, and it was clever to include so many themed answers, even if some like 3d and 21d had different spellings. Yes, the number of anagrams was probably excessive, but that’s more excusable in a themed puzzle, I believe.

    The clues I liked most were 9a and 25a. I agree with RD about “cup” as a stretched synonym in 7d (excellent clue otherwise though) and, like others, I felt 18d was your weakest clue, I suspect the answer was a grid-filler too.

    Definitely your best puzzle to date, Laccaria, congratulations and many thanks.

  8. As far as the theme was concerned I’m afraid this was a case of ‘over to you, Mr Google’ as was the unlikely girl in 18d. Then there was 27d – ‘yuck’ just about covers it. Elsewhere, I had my doubts about 7d and struggled to parse 26a.
    On the upside, I really liked 9&25a!

    Thanks, Laccaria, good to see that you’re giving it another try.

  9. I enjoyed dredging up the theme-related words from my memory. Favourites were the 17/20,25,14 linkups.
    In 19d, “to” feels like it should be “under”, but I don’t have a suggestion to make that work with the surface, and of course, it would break the phrase.
    Good puzzle. Cheers.

  10. Hello folks, well I was caught on the hop here, I’ve only just opened my E-mail spam folder and discovered that it went online this morning!

    Anyway, hope you have fun with it. I know there are one or two sticking points with it, but no matter. I thought 14a would flummox anyone who didn’t know the theme: we’ll see. I’d intended to give it the title “TO CELEBRATE A BICENTENARY” (which will become clear to anyone who’s got as far as the theme) but it doesn’t really matter.

  11. Well done Laccaria,

    I loved 17a. A week ago we had the Elgar clue “Call me this in novel, not Clint (7)” in a Friday toughie, which of course I illustrated with the famous Gary Larson “writer’s block” cartoon. This clue, and its context, is just as satisfying.

    precious little to criticise here. like others i circled first washing. wasn’t completely happy with the superior synonym in 19a. I imagine 28a works better without “into”, but maybe i am misreading. 22d i think of hotspot as very localised. that’s about it! great stuff. Oh, just maybe 27d is ambiguous.


  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Hopefully Laccaria will feel encouraged by the low score on the commentometer this time.

  13. Many thanks for the Review, Prolixic, and for everyone’s comments — favourable or not!

    I have to say, I thought long and hard before putting this one up: one of my test-solvers said, however I fixed it, it’d still be too hard (I’m glad he’s revised his opinion on this blog!)

    I won’t answer every point. 18d wasn’t a grid filler actually, I was trying to work something like LOR[in]NA but couldn’t quite fit the D in place of the N. Then I tried L[or]INDA but the surface went to pot. So you see I spent a fair bit of time on it – agreed it’s not my best!

    I’m glad so many of you found QUEEQUEG! I doubt if that word will ever come up in a crossword again!

    All the best, L.

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