Rookie Corner – 308 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 308

A Puzzle by Laccaria

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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.

Well done to Laccaria on another challenging crossword.  The wordplay is pretty well nailed with only a few minor points to note.  However, some of the surface readings need attention.  A number of the solutions are folds or bases in Origami.  Sky were going to televise competitive origami on the sport channel.  You could only see it on paper-view!

The commentometer reads as a respectable 1.5 out of 32 or 4.7%


7 Check flower, always got for nothing (7)
REVERSE – The four letter name of a flower that has associations with Yorkshire and Lancashire with the O (nothing) replaced with a four letter word meaning ever.

8 Book madman, not setter, going after little boy (7)
ALMANAC – The abbreviated two letter form of Albert followed by a six letter word for a madman with the I removed (not setter).

9 Jail the first TV man who takes off bra – at last! (4)
BIRD – The surname of the Scottish pioneer of the television with the A (bra at last) removed.

10 Collector of sound seeds? (3)
EAR – Double definition of the organ of hearing and a head of wheat that contains the seeds.

12 Blame stumbling walk! (5)
AMBLE – An anagram (stumbling) of BLAME.  Not sure why an exclamation mark is required where.  Restrict their use to when something bizarre is happening with the wordplay.

13 Urge Prince Romeo not to start trouble (5)
PRESS – The abbreviations for prince and Romeo followed by a four letter meaning trouble without the first letter (not to start).  Not to start is a slightly clumsy indicator.  Perhaps to head off trouble might be better.

14 Healing cleric embraces 4 (8)
CURATIVE – A six letter word for a junior cleric around the Roman numerals for 4.

16 Hold dish upside down at end (4)
STEM – A type of dish like goulash with the final letter rotated through 180 degrees (upside down at the end).  Here an exclamation mark at the end of the clue would have been appropriate.

17 Stone to shoot at, when retreating (5)
TOPAZ – The TO from the clue followed by an informal word meaning to shoot at reversed (when retreating).

18 Drop wrong card (4)
SINK – A three letter word meaning wrong followed by the abbreviation for King in a pack of playing cards.

19 Pall Mall, for instance, is what this is, not entirely without taste (8)
CLUBLAND – What you are solving with the final letter removed (not entirely) followed by a five letter word meaning tasteless.

21 Forwards steal fruit, not quietly (5)
SCRUM – A six letter word meaning to steal fruit without the P (not quietly).  Try to avoid using repeated indicators such as not to remove a letter.

22 Join old Party, to protect Border (5)
CRIMP – The abbreviation for Communist Party (old party) around (to protect) a three letter word for a border.

23 At first, University of York rejected second person (3)
YOU – A reversal (rejected) of the initial letters (at first) of the third to fifth words of the clue.

24 Pen to stop working? (4)
FOLD – Double definition, the first an area where sheep may be kept and the second to become bankrupt or stop working.

26 Skivvy finally sorted out trash (7)
DESTROY – An anagram (out) of Y (skivvy finally) SORTED.

27 One who supposedly hides head with companion, after disorderly riots (7)
OSTRICH – The abbreviation for companion after an anagram (disorderly) of RIOTS.


1 Monster is but paper! (4)
YETI – A three letter word meaning but followed by the name of a newspaper.

2 May need to change sheets after this lunatic watered close to them! (3,5)
WET DREAM – An anagram (lunatic) of WATERED M (close to them).  Be careful with clues that solvers will find in bad taste.  Here, REM DREAM or FELDHEIM would have avoided this.

3 Hard to divide fool’s possessions (6)
ASSETS – The a three letter word meaning hard (as in having hardened) inside a three letter word for a fool. 

4 9 man’s place is upset cart in middle of city in Arizona (8)
ALCATRAZ – An anagram (upset) of CART inside the abbreviation for Los Angeles (city) inside the state code for Arizona.

5 No good to seize hold of part of hopper (6)
RABBIT – A four letter word meaning to seize hold of without the G (no good) followed by.a three letter word meaning part.  Some editors will not allow wordplay of definition.

6 Part of the salt starts to be added, shaken energetically (4)
BASE – The initial letters (starts to) of the final four words of the clue.

11 Waterlogged field icy? Draped plastic! (4,5)
RICE PADDY – An anagram (plastic) of ICY DRAPED.

13 Dead priest risen?  This will draw insects… (5)
PETAL – A four letter word for dead and the abbreviation for priest all reversed (risen).

15 …a few of which may deliver this very bread, coming up short (5)
VENOM – The abbreviation for very followed by a five letter word for bread (as a form of cash) with the final letter removed and reversed (coming up short).

17 Small amount of rough sea, and no pot! (8)
TEASPOON – An anagram (rough) of SEA NO POT.

18 Yes, sack is reliable (4-4)
SURE-FIRE – A four letter word meaning yes followed by a four letter word meaning sack.

20 Second little girl finds nutshell inside pancake (6)
BLINTZ – The second letter of the alphabet followed by a shortened form of the name Elizabeth (little girl) with the outer letters (shell) of NUT inside.  Second to indicate B is not very precise and a little lazy.  Perhaps soft / bold little girl would be better.  Some editors would not allow nutshell to indicate the first and last letters of nut.

21 Pole to declare void game (6)
SQUASH – The abbreviation for south (pole) followed by a five letter word meaning to declare void.

22 For example, 8 appear in Hundred-Acre Wood (4)
CREW – The answer is hidden (to appear in) the final two words in the clue.

25 Second-rank sportsman means to get to next level (4)
LOCK – Double definition of a person in the second row of a scrum and the system used on a canal to move up or down a level.

The origami terms are:

  • SINK

33 comments on “Rookie Corner – 308

  1. That took us quite a long time and we really struggled with several of the pesky four letter answers. We did wonder about a couple of the abbreviations used but when we checked in BRB they were all there.
    Challenging and enjoyable sums it up for us.
    Thanks Laccaria.

    1. Well you got in quick – but that’s time-zones for you! Thanks Kiwis for the compliment. I don’t seem to have the knack of setting an ‘easy’ one – must try harder! There is a ghost theme, somewhat obscure – can anyone spot it?

  2. I really enjoyed this – thanks Laccaria.
    I didn’t find it that easy with several clues needing to be prised out but there were no obscurities, which is a big plus as far as I’m concerned.
    Some of the surface readings were not great so perhaps that’s one area to work on.
    I ticked 9a, 19a and 25d but my favourite (because it made me laugh) was 2d.
    More like this would be very welcome.

    1. Thanks Gazza. Glad you found 2d amusing – a bit risqué perhaps? Hope no-one takes umbrage. I’m sure the Grauniad would accept that sort of clue, but perhaps not the Telegraph?

      Surfaces are always one of the more difficult things to get right – I acknowledge that.

      1. You’re right about the Guardian – 2d was last clued there by Tramp in December 2018 as:
        Were covers not stained ultimately in the morning with this? (3,5)
        There were 49 comments on the puzzle on Fifteensquared and not a word of complaint about the clue.

  3. Last Friday I solved the Elgar Toughie while eating my breakfast of shredded wheat and drinking a cup of tea. Today, eating the same breakfast, I’d solved 13 clues, the first one in of which was 23a which is not a good sign. I left it to go and wash the bathroom floor and then returned to the fight (and for me it was the wrong sort of fight)

    I’m not really a notice of surface readings but it was interesting to find out that the ones I could solve on my first go were all ones where the surface reading made a sensible sentence. Many of the clues don’t make any sense at all, just a collection of words strung together in the hope that someone could ‘see’ a solution. I did like 22d but unlike Gazza, my reaction to 2d was ’12 words!!’ and YUK!

    Thanks Laccaria – sorry to be so negative, but I didn’t have a lot of fun with this one. I don’t know about a ghost theme, I can connect several solutions together but with two different themes! Thanks in advance to Prolixic

    1. Thanks Sue. All I can say is, sorry about 2d! I’ve been hoping that 22d will draw folks into trying to remember all the Winnie-the-Pooh characters!

  4. Thanks Laccaria
    Just about got there on my own except for 20d which I didn’t know as a word. I found the clues all fair, just hard enough, and liked 24 and 25 best. Surfaces were generally a bit crosswordy – the words didn’t always seem as if they wanted to be put together. I wonder how you start writing a clue. Do you start with the definition? In nearly all the across clues, the definition is first, and is very direct. I would usually start by looking for wordplay that the solution offers naturally, and then adjust the definition to fit.
    I think there are some origami terms in there.

    1. Thanks mucky and well done spotting the theme. Prolixic will probably elaborate further. When writing a clue, I always think of the definition first, then try to conjure up wordplay (or another definition) around it. But yes, one may have to revise the definition to fit with the wordplay. I hadn’t noticed that so many had the definition at the front – a minor flaw I suppose.

      1. I didn’t mean to point it out as a flaw, though it’s something to watch out for (quite some way down the long list of things to watch out for, perhaps). I didn’t notice while solving, only afterwards when wondering why you made some of the (rather unobvious) wordplay choices you did. I suspected you were deciding on a definition first, and the definitions mostly coming at the start of the clue tended to confirm that. I’ve never come across any guidance about whether it’s better to think about definition or wordplay first, but having tried your way I found it limiting when writing the wordplay, which is usually the tricky bit. I have asked about this here before, but didn’t get any response.

  5. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Laccaria.

    This was very tough indeed – 5*plus for me in terms of my difficulty rating for Telegraph back-pagers – and I needed to reveal a few letters in order to finish it. I remember saying something similar for your last-but-one Rookie and was pleased when you eased back on the difficulty for your previous one, which was still very challenging but doable.

    Although I admired a lot of this, I can’t say I enjoyed it, but you can be congratulated on clearly making a great deal of effort to compile it.

    I initially thought you had omitted the clue for 25d but eventually found it on the back of my page which I print using the double-sided option from the PDF file.

    I can’t parse my answers for either 16a or, perhaps surprisingly for me, 5d! Several of your surfaces need improvement, e.g. 4d & 15d; and 2d will be considered in poor taste by some. There are those who I know disagree with me but my strong preference is to avoid using vague names (“boy”, “girl”) as part of the wordplay, and, although you have changed the sex, you have used this device twice in 8a & 20d which constitutes a repetition.

    As usual, you have many creative clues and well-disguised definitions, but I think you need to work on making your puzzles more solver friendly.

    Thanks Laccaria, but sorry this was not my cup of tea.

    1. For 16a invert the last letter of your answer. 5d is a verb to seize hold of without the initial G[ood] plus a part.

      1. Thanks very much, Gazza. 16a is very unusual and very clever; and I think I must have been suffering from brain fade when trying to parse 5d.

    2. Thanks RD. Sorry it wasn’t quite your ‘thing’ – I’m still a bit at sea about getting good surfaces or making the whole puzzle a bit more approachable.

      Yes Gazza is right about the parsing of 16a. One of my testers said, some people might object, it depends what font they’re using! Surely this idea’s been used before (probably in the Graun)?

      I’ve already commented about the risqué 2d – it was a filler phrase (CC offers no other suggestions) and I challenge anyone to define it without upsetting anyone! Trouble is, two of the crossers are thematic, so I had less scope for adjustment.

  6. Not sure what to make of this. On one hand there are some clever and original ideas which I enjoyed. On the other, many surfaces seemed rather forced to accommodate an idea.

    For me, the surface should be natural but misleading, so the solver gets the penny-drop moment rather than seeing the definition and then working out the somewhat mechanical wordplay.
    More simple but more smooth is the gist of it. I’m no snowflake but 2d is rather distasteful and I wasn’t convinced by a couple of definitions (petal, crimp). Overall, I’m not sure I enjoyed it, so 50/50

    Well done for putting the puzzle together and thanks for the challenge Laccaria

  7. This puzzle seemed to revert to the difficulty level of Laccaria’s original submissions, perhaps his last one was the exception rather than the new norm. Once again I needed electronic assistance to fill the grid, and there are still one or two constructions I don’t fully understand.

    As others have said, some of the surfaces weren’t the smoothest but then again I felt the same about Hippogryph’s NTSPP on Saturday which appeared to escape such criticism. I suspect that if a puzzle is less solver-friendly, like this one, and the solutions need to be prised out slowly, then the surfaces tend to be subjected to closer scrutiny.

    I agree with LbR that a few of the definitions were dubious or stretched, but overall I found it more of a pleasure to solve than a slog, as there was plenty to admire in the clue constructions. My favourite clue was 3d.

    Many thanks, Laccaria.

    1. That would explain why I noticed the surface readings in what I thought was quite a difficult crossword. Certainly, if it hadn’t been raining and miserable outside, I’d certainly have given up solving rather than struggling on to the end

  8. Definitely the surface reads that let you down, Laccaria, those coupled with the random names (lazy?), the nutshell – which Prolixic will doubtless have something to say about – and the unsavoury 2d rather put me off this puzzle.
    Having said that, I did rather like 1&3d.
    The theme passed me by although I did briefly hope, after spotting 22d, that Pooh and his friends would be involved.

    Thanks for all your hard work, Laccaria.

  9. Thanks Laccaria, that was a challenge. I had to sleep on 7 and 3. Comments absent reading others’:
    Ticks against 9,10,27,17d,21d,16,26,5 and 3.
    1 we probably have to stop calling it a ‘paper’ at some point
    22a definition is only true in a specialist sense, not mentioned in the usual dictionaries I believe
    20 ‘second’ seems a little unfair – ‘second-rate’?
    25 this held me for a long time – detailed knowledge of the sport and a vague second def., also crossing with…
    24 ‘go bust’ better?
    7 nice construction when I eventually saw it, but the def. is a stretch, in common usage at least not going as far as that.
    Thanks again for the entertainment :)

    1. The second definition of 25d seems fine to me – the means by which a canal boat gets to the next level.

      1. Yes, but in the absence of any context the field is very wide, given the manifold uses of ‘level’ both concrete and figurative.

        1. Nothing like as wide as the manifold options for “boy” or “girl”. :wink:

          Once I’d managed to find 25d on page 2 of my print out, I thought it was an excellent clue.

  10. I may be repeating some of the earlier comments but some of the surface readings didn’t work for me and a few definitions were a bit iffy. On the other hand you’ve boldly gone into Indy/Grauniad territory, not only with 2dn but with tricks like ‘upside down’ in 16ac and ‘nutshell’ in 20dn. No problem as far as I’m concerned but they may be frowned upon elsewhere. And a bit of chemistry for good measure in 6dn! I also liked the use of numerals in 18ac and 22dn which, however briefly, misdirect the solver to other clues.
    I’ll look forward to your next offering.

  11. Many thanks to all and especially Prolixic for the feedback and helpful comments. I shan’t try to answer individual comments now – but all appreciated. And I’ll try to avoid clues like 2d in future – if I do any more of these….

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and also for listing the origami terms, most of which were new to me.

  13. Re the ‘origami’ theme – I was first introduced to the gentle Japanese art (well – gentler than karate!) at a very early age, when I was given a book by the first great exponent of the art in the West – the magician Robert Harbin. I have quite a collection of his books now – maybe some of them are still in print?

    More recently I acquired a book by Robert Lang entitled Origami Insects and their Kin.
    This book, which describes some very life-like models, takes you to a much higher level in the art and I have not yet succeeded in constructing a single one of the models in the book! I invariably tear the paper about half way through. Still, “must keep trying”… I don’t recommend that book to anyone unless they’re already very well-versed in Origami. I thought I was – but I ain’t!

  14. Did anyone else think “acid plus base gives salt plus water” before seeing the less contrived construction?

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