Rookie Corner – 318 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 318

A Puzzle by Bardwig

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A few words about last week’s Rookie puzzle.  Rookie Corner was set up in order to enable setters to have their puzzles published as is and to learn from the subsequent feedback.  Last week we had a setter who, having ignored my advice that themed puzzles are unpopular with solvers, proceeded with a puzzle that was inpenetrable to many solvers.  To then get aggressive with myself, and with those who commented, because things didn’t go his own way meant that when he requested that I remove his puzzle I gladly complied.

Back to normal service!  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.

Thanks to Barwig for the entertainment.  I thought that this was well clued with only a few minor points to highlight.  The commmentometer reads as 2/27 or 7.4%


1 Classical commanders reportedly dispatched your charges (10)
CENTURIONS – A homophone of SENT (dispatched) YOUR followed by a four letter word for charges.  The word for charges is not correct.  Ions are the particles that carry a charge, not the charge.

6 Shtick from Gatsby, perhaps, circumventing training runs (6)
JAPERY – The first name of the leading character in the Great Gatsby around (circumventing) the two letter abbreviation for training and the abbreviation for runs.

9 Discredited sapper had a go with his head (8)
REBUTTED – A two letter abbreviation for a sapper followed by a six letter word meaning attacked with the head.

10 Coroner corrupted Queen’s file in the official protocol (2,6)
ON RECORD – An anagram (corrupted) of CORONER followed by the letter representing the Queen’s file on a chess board.  A good way of indicating the final letter.

11 Bobby’s progenitor’s back on the tail of Katja Kipping (6)
ASLEEP – The name of the person credited with the creation of the police force (bobby’s progenitor) reversed (back) after (on) the last letter (tail of) Katja.

12 Country gateway protects universal good (8)
PORTUGAL – A six letter word for a gateway around the abbreviations for universal and good.

14 I’ll say I reduced 2’s makeup! (8)
EYELINER – A homophone (say) of I’LL followed by the I from the clue and the solution to 2d with the last letter removed.  I don’t think that say works as a homophone indicator after the words to be sounded out.  It would have to be I’ll said to maintain the cryptic reading but this would break the surface reading.

16 Disney production connecting with inner circle (4,4)
LION KING – A seven letter word meaning connecting includes (with inner) the letter that looks like a circle.

19 West End artist breaking silence, back in the headlines? (4,4)
HARD NEWS – Insert the abbreviation for West, the END from the clue and the two letter abbreviation for an artist inside a two letter word meaning silence and reverse (back) all of the letters.  I agree that this is an American term that should have been indicated as such.  Take care not to repeat wordplay indicators such as back for a reversal, already used in 11a.

21 Influence a fine pink paper that covers the City (6)
AFFECT – The A from the clue the abbreviation for fine and the abbreviation for Financial Times (pink paper) around (that covers) the postal code for the City of London.

22 Exuberant English quintet accommodates loud American (8)
EFFUSIVE – The single letter abbreviation for English and the number represented by a quintet includes (accommodates) the abbreviations for loud and American.

23 Railway Children play with coaches from another planet (5,3)
TRAIN SET – A six letter word meaning coaches or teaches followed by the abbreviation for extra-terrestrial.

24 Almost beginning to nudge ahead of time (6)
NEARLY – The first letter (beginning to) of nudge followed by a five letter word meaning ahead of time.

25 Start to take note: guide unusually lost for words (6-4)
TONGUE-TIED – An anagram (unusually) of T (start to take) NOTE GUIDE.


1 Corbyn, ignoring North, upset key machine man (6)
CYBORG – An anagram (upset) of CORBYN after removing the N (ignoring North) followed by a letter representing a musical key.

2 Anorak with dinner dress (4)
NERD – The answer is hidden in the final two words of the clue.  With does not work as a hidden word indicator.

3 A French bishop: consumed but not vanquished (8)
UNBEATEN – The French masculine singular of A followed by the abbreviation for Bishop and a five letter word meaning consumed.

4 Litigate with Lenin’s badly educated people (14)

5 Gotham’s ruler before he ruled in Tanzania (7)
NYERERE – The abbreviation for New York (Gotham) followed by the abbreviation for the current queen (ruler) and a three letter word meaning before.

7 Acting oddly: nothing’s working in the middle of the day (2,4)
AT NOON – The odd letters in acting followed by the letter representing nothing and a two letter word meaning working.

8 Green lie: once it exploded on the campaign trail (14)
ELECTIONEERING – An anagram (exploded) of GREE LIE ONCE IT.

13 Left most of a crew somewhere in Greater Manchester (5)
LEIGH – The abbreviation for left followed by the number of people in rowing crew with the final letter removed (most of).

15 Aversion therapy initially used in endless tragedy (8)
DISTASTE – The initial letter of therapy inside an eight letter word for tragedy with the final letter removed (endless).

17 Reckon on revolving big burner (7)
INFERNO – A five letter word meaning reckon followed by a reversal (revolving) of the NO from the clue.

18 Women in jeans upended pivot (6)
SWIVEL – The abbreviation for women inside the name of a jeans manufacturer reversed (upended).

20 Pay back Marxist in merriment? On the contrary (6)
REFUND – A three letter word meaning merriment inside a three letter word indicating Marxist.

22 Case that is raised includes you, according to Macron (4)
ETUI – Reverse (raised) the abbreviation for that is and include the French (according to Macron) two letter word meaning you.

39 comments on “Rookie Corner – 318

  1. A delight from start to finish. An absolute pleasure to solve.
    We won’t even try to pick any one clue for favouritism.
    Many thanks Bardwig.

  2. Thanks Bardwig, very nice indeed. Hard to fault!

    some pretty minor comments
    last one in was 5d which i needed to look into. very nice, though it falls into the category of clues where you need GK for both wordplay and answer, making it harder (for me anyway).
    1a ah, there’s an old discussion around why “charges” is not an ideal synonym. they’re not just charges.
    10a I was surprised by queen but maybe i’m missing something
    2d I was surprised by ‘with’ rather than for example ‘in’, unless i’m missing something again!
    23a works, though railway & coaches a bit close

    I really like aversion therapy, women in jeans, 25a, the 2 long anagrams, and a soft spot for the disney production.

    Well done and many thanks

    1. For 10a, I decided that “queen’s file” was referring to the optional alphanumeric notation on a chess board which gives a D.

      1. Yes, Senf, in chess, d is the queen’s file in algebraic notation. It is the modern standard system. The alternative descriptive notation has long been obsolete although some older players do still use it and, of course, it still exists in historic books and magazines.

      1. Hi Dutch. This use of “file” is derived from the military term “rank and file”, where soldiers are arranged in groups by rows side by side (“ranks”) and lines backward and forward (“files”). Hence also the term “single file”. The terminology also applies to a chess board, where the ranks are the rows of squares running from side to side and the files are the lines of squares running up and down the board.

    2. Thanks for your comments, Dutch. I confess that, having double-checked the ‘ion’ for ‘charge’ thing before submitting the puzzle, I began to harbour serious doubts myself about their synonymity. On the other hand, having seen this usage so many times in crosswordland, I finally decided I might get away with it.
      In 2dn I did hesitate over whether to use ‘in’ or ‘with’, both of which seem to me equally valid indicators in this context. I went for ‘with’ so as to leave some surface level ambiguity over whether the anorak refers to a person or an item of clothing – as if that really mattered!

  3. Thanks Bardwig, I found this a bit closer to Rookie 284 than the two intervening ones. It was very enjoyable although I was, and still am, slightly mystified by 6a and 5d which both needed a couple of reveals – my education or GK appears to be lacking to some degree.
    I did like 1a, 9a, 22a, and 22d – it’s quite a while since I have seen the last one in a crossword.
    Thanks again.

  4. What a relief after last week’s Rookie Corner puzzle! I really enjoyed this accomplished offering with many clever clues, Bardwig, and you have clearly put in a lot of effort on your surfaces, which were mostly nice and smooth. I thought the level of difficulty was just right, although I did have to check that Katja Kipping was a real person (she is!) and 5d, my last one in, put up quite a fight at the death.

    Very unusually for me, I feel quite hard put to come up with much in the way of comments. :wink: I can find only three minor things to mention:
    1a – ions are not charges, they are charged particles
    19a – I’m pretty sure the answer is an Americanism
    2d – I don’t think “with” works as a lurker indicator. How about: “Anorak as part of dinner dress”?

    I had a lot of ticks so deciding on a favourite was a tough task but I am going to settle for 5d even though the answer is quite a specialised piece of GK.

    Very well done, Bardwig, and thanks very much for the entertainment. Please keep them coming!

    1. Thanks, Rabbit Dave. Your idea for 2d would obviously be okay too but I generally try to keep my clues as short as possible – even if it might not always appear that way!
      Personally, I don’t see any big difference between “in” or “with” in this context. Whether you’re in or with a crowd, say, you are part of it, in my opinion. Would be interested to read Prolixic’s view on this.

  5. Good fun – thanks Bardwig.
    My podium selections were 16a, 5d and 21a (although you could perhaps have omitted ‘pink’ to make the clue a little trickier).
    Please do keep them coming.

  6. It took me a moment or two to get going and then all flowed nicely, all finished while eating a bowl of cereal and drinking a cup of tea – I marked 11a and 16a for particular favouritism

    I see that others have mentioned some of the things I’d noted, and so I’ll leave my couple of other points for Prolixic to comment on in his review

    Thanks Bardwig – hope to see you here again soon – and in advance, to Prolixic

  7. I had to Google to get 5D then went back and parsed it. If I’d spent some more time, I probably could have sorted the elements out myself but I still would have had to check the answer. I did know Mr. Gatsby though so one out of two GK’s ain’t bad. I thought this was a most enjoyable puzzle. Someone please tell me –is this a debut? If so, it’s very impressive. Thanks Bardwig.

  8. Welcome back, Bardwig.

    As my first solution was 5d, I began to be concerned that the puzzle might have been too reliant on GK like early Bardwig productions, but I was pleased that this clue was an exception rather than the norm. I share the reservations of Dutch and RD about 1a and 2d, and I also noticed that “back” was repeated as a reversal indicator, but technically I don’t think Prolixic will find too much to comment on. A few of the surfaces were a little surreal and unconvincing (23a especially), but overall I found the puzzle to be extremely enjoyable, pitched at the right level of difficulty and very well constructed.

    My ticks went to 19a (although Collins seems to support RD’s view), 22a, 25a and 8d.

    Well done on another excellent puzzle, many thanks Bardwig.

    1. Many thanks for the feedback, silvanus. I was aware of the ‘back’ problem but reluctant to abandon either of these surface readings, which didn’t strike me as too bad. At least this time the repetition didn’t occur in crossing grid entries.
      What I didn’t realise until I saw the puzzle in print, as it were, was the number of clues containing ‘with’. For that reason alone, ‘in’ would probably have been the better option in 2d.

  9. Little to find fault with here, a well constructed puzzle with only one or two minor niggles
    Thank you for an entertaining challenge Bardwig, well done

  10. I don’t think I could add anything constructive beyond that already mentioned by those far more expert. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed this (better than today’s DT back pager in my view) & with the exception of 5d I found it very accessible & well clued throughout. Among a number of excellent clues my picks were 1,6 & 11a.

  11. To borrow the phrase from Silvanus, there were certainly a few rather surreal surfaces on show and those were a little off-putting on my first scan through but the puzzle itself turned out to be very good indeed.
    Like others, I was a little unhappy about 2d and I certainly needed the input from our chess players to justify the ‘D’ in 10a. I did quite unashamedly ask Mr Google about Tanzanian rulers and 19a was arrived at from wordplay alone as I’m not particularly familiar with the phrase.
    I feel that this setter is always teetering on the brink of going GK crazy but it was mostly reined in today and the result was all the more enjoyable for it. Well done, Bardwig, hope we see you again ‘ere long.

  12. Two down one to go. A relatively quick solve of the back pager left me with time for this.
    The block of five black squares top left made me gulp a bit but once I got going it was a steady solve.
    I did struggle a bit with 5d but that apart IMO the puzzle wouldn’t disgrace many a back page slot. I did remember the chess notation but spent quite a while looking up Katya Kipping and more German socialist politics than I needed until I realised that the capitalisation of Kipping was concealing the definition.
    Thanks Bardwig and in advance to Prolixic. and there is still time in the day to tackle the 603 cryptic :)

    1. Thank you, John Bee. It’s an old Guardian grid which I’ve always liked, perhaps precisely because it is quite unusual. It disappeared from the paper sometime in the late 1970s but I could never understand why, especially as several of the new grids introduced at the same time were nowhere near as solver friendly as this one.

  13. Superb work Bardwig – and a blessed relief after last week’s impenetrability! I did have some difficulty with 5d – as others did – not knowing the second meaning of ‘gotham’ and trying to squeeze Batman (and Robin?) into the clue somehow! Some people will be too young to remember the person referred to (d. 1999) so they may have a further difficulty. I think that was the only hard clue.

    I’ll be very surprised if this one doesn’t earn you a place in Elysium NTSPP and/or the Indy…..

    1. Thanks, Laccaria: that’s very kind of you. Whatever happens in the future, I’m really grateful for all the constructive advice and encouragement I’ve received here.

  14. I ought to add that I totally missed the parsing of ‘queen’s file’: I just wrote in the answer without realising. I don’t play chess. On the other hand, being a keen bridge player, I’m always on the alert for ‘partners/opponents’ referring to letters out of NSEW! Not to mention C D H or S…..

  15. Thanks to prolixic for review – clearly a bit more strict than me! Regarding “ION” which many have commented upon – I’m trying to recall long-past physics and chemistry lessons and whether we ever spoke of ‘ions’ as ‘charges’ rather than ‘charged particles’. I’m wondering whether a ‘hole’ in a semiconductor can also be termed an ‘ion’ – although it’s certainly not a ‘particle’. Someone with a grounding in solid-state QM (I’ve forgotten all mine) will probably set me right, here!

    Sorry I’m not being much help in this debate!

    Talking of Chemistry (and off-topic – apologies) – I’m at a loss to understand why one of my comments on the Grauniad prize (below this article) was moderated? After all, I was only posting an indirect spoiler, and the Graun (like other papers) isn’t awarding prizes during the lockdown. Perhaps someone can explain…….?

    1. i’m pretty old-fashioned judging by the physics my kids bring home from school, but to me an ion is specifically an atom which has gained or lost one or more electrons, never a hole. As such, “charge” is simply incorrect – it’s a discussion that has been around for a while, not surprisingly since “ion” can so easily be the ending of a word and “charge” can fit so nicely into a surface reading. Show me a compiler who has not fallen into this trap! Bardwig is in excellent company.

      By coincidence, I noticed Boatman has a recent challenge for writing correct clues using ‘ion’ on his master-class website.

      1. I attended boatman’s masterclass when it was face-2-face in Brighton, but I don’t recall “ION” being mentioned back then. I’m thinking I might clue the wordplay as “…not right to press….” ( I[r]ON ) or something of that sort, in order to steer clear of the issue! So I can’t have “Not right to press charge” as the complete clue for ION, then? Will bear that in mind…

  16. Thanks for the illuminating review Prolixic, which as usual highlights things I did not see.

    Now I understand 10a, I think Bardwig has rather an elegant definition which includes “in the”

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and the confirmation that Bardwig put together a very good crossword.
    Hope we hear a lot more from him in the future.

  18. A question for Dave – if I may? – about your preamble concerning last week’s unfortunate events. You say that themed puzzles are unpopular with solvers, but do you also mean hidden ‘ghost’ themes? Speaking personally, I am rather keen on ghost themes (though I must admit I seldom manage to spot Qaos’s intractable devices in the Grauniad). What I don’t like much, are puzzles with lots of cross-references (as was the case last week) – especially if they end up being recursive! Two or three in a puzzle is OK.

    What do others think? What are their preferences and non-preferences? I’ve been doing lots of ‘ghosts’ lately but I wonder if I ought to change tack?

    1. There are possibly two sorts of ghost theme – (a) one that is fairly accessible and intended to be spotted – for example those in the Indy on Tuesdays, and (b) those where the theme is less accessible and possibly only used by the setter to provide a few words to seed the grid, as is often the case with Phi in the Indy (and is how I sometimes get the idea for a puzzle). But with both sorts it’s possible to solve the puzzle without knowing or discovering the theme and I don’t have any problem.
      As for cross-references one could ask ‘How many cross-references make a theme?’ I’m just putting the finishing touches to a puzzle where three clues make direct reference to the same entry – does this constitue a theme? But yes, there are themed puzzles where maybe every other clue refers to a gateway clue, which if you can’t get does make the puzzle almost impenetrable; as far as I’m concerned with such a puzzle a lot depends on my mood as to whether I rise to the challenge or, as last week, consign it to the bin.

      1. I’d certainly be willing to have a go at your puzzle with the three cross-refs, Exit, when it appears! But as you say, if ten or more clues all refer to the ‘anchor’ word, and I’ve failed to solve the anchor, it gets a bit annoying!

        If I’d been compiling anything like last week’s ill-fated example, based on ‘squares’, I’d probably have seeded my clues with fake cross-references i.e. ‘4’, ‘9’, ’16’ etc., – just to add to the misdirection! I’ve used that bit of trickery before.

        I’ve just been sent a puzzle for test-solving (by one of the NTSPP contributors) which has a ghost theme which I found quite difficult to spot – not because it’s impenetrable of itself, but because it touches on a subject which I know little about. Others will probably find it quite easy to spot! A lot depends on your GK – and everyone’s different. I’d read Moby Dick (theme of one of my recent ones) but many people hadn’t.

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