Rookie Corner – 319 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 319

A Puzzle by Zorro

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have another debut puzzle. 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 Zorro.  For a debut crossword this was highly polished and showed very assured cluing.  My main reservation is the number of anagrams.  15 out of 29 clues involved an anagram.  This is way too many.  Six to eight is probably around the number to aim for.  Interestingly most of the comments come towards the end of the down clues.  I wonder whether there was a rush to get the clues finished which meant that attention to detail show in the earlier clues was lost slightly?

The commentometer reads as 2.5/29 or 8.6%.


1 Awkward teen holds back passion for island (8)
TENERIFE – An anagram (awkward) of TEEN includes a reversal (holds back) a four letter word meaning passion.

5 Central location houses extravagant bath (3,3)
HOT TUB – A three letter word for a central location includes (houses) a three letter abbreviation for over the top (extravagant).

9 Nothing upset a string player (8)
ORGANIST – The letter representing nothing followed by an anagram (upset) of A STRING.

10 See 16 Down

12 Authority figure from hell with pupils leaving a master in torment (12)
HEADMISTRESS – Remove the LL from hell (pupils leaving) and follow with the A from the clue and the abbreviation for master inside a seven letter word for distress.

15 Without concern for social standing, as retired teachers may be? (9)
CLASSLESS – A retired teach would not have any groups of students to teach.

17 After endless fish, sailors are agitated (5)
CHURN – A four letter fresh water fish with the final letter removed (endless) followed by the abbreviation for Royal Navy (sailors).  I think that the definition works in phrases such as “My emotions churn / are agitated when…

18 In haste, I descended volcano (5)
TEIDE – The answer in hidden in the third to fourth words of the clue.

20 Fifty times fifty is, in an odd way, infinite (9)
LIMITLESS – An anagram (in an odd way) of L TIMES L IS (where L is the Roman numeral for fifty.

22 Restless phantom trapped, it’s said, in royal palace (7,5)
HAMPTON COURT – An anagram (restless) of PHANTOM followed by a homophone (it’s said) of caught (trapped).

26 Like one of the twelve considering a stab in the back? (6)
INJURY – Split 2,4 this would describe the location of a panel member in a criminal court trial.

27 In recital, possibly, I’ll be blown (8)
CLARINET – An anagram (possibly) of IN RECITAL after removing (be blown) of one of the letters I.  

28 Robot Turing, half cut, let run amok (6)
TURTLE – Half (half-cut) the letters in Turing followed by an anagram (run amok) of LET.

29 Eccentric North Siamese composer (8)
MESSIAEN – An anagram (eccentric) of N (North) SIAMESE.


1 Haul up jackass (4)
TOOL – Reverse (up) a four letter word for a haul or proceeds from a robbery.

2 Annoying sorts sang discordantly (4)
NAGS – An anagram (discordantly) of SANG.

3 Referee initially infuriates team (7)
RANGERS – The first letter (initially) of Referee followed by a six letter word meaning infuriates.

4 Joined together by force applied (5)
FUSED – The abbreviation for force followed by a four letter word meaning applied.

6 Strangely I do not care primarily about teeth (7)
ODONTIC – An anagram (strangely) of I DO NOT C (care primarily).

7 Leitmotifs from opera with old characters deposing king? (5,5)
THEME TUNES – A phrase for an opera house or company followed by a five letter word for old symbolic characters without the abbreviation for king.  Perhaps opera house would be slightly fairer.

8 Ben is so shy – unfortunately it’s characteristic of many children (10)
BOYISHNESS – An anagram (unfortunately) of BEN IS SO SHY.

11 After sex change, fogey turned willowy (6)
LISSOM – A six letter word for a fogey or person of old fashioned ways has the F changed for an M (after sex change) and the letter reversed (turned).

13 Drizzle put a stop to Tim’s rambling (6,4)
SCOTCH MIST – A six letter word meaning put a stop to followed by an anagram (rambling) of TIMS.

14 Oscar win in dispute after losing unseemly row with important group of stars (5,5)
CANIS MAJOR – An anagram (in dispute) of OSCAR WIN after removing the letters in ROW (unseemly being a secondary anagram indicator to show that the letters are removed in a different order) followed by a five letter word meaning important.

16/10 Cool, edgy cinema company dropped crazy old movie (6,6)
EALING COMEDY – An anagram (crazy) of COOL EDGY CINEMA after removing (dropped) the abbreviation for company.

19 With wavering note The Lark Ascending endlessly shows charm (7)
ENTHRAL – An anagram (with wavering) of N THE followed by the LARK from the clue reversed (ascending) after removing the last letter (endlessly).  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as endless / endlessly used in 17a and here.

21 Bullfighters wound up under heap of rocks (7)
TOREROS – A three letter word for a heap of rocks followed by a reversal (up) of a four letter word for a wound or injury.  Another repetition of a wordplay indicator with UP having been used previously.  I am not sure that to describe a rocky height as a heap of rocks is precise enough as this meaning is given only in Collins as a Southwest dialect word.

23 25’s partner, round and beginning to look porky (5)
OLLIE – The letter that is round followed by the first letter (beginning to) of look and a three letter word for a porky or untruth.  Whilst it is not wrong to do so, having a pair of clues that define each other is not a device much liked by solvers.

24 Pavlova made with two thirds of a mashed banana (4)
ANNA – An anagram (mashed) of the final four letters (two-thirds) of baNANA.

25 23’s partner, comedian passing up dessert (4)
STAN – A phrase (5,2) for a comedian without (passing) a reversal (up) of PUD (dessert).  Another repetition of UP as a reversal indicator.  Perhaps passing dessert up would give a smoother cryptic reading.

68 comments on “Rookie Corner – 319

  1. There seems to be a mismatch between the clue for 24 and the answer – otherwise really good (some liberties taken here and there). Some partial themes?
    Thanks Zorro.

    1. Thank you very much for your comments!

      There is a sort of private theme, which those who know me personally would get. I set this crossword as a lockdown activity and sent it to members of my family before I became aware of this lovely Rookie Corner. So apologies if there are one or two slightly obscure bits of general knowledge involved (like 29). For anyone who wants to know, the solutions include two instruments which I play, one of my favourite composers, the localities where my wife and I grew up, the island where most of my family lives and its central geographical feature, references to two of my other interests (astronomy and computer programming)… and my boss is a 12 (who in no way resembles the surface of the clue).

          1. When, a few years back, we spent a short break at a site in Scotland offering cabins with optional hot tub (we didn’t feel the need for this luxury, so we booked one without), we found it a bit of a let-down. The tubs were situated in full view, outside the cabins – but don’t expect much!

            If you were expecting piccies, forget it….!

      1. As well as being a music fan, I find in Zorro a fellow astro-nut. Great! Funny how people’s hobbies tend to overlap: small world ain’t it! I recently discovered that one of the fellow-players at my bridge club is also a crossword setter (has submitted to The Listener apparently – fiendishly hard that one!).

        I’ve not been to Tenerife, but last year (on an eclipse-chasing tour – Argentina 02 July 2019) we were shown around the VLT at Cerro Paranal in Chile. Have you been there, Zorro? And a few miles away, we could see the site of the ELT under construction at nearby Cerro Armazones. A 39.3m diameter primary – if it ever gets finished!!

        I’ve done some astroimaging over the past 15 years with my very modest 250mm Newtonian, but have let it lapse of late.

    2. About 24d: I’d finished the puzzle yesterday (or so I thought) but obviously forgot to click SAVE, so this morning, coming in to see Prolixic’s analysis, I was faced with an empty grid. No problem, though, I could write in most of the answers from memory. But when I got to 24d I realised that the clue, and its solution, was strange to me. Now I understand.

      For what it’s worth, I prefer INCA. Not only does this remove one of the anagrams, but it’s a good clue! And, having visited Peru last year (including Machu Picchu of course!), I’d have had a head start. Incidentally, I wonder how Machu Picchu is faring under lockdown? When we visited last year, it was very crowded with tourists (as it usually is). We enjoyed the train ride.

  2. very nice Zorro

    I was blown away by 27, absolutely lovely. I also really liked 8 and 26, great definitions – and 20 is delightfully quirky

    i paused to parse 25 and 12, but got there

    17 i’m not sure about, i think the answer requires an ED ending if it is to be past tense, but i’m starting to doubt myself! and ARE doesn’t really work as a link (wordplay ARE definition), unless it’s intended as part of the definition “are agitated”, but that would translate to “are answerED”

    the only other minor comment i had is in 4, BY is not a great link (Definition BY wordplay)

    oh, and i didn’t know the composer which made 29 hard, there’s a thing about anagrams and general knowledge not going well together

    The rest is brilliant, well done!

    1. “As we go over the top of the rollercoaster, my insides are agitated/ xxxxx”
      I’m fine with ‘by’ personally as a link, but each to their own.

      1. That’s interesting – agitated is more of an adjective there, hmm
        I’m impressed you found a substitution!

      1. Ha ha! He’s one of my favourites! Ever since a music teacher played us an extract from his famous wartime quartet.

        1. Hi Zorro, and welcome!
          I am rather prejudiced about 29a. For the past few years I have been part of a team who participate in an annual Armchair Treasure Hunt. A few years ago the “treasure” was hidden in Messing in Essex, and a lot of the clues involved Lionel Messi, Messier, and Messiaen. There were a number of bars of music which needed de-coding in some way and I listened to several hours of Messiaen’s works on You Tube trying to identify the musical extracts which I have to say I found rather heavy going! I might have warmed to him with a more measured introduction. My wife forced me use headphones …

          1. Was there also a Messerschmidt among the clues, by any chance? :D
            I agree that modern classical music is like marmite to listeners: you love it or you hate it! Messiaen isn’t my forte, and I wouldn’t inflict Stockhausen or Berio on anyone without warning them first – but I love the more transitional stuff like Prokofiev, Bartok, Britten. Oh and I’ve even tried listening to some of Sorabji’s work, though that takes a bit of an effort (it’s fiendish to play, too!!).

            One clue pointing to Messiaen is the word ORGANIST, as Zorro has already pointed out. That was the instrument he composed largely for – and it’s good to learn that Zorro is a devotee.

            Oh, and I have a (reasonably well-known) tune by Prokofiev as the ringtone on my phone. At least it means I can tell if it’s my phone ringing, on a crowded train! (When we can get back to crowded trains, that is….)

    2. Thanks very much for your comments!

      My reasoning in 17 was that the solution could be read as a third person plural verb, so the definition is “are agitated”, but maybe that’s not a done thing.

      Good point about general knowledge and anagrams, which I hadn’t thought of. I’m a 9, so 29 is (arguably) the second most important composer for my instrument, but I can see this could be considered more obscure knowledge to most.

      1. yes i think it does work, apologies! and thanks Gonzo. my mind got stuck trying to compare just ‘agitated’. I’m still a bit stuck on verb/adjective and a subject/object shift in a substitution. ‘are agitating’ would preserve the subject in an intransitive sense. I’m thinking it can work as an adjective (are radiant/shine) avoiding that issue – but i’m beginning to confuse myself now, sorry.

  3. A bit of a head scratcher with a sprinkling of obscurities such as the 29a composer.
    If 27a is an anagram (possibly) of IN RECITAL there appears to be a letter spare.
    I would agree with Gonzo that there were a few liberties taken.
    Thanks Zorro.

    1. Senf, I assumed that “I’ll be blown” is an instruction to remove one of the Is.

  4. We’re away from home and very late getting on to this. We were beaten by 1d. There must be a usage of jackass that is unknown to us.
    Plenty to enjoy and appreciate.
    Thanks Zorro.

    1. Too use tool as a description of someone foolish is quite modern. Or recently brought back into popular use. It’s normally derisive.

  5. This was an extremely promising Rookie Corner debut, Zorro, which I would venture to suggest was not your first puzzle with generally good cluing and mostly reasonable surfaces.

    I must have been working with an earlier copy of the puzzle as my printed PDF file contains a number of duplicated enumerations as well as a different clue (and answer) for 24d.

    My comments are very few indeed. I can’t parse the first six letters of 7d. I think the meaning of “jackass” needed for 1d is an Americanism (but Chambers doesn’t agree).

    Many thanks Zorro, this was a very impressive start. Do take on board Prolixic’s comments tomorrow and please bring on the next one soon.

    1. 7d Split the first 6 letters of 7d as 3,3 and you’ll see the opera
      25d D is not an abbreviation. You want a 3-letter word for dessert reversed and then excluded.

      1. Thanks very much, Gazza.
        7d – I thought of “The Met” but I couldn’t, and still can’t, find an opera with that name.
        25d – You were too quick! I realised my mistake almost immediately after posting and had time to edit it out of my comment.

          1. Thanks again, Gazza. No wonder I didn’t find it – it’s not an opera, it’s an opera company and it’s American. :wacko:

      1. For the record, the clue for 24d still doesn’t match the answer in the grid in the online version.
        Did I come up with the right clue independently (see first comment)?

      2. It looks like I made a mistake in my submission, as I submitted a filled grid with one word for 24 and a clue for a different word altogether. In keeping with the egocentric theme I changed it to the name of a family member with the clue: Pavlova made with two thirds of a mashed banana (4)

        Apologies for the confusion. I will work on my version control for next time…

        1. If you write many more crosswords you will certainly find yourself choosing between those two well used solutions again, so don’t forget (or give away, next time) the clues you don’t use.

  6. Brilliant stuff – I’ll eat my hat if this is Zorro’s first crossword.
    I only have two criticisms – a) the homophone in 22a doesn’t work for me and b) my anagram counter reached 11 which is too high.
    I have too many ticks to list them all but I’ll just mention the linked 23/25d which are both superb.
    Many thanks, Zorro. I look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. Thanks very much for your comments!

      Your hat is safe – just. I did have a go at setting a crossword about twenty years ago. It was probably terrible and I didn’t try to publish it in any way. Since then I’ve entered clue writing competitions from time to time with occasional success, but apart from that early attempt this is my first crossword.

        1. Would you like pepper on that hat, sir?
          I’m still to start another crossword of my own because I’ve been engrossed in painting and drawing since lockdown started. In fact I sold my first portrait this week! It was of Robert (Judge) Rinder who was the sitter for Sky’s live Portrait Artist of the Week on Sunday. It was bought by a fan of his.

      1. Your crossword history sounds exactly the same as mine. The more I learned the more I realised that clues shouldn’t read like obvious crossword clues but statements or questions that make sense. If they project an image that makes the solver smile or chuckle to him/herself then that’s better still.

  7. Welcome from me too Zorro. I really liked this puzzle which I only attempted because my iPad ran out of charge while solving the regular cryptic. I’m rather glad it did. Prolixic will offer suggestions for improvement later. Thanks for sending it in

  8. What Gazza said except that Mr CS and I think the homophone works

    Thanks to Zorro – come back again soon – and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review

  9. Thanks Zorro, I thought this was a very classy puzzle.
    Not sure where the liberties referred to have been taken, it all seemed bang on to me. I don’t understand the dessert bit of 25d but no doubt there’s a good explanation.

    1. Just the self-referential 23/25 and the tricky ‘passing up’ in 25 were pushing the boundaries imo.

      1. yes agree, up should be after the reversal fodder and also suffers from sharing letters with PUD
        and two clues depending on each other might not get past an editor, though they were readily solvable

  10. Very enjoyable puzzle – no quibbles here
    A little anagram laden, but full marks for credible surfaces throughout and very tidy wordplay generally
    Well done and thanks for sharing Zorro, more like this would be welcome

  11. Welcome Zorro.

    I thought the surfaces mostly read well and overall the puzzle was well constructed and the difficulty level was just about right. The mark of Zorro, it would seem!

    You ought have been far less reliant on anagrams though, as others have mentioned, and I spotted that “up” (as a reversal indicator) and “endless” (as a last letter deletion indicator) were both used more than once. For me, the volcano in 18a was more obscure than the 29a composer, and indeed Chambers Crossword Dictionary lists the latter but not the former.

    Very well done on producing a really good debut puzzle in Rookie Corner, thank you Zorro.

  12. I really enjoyed that Zorro – many thanks! It’d have helped me if I had known how to spell 29ac – I will memorise the first 6 letters in their correct order for the future!! Like Dutch, I particularly loved the “I’ll be blown” clue!

    I found the bottom right hand corner the easiest place to start – always a bit disconcerting when one reads through the Across clues and the first answer that jumps out is well down the list!

    Zorro, as others have said, I’d very much recommend Prolixic’s feedback tomorrow, as well as what you receive here today. I found it incredibly helpful when I was starting off more serious setting. I very much look forward to your next puzzle!

    I hope all are keeping well? Perhaps we should consider a BD ‘Zoom or equivalent’ get-together sometime? Other puzzle-based groups are working well in this way.

    Cheers all,


    1. I have attended a couple of John Halpern’s Zoom discussions and they are entertaining and informative.

    2. A Zoom or equivalent would be good. I think that the free to use Zoom meeting is limited to 40 minutes so an alternative may be preferable. I think that Google hangouts is free to use and not time limited but is limited to 25 participants.

  13. I was a little put off at the outset by the setter’s choice of pseudonym but that’s very unfair, he’s entitled to call himself whatever he wishes – within reason!
    In the event, I rather enjoyed it and thought it was an accomplished debut although I do have a few question marks that await the review from Prolixic.
    My personal ticks went to 5&22a plus 13d.

    Many thanks, Zorro, I shall look forward to your future compilations.

    1. I’m sure Zorro would wish to point out that ‘zorro’ is Spanish for fox, and any resemblance to any other pseudonym is purely coincidental. M’lud.

      1. In that case he has my apologies – I was thinking of that film character in a mask! Come to think of it, folk do refer to a fox’s mask so perhaps the two aren’t unrelated.

  14. That was enjoyable. Never heard of the composer but from comments above maybe I will keep it that way. I did not follow 1d. How does it relate to jackass? I liked 22a and 13d, both of which I thought well constructed.

    Many thanks, Zorro. I look forward to more. :good:

    1. 1d is a reference to part of the male anatomy and colloquially a derisive term for a pillock, or jackass

      1. Surely the wordplay for 1d is LOOT (“haul”) reversed (“up”)? Jackass, with the meaning of idiot/pillock as the definition. Not a male member to be seen!

        1. That bit is the origins of the phrase RD – Steve asked about the relationship between ‘tool’ and ‘jackass’

  15. An enjoyable solve with only minor reservations – principally 1dn (I do the puzzle on paper without referring back to the online version, so either I’ve got it wrong or that definition isn’t in Collins or Chambers) and 17ac. Particularly pleasing for me were the musical references – 9ac, 27ac and 29ac, and incidentally 29ac was on the radio while I was solving.
    So, welcome to the ranks of setters, and I look forward to your next offering.

  16. To clear up 24 down, the setter provided a grid showing one answer and a clue (together with the explanations) referring to a different answer. This morning I changed the clue, but a few minutes ago I reset the clue and changed the answer. Sorry for any confusion. The clue now reads “Pavlova made with two thirds of a mashed banana (4)”.

  17. Loved loads of this and an enjoyable battle was had throughout. still stuck on 19d and 28a but patience grasshopper I await Prolixic’s review. I did like 18a and although it is a tad obscure I knew it as Team Sky/Ineos, and many other pro cyclists use it as a training ground. 22a got a laugh. The composer needed a full set of checkers but led me here;

    this comment on the YT Clip made me laugh as much as 22a
    “mm that moment when you lose your child in the church and suddenly you realise where they are!”

  18. Very well done, and welcome, Zorro, for a first submission this is excellent. I had a few niggles but none of them major.
    Wasn’t sure about 17a CHURN = “are agitated” but anyone who’s suffered from palpitations will know that it feels like one’s heart is ‘churning’. So it’ll serve (though I’d rather not be reminded of the fact! :( )
    In 12a it’s unfortunate that you have ‘master’ in the clue, this immediately suggests ‘mistress’. Don’t give too much away!
    In 22a we have, once again, a slightly debatable homophone, depending on whether your English is rhotic or non-rhotic. But I’ve learnt that you have to try nearly all homophones in various different accents until you find one that fits! It’ll work. My son, who’s into amateur dramatics and can put on just about any English accent called for, would certainly agree!
    28a I’ve not come across TURTLE = robot (though I do agree that a robotic vacuum cleaner does look rather like the creature in question). But it’s in the book…
    7d I’m fine with THE MET = opera. But I’m a bit dubious about ‘leitmotif” = THEME TUNE. More of a short recurring phrase (like the first 4 notes of Beethoven’s 5th).
    21d I agree that a TOR is not a ‘heap of rocks’. That would be a ‘cairn’.
    23d and 25d: we have the ‘recursive cross-reference’ situation here. The couple in question are so well-known that the device is OK here, but best avoided for more obscure partnerships. Even pairing “Morecambe” and “Wise” in this way might annoy some solvers, especially seeing as both words have alterntative meanings.

    Favourite? I think 11d, once I’d decided it didn’t need an E at the end. I like these sorts of wordplay – very ingenious!

    My minor observations aside, a very good piece of work. Keep ’em coming!

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, particularly the parsing of 25d which had evaded me.
    Looks as though Zorro just has to rein in the anagrams a little and watch out for repeated indicators – an impressive debut indeed.

  20. Congratulations on your first rookie Zorro.
    Reading your comments makes it even more clever as you included so many clues relating to your personal life.
    Definitely hope to see more from you.
    Thanks for the fun and to Prolixic for the explanations.

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