Rookie Corner – 327 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 327

Lockdown by Skellig

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Another new setter emerges from lockdown! 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 to Skellig.  A promising debut from our new Rookie with no major issue with the cluing but some polishing to produce a smoother crossword would have improved the clue.  Watch out in particular for repeated wordplay indicators.  The commentometer reads as 4/31 (12.9%).

A note after last week’s comments on a clean sheet.  It is very rare to get a clean sheet, even for national setters who submit crosswords for editing.  Even once you have set a crossword, had it test solved, it is usually the case that the editor will have two or three comments on the clues, areas where things need to be improved, etc.  With new setter submitting crosswords, I suspect that some editors make a number of changes and comments to see how the setters react and whether they will be able to work with them in the future.


1 Remain in support (4)
STAY  Double definition meaning to abide in the same place and a supporting prop.

3/25 In endless eternal torment, quietly provide assistance to the housebound (4,4)
HOME HELP – A four letter word meaning “in” followed by another word for Hades (eternal torment) with the last letter removed (endless) and the musical notation for quietly.  A minor point, if you have wordplay provide definition, the provide needs to be provides.  Provide cannot be part of the definition as it would require a verb as the definition.

6 Loss aversion covers frustration of goal (4)
GOAL – The answer is hidden in (covers) the first two words of the clue.

9 See 30

11 Drama obsoletes children’s get-togethers (4,5)
PLAY DATES – A four letter word for a drama followed by another word for obsoletes.  Whilst obsoletes is in the dictionary as a verb, its use is chiefly American and jars to UK readers ears.  In the American usage, I think that the sense of the verb is to take something out of use, not to make it dated.

12 Indian cuisine? No, I do rat stew! (8)
TANDOORI – An anagram (stew) of NO I DO RAT.

13 Render cutback in small company (6)
STUCCO – Reverse (back) the cut from the clue and include in the abbreviations for small and company.  Not all editors will allow lift and separate clues where you have to take a single word, divide it up and then work out the cryptic instructions.

15 Sweet treats with cash … and cashews? (9)
DOUGHNUTS – A five letter informal word for cash followed by a word describing cashews.

17 Top spot? New for a million spots (4)
ACNE – A four letter word for the top spot with the abbreviation for new replacing the abbreviation for a million.

19 Hospital department needs oxygen instead of a statement (4)
WORD – A four letter word for a hospital department has the chemical symbol for Oxygen in place of the A from the clue.

20 Change of direction in assemblies when new governments are chosen (9)
ELECTIONS – A nine letter word for assemblies or constructions has the R changed to an L.  Watch for too many repeated wordplay ideas in a row.  Here we have three change a letter clues in a row.

22 Dangerous guns a felon’s hiding (6)
UNSAFE – The answer is hidden (hiding) in the third to fifth words of the clue.

24 Eruption! Up he goes, before lava comes back (8)
UPHEAVAL – The UP and HE from the clue followed by a reversal of the LAVA from the clues

26 Plastic parrot heard west of area around Newcastle (9)
POLYTHENE – A homophone (heard) of a five letter word for a parrot followed by a phrase (3,2) describing the area around Newcastle.

28 Leave capital (5)
SPLIT – Double definition, the first being an informal term meaning to leave and the second a regional capital city.  This city in Croatia is not the main capital, that is Zagreb.  As the solution is a regional capital perhaps this should be indicated.

29 See 27 Down

30/9 Initially pandemic arrived: since then life is very eventful. Strange how we were before! (4,5)
PAST LIVES – The first letters (initially) of the second to tenths words of the clue.

31 Second-hand, and oddly unsteady (4)
USED – The odd letters in the last word of the clue.


1 Lout dies, confused in seclusion (8)
SOLITUDE – An anagram (confused) of LOUT DIES.

2 Audacious commercial opening under heartless, oddly vacant moguls (11)
ADVENTUROUS – A two letter abbreviation for a commercial followed by a four letter word for an opening, the outer letters (heartless) of under and the even letter (oddly vacant) of moguls.  Take care not to repeat wordplay indicators.  We have had oddly used as a regular letter deletion indicators in 31a.

4 Left in one up flying – lucky! (9)
OPPORTUNE – A four letter word for left in an anagram (flying) of ONE UP.

5 Former lover: the morning after is a test (4)
EXAM – A two letter word for a former lover followed by the abbreviation for morning.

6 Thus said in France: never mind (3,2)
SOD IT – A two letter word meaning thus followed by the French word meaning said.

7 Someone to perform a cat scan or lab test? Check! (3)
VET – Double definition of an animal doctor and to carry out a background check on someone.

8 Andy Murray, perhaps, in a tie (5)
ASCOT – A phrase (1,4) describing the nationality of Andy Murray.

10 Wasted all but initial capital on outbuilding (7)
SLOSHED – The capital of Norway with the first letter removed (all but initial) followed by a four letter word for an outbuilding.

14 Bindweed entangled uncle’s used Volvo (without seed) (11)
CONVOLVULUS – An anagram (entangled) of UNCLES USED VOLVO after removing the letters in SEED.  Where the letters to be removed are in a different order to the word given in the wordplay, it is usual to give a secondary anagram indicator to show this.

16 Tossing and turning, strips back the Parisian sheets (just the covers) (9)
SLEEPLESS – Reverse (back) a five letter word meaning strips and followed with the French masculine singular form of the and the outer letters (just the covers) of sheets.

17 Fantastic NHS team gets rousing songs (7)
ANTHEMS – An anagram (fantastic) of NHS TEAM.

18 Alone, and also tied in knots (8)
ISOLATED – An anagram (in knots) of ALSO TIED.

21 In album, photo shows 27, 29 (5)
BUMPH – The answer is hidden in the second and third words of the clue.

23 Overweight Capone is deadly (5)
FATAL – A three letter word meaning overweight followed by the first name of the gangster Capone.

25 See 3 Across

27/29 Initial lack of ordering leads to intermittent riot and empty lavatorial supplies for bathroom (3,4)
LOO ROLLS – The first letters (initial) of the third to fifth wordThere is a repetition of initial as an initial letter indicator and, for the indicator to work in this clue, it would need to be initially.  I think that intermittent works as a regularly letter deletion indicator as it means ceasing at intervals, though usually you would use intermittently.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 327

  1. A very pleasant and topical puzzle with an appropriate Nina message to boot.
    We’ll leave the detailed analysis to Prolixic.
    Thanks Skellig.

  2. Thanks Skellig, enjoyed the topical references including 21d which was a new word for me, though I think I may have heard it used just to mean rubbish. I had to check the bindweed. And an important nina, as mentioned by 2Kiwis

    i noticed some repetition of indicators and i’m not sure first and regular letter indicators are being used as accurately as could be, but I’ll leave that for Prolixic

    congratulations and thanks for sharing

  3. That was fun. I am sure that Cryptic Sue will be able to solve it over her breakfast muesli!
    I really liked the three ‘double’ clues and 24a, and 6d got a chuckle.
    Thanks and well done Skellig.

    1. Half a bowl of mini Shredded Wheat still to go and tea too hot to drink when I’d finished solving this crossword

  4. A pleasant enough puzzle and not tricky
    11a & 6d are a bit of an odd choice of grid fill, but not really a problem; there may be a niggle with the 11a clue though – we’ll see
    7d was my favourite clue but I think you could have omitted the final definition and left it as a cryptic definition?
    Thanks for the entertainment and good luck in your review

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Skellig. This was an assured debut, pitched at just the right level and including a topical Nina. I would venture to suggest this is not your first ever cryptic puzzle.

    Your cluing was accurate although, as has been mentioned, with some repetition of indicators, e.g. “oddly”. Many of your surface readings were nice and smooth but a handful were less good, e.g.: 11a, 4d, 14d.

    I’m not sure that your definition for 6d matches the answer, but that could be a usage I am not aware of.

    Well done, Skellig, and thank you. I look forward to your next offering.

      1. I’m far too polite to use the expression, but if I did I would intend it to express anger or annoyance whereas “never mind” to me means “don’t worry about it”.

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Skellig, and thanks for the fun puzzle with the theme and Nina.
    I didn’t know the 14d bindweed.
    My favourite clue was 7d.

    1. Feel free to come up to Kent and help us deal with the rampaging 14d – you’ll certainly know all about it then!

      1. No – send him here, quickly, before we’re completely enveloped – he could help himself to a few brambles and nettles at the same time.

    2. You obviously don’t have an allotment or you would be all too aware of the bindweed!

  7. Gentle, enjoyable, almost that thing we aren’t supposed to mention – I’ve marked several clues I really liked and a couple where I think Prolixic will have something minor to say – I think I’d be right in guessing that this wasn’t your first venture into crossword setting?

    Thanks for the crossword – do come back again soon – and, in advance to Prolixic

  8. Welcome Skellig.

    I enjoyed the solve on the whole, with 20a, 7d and 16d vying for favourite clue. Quite a few things I didn’t particularly like such as the repetition of indicators (“oddly” twice and “initial”/”initially” three times) and using the same clue construction (replace a single letter with another) in three consecutive clues, i.e. 17a, 19a and 20a. The occasional surface was a little surreal, what sound does a plastic parrot make? The cryptic grammar jarred in 3a, “providing” would have resolved that. Unless I’m misinterpreting the intention, referring to Split as a capital when it is merely a regional one, seems a stretch.

    I was surprised to find the BRB showing “obsolete” as a verb, although I’m struggling to think of it appearing in a sentence that sounds in any way convincing or satisfactory, certainly 11a didn’t pass that test for me.

    All in all, a promising debut but certainly room for improvement, which I’m sure the setter will accept more easily than last week’s one.

    Many thanks, Skellig.

    1. Unfortunately I’ve been in meetings where people said things like “We will obsolete that feature in the next version.” Whether that sounds natural is a different matter …

      1. You have my sympathies :-)

        I’ve cringed at much of the “office speak” I’ve heard over the years. Things seemed to become worse somehow when Personnel departments morphed into Human Resources ones and when Compliance Officers suddenly appeared from nowhere, even though companies managed perfectly well before they existed!

  9. Welcome to the corner, Skellig – and what a relief it was to see a Rookie who’s not attempting to be ‘too clever by half’.
    There were, as others have mentioned, a few issues that need addressing, but overall I found this to be an enjoyable solve with the nice touch of a topical Nina.
    I’m sure Prolixic will give you good advice, take full advantage of his wise counsel and I hope we see you back here very soon.

  10. Agree with Jane’s comment above. With the exception of the bindweed (good old Mr G to the rescue for confirmation) all very straightforward with some nice surfaces. Struck me as perfect for the Graun’s Quiptic slot. Must confess to uttering 6d with increasing regularity on the golf course……
    Many thanks & well done.

  11. An enjoyable solve with a great Nina. Thank you, Skellig and I look forward to more from you.

  12. A very accomplished rookie with an apposite theme. It stood up well compared to the back pager. 27/29 was probably my favourite but plenty of possibilities for top spot (6d 7d 21d 26a amongst others)

  13. I thought this was brilliant – lots of good, not to mention topical, clues and several that made me laugh which is really what makes a crossword for me.
    As others have already said it wasn’t tricky at all which suits me fine.
    12a sounds yuk – :sad: I’m a bit funny about rats at the best of times . . .
    I did spot the Nina but probably only because it had been mentioned.
    I’m amazed at how many people aren’t familiar with bindweed – lucky old them is all I can say.
    Just a few of the clues that I particularly enjoyed are 12 and 15a and 6 and 7d and lots of other down clues too.
    Thanks and congratulations to Skellig for such a good crossword and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic for the review.

  14. Over rather quickly but very enjoyable. Due to 3,000+ miles of social distancing, I haven’t heard 6D in many years. Now it’s going to be dropped into my conversations with my American family and friends! It’s also my favorite clue. Thanks Skelllig. This was fun.

  15. Very enjoyable Skellig with more than a scattering of imaginative clues, and topical to boot.
    I particularly liked 6d &16d (isn’t French useful for setters). As others have said, not overly difficult but, to me, pitched just right for a Rookie

  16. Thank you everyone for the kind comments, and the specific helpful advice about some of the clues. I’m also looking forward to reading Prolixic’s review! It’s interesting that there were a few comments about 14d, as (a) that took me *ages* to write the clue for, and (b) I then realised that “coronavirus” would have fitted neatly in the grid instead. Sadly that would have caused so many knock-on changes that I ended up leaving it as it was.

    As some of you guessed, it’s not the first cryptic I’ve set, but it’s the first one I’ve let loose on a wider audience – the other half-dozen or so were just for friends, and my own amusement (oh, and one which I used as part of the clue for a cryptic geocache).

    After setting this puzzle in the early days in the early days of lockdown, I briefly got into the swing of it, and made a few more, which are at if anyone’s interested. Probably about time I got going again (I think I ground to a halt when Go Crossword crashed, deleting 90% of a grid I’d just filled – I never used to have that problem with an index card and pencil!)

    Kerry (aka Skellig, although I came up with the pseudonym in a bit of a rush, and I’m not 100% convinced I like it yet)

      1. Thanks for the review – no argument with any of the comments, particularly the reminder that I need to read through the clues in order after I’ve finished to check for repetitiveness. Re 28a, geography has never been my strong point!

  17. With regard to Prolixic’s comment about editors and changes, when a crossword I’ve test solved appears in the paper, I’m always keen to see what changes have been made (and it isn’t always to crosswords by ‘new’ setters) – one had six changes – I was particularly disappointed that one clue which I (and the setter) had thought particularly good, had been changed completely.

  18. A good and commendable first submission to BD – well done Kerry (I won’t use the word ‘rookie’ as you are clearly better than that)! Not too taxing from my point of view, but then all our tastes are different. Like others I hesitated over SPLIT – last visited the city in the 1980s when it was still part of Yugoslavia – certainly no ‘capital’ then and no national capital now – but it’s understandable you wanted to take advantage of the several meanings of ‘capital’…

    But I’m really posting to say, I much appreciate Prolixic’s comments re last week’s little upset – which have helped to calm me down! We all get angry at times. But I still believe that this isn’t the place for me – for whatever reason. I’ve had a good run here and that’s good enough….

    So….. adieu.

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. It rather looks as though with a little more careful checking for repetitions (and geographical locations!) Skellig could get almost within touching distance of that clean sheet. I do hope he contributes more puzzles to Rookie Corner.

  20. A late comment to say how much I enjoyed doing this last evening Skellig. Like others, I thought this an accomplished puzzle and an impressive debut. The Nina and overall theme were well done. I particularly liked 12a and 15a.

    Oh dear! I do know that bindweed very well. We had terrible trouble with it in our cottage garden! Mind you, there are some very pretty members of the species and the one we had was tricky to grow!!!

    Many appreciative thanks to Prolixic for the review. I’m always interested to see where, why and how clues may be improved upon.

    Many thanks Skellig. Following Prolixic’s excellent guidance will stand you in good stead. I hope we shall see you again soon.

  21. Another late comment. I enjoyed this, apart from a few minor points which others have already picked up. The only thing that grated was ‘obsoletes’.
    Thanks, Skellig – and also Prolixic.

  22. Now that is a much more pleasant Rookie Corner set of comments. Our newish setter can read and absorb the views and expert advice from Prolixic without a dozen contrasting views getting in the way, which when every clue is picked apart must be demoralising.
    I hope this continues. As to the puzzle. I have not attempted it yet as we are so busy at the moment. But thanks to Skellig/Kerry for submitting it. I do hope you continue to set puzzles.

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