Rookie Corner 385 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 385

A Puzzle by Coot

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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.

Welcome back to Coot.  There was refreshingly little to comment on with some excellent clues.  The commentometer reads as 1/28 or 3.5% which is an impressive improvement following Coot’s first crossword.


1 Educated people, some men, love gas (9,2,4)
BACHELORS OF ARTS – The status of unmarried men followed by the letter representing love and  a five-letter word word for flatulence (gas).

9 Force state to abandon final position and surrender (6)
FOREGO – The abbreviation for force followed by a six-letter name of one of the states in the USA with the final letter removed (to abandon final position).

10 Sporting charred remains of twice-hot-peppered ribs? (3,5)
THE ASHES – A six-letter word meaning ribs or make fun of has the abbreviation for hot inserted twice (twice-hot-peppered).

11 Marks, in hindsight, best I possibly can secure (4)
PITS – The answer is reversed (in hindsight) and hidden (can secure) in the fourth to sixth words of the clue.

12 Fate of written-off M-plate cars? (5,5)
SCRAP METAL – An anagram (written-off of MPLATE CARS.

13 Get on board following first amongst composers – him? (6)
CHOPIN – A phrase 3,2 meaning get on board after (following) the initial letter (first among) of composers.

15 Arise after support meeting (8)
POSTDATE – A four-letter word for an upright support followed by a four-letter word for a romantic meeting.

17 Small object in belt maybe from nuts I roasted (8)
ASTEROID – An anagram (nuts) of I ROASTED.

20 Greek character – the “foreign doctor” – given notice on return (6)
LAMBDA – The French feminine singular word meaning the followed by a two-letter abbreviation for a doctor and a reversal (on return) of a two-letter word for a notice.

22 Area reserved for minor development? (10)
SCHOOLROOM – Cryptic definition of a place where children learn.

24 Exercise class cancelled? Forget it (4)
NOPE – Split 2, 2, this could indicate that an exercise class as been cancelled.

25 Bird (chicken’s one as well) (8)
COCKATOO – A four-letter word for a chicken followed by an A (one) and a three-letter word meaning as well.

26 Irate lion’s tail swinging is something you have to see (6)
RETINA – An anagram (swinging) of IRATE N (lion’s tail = last letter of lion).

27 Befriend ghost, nameless one shifting location of glasses? (6,2,3,4)
BRIDGE OF THE NOSE – An anagram (shifting) of BEFRIEND GHOST OE (nameless one = remove the N from ONE).


2 Scrap CD’s precursors? Nothing left, more or less (7)
ABOLISH – The letters coming before C and D followed by the letter representing nothing, the abbreviation for left and a three-letter prefix meaning more or less.

3 That man is hiding journalist’s notes (5)
HEEDS – A three-letter pronoun meaning that man is includes (hiding) the abbreviation for editor (journalist).

4 Examines toilet sink that’s dodgy, intially testing overflow (5,4)
LOOKS INTO – A three-letter word for a toilet followed by an anagram (that’s dodgy) of SINK and the first letters (initially) of testing overflow.  Take care to watch the spelling in clues.  Initially is missing a letter I.

5 Predicament in desert associated with role reversal (3,4)
RAT TRAP – A three-letter word meaning desert or betray followed by a reversal of a four-letter word for a role.

6 Leading person at university? (3,2)
ONE UP – Double definition.

7 Deranged! Flips after pet’s beheaded in capital (9)
AMSTERDAM – Reverse (flipped) a three-letter word meaning deranged after a seven-letter word for a small furry pet without the initial letter (beheaded).

8 Off the booze, accepting drunk phase is history (3,4)
THE PAST – The abbreviation for teetotal (off the booze) includes (accepting) an anagram (drunk) of PHRASE.

14 Ready to eat? OK, proceed to buffet (9)
PRECOOKED – An anagram (to buffet) of OK PROCEED.

16 Bog spoils start of hike following attempt to reduce slippiness (4,5)
SALT MARSH – A four-letter word meaning spoils and the first letter (start) of hike after (following) what you might put down in an attempt to reduce slipperiness when it is icy.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as following – used in 13a.  

18 Support for the distressed victim of scam on mobile (7)
SUCCOUR – A homophone (on the mobile) of sucker (victim of scam).

19 Fall asleep in the school run (4,3)
DROP OFF – Double definition.

21 Turns East, away from potentially dangerous areas (7)
DEPENDS – Remove one of the letters E (East) from a potentially dangerous area of a swimming pool.

23 Machine coffee with drop of hooch preferred to tea reportedly (5)
LATHE – A type of coffee with one of the letters T (tea reportedly) changed (preferred to) the first letter (drop) of hooch.

24 Unrealistic idea Coot’s dismissed (3,2)
NOT ON – A six-letter word for an idea without the letter I (Coot’s dismissed).

40 comments on “Rookie Corner 385

  1. Great fun, very enjoyable to solve and nothing to raise a niggle
    Well done and many thanks Coot

  2. Thoroughly enjoyable solving experience for us. 1a started us chuckling and the smiles stayed on our faces right to the end.
    Thanks and well done Coot.

  3. Well RD should be happy that ‘he is not the first to post today.’ As of 2:30am UK time, not only has he got the 2Kiwis and me but he also has LbR.

    Thanks Coot for an entertaining puzzle which, for me, was much better than your first one.

    A couple of minor points:
    In 25a, the IS from ‘S on chicken did not seem to have a ‘place’ in the word play – the answer is derived from ‘chicken one as well.’
    In 16d, the second word from ‘spoils start of hike’ is a bog in its own right.

    I did like 10a, 2d, and 4d.

    Thanks again.

  4. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Coot. I enjoyed your first puzzle and this one was even better. In particular your surface readings are generally smooth this time with only 1a, 17a & 2d perhaps failing the “pub test”.

    My only comments are minor:

    15a – I can’t quite make the answer synonymous with “arise”.
    25a – I agree with Senf.
    19d – For perfect sense, the second part of the clue should be “at the end of the school run”.
    21d – I can’t quite make the answer synonymous with “turns” even though “turns to” = “depends on“.

    My ticks were awarded to 9a, 10a, 27a, 3d, 4d, 23d & 24d.

    Well done and thank you, Coot, for an accomplished puzzle. More like this please. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. 21a – the definition is “arise after”
      25a – ‘s can mean chicken has…
      19d – Marginal but I think a school run is a drop off.
      21d – “Turns on” is synonymous with depends on – The answer turns/depends on whether…

      1. Thanks very much, Prolixic. That all makes sense although I do agree with your marginal assessment for 19d.

        1. Many thanks for your kind words and feedback RD, and to Prolixic for the explanations.

          On the surface in 1A, my background is in the energy industry, so the idea that educated people love gas is close to home for me. I even had someone (a man) in mind when I wrote the clue!

  5. A very accomplished puzzle with lots to enjoy – thanks Coot.
    The clues I liked best were 9a, 10a and 2d.

  6. Enjoyable puzzle, Coot, with lots of positives.

    My favourites were 12a, 20a, 22a, 6d, 7d, 16d, 23d

    I also liked the construction ideas in 2d, but the wordplay here is a bit questionable.

    A minor quibble with ‘Small’ in 17a. The largest object discovered to date would stretch from London to Edinburgh, and cover a significant chunk of GB.

    1. Thanks, Hubble. Given your name, I realise I am unlikely to be on solid ground trying to put up a defence for “small”! If I were to try, I would probably point to various definitions along the lines of “a small rocky body orbiting the sun” that I have found online. Clearly one person’s “small” is another persons’s “absolutely ginormous”!

      1. Always surprising where crosswords might take you and today it was the NASA website from which I gleaned the following info:
        “The total mass of all the asteroids combined is less than that of Earth’s Moon.”
        Who’d have thought that? So it terms of space, each is minute….and that’s just in our own solar system.

        1. In the great scheme of things, the biggest asteroid can be considered small, but I do think that, to a human, an object with a diameter of over 300 miles would not be described as small. As I said in my original comment, it is a minor quibble because I’m sure many people have a mental image of an asteroid as little more than a rock.

          1. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate one even just 300mm small landing on me! But As you suggest, Hubble, perhaps in the eye of the beholder 🪐

            1. I was just relating this discussion to my wife and realised there is another part to my defence, which is the word “maybe” in the clue. It seems that when I compiled this, which is some weeks ago now, I realised that I was on shaky ground with “small”!

              1. This brings to mind the discussion about Pluto being a planet – or not! Perhaps the clue should have read “Dwarf in belt…” Then we might have been further mislead into thinking about one of seven! As far as the original clue goes, I am Happy… :wink:

  7. Thanks Coot, good fun with lots to enjoy.

    Generally the surfaces are much improved from your previous offering (which I also enjoyed) and this was also better in terms of difficulty – the difficulty arising from clever/misleading rather than ‘convoluted’ wordplay (and, in some cases, definitions – I do quite like ‘stretched’ but fair definitions!)

    My ticks went to 9a, 11a, 20a, 2d, 8d, 14d and 18d, with 4d earning top spot for me.

    19d I think the definition is fine – my only (very very slight) niggle here is that the clue includes a key part of the solution to the crossing 22a … as the surface for 19d is just a little off (would expect “on” rather than “in” in a ‘natural’ reading) I’d perhaps have something else (eg “Decline to fall asleep” – well, I suspect you can come up with something much better but the soluton does lend itself to a double definiton).

    And whilst in extremely pedantic mode … 6d and 16d could perhaps have done with slightly tighter definitions – 6d as it’s specifically a narrow lead, and 16d as it’s a very particular sort of bog (as Senf points out above). 17a probably doesn’t need the ‘small’ (I don’t think it affects the surface) – I’ve learned that if a word is ‘possibly’ redundant it should probably go!

    But really of course those are excessively nit-picking observations – overall an excellent puzzle, well done and thanks again!

    1. Many thanks, Fez. That’s all great feedback. I had completely missed the overlap between the clue of 19D and the solution to 22A. I am trying to be fairly structured in monitoring the indicators that I am using (although I see not always successfully), the number of each type of clue etc – I guess that’s another check to throw into the process.

  8. That was a hoot Coot. I found it accomplished, clever and entertaining. Surfaces were great, lots of wicked misdirection and an altogether very engaging challenge . Very well done.

  9. Welcome back, Coot. I found this puzzle far more accessible than your debut and it made for an enjoyable solve. I agree with RD’s assessment of the clues that would fail the ‘pub’ test but overall your surface reads were greatly improved.
    One or two niggles such as the use of ‘small’ in 17a and the synonym in 21d – both already mentioned by others – but I found much to admire.
    Top three for me were 9a plus 3&24d.

    Thank you, Coot, hope to see more from you ‘ere long.

  10. Dropped in to read the MPP update and saw lots of posts about this RC puzzle so had to take a look. I’m very glad I did because I enjoyed it from start to finish – especially the start, 1a was a real treat :smile: Other stand-outs for me were 10a, 12a, 26a, 2d, 3d and 8d. The range of favourites in the various comments indicates how accomplished this puzzle is. Some of the definitions were indeed ‘stretched’ and required a bit of thinking through, but this is true of most crosswords and, as Fez noted, they were all fair. Thank you, Coot.

  11. Good to see you again, Coot.

    Like Jane, I found this puzzle more solver-friendly than your last one, but it was still challenging in places. Overall, a distinct improvement with many fewer niggles this time and much smoother surfaces. Such progress is always great to see.

    I had several ticks on my printed page – 9a, 12a, 4d, 6d and 24d were my picks – 1a was undoubtedly my least favourite. Very little to attract my red pen but, strictly speaking, in 23d you haven’t specified which “T” should be replaced, hardly a capital crime though! Beware too of repeating juxtaposition indicators like “following”, which was used in both 13a and 16d. These sort of points may sound very minor, but their elimination can often make a good puzzle into a great one.

    Very well done, Coot and many thanks for an enjoyable puzzle.

    1. Many thanks Silvanus. I really appreciate your encouragement and feedback. As I’ve noted in an earlier comment, I do monitor use of indicators so it’s slightly frustrating that one slipped through the net.

  12. Many thanks to everyone who has commented so far. I have been out on the golf course this morning and it was great to come back to find so many positive posts. I will follow-up on a few specifics although I see that Prolixic has already partly done that, for which many thanks!

      1. Haha – never had one of those unfortunately! Birdie on 15th was as good as it got today!

  13. Congratulations Coot. Very pleased to see you receiving the plaudits this puzzle deserves. There was much I enjoyed, though I’ll single out the following…9a (predominantly for its neat surface), 10a (that was my last in – it didn’t come easy, though I was impressed when it did), 12a (for the self-referential definition), 26a (for the neat segue into the definition), the ‘CD’s precursors’ part of 2d, and 8d (for the same reason as 9a). Keep up the good work!

  14. I really enjoyed this, the more so after struggling a bit with this morning’s Guardian cryptic.
    Particular favourites 1ac, 10ac, 15ac, 17ac, 20ac, 2dn, 4dn, 8dn, 16dn.
    I think you could perhaps improve 1ac by changing the punctuation, something along the lines of “Educated people? Some men love gas!” (which, unlike Rabbit Dave @4, I think is all too “pubbable”).
    There are some delightful surfaces, I think 10ac, 4dn and 16dn being my favourites. Yes, 2dn is a bit strained, but the wordplay is so ingenious I think you are readily forgiven.
    I’m the other way around from Prolixic where 19dn and 21dn are concerned. I don’t have a problem with a school run being a drop off (usually stopping in the middle of the road and allowing a queue of traffic to build up behind you while your little darling takes the last few faltering steps into school) but while “depends on” = “turns on” I think “depends” = “turns” is a stretch. But that’s as near to a criticism as I get. Thanks, Coot.

    1. Thanks, Gollum – that’s lovely feedback. The ‘turns/depends’ question is interesting. I tend to work on the basis that if you can find a sentence where the two words are interchangeable then one is fair game as a synonym of the other. Hence, Prolixic’s explanation is how I justified this to myself when setting the clue. It would be interesting to get Prolixic’s opinion on whether this rule is always sound or whether it is possible to push it too far.

      1. In Chambers Crossword Dictionary (4th ed.), “turn” is listed under “depend”, and vice versa. So I think you are on firm ground here, Coot.

  15. I enjoyed this a lot Coot, though it was certainly no stroll in the park. However there were some great penny drop and smile inducing moments on parsing. Examples of these for me were 13,24&25a plus 2,4,7(very funny)18,23&24d. Good stuff!
    Thank you, and in advance to Prolixic.

  16. I didn’t get round to commenting on your debut puzzle so I’ll make up for it this time. I’ve not read anyone else’s comments so there might be some duplication.
    Anyway, I found this an enjoyable and fairly quick solve. The only one I had trouble with was 21dn where the answer was obvious but I just couldn’t see how to parse it for ages. Clues I really liked were 20ac with the misleading inverted commas, 26ac, 2dn where I spent too long trying to fit in ‘LP’, 8dn for the surface and 23dn, again for the surface.
    The only one I was going to query was 9ac – for the ‘surrender’ meaning I would spell the word without the E, but I see that the BRB allows either spelling so that’s OK.
    Thanks, Coot, for the entertainment and to Prolixic in advance for the review.

  17. 10a was the standout clue for me in a very enjoyable puzzle. Plenty of ticks elsewhere too – 12,13,24&25a plus 6,7,8,16,21&23 were all good ‘ins in my book.
    More like this one welcome any time so thanks & well done.

  18. Many thanks to Prolixic for the review – it’s good to know I didn’t make you work as hard as last time! Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to give my puzzle a go, and for your feedback and encouragement. I should also thank my test solver, who has been invaluable in helping me pitch puzzles at a sensible level of difficulty, and of course Big Dave for providing such a great place for budding setters to give their creations an airing.

  19. Late to the party, but loved it all nonetheless, especially after a schoolboy snigger at 1a. There were a few unparsed, but Prolixic’s review (thanks to him) straightened those out. The surfaces were mostly very good with just a couple that were still better than some of the back-pagers.10a took a while but became my favourite once the lightbulb came on.
    Loads of other clever clues in the frame for a mention.
    I will look forward to your next and suspect we’ll see your name in lights in the future

    1. Thanks very much Tater – that’s lovely feedback and I’m really pleased you liked it. From the various reactions, it seems that 1a was just about at the acceptable end of schoolboy humour!

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I should think Coot will be very pleased to have received such a low score on the commentometer. Nice to see such an improvement in his setting and I hope he can now go from strength to strength.

  21. Late to comment as we’ve been away but greatly enjoyed this puzzle on our return. Favourite is 1a and most answers went in without too much of a struggle but there are a couple we couldn’t parse so easily and now need to check with Prolixic, then start on last Saturday’s NTSPP. Thank you Coot, look forward to your next one.

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