Rookie Corner 387 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 387

Captivating by 8ball

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 8Ball.  The good news with this crossword is that all of the comments are minor ones that are required to give the clues a polish.  There were a number of these so the commentometer reads as 4 / 34 or 11.8%.

The theme alluded to by the title is that there are a number of animals held captive in the solutions.  These are (in clue order) CROW RAM YAK PIG TERN OTTER GOAT RAT APE MOLE.  Taking the initial letters of those animals gives an added bonus as they spell CRYPTOGRAM.


1 Method of cooking that’s no good for surfer? (9)
MICROWAVE – Split 5,4 this small movement of the sea would not be of use to someone on a surfboard.

6 Board changing hands is a joke! (5)
PRANK – A five-letter word for a scaffolding board has the L changed to an R (changing hands)

9 Pie and lager nearly spilt on the ground (7)
EPIGEAL – An anagram (spilt) of PIE LAGE (lager nearly = remove the last letter).

10 Resentful over college, Weasley and Potter at last retired from dark arts (7)
SORCERY – A four-letter word meaning resentful around (over) the abbreviation for college followed by the last letter of Weasley and Potter reversed (retired).  I think stylistically it is better to refer to the definition from the wordplay rather than the wordplay from the definition.

11 Some neon getting picked up? (3)
ANY – A homophone (getting picked up) of Ne (the chemical symbol for Neon).

12 Seriously bad style worn by sailors (7)
STERNLY – An anagram (bad) of STYLE around (worn by) the abbreviation for Royal Navy (sailors).

13 Fairytale brothers’s denied writing mostly unpleasant scheme (7)
GIMMICK – The name of the brothers who collated fairytales without the letter R (denied writing) followed by a four-letter word meaning unpleasant without the first letter (mostly).  Using mostly as a wordplay indicator implies removing the last letter, not the first.

14 Recalled setter receiving a kiss and getting physical (4)
EXAM – A two-letter word for the setter includes the A from the clue and the letter representing a kiss with all the letters then reversed (recalled).  As a physical is a type of the solution, there should be a definition by example indicator for this clue.

15 Act more crazy by beginning to solve puzzles (9)
BEWILDERS – A phrase (2,6) meaning act more crazy followed by the first letter (beginning to) of solve.

19 Addition of protective clothing at the heart of calamitous agenda (9)
APPENDAGE – A  three-letter abbreviation for protective clothing worn by doctors and nurses inside (at the heart of) an anagram (calamitous) of AGENDA.  The wordplay indicator at the heart of implies the word go in the middle, which is not the case here.

21 Kid with time will become the best ever? (4)
GOAT – Double definition, the first the animal a kid becomes when older and the second being the abbreviation for greatest of all time.

25 Monkey say, given order to get more bananas (7)
NUTTIER – A three-letter word for the type of food of which monkey is an example followed by a four-letter word for an order or rank.

26 Gone off mature cheddar finally eaten. Mistake (7)
ERRATUM – A anagram (gone off) of MATURE includes (eaten) the final letter of cheddar.

27 Volleyball team involved in sexism, taken aback (3)
SIX – The answer is hidden (involved) and reversed (taken aback) in sexism.

28 Armies heading for trouble turned to experts (7)
MAESTRI – An anagram (turned) of ARMIES T (first letter – heading to – of trouble).

29 Swingers bar for role reversal with freedom it’s said (7)
TRAPEZE – A four-letter word for a role is reversed and followed by a homophone (it’s said) of ease (freedom).  I agree the for the surface reading, Swingers needs to be Swingers’ and that the cryptic reading of definition for wordplay does not work. 

30 Chicken skin (5)
LAYER – Double defintion

31 Good to claim pool regularly in Middle Eastern country for a dip (9)
GUACAMOLE – The abbreviation for good and the even letters (regularly) of claim pool all inside UAE (Middle Eastern country)


1 Set menu with starter of regional melted cheese (8)
MUENSTER – An anagram (melted) of SET MENU R (first letter – starter – of regional).

2 Fancy ring a king brought back (7)
CHIMERA – A five-letter word meaning ring followed by a reversal (brought back) of the A from the clue and the single letter abbreviation for Rex (king).

3 Directed a second detailed series of heist films (6)
OCEANS – An anagram (directed) of A SECON (second without its last letter – detailed).

4 A friend round to ease pain? (5)
ALLAY – The A from the clue with a four-letter word for a friend going around it.

5 Relaxed when travelling with piece of cake first (4,5)
EASY GOING – A five-letter word for travelling preceded by (first) a four-letter word meaning a piece of cake.

6 In past, oddly find princess and queen climbing ancient structures (8)
PYRAMIDS – The odd letters of past include a reversal (climbing) of a two-letter name of a princess and a four-letter name of a queen.

7 Studio been fed false story by reporter’s source (7)
ATELIER – A three-letter word meaning been fed followed by a three-letter word for a false story and the initial letter (source) of reported.

8 Talks after Korea evacuated by boats (6)
KAYAKS – A four-letter word meaning talks after the outer letters (evacuated) of Korea.  In boats would make a better cryptic reading than by boats.  The definition can be given by the wordplay but the wordplay is not given by the definition.

16 Recommending seller not initially take part in karaoke (9)
ENDORSING – A six-letter word for a seller with the initial letter removed (not initially) followed by a four-letter word meaning take part in karaoke.

17 List of possible presents I regret rewriting with son (8)
REGISTER – An anagram (rewriting) of I REGRET S (abbreviation for son).

18 Put foot down over energy charge (8)
STAMPEDE – a seven-letter word meaning put foot down hard followed by the abbreviation for energy.

20 Snooker player’s completion of century is a work of art (7)
POTTERY – A six-letter word for someone who plays snooker followed by the last letter (completion) of century.

22 Working hardthere’s a chance that will advance you to this position? (2,3,2)
ON THE GO – Double definition, the second referring to the game of Monopoly.

23 After 50% off sale lions hair rejected for making canine’s coat? (6)
ENAMEL – A reversal (rejected) of the last two letters (50% off) of sale and a four-letter word for lion’s hair.  Lions hair should be lion’s hair.

24 Barrier stopping a force retreating to ships (6)
ARMADA – A reversal (retreating) of a three-letter word for a barrier inside the A from the clue and the abbreviation for Royal Artillery (force).

26 Former partner returning pictures and more (5)
EXTRA – A two-letter word for a former partner and a reversal (returning) of a three-letter word that represent pictures and other things.  Although comments have been made about the number of anagrams (which given there is 34 clues is not unusually large).  Nobody has commented on the number of reversals in the clue which, at 9 is more than the number of anagrams.

31 comments on “Rookie Corner 387

  1. Very enjoyable and good value for money with 34 clues but the anagram count was quite high at 7.

    I think there might be some comment from the experts on ‘tweaking’ some clues; for example, for me, 8d might have been better with ‘in boats’ rather than ‘by boats.’

    I did have to do a Reveal on 21a as that term has not been retained by my memory yet.

    I really liked 1a, 15a, 29a, 8d (even with by), 16d, and 23d.

    Thanks 8ball, the best yet, and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. That took us quite a long time and there are several clues which we put question marks beside for various reasons. However we did get it all sorted.
    Thanks 8ball.

  3. I thought this was overall a fine puzzle — with good clean clueing.

    I especially liked 1a, 11a (very surprising and clever), 15a.
    I was slightly bewildered though by 27a — I thought perhaps a “perhaps” qualifier might have been in order.
    Though the surface was a touch nonsensical, 31a’s wordplay was very precise.

    A final observation: 3d might have done with a question-mark since the definition is a bit allusive.

    1. I can see what you mean about 27a, but the only purpose served by including a “perhaps”, or similar, qualifier would be to turn an easy clue into a very easy clue.

      1. Indeed. “eleven” actually is definitionally in Chambers as “a team of eleven” – perhaps “six” will be promoted thus (fortunately the Olympics were still fresh in my mind).

        1. Maybe the coach or captain of a volleyball team might already say something like: “We’re up against a strong six tomorrow!”?

  4. Quite a tricky crossword – definitely one where you solve one corner at a time – NE, SE, SW, NE. Like the 2Ks, I have a couple of ?s. I presume the title of the crossword relates to a number of the solutions?

    Thanks 8Ball – my favourite clue was 1a – and, in advance, to Prolixic

  5. An enjoyable puzzle – thanks 8ball.
    I thought it was quite tricky with some clever wordplay and made up for the fact that we don’t get a Toughie on Mondays.
    I ticked lots of clues including 1a, 15a, 21a and 31a.

  6. Welcome back, 8ball.

    Definitely your best puzzle to date, by quite some margin, there were many fewer niggles and the surfaces read well in most cases. The missing apostrophes in 29a and 23d jarred though, and 29a also seems to be “definition for (making) wordplay”. Although some of the constructions took time to unravel, I thought that the puzzle was pitched at about the right level of difficulty and there was a welcome lack of obscurities in the grid. I ticked several clues with my favourite being 18d.

    Thank you for an enjoyable solve and congratulations on the improvement shown and the 26d attention to detail.

  7. Really enjoyed this one 8Ball. As CS says definitely a grid that lends itself to tackling the puzzle a quadrant at a time. Last for me was the NW where both 1d & 9a were new to me & required confirmation. 1a was a nice PDM & last in was my correct bung in at 21a but know not why. A toss up between 18&20d as my favourite with ticks also for 1,10&15a plus 5d.
    Many thanks & well done

  8. Thanks 8ball, very enjoyable … and quite tricky in places. I didn’t get the theme (despite the puzzle having a title), thanks to Prolixic & CS for helping out there!

    8 anagrams (if I counted right) possibly a bit on the high side, although most of these did have something else going on too (eg an extra letter or deletion) … and they were good anagrams too, 17d my favourite of these. All fairly/accurately clued, I think just a few issues with ‘link words’ (eg 29a definition for wordplay, 8d wordplay by definition).

    As wth others, I enjoyed 1a, and my favourites were 30a and 18d.

    Thanks again!

  9. Welcome back, 8ball. This was very enjoyable and a great improvement on your previous submissions. It was good to see that, apart from a couple of missing apostrophes, you have ironed out most of the niggles this time round. In terms of difficulty, I found the bottom half nicely challenging and the top half very tough indeed.

    A couple of very minor suggestions. I think “items” rather than “presents” would provide a more accurate definition for 17d, and, as 23d can also be a coat of paint, you could omit “canine’s” (although the latter is perhaps in keeping with the theme).

    I had a lot of ticks on my page with 1a my favourite. An excellent hook to start the solve!

    Having been alerted to the theme by Prolixic, I found ten animals hiding in the grid.

    Many thanks and well done, 8ball. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. 17d presents worked for me taking me back to school days as the class responded to teacher reading out the register.
      Thanks 8ball, very enjoyable- definitely in the Toughie spectrum for me, having taken a few visits

      1. Gordon – This was the intended parse, but with the deception of reading as a list of presents (e.g for Santa or a Birthday)

  10. Hi 8ball
    I found this hard but on the whole pretty accomplished and for the most part rewarding. One of the reasons I found it hard was that some of the definitions, either for the answer or in the wordplay, seemed to me a bit of a stretch and I will be interested in Prolixic’s take. For example:
    9a – a key part of the meaning of the answer (ie growing/germinating) seems to be missing.
    4d – is pain the right word? More concern or anxiety perhaps?
    7d – is the passive “been fed” the same as the active word indicated?
    20d – is “work of art” a fair definition? The answer in an uncountable noun that includes all sorts of things, so perhaps an example indicator is needed to show it could be a work of art?
    23d – can’t work out what “canine” is doing other than making a theme contribution, but perhaps that is me missing the obvious!

    Also, in 29a you have Definition for wordplay as others have pointed out, but also wordplay from definition in 10a

    But these are for the most part relatively minor quibbles (and others may well disagree with me anyway). But this should not detract from all the good that is here on display. 15a and 2d were personal favourites but I could pick others too. Well done!

    1. Canine=tooth, which is covered with enamel. While, as RD points out, the clue would work without ‘canine’, I think the usage is quite clever

      1. I agree. Some people may say that the “canine” is padding. But it’s not mere “gratuitous padding” because it’s germane, quite clever and I reckon enhances the clue

  11. I got the ‘congratulation’ pop-up after putting in a couple of wrong letters in to complete 10a – for some reason I clicked ‘check’ which crossed them out, and I then realised what the right answer must be, but I didn’t get the popup again when I put the right letters in…

    ETA – refreshed the page and got the pop-up OK

    Otherwise an enjoyable solve, thank you

  12. Like our 2Ks, I had several question marks on my sheet which await the review from Prolixic and I hadn’t previously come across the acronym in 21a. Thought that some of the definitions could do with tightening up a bit but this was a definite improvement from the previous puzzles.
    Top two for me were 15a & 18d – 29a would also be up there given a slight tweak.

    Thank you, 8ball, good to see you making progress.

  13. Good puzzle – a twitch or two but no real quibbles
    Thanks for the challenge and entertainment 8Ball

  14. Thanks to Prolixic for the usual very helpful review.
    I took the ‘unpleasant’ in 13a to be ‘icky’ rather than ‘sick’.

  15. Hi all

    Thanks for the review. Glad that they are getting better with each go. Definitely learning simpler is better, based on favourite clues etc. Will take into account feedback, particularly the logic around not referring to the wordplay from the definition.

    I hadn’t realised that the GOAT acronym wasn’t as well known as I thought so apologies.

    I had intended 13ac parsing to be ‘Icky’ for ‘unpleasant’ removing the last letter.

    Pleased to see some people spotting the theme too :) – I tend to get inspiration from trying to theme something

    Look forward to the next one being reviewed.

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic.
    Good to see that at least you picked on ‘cryptogram’ – hadn’t entered my head.

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