Rookie Corner 400 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 400

Lord Chancellors by Gollum

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 Gollum with his second outing as a Rookie.  I thought that this was a more polished offering than the first crossword.  There were some minor issues that I have highlighted but none of them detracted from the crossword.  I was a shame that the now redundant title had been carried across from the earlier version of the crossword as it was distracting to keep thinking if any of the solutions matched the name of the one of the Lord Chancellors.

The commentometer reads as 3/26 or 11.5 %.


7 Dads wearing long hair is wrong (8)
TRESPASS – A three-letter word for dads has five-letter word for long hair around it (wearing).

9 Ingenious article which audibly leaves spa town (6)
ADROIT – The indefinite article followed by the name of a Worcestershire spa town from which a a homophone (audibly) of which.

10 Untruthful spokesman for East-West Rail (4)
LIAR – A reversal (East – West) of Rail.  The structure of the clue “Definition for wordplay” does not work.  You can have the wordplay for the definition, but not the reverse.  From would be a suitable replacement.

11 Cold girl (maiden) – a setback for some of her schoolfriends? (10)
CLASSMATES – The abbreviation for cold followed by a four-letter word for a girl, the abbreviation for maiden, the A from the clue and a reversal (back) of set.  Not all editors will accept the lift and separate required to get from setback to set back.

12 Blunt little Adrian in a haunt of vice (6)
DEADEN – The diminutive form of the name of Adrian in a three-letter word describing a place of vice.  On the subject of surplus articles in clues, if they can be omitted, it is better to do so but (having checked again in Chamber’s Crossword Manual) the convention is that the article can be retained with nouns.  It must be omitted is where it would incorrectly appear to be part of the letters to be rearranged in an anagram.

14 Waved as stepdaughters roamed less beaten paths (8)
GESTURED – An anagram (roamed) of STEPDAUGHTERS after removing the rearranged (beaten) letters in PATHS.

15 AGA controls I’m adjusting in connection with the science of good eating (13)
GASTRONOMICAL – An anagram (adjusting) of AGA CONTROLS IM.

17 Old politician greets bad actor (8)
HAILSHAM – A five-letter word meaning greets followed by a three-letter word for a bad actor.

19 Repeated alternation as Bray deals spades instead of hearts (6)
SEESAW – A six-letter word for the sound of donkey (bray) with the Hs (hearts) replaced by Ss (spade).

21 Delegates’ decisions to obstruct the franchise (5,5)
BLOCK VOTES – A five-letter word meaning to obstruct followed by a five-letter word for the franchise.  I would have thought that “the franchise” would lead to the singular in the second part of the solution.

22 Horrible-sounding old instrument (4)
VIOL – A homophone (sounding) of vile (horrible).  I think that the hyphenation here makes it clear that the homophone indicator relates to horrible.

23 Close attention may bind in gratitude (6)
ENDEAR – A three-letter word meaning close followed by a three-letter word meaning attention.

24 John Peel from St Neots, perhaps? (8)
HUNTSMAN – Fancifully how you might describe someone from Huntingdonshire.


1 Cook‘s support is something irrational (6)
BRAISE – A three-letter word for a female support garment followed by the IS from the clue and the letter representing the natural base number (irrational).

2 In part, that’s a redhead of old Russia (4)
TSAR – The answer is hidden (in part) in the third to fifth words of the clue.  Whilst some editors will allow unclued lift and separate devices in the wordplay, it is not permitted to merge the wordplay and the solution in the way that has been done here.

3 Car felon punished – one who does bird! (8)
FALCONER – An anagram (punished) of CAR FELON.  I am not sure that the definition works here.  

4 Islamic State in power for a little time? They’re often narrow (6)
WAISTS – The unit for electrical power has one of the T’s replaced by the abbreviation for Islamic State (given as a permitted abbreviation in Collins and OED but not in Chambers).  

5 Relative mistreating a cruel gent (5-5)
GREAT UNCLE – An anagram (mistreating) of A CRUEL GENT.

6 Maybe the right team from Madrid – of the stars! (8)
SIDEREAL – A four-letter word for the right followed by a four-letter word for Madrid football team.

8 Heretical Anglicans? Might I leave a quarrel? (8,5)
SLANGING MATCH – An anagram (heretical) of ANGLICANS MIGHT without one of the Is (I leave).   Grammatically, the cryptic instruction “I leave” does not work in the cryptic grammar.  “I may leave” would be better.  Note, though that Ieave having been used as a wordplay indicator so a different one should be used here.

13 Muddled Ed’s come top of the poll, but been rejected as a candidate (10)
DESELECTED – An anagram (muddled) of EDS followed by a seven-letter word meaning come come of the poll.   I think that the “been” could have been omitted from the clue.

15 Where keeper plays game – violent wrestling with earl! (4,4)
GOAL LINE – A two-letter word for a board game followed by a phrase (3,2) for a violent no-holds barred) type of wrestling and the abbreviation for earl.

16 Treating wrongly, vanished round the bend (8)
MISUSING – A seven-letter word meaning vanished around the shape of a plumbing bend.

18 Lingers over odd hush outside (6)
HOVERS – The over from the clue with the odd letters of hush around it.  For alternate letters, you need something like “oddly” not “odd”.

20 One of five, I heard a frank confession (6)
AVOWAL – A homophone (heard) of one of the five letters in the Alphabet that are not consonants.

22 Great account – save up in it (4)
VAST – The answer is hidden and reversed (up in it) in the second and third words of the clue.  I am not sure that the it at the end of the clue works to refer to the two words in the clue that hide the solution.

A milestone of 400 Rookie Crosswords is impressive.  Around 137 Rookie setters have been featured with many having gone on to the NTSPP and to be published in national papers including the Independent and the Daily Telegraph.  Congratulations to all the new setters who have been brave enough to put their talents on display and to have their crosswords reviewed.  Big Dave deserves the biggest vote of thanks for his vision in setting up this series in 2014 and for his work every week in setting up the crosswords and publishing them.

27 comments on “Rookie Corner 400

  1. There might well be something in the title that will mean more to other people than it does to us, but despite that we did manage to solve the puzzle with a fair amount of head-scratching along the way.
    19a took a while to work out and a real chortle when we got it.
    Thanks Gollum.

    1. Sorry about the title. The original (not very good) version of this puzzle was compiled for a judges’ magazine some years ago and seven Lord Chancellors were included. Even at a fairly late stage of knocking this into shape, GRAYLING and HAVERS survived as well as HAILSHAM and FALCONER, but there are some people you don’t want to be reminded about first thing on a wet Monday morning.
      (Hailsham had his priorities clear. He was on record as declaring of Henry VIII – “I will not come to the support of King Henry VIII, a monarch who it seems to me has always had a better press than he deserves. After all, he killed two of his wives and, worse still, two of his Lord Chancellors!”).

      1. Gollum, I can see where GRAYLING and HAVERS would have fitted in the grid, but they are no longer there so you only have two remaining.

        1. Indeed. Cluing in the original puzzle was easier because the seven Lord Chancellors were not separately defined, and IRVINE, GARDINER and MORE were in there as well.

  2. Thanks Gollum. As far as I am concerned a very significant improvement compared to your first Rookie – no 39 letter anagram to be seen at all!

    Having left the UK nearly 30 years ago, I am a little out of touch with who has served as Lord Chancellor but I did find two that I recognised.

    I liked 9a and 20d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks, Senf. As I explained in answer to 2Kiwis, the title got mistakenly carried over from an earlier draft which included no fewer than seven of them.
      Glad there were some you enjoyed.

  3. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Gollum. When I saw your name as the setter, I wondered what multiple letter anagrams you might have in store for us. However, my fears were unfounded and this proved to be an accomplished puzzle. Well done on taking on board and acting on the comments from last time. Your surfaces are good, your clueing is accurate, and I enjoyed the solve.

    I was going to comment that just two Lord Chancellors seemed somewhat sparse to be considered even as a mini-theme but you have explained that in your replies to the 2Ks and Senf.

    My comments are very few and far between:
    – you have used the lift and separate device twice. I think it is fine in 11a (although Prolixic will tell you that some editors will not allow it), but for me it is not OK in 2d, as the separation bridges the wordplay and definition.
    – Although it’s an interesting idea, I don’t think the definition in 3d works.
    – The “a” in 20d is padding.

    Thank you, Gollum, and please hurry back with your next offering. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

  4. An enjoyable crossword, most of which was solver-friendly but there were a couple of clues that gave me pause for thought. I’ve also discovered that a town I knew the name of is a spa town. Only one clue with ?? by it to await the wisdom of Prolixic

    Thanks Gollum – more like this please – and in advance to Prolixic

  5. Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Gollum.
    I was going to comment that you seemed to have missed a couple of opportunities for more of the theme but you’ve explained that above.
    My ticks went to 1a, 12a and 23a.

  6. Thanks Gollum, a fun solve – a nice mix of tricky and (relatively) easier clues.

    I liked the ‘lift & separate’ in 2d, but agree with RD @3 above that it might not be acceptable to all (I’m sure it would pass muster in the Grauniad).

    There were a few clues where I wasn’t sure the cryptic grammar was quite right: 4d, 18d, 22d, and possibly 8d. All were fair/’gettable’ though – and of course I may just be parsing them wrong, very happy to be corrected on any or all of them!

    The definition in 3d doesn’t quite work for me (I think it requires reading “bird” as a verb, but that’s to shoot/catch birds rather than breed/train them?) but again the intention was clear.

    Due to my own ignorance, I needed Google for the very nice 24a (initial thoughts: “a DJ in, err… Cornwall maybe?”) I thought 19a was clever wordplay, and my favourites were 14a, 23a and 20d (strictly perhaps the “a” is ‘padding’, but not really ‘incorrect’ so that didn’t bother me).

    I also originally overlooked the title, so that didn’t impact on the solve – although as a little end-game I did then look for where the extras would go: GRAYLING and HAVERS (that you’d mentioned) easy enough to spot, and I found a spot for IRVINE too (I’m guessing the others involved changes to other entires as well?)

    Thanks again!

  7. Welcome back, Gollum.

    I agree that this puzzle represents an improvement and I liked many of the constructions you’ve used, but I think certain ideas (notably 3d) didn’t really work. In addition “leave” was repeated as a deletion indicator, “in” repeated as an insertion indicator, and 10a is “definition for wordplay” which goes against convention. There are several instances of superfluous words (“a” in 12a, 20a plus 13a arguably) and I think the homophone indicator in 20d would have been better at the start of the clue rather than wedged in the middle. I’m not totally convinced by “greets” in 17a, I think “meets” would have been a better choice perhaps. My favourite clue was 7a.

    Well done on the progress you’ve made and thank you for an enjoyable puzzle. Congratulations too must go to BD on reaching another Rookie Corner landmark, 400 puzzles is no small achievement and you deserve huge credit for this superb window of opportunity that has launched the careers of so many setters.

    1. We also say a big thank you to BD for the hours of pleasure – and learning – we have had from BD’s site.

      1. Hear, hear! Congratualtions on the milestone BD – and huge thanks, also to Prolixic and to all the Rookies!

    2. Thank you for the kind comments.
      Your points about “leave” and “in” are well made – “in” in particular is easily missed.
      Yes, the “a” should have been left out of 20d and could just about be omitted from 12a, though I think that would be at the expense of the surface; but would 13d read at all naturally without the “a”?
      Would “meets” in 17a really give “hails” better than “greets”? I think on that one we must agree to differ.
      And I don’t understand your point about 10a. The definition is “untruthful spokesman”. The wordplay is “East-West Rail”; and ne’er the twain do meet (a bit like the Oxford and Cambridge by railway, in fact). Granted, there are quite a few people in central Bedford who have just been told their houses are in line to be demolished to enlarge Bedford station who would regard the whole clue as an &lit; but that wasn’t actually the idea.

      1. Hi Gollum,

        Wordplay for (leading to the) definition is fine, unfortunately in 10a you have “definition for wordplay”, which is the wrong way round and therefore doesn’t work. I hope that makes more sense?

        1. Understood. “From” would presumably be acceptable – and would be even more of an &lit.

  8. Very enjoyable, thank you Gollum. We couldn’t quite parse 19a until we read the comment from the 2Ks. Favourites were 20d, 14a and 17a – and 19a when the penny dropped! More please.

  9. Thanks, Gollum. I’d echo some of the minor technicalities that have already been mentioned, although I think you’re right about ‘greets’ being right for 17d.
    There was nothing unfairly baffling in the wordplay, and some entertaining surfaces. I got stuck on 15d – not your fault, I kept reading earl as ear! :oops: Quite like the idea of violently wrestling with an ear, though. That was probably my favourite when I eventually realised how you’d neatly disguised ‘game’ with the definition. I couldn’t figure out the St Neots part of 24a until I’d done a bit of googling. Not a geographical fact I was familiar with (assuming I have it right).
    Cheers for the puzzle.

  10. Hi Gollum
    Not much to add to the above other than in 16d ‘the’ doesn’t work for me and is padding IMO. So, while it’s clearly a big improvement on your previous offering – and really well done on that – I struggled with many of your surfaces. Quite a few left me with rather an “Er…what?” expression on my face as I struggled to find much sense in them. Really elegant surfaces are what everyone strives for and are what makes a competent puzzle a joy to solve. So perhaps that is something to consider in the future. I will look forward to the next one!

  11. Hi Gollum

    I had an enjoyable time with this. Well done.

    The issue with 10A has already been covered. I put a question mark against 15A as I don’t believe it is a science and I believe the ‘been’ in 13D is padding.

    There were some great clues, my favourites were 16D & 19A

    1. Yes, I think you are right about 13d.
      Chambers gives gastronomy as the art or science of good eating.
      Glad you enjoyed it overall.

      1. Re 13d, is ‘come’ also superfluous? I’m not sure that “come top of the poll” = elected.

  12. Enjoyed it Gollum. Ironically 24a took a fair amount of head scratching. Many thanks & pleased to see the puzzle got a favourable response. Congrats to the slot for reaching the 400 milestone

  13. Thank you and well done to Gollum – an unfortunate niggle or two sprinkled amongst some nice clues
    Thanks also to Prolixic for unerring clarity in meticulous reviews that continue to help so many aspiring setters
    Finally, congratulations also to BD for reaching this remarkable milestone with such staggering success – superb!

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