Rookie Corner 402 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 402

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 a lot to enjoy in this crossword with some well turned surface readings.  There were only a handful of points to pass comment on.  The commentometer reads 3/32 = 9.4%


1 Sally‘s husband taken into care (6)
THRUST – The abbreviation for husband in (taken into) a a five-letter word word meaning care or guardianship.

5 Stop in Barking side street (6)
DESIST – An anagram (barking) of SIDE followed by the abbreviation for street.

10 Got about half a day with American mate, recently inside (9)
AMBULATED – The abbreviation for morning (half a day) followed by a three-letter word used by Americans for a friend or mate containing (inside) a four-letter word meaning recently.

11 Picture that is used as cover for periodical (5)
IMAGE – The abbreviation for that is around (used as a cover for) a three-letter word for a periodical.

12 Ingredient of healthy meal? (5)
THYME – The answer is hidden (of) in the final two words of the clue.

13 Turned all square – was winning (8)
LEVELLED – A five-letter word meaning all square followed by a three-letter word meaning was winning.  I have reservations about the definition.  Whilst turned a gun might be the solution, the meaning is more aimed or directed when used in this context, not turned.

15 Near the end of term, given “sin (ex + i)”: baffling! (2,8)
IN EXTREMIS – An anagram (baffling) of TERM SIN EX I.

17 One starts to laugh, someone’s offended too (4)
ALSO – The indefinite article (one) followed by the initial letters (starts to) of the fourth to sixth words of the clue.

18 Moment’s lost, a little jiggery-pokery doubtful (4)
IFFY – A five-letter word for a moment or short period of time without the initial J (lost a little jiggery-pokery).  As the usual rule is that punctuation can be disregarded, I am not too concerned about the comma in the clue.

19 Animated PM: “bailouts not ideal!” (10)
SUBOPTIMAL – An anagram (animated) of PM BAILOUTS.

22 Some independence is in order (4,4)
HOME RULE – A four-letter word meaning home followed by a four-letter word meaning order.  I am not sure that IS works as a link word.  Definition is wordplay jars slight.  Whilst you can have definition is in wordplay, here the in would then be doing double duty.

23 Step quietly, pursuing vehicle (5)
TRAMP – The abbreviation for quietly after (pursuing) a four-letter word for a public transport vehicle.

27 Diving naked, risking everything! (3,2)
ALL IN – A seven-letter word meaning diving without the first and last letters (naked).

28 Radio broadcasts one can identify with? (4,5)
CALL SIGNS – Cryptic definition of a radio ham or operator’s means of identifying themselves.

29 Leave and come back (6)
RESIGN – Double definition.  I am another person who confidently entered return as the solution.

30 Two number ones for diminutive singer (6)
PEEWEE – Two slang words meaning to micturate.


2 Beheaded plump bloke (5)
HUBBY – A six-letter word meaning plump without the initial letter (beheaded).  I think some indication that a married bloke is the intended solution would be better here.

3 Most unattractive pug lies totally content (7)
UGLIEST – The answer is hidden (content) in the third to fifth words of the clue.

4 Dictator‘s action embittering nationals’ hearts (4)
TITO – The central letters (hearts) of the third to fifth words of the clue.

5 Antipodean music producer doubting Spice Girl’s contribution? (10)
DIDGERIDOO – The solution might answer the question “Did Geri do nothing?.  I think that to get from the clue to the intended question and then to take the final word as an indicator for the final letter is perhaps a little indirect.

6 Darted around wicket with single taken (6)
SWIPED – A four-letter word meaning darted around the abbreviation for wicket and the letter representing a single number.

7 Struggling repeatedly, alms-houses ultimately fail to land valuable contract (5,4)
SMALL SLAM – An anagram (struggling) of ALMS ALMS (repeatedly alms) includes (houses) the last letter (ultimately) of fail.  Whilst hyphenation can be used to give clarity to the wordplay, the resulting hyphenated word must be a valid word.  Alms-houses fails this test as it is not a valid word in the main dictionaries used by setters.

8 Thrown when entering court (4)
CAST – A two-letter word meaning when inside (entering) the abbreviation for court.

9 Count supports action that could change how he’s known (4,4)
DEED POLL – A four-letter word for a count or census underneath (supports) a four-letter word for action.

14 Party concerning landlord (10)
REPUBLICAN – A two-letter word meaning concerning followed by an eight-letter word for a landlord of a tavern.

15 European assistant served up champagne regularly (8)
IRISHMAN – A reversal (served up) of the voice activated assistant on Apple devices followed by the even letters (regularly) in champagne.

16 French girl hugs mum, round supporting nurse with relatives (2,7)
EN FAMILLE -The five-letter French word for a girl around (hugs) a reversal (round) of a two-letter word for a mum all under supporting the abbreviation for Enrolled Nurse.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as supports (9d) and supporting (in this clue).

20 CNN ignored drunk contestant in As You Like It? (2,5)
TO TASTE – An anagram drunk of CONTESTANT after removing (ignored) the CNN from the clue.

21 London university finally favouring India for eastern location (6)
BRUNEI – A six-letter word for a London University with the final letter replaced by an I (India).

24 Glean new perspective (5)
ANGLE – An anagram (new) of GLEAN.

25 Advertise job (4)
POST – Double definition.

26 Friends over for make-up (4)
SLAP – A reversal (over) of a four-letter word for friends.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner 402

  1. A most enjoyable solve with a couple of clues in both the NE and SW quadrants that kept us head-scratching. Still having trouble justifying the answer for 13a with the definition.
    Thanks Coot.

  2. A lot of wit and technical assuredness outweighing the few finicky points I’m not sure about (e.g. the comma in 18a interfering with the cryptic grammar, and the same for the hyphen in 7d). From experience I’d say a lot of solvers don’t care about things like that. Editors on the other hand…
    5d is amusing but I’ve seen variations on it before. Hard to resist though when it’s such an awkward word, and obviously the joke’s going to be new for others.
    Favourites were 5a, 12a, 30a, 3d, 6d, 14d, and there were plenty of good clues apart from those.

    1. Thanks very much, Twmbarlwm. I hadn’t seen a variation on 5d before or I would have resisted it, although I did see a similar idea in a Grauniad clue (possibly one of Paul’s) last year for Dido Harding (“Achieved nothing with firm and in Government….”). I was concerned that one or two of my clues might be old chestnuts but ironically 5d wasn’t on my worry list.

      1. Hi Coot, I like the idea of a ‘worry list’! I think I’m similar. I imagine that as one becomes more established as a setter, there’s less worrying about repeating ideas and an acceptance that it will inevitably happen from time to time. Perhaps the professionals reading this can confirm?
        Funnily enough I think it was Paul who last did a variation on the 5d joke. It’s one of those wordplays that once spotted is hard to resist, but, as I said, you and others wouldn’t necessarily have seen it before anyway, and there are always new ways of presenting the same idea anyway. After all, Paul wasn’t the first one to use it either, and he’s Paul!!
        Another example is the A-Level/All About Eve idea which appeared in a Rookie a while ago, but which has been around for a long time. And I clued a phrase in my second Rookie puzzle (not published yet) with a CD that sounded too obvious to me, so I checked online and found two or three similar wordings in previous puzzles. I changed it to a CD that hadn’t been done before, but which wasn’t quite as neat.

        1. Good point Twmbarlwm. It begs the question of what an original idea is. One can only look at a word in so many ways, so it is highly likely over the ages that different setters will hit upon the same “original” idea, without the faintest whiff of plagiarism. Indeed, when we are all striving for ideal surfaces, some words will make an overlap of original ideas more likely, if not inevitable. Of course, there is then the whole question of what is “original” to the solver!

  3. Thanks Coot. I would put this somewhere between you first two Rookies, perhaps closer to the first.

    While the comma in 18a did not bother me, I just ignored it, I do have concerns about the hyphen in 7d and I look forward to the experts’, particularly Prolixic’s, comments.

    I liked 22a, 28a, and 16d.

    Thanks again.

  4. A really enjoyable puzzle pitched at just the right level with some laughs along the way – what more could anyone want? Many thanks to Coot.
    My ticks went to 22a, 28a and 15d.

  5. Great stuff, thanks Coot.
    Lots to enjoy with some really excellent surfaces.
    Like the Kiwis I’m struggling with definition for 13a, but very happy to be put right as I do love a stretched synonym.
    I had no problem with the hyphen in 7d which in itself I thought provided a sufficient ‘break’. I was less keen on the comma in 18a as, to me, it did seem to disrupt the grammar (in a way that, say, a dash wouldn’t have) – but I look forward to Prolixic’s take on this (for which, thanks in advance)
    I very much liked 5d which was new to me at least! Other favourites amongst lots of good clues include 10a, 11a, 19a, 27a, 30a, 6d & 14d.
    Thanks again!

    1. Aha, is 13a an ‘all-in-one’? ‘Turning’ a palindrome maybe a bit cheeky but I think I get it now – nice :-)

  6. That’s just what I like to see, Coot – continuous improvement! I enjoyed your previous Rookie submissions and for me this one was the best of the bunch. It was accomplished and you have mastered the art of smooth surfaces, which is great.

    I had a false start with 29a as I initially entered “return” which could mean both leave and come back, messing up 21d for a while until the penny dropped; and I can’t quite get my mind round the parsing of 13a. My only other concern is that I think the definition for 2d is inaccurate.

    I had lots of ticks with 22a, 5d & 15d making it onto my podium.

    Very well done and thank you, Coot. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic, although I don’t think he is likely to have too much to comment on this week.

  7. Many thanks for all of the kind comments so far, which are very gratifying.

    SPOILER ALERTS: I can see that I need to address 13A. It is a lot simpler than Fez’s ingenious palindrome theory but quite possibly a stretched synonym. I’m fully prepared to be told it’s a stretch too far! It’s a straightforward charade and “turned” is the definition, as in aimed (a gun). And RD, re 2D, I imagine someone referring to their male partner, when they might plausibly use either definition or solution.

    1. Thanks Coot, I was over-thinking it I guess! The synonym does seem a bit of a stretch but a very minor quibble in an accomplished puzzle

  8. Welcome back, Coot.

    I’m not sure that I enjoyed this one quite as much as your previous submission, but I have quite a few ticks on my printed page regardless. I’m firmly with Senf when it comes to the comma in 18a and the hyphen in 7d. Neither Chambers nor Collins accepts “alms-houses”, so for a setter to insert a hyphen merely to justify their wordplay is not permissible as far as I’m concerned. My eyebrows were also raised by a couple of definitions, especially 2d, and I’m not sure 5d quite works unfortunately, as the final letter isn’t clued as “nothing”, but it requires the solver to make that extra step.

    I really liked 5a, 6d, 9d and 15d, but my overall favourite was 11a. Since the first Coot puzzle, the surface readings of the clues have improved immeasurably.

    Many thanks for a very enjoyable solve and well done on your continued progress.

    1. Many thanks, Silvanus – helpful feedback as always. I’ll be interested to see where Prolixic (with thanks in advance) thinks I’ve stepped over the line. I found some support for hyphenated “alms-houses” online – and hence wasn’t knowingly adding an inappropriate hyphen to justify the wordplay – but I accept that I should have checked that this was permissible with the more conventional sources.

  9. Hi Coot
    Overall an excellent puzzle with a lot of good surfaces and witty clues (23a had me laughing out loud!). I had lots of ticks – 5,11,17,19,23,30 across and 6, 14, 15, & 26 down.
    I only had quibbles with 3 clues::
    10a to me RECENTLY is not correct for the word defined. RECENT would be right, but doesn’t work with the surface. (But as no one else has mentioned it, I am probably wrong!)
    5d I was initially thinking it must be a homophone but couldn’t find the indicator. When I eventually spelled it correctly (lol), like Silvanus, I was missing the final letter, so, while I enjoyed the idea, I didn’t find it worked.
    13a struggled with this as have others above.
    In addition, while it is clever and it parses fine, I wasn’t a fan of 15a – just a personal thing, I guess.
    But these are minor points at worst in what was a more than competent and entertaining puzzle. Very well done Coot!

    1. Thanks very much, Dir Diva. On 10a, RECENTLY is listed in Chambers for LATE as an adverb, and they are both listed against each-other in the LRB. So I hope that’s enough to get me off the hook! Re 5D, I agree that there’s an indirect indication here with the solver being required to get to O via nothing. It’s probably not an excuse but I always imagined that this would be solved via definition and crossers rather than via wordplay (which possibly says something about my own inadequacy as a solver), at which point the penny hopefully drops and the indirect indication becomes less of an issue. As to 15a, it’s certainly not the most elegant clue. As a (very lapsed) mathematician, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get trigonometry, an exponent, the base of the natural logarithms and a complex number into a clue without requiring the solver to have any knowledge of maths at all.

      1. As I said, Coot, I might be wrong because you’re quite right that it is given in Chambers/Collins as an adverb with the sense of recently. My problem is that I can’t think of a single instance where the one can be used for the other without changing the meaning or without it being moderated in some way. HE ARRIVED LATE and HE ARRIVED RECENTLY don’t mean the same thing, whereas HE WAS ILL OF LATE and HE WAS ILL RECENTLY do. So OF LATE is a synonym for RECENTLY but LATE on its own can, I think, only be replaced by RECENT. As ever I stand to be corrected and will be interested to see if Prolixic has anything to say!
        5D seems easy to fix. How about SUGGESTING SPICE GIRL’S CONTRIBUTION WAS WORTHL:ESS.?

        1. I’ve just found this example from the online Cambridge Dictionary. “As late (= as recently) as the 1980s they were still using horses on this farm”. Your 5D fix is an improvement. We could go further with “……asking if Spice Girl contributed nothing”, which gets a O even more directly.

  10. Very enjoyable and very accomplished Coot, I had more fun solving this than today’s back pager.
    Although both may not quite work, 2&5d made me smile but my highlights were 5,10&22a plus 9&15d, all very clever clues.
    Many thanks to you and in advance Prolixic.

  11. Very enjoyable, Coot, thank you. We did have a problem with 13a and we revealed letters for 6d. Several favourites including 30a and 9d. We look forward to your next one. Thanks also to Prolixic in advance.

  12. Many thanks, Prolixic, for the review, and again to everyone who tried the puzzle and fed back. Finally, huge thanks to Big Dave for providing this excellent facility.

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