Rookie Corner 404 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 404

A Puzzle by Twmbarlwm

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Prologue. 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.

Twmbarlwm has produced the best Rookie crossword of 2022!  The bar has been set high for future crosswords this year.  There are only few comments which means that the commentometer reads as 1/30 or 3.3%.


1 Sweet state that follows a bit of kip in bed (5,6)
BAKED ALASKA – The northernmost state of America after (follow) the A from the clue and the first letter (bit of) kip in the bed from the clue.

9 Appropriate present wrapped by sensitive husband (5)
PINCH – A two-letter word meaning present inside the abbreviation for politically correct (sensitive) followed by the abbreviation for husband.  Perhaps to get from sensitive to politically correct and then to use the abbreviation is too many steps for the solver.

10 Need rider to hold colt’s head (9)
ADDICTION – An eight-letter word for a rider or postscript includes (to hold) the first letter (head) of colt.

11 Interrupted by jeers regularly, reddens and scowls (7)
GLOWERS – The even letters in jeers in (interrupted by) a five-letter word meaning reddens.

12 Replica light aircraft (8)
SPITFIRE – A four-letter word meaning a replica followed by a four-letter word meaning to light or ignite.

14 Relative in Lion & Swan, tipsy (3-2-3)
SON-IN-LAW – An anagram (tipsy) of LION SWAN.

15 Learning middle section of Novello refrain (4)
LORE – The answer is hidden (middle section) in the centre of the final two words of the clue.

17 Extra bill for auditors scrapped (7)
ADJUNCT – A two-letter abbreviation for an advertisement (bill) followed by a homophone (for auditors) of junked (scrapped).

19 Finishing early, bad-tempered international (4)
TEST – A five-letter word meaning bad-tempered without the final letter (finishing earl).

20 Inventor of unusual car is in, welcoming learner (8)
SINCLAIR – An anagram (unusual) of CAR IS IN includes (welcoming) the abbreviation for learner.

21 Stub put out – hazard (8)
ENDANGER – A three-letter word for a stub followed by a five-letter word meaning to put out or cannot.

23 Mark permit in red (7)
SCARLET – A four-letter word for the mark of an injury followed by a three-letter word meaning to permit.

25 Journey to collect the tots and bring them back? (5,4)
ROUND TRIP – Cryptic definition of the journey to the bar and back to collect drinks.

26 Criminal once hiding evidence of wrongdoing? (2-3)
EX-CON – An anagram (criminal) of ONCE includes the letter representing a wrong answer.  I think that the once here is doing double duty and the whole clue does not create the definition, even with the question mark.

27 Guardiola leading gym runs, after fresh fruit (5,6)
GREEN PEPPER – The first name of the manager of Manchester City (Mr Guardiola) and the abbreviation for gym and runs all after a five-letter word meaning fresh.


2 A bishop and university pastor seem sensible (3,2)
ADD UP – The a from the clue and the abbreviation for doctor of divinity (Bishop) followed by the abbreviation for university and pastor.

3 I slept badly after the end of phone message (7)
EPISTLE – An anagram (badly) of I SLEPT after the last letter (end) of phone.

4 Got at by largely corrupt news chief (8)
ATTAINED – The AT from the clue followed a five-letter word meaning to corrupt without the last letter (largely) and the abbreviation for editor (news chief).

5 New entry for very good tune (4)
SONG – The abbreviation for new inside (entry for) a two-letter word meaning very and the abbreviation for good.  I don’t think “entry for” indicates an insertion.

6 One dispensing wisdom outside pub as riot erupts (8)
APHORIST – An anagram (erupts) of AS RIOT outside the abbreviation for public house.

7 Nun Idle played without hesitation or stress (9)
UNDERLINE – An anagram (played) of NUN IDLE (without) a two-letter word used when expressing a hesitation.

8 Hack with no visible credit in account (11)
GHOSTWRITER – Cryptic definition of someone who creates a work for someone else who is credited as the author.

12 Spades and stray moles disturbed earth here (5,6)
SOLAR SYSTEM – The abbreviation for spades followed by an anagram (disturbed) of STRAY MOLES.

13 A title above some paper’s last couple of pages (7)
ESQUIRE – A five-letter word for a number of sheets of paper with the last two letters of pages above it.

16 Steps taken to get a new shower? (4,5)
RAIN DANCE – Cryptic definition of a ceremony to summon wet weather.

17 Everyone has a dream from the beginning (3,5)
ALL ALONG – A three-letter word meaning everyone followed by the A from the clue and a four-letter word meaning dream or desire.

18 ‘Parky’ still something to expect at Christmas? (4,4)
COLD SNAP – A four-letter word meaning parky followed by a four-letter word for a photograph (still).

19 Garment that’s taken off to clean the aquarium? (4,3)
TANK TOP – A double definition.

22 Crack in first of eggs – ‘chick’ perhaps beginning to emerge (5)
ELITE – The first letter of eggs followed by the abbreviation for literature (chick perhaps) and the first letter (beginning) to emerge.

24 He leaves the street in Paris, indicating right (4)
TRUE – The THE from the clue after removing the HE from the clue followed by the French for a street.

28 comments on “Rookie Corner 404

  1. Hello again, TwmbarIwm. When I noticed that today’s Rookie Corner puzzle had been posted and remembering how much I had enjoyed your debut puzzle, ​I changed my mind about going to sleep and set about solving this first.

    I thought this was even better than your first offering and would not have been out of place as a back-pager in the Telegraph. It was absolutely fabulous and as good as it gets in Rookie Corner! I ticked almost every clue with my top three being 25a, 26a & 8d, but most of the others also came into the reckoning.

    Many, many thanks, TwmbarIwm. PLEASE keep them coming!

    1. Thank you very much indeed for the encouragement RD (and for staying up!) – I’m glad you enjoyed it. This one’s from quite a while ago and I have a lot more that I’ve set since then.

  2. We thought this was a very competently put together puzzle with lots of penny-drop moments. There don’t seem to be many places where corrective comments will be required but there could be an issue about use (or non-use) of capitals with 12d.
    Thoroughly enjoyed and well done so many thanks Twmbarlwm

    1. Thank you! I did double-check the non-capital at 12d and Oxford ( and Chambers are clear that lower-case is also acceptable in that context.

  3. Thanks Twmbarlwm. For me, I would have to say that this was more challenging than your first Rookie and something of a curate’s egg.

    I was about half way through before I noticed the double unches so they did not have a significant impact especially as they were all well ‘contained’ within the answers.

    I really liked 1a and 8d.

    Thanks again.

    1. Thank you, Senf.
      I was aware of the double unches, but this is one of the Telegraph back-page grids, and seemed fair to me. I made sure not to use obscure vocabulary where they were, anyway.

  4. Well done Twmbarlwm. This is a very competent and entertaining puzzle – I was going to say effort, but that would do it an injustice as it seems to me flawless. Wordplay is precise and surfaces are elegant, with lots of cute misdirection. My top clue was 12a, but I could pick several others. Really good job!

  5. Thanks Twmbarlwm, a great puzzle – one that seemed very tricky but with everything so clear/precise, like a good Toughie.
    Cryptic definitions are very hard to pull off, so I was particularly impressed with the 25a/8d/16d trio which were all excellent and probably my top 3. Of the others, 1a, 9a, 12a, 4d, 6d and 22d were favourites but as RD said pretty much all of them were contenders.
    I also very much liked 26a so not in any way a criticism but a technical observation/question – I don’t think it is quite &lit, nor semi-&lit (where entire clue provides definition and is partially wordplay) – here I see the first two words as definition and the whole is the wordplay. Not sure how that classifies, or if the “criminal once” is doing double-duty – or if it’s just an &lit and I’ve misread/misunderstood!
    Anyway, top-notch throughout, many thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic who I expect will not have too much to say (he did work overtime last week though!)

  6. A really good puzzle with plenty of sneaky misdirections – thanks Twmbarlwm.
    My ticks went to 1a, 26a, 8d, 16d and 18d.
    More like this please.

  7. I’d been looking forward to seeing your next offering and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. What I like most is the fresh feel that your clues have to them, very much appreciated.
    Going simply off the enumeration, I did try to take you upmarket with 20a and put you in a Delorean but the wordplay wouldn’t allow it!
    Top clues here were 12a plus 8&16d but I could have singled out several others

    Excellent work, Twmbarlwm, hope you’ve got plenty more puzzles to bring us.

  8. Welcome back Twmbarlwm.

    As others have said, this was another excellent puzzle which I thoroughly enjoyed solving. My top three, in clue order, were 12a, 12d and 16d.

    I didn’t like the grid. You may well be correct that it is a Telegraph grid, I haven’t checked, but that doesn’t make it a good one. There are plenty of Telegraph grids I wouldn’t ever contemplate using, and I believe the Puzzles Editor is planning to scrap many of the worst offenders. Even two double unches in a 15×15 grid is two too many in my view, so to include twelve in thirty clues I found rather disappointing.

    Overall, a very polished product with pleasing surfaces and concise clueing. Congratulations and many thanks.

  9. Very enjoyable puzzle, thank you, Twmbarlwm. I put ‘procured’ in for 4d so that held us up for a while in NW corner. Lots to enjoy and a couple we still need Prolixic’s help tomorrow to understand. We look forward to more from you.

  10. Absolutely top notch Twmbarlwm. Reckon it’s my pick of the 5 puzzles I’ve tacked today (2 Graun & 2 DT) so completely agree with RD’s comment that it wouldn’t be out of place as a DT back pager. Will need to read through it again to check the parsing of one or two but that’s par for the course for me.
    Thanks, well done & keep ‘em coming.

  11. It’s been such a long time since I had time to tackle a rookie and wasn’t disappointed.
    1a being my absolute favourite dessert which I had at the Ivy last time I was in the UK ( new year 2020) before all that COVID malarkey.
    Loved 20a among so many others.
    Thanks for the super fun.

  12. Have to join the plaudits for this, an outstanding puzzle full of penny drop moments.
    Too difficult to single out anything as it was all so good but I liked how you clued 12&27a plus 8,16,17&24d in particular.
    Thanks Twmbarlwm, great stuff.

  13. Thank you very much to all who commented and anyone else who tried the puzzle.

    Silvanus @8, thanks for the extra info on Telegraph grids in relation to double unches. I think I’ve used a similar grid for one other puzzle but the rest are Telegraph grids or Times grids with no doubles. I knew the no-no for double unches was having them at the beginning or end of clues, but I’ll bear in mind that they won’t be popular with some solvers regardless.
    In case it’s of interest, the grid I used was from puzzle 29,515 in November 2020, which was when I started my first draft before reviving it a few months ago.

    Fez @5, I agree 26a isn’t a definite &lit because not every ex-con will have hidden the evidence, which is why I added the question mark.
    I’m glad you liked 25a. I originally had ‘Journey to the bar and back’ or similar, but thought it might have been done before, and a blog search confirmed it had, more than once. I was relieved to finally think of the double meaning of tots.

  14. Cracking puzzle and a good *** difficulty for me. I suspect the idea in 16d is a chestnut, but it was my favourite once the P dropped.
    I look forward to your next.
    Thanks to Prolixic for explaining the couple I failed to parse.

    1. Thanks, Tater.
      I remember thinking that 16d did have the air of a chestnut, but I couldn’t find anything too similar at the time in a cautionary search of the crossword blogs, except something like ‘Steps taken in a drought’. But coincidentally ‘Steps leading to the shower?’ appeared in the Times 2 weeks ago!

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, it would seem that Twmbarlwm doesn’t have much to worry about going forward. He has, as you said, set the bar high for other Rookies following him this year.

    If you’re looking in, Twmbarlwm, may I ask whether your roots lie in South Wales?

    1. Hi Jane, yes! Born in Newport, not far from Twmbarlwm hill, but now living much further west in Ceredigion.

      1. Only just spotted your reply, thank you for confirming my thoughts. Don’t know what your weather’s been like but over in Anglesey we’ve had an assortment of snow and hail for most of the day and it’s definitely got to ‘brass monkeys’ level!

        1. Regular hail showers here too, but no snow at least.
          We were in Beaumaris in September – we stay in Anglesey pretty much every year, and hope to be there again in May. I’ve even undergone the Beaumaris rite of passage: queue 15 minutes for a Red Boat ice cream only to have it snatched away by a kamikaze gull. I thought it only happened in sitcoms!

          1. I wish you’d take some of those Herring Gulls home with you – I could write a book about the problems we have with them – starting with their habit of nesting on the roof of our houses in Beaumaris and defending said nest against all-comers – postmen, paperboys, visitors and home owners alike!
            Hope you make it over in May – good luck with the parking………

            1. Yeesh. Sounds horrible. And the parking, yes. £5 flat fee for two or three hours isn’t bad, but when you’re just stopping for a newspaper, not so good!
              Lovely town, though.

  16. Sorry I’m late.
    I was encouraged to try the puzzle (thanks, Jane) and was so pleased that I did.
    Congratulations, Twmbarlwm, on what must surely be your last puzzle in Rookie Corner. Promotion beckons!
    First class. Ticks all over the place.
    More please!

    1. Thanks, Shabbo. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m not sure about promotion yet as there’s a lot of good novice setters here, but I’m enjoying this opportunity to have people try a puzzle of mine and offer me advice at least.

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