Rookie Corner 405 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner 405

A Puzzle 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.

Serious email problems are currently preventing me from sending out courtesy emails to setters of NTSPP and Rookie puzzles.  BD

Welcome back to 8Ball with a classically themed crossword.  8 musical instruments were hidden in the solutions that may be heard in a performance by 27/15.  There are a few technical errors in the clues but the majority were fine and attention had been paid to the cryptic grammar as well as the surface readings.  The commentometer reads as 4.5/29 or 15.5%


1 Continuously complain about old hunting weapon (7)
HARPOON – A purse 4,2 around the abbreviation for old.

5 Eastern European regularly early for work with no reward (7)
SLAVERY – A four-letter word for a person of Eastern European origin followed by the even letters (regularly) in early.

10 Figure integral out (8)
TRIANGLE – An anagram (out) of INTEGRAL.

11 Difficult time getting aroused (6)
THORNY – The abbreviation for time followed y (getting) a five-letter word meaning aroused.

12 Red jumper wrapped by husband (6)
MAROON – A three-letter diminutive word for a kangaroo (jumper) has a three-letter word for a a husband around it (wrapped by).

13 Picnic in the park with girlfriend? Boyfriend ultimately old fashioned (8)
OUTDATED – A phrase 3,4 that might describe a picnic in a park with a girlfriend followed by the last letter (ultimately) of boyfriend.  Whilst “Picnic in the park” and “Picnic” are both capable of defining “out date” (and therefore “in the park” is strictly not required), where it is still technically correct and the wording improves the surface reading, I think that this is fine.

14 Drink after student drivers get into luxury car (10)
LIMONCELLO – A four-letter word meaning after and the abbreviation for a learner twice (student drivers) inside (get into) a four-letter word for a luxury car.  I don’t have an issue with students drivers.

16 Crave sex before church (4)
ITCH – A two-letter word for sex before the abbreviation for church.

18 Current chart topper Genesis found here in front of listeners (4)
OTIC – The abbreviation for current and the first letter (topper) of chart with the abbreviation for Old Testament (Genesis found here) before them (in front).

19 Had I knew criminal would at last go after Robin? (10)
HOODWINKED – An anagram (criminal) of I KNEW and the final letter (at last) of would after a four-letter word describing Robin of Sherwood Forest fame.  The phrase “Had I knew” is not grammatically correct.  The clue must read grammatically both in its surface reading and its grammar.

22 During time in power it’s put off temporarily (8)
INTERMIT – A two-letter word meaning during and a four-letter word meaning time in power followed by the IT from the clue.

24 Subtle change when pain is removed (6)
NUANCE – An eight-letter word for a pain without (removed) the IS.  I am not keen on when as a link word.  Pain is suppressed leading to subtle change would be better.

26 Going back to resurface road perhaps before crack initially becomes hole (6)
CRATER – A five-letter word meaning to resurface a road and the initial letter of crack all reversed (going back).

27/15 Crazy hot psychos to marry Newcastle’s and Everton’s fringe players (8,9)
SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – An anagram (crazy) of HOT PSYCHOS MARRY NE (the N and E being the first letters (fringes) of Newcastle and Everton).  The “to” in the clue breaks the cryptic grammar.  Cryptically you can mix A with B but mixing A to B does not work.

28 Bloody Mary mixed for Russian soldiers (3,4)
RED ARMY – A three-letter word meaning bloody followed by an anagram (mixed) of MARY.

29 Candy unwrapped quickly etc. (3,2,2)
AND SO ON – The inner letters (unwrapped) of candy followed by a four-letter word meaning quickly.  Having both wrapped and unwrapped as wordplay indicators is not ideal.


2 The Little Mermaid heard initially getting performance off the ground? (9)
AERIALIST – A homophone of the name given by Disney to the Little Mermaid (Arial) follows by the abbreviation for first (initially).  The definition does not match the solution.

3 Scottish man put in work – retired with grand? (5)
PIANO – A three-letter word Scottish mans’ name inside (put in) a reversal (retired) of the abbreviation for a work.

4 Church musician losing stone approximately without use of chemicals (7)
ORGANIC – An eight-letter word for a church musician with the abbreviation for stone followed by the abbreviation for circa (approximately).

6 Don’t react to fool breaking childrens toy (3,2,2)
LET IT GO – A three-letter word for a fool inside a four-letter name of a children’s building toy.

7 Infringement of rules when goalkeeper backtracks after vital movement to catch ball (9)
VIOLATION – A reversal of No 1 (the number worn by the goalkeeper) reversed after an anagram (movement) of VITA around (to catch) the letter that is ball shaped.  I think that the same point as that made in 13a applies.  Whilst the “in rules” is not strictly required, it adds to the surface reading.  The same point about “when” applies.  Here, :with goalkeeper backtracking…” would work better.

8 Get ready for a spin with section of rollercoaster in Seaworld (5)
RINSE – The answer is hidden (section of) in the final three words of the clue.

9 Writing on type of bacteria I brought up creates backlash (6)
RECOIL – The single letter representing writing on a word 1-4 for a type of bacteria with the I moved up one place.

15 See 27 Across

17 Unfinished street party gradually getting louder (9)
CRESCENDO – An eight-letter word for a street without the final letter (unfinished) followed by a two-letter word for a party.

19 Same old bad smell – Grandad’s rear? Mostly rear (7)
HUMDRUM – A three-letter word for a bad smell followed by the final letter (rear) of grandad and a four-letter word for the rear without the final letter (mostly).

20 No exercise after clearing out buffet is stupid (6)
OBTUSE – The letter representing no and a three-letter meaning exercise after the outer letters (clearing out) of buffet.  I don’t think that the clue quite works.  You can have “no exercise” to indicate “O Use” but the wordplay required you to take No and put the exercise after the outer letters of buffet.

21 Point Grandmother into pub to give male support (7)
WINGMAN – The abbreviation for West (point) with the abbreviation for grand and a two-letter word for a mother inside a three-letter word for a pub.  Some editors will not accept clues where you need to split a word such as grandmother to obtain the solution.

23 Take care of shark? (5)
NURSE – Double definition.

25 Most hasty to take clothes off for series of tests? (5)
ASHES – A seven-letter word meaning most hasty without the first and last letters (to take clothes off).

On a personal note as a blogger, comments on the clues are great however, as soon as one or more commentators provide details analysis on every clue where they have a comment, it greatly increases the time to prepare the blog as I am then reviewing the crossword and the comments (as they may or may not be valid ones) and repeating what has already been said.

56 comments on “Rookie Corner 405

  1. Really enjoyed that. We tried to pick out a clue for special mention but too many good ones to choose from.
    Thanks and well done 8Ball.

  2. Welcome back 8Ball. I enjoyed this on the whole but I thought it was a “nearly there” puzzle with quite a few small details needing attention. It’s a longish list but the points are generally minor.

    11a – The clue works perfectly but I am not sure it would pass muster with the Telegraph editor.
    13a – I think “picnic” is unnecessary.
    14a – “Student drivers” is an American expression.
    19a – The surface grammar (“Had I knew …”) jars.
    24a – I am not sure about the cryptic grammar: definition when wordplay. I’ll be interested to learn Prolixic’s opinion on this.
    27/15 – I think “to” is surplus to requirements in the anagram fodder and, in any event, the clue would read perfectly without it.
    2d – The answer is the performer not the performance and, in any event, it is an American word (Collins agrees, but to be fair Chambers doesn’t).
    7d – “Of rules” is unnecessary.
    21d – The abbreviation GMA is in neither Chambers nor Collins. Is it perhaps “text speak”?
    25d – This is something I am absolutely desperate to forget about. :wink:

    I spotted one answer which defines a nicely unobtrusive ghost theme and found 8 items.

    I had a lot of ticked clues, and my favourite was 16a which made me laugh.

    Well done 8Ball, and thank you. Please pay heed to Prolixic’s wise words and keep on polishing those clues.

    1. I took the grandmother as a lift & separate. Perhaps unfortunate timing for 25d (but I guess it could have been worse – and very nearly was!)

    2. RD. That’s good analysis, but I was just wondering about 2d. I took the definition to be the last 5 words (I’m guessing others assume the last 4 words). I’d summarise it as (The answer): getting performance [or show] off the ground. Perhaps there should have been “is” between wordplay and (5-word) definition? Maybe the “getting” is doing double duty as a link between wordplay and definition and also actually part of the definition?

  3. I found this quite tricky in places, not helped by such things as the problem with 2d that RD mentions above.

    Thanks 8ball and in advance to Prolixic, although I have a feeling that today may be one of those days when some of the commenters do his job for him before he ever puts finger to keyboard!

  4. Thanks 8ball, and in advance to Prolixic. Lots of good stuff and an enjoyable solve. I’d second RD’s “nearly there” comment – he’s outlined most of the quibbles but I’d just add I don’t think both the teams are necessary in the long anagram. The first five across clues got things off to a great start, and I’ve put 11a as my fave – maybe not for the Telegraph but one that eg Paul in the Guardian would be proud of. Thanks again!

  5. I enjoyed this a lot – thanks 8ball.
    As RD says most of the criticisms are pretty minor (with the possible exception of 2d) and these are outweighed by the presence of some cracking clues.
    I ticked 1a, 11a, 18a, 6d and 25d.
    More like this please.

  6. Hi 8Ball
    I am in agreement with the above.
    Overall I enjoyed the puzzle and felt that, because the areas that were good were so very good, the few occasions where you didn’t meet the same high standard stood out like a sore thumb.

    Like Fez I found the first 5 across clues elegant and witty so 13a suddenly came as a surprise, felt wordy and failed to grab me.
    19a HAD I KNEW just isn’t right grammatically.
    26a – BEFORE should be AFTER I think
    20d GMA – I can’t find any reference even as a text abbreviation

    The fact that 16a, 6d and 19d were my favourites merely testifies to my schoolboy humour. Last week’s RC by Twmbarlwm got 2022 off to a fantastic start, but this puzzle ran it close and was, for the most part, every bit as good. So well done.

    1. I think ‘before’ is ok as in ‘what is this I see before me’ meaning ‘in front of’
      This is a conversation I have pondered before – in an across clue does ‘following’ mean coming after or going behind?
      DOG – is OG following (coming after) D or is D following OG (ie behind it reading left to right)?

      1. Isn’t 26a simpler than that?

        To resurface road (RETAR) before crack initially (C) = RETARC, going back = CRATER

        1. The clue suggests to me <RETAR C giving RATERC
          To say that 'reversed, the last letter comes first' seems a bit odd
          I think you have to be very specific when using before/after/following/on etc

      2. Even so, Roy, I still don’t quite get it. Before in that sense gives A in front of B whereas the wordplay requires A after B to get the definition.

        1. Exactly, it can kind of work both ways unless specified and I’m not convinced the instructions are quite right
          Probably just me, off in the wibbly-wobbly world of Roy :smile:

    2. DD, 2d. I must have a immovable brain freeze with this one – however I read/parse the clue, I can’t get the answer to be anything but a person or “performer”. As in a list of show-business roles – Producer: getting the show (or performance) on the road. What am I missing?

      1. You’re not missing anything Jose but I think I misunderstood how 8-ball might want us to parse this – ie homophone of the LM + performance (1ST) = off the ground. But then what is initially doing there and is OFF THE GROUND an adequate definition? Whichever way I look at it, I struggle to make it work. I defer to Prolixic!

          1. Yes, but of course, RD, that then leaves the problem you initially (no pun intended) indicated. Or if, like Jose, you take the last 5 words as the definition, you have a verbal construction indicated. So I struggle every which way.

        1. I parsed it thus: A homophone (heard) of LM (Ariel/AERIAL) plus initially (IST) = [the one] getting performance off the ground. But to get there, you have to make assumptions and read it as (word-play):getting performance off the ground. So, perhaps there is a slight flaw in the construction of the clue. But, having said that, I can’t in any way parse the clue to give anything other than a performer (not a performance).

          1. I think you’re right Jose and that was 8-ball’s intention but, with the ONE missing, you are left with a verbal construction (getting performance off the ground) as the definition, which is why I still struggle with it. For me the assumption you have to make is not obvious.
            But could you not also read GETTING in the sense of “leads you to” the definition (ie performance off the ground) so you then have performance defining performer?
            In the first case I can’t see how it is corrected without making the surface unworkable. In the second case, subbing performer for performance would correct it albeit with a none-too-great surface? No?

            1. Yes, if you take “getting” as a link between word-play and a 4-word definition it would lead to a performance-related answer. But I reckon the setter intended a 5-word definition leading to a performer in the answer, but not quite working properly. Have we sorted it now?

  7. An enjoyable puzzle to solve despite one or two niggles
    Many thanks for the entertainment 8Ball and well done

  8. Welcome back, 8ball.

    I think RD’s “nearly there (but not quite)” sums up my feelings too. The faulty English grammar in 19a and the missing apostrophe from “childrens” (sic) in 6d were disappointing and I did think that including “wrapped” and “unwrapped” in the same puzzle wasn’t ideal either. That said, the surfaces weren’t too bad on the whole (9d being a possible exception) and there were several clues I really liked, 4d, 17d and 25d made my podium.

    Many thanks, 8ball.

  9. Looks as though I’m going to be out on a limb here but I honestly thought our setter had taken a step backwards with this one. Too many convoluted clues and lack of attention to surfaces was my verdict.
    Apologies, 8ball, I was expecting greater things from you this time.

  10. We found this tricky in places and revealed a couple of letters to complete the puzzle. Favourites were 1a, 11a, 16a, 29a and 17d. Many thanks, 8ball, and we look forward to more.

  11. My main problem with 2d is that the original Little Mermaid, – i.e. in Andersen’s story – didn’t have a name. It’s only if you know the Disney animated movie – which depressingly is probably the way most people ‘meet’ her these days – that you would know the name. I had to go and check it to find out.

          1. I had encountered the name from reading stories to grandchildren but as they’ve grown out of that stage I’d forgotten it.

  12. I enjoyed this 8Ball & every bit as much as your previous one. I did notice some of the points highlighted by RD but as he says they’re minor & things to work on. I’d say the less complicated clues worked best & agree that the first 5 across are all good – loved 11a, a Graun clue if ever there was one. A shame that the grammar wasn’t right for 19a because I liked the clue. Would the insertion of when at the start of the wordplay make it better ?
    Can’t parse 14a so will need to wait for Prolixic – if he ever takes an extended holiday RD is the man for the job….
    Many thanks 8Ball – look forward to your next one

  13. 8Ball, I feel I owe you an apology. In response to my and others’ detailed comments, I see that Prolixic has limited himself today to simply providing solutions, which is a great pity as his reviews are by far and away the best source of learning for Rookies and you have therefore missed out on his pearls of wisdom on this occasion.

    I must have misunderstood as, when this was previously brought up, I thought that the policy was to continue with both Prolixic’s full reviews and detailed comments from other bloggers as being the best compromise for new setters. I will rein in my detailed comments on Rookie puzzles in future.

    Sorry both to 8Ball and to Prolixic. Mea culpa.

    1. Is this not just a one-off perhaps caused by the technical problems alluded to, RD?
      I certainly hope so, although, as you say, unfortunate for 8ball on this occasion as Prolixic such a good mentor. But I personally also find your comments very helpful and constructive.

    2. Personally, I have really enjoyed the detailed comments from all of the community, and the discussion/debate generated – but it is Prolixic’s wisdom that is ‘definitive’ and hugely appreciated. Prolixic concentrates on ‘technical’ aspects, rarely commenting on surface readings and how ‘fun’ a puzzle might be, so the community feedback on these aspects is particularly important – but there is inevitably some crossover as, at least for a crossword nerd like me, the ‘technical’ bits are also very much part of the whole experience. As a Rookie I’ve been eager to get as much feedback as possible – where there have been technical comments I’ve found it really useful and interesting to debate/explain these – but all in anticipation of Prolixic’s review!

  14. Thank you for confirming my answers, Prolixic, but I was looking forward to your detailed review. The preamble on the home page regarding Rookie Puzzles certainly seems to encourage solvers to leave detailed comments on clues that they feel are flawed – perhaps we need BD to look into it and advise us accordingly?

    1. I hadn’t noticed the preamble before but it does seem to encourage detailed comments

      As another reviewer of ‘blog only puzzles’ , I can quite see where Prolixic is coming from, as it is very disheartening to see that, as the day progresses, the things both good and bad about the crossword have already been covered by others in some detail, and this can be quite disheartening to the blogger who was hoping to explain these things themselves, probably even more so for Prolixic as he has so many things to fit into his day.

      The opportunities provided by Rookie Corner for aspiring setters to have their puzzles published are a great thing and I hope a way will be found for Prolixic’s words of wisdom to continue with perhaps just a modicum of ‘assistance’ from the commentariat

      1. Thank you, CS, but I do think we need BD to define exactly what constitutes a ‘modicum of assistance’ otherwise this situation is going to keep arising, upset Prolixic and make solvers wary of leaving any comments at all.

        1. This has happened before and I completely understand CS/Prolixic
          Last time it happened I decided to give feedback on experience of the solve only and not stray into the technical side of things
          I do like a debate on the general vagaries of cryptics but it is hard to do so without going into detail
          It would not be so interesting if we all just post ‘Enjoyable but one or two quibbles… well done and thanks’ every week

  15. Thanks all for the comments and I like the detail so not a problem Dave and others. Can always rely on here to give good, detailed feedback and highlight where I need to improve.

    Apologies for 2d. I agree its poor. Was trying to cryptically refer to this persons work being in the air but it just didn’t work. The grammar for 19a I also agree with

    There was a hidden theme as well I haven’t seen spotted in the comments but there were a number of instruments hidden to tie into the symphony orchestra theme.

    1. I did mention the theme in my comment at 2 above, and was rather surprised no-one else seemed to notice it especially as I rarely spot them.

    2. I could/should have picked up on it when I sorted out the 14a drink which had struck me as an odd choice. Note to self – pay more attention to the possibility of a theme!
      Sorry to be so hard on you, 8ball, but I wouldn’t be doing you any favours by simply being ‘nice’.
      Maybe forget about theming the next one and see what results?

      1. You weren’t hard on me. I get nothing from no criticism :)

        Good point re themes. I use them because I think it’s a nice bonus for solvers and gives me inspiration for a starting point. Does mean you get some words that are tricky to clue.

  16. A real shame not to have the usual insightful and 100% correct analysis, but thank you for your time all the same Prolixic

  17. Many thanks for the review Prolixic – as always much appreciated!
    8ball – just a quick late thought, in 2d perhaps you could have used “act” as this can refer to both performer and performance.

  18. Really pleased that 8Ball has now got his detailed review but can someone please explain to me what a purse has got to do with 1a?

  19. Bit late to the comments, but I parsed the convoluted anagram at 27/15 with ‘hot’ being just H – which would allow the ‘to’ as part of the fodder. But 8Ball hasn’t mentioned it so maybe not. And as Rabbit Dave has said, the surface didn’t really need the ‘to’ anyway.
    Plenty of good clues and entertaining surfaces – I think my favourite was 25d.

Comments are closed.