Rookie Corner 407 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 407

A Puzzle by Dr Diva

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Welcome back to Dr Diva.  As with the last puzzle, where there were issues, where problems arose, they were not (in the main) the nitpicking points that are highlighted to improve clues but more fundamental errors in the clues.  The commentometer reads as 4.5/30 or 15%.


1 New regulations banishing surreal art made of wood (8)
LIGNEOUS – An anagram (new) of REGULATIONS after removing (banishing) an anagram (surreal) of ART.

5 A degree with no English content results in a basic kind of life (6)
AMOEBA – The A from the clue and a three-letter abbreviation for a business degree includes (with…content) the letter representing nothing (no) and the abbreviation for English.

10 Both of us leave, having sacked both leaders of Unite (5)
WEAVE – A two-letter word meaning both of us followed by the final three letters (having sacked both letters) of leave.  Some editors will not permit wordplay of definition for the structure of the clue.

11 Oct update could lead to sudden change of Govt (4,5)
COUP D’ETAT – An anagram (could lead to) of OCT UPDATE.  As the convention is that the apostrophe in words is not enumerated, the enumeration in this clue is fine.

12 Worrying, not being in bed scene (9)
UPSETTING – A two-letter word meaning not being in bed followed by a seven-letter word meaning a scene.

13 Said to have rented for the minimum (5)
LEAST – A homophone (said) of LEASED (to have rented).

14 Deny row over implant (6)
DISOWN – A three-letter word meaning a row or lots of noise around (over in an across clue) a three letter word meaning implant.  As the three letter word meaning implant is more associated with scattering it might have better (and added to the surface reading) to have Deny row over broadcast.  Implant works but I think that it could be improved.

15 Crack actor resolved to take up position as bouncer (7)
DOORMAN – Split (crack) the actor into ACT OR and resolve into a two-letter word meaning act followed by the OR and a three-letter word meaning to take up position.

18 Plan to fire Nick and Mark (4,3)
TAKE AIM – A four-letter word meaning nick or steal and a three-letter word meaning mark.

20 Continue to care for former leader (6)
EXTEND – A four-letter word meaning to care for precedent by (leader) a two-letter word meaning former.

22 Next, your local outfitter, never sources fabric (5)
NYLON – The initial letters (sources) of the first five words of the clue.

24 Satisfaction that pioneer let outer wear get ruined (9)
REPLETION  – An anagram (get ruined) of PIONEER LT (outer letters) of LET.  Cryptically, this clue is flawed.  The structure “definition that wordplay” does not work.  Secondly, you would need “let’s out wear” to indicate the outside letter.  Thirdly, the structure definition that wordplay does not work.

25 Someone with experience of historic shock loses heart (3,6)
OLD STAGER – A three-letter word meaning historic followed by a seven-letter word meaning shock without the middle letter (loses heart).

26 Make a speech without incurring tax liability? (5)
ORATE – Split 1,4 the solution would imply that the charge to tax is at 0%,

27 Support not using name as intended (6)
FIANCE – A seven-letter word meaning support with a loan of money without one it its letters N (not using name).

28 Killer let slip teardrop (8)
PREDATOR – An anagram (let slip) of TEARDROP.  I agree that let slip does not imply a rearrangement of the letters.


1 Just left rubbish behind (6)
LAWFUL – The abbreviation for left followed by (behind) a five-letter word rubbish.  I think, in a down clue, behind does not work as the word is under the first letter, not behind it.

2 Case of ignoring stacker confused by lever (4,5)
GEAR STICK – An anagram (confused) of IG (case or outer letters) of ignoring) STACKER.  The structure here of wordplay by definition does not work.  The definition can be given by the wordplay but not the other way around.

3 Attractive colt destroyed during race meeting? Altogether awful! (15)
ELECTROMAGNETIC – Put an anagram (destroyed) of COLT in the RACE MEETING from the clue and make an anagram of the resulting letters (altogether awful).  Oh dear!  The least said about putting a random ordering of one word into the other words and making a further anagram of the total letter the better.

4 Take cap off joiner’s ointment (7)
UNCTION – An eight-letter word for a joiner without the initial letter (take cap off).

6 Neither side of the A46, for instance, is normal (6-2-3-4)
MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD – Cryptic definition.

7 Redundant artist props up small extension (5)
EXTRA – A two-letter abbreviation for an artist underneath (props up) the abbreviation (small) of extension.

8 Fail to get behind worker’s one type of weapon (8)
ANTITANK – A four-letter word meaning to fail after (behind) a three-letter word for a worker insect and the letter representing one.  Behind is used as a wordplay indicator in 1d.  Try to avoid repeating yourself.

9 Delight in routine about being pompous (6)
TURGID – A three-letter word meaning delight in and a three-letter word meaning routine all reversed (about).

16 Told soldiers to transfer liquid to brother (9)
MENDICANT – A homophone (told) of MEN (soldiers) DECANT (to transfer liquid).

17 Stalemate caused by 10 not being split (8)
STANDOFF – Double definition of a stalemate and the rugby position that the number 10 player occupies.  I am not convinced that the definition is caused by the wordplay.

19 Paddy follows Tim around topless to find fighter (6)
MIRAGE – A four-letter word for a paddy or temper tantrum after (follows) a reversal (around) of the Tim from the clue after removing the first letter (topless)

20 Ruler‘s more barbaric with each captive (7)
EMPEROR – An anagram (barbaric) of MORE include with…captive a three-letter word meaning each.

21 Attract listener after finale (6)
ENDEAR – A three-letter word for the organ of hearing after a three-letter word for finale.

23 This girl offers top musicality in audition (5)
LYDIA – A homophone (in audition) of LID (top) EAR (musicality).  I am another for whom the homophone does not work.  

51 comments on “Rookie Corner 407

  1. Well, I had to keep looking at the top RH corner of my printed sheet to make sure that I was still solving a Dr Diva puzzle. Very different to your previous puzzles and much more 6d. So, a thumbs up from me.

    Smiles for 5a and 13a.

    Assuming that I have got the correct (German) word for musicality in 23d, and I might not have, then I don’t think the homophone works.

    Finally, I would be more familiar with an enumeration of (5-3) for 17d.

    Thanks Dr Diva and, in advance, to Prolixic.

      1. Apparently I am not musical enough to understand what musicality means but with the assistance from Gazza, in reply to RD in comment 5 below, the 23d homophone still doesn’t work for me.

    1. Thanks Senf
      Re 17d: in my defence, at the time of compiling I was using Collins (though thankfully Santa has since furnished me with the BRB). The former has it as an 8, which means the clue IMO works. BRB would confirm your enumeration, which means the clue fails, though puzzlingly, and perhaps inconsistently, it lists the adjective (ie with ISH on the end) as an unhyphenated word. But generally there appears to be a lack of clarity so perhaps not the best word to have chosen, especially where the enumeration is the point of the clue!.

  2. Thanks Dr Diva, lots to enjoy. I liked the clever device in 15a. Agree with Senf re 17d enumeration which makes the last part of the clue redundant (also needed Google to confirm parsing as I’m not a fan, but perfectly fair!) Not sure the treatment of the anagram fodder in 3d is quite right. Favourites amongst plenty to choose from, 12a, and 27a. Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Fez. Glad you like 15a – it was actually written with you in mind, as I thought it might be up your street!

  3. I enjoyed this – thanks Dr Diva.
    I have my usual complaint about the 23d ‘homophone’.
    My medals are awarded to 14a, 1d and 9d.

    1. Thanks Gazza. Your approval means plenty. A few have commented on 23d which puzzles me as I thought it reasonably straightforward and fair. We’ll have to wait for Prolixic I guess!

  4. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Dr D. I found this very challenging indeed. It was very accomplished – your best puzzle yet in my opinion.

    Although most editors seem to accept it, I do think it is unfair to enumerate a foreign phrase without showing the apostrophe. So, for me, 11a should be (4,1’4).

    I’m not sure I am parsing 15a correctly but, if I am, it seems to involve someone who to me is an extremely obscure actor.

    With 23d, I am one step behind Gazza as I can’t begin to guess what might or might not be a homophone for the second part of the answer. :unsure:

    I don’t think that 19d quite works as “Tim around topless” logically leads to IT not MI. Shouldn’t it be “Paddy follows topless Tim around to find fighter”?

    All in all those are very minor points which didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. My podium choice comprises: 12a, 18a & 1d.

    Many thanks, Dr D, and well done. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I think 23d is meant to be a homophone of ‘lid ear’.
      For 15a you need to split actor into act and or.

      1. Thanks very much, Gazza.
        15a – very good! A lift and separate complete with indicator. Much better than my parsing of Crack = Do plus (Roscoe) Orman from Sesame Street!
        23d – 👎 from me.

  5. A very accomplished puzzle Dr Diva that could easily appear as a Friday back pager/Tuesday Toughie.
    I have no problems with the double homophone at 23d (in fact quite liked it) but my ticks go to 12,18,25&27a plus 1&3d.
    Many thanks and to Prolixic in advance.

  6. Great puzzle, much enjoyed. Thank you Dr Diva. Agree with Rabbit Dave about 11a and we struggled with understanding 23d and 15a. Favourites were 5a, 12a, 2d and 16d. We look forward to your next one. Thanks to Prolixic in advance.

    1. Thanks Hilton. Glad you enjoyed it!
      I get RD’s reservation on 11a (and did question it myself) and the jury is obviously out on 23d. But see Gazza’s comments above for 15a

  7. Have to say that I had quite a few ‘nearly but not quite’ comments on my sheet but perhaps I was being overly critical of a Rookie puzzle.
    18a & 1d were the best for me.
    Apologies for not being more positive on this occasion, Dr Diva.

    1. Sorry it was not more positive for you Jane. I’d be interested to know which were the main “nearly but not quite” offenders if you have time or inclination.

  8. Welcome back, Dr Diva.

    Like Jane, I had a few “nearly but not quite” comments on my printed sheet too, I found the puzzle quite tough and I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as previous DD productions. I didn’t like “both” being used twice in 10a, I’m unconvinced by “let slip” as an anagram indicator and “behind” was used twice as a positional indicator. To me “without incurring tax liability” suggests zero rated rather than “zero rate” and, whilst certainly not clunky, certain of the surfaces didn’t seem very natural. My favourite clue was 9d.

    Many thanks, Dr Diva.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Silvanus, though sorry it didn’t scale the heights for you.. Would be interested to know your “note quite” offenders too if you have time.
      Agree re 10a – stupid really as it would have been easy to avoid and I added behind to 1d (originally the clue was JUST LEFT RUBBISH) as an afterthought to improve the surface without checking other clues. (Where’s a good editor when you need one?!!). Zero-rate is listed as a verb, though the past participle is more commonly used.

  9. I got the right half in quite quickly this morning, and then struggled a bit with the left side. A couple of strategic letter reveals gave me enough to compete it after lunch. I had no problem with the homophone at 23d
    Thank you Dr Diva

  10. Got to say I found this extremely tough going though that’s not a criticism of the crossword rather my solving skills. Very pleased to complete with just 1 letter reveal (3d/14a checker) but there are a couple (14&15a) I can’t really parse. I too was struck by the enumeration at 17d & wasn’t a huge fan of the 23d homophone. Lots to like however – the ticks for me are 5,11,13,25&28a plus 1,8&20d.
    The surface read 11a was my favourite
    Thanks DD

    1. Well, thanks for persevering Huntsman. I had hoped this would be rather more accessible to all, so I have a way to go! But happy to see all the positives for you.
      For 15a see Gazza’s comments above. 14a is probably easier than you think, but I’ll leave Prolixic to explain!

  11. Good puzzle with quite a few clever ideas, all of which I enjoyed even though I have half a dozen bung-ins awaiting tomorrow’s expert explanations.
    Certainly looking forward to your next.

  12. Very enjoyable Dr, Diva; many thanks for your efforts. Struggled with one or two but overall very entertaining. Favourite clue was the very clever 16D.

    1. Thanks DeeBee. I’m glad you enjoyed it and liked 16D. That was one of my own favourites (though I know some aren’t homophone fans)!

  13. Well done Dr Diva. An fun accessible crossword. I struggled with the parsing of 15 and 23 but the previous comments have enlightened me. Keep up the good work.

  14. Thank you very much Prolixic. Plenty of food for thought. I do struggle with getting link words right at times, so I’ll do my best to iron out those creases next time.

  15. Do homophones have to ‘work’ I prefer an amount of licence so we solvers have to do some work. It can lead to to super penny drop moments and a lot of laughs. 23 down was a case in point for me

    1. I agree, homophones (and Spoonerisms) are often best when they have the air of a particularly groan-worthy joke – 23d worked for me, as I found myself saying it like an angry EastEnder

      1. That is to say: “I ain’t ‘avin’ no trubble in the Vic – put a LID on it or y’ll be aht on yer EE-YAH!’

    2. I agree too MP
      I remember laughing out loud with one of PetitJean’s Toughie clues along the lines of Ordering fish at the Ritz? That’s boring (5)

  16. TBH it is still puzzling for me Miffypops. I am not really sure what “work” means in this instance and would be grateful if anyone can explain their misgivings. Presumably top = LYD is OK. If opinion is saying IA is not the same sound as EAR, all I can say is I’ve seen a lot worse and I am not sure where it takes you other than LYDIA. Perhaps the suggestion is that EAR and musicality are not the same – I am really not sure, but I would have thought people would have indicated that. I appreciate that some people aren’t really fans of homophones but personally I love them and thought 23d was every bit as fair as, say. 16d, which attracted no criticism.

    1. The problem for me (and about half the native English speakers around the world) relates to the use of the rhotic R. For me the R in ear is pronounced so it doesn’t sound anything like IA.
      More information about the rhotic R, including where in the UK and the world it is used, can be found here.
      In the past I’ve mentioned that those who don’t pronounce the rhotic R can’t differentiate between a pawn shop and a porn shop.

      1. Thanks Gazza. I will read the link. The pawn/porn example made me laugh – are we talking about the rhotic v erotic R here?

      2. G. Maybe about half of the 1.5 billion or so English speakers around the world do use the rhotic R (though I’d be very surprised if the proportion is actually that high). In the UK (pop. around 67 million) most of the various accents/dialects are predominatly non-rhotic today, so maybe these stastistics should take precedence over the global ones. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who would pronounce porn and pawn differently. Just adding a little balance to the mix…..

    2. Dr D. I was flummoxed by 23d due to the combination of the pronunciation needed (Lydia is most definitely a three-syllable word for me) and the very stretched synonym (over-stretched in my opinion). In the context of a homophone only, I think Lid-Ear would be acceptable provided there is an indication that it won’t apply to everyone: e.g. in some auditions.

        1. Don’t worryabout the detractors – they haven’t yet learned how to mispronounce English words correctly!

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which has no doubt given Dr Diva plenty to think about as he plans his next submission to the Corner.

  18. For what it’s worth, my niece is called Lydia and the homophone sounds fine to me, accepting RP as a general rule for homophones.
    The Times had a clue a few days ago: Eggs from hen – six delivered for picking up? (3). To me that’s the same issue, and if it’s okay for The Times it’s okay for a Rookie!
    Despite the few minor faults, I enjoyed the puzzle overall, so cheers to the Doc.

    1. Thanks Twmbarlwm. Much appreciated. I was thinking about accommodating the gripes on this one, especially RD’s dissatisfaction with the synonym for EAR and Gazza’s dislike of Fez’s ‘stenders-like EEEEYAHHH and thought THIS GIRL’S LONDON AUDITION SUGGESTS TOP MUSICAL APPRECIATION might tick the relevant boxes. But, in any case, all is not lost. Thanks to Gazza I was last night able to drop “rhotic Rs” into the conversation, much to the amusement of my son’s girlfriend who nearly choked on her food, thinking I’d said “erotic arse”.

    2. With apologies for dragging this on, Twmbarlwn, I’m not sure that your Times example is wholly relevant. Over and ova are both two syllables (and make a perfect homophone for me, although they won’t for everyone) whereas Lydia for me is three syllables and Lid-Ear two. But, as Dr D mentions, I don’t think “ear” = “musicality”.

      Dr D’s mention of “erotic arse” raised a smile. :-)

      1. Hi RD. My post was about the issue of the ‘r’ sound, which presumably a minority would use in The Times solution the same as they would for ‘ear’. Not sure about the syllable issue. Lid-ear to me wouldn’t be two, but that doesn’t make me right, obviously. It just means the homophone was okay for me.
        Pronunciation guide for Lydia and ear at Oxford online ( is lɪdɪə and ɪə – which seems to support Dr Diva’s homophone to me.
        I agree ‘musicality’ for ear in the clue was not perfect and another synonym would have been better. Unfortunate that ear (listener) was already in the preceding clue.

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