Rookie Corner 409 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 409

A Puzzle by Simandl

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 Simandl.  I enjoyed this and there were a lot of good clues.  There were, however, a number of clues where the cryptic grammar jarred slightly and where some synonyms were stretched.  The commentometer reads as 6/28 or 21.4%.


1 Game ends in fighting for no reason (6)
GROUSE – The final letters (ends in) of fighting for no followed by a three-letter word for reason.  I agree with the comments that reason is a stretch.  Perhaps for no purpose would be better.

4 Fund Rab C. Nesbitt’s habit? (6)
INVEST – A phrase describing how Rab C Nesbitt is dressed.  I think that the wordplay does not naturally clue the “in” in the solution.  Also, I think that “fund” would require the solution + in.

9 See 27

10 Flatten with initial combo (4,6)
IRON MAIDEN – A four-letter word meaning to flatten using a household implement followed by a six-letter word meaning initial or first.

11 Old mother reported skin complaint (6)
ECZEMA – A homophone (reported) of EX (old) MA (mother)

12 Second constituent goes before members (8)
ELEMENTS – The abbreviation for second with a seven-letter word for constitute going before it.  I think that the wordplay here with constituents and members being too closely related in meaning.

13 Give a wide berth to gluttonous frog lover (4,5)
MISS PIGGY – A four-letter word meaning give a wide berth to followed by a five-letter word meaning gluttonous.

15 Fell over disheartened after a short time (4)
MOOR – The outer letters (disheartened) of over after a two-letter word for a short period of time.

16 A pinch of cumin transforms flavour (4)
MINT – The answer is hidden in (a pinch of) the fourth and fifth words of the clue.

17 Irresponsible friends return without care (4-5)
SLAP-HAPPY – A reversal (return) of a four-letter word for friends followed by a five-letter word meaning without a care.  Perhaps for the cryptic grammar to be smoother, returning would be better than return otherwise the clue resolves to A return plus B.

21 Old politician gets a grip on power with press beating (8)
WHIPPING – A four-letter word for an old politician whose party split in the 1850s around (gets a grip on) the abbreviation for power and a three-letter word meaning press.

22 Pictures hidden in pictures (6)
IMAGES – An eight-letter word meaning pictures or dreams without (hidden) the IN.  Perhaps hiding in would be better for the cryptic reading of the clue.

24 Forced parliamentarian to don liberal colours in front of Tory base (10)
COMPULSORY – A two-letter abbreviation for a parliamentarian has an anagram (liberal) of COLOURS around it followed by the last letter (base) of Tory.  I think that indicating the base of a word works only in a down clue.

25 Deputy manager takes a handful of drugs before start of playoff (4)
VEEPI think this is the wordplay but I there may be a better solution.  A handful of drugs gives you five es.  Write this as V (Roman numeral for five) and EE (Es) and followed with the first letter (start) of playoff.  The term is an Americanism so this should be indicated.

26 Lurid embellishment lacked a little nuance (6)
GARISH – A seven-letter word for an embellishment added to food without (lacked) the initial letter (little) of nuance.  Again, the cryptic grammar could be smoother here.  Lacks would be better that lacked and a little bit of would be better than a little to indicate the first letter.

27/9 Business Paper? (6,4)
TOILET ROLL – Cryptic definition of a necessity in the lavatory.


1 Questionable coaching loses Agassi’s title to Italian No. 1 (7)
GNOCCHI – An anagram (questionable) of COACHING after removing the first letter (title) of Agassi.  Perhaps “Italian’s No. 1” is a little too indirect for the first course of a main course.  Title as an initial word indicator does not work for me.

2 Fool lied, concealing trick on board (5)
OLLIE – The answer is hidden (concealing) the first two words of the clue.

3 Hunter is starting to trail rakish rogue (7)
SHIKARI – The first letter (starting) after (to trail) an anagram (rogue) of RAKISH.  Is starting does not indicate the first letter in the cryptic reading of the clue.  Perhaps Hunter is originally pursing rakish rogue.  Also, starting repeats the wordplay indicator start / starting in 25a.

5 Mass anaesthetic? (6)
NUMBER – Double definition of a large quantity and an anaesthetic.

6 Maze 2 confounded author (5,4)
EMILE ZOLA – An anagram (confounded) of MAZE and the answer to 2d.

7 Speaker eventually got more charming having got rid of initial stammer (7)
TWEETER – The final letter (eventually) of got followed by a seven-letter word meaning more charming without (having got rid of) the first letter (initial) of stammer.

8 Crowd supports outlandish French band (7,6)
FOREIGN LEGION – A six-letter word for a crowd after (supporting) a seven-letter word meaning outlandish.

14 Bird seed picked up by machine (9)
SANDPIPER – The three-letter word for a seed inside (picked up by) a six-letter word for a woodworker’s machine for smoothing wood.

16 Game Jonah played in car, perhaps (7)
MAHJONG – An anagram (played) of JONAH inside a make of sports car.

18 Having been apprised of historic secret, Oscar goes after government base (5,2)
PRIVY TO – A five-letter word being a historic word for a secret followed by the letter represented by word Oscar in the NATO phonetic alphabet, itself after the final letter (base) of government.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as base to indicate the final letter.

19 Put a stop to affair in the wake of publicity (7)
PREVENT – A five-letter word for an affair after (in the wake of) the abbreviation for publicity.

20 Victor sprinkles oils over a bunch of flowers (6)
VIOLAS – The letter represented by Victor in the NATO phonetic alphabet followed by an anagram (sprinkles) of OILS around the A from the clue.  Again for the cryptic grammar to work, sprinkles needs to to be sprinkled.

23 ABBA finally released vinyl, taking year out for a bit of heavy metal (5)
ANVIL – The last letter (finally) of ABBA followed by an anagram (released) of vinyl after removing (taking … out) the abbreviation for year.

28 comments on “Rookie Corner 409

  1. Sorry Simandl not for me – in particular, I was ‘defeated’ by Rab C Nesbitt and his habit – whoever he is and whatever it is.

    However, I did think 11a, 26a, 16d, and 23d were very good.

    Thanks anyway.

    1. Rab C Nesbit is to you as Squirrely Dan is to me I suppose. A good fun clue more suited to those on this side of the pond

  2. Thanks Simandl, quite a challenge – took a long time to get going, but eventually all fell into place … and it was worth the perseverance, very satisfying to complete. Some fabulous tricky clues, but also a few quibbles, e.g.:
    1a I’m not sure about the synonym for ‘reason’
    4a I think the wordplay only leads to the final 4 letters?
    25a I’m not sure of parsing, is ‘handful’ the first letter? (Also probably needs US indicator)
    I don’t get 22a, although answer is obvious enough.
    I really enjoyed lots of clues including 10a, 11a, 15a, 21a, 24a, 26a, 14d, 19d – and overall favourite 27/9a.
    Thanks again!

      1. Ah, many thanks Prolixic. Not sure the cryptic grammar quite works there? Looking forward to your analysis on a few of these clues, thanks in advance!

  3. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Simandl. It’s good to see an improvement over your previous offering with many good clues, although there are still some rough edges in evidence.

    I agree with Fez about 1a, 4a & 25a (except I would omit his “probably”!), and I think the wordplay and definition in 12a are rather “same-sidey”. I don’t understand the definition for 1d, and I imagine that 10a would be rather insulted to be called a combo.

    3d was a new word for me, but very fairly clued.

    My ticked clues were pretty similar to Fez’s: 11a, 13a, 15a, 22a, 24a, 26a, 5d, 14d & 19d.

    Many thanks, Simandl, and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I’m assuming as 1d is typically a starter, it’s the ‘no.1’, though I agree it’s a bit of a stretch – it was the ‘title’ and linking ‘to’ I wasn’t overly keen on in this clue.

      1. To be honest, this clue is just not quite right! I got a little confused while devising it resulting in a very tenuous definition.

  4. Trickier in some places than others and I do have a couple of ?s, although Prolixic has answered one of them above.

    Thanks Simandi – my favourite clue was 13a – and, in advance, to Prolixic

  5. Thanks Simandi, relatively new to cryptics so won’t leave any constructive advice in case of ignorance. I will say that I enjoyed many of the current favourites, particularly 11a, 27/9a, 22a, and 23d for its surface. It also took me an embarrassingly long time to parse 6d aha. Look forward to seeing more of you!!

  6. A real Toughie-level puzzle which it was a pleasure to work through – thanks Simandl.
    I thought that there were some very neat touches here – I particularly liked 13a, 17a and 8d but my favourite, because I do like that sort of humour, was 27/9a.

  7. Welcome back, Simandl.

    I felt that this puzzle was more like your first effort (as Manders) and so I enjoyed it considerably more than your most recent submission.

    Most of the surfaces stood up to scrutiny, but I did think some synonyms were stretched to fit the surface (e.g. “reason” in 1a), it’s something to watch out for. “Base” was repeated as a last letter indicator with “start”/”starting” both used as an initial letter device. I’m unconvinced about “released” as an anagram indicator, and I think “sprinkles” in 20d would need to be “sprinkled” for the cryptic grammar to work. I agree with earlier comments about 12a having too much etymological overlap (“samesideyness”, if you prefer!). All that said, I do like the style of clueing, the humour and the obvious potential on display, sometimes though it can take some time to reduce/eliminate all the little niggles, which I know can be frustrating. I had several ticks on my printed page, but I’ve surprised myself by giving 27a/9a a double tick, as it did make me smile the most.

    Many thanks, Simandl, I look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. I forgot to add that both Chambers and Collins believe the 16d game is hyphenated, i.e. (3-4) rather than (7).

          1. Indeed. Like you I tend to think hyphenated, but it seems to be one of those that has various “standard” options.

  8. A pleasant diversion, my only problem being with 22ac – eventually I came back online (I print out to solve on paper) and used ‘reveal’ for the second letter – which immediately told me I’d got 18dn wrong, after which both 18dn and 22ac were obvious. One or two queries about other clues, but I’ll leave detailed analysis to Prolixic.

  9. I’d be ashamed to admit the stage at which I resorted to using letter reveals having never really found our setter’s wavelength.
    Of the ones I solved unaided, I particularly liked 13,17&22a plus 19d but much of the puzzle left me totally befuddled.
    Sorry, Simandl, but pleased for your sake to see that others have enjoyed it.

  10. This was gnarly in places but I did enjoy the tussle despite some eyebrow exercise
    Thanks Simandl

  11. Hi all,
    Thank you for taking the time to look at this puzzle and leaving such encouraging and helpful comments.

    I am hugely indebted to Dr Diva who took a number of passes at this before I sent it in. He did far more than was necessary in helping me tidy up the rough edges and 14d was almost entirely his own work.

    After my last puzzle took a bit of a drubbing I spent a lot more time on this one and am relieved to have it finished!

    I don’t think I’ll be attempting anymore for a while as I have two under 5s who don’t allow me more than 5 minutes at a time to think about clues!

    Hopefully further into the future I can have another go and even get involved in the community here.
    Thanks again!

  12. TBF, Simandl, I only highlighted some problems to which you found your own solutions, with the notable exception of 1d for which I managed to give some duff advice due to a lack of concentration
    You achieved, I think, a very decent puzzle and came up with some great ideas. The comments here by and large reflect that and suggest that with practice, if you return to setting in the years to come, you will do really well. It was fun, so thanks.

  13. Found this very tough but also enjoyable. 1a&d only yielded once I revealed the checker& wasn’t convinced by either. Never heard of 3d & took an embarrassingly long time to see the wordplay. Last in was 25a – only knew it the context of a TV show I’ve never watched but guessed it related to over the pond (deputy manager a bit tenuous but ok)
    27/9a the hands down favourite for me – great clue & I went down the blind alley of thinking parliamentary procedure. Ticks also for 10,11,13,17,21&26a plus 8,14,16 (hyphen or not) &18d.
    Thanks Simandl

  14. Catching up on missed puzzles whilst on holiday. We enjoyed this puzzle, thank you Simandl. Favourites were 22a, 10a, 21a and 27/9. We had to Google 2d and needed Prolixic to parse 6d despite having the answer. We hope it won’t be too long before your next puzzle appears.

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