Rookie Corner 414 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 414

A Puzzle by widdersbel

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Another new setter this week. 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.

One of the signs for me of a good quality crossword is how easy it is to explain how the clues work (it does not need to be an easy crossword, but even complex clues should be explainable without writing an essay).  This review was a pleasure to write.  There were a small number of minor points, but they are there to put icing on the cake.  I think Silvanus is right that there are a lot of in / into / inside constructions and this is a point to watch to include more variety.  The commentometer reads as 2.5/27 or 9.2%.


1 Gas leak suffocating US city leads to sacking for Biden (6)
BURLAP – A four-letter word for a belch (gas leak) around (suffocating) the abbreviation for Los Angeles (US City).

5 Out of his cage, performing seal hides in tall grass (8)
RELEASED – An anagram (performing) of SEAL in (hides in) a four-letter word for tall grass.

9 “La Maison” could become major Paris attraction (4,4)
MONA LISA – An anagram (could become) of LA MAISON.

10 Scottish fellow sips hot drink (6)
SHANDY – A short Scottish form of the name Alexander includes (sips) the abbreviation for hot.

11 Accessory for evening dress? (7,5)
IRONING BOARD – What you might need to remove the creases (evening) from a dress or other item of clothing.

13 Disagreeing with quote from Tarantino (4)
ANTI – The answer is hidden in (quote from) the last word of the clue.

14 Sheer effort by US hospital department to put pile back inside (8)
GOSSAMER – A two-letter word for an effort or shot at something and the abbreviation for Emergency Room includes a reversal (back inside) a four-letter word for a heap or pile.

17 Curse on organisation is a major setback (4,4)
BODY BLOW – A four-letter word for a mild curse after (on) a four-letter word for an organisation.

18 Hilary could be appearing regularly in The Proms (4)
TERM – The odd letters (appearing regularly) in the final two words of the clue.

20 Arouse Diane with fur underwear that’s very revealing (8,4)
FREUDIAN SLIP – An anagram (arouse) of DIANE FUR followed by a four-letter word for an item of underwear.

23 Peanuts possibly wanting a round container (6)
CARTON – The art form of which Peanuts is an example without one of the letters O (wanting a round).

24 Fresh fish packed in new tin at sea (8)
INSOLENT – A four-letter word for a type of fish inside (packed in) an anagram (at sea) of N (new) TIN.

25 Unique, like the House of Lords in recess? (8)
PEERLESS – A description of the House of Lords without the presence of the the lords and ladies of the house.

26 Such people follow band (not Wings) for something to sing along with (6)
ANTHEM – A four-letter word to describe other people after follow the inner letters (not wings) of band.  A minor point but the cryptic reading of the clue required follows or following otherwise the instructions read as A follow B.


2 Above being out of bed and working (4)
UPON – A two-letter word meaning out of bed followed by a two-letter word meaning working.

3 Gift bears £1 charge (9)
LIABILITY – A seven-letter word for a gift or talent has an LI (£1) above it (bears).

4 Stir pinch of salt into protein (6)
PRISON – The initial letter (pinch) of salt inside a five-letter word for a type of protein.

5 Organise written works to represent the age of the flapper (7,8)

6 Final moment of rampant stags, drowned in drink (4,4)
LAST GASP – An anagram (rampant) of STAGS inside (drowned in) a three-letter word meaning to drink.

7 Retiring news boss leaves with ice cream – a battle to remember? (5)
ALAMO – a phrase (1,2,4) describing serving a dessert with ice cream in the US and Canada without (leaves) a reversal (retiring) the abbreviation for editor (news boss).  My feeling here is that an indication of the American usage of a word that is used in other contexts would be fairer.  Also, other clues such as 1a and 14a have observed the American usage.

8 Wine, product of the Spanish race, inspiring sin (10)
ELDERBERRY – The Spanish for the followed by a five-letter word for the name of a horse race that includes (inspiring) a three-letter word meaning to sin.  I don’t think that wine on its own is a sufficient definition.  Type of wine would be better.

12 Provocative minx uncovered solver’s tackle (2-4-4)
IN-YOUR-FACE – The inner letters (uncovered) of minx followed by a four-letter word meaning the solvers and a four-letter word meaning to tackle or get to grips with.

15 Gold crown – auction item I bagged for George? (9)
AUTOPILOT – The chemical symbol for gold followed by a three-letter word for the crown or peak of something and a three-letter word for an auction item that includes (bagged) the I from the clue.

16 Brief fling not the first to result in marriage (8)
ALLIANCE – Remove the first letter (not the first) from a nine-letter word for a brief fling.

19 State in the style of Jamaican music (6)
ALASKA – Split 1,2,3 this could mean in the style of a type of Jamaican music.

21 Club with no parking, say (5)
UTTER – Remove the P (no parking) from a type of golf club.

22 Artist replaces top of leg with new joint (4)
KNEE – Replace the L (top of leg) with an N (new) in the name of a Swiss-German artist.  Watch out for repeating wordplay indicators (N for new was used in 24a).

32 comments on “Rookie Corner 414

  1. We were slow to get started in the NW so moved on and came back to finish the solve in that corner.
    Lots of very good clues and the setter has obviously given a lot of attention to getting good surface readings.
    A thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable solve for us with 20a getting our top award.
    Thanks Widdersbel.

  2. Thanks widdersbel – a nice challenge to round off my Sunday evening of solving.

    I can only echo the 2Kiwis although my solving was more of a ‘shotgun’ approach and I have selected 1a, 14a, and 8d – but, I think that is a good sign if different solvers pick different favourites.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner widdersbel, although I’d say this was definitely not your first crossword. I’ve only got one clue where I don’t understand the wordplay

    Thanks to you and, in advance, to Prolixic

    1. Thanks, crypticsue, I’ll take that as a compliment! Full disclosure: I first dabbled briefly with setting way back in 2008 but didn’t stick at it. After 12+ years off, I’ve been getting into it properly since September last year, having discovered Raider’s excellent site – and I probably would have submitted to Rookie Corner sooner if I’d worked out how to go about it (I don’t have CC). So not a total beginner but still enough of a novice that all feedback is invaluable – and I very much look forward to reading Prolixic’s review (for which, thanks in advance). Also intrigued to know which was the clue you had problems with…

  4. An excellent puzzle with very smooth surfaces throughout – many thanks to widdersbel (If this is your first cryptic crossword I’ll eat my hat).
    I didn’t know the “with ice cream” of 7d which the BRB says is North American.
    I could have picked many clues to highlight but I’ll go for 1a, 11a and 12d.
    More like this please.

      1. I’ll accept the rap on the knuckles for the unindicated americanism. I made the mistake of assuming it was well known enough that I could get away with it. Rookie error!

  5. What an accomplished Rookie Corner debut, widdersbel, with accurate clueing and generally smooth surfaces. As CS says, I doubt very much that this is your first cryptic crossword.

    Like the 2Ks, I found the NW corner the toughest nut to crack, but the whole thing was a pleasure to solve. My only query is the parsing of 7d.

    I have a long list of ticks: 1a, 23a, 25a, 3d, 15d, 16d & 19d.

    Well done and many thanks. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic, who will probably enjoy a relatively easy ride.

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner, widdersbel.

    Add me to those who were very impressed, most of the surfaces were first rate and there was a very good mix of different clue types in evidence. I did notice though that there was an over-reliance on using “in”/”inside”/”into” as insertion indicators, so that is something to watch I’d suggest. As others have said, I’d be amazed if this was actually your first-ever puzzle, as the standard was far higher than one would normally see from a debutant.

    The anagram fodder in 5d was a great spot, as was that for 20a, and the cryptic definition in 11a was very Rufusesque. I have lots of ticks on my printed page, 7d was your only really unconvincing surface, I’d venture.

    Many congratulations and more like this, please! Thank you for a very enjoyable solve.

    1. Thanks, silvanus, that’s an interesting observation about the insertion indicators and very helpful. I’ll try to be more conscious of it in future.

  7. Many thanks for comments so far – I won’t reply to all individually but they’re all equally gratefully received, glad to know which bits people like and which bits don’t work so well. And thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  8. Many thanks Widdersbel, a great puzzle. By no means an easy solve for me, but very enjoyable and rewarding, with eventually just the Americanism in 7d tripping me up (on the other hand, not sure if 1a needs the US indicator – though it’s a lovely clue) Pretty much any clue could be on the podium… 18a and 15d deserve a mention, but 20a probably takes top spot for the cheeky surface. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for review, I expect a very low commentometer score for a really accomplished puzzle.

  9. Super puzzle, widdersbel! Those of us familiar with won’t be at all surprised by this but it’s great to see such a positive reception for you in this marvellous corner. I actually found this quite tricky but that says far more about me than anything else. My favourites were 11A, 23A, 26A, 16D and 21D.

  10. Yes, agree with the above. I think 1a needs a ‘perhaps’ at the end and was in any case a word I was unfamiliar with. I understand but don’t really ‘get’ 11a and 7d passes me by altogether. But other than that, some excellent and entertaining clues with 24a, 21d and 19d on my podium.

  11. Congratulations widdersbel. I can’t remember a more accomplished or enjoyable puzzle in The Corner. I thought you also managed to pitch the difficulty level just right too.. I liked several, the “gas leak” at 1a raised a smile and set the tone for the whole puzzle.
    Many thanks, look forward to the next one. Also thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  12. Welcome to the Corner, Widdersbel, and what an excellent start you’ve made. I didn’t find it a rapid solve by any means but it came together most satisfactorily once I’d checked on the 4d protein and decided that I simply didn’t know of the ice cream.
    Quite a list of ‘ticks’ and I awarded podium places to 11,20&25a plus 16d. I also liked the ‘gas leak’ element of 1a.

    Hope we see more from you in the future.

  13. Thanks to Widdersbel for what looks to me like a very professional crossword.

    I will leave the minor quibbles to the cognoscenti who know far more than me.

    My 3 favourites: 11a, 15d (George) & 23a (Peanuts)

    My 3 that I couldn’t parse: 1a, 17a & 7d … (looking forward to the review from Prolixic)

  14. Got there in the end with three bung-ins awaiting tomorrow’s expert unraveling, but very much enjoyed it. A little bit cheeky and some lovely clever stuff with no alarm bells (for me anyway). What’s not to like, thanks, come again :-)

  15. Happy to join the chorus of plaudits. I thought this was an excellent puzzle. 7d was a total bung in & I still can’t see the wordplay. My last in was 1a. I wasn’t familiar with the word & annoyingly failed to twig the gas leak until I revealed the first letter & then confirmed what it was – assume Biden is there to indicate it’s American?
    Top 3 for me the super anagram & surface at 5d along with 3&8d. Agree that all clues highlighted elsewhere were ticks & also thought 24a was a good one too.
    A big thumbs up & a well done here.
    Thanks widdersbel & look forward to your next submission

  16. Really satisfying and entertaining puzzle. 3d and 25a picks of the bunch for me. Well done widdersbel.

  17. I have to agree with just about everything already said. I got 5d and 7d straight away from the definitions, but didn’t parse either till coming here (5d I didn’t get the fodder and indicator the right way round, and 7d the ice cream reference didn’t click till I saw it mentioned here). Everything else that followed I found challenging but fair and a lot of fun. 11A was almost my LOI, but when it finally clicked it became my pick of the puzzle.

  18. Hello – good puzzle overall, well done
    Maybe it’s because I solved it late, but I found it chewy in a sort of Dada way
    Some were great but some had me wondering
    Thanks for an enjoyable contribution

    1. Interesting you mentioning Dada as I thought of him when reading Prolixic’s introductory sentence. I find that however long it takes to solve Dada’s clues on a Sunday, they are always the easiest to explain in a review

  19. Thanks very much for your review, Prolixic, including the mention of the desirability of an American indicator for 7d. A similar point is made by Chris Lancaster, the Telegraph Puzzles Editor, in his excellent book How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword.

  20. Thanks everyone for the generous comments, glad it has gone down well. And thanks Prolixic for the review – some very helpful insights. No arguments with any of the points mentioned. I was conscious of the 2x “new” and considered reworking one of the two clues but decided against in the end. And I ummed and ahhed about “wine” but came down on the side of brevity. Annoyed with myself for missing “follow” in 26a!

    The consensus seems to be that 7d is the only major misstep, and yes, I agree the clue could be fairer.

  21. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Widdersbel is obviously off to a good start when it comes to compiling and I hope the comments he’s received encourage him to bring us some more puzzles.

  22. Thanks to widdersbel and Prolixic. A fine puzzle I only needed help from Prolixic for the last three. 7d was one I new it was what it was and even that it had the ed extracted but I couldn’t quite make the leap. I did laugh at the eructation in 1a but 8d gets the biscuit for reminding me of Dad’s wine probably more suited to launching rockets than drinking.

  23. I printed this off at the weekend, but have only just got round to solving it. I am so glad that I did!
    Absolutely first class with ticks all over the place. Like others, I didn’t know the ice cream at 7d, but the answer was very biffable.
    Congratulations, Widdersbel, on a very impressive debut. More, please!

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