Rookie Corner 420 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 420

A Puzzle by PostMark

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

PostMark is our latest debutant. 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 quick review as I am off on-line to our APCM in a short while.  A highly competent debut for PostMark.  Only a small number of comments means that the commentometer is 1.5 / 30 or 5%.


1 Keener student first at university (7)
FRESHER – Double definition, the second being a first year student at university.

5 Knight Hospitaller initially interrupts fair lady undressed (7)
GALAHAD – The first letter (initially) of Hospitaller inside (interrupts) a four-letter word for a fair and the inner letters (undressed) of lady.

9 Stake laid, checks first of pack (5)
AKELA – The answer is hidden (checks) in the first two words of the clue.

10 Artist’s impressions of PostMark in ‘heavy breathing episodes’? (9)
PAINTINGS – The single letter representing the setter inside an eight-letter word for heavy breathing episodes.

11 One seeking return from Paris, perhaps, is first to Troy (10)
CAPITALIST – The type of city of which Paris is an example followed by the IS from the clue and the first letter of Troy.

12 With maiden offerings outraged shareholders lose original capital (4)
OSLO – The initial letters (with maiden offerings) of the fourth to seventh words of the clue.

14 Soldier princess from Europe briefly associated with Company of Stationers (11)
INFANTRYMAN – A seven-letter word for a Spanish princess without the last letter (briefly) followed by the name of the high street stationery company.

18 Ungenerous behaviour shown in buffet (4-7)
SELF-SERVING – Double definition, the second being how you get food on your plate at a buffet.

21 Every single cleaning product reduced by 33⅓% (4)
EACH – A six-letter name of a caustic cleaning product without the first two letters (reduced by 33.33%)

22 River Test associated with manufacturing (10)
INDUSTRIAL – A five-letter name of an Indian river followed by a five-letter word for a test.

25 Seaside town cameo with Mr Bean accidentally mislaying a note (9)
MORECAMBE – An anagram (accidentally) of CAMEO MR BEAN without one of the letters A and the abbreviation for note (missing a note).

26 Shaven Breton’s returned recorder (5)
NOTER – The inner letters (shaven) of the second word of the clue reversed (returned).

27 Leaves and reeds disturbed on way back (7)
DESERTS – An anagram (disturbed) of REEDS on a reversal (back) of the abbreviation for street (way).

28 Document describing ‘potties’ removed from post (7)
DEPOSED – A four-letter word for a legal document around (describing) the three-letter plural word for chamberpots.


1 Members of staff ran Central European country (6)
FRANCE – The answer is hidden in (members of) the third to fifth words of the clue.

2 Free intimacy meaningless without saucy clothing (6)
EXEMPT – A three-letter word for an intimate act of copulation and a five-letter word meaning meaningless or void without the first and last letters (clothing) of saucy.

3 Fittest athletes, in training, welcome breaks (10)
HEALTHIEST – An anagram (in training) of ATHLETES includes (breaks) a two-letter word meaning welcome.

4 Drive away giving lift to outcast (5)
REPEL – A reversal (giving lift to) of a five-letter word for a social outcast with a wasting skin disease.

5 Signs laid out instructions for players going from pitch to pitch (9)
GLISSANDI – An anagram (out) of SIGNS LAID.

6 Dead on time – certainly not! (4)
LATE – Double definition.

7 Liberal with savings initially invested in institution (8)
HANDSOME – A three-letter word meaning with and the initial letter of savings inside (invested) in a four-letter word for an institution.  As others have spotted, initially was also used in 5a.

8 Ignore dust, icon’s in need of restoration (8)
DISCOUNT – An anagram (in needs of restoration) of DUST ICON.

13 Shed light on clue for ‘Berthing’ possibly? (8,2)
BRIGHTEN UP – A reverse anagram clue where the solution could be read as an anagram clue to BERTHING.

15 Hereby announcing ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Thelma & Louise’? (9)
FORENAMES – A homophone of four names (these being given in the clue).

16 Much appreciated rain spread seed about (8)
ESTEEMED – A four-letter word meaning rain heavily with an anagram (spread) of seed around it.

17 Mountain climbing society installing eccentric notices (8)
PLACARDS – A reversal (climbing) of a three-letter word for a mountain followed by a four-letter word for an eccentric character and the abbreviation for society.

19 Interruption as last two constituents shown in: Rishi somewhat nervous (6)
HIATUS – The final two letters of the last three words of the clue.  Whilst you can have leaders or ends of to tell the solver that is is the first or last letters of two or more words in the clue the form the (or part of the) solution, where you are using the “last two constituents”, it is already in the plural form as it applies to one word so maybe something more is required to indicate that it is the last two constituents of all three words – perhaps “last two constituents shown in separately – .…” 

20 Fussy using old currency demanding date for new (6)
FLORID – A six-letter word for an old coin with the D (date) replacing the N (new).

23 Upset swan in unsettled surroundings (5)
UPEND – A three-letter word word a swan inside the outer letters (surroundings) of unsettled.  It is not wrong, but it jars slightly where the first two letters of the the definition match the first two letters of a five-letter definition.

24 Mark eventually calls on roadside assistance for pick up (4)
SCAR – The last letter (eventually) of calls on a reversal (for pick up) of a three-letter abbreviation for a motorists assistance organisation.  Pernickety but the wordplay would be better with “motorists organisation” rather than “roadside assistance”.

36 comments on “Rookie Corner 420

  1. I struggled with the two needing specific UK knowledge (14a and 25a) but guessed correctly before checking,
    The rest all came together nicely with just the right amount of head-scratching that we like to see in Rookie Corner puzzles.
    A toss-up between 2d and 10a for the biggest chuckle.
    Thanks PostMark.

  2. A very pleasant end to my evening of cruciverbalism with, as KiwiColin says, just the right amount of head scratching.

    Smiles for 11a and 14a.

    Thanks PostMark.

  3. A very enjoyable puzzle – thank you PostMark. I particularly liked 11a and 12a. There are some classy clues here, especially for a debut crossword! I also very much liked 19d’s interweaving of surface and wordplay.
    And the ten letters of your 11a: “One seeking return from Paris, perhaps, is first to Troy (10)” did remind me for a moment of that non-SI unit definition: “the amount of beauty required to launch one ship = 1 milliHelen”.
    As I often do, I made brief notes against each clue as I solved, which is a bit too wordy to include here. If you’d like a copy then do ask Big Dave to put us in email contact and I will forward it to you. I won’t be offended if not, though :-)
    Well done again!

    1. Hi Encota
      I’m not sure it’s form to respond to each note individually but, as a relative novice, I do welcome feedback. For me, appearing here has two huge benefits: yes, I am keen to benefit from Prolixic’s professional review in due course but it’s also an opportunity to hear how ‘typical solvers’ – if I can be so bold – react. If BD is happy to connect us, I’d be delighted to see your notes.

      1. Hi Encota
        I don’t know if you get a notification if you receive a Reply to your Comment. In case you do, I’ve just popped in to advise that I believe BD has forwarded my contact details to you.
        Kind regards

  4. A quick early-ish note from the setter to thank those who have already taken the time to try this as well as those who may yet give it a go. And, of course, those who have taken the trouble to comment.

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner, PostMark, with a very accomplished debut – surely not your first ever cryptic puzzle? I thought this was a lot of fun, and pitched at the right level with accurate clueing and mostly smooth surfaces.

    It’s certainly not wrong, but I would prefer the surface of 21a to read “one third” rather than “33⅓%”. Also, I think 19a is fine but I’d be interested in Prolixic’s endorsement that it is OK for “last two constituents shown in: …” to refer to three words and not just one.

    I had a lot of ticks on my page, with double ticks awarded to: 11a, 18a, 22a, 6d & 15d.

    Many thanks and very well done, PostMark. I’m looking forward to your next submission. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Hello RD. Having promised not to reply to every post, I did think you’d be amused to hear that 21a did start off with ‘one third’. It moved to 33% to reflect the signage seen in supermarkets and then a test solver pointed out “if this is going to be on Rookie Corner, you need to be accurate” so I found out how to include the ‘⅓’ !!!

      1. :smile:
        And, as a result, I also learned the same new skill of how to type ⅓ in a comment!

          1. Jane, in Word, if I type 1/2 followed by a space, this changes automatically to ½. I don’t think I did anything specific to get this to happen so I assume it’s a default setting in Word. This also works automatically with 1/4 and 3/4.

            For other fractions, you can use “Insert Symbol” and the attached picture shows the options available which you can insert in Word. Alternatively you can type the Unicode number (which you can see at the bottom of the table: 2153 for ⅓) into Word followed by Alt X (hold down the Alt key and X together) which will miraculously change to ⅓.

            You can then copy the fraction that you want from Word and paste it into the comment box on this blog.

            Hope this helps.

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner PostMark – I did note from your comment on 15sq the other day that we were likely to see you here soon.

    Quite a bit of head-scratching to start with – my first solution written in was the ‘old friend’ at 22a. I did like the ‘company of stationers’ in 14a. Thank you – Lots to enjoy so I look forward to your next crossword. Thanks in advance to Prolixic

  7. Very enjoyable Postmark, thank you. Our favourite clues are 22a, 2d and 1a. 18a held us up with answering 13d as we had the incorrect ending. We look forward to your next puzzle and Prolixic’s review.

  8. A warm welcome, PostMark.

    An excellent debut here after several appearances on MyCrossword, I’m pleased to see that you have followed in the steps of Alf, Fez, Gollum, Meles, Plumbwizard, Twmbarlwm and Widdersbel etc., a well-trodden path indeed. I was extremely impressed by many of the constructions, and I’m not just saying that because of your very kind comment on my Indy puzzle yesterday!

    You clearly have an eye for a good clue and I have numerous ticks on my printed page, my pick of the crop being 25a, 4d, 6d and 16d. I had very few quibbles but “initially” was repeated as a first-letter indicator (in 5a and 7d) and, like RD, I would have preferred “one third” in 21a. I think “one” would have been better than your name in 10a, although the surface was possibly your weakest. I think “motoring organisation” might have been more appropriate in 24a than “roadside assistance”, as to me that is more what they provide rather than who they are.

    Very impressive stuff, PostMark, I hope it won’t be long before you grace Rookie Corner again. Many thanks and congratulations.

  9. Thanks PostMark, an enjoyable solve with lots of good clues.

    Like RD, I’m not sure if the indicator in 19d applies to multiple words; I’m also not sure if the grammar for 23d is quite right, with the “surroundings” perhaps needing some indication of possession? (“surroundings of unsettled” / “unsettled’s surroundings” of course make a nonsense of the surface, maybe you could have done something with Ugly Duckling?) But only very minor quibbles in an impressive crossword.

    My favourites amongst plenty of contenders were 18a, 3d and 7d (shame about the repeated indicator, though, as pointed out by Silvanus). Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic for review.

  10. Super puzzle PostMark – well done – and great to see you receive such a positive reception here. Lots of excellent misdirection. I particularly liked 9A, 27A, 1D, 3D, 5D and 16D.

  11. As you are a “serial commenter” on fifteen squared (I knew the name was familiar!) you obviously know your way around a cryptic crossword and this was reflected here Post Mark. Very accomplished, a wide range of favourites always a sign of a good puzzle.
    5,10&25a plus 2&6d all particularly appealed but could have mentioned several more.
    Many thanks and in advance to Prolixic.

  12. Welcome to the Corner, PostMark. Recognised your ‘handle’ from 15squared and guessed – correctly as it turned out – that you would bring some competence to your debut BD puzzle.
    Plenty of ticks on my sheet with 5,18&22a plus 6&7d making the podium – despite the duplicate indicator in 5a&7d.

    Hope you’ve got more of a similar calibre to bring us, this one was very enjoyable.

  13. Following on from my earlier post, many thanks to those who have commented; the warm welcome is much appreciated. Some fair queries and things I am sure Prolixic will pick up: I’m kicking myself for the ‘initially’ repetition which is something for which I check and which escaped me on this occasion. Although mentioned by crypticsue as an old friend, 22a did occur out of the blue and a quick check through archives suggested it wasn’t a chestnut. You can imagine my dismay when, on the day of submission to Big Dave, almost the identical wording appeared in a published puzzle! I mentioned this in an exchange with another setter who’s response was, ‘be pleased that you came up with the same idea and leave it as it is’, so I did!

  14. I’ve solved several of PostMark’s puzzles on MyCrossword so it was no surprise that this was well clued. Particular favourites included 10A, 11A, 18A and 25A but really I enjoyed the whole thing.

  15. A very accomplished debut puzzle PostMark which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just wish I could parse 2d as it’s highlighted by others. Plenty of ticks but if pressed 14a my favourite.
    Many thanks & look forward to your next

    1. Huntsman. for 2d, take a three letter word for “intimacy” followed by a five letter word for “meaningless” and then remove the S and Y (“SaucY clothing”).

      1. It looks as if RD has helped in removing the saucy clothing before I had an opportunity, Huntsman 😉 Delighted you liked 14a: I had a sort of Joan of Arc image in my mind, which is precisely what you’d expect to be involved with a provider of Sellotape and envelopes!

        1. 2 people helping to remove saucy clothing – what more could you ask for….
          Great wordplay – pity I wasn’t bright enough to twig it.

  16. Great puzzle, PostMark; really enjoyed it. Total respect for anyone who can put together a clue for a puzzle like this let alone a full grid!! Really liked 11A, 21A, 5D, 15D & 23D. I look forward to your next offering; thanks :)

  17. Very enjoyable puzzle, PostMark. As others have said, the percentage in 21a didn’t ring true in the context, and should have been a third, but that was the only thing that immediately stood out on the debit side for me, and of course there’s nothing technically wrong with it anyway.
    I had to look up Knight Hospitaller, but that sort of find to disguise the break between the definition and wordplay is a great asset to setting.
    I enjoyed the Mr Be(an) cameo anagram and the Rishi clue – I have no problem with ‘last two constituents shown in’ applying to three words in that one.
    Favourite clue for me was 3d. I think it would have been even neater without the punctuation, although that’s just my personal taste obviously.

  18. Very entertaining
    Re 21a I’m in the ‘one third’ camp, but even 1/3 would be better reading for me
    Thanks Post Mark, good puzzle

  19. It’s possibly appropriate to end the evening by observing that never has a setter more regretted a late decision to change ‘one third’ for a percentage! 🤣

    Thanks, all, for the welcome and encouragement I have received here and for the suggestions and advice. And, yes, also for sharing with me what you enjoyed. As has been said by so many before me, the whole point of doing this is to give pleasure to others and, whilst it’s brilliant to secure constructive feedback for improvement – it’s why I submitted the puzzle, it’s also deeply satisfying to know that solvers have had some fun during the solve.


  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. It would seem that PostMark doesn’t have much to worry about going forward if he can maintain this standard.

  21. Commenting very belatedly, but a super puzzle and thank you, Postmark. I found it on the “quite testing” end of the scale, and it took a while to get on to your wavelength, but this was a puzzle I’d not be surprised or disappointed to find on the DT or Times backpages.

    Plenty to smile and sometimes groan about (as the pennies dropped!), generally very smooth and accomplished surfaces, and a good range of clue types. More, please!

    Thank you, and thanks also to Prolixic for the review.

      1. Maybe not (thought I did enjoy that clue, however IME Times puzzles are far from unknown for containing eyebrow-raising clue formulations!

        1. I liked that clue as well. My comment was just a jokey reference to the long-established Times tradition that no living person (apart from the Queen) can appear in their cryptics – so Rishi’s out.

  22. Sorry to be late to the fray, but I enjoyed this very much, PostMark, and found nothing of significance to raise eyebrows. Very accomplished – well done!

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