Rookie Corner 423 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 423

A Puzzle by Meles

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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.

Another cracking crossword from Meles.  The commentometer reads as 1/28 or 3.5%. After three excellent crosswords all with a very low number of comments, I think the NTSPP beckons for Meles.


1 Heist organised by couple succeeded but it lasted ten years (3,7)
THE SIXTIES – An anagram (organised) of HEIST followed by the letter representing by or times, a three-letter word meaning to couple or join and the abbreviation for succeeded.  I am not a fan of but as a link word as wordplay but definition does not scan grammatically.  Perhaps an “and” instead of “but” would be better.

6 This woman died for Slough (4)
SHED – A three-letter word meaning this woman followed by the abbreviation for died.

9 A circular field might be so used for a particular purpose (4-6)
RING-FENCED – Double definition, the first part cryptic.  On the subject of including the indefinite article, Don Manley refers to the use of the indefinite article being acceptable by longstanding convention when referring to a noun in his Chamber’s Crossword Manual (Fifth edition, page 101).

10 One with explosive potential, concealed by quiet nature (4)
ETNA – The answer is hidden (concealed by) in the final two words of the clue.

12 Flags arranged in various shapes, primarily pentagons (6,6)
PAVING STONES – An anagram (arranged) of I V S (initial letters – primarily – of in various shapes) PENTAGONS.

15 Insect runs on sticky substance around pint glass (4,3)
BEER MUG – A three-letter word for an insect followed by the abbreviation for runs and a reversal (around) of a three-letter word for a stick substance.

16 Charlatan about to take over United in season (7)
SCAMMER – The two-letter abbreviation for about replaces (to take over) the abbreviation for united in one of the seasons of the year.

17 They can choose role-playing over shock therapy (7)
ELECTOR – An anagram (playing) of ROLE around (over) the abbreviation for a type of shock therapy.  Even though the role is reversed, the letters are rearranged so it is an anagram but it feels unsatisfactory.  They can be used to indicate a singular person where you want to avoid being gender specific.  As a legal draftsperson, most legal documents now use they in place of he or she in phrases such as “The expert must give their decision within four weeks after they are appointed.”  Chambers indicates that it is unacceptable to some, particularly in written English.  However, the usage is becoming more widespread.

19 French mathematician and swimmer? (7)
POISSON – Double definition, the first being a mathematician most well known for giving his name to a form of statistical distribution.

20 Doctor and former soldier boxing in a ring, half-cut (12)
VETERINARIAN – A seven-letter word for a former soldier around (boxing the IN A RI (ring half-cut).

23 Without heart, ideology becomes argument (4)
BEEF – A six-letter word for an ideology or faith without the central two letters (without heart).

24 Stimulate excitation? (10)
INTOXICATE – An anagram (stimulate) of EXCITATION.  As the whole clue defines the solution, this is a very good &Lit (and literally so) clue.

25 Perch with special back for swallows (4)
EATS – A four-letter word for a perch or chair with the abbreviation for special moved to the end (back).

26 New country estate includes section where ownership may be disputed (2-4,4)
NO-MAN’S LAND – The abbreviation for new and four-letter name for a Middle Eastern country followed by a four-letter word for an estate all around the abbreviation for special.


1 Some grass turned orange, possibly after I abandoned it? (4)
TURF – A five-letter word of which an orange is an example (possibly) reversed (turned) without the letter I (abandoned it).

2 Heroines oddly overlooked for a really long time (4)
EONS – The even letters (oddly overlooked) of the first word of the clue.

3 It blows up around violent sport – close to deliberately provocative (12)
INFLAMMATORY – An eight-letter word for something used to blow up tyres or balloons around a three-letter abbreviation for mixed martial arts (acceptable as an abbreviation as it is given in Collins and the OED, though not in Chambers) followed by the final letter (close to) of deliberately.

4 Two quintets perform music together, getting tighter (7)
TENSING – How many player there would be in two quintets followed by a four-letter word meaning to perform music together.

5 Comes out with English blends (7)
EMERGES – The abbreviation for English followed by a six-letter word meaning blends.

7 Inconsistent batter with duck (3,3,4)
HIT AND MISS – How you might describe a cricketer who scores a duck.

8 Close bag by this street dealer, ultimately engaged in sketchy activity (10)
DRAWSTRING – The abbreviation for street and the final letter (ultimately) of dealer all inside a seven-letter word describing the action of sketching something.

11 Instrument speeds up and it’s initially different for audience (12)
STRADIVARIUS – A reversal (up) of a five-letter word meaning speeds followed by the first letter (initially) of it and a homophone (for audience) of various (different).

13 Pants Bob reveals can be seen (10)
OBSERVABLE – An anagram (pants) of BOB REVEALS.

14 Irritation about setter lacking in thought (10)
RESENTMENT – The two letter word meaning about followed by a nine-letter word meaning thought or feeling without the letter I (setter lacking).

18 Chance upon hit when driving (3,4)
RUN INTO – Double definition.

19 Somewhat ornamental ogre pointing skywards is a garden feature? (7)
PERGOLA – The answer is hidden in (somewhat) and reversed (skywards) in the second to fourth words of the clue.

21 10’s output left covering northernmost part of island (4)
LAVA – The abbreviation for left replacing (covering) the first letter of a four-letter name of an Indonesian island.

22 Understand now but in the past embarrassed in audition (4)
READ – A word that in the present tense means understand but when pronounced in the past tense sounds like (in audition) red (embarrassed). 

41 comments on “Rookie Corner 423

  1. A clever puzzle which had me working very hard in places. Took ages to sort the tricky wordplay for 12a so that one gets my vote for favourite.
    Thanks Meles

  2. Quite enjoyable although there were two or three clues which I considered could be improved but I will leave it to the experts to comment in detail. Except, in 17a, unless I am mistaken, the definition suggests a plural but the answer is singular, and the ‘role-playing’ is a reversal rather than an anagram.

    Smiles for 19a, 20a, 24a, 1d, and 22d.

    Thanks Meles and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Meles. This was another very entertaining puzzle which was nicely challenging with clever clueing and smooth surfaces. Technically I don’t imagine that Prolixic will have to make many observations in his review.

    I don’t remember it from your previous submissions, but this time I did notice some surface padding. “This” in 6a and “A” in 9a could have been omitted; and in 22d replacing “now but in the past” by “being” as a link word would have worked.

    You have also entered the potentially murky world of personal pronouns in 17a. “Someone who” instead of “they” would suffice If you feel the need to avoid using either “he” or “she”.

    I had a lot of ticks on my page, with 12a, 19a & 24a my podium choices.

    Well done and many thanks for the fun, Meles. More like this soon please. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I liked 22d’s “now but in the past” – “Understood being…” would also work but I thought mixing the tenses gave a more interesting clue.

    2. Thanks RD for the detailed comment. On the padding, 9a doesn’t scan for me without the leading “a” but good to get feedback on that – you do see “a [noun]” as the definition sometimes and I’m never sure if that’s considered OK.

      I probably should have gone he/she in 17a but would rather avoid gendering a clue if a can – your solution of “Someone who…” is a good one that I will endeavour to remember!

      1. Thanks for your response, Meles. Coincidentally, there is an example of the inclusion of an unnecessary (in my opinion) indefinite article in 9d today’s Telegraph back-pager, so you are in very good company!

        1. Are you suggesting that, down at the Pedants Arms, someone would choose to include ” … she prepared hot dish” in their conversation? :-)

          Or should that be Pedants’ Arms?

  4. Thanks Meles, another super puzzle. Favourites 9a (despite arguably superfluous “A”), 19a (I like anything mathematical), 3d for the wordplay, and perhaps 12a as COTD – though plenty of contenders. I’ve no problem with “They” but note that Chambers does state it’s “unacceptable to some” so maybe e.g. “One” would’ve been better? Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic for review.

    1. Cheers Fez. I also enjoy a mathematical slant to a clue, hopefully that particular mathematician is sufficiently well known! From memory I considered “One” for 19a but had already used it in 10a and didn’t want to repeat.

  5. A really good puzzle – many thanks Meles.
    My ticks went to 9a, 16a, 20a and 3d with my favourite being the excellent 24a.
    More like this would be more than welcome.

  6. Really enjoyed your puzzle, thank you Meles. One or two we are still unsure of the parsing – in 14d we have two floating letters and in 11d we have a query on one letter. Favourites were 1a, 9a, 12a, 19a and 20a. We look forward to your next puzzle and to Prolixic’s review.

  7. Welcome back, Meles.

    This was a high-quality puzzle with lots to like, I have several ticks on my print-out, but possibly my favourite clue is 20a.

    “They” in 17a jarred for me (for some time I expected the answer to be a plural), I can understand your commendable reluctance to repeat “one”, but “someone who” (as RD suggested) or “individual who” or “person who” would have been perfectly acceptable alternatives, I reckon. I also thought “in” rather than “for” in 6a would have made a better surface. Otherwise, I had very few question marks on my sheet and I felt the level of difficulty and range of different clue types were both excellent.

    Many thanks and congratulations on a fine puzzle, Meles.

    1. Thanks for the comment Silvanus. I’ll definitely steer clear of “they” from now on! I agree on 6a that’s definitely a better surface, I think I was tickled by the idea of someone being so passionate for Slough that I didn’t seek alternatives (no offence to anyone from there! ).

      1. I understand the points raised with 17a and “they” can be used to refer to a (plural) group of people, things, etc. But “they” can also refer to a single unspecified/unknown person, as in: This setter (not you personally)seems to be trying to run before they can walk. Maybe its use was a clever bit of misdirection?

  8. Very enjoyable Meles, thanks, and I believe well-deserving of the praise it is receiving here. My favourites were 12A, 15A, 16A, 20A, 1D, 8D and 19D.

  9. Very enjoyable indeed and quite a mental workout Meles.
    I’ll be as ever interested in Prolixic’s interpretation of a couple but plenty to like and admire here.
    I’ve got big ticks against 9,16&24a (if I’m interpreting it correctly) plus 4& the super clever 11d.
    Many thanks.

  10. Enjoyable puzzle with some nice ideas
    Minor niggles such as 1a – wordplay ‘but’ definition (description of ‘it’) could probably be improved, but no drama
    Thanks for the entertainment Meles

  11. Solving the puzzle was one thing, parsing some of my answers was a very different story! I doubt that you will ever be the sort of setter who allows solvers to win without expending a lot of effort! Think I’ve got there although I’ll await the wisdom of Prolixic for a couple that still have me somewhat bemused. Topping my list were 9,20&26a plus 8d.

    Thank you, Meles, I’ll be very interested to see what you have to offer on your next outing to the Corner.

    1. Thanks jane for the comment, very useful to know about about difficulty. The clues I most enjoy solving are ones that look impenetrable on first reading but then quickly resolve in a satisfying way. Mostly I’m aiming for this, but appreciate I often stray over that line!

      1. It’s a very fine line, Meles. I’m sure you don’t ever want solvers to think ‘oh, it’s by Meles, I won’t bother with it’.
        Having said that, Elgar manages it week after week and has a devoted following so perhaps you just need to decide where your target audience lies!

  12. Most enjoyable Meles however I have several “Q”s against five clues so I will wait for the review in order to fully parse my answers. Favourite clue and last one solved was the superlative (IMHO) 24a.

  13. This is deserving of the praise it gets from better solvers than me, so well done Meles! My favourites were 12a, 20a and 1d. I liked what you were trying to do in 24a but can’t really make up my mind if it is complete as a clue and what weight the ? carries (can it indicate as intended?), so I will be interested in Prolixic’s take. A few other minor niggles perhaps but as a puzzle it had real personality, which was great to see. Well done!

    1. I took 24a to be DD, but with one of the syntactic functions slightly awry. Maybe I’ve missed something …

        1. For the cryptic content, isn’t “stimulate” doing double duty? I can’t quite get my head round it …

          1. I took the clue (brilliant in my opinion) to be an all-in-one (&Lit) where the definition is the whole clue and the wordplay is an anagram (stimulate) of excitation.

            1. Yes, an &lit – I see it now! So, thank you to yourself, Fez and SL. My brain was fixed on the misplaced notion that stimulate had to be doing double-duty as both definition and anagram indicator. A brilliant clue indeed!

    2. I had similar doubts about 24a – I guess we just have to wait until Prolixic give his verdict on it.

      1. If you “stimulate” excitation (in other words move it, or the letters) you get the solution. It’s a very clever clue.

        1. Ostensibly brilliant! But the “stimulate” somehow seems to be performing double duty?

          1. That’s because in cryptic way the whole clue is acting as both wordplay and definition.

    3. Thanks Dr Diva. For what it’s worth, the clue is intended as an &lit (with ? to indicate as such). I do appreciate though that relies on accepting “Stimulate” as the anagram indicator which may not be to everyone’s taste.

  14. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment, very much appreciated. Thanks also to Prolixic in advance for the review.

  15. Think Jane’s point about the difficulty level is well made. I certainly found it very challenging on the parsing front but just about got there in the end. Thought it a fine puzzle & can’t say I noticed padding & certainly not in respect of that A.17a my only gripe really as agree with Senf. Joint winners for me 20a (was all over the shop with the wordplay until I realised not to abbreviate the former soldier) & 24a (whatever you call the clue type). Big ticks for 9,22,15&26a plus 4&11d.
    Thanks Meles.

  16. Well done Meles. That provided a pretty tough workout – more midweek toughie than back pager for me but enjoyable for all that with some clever clueing.
    11d only fell with electronic help even with all the checkers. I then really liked the clue!
    24a was the standout clue for me once the penny dropped all the way.
    I think I’ve understood what you were trying to achieve with “now” and “in the past” in 22d but I’m not really sure it works. Hopefully Prolixic will clarify.
    Try as I may, I haven’t been clever enough to parse 12a.
    Thanks for the entertainment – keep ’em coming.

  17. Thanks for review Prolixic – and well done Meles,, a well-deserved promotion. Looking forward to your next in the NTSPP :-)

  18. Many thanks Prolixic for the review, great to get your comments on the various things discussed. I’m excited to move to the NTSPP – will try to not disappoint!

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and well done to Meles for taking the next step up.
    Interesting that the answer to 12a has been used by Dada in his Toughie today, although rather differently clued.

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