Rookie Corner 424 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 424

A Puzzle by Amoeba

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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.

Thanks to Amoeba for this week’s Rookie puzzle.  Overall, the cluing was good but badly let down by by 1a.  The commentometer reads as 1.5 / 28 or 5.4%.


1 Physical intimacy? (13)
SADOMASOCHISM – A cryptic definition.  As people have mentioned, this does not come close to defining the solution cryptically.

10 Tries to interrupt official exercise (9)
REHEARSAL – A five-letter word meaning tries inside (to interrupt) a four-letter word meaning official.

11 Colossal vole swallows battery (5)
SALVO – The answer is hidden (swallows) in the first two words of the clue.

12 Endlessly sift rocks (5)
SCREE– A six-letter word meaning to sift without the final letter (endlessly).

13 Romeo with urge to get hold of a film’s Caribbean music (9)
REGGAETON – The letter represented by Romeo followed by a phrase (3,2) meant to urge or encourage around the A from the clue and a two-letter name of a film.

14 Annoys vaccine distributors? (7)
NEEDLES – Double definition, the second being part part of a syringe.

16 Perhaps Connery’s near to the boiling point in play (7)
SHIMMER – How Sean Connery may pronounce simmer (near the boiling point).  I think that as simmer as a noun means in a simmering state, near to the boiling point is ok.

18 Slows down manic traders (7)
RETARDS – An anagram (manic) of TRADERS.

20 If wife starts to have episode, tell her (7)
WHETHER – The abbreviation for wife followed by the initial letters (start to) the five to seventh words of the clue and the HER from the clue.

21 In New York, another drink with mint, perhaps (9)
FRESHENER – Cryptic definition that might describe a drink with mint in it.

23 It leaves the heart of either side of argument essentially invalid (5)
AORTA – A phrase 1,21, describing either side of the word argument followed by the central letter (essentially) of invalid.

24 A large pirate’s cry? (5)
AVAST – The A from the clue and a four-letter word meaning large.

25 Notice new church collars ambassador about support (9)
ADHERENCE -A two-letter word for a notice or advert and the abbreviations for new and church around the abbreviation for an ambassador and a two-letter word meaning about.

26 She wrote dark poetry, and her son occasionally worried (7,6)
DOROTHY PARKER – An anagram (worried) of DARK POETRY HRO (the odd letters – occasionally – of her son).


2 Awful, vicious assault on men with bible study books (9)
ABHORRENT – The abbreviation of actual bodily harm (vicious assault) followed by the abbreviation for other ranks (men), the abbreviation for religious education and the abbreviation for new testament (books).  I think that describing religious education as bible study is no longer accurate.

3 Love rat beginning to expect lecture (5)
ORATE – The letter representing love or zero followed by the RAT from the clue and the first letter (beginning to) of expect.

4 Force American to return to States (7)
ASSERTS – A six-letter word meaning force or emphasise and the single letter abbreviation for American all reversed (to return).

5 Goblin discovered sitting on ogress every now and then helps (7)
OBLIGES – The central letters (discovered) of goblins followed by the even letters (every now and then) of ogress.

6 In haste, I’m developing something that might make you sneeze (9)
HISTAMINE – An anagram (developing) of IN HASTE IM.

7 Leave or share pudding? (5)
SPLIT – Triple definition.

8 Captured soldier Iran forswore to exchange under pressure (8,2,3)
PRISONER OF WAR – An anagram (to exchange) of IRAN FORSWORE after (under) the abbreviation for pressure.

9 Eventually, famous fiddler invested in struggling old realtors (6,2,5)
SOONER OR LATER – The name of the Roman emperor who allegedly fiddled whilst Rome burnt in an anagram (struggling) of OLD REALTORS.

15 Relatively slow section from storyteller primarily illustrates lost, poor part of city (9)
LARGHETTO – A four-letter word for a storyteller or fibber without (lost) the initial letter (primarily) of illustrates followed by a six-letter word for a poor area of a city.

17 I see artist supporting medium, born to be a princess (9)
MAHARANEE – A three-letter word meaning I see and the abbreviation for an artist under (supporting) the abbreviation for medium all followed by a three-letter word meaning born.

19 Time spent outside in summer, quietly protecting a French vampire? (7)
SUNBATH – A two-letter word meaning quietly includes (protecting) the French masculine singular for A and a three-letter word for the type of animal of which a vampire is an example.  I think that SH meaning be quiet, not quietly.  

20 Praise Newcastle’s boat? (7)
WORSHIP – How someone from Newcastle might say the word “warship”.

22 Muse embraced by lover at once (5)
ERATO – The answer is hidden (embraced by) in the final three words of the clue.

23 Initially scratched more attractive clothes horse (5)
AIRER – A six-letter word meaning more attractive without the initial letter (scratched).

33 comments on “Rookie Corner 424

  1. Well that was fun except that, perhaps, 1a was not a very good ‘starting clue’ but there some very well put together charades such as 13a and 25a.

    Smiles for 13a once I had confirmed that there was a second type of Caribbean music, 14a, 2d, 5d, and 9d which took a little while for the penny to drop on the old fiddler.

    Thanks Amoeba and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. Lots of clues we did like a few that just didn’t quite make it. 1a is an example of this where just adding a question mark to a couple of words that might point towards the answer doesn’t make it a good cryptic clue in our opinion.
    Thanks Amoeba.

  3. A potpourri today from Amoeba with some lovely clues and a couple that worked less well for me. Ticks for 10a, 18a, 25a, 2d, 6d and 8d which is very nicely put together (though the combination of definition and enumeration do signal the likely solution). 5d gave me my biggest smile for the surface. And, whilst the definition is fairly broad, the surface for 26a is very smooth. I’d have to agree 1a is the weakest clue so it’s a shame it comes in first. I had to reveal the first letter in the end; I wasn’t getting anywhere from the two words, even with the question mark. I’m not sure about the definition in 11a which is a shame as the surface is amusing. Surely the solution is what is discharged by the definition? To end on a – slightly uncertain – positive, I don’t know the Geordie accent well enough to be sure if 20d is accurately done but I very much hope it is as it was another big smile when I cracked it. Thanks Amoeba and good luck with the official review.

    1. PM, 11a. The third word of the clue is merely the lurker indicator, not describing any actual relationship between the definition and the solution (the surface read shouldn’t be taken literally).

      1. Thanks Jose, I’d gathered that. I struggled to equate that hidden word with the definition, battery. Obv the protocol here is not to mention solutions out loud but I am still not seeing why one is considered to equal the other. But no-one else here has raised it, including Prolixic, so my understanding must be wrong. I thought a battery is normally a collection of guns that, when fired, produce a [solution]. Yes, a battery can be a sequence – as a collective noun for tests, typically – but, again I cannot see the equation to the solution which is defined as the discharge from said battery.

        1. PM. Yes, I see your point. I couldn’t see any problem, even without doing any research, with the synonymity of the definition/solution – so I assumed your quibble was with the word “swallows”. This, from Collins Online thesaurus, is probably the best explanation:


          in the sense of cannonade
          continuous heavy gunfire
          Synonyms: bombardment,pounding,shelling,battery,volley,barrage,gunfire,salvo, broadside.

          [As in: unleash a battery/salvo of heavy gunfire].

          Hope this helps.

  4. As PostMark says, a bit of a potpourri, with clues that worked, clues that made me smile – I did like the image conjured up by 11a – and some clues that weren’t quite right

    Thanks Amoeba – take note of the wise words of Prolixic and others, and come back soon. Thanks in advance to Prolixic

  5. I enjoyed this – thanks Amoeba.
    As others have said 1a was rather a weak start but it did pick up later and provided a number of smiles. 26a was rather clever and would have been superb if she’d actually had a son.
    My favourite clue was 20d.

  6. Hi Amoeba, some clues I absolutely loved – 5d, 20d,12a top my list – but, as others have said, some that didn’t quite work for me and a couple I simply can’t parse. For the most part the surfaces are great, but perhaps you put such focus on that that consideration for the solver occasionally got forgotten. Prime example was 1a, which made the top half of the puzzle a real struggle. Overall, the undoubted polish it showed in parts masked the occasional blotch on closer inspection.

  7. Welcome back, Amoeba.

    It was a great pity that your first clue was arguably the weakest of all, as that initial clue tends to colour solvers’ views of the whole puzzle. Otherwise, I thought there were many excellent constructions and clever wordplay elements, so your longish break from Rookie Corner seems to have been well-spent!

    My print-out has quite a few ticks, I’ll plump for 24a as my favourite as it made me smile the most.

    Many thanks, Amoeba, and congratulations on a fine puzzle.

  8. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Amoeba, with a puzzle which on the whole showed a significant improvement over your debut offering and one which provided a very enjoyable solve.

    I asked a friend from Sunderland about 20d and he wasn’t convinced by it! However, I know some nuances of the NE accent can change when you travel only a few miles.

    As others have said, 1a was a poor clue; not at all what you need as a hook for the solver when starting the puzzle. That aside, I have a lot of ticks on my page with 23a, 24a, 26a & 2d my top picks.

    Well done and thank you, Amoeba, and thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

  9. To prove the point made by Silvanus, 1a almost put me off bothering with the rest of the puzzle – I have to wonder why you opted to include it and in such a prominent position. I did start to wonder whether amongst our blog members we have a psychiatrist who could offer you some counselling on the problem you have with physical intimacy.
    Found the remainder of the clues a mix of good, bad and indifferent but think I’d probably shut down any enthusiasm I’d started out with by that stage so I’ll refrain from going into any detail.
    24a did make me laugh – must have been a good one if it managed to lighten my mood!

    Please think carefully before crafting your next puzzle – every setter needs a diverse audience unless they’re compiling for a niche publication.

    1. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one, Jane, although glad there was something you enjoyed.

      Today’s Guardian Quiptic includes the word ‘sexercise’, and the cryptic has ‘Parasite found in genitals’, so aside from the clue’s (lack of) merits, I’m not sure that wondering aloud whether I need psychiatric help is entirely warranted.

      1. I really have no problem with the word, Amoeba, and could see where you were trying to go with it. It just didn’t work for me, which was a shame as it was such an important clue for the puzzle both in its positioning in the grid and because it is the 1st clue solvers encounter, thus setting the mood. LBR is quite right – it’s a tough one to clue – and really would probably have been better rejected. As I have read on these pages many times, knowing when to dismiss an idea and start again, no matter how close you are to a good clue, is a core skill!!

      2. I have no objection to the word you used as the answer, Amoeba, what I would question is the definition you thought would work with it, hence my suggestion that you might be in need of psychiatric help. I’m sorry but ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’.

        1. I see. Well, I’m really not sure what I’ve sown that justifies reaping such a rude response.

          1. I think we’ve got our wires crossed. I had made the assumption, erroneously it would seem, that your clue was intended to be somewhat tongue in cheek and thought I had responded in kind. Obviously not and I apologise if I’ve caused you any offence.

  10. Thanks all for the kind, constructive, and thoughtful comments – I should confess that I left in 1a against my test-solver’s advice, and given the unanimity of views on it here, I won’t even attempt to argue the point.

    20d is probably a homophone (for Newcastle rather than Sunderland!), although my reasoning & excuse for lacking a homophone indicator was that I’ve seen the first three letters used fairly commonly in *written* approximations of Geordie. Trying to avoid spoilers, but I hope that explains it for those of you unsure.

    1. A. That was generally a very good puzzle. 1a may, at worst, be a poor/mediocre clue but it’s certainly not offensive in any way. I agree that the Geordie/Tyneside homophone in 20d is OK, but probably wouldn’t apply to Sunderland which is further down the coast.

  11. I thought this was a good effort, though I would have rejected the 1a grid-fill on sight – it’s the sort of word Anax gives us in his weekly compo, horrid to clue
    Thanks for the entertainment Amoeba

  12. Thanks Amoeba, an enjoyable solve overall and I thought a good mix of clues in terms of difficulty.

    I do agree with others about 1a not being sufficient, but otherwise only a few minor quibbles (which may or may not be valid – happy to be put right!):
    – In 4d I’m not sure about the link word “to” (although I’ve seen it before, will see if Prolixic has any comment on this)
    – In 19d I’m not sure if “quietly” is quite right (as opposed to just “quiet”)?
    – And in 8d, I’m not entirely convinced by “to exchange”

    I liked 16a (I originally Googled for confirmation of the play title, which seemed a bit obscure to me – before realising it is also of course just a perfectly fine synonym!) I also very much liked 20d (I didn’t think it was intended as a homophone, just split 3/4 as a written Geordie phrase; as a homophone I think the answer would be a different word … perhaps there’d be a good clue in that too?) 7d was another I really liked, although I wonder if just a double definition might have given a slightly better surface (or alternatively, if perhaps a Croatian “port” could have been added to the mix)?

    My other favourites amongst plenty of good clues to choose from were 10a and 20a.

    Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic.

  13. Very enjoyable Amoeba.
    My only slight negative observation was that a couple of surface reads seemed a bit “manufactured” …ie they looked like cryptic crossword clues rather than “natural” sentences, but they were far outweighed by the positives
    The clues I liked best were 14,20&26a plus 7,8&20d with top spot going to the super clever 23a.
    Many thanks and in advance to Prolixic.

  14. Thank you Amoeba for a generally enjoyable and satisfying puzzle. While I too found 1a pretty ambiguous and marked it with a Hummm, as I left it almost to the end it did not spoil things!

    20d was by some margin my COTD (broad smile and memories of Auf Wiedersehn, Pet); ticks also to 11a, 20a, 25a and 26a; 2d, 5d (another smile), 7d, 9d, 17d and 19d. Some great surfaces.

    I cannot parse the end of 13a – if it’s a film I’ve never heard of it, but that would be my failing; not sure 21a entirely works, despite the indicated Americanism. 23a another “Hummm” – good surface, but wordy. I look forward to Prolixic’s review to better understand the parsing of 15d. Either I’ve got 3d wrong, or the clue lets down the excellent surface. General observation – it’s a quite “wordy” puzzle – possibly not helped by the layout on the pdf, but a lot of clues with 9 or more words, which personally I find offputting: less is more!

    Thank you once again though for a good challenge and I look forward to your next puzzle. Thank you in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Re 13a ….you’re probably not parsing it correctly Mustapha as I can guarantee you’ve heard of the film, it’s crosswordland’s favourite!

      1. Doh! It’s just dawned on me… the film is within, not at the end. That was a loud clang as the penny dropped!

  15. I have actually spotted a minor error myself in 16A. There is an errant ‘to’ after ‘near’, which makes the wordplay point to an adjective, not a verb. Removing it (or moving it before ‘near’) doesn’t harm the surface. Apologies – and it doesn’t seem it held anyone up, at least.

    My thinking regarding 1A – which I accept has clearly not worked, so this is an explanation rather than a defence – is that S&M is a form of intimacy that is notably ‘physical’. The fact that ‘physical intimacy’ as a phrase refers to sex more generally was a nice thematic link in my head, but actually creates too much overlap for it to be a satisfying cryptic definition.

    Regarding the comments on the surfaces, I agree with Dr+Diva that I am prone to favouring surfaces over wordplay, and Mustafa G that several of the clues are quite wordy. They are less so than last time…! But it’s something I will continue to work on.

    Thanks again. I look forward to Prolixic’s review and, I hope, a return in the near-ish future.

    1. Hi Amoeba, I think the “to” still works (retaining sense as a verb) but yes it could be removed along with “the” and maybe even “Perhaps” – and it’s a good idea to be as concise as possible. But having said that, I do like ‘wordy’ clues (provided all the words are necessary) – Django, for example, is one of my favourites, whilst RayT, as good as he is, often leaves me wishing ‘if only he’d allow himself a few extra words!’

      1. Thanks Fez. ‘Near to [the] boiling point’ (as the clue currently reads) would really be SIMMERING, no? Either ‘to near boiling point’ or ‘near boiling point’ would be OK. I thought the ‘perhaps’ was needed for fairness to the solver here, as Connery isn’t nearly as recognised in crosswordland as, say, the good Reverend.

        But perhaps I’ll stop arguing about my own mistakes now! ;-)

  16. Thanks for the review Prolixic, and I have to say, Amoeba, that, having read Prolixic’s comments, I find this to be a much better puzzle than I gave it credit for. My enjoyment was perhaps more affected by my limitations as a solver that anything else, 1a excepted. Sorry if I underrated it! Thinking about how I would have clued 1a over a tipple last night, I didn’t come up with much inspiration – “hurtful behaviour” perhaps – but I still think I’d have filled the grid differently.
    Interested to see the explanation of 20d as the Geordie way of saying “warship”. I had it as “our ship”.

    1. That’s very kind of you, thank you! I thought your comments were perfectly fair, but won’t say no to a retrospective upgrading.

  17. Thank you Prolixic for the review, and once again thank you to everyone who took the time to solve it and comment.

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