Rookie Corner 439 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 439

A Puzzle by Avtaar

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Welcome to Avtaar with a challenging but (save in a few minor cases) technically sound crossword.  Where a crossword is tougher, the precision of the clues needs to be spot on to give the solver a fair chance.  The precision was there but as an observation, looking at the number of comments where solvers erroneously thought there was an error suggests that the was perhaps too much complexity.  If solvers think that a valid clue contains a mistake, it may a sign that the clue needs to be rewritten to avoid this.

In terms of the balance of clues, 12 anagrams in a crossword of 28 clues is far too many and alternative means of cluing some of the anagram clues should be found.

The commentometer reads as 3/28 or 10.7%


1 Climax portions from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” mesmerised this kingdom (6)
SWEDEN – Take the end (climax) letters (portions) from the words in quotes and make an anagram of them (mesmerised).  I am not sure that mesmerised indicated the movement of letters.  The word suggests being fixed on something, not being moved around.

4 Entrance of showroom reconstructed on 1 acre plot (8)
SCENARIO – The first letter (entrance) of showroom followed by an anagram (reconstructed) of ON I ACRE. 

9 Tap upper part of throat moving end forward (6)
FAUCET – A six-letter word for the upper part of the throat with the final S advanced by one letter in the alphabet (moving end forward).  Aside from the use of an American term for a tap, to chose an obscure word for the upper part of the throat and require the solver to move the final letter on one place whilst not technically incorrect, it stacked against the solver.

10 Moulding around pillar permitted on sides of bridge (8)
BANDLET – A three-letter word meaning permitted after the first and last letters of bridge as you would say them with a conjunction between them.

11 GE chooses a venture that is unprofitable (4,5,5)
WILD GOOSE CHASE – A reverse anagram where the first word of the solution is an anagram indicator and the remaining letters, when rearranged, give GE CHOOSES A.  As a reverse anagram, the clue needs to indicate that this is the wordplay required.

13 Well-known logistics company introduces flyer profiled by professional writer (1,1,8)
D H LAWRENCE – The three-letter name of a logistics company before (introduces) a four-letter name of a small bird (flyer) inside (profiled by) a three-letter word word for an expert / professional.

14 Protest leaders in Damascus evade military offensive (4)
DEMO – The initial letters (leaders in) the final four words of the clue.

16 Very British type of market (4)
SOUK – A two-letter word meaning very followed by the abbreviation for United Kingdom (British).  Some editors will not accept wordplay of definition as the structure of a clue.

18 Free deals cut by one hoarding sauce (5,5)
SALSA VERDE – An anagram (free) of DEALS includes (cut by) a five-letter word for a hoarder.

21 Sorry, ladies, I can’t – ‘cos I need to keep this (6,8)
SOCIAL DISTANCE – An anagram (sorry) of LADIES I CANT COS.

23 Sex through mobile – perhaps, not right for commemorations? (8)
EPITAPHS – A two-letter word for sex inside (through) an anagram (mobile) of PERHAPS after removing the R (not right).

24 Mum keeps cool for a short time (6)
MINUTE – A four-letter word meaning silent or mum includes (keeps) a two-letter word meaning fashion or cool.

25 Government engages a national institute to supply sterilising equipment (8)
SANITATE – A five-letter word for government includes the A from the clue and the abbreviations for national and institute.

26 Married – short time after one divorced (6)
UNITED – A six-letter word meaning divorced with the T (short time) moved to appear after the I (one).  I think, grammatically, the word order here needs to be changed otherwise it does not indicate that the letter transposition is required in the word for divorced.


1 Ottoman hosted by Francis of Assisi (4)
SOFA – The answer is hidden (hosted by) the last three words of the clue.

2 Uranium found in old bottle of fossil remains (7)
EXUVIAL – The chemical symbol for Uranium inside a two-letter prefix meaning old and a four-letter word for a small glass bottle.

3 Honest short-seller breaks new ground (4-4)
EVEN DOWN – A six-letter word for a seller with the final letter removed (short) inside an anagram (ground) of new.  As an archaic / dialect definition, this should be indicated in the clue.

5 Touring bicyclists dropped by, closing in  behind supporters of traditional art (11)
CLASSICISTS – An anagram (touring) of BICYCLISTS after removing the BY around (closing in) a three-letter word for a behind.

6 Post-retirement party in French city? Not a chance (2,4)
NO DICE – A reversal (post-retirement) of a two-letter word for a party inside a four-letter name of a French city on the Riviera.

7 Deliver on potential, finally, with calm (7)
RELEASE – a two-letter word meaning on followed by the final letter of potential and four-letter word meaning calm.

8 Charmed those people, giving out to tips to whoever is travelling (2,3,4)
ON THE MOVE – A phase (3, 4, 4) meaning charmed those people without the first and last letters (giving out tips to)of whoever.

12 Easily solved difficult puns on the afternoon daily’s header (4-3-4)
OPEN AND SHUT – An anagram (difficult) of PUNS ON THE A (afternoon) D (first letter – header – of daily)

13 They cause absolute distress, tragically (9)
DISASTERS – An anagram (tragically) of A (absolute) DISTRESS.

15 A doctor in Toronto cleared out, taking through flight (8)
AVIATION – The A from the clue followed by an anagram (doctor) of IN TO (outer letters – cleared out – of Toronto) that includes a three-letter word meaning through.

17 Bond wanting leader’s blessing (7)
UNCTION – A seven-letter word for a bond without the first letter (wanting leader).  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as leader to indicate the first letter.

19 Rookie in property trust assumes credit with undersecretary’s initial (7)
RECRUIT – A four-letter acronym for a type of property trust includes (assumes) the abbreviation for credit and the first letter (initial) of undersecretary.

20 Book by soldier covering introduction to artistic swimming (6)
NATANT – The abbreviation for New Testament and a three-letter word for a soldier insect around (covering) the first letter (introduction) of artistic.  I much prefer books as the indicator for NT.

22 Democratic member brought up old tax (4)
GELD – The abbreviation for democratic and a three-letter word for a limb (member) all reversed (brought up).

34 comments on “Rookie Corner 439

  1. Plenty of creative thinking in evidence, Avtaar, in this puzzle, for which many thanks. Some parsing has eluded me so I will await Prolixic’s review with interest. Particular favourites included: 4a, 13a, 18a (excellent), 21a (similarly so), 1d, 6d (though a phrase I see rarely), 15d, 19d (another goodie – though minor point below) and 22d.

    I think it might have been kinder to solvers to indicate there is reverse clueing going on in 11a, not everyone accepts equivalence between British and UK (ref 16a), NT is normally clued as ‘books’ rather than ‘book’ but I’ve seen both, I’m not sure where you are getting your ‘a’ for the anagram in the otherwise lovely 13d – does absolute = ‘a’? There are a few instances where you might consider the form of verb – 19d assuming might read better than assumes? 5d dropping instead of dropped?

    I hope you get a decent slew of Comments and that Prolixic’s review is helpful. Many thanks. PM

      1. Thanks crypticsue. I suspected as much but was unfamiliar. Pushes 13d up to a definite tick from me.

    1. PM, British v, UK is an odd one. It is clear that Great Britain and the UK are not the same as the former doesn’t include Northern Ireland.

      However the BRB defines “British” as “relating to Britain” but unhelpfully doesn’t define “Britain”. Nevertheless Collins defines “Britain” as “another name for Great Britain, United Kingdom”, with links which explain (correctly) that GB and UK are different. So, I think Avtaar is probably OK with 16a! :unsure:

      I am struggling to finish the puzzle. I’ll probably come back to it later …

  2. I think I can see why none of the usual early commenters have appeared yet as it does take a while to get used to the style – I presume from the alias (a Hindi word) that our setter is from India which probably explains the differences from the usual type of wordplay.

    I persevered with it, partly because I’m putting off something I’m supposed to do this morning and partly because I was intrigued to see if I could finish the puzzle. The unknown words were, I think, all fairly clued and I’ve found them in the BRB. 9a needs an indication that the tap is American.

    I still have a couple of ? by clues so will await Prolixic’s review with interest. Thanks to him in advance.

    Thank you to Avtaar – take note of the review and the comments and please come back with another crossword in due course

    1. To use a crickety term – I retired hurt with about 50% complete, due, probably, to some tough clues and some not very well constructed clues.

  3. Thanks Avtaar, I thought this was a wonderful puzzle, really enjoyable – but very tough indeed with quite a few obscure words and bits of wordplay – I love this sort of thing, but it’s not for everyone. Definitiely a late-week Toughie!

    I’ve not yet parsed 8d (other than the “those people” part … probably!) but think I have everything else sorted; a few minor quibbles:
    – 9a perhaps needs a US indicator for that specific definition?
    – 25a I think the definition isn’t quite right (not quite sure on intended parsing: if “supply” is part of definition, then “equipment” isn’t right; if “supply” is a link word, then the definition is a noun rather than a verb) Maybe “apply” rather than “supply” would work, or simply “to sterilise” or similar?
    – 26a, if I’m parsing correctly, I’m not sure why “short time”=E?
    – 3d should probably have some indication that the solution is dialect or archaic
    – 20d should be “books” rather than “book”

    There’s a lot of pleasingly complex wordplay – it did feel a little anagram-heavy, but with use of subtractions and abbreviations/letter-selections, and the ‘implied’ 11a, I thouht there was still plenty of variety. I found 9a’s throat part, 10a, 2d, and the abbreviation in 19d were particularly obscure but perfectly fair and they were great fun to parse with the help of the Chambers app, which was certainly working overtime this morning.

    Lots of great clues, with ticks all over the place, but perhaps my favourite is my ‘last one in’, 13a.

    Many thanks again Avtaar, and in advance to Prolixic (who I suspect may be working hard on this one and yet not especially troubling the commentometer?)

    1. 8d is a phrase meaning ‘charmed/persuaded those people’ (3,4,4) with the peripheral letters dropped.

      1. Thanks Gazza, another nice one although I guess the first “to” is a typo – and perhaps the “giving out” seemed just a little jarring for deletion (actually probably not, it was that errant “to” that made it seem that way!) Anway, all parsed now so many thanks, a super (and super tough) puzzle :-)

    2. Ah, my bad on 25a, I hadn’t fully appreciated the definition (should’ve checked Chambers for that one too) – apologies!

        1. The BRB defines the answer as “to furnish with sanitary appliances or ware” so the last 4 words of the clue match that.

          1. Thank you, G. I did think that the def was a verbal phrase. But have I got 26d (see below) right, or am I a bit muddled?

            1. 26a That’s what I thought, but the clue seems rather backwards – it would be better as ‘Divorced short time after one becomes married’.

            2. I think you;re spot on, Jose. For me that only leaves: the two Americanisms, both of which I think are recognisable enough to stand up without indication; the possible archaic/dialect indicator in 3d, which given the clarity of the wordplay is probably fine too; and, the non-pluralised book – possibly the only teensy ‘mistake’ and even then just as likely to be a typo (as there was one originally in 8d). The difficulty and style may be a matter of taste, but I think it would be hard to fault this on a ‘technical’ level – I thought it was an absolutely cracking debut, many thanks again Avtaar!

              1. F. I agree, in my book most Americanisms don’t need an indicator. Maybe just the more obscure ones. I’m not too bothered about book = NT. I know the NT comprises several “books” but those books are usually published together in a single book titled NT. So, in a cryptic, books or book is fine by me. The setters quite rightly get away with things “worse” than that.

          2. Indeed, I’d spent so much time with BRB on this puzzle, yet stupidly relied on my own limited ‘knowledge’ for this particualr definition … lesson learned!

    3. F, 26a. I parsed the word-play thus: a 6-letter word meaning divorced (almost the same word as the answer) with the short time (T) after the one (I) instead of before it. Not 100% sure if I’m right.

      1. Ah, thanks Jose, that makes sense. (I had [definition] with E (“short time???”) after [4-letter word for “one”] + abbrevation for “divorced”. Daft me again, D isn’t a recognised abbreviation. Have to say, though, I’m not so keen on the grammar in this one … but it does work.

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Avtaar. You’ve certainly given us a tough puzzle but I much enjoyed the struggle to complete it. Chambers was consulted a lot. The anagram count was quite high.
    I still have two clues that I can’t fully parse.
    My ticks went to 13a, 24a, 6d and 8d.
    I look forward to your next puzzle – you could perhaps tone down the difficulty a bit.

  5. What a challenge! A few new words for us and we needed some reveals to finish the puzzle. Enjoyable nevertheless, thank you, Avtaar. Favourites were 16a, 24a, 21a and 23a. Still some we can’t parse so we shall welcome Prolixic’s review tomorrow.

  6. Welcome, Avtaar.

    Definitiely a stiff challenge, although I can’t be sure whether the unusual abbreviations and conventions broken were deliberate or were down to inexperience, I’d prefer it to be the latter. “Leader” was repeated as a first letter indicator and I agree that when the anagram count reaches double figures then alternative options ought to have been considered.

    There was plenty of invention and promise on show but I’m left with the impression that the setter was trying too hard to be cryptic in certain cases, something that’s often seen in Rookie Corner. When very experienced solvers who can normally manage to fully parse a Friday Toughie from Elgar are having difficulty with some of the clues, I think that supports my argument.

    Thank you for the submission, Avtaar, I hope that next time the puzzle could be a little more solver-friendly.

  7. :phew:
    Welcome to Rookie Corner, Avtaar, with a promising but highly challenging debut.

    A few reveals finally saw me over the finishing line, but this was very tough in my book, and the typo in 8d didn’t help. I’ve still got a couple of answers unparsed and a raft of question marks on which I will await the judgement of Prolixic.

    In addition to the “tap” in 9a, the “behind” in 5d is American.

    My top two were 24a & 22d.

    Well done, Avtaar, and thank you. Please lower the difficulty level for your next submission. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

  8. Welcome to the Corner, Avtaar. I can’t offer you any considered opinions because despite three ‘sessions’ I still have only half of the puzzle solved. Perhaps you aimed too high on the difficulty scale – I shall leave that for Prolixic to determine.
    Well done for sticking your head above the parapet, my apologies for not finding your wavelength.

  9. I wasn’t too sure about this to begin with, but I warmed to it and did manage to finish with a little help. The only one I didn’t know was 3dn, which Chambers notes as ‘archaic or dialect’. There were some good ideas here and devices as used by established setters so I suspect this isn’t your first attempt at setting. However, some clues could do with a bit of polishing but I’ll leave the detailed analysis to Prolixic. And I’ll need his review to see the parsing of 15dn. Thanks for an interesting experience.

  10. Interesting clarification Prolixic, on an interesting puzzle
    I did not persevere with this (+/- 50% as per Jane) as I found it too technical and unnatural rather than fun
    Very good challenge though, so well done and thank you Avtaar

    As ever, thank you for your review Prolixic

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. On balance, I think I was wise to throw in the towel when I did!

  12. Many thanks to Avtaar for the very challenging puzzle, completed last night: a slow start indeed, finding it difficult to tune into your wavelength, and then much speedier to complete. Certainly a candidate for a later-in-the-week Toughie.

    Prolixic has (of course) said it all – and my thanks to him for those parsings with which I had struggled. For me 1a didn’t really work and the surface reading made little sense (RD’s pub conversation test); American terms in 9a and 5d; rather archaic 3d; the property trust in 19d is something I believe would be known to very few people indeed; 26a didn’t really work for me; 25a still has me scratching my head: sanitary, santitation and sanitising, all A-OK, but sanitate? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that as a verb and hope I never shall outside crossword-land!

    Otherwise I did enjoy this pretty stiff challenge, and look forward to your next puzzle!

  13. Hi Avtaar
    I, an admittedly inferior solver, had a go at this prior to reading the comments, but struggled. I did, though, find myself emulating Brenda from Bristol by saying “What? Another one?!!!” when my anagram detector hit double figures. Not that they was anything wrong with them, but they accounted for almost every other clue.
    Then I had a look at Prolixic’s review (which I thought kind) and understood why I (and far better solvers than I) struggled. The technicalities were overall pretty good, but I thought quite a few clues were simply unfair to the solver. For example 9a requires a word few, if any, will have heard of, 10a demands the solver recognises the need for an unindicated AND and there were other examples too. So it was way too hard for me and seemed to break the unwritten understanding that, in the battle between setter and solver, the setter’s objective is to lose (gracefully).
    Having said that, you clearly have good ability but I would suggest that focussing more on wit and less on obscurity will soon have them (us) eating out of your hand!
    I very much look forward to seeing what your next one is like, because, if you truly take the feedback on board, I suspect it will be really good!

  14. Thanks Avtaar. I managed about 75%, but enjoyed the challenge of how far one can push the boundaries of crypticism.
    Thank you also Prolixic for explaining the clues I failed on. I am still struggling with 10a – surely the sides of bridge are B and E followed by LET?

  15. First of all, thank you for all the comments. Excellent feedback overall.
    Sorry I couldn’t respond earlier as I was travelling

    I did think it may be on the challenging side – which is why I added more anagrams. Point to note for future.
    A few points from me:

    1. 16A – the definition is “type of market” . Therefore it will not be {Wordplay} of {Definition}
    2. 26A- I added the hyphen between Married and the rest of the clue so that “a short time after one” qualifies “divorced”. Hope that makes it fair.
    3. 8D – Charmed those people means “WON THEM OVER” with W,R removed becomes ON THE MOVE
    4. FAUCET (S becoming T), BANDELET (B AND E being sides of bridge) and UNITED (T going after I) had tricky wordplay – Do agree 3 in a grid was perhaps on the higher side
    5. 19D – Assuming does read better though I do think assumes does not make it grammatically incorrect as the possessive ‘s is not between the wordplay and the definition. 5D, Agree dropping is better
    6. A for absolute (temperature scale) seems to be in most major dictionaries including the BRB and Collins)
    7. All other feedback taken positively – repetition of leader as indicator (how did I miss that?), indicating Americanisms, use of Books for Book (something I have debated with another setter and since the New testament is a collection used book.) indicate reverse anagram (with a verbal anagram indicator that would have been essential anyway), tone down tricky wordplay

    Thanks all once again.
    #AvtaarSS on twitter

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