Rookie Corner 440 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 440

A Puzzle by PostMark

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Another excellent offering from PostMark.  Apart from the unfortunate error in 23d, there are only minor tidying comments.  The attempt at a Nina was good but spoiled by the V in the bottom right corner and the grid (or the word at 23d) should have been adjusted to give NORTH / NORTHS or SOUTH / SOUTHS at the top and bottom of the grid.  The commentometer reads as 3/28 or 10.7%.


7a  Space-time constructs the results of boring work? (9)
WORMHOLES: The type of voids made by annelids, perhaps, as they move through the earth.

8a  Cause chewed lip (5)
SAUCE: An anagram (chewed) of CAUSE.

9a  Pay English trainee to replace first name in memorial (9)
EMOLUMENT: The abbreviation for English followed by an eight-letter word for a memorial with the first N (name) replaced by an L (trainee).

10a  Zone around new sporting complex (5)
ARENA: A four-letter word for a zone around the abbreviation for new.

12a  Censured PostMark overlooked when particulars returned (6)
SLATED: A seven-letter word for particulars is reversed (returned) after removing the I (PostMark).

13a  Film celebrities in conflict? Quite the reverse (4,4)
STAR WARS:  A three-letter word for a conflict inside a five-letter word for celebrities.

14a  Occupying brute: he ransacked ancient city (7)
TEHERAN: The answer is hidden (occupying) the second to fourth words of the clue.

17a  Discharge goes against grain maybe in hearing (7)
EARSHOT: A four-letter word for a discharge from a gun after (goes against) a three-letter word for grain, among other plants.

20a  Long story short, German tennis star named by some for citation (8)
EPIGRAPH: A four-letter word for a long story with the final letter removed followed by a homophone (named by some) of Graf (German tennis star).

22a  Classical poet in House Competition (6)
HORACE: A two-abbreviation for house followed by a four-letter word for a type of competition.

24a  It sweeps back and forth (5)
RADAR: A locating device whose name is a palindrome.

25a  Hawk is near goner, sadly (9)
WARMONGER: A four-letter word used in a game to say that someone is near to an object to be found followed by an anagram (sadly) of GONER.

26a  Provided time in US city? Neat! (5)
NIFTY: A two-letter word meaning provided and the abbreviation for time inside the abbreviation for New York.  Avoiding the repetition of the A in B construction with in being the insertion indicator is difficult, but this was used in 13a as well.

27a  Distressed señoritas making statement (9)
ASSERTION: An anagram (distressed) of SENORITAS.


1d  Conqueror, possibly, abruptly left? Typical! (6)
NORMAL: A six-letter for a group of people who conquered Britain with the final letter removed (abruptly) followed by the abbreviation for left.

2d  Some letters describing French food (8)
OMELETTE: The answer is hidden (some) in the second and third words of the clue.

3d  American shared lodgings with young Aussie beside sea (6)
ROOMED: A three-letter word for a young marsupial followed by the shortened form of Mediterranean.  As a positional indicator, beside should only be used in an across clue.

4d  Tiny youngster messed up sty (7)
TEENTSY: A four-letter word for a youngster followed by an anagram (messed up) of STY.

5d  Cause distress for public school (6)
HARROW: Double definition.

6d  Dreadful car noise situation (8)
SCENARIO: An anagram (dreadful) of CAR NOISE.

11d  Fair knight had lost (4)
GALA: One of the knights of the round table without (lost) the HAD.

15d  Stress Ecstasy and speed unchanged (8)
EMPHASIS: The abbreviations for Ecstasy and Miles Per Hour (speed) followed by a phrase (2,2) meaning unchanged.

16d  Captain encountering whale: ‘That’s surprising, sailor!’ (4)
AHAB: A two-letter word expressing surprise followed by the abbreviation for Able Seaman (sailor).

18d  Might swap sides during street measurement (8)
STRENGTH: The abbreviation for street and a six-letter word for a measurement with the L changed to an R (swap sides).

19d  Suit has failed pressure treatment (7)
SHIATSU: An anagram (failed) of SUIT HAS.

21d  Leading couples from Glasgow assent to familiar festival (6)
GLASTO: The first pairs of letters from Glasgow and Assent followed by the TO from the clue.

22d  Village mascot you reportedly lost after an hour (6)
HAMLET: A six-letter word for a talisman or mascot without the U (you reportedly) after the single letter abbreviation for hour.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such a lost (used in 11d).

23d  Playwright‘s one from Prague in broadcast half over (6)
CHEKOV: A homophone (in broadcast) of Czech (one from Prague) followed by half of the word over.  Shades of Mrs Beaton (see here) so PostMark is in good company.  The playwright should have an H in his name.

38 comments on “Rookie Corner 440

  1. We had to work hard but are so glad that we persevered as it proved to be a very clever, competently put together puzzle.
    We tried to pick a favourite but gave up as there were just so many candidates for the title.
    Thanks and well done PostMark.

  2. Thanks and congratulations PostMark for a really enjoyable puzzle – up to your usual high standard.
    The top half went in smoothly but the SE in particular held me up and I’ve failed to parse my bung in for 17a. I resorted to a reveal for my LOI, 26a which elicited a groan from me when it was revealed and became one of my favourites.
    Big ticks for 20a 11d 18d 19d and stand out favourite was 25a.

  3. That was an enjoyable ending to my Sunday evening cruciverbalism although I don’t think Anton Chekhov would be very happy that you had missed an ‘H’ out of his surname in 23d.

    Big smiles for 9a, 11a, 3d, and 15d.

    Thanks PostMark and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Well isn’t that funny? This puzzle was originally put together in April, the software tossed up CHEKOV as a solution and the grid has been seen by half a dozen pairs of eyes in its finished form. The clueing has changed but not the grid. And not one has spotted that error – indeed, one queried an element of word play but never spelling. So that’s the thing I’ve learned today. I should’ve czeched my facts on that one but never gave it a second thought!

      1. The software’s Chekov was probably the Star Trek character; replace playwright with Trekkie or similar and you’re there

  4. Many thanks PM, very enjoyable – some tricky stuff but all immaculately clued. Shame about the playwright (though I’m sure there’s a case for this alternative Anglicisation!), and not sure why 3d’s Aussie is young … but more than enough to compensate – favourites included 7a, 14a, 25a, 1d & 16d, although pretty much any clue could be added to that list. Thanks again and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Young was small, right from the beginning, and then was edited to young right at the end when the last read through the clue felt a tad awkward. I think I’d clued it so long ago (May?) I’d forgotten the job it was doing! I will not attempt to claim that young means ‘not fully formed’!

  5. Welcome back, PostMark.

    As soon as I saw your name as the setter, I knew that the puzzle would be of a high standard with pleasing surfaces, and that it would be fun to solve. It was. The grid immediately put me on “Nina alert”, so the perimeter geography did help with the initial/last letters of some of the solutions. Apart from the unfortunate misspelling of 23d, I did notice that “lost” was repeated as a deletion indicator and that “in” was used twice as an insertion device. “Beside” as a positional indicator in a Down clue did jar a little for me. Those quibbles apart, this was another excellent creation, I have too many ticks to choose a favourite clue.

    Congratulations and many thanks, PostMark. Hope you’ll return soon!

    1. Thanks Silvanus. That first sentence means a lot. The ‘sort of’ Nina was really just a device to get the gridfill going. At the time, the range of grids available on MyCrossword was considerably more limited; it would have been nice to find one with just five lights at top and bottom. All quibbles are fair and I’m kicking myself about Chekov – particularly as I discover – belatedly and, somewhat inevitably, when the puzzle is up on display – that CREDOS is the one word other than the helmsman of the Enterprise that could have filled that slot. Ain’t that always the way …

  6. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, PostMark, with a superb puzzle combining brief and accurate clueing with smooth surfaces; a Nina too, and even an indicated Americanism to keep me happy!

    I found three quarters of this nicely challenging with the NW distinctly tougher, although I’m not sure why with hindsight.

    My page is littered with ticks, and I’ve awarded double ticks to 13a, 22a, 25a, 2d, 11d & 22d. The only issue for me was the spelling of 23d.

    Very well done and thank you, PM. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic, who I suspect will have an easy ride with this one.

  7. Lots to enjoy in another crossword where I found the left-hand side a lot friendlier than the right – I did spot the Nina which helped – my favourite was 26a as it is such a splendid word

    Thanks very much to PostMark and, in advance, to Prolixic

  8. Very enjoyable indeed – thanks to PostMark.
    The NW corner held me up longest. If I’d spotted the Nina earlier that would have helped.
    I had masses of ticks including 13a, 14a, 25a, 26a and 11d.
    More like this would me most welcome.

  9. Thanks Postmark. This was a challenging but excellent piece of work for the most part. I got the playwright from the checkers but was surprised by the spelling and was looking for JOEY in 4d, but you explained that above (I’ve previously made the same silly error!). 4d tripped me up as I I have never come across this version and could not find it in Collins or Chambers (though it did appear in some online dictionaries, so possibly American?). Lots of good ideas on show but 9a, 12a, 11d and 15d stood out for me.

    1. Thanks for the positives. I subscribe to the full Chambers dictionary online, Dr D, and 4d is in there – along with half a dozen alternatives – and not indicated as other than standard English:

      teeny /tēˈni/ (informal)
      Tiny (also (often facetious) teenˈsy /tēnˈzi/, teensy-weensy /-wēnˈzi/, teenˈtsy /tēnˈtsi/, teenˈty /tēnˈti/ and teenˈy-weenˈy /-wēˈni/)

      1. I must admit I checked the BRB and didn’t see it at first but I found it when I looked again. It’s a bit like a well-hidden lurker in that list!

  10. Very enjoyable Postmark.
    The Nina was a massive help but still quite challenging. I thought your lurkers were particularly good but my favourites were 13&25a plus 11,15&21d. All in all very professionally and smoothly clued.
    Thanks and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  11. A most enjoyable solve, thank you PostMark. After much deliberation I nominated 26a plus 11&22d as my top three. Shame about the poor playwright but I suppose ‘to err is human’.
    Must admit that I didn’t register the ‘sort of’ Nina until someone else pointed it out!

  12. Dr Diva @9, I was also unfamiliar with the variation in 4d but as PostMark says it is indeed in Chambers (13th ed.) and not indicated as American, so it’s fine.
    I thought there were lots of fine clues in this, my favourites being 14 and 25 across, and 11, 15, 16, 19 down, and it wasn’t a particularly difficult solve.
    Sympathies, PostMark, on the Chekhov error, which I know you’ll be particularly unhappy about, but these things happen and we all see the occasional error from professional setters that have eluded the editor too. The thing that baffles me is where you managed to get six test-solvers from, or am I just unusually friendless? :lol:

    1. Ha! Six pairs of eyes, not six test solvers per se, Twmbarlwm. But it wasn’t six members of the public randomly hauled from the street! I attended Boatman’s course in the summer and we all submitted an example puzzle – this was mine, written in early May. Some clues have been tweaked since then but the solutions have not so the Enterprise helmsman conned us all!

  13. A pleasant solve Postmark, and not too difficult, so thank you. Some nice surfaces. I read the blog comments before attempting the puzzle, so the nina helped. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise. Had the same question over 4d as others above, and had spelt it wrong until Starwars hove into view, but as you say, it’s there in the BRB. Thanks again.

  14. Tremendous lunchtime solve today, thank you Postmark. I must have tuned in to your wavelength from the off, taking the four mini-puzzles one-by-one from SW-NE-SE-NW in pretty short order and smiling almost constantly.

    My only “hummmm” is about 12a: using Postmark for I works only when as setter your name appears with the puzzle. No issue with its use here, but eg until the DT went to the appalling new “improved” puzzles site the name of the Toughie setter did not appear alongside the puzzle when it was printed, and the setter’s name doesn’t appear in The Times that I have noticed, though I may be wrong.

    19a always has me thinking about irritating little dogs rather than a calming massage … Every clue had a tick alongside it, and my two favourites by a short head were 11d and 22d.

    I suspect Prolixic (to whom thanks in advance) will have little to say about this fine puzzle. Thank you for the tremendous fun while it lasted, and I anticipate your next grid with some eagerness.

    1. That’s a lovely comment, Mustafa G, for which many thanks. I completely agree about the use of a setter’s name; totally unfeasible in the journals you mention – but I don’t think the crossword editors of either will be having to wrestle with incorporating PostMark in the foreseeable …🤣🤣🤣

  15. Congratulations on an excellent puzzle, PM! I’m delighted to see how well it has been received here – and deservedly so. My personal favourites amongst loads of great clues are 9A, 13A, 14A, 25A, 11D, 15D and 22D.

  16. Top notch PostMark & a hugely enjoyable. Had I spotted the Nina (when will it sink in that with a crenellated grid look for one) I might have got my last 2 in (7&17a) a darn sight sooner. Shame about Chekhov but I wouldn’t worry – as Richard E Grant (Withnail & I) says Russian plays always full of women staring out of windows whining about ducks going to Moscow. Too many fine clues to single out a favourite among the host of ticks on my page – 9,13,25&26a plus 11,15,19&21d to pick just 4 of each. Unfortunately can’t claim an unaided finish as wrongly thought ween might be the youngster having been unduly influenced by that spider at 4d & had to read up on what space time had to do with 7a.
    Look forward to your next offering & well done.

  17. Thanks to all who have taken the trouble to do the crossword and then to comment. I would normally respond to everyone but I appreciate that’s probably not appropriate. I have responded to specific points but do appreciate the comments from everyone. In particular, it’s heartwarming to know people have enjoyed it; that’s the main reason for compiling. CHEKOV has been roundly debated and is profoundly regretted and I’m annoyed at the couple of repetitions spotted by Silvanus. I look forward to discovering whatever else Prolixic may turn up and offer my thanks in advance..

    1. Cause and distressed were also in a couple of clues, but that didn’t detract from an enjoyable challenge
      Well done and thanks PostMark

      1. Thanks LetterboxRoy. That is true but each appears once in a definition – funnily enough, in the same definition – and on the other occasion as a) anagram fodder and b) an anagrind. I thought it was OK for words to repeat if used in substantially different ways? I’ll be interested to hear Prolixic’s views on that point.

        1. Agreed if used in different ways. More of an issue (but not present in this crossword) is where one of the solutions is a word used in the clues.

  18. Most enjoyable, thank you, Postmark. We didn’t notice the Nina until reading the comments a few moments ago. 4d was new to us. Favourites were 15d and 26a but lots to enjoy. We look forward to your next puzzle. Now to read Prolixic’s words.

  19. Many thanks as ever for the review, Prolixic. As expected, PostMark received an excellent rating from the commentometer and he certainly gave us a good puzzle.

  20. Late to the party as I didn’t tackle this till late last night and didn’t find time to comment till now. Actually I didnt quite finish last night and only got 25ac just now while coming here – don’t know why I didn’t get it before, it seeme so obvious.
    Anyway, an enjoyable puzzle, despite the little matter of the nina. Thanks, PostMark – and Prolixic.

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