Rookie Corner 458 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 458

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.

A review by Prolixic follows.

PostMark achieves that rarest of accolades, a zero score on the commentometer.  Upstairs beckons.


9a  In court granny occasionally read newspaper or magazine (5)
ORGAN: The even letters (occasionally read) of the second and third words of the clue.

10a  Family‘s delight visiting Rhodes on vacation (9)
RELATIONS: A seven-letter word meaning delight inside (visiting) the outer letters (on vacation) of Rhodes.

11a  Maintaining stronghold to protect penguin (7,2)
KEEPING UP: A four-letter word for a stronghold around (to protect) a five-letter name of a cartoon penguin character.

12a  Cockney collector received instruction? (5)
ORDER: How a Cockney would pronounce hoarder.  As Cockney indicators rely on the verbal pronunciation, not how something is written, I think that you could omit the additional homophone indicator.  Looking at the reverse, if you were to clue the river Ouse by reference to a Cockney house, I think solvers would object.

13a  Save mate (7)
HUSBAND: Double definition.

15a  Chicken dish engineers eat as starter (7)
SUPREME: The four-letter abbreviation for engineers with a three-letter word meaning to eat before it (as starter).

17a  Angry alien’s after those responsible for delivery (5)
UPSET: The well-known film alien after the three-letter name of a parcel deliver company.

18a  Decline leads to sin and godlessness (3)
SAG: The initial letters (leads to) of the last three words of the clue.

20a  Serene maiden’s suppressing flush (5)
ENEMA: The answer is hidden in (suppressing) the first two words of the clue.

22a  Ranges of old camping equipment? (7)
EXTENTS: The two-letter prefix meaning old followed by a four-letter word for some camping equipment.

25a  A retiring minister’s mature; that’s normal (7)
AVERAGE: The A from the clue followed by a reversal (retiring) of the abbreviated form of address for a minister of religion and a three-letter word meaning to mature.

26a  Tea cups in porcelain (5)
CHINA: A three-letter word for tea around (cups) the IN from the clue.

27a  Unconfined animals leap towards the rising Sun (9)
EASTBOUND: A six-letter word for animals without the first and last letters (unconfined) followed by a five-letter word meaning to leap.

30a  Thy career’s afflicted? ‘Tis perfidy! (9)
TREACHERY: An anagram (afflicted) of THY CAREER.

31a  Names urban areas to lose some independence (5)
CITES: A six-letter word for urban areas without one of (some) the letters I (independence).


1d  Creative piece, right? Inspired by Pan? (4)
WORK: The abbreviation for right inside (inspired by) a three-letter word for a cooking pan.

2d  Monstrous women in very large clothing depart cycling (8)
OGRESSES: The abbreviation for very large around (clothing) a six-letter word meaning to depart with the letters cycled around.

3d  She doesn’t support removing smart cantilever (4)
ANTI: Remove a six-letter word meaning smart from the word cantilever.

4d  Ship reportedly assists army units (8)
BRIGADES: A four-letter word for a ship followed by a homophone (reportedly) of AIDS (assists).

5d  Pistes perhaps defined by singular runs (6)
SLOPES: The abbreviation for singular followed by a five-letter word meaning runs.

6d  Harem poet’s composed air (10)
ATMOSPHERE: An anagram (composed) of HAREM POETS.

7d  Stupid pasta! (6)
NOODLE: Double definition.

8d  Emperor, returning, snubbed Jamaican believer (4)
TSAR: A reversal (returning) of a five-letter word for a Jamaican follower of Rastafarianism without its final letter (snubbed).

13d  Henry’s flower, one of a dozen? (5)
HOUSE: The abbreviation for Henry followed by a four-letter name of a river.

14d  Those present (around 500) assembled at canteen (10)
ATTENDANCE: An anagram (assembled) of AT CANTEEN around the Roman numeral for 500.

16d  To escape Earth, galactic villain eventually vaporised (5)
EVADE: The abbreviation for Earth followed by the final name of the Star Wars villain without the final letter (eventually vaporised.

19d  Prosthetic that looks like the real thing yet doesn’t? (5,3)
GLASS EYE: Cryptic definition of the prosthetic that can replace the organ of sight.

21d  Empty electric vehicle, under acceleration, runs away from cleric (8)
EVACUATE: The abbreviation for an electric vehicle (given in Collins) followed by a six-letter word for a cleric without the R (runs away from) under the abbreviation for the abbreviation for acceleration.

23d  Oil European kept in empty teapot for convenience (6)
TOILET: The OIL from the clue and the abbreviation for European inside (kept in) the outer letters (empty) of teapot.

24d  Appeared stitched up in conversation (6)
SEEMED: A homophone (in conversation) of SEAMED (stitched up)

26d  Regularly eat lunch, coming back for sweet (4)
CUTE: A reversal (coming back) of the odd letters (regularly) of the second and third words of the clue.

28d  Place bet on player (4)
BACK: Double definition.

29d  Rip off Mum’s cash (4)
DOSH: A two-letter word meaning rip off followed by the two-letter word meaning be quite or mum.

57 comments on “Rookie Corner 458
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  1. A well put together puzzle that had us working hard, particularly in the SE but it all eventually came together.
    Plenty to keep us smiling.
    Thanks PostMark.

  2. Like the 2Kiwis said, well put together but it did involve some head scratching.

    Smiles for 15a, 22a, 1d, 4d, and 29d but Hmms for 11a (the penguin needed e-confirmation) and 17a (on the delivery organisation).

    Thanks PostMark and thanks in advance to Prolixic(?).

    1. The penguin is possibly the most well-known fictional penguin in the UK, being a famous children’s TV character of the 1990s early 2000s. That was during a period after my childhood and before I was anywhere near becoming a parent myself but the character somehow was big enough that even those without children had heard of them.

      The Wikipedia page for the show suggests it was a hit in many countries internationally, with the USA being an exception which was inexplicably resistant to it.

      The delivery service is American but operates internationally. It’s in the top few parcel companies in the UK, and one of only 3 I can think of with a 3-letter name. Both penguin and courier seem like the kind of cultural references that, say, Django would use in a puzzle, and seem absolute fine to me.

      1. Django did use the courier company in a relatively recent Toughie to very cleverly clue an expression of encouragement to a child who’s fallen Smylers. I remember it well.

      2. I’d have to agree, S. The penguin is the only fictional penguin I know and I see those brown delivery vans almost every day. I suspect that nobody would have batted an eyelid if the late, great Petitjean had used these references in one of his Toughies. Surely there’s room in a cryptic crossword for a bit of cultural frivolity/fun.

      3. Apparently the penguin was, and still is, on Canadian TV but, even back in the 1990s, my family were not in what I understand to be its target age group. So, for me, it is obscure GK.

        As for the delivery service, of which I am very aware, I thought that the surface was somewhat ‘loose.’

  3. Many thanks in advance to those who choose to do the puzzle and to those who subsequently comment. And, of course, to Prolixic.

    I have a question for Rookie Corner. (Slight spoiler involved, if you haven’t done the puzzle).

    Does a Cockney indicator simply drop the initial H or can it additionally alter the spelling of the word? In 12a, I felt the Cockney version of the fodder in question, if written, would be spelled incorrectly for the solution. So, to be safe, inserted an additional homophone indicator. Would the Cockney indicator alone work to both drop the H and change the subsequent spelling? I’d be interested in opinions/answers; my research, pre-submission, could find very little on the issue.

    Thanks. PM

    1. PM, I think that “Cockney” in a clue refers to pronunciation. I don’t have any hard evidence, it’s just my opinion. So, “Cockney collector’s instruction” would have been fine in my book.

      1. Thanks RD. Yes, hard evidence was hard to come by! The pronunciation bit is fine; it’s then the spelling of it. I could certainly imagine seeing it in writing as ‘oarder – even though that’s not a word. Like ‘orse. Hence, my dilemma. I am sure Prolixic will have the answer but this is a great opportunity to canvass the views of other experienced setters/solvers.

        1. I could well be wrong (I often am) but I think the spelling in this instance is governed by the definition not the wordplay.

    2. PM. I can see point the point you make. I took Cockney as a trigger to drop the H and received as a homophone indicator. So, the answer is a homophone of the synonym of “collector”, but how a Cockney would say/pronounce (not spell) it. (Instruction being the definition). I think the clue is OK.

  4. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, PostMark. This was a joy to solve from start to finish with great clueing, subtle disguises, and smooth surfaces throughout.

    I had to check that “sup” in 15a could mean “eat” as well as its much more common usage of “drink”. The BRB describes it variously as Scottish, Shakespearean and archaic!

    My only query is the use of “under” in 21d. EV (not in Chambers, but surely in sufficiently common usage now) is “over” not “under” the A.

    I have a very long list of ticks: 10a, 18a, 22a, 30a, 2d, 16d, 19d, 23d, 24d & 29d.

    Very well done, PM, and thank you. I look forward to more from you. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Hi RD. In 21d, I’m parsing as: EV first. Then – underneath acceleration – the rest of the wp). The ‘then’ is unwritten but assumed.

      1. For what it’s worth, I have seen that vague/implied way of writing/sequencing a clue several times before, but I suspect it’s generally not very popular.

  5. Well done Post Mark, very enjoyable.
    A couple of unconvincing surface reads in there and a couple where I’m not sure if the capitalisation is correct but mostly smooth and very well constructed so minor quibbles
    Re 12a, I’d have clued it in a different way to avoid any contention!!
    I really liked 17,26 (both very smart)&27a plus 8,26&29d with my favourite being 19d.
    Good stuff. Thanks and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review

  6. A fine accompaniment to breakfast, thank you PostMark

    I discussed the Cockney rhyming homophone issue with another setter quite recently so will be interested to see what Prolixic has to say on the matter. Thanks to him in advance

  7. Lovely stuff, PM. 26a is a real gem, so neat. Other favourites were the fun 11a and 19d, and 18a for the evocative surface.

  8. A top-notch puzzle which was a joy to solve – thanks to PostMark.
    I have loads of ticks including 18a, 26a, 1d, 19d and 26d.
    My view is that you do need a homophone indicator if the h-less word has a non-standard spelling.

  9. Enjoyable puzzle, PostMark, with lots of good clues. I’ve seen china with cups as a containment indicator before, but agree that it’s done very neatly here as the stand-out clue.
    For what it’s worth, I think the Cockney clue doesn’t need an additional homophone indicator, as it’s implied. There was a Times cryptic not so long ago that had ‘Skin condition in London area, might Cockneys say? (4)’ for ACNE/HACKNEY. It seems to divide opinion though, and editors’ views may diverge.

  10. Nice work PostMark. Thought 26a was very clever but plenty of other ticks too. Just a couple of surfaces that read a little awkwardly but otherwise excellent. I found the Cockney reference fine. Cockney refers to pronunciation and as such seems to me just another homophone indicator which typically will also indicate a dropped H. But that’s just my understanding.

  11. Welcome back, Postmark.

    This was as thoroughly enjoyable to solve as I expected it would be when I saw who had set it, congratulations on another excellent puzzle.

    I also felt that “eat” as a synonym for the first part of 15a should probably be qualified in some way to reflect its archaic or Scottish pigeonhole and I would have preferred “stupid person’s pasta” in 7d as the solution is a noun not an adjective. I can reluctantly accept “a bit/drop of” as a first letter indicator (although nobody has ever convinced me of the logic behind that convention), but I’m less happy with “some” performing the same role, as in 31d.

    My take on the 12a debate is that it’s okay to use “Cockney” as a homophone indicator (although I think Cockney’s/East Ender’s is better if the surface allows) irrespective of the spelling. For example, this is a clue that RayT used in one of his Telegraph puzzles last year:
    Misjudged or judged in EastEnders? (ERRED).

    I have plenty of ticks on my print-out, but my podium clues would be 11a, 26a and 26d.

    Great stuff, I look forward to your next one, PostMark. Many thanks.

      1. The “i” in 31a is an abbreviation – I read the “some” to cleverly indicate that only 1 of the 2 i’s are lost from the urban areas.

          1. I don’t think I’ve seen “independence” for “I” before (only “independent”), but yes, it’s shown in Chambers. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, I have to say that I much prefer working for an organisation like the Telegraph where there is a defined list of permissible single-letter abbreviations rather than having free rein to include any of the thousands that appear in dictionaries. One of the least satisfying aspects about solving Rookie Corner puzzles is the prospect of occasionally trawling through Chambers or Collins for such justification. I would have preferred using something like “to lose subsidies essentially” instead but, strictly speaking, you haven’t told the solver which “I” to remove, even though it is actually obvious.

            1. Is there a publicly available source that lists the permissible abbreviations? I have searched for such without success. As you note, many sources see it as a positive virtue to suggest as many abbreviations as possible and you can probably find something represented by every letter combo under the sun. I restrict myself to Chambers and try to avoid abbreviations I, personally, consider outre but it’s hard to know which are considered acceptable by the wider solving public and which not.

              1. I don’t think there is, no. Like the Telegraph, The Times has its own “in-house” list (curiously it’s less proscriptive), whereas The Independent and The Guardian, to the best of my knowledge, adopt a “if it’s in a major dictionary, it’s fair game” policy. Not sure about the FT.

                1. Mr Fish (remember him?) has a copy.

                  August 16, 2022 Comment #6.

                  The link to the comment failed. It used to be possible to add a link.

                    1. Hi stanXYZ. Thanks for the reference – although it appears to have been somewhat of a contentious interaction on the blog that day. Before their departure, Mr Fish did say they had a copy of the approved list but not where it might be found. Unless I missed it when scrolling through a lengthy thread. Would there be an argument for having a list of permitted abbreviations attached to the RC site somewhere as assistance/guidance for aspirational setters? If we knew what the rules were, we would find it easier to observe them. (The discussion on the blog began with the observation that L is an abbreviation for capital-L Liberal but not lower-case-L Liberal. I suspect I’ve made that error before. It also highlighted that L is not an accepted abbreviation for Latin, despite that being in Chambers; I know I have committed the sin of using that one. And, whilst not entirely damned out of court, L for student was mentioned as undesirable. At the risk of misquoting Tolkien’s Elrond, our list of L’s grows thin … )

                  1. Oops! I really should read the comments more carefully.

                    Mr Fish, of course, was only referring to the Daily Telegraph list of abbreviations.

                    Mea Culpa!

                    ps. A very enjoyable puzzle today from Postmark. Many Thanks.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. I’ll acknowledge I tend to enjoy using slightly archaic language in everyday conversation so ‘sup’ for eat is actually a verb I use regularly. Hence somewhat less attuned to the need to qualify. In 7d, I was using both words as nouns. Chambers notes that ‘stupid’ is a noun (informal) meaning ‘a stupid person’ and it was in that sense I was using it. Two nouns to define a noun.

      1. Hi,

        I don’t think I’ve ever encountered “stupid” as a noun, Collins seems to regard it purely as an adjective too, but if Chambers includes it, objection withdrawn!

        1. Thanks Silvanus. For what it’s worth, it appears as a noun in Collins online in the British English and American English sections but not in the top section

  12. I think a couple of surface reads let you down a little in this one, PostMark, and I had doubts about 12a and ‘under’ in 21d, but overall it was an enjoyable solve.
    Top two for me were 11a & 1d.

    Many thanks for the puzzle and the obvious efforts you make to validate the wording of clues prior to submission.

  13. A super puzzle PM, thanks, and I’m pleased to see it receiving the positive comments that it deserves. Lots of clever wordplay but with the right level of difficulty for my rather slow solving brain! 26A was so subtle I missed the full beauty of it until reading the comments here. Other favourites included 20A, 27A, 2D, 5D and 23D.

  14. Thanks PM, very good fun – my favourites amongst lots to enjoy were 20a (for the ‘twee’ surface disguising less than twee solution), 26a (as others have mentioned), 30a (for the poetic surface), 19d (funny and clever), 23d (pleasingly silly) & 29d (nice use of “rip off”).

    Re the conversation above on abbreviations – as a ridiculous pedant, I have every sympathy for L being capitalised for Liberal … but that would also, surely, apply to e.g. Street or Saint for ST, wihch are only abbreviated when used capitalised in names, yet appear frequently with lower case s? More generally, relying on Chambers may be both too restrictive (no EV as you’ve used; or, e.g. PH for pub, an OS map thing; or, clothes sizes S/L though M for medium *is* OK!) and too loose (e.g. Chambers justifies “about” for A, but it feels like a bit of a cheat outside of ‘advanced’ barred puzzles, say). So I can see why a “defined list” would be very helpful!

    1. That’s the kind of abbreviation I’ve chosen not to use, Fez. About = A just ‘feels’ as if it’s obscure and I’ve certainly not seen it in the wild to my knowledge. Are = A is another absolutely valid one that I just have not encountered outside the dictionary. Given how regularly those two words appear in clues, they could be devastating when used as abbreviations. EV’s absence surprised me: no reference at all in Chambers and yet it’s all over the Web; there is an EV Magazine and it even appears on government websites.

      1. As a solver, I’m happy with any abbreviation that the publication containing the crossword would use in their headlines or articles. I’d just have the crossword abbreviation list being the same as the sub-eds’.

        It seems bizarre to me that headlines use terms like ‘EV’ and ‘EFL’ (on sports stories) clearly expecting readers to understand them, yet as soon as we get to the crossword we all pretend that those would be too obscure or unfair. While simultaneously crossword solvers are expected to know ‘AB’, yet I can’t see any mainstream newspaper using it in a headline to indicate sailors.

    2. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’d also support a defined list of abbreviations but that opens a whole new can of worms such as what would be on such a list and who would establish it? The Times allows “bachelor” for B and “horse” for H for example, the Telegraph doesn’t. The Telegraph allows “second-class” for B and “yard” for Y, The Times appears not to permit such uses. It would be interesting to hear the views of other setters and solvers too as to whether they would favour knowing precisely what is and isn’t considered acceptable, but I suspect it is probably too difficult and impractical to implement.

  15. Good stuff PM, I enjoyed that.
    One or two “light” definitions and the odd Yoda-ish surface but I finished in a reasonable time without aid so they were understandable enough.
    Really liked 19d
    Abbreviations are a minefield. You see lots that aren’t in Chambers or Mr. Lancaster’s (short) list. It’s only here on RC, where they teach the right way, that you get pulled up. You can try your luck once you have moved up ;-)

    Looking forward to your next

  16. There’s a list of the accepted Telegraph abbreviations in Appendix 1 of editor Chris Lancaster’s excellent book ‘The Telegraph: How To Solve a Cryptic Crossword’. Full of helpful and entertaining advice apart from that.

    I have not been paid for this message. :grin:

    1. I’m embarrassed to say I had forgotten about that – it is basically, word-for-word, the list that Telegraph setters are required to follow. I would recommend it for all Rookie Corner setters.

  17. Thanks for the delightful puzzle PM, lovely stuff! I also appreciate the discussions this puzzle has inspired, most interesting. As to my favourites, I was a big fan of 15a (neat, sup = eat came out smoothly for me), 26a (very neat), 1d (fun), 16d (likewise), 19d (fun and clever) and 29d (neat). Very pleased to see this puzzle getting a lot of love, looking forward to what Prolixic makes of this one!

  18. Late in the day to this after a busy day including ferrying grandson back and forth to his football academy.
    Glad I made the effort! I’ve enjoyed your earlier offerings both here and in My Crossword. This was at least up to the standard of your previous efforts with some ingenious cluing and plenty of wit. Lots of ticks and double ticks on my list. I have no trouble with the cockney homophone. II’s a homophone – enough said. Really liked the penguin, even though I’m the wrong generation. Top of the list though for me is 19d of which I think any setter would have been proud. i was beaten by 21 down as I missed the first abbreviation EV, and was misled (as you no doubt intended) by your cunning use of empty as the definition word and was convinced the solution began EC. No doubt Prolixic will enlighten us further on the few marginal technical issue others have raised. However, they did not get in the way of the fun and, as Tater has said, main stream setters themselves sometimes push the boundaries of what is technically acceptable in order to provide smooth cluing
    As a fellow Rookie I’ve followed the discussion on permissible abbreviations with great interest having fallen foul here with ones that have been considered invalid. I’ve now ordered my copy of Chris Lancaster’s book and look forward to Amazon delivering it to my door.
    Keep up the good work and thank you.

  19. A delightful pre lights out solve which I thoroughly enjoyed. Lots of ticks on my page but 11a my clear fav. The comments & discussion very informative too.
    Great stuff PostMark- keep ‘em coming.
    Ps – Re 17a I remember eating in Dicks Last Resort restaurant in Myrtle Beach. The gimmick is that the staff are intentionally insulting & you had to wear a paper hat that they’d written something demeaning on which you couldn’t see but everyone else could – chap opposite me had written on his even UPS couldn’t find my package & whenever I see their logo I’m reminded of a great night out.

  20. Many thanks to Prolixic for the zero score and to all who solved and/or commented. I’m aware it became a lengthy thread due to both the abbreviation debate and some commenters responses re Cockney: I am genuinely grateful to all who took the trouble to contribute.

    1. Well done PM, well-deserved – looking forward to your debut NTSPP! & thanks to Prolixic for review – and commenters for interesting discussions :-)

    2. Well done indeed, let’s see what you can do with your graduation debut :D Thanks to Prolixic for review, not so much for you to do this week!

  21. Thank you for your review Prolixic
    Well done PostMark

    #Silvanus Personally, I don’t like supposedly definitive lists of abbreviations, anagram indicators etc
    For example we all know BS when we see it but that isn’t in the dictionary, yet SNAFU is

    Dictionaries are out of date by the time they are printed so I am happy with everyday colloquial usages and not too fussed as long as the puzzle can be solved and is enjoyable

    1. Thanks LetterboxRoy. It was not the intention but the puzzle did lead to an interesting discussion – certainly for those of us who set and want to do so fairly.

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