Rookie Corner 471 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 471

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.

Amoeba makes his annual appearance in the Rookie Corner.  With the exception of 10d, which I think let the standard down compared with the other excellent clues, there was only on other minor comment and an incorrect definition.  The commentometer reads as 1.5 / 28 or 5.4%.


1a  Martial artist bitten by snake is dead (6)
ASLEEP: The surname of the martial artist Bruce inside (bitten by) a three-letter word for a snake.

5a  A bit of flexibility in detailed measure (6)
FATHOM: The first letter (a bit) of flexibility followed by a phrase (2,4) meaning in with the last-letter removed (detailed).

8a  Rhino blundering around church making high-pitched noises (7)
RHONCHI: An anagram (blundering) of RHINO around an abbreviation for church.  The noises are more low-pitched than high pitched.

9a  Twice leaves posh French mansion (7)
CHATEAU: Two three-letter words for a drink brewed from tea followed by the letter representing posh.

11a  Fruit spread and bananas set aside (9,6)
BUTTERNUT SQUASH: A type of dairy spread followed by a four-letter word meaning bananas or mad and a five-letter word meaning set aside or annul.

12a  Caught tragic figure giving lecherous look (4)
LEER: A homophone (caught) of LEAR (tragic figure).

13a  Not profitable, like an orchard in winter? (10)
UNFRUITFUL: A description of an orchard where the trees are not laden with their produce.

17a  Once again joining band, not initially worrying (10)
REMARRYING: A three-letter word for a musical band followed by an eight-letter word meaning worrying without its initial letter.

18a  Loaned money to student nurse with interest at last (4)
LENT: The abbreviation for student followed by a two-letter abbreviation for a registered nurse and the final letter (at last) of interest.

20a  Rough-hewn, true-hearted criminal (5,3,7)
UNDER THE WEATHER: An anagram (criminal) of HEWN TRUE HEARTED.  Joining the definition to the wordplay with a hyphen would not be accepted by most editors.

23a  Suspect grandee’s furious (7)
ENRAGED: An anagram (furious) of GRANDEEE.

24a  PM‘s party almost expressed warning (7)
BALFOUR: A four-letter word for a party or dance with the final letter removed (almost) followed by a homophone (expressed) of FORE (warning).

25a  Cancel banker hiding grant (6)
DELETE: A three-letter name of a river (banker) around (hiding) a three-letter word meaning grant or allow.

26a  Tax burden reduced by queen previously (6)
EXCISE: An eight-letter word for a burden without (reduced by) the regnal cipher of our late queen.


2d  Brief snappy phrase (5-4)
SHORT-TERM: A five-letter word meaning snappy followed by a four-letter word for a phrase.

3d  Cut a piece of Somerset cheddar (6)
ETCHED: The answer is hidden (a piece of) in the final two words of the clue.

4d  Rampant Republicans stopped by one woman’s distress (9)
POIGNANCY: A reversal (rampant) of the three-letter abbreviation for the Republican party in America around (stopped) the letter represented by one followed by a five-letter woman’s name.

5d  Expert inspired by newspaper feature (5)
FACET: A three-letter word for an expert inside (inspired by) a two-letter word for a broadsheet newspaper.

6d  Relaxed, swaddled by Sumatran quilt (8)
TRANQUIL: The answer is hidden (swaddled by) in the final two words of the clue.

7d  Take tips from women oddly glad to see one of Plato’s letters (5)
OMEGA: The inner letters (take tips from) of women followed by the odd letters of glad.

8d  Labour’s beer reforms cause trouble (6-5)
RABBLE-ROUSE: An anagram (reforms) of LABOURS BEER.

10d  Worker tasked with making the chair feel more comfortable? (11)
UPHOLSTERER: A barely cryptic definition.  Whilst the clue could be defined as cryptic if you read the chair as the person presiding over a meeting, when the natural reading of the clue is a straight definition, the point of the clue is lost.

14d  King gets help suppressing disgusted reaction to biomass? (9)
RENEWABLE: The single-letter abbreviation for king followed by a six-letter word for help around (suppressing) a two-letter word for a disgusted reaction.  As the two-letter abbreviation is in the OED, it is allowable even if it does not appear in Chambers or Collins.

15d  Perhaps strip clubs prevent writer getting upset about husband (9)
FLESHPOTS: A four-letter word meaning prevent or put a halt to and the four-letter surname of the author Will all reversed (getting upset) around (about) the abbreviation for husband.

16d  Interrupt one who’s paid crook (8)
PROROGUE: The three-letter abbreviation for professional (one who’s paid) followed by a five-letter word for a crook.

19d  Leaders of guerillas and evacuees liaise in common tongue (6)
GAELIC: The initial letter (leaders of) the third to eight words of the clue.

21d  German’s overwhelmed by awful lament (5)
DIRGE: The single-letter abbreviation for German inside (overwhelmed by) a four-letter word meaning dire.

22d  That man would say revolutionary provides protection (5)
HEDGE: The contraction of “that man would” followed by a reversal (revolutionary) of the two-letter abbreviation for say.

21 comments on “Rookie Corner 471

  1. Thanks Amoeba – a bit of a head scratcher which needed Chambers and electronic confirmations but I managed to 5a everything in the end..

    Smiles for 5a, 25a, and 15d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. We also needed electronic assistance to get the last few, especially in the NW, but eventually got everything sorted.
    9a was one of several that gave us a good smile.
    Thanks Amoeba.

  3. A crossword where ‘starting with the Downs’ would have helped as once I had some checking letters I was able to get on a lot better with the Across clues. It seemed tough to start with but I still had a bit of cereal left when I’d completed the grid – my favourite clue was 9a

    Thank you to Amoeba and, in advance, to Prolixic

  4. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Amoeba. This was a Toughie level puzzle for me although thankfully there were some less difficult clues in the grid to help with the solve.

    Your clueing is generally brief and accurate with nice smooth surfaces. My only concerns were:
    – 10d doesn’t seem at all cryptic
    – in 4d, I was disappointed to have to play “guess a woman” (but that’s a personal bugbear of mine) and I am not fully convinced by “rampant” as a reversal indicator even though it is in a down clue. I’ll be interested to see Prolixic’s take on the latter point.
    – Neither Chambers nor Collins gives EW in 14d as a “disgusted reaction”, although it is in Wiktionary.

    I had a number of ticks with 9a my favourite.

    Many thanks, Amoeba, and please keep them coming. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. The OED has ‘ew’: “Used as an emphatic expression, chiefly of disgust, but also (formerly) of surprise or approval.”, added in 2008 and marked as “originally North American”. The first citation they have with that spelling is 1985, the ones from the 60s and 70s using ‘e-w-w-w’, ‘ewwww’, or ‘ew-ww’.

      I hadn’t realized it was such a modern term. Their only British citation is from 2003, in which Smash Hits magazine spelt it ‘euw’.

  5. A very competent and enjoyable puzzle – thanks to Amoeba.
    I didn’t know 8a and had to verify the answer (I initially tried the wrong church).
    Like RD I couldn’t see much that was cryptic in 10d.
    The most enjoyable clues for me were 5a, 9a and 15d.

  6. I managed to upset this setter on his last outing so I’ll be more circumspect today.
    Found this one quite a tough nut to crack and hadn’t previously met 8a so did ask Mr G about its meaning.
    Several bits of parsing which I’m not sure about – I’ll be very interested to read the wisdom of Prolixic in his review.
    Favourite clue was 9a.

    Thanks to Amoeba for the puzzle.

  7. Welcome back, Amoeba, for another of your very rare appearances.

    I thought this your best puzzle yet, the balance of clue types was excellent and the constructions of the clues themselves contained lots to admire. Well done indeed.

    10d passed muster for me, I think “chair” potentially referring to a person as well as an article of furniture was sufficiently cryptic. My podium consists of 11a, 3d and 15d.

    Congratulations, Amoeba, on a terrific puzzle, I just hope that you’ll try and produce more than one submission per year going forward!

    Many thanks.

    1. Ah! It never occurs to me that a chair can be a person. It’s probably an age thing.

  8. A few words in here that must have been as challenging to clue as they were to solve, Amoeba. Apart from a few easy ones, the first third was looking distressingly bare but then I picked up the rhythm and the second half went in smoothly enabling me to polish off the earlier ones on the second pass, wondering – with the exception of 4d and 8a – why I’d found them tricky first time around! It is hard to remember your last offering here (bar one clue) though I am familiar with your work on mycrossword: as Silvanus says, this was a nice mixture of clues with variety, ingenuity and fun. Almost make me forgive 8a!

    Favourites include 9a, 11a, 17a, 23a, 3d, 5d, 8d, 16d and 19d (not often a full acrostic gets on my podium but this one was one of the best I’ve seen in a while)

    Thanks. I look forward to the review.

  9. Thank you, Amoeba. We enjoyed the challenge, some struggles along the way. We didn’t know 8a and had the wrong church initially. Favourites were 9a and 20a.

  10. Thanks all for taking the time to comment and solve – much appreciated, and I’m glad people seem to have enjoyed! I’d toyed with the idea of capitalising Chair in 10d, which might have made the cryptic intent clearer.

    Looking forward to Prolixic’s review.

    1. You know I am a fan of misdirectional capitalisation; that would have been a nice touch

  11. Well done, Amoeba – I agree with the positive consensus of comments so far. Favourites for me were 1a, 9a, 8d.

  12. Thanks for a really enjoyable puzzle Amoeba. Great to see it so well received here, My pick were 1a, 9a, 24a, 8d, 14d, 15d and 19d.

  13. Really enjoyed this largely light, straightforward and well-clued puzzle, thank you Amoeba. Lots of good smooth surface reads, concise clues, a very accomplished grid.

    I worked out 8a but was surprised on googling it to see the sound described as being low-pitched! For me the highlights were 9a and 4d, but others came close to the podium.

    Well done, and thanks also in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Ah, I think you’re right! Collins calls them ‘rattling or whistling’ sounds, which I took to mean high-pitched, and no dictionaries otherwise specified a pitch – but it seems I was misled…

      Frustrating, but at least as an unusual word it’s unlikely to have caused many people an issue, I suppose.

      1. Nothing like as much of an issue as casued by a (long, down, European ‘race’) clue in yesterday’s Times puzzle!

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