Rookie Corner – 168 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 168

A Puzzle by Jaffa

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have a third puzzle from Jaffa. 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.

A few issues with the crossword did not diminish the enjoyment.  The grid with the triple unches in the top and bottom lines was unfortunate and you should try to avoid them.  Some of the surface readings were strained or in a few placed nonsensical and needed a bit more polish.  To balance this, there were some excellent clues such as 3d, 26a and 30a.  Perhaps five homophones was a little on the high side.


1 Young Conservative – brass player and farm worker (6,3,4)
LITTLE BOY BLUE – A reference to the nursery rhyme of the shepherd boy who fell asleep.  Perhaps the reference to young conservative needs some indication that it is a fanciful indication of the answer.

8 Are footballers caught in the covers by this? (7,4)
OFFSIDE TRAP -A snare to capture someone in the position on a cricket field where the covers are found would lead to this problem for footballers.

11 Little piggy with Roller reveals human trait (2,3)
TO ERR – The name of a body part affectionately referred to a little piggy followed by the abbreviation forRolls Royce (Roller).

12 Left and right give minimum (5)
LEAST – The abbreviation for left followed by the compass direction that points to the right.

13 Healthy food – an even distribution of fruit in saccharin (4)
ACAI – The even letters (an even distribution of fruit) in saccharin.  I think that “of fruit” means pickings from.

15 Little relief heard to produce lament (4)
WEEP – A three letter word meaning little followed by letter that is a homophone (heard) of a word meaning to urinate (relief).  I am not sure that relief means quite the same thing as to urinate or to relieve yourself.  

17 Old loco‘s gaucho (10)
COWCATCHER – Double definition, the second being another word for a gaucho or rancher and the first being the grid on the front of an American train (which is not quite the same as an old locomotive.

19 Are Paddington bargains to be bought here? (4,6)
BEAR MARKET – A cryptic reference to the stock market cycle where shares can be acquired cheaply.

22 Article and conjunction do this (4)
ABUT – The indefinite article followed by a three letter word used as a conjunction.  I can see the intention behind this clue but the in the clue, the article and conjunction don’t do this, they are separated by the “and”

25 Unmuddle regularly to reveal colour (4)
NUDE – The even letters (regularly) in unmuddle for a word meaning flesh-coloured.

26 Team paradoxically always contains a plus one (5)
EIGHT – Cryptic definition of a boat’s crew that contains the crew plus one more (the cox).

27 Different sexes have achieved some notoriety here (5)
ESSEX – An anagram (different) of sexes.

29 Dictator created from hailstorm at the end of WWII (7,4)
MARSHAL TITO – An anagram (created from) HAILSTORM AT.  The et the end of WWII are padding and should have been omitted.  The surface reading makes no sense at all.

30 Necessary action for 1 or the source of his problems? (8,5)
COUNTING SHEEP – What the  person who is the answer to 1a should be doing as part of his duties or the cause of his falling asleep.


2 Slander with Liberal on board will anger (7)
INFLAME – A six letter word meaning to slander includes the abbreviation for Liberal.  I am not keen on the cryptic reading of wordplay will definition.

3 Meanders like plot changes (6)
TWISTS – Double definition.

4 The birthplace of naturism? (4)
EDEN – Where the first couple into nudism were found according to the biblical story.

5 One who believes in a good soaking (7)
BAPTIST – A cryptic definition of a denomination into full immersion baptism for adults.

6 Let loose Uncle Pasha without scruffy cap (7)
UNLEASH – Remove an anagram (scruffy) of CAP from UNCLE PASHA.

7 Blackbird, present on 28th December, wavers in disorder (12)
COLLYWOBBLES – Bird presented on the fourth day of Christmas (in older versions of the sonf) followed by a word meaning wavers.

9 Sounds like Irishman’s deflection (8)
RICOCHET – A homophone (sounds like) of Rick O’Shea (a putative Irishman).

10 Porcini contain it but are not farmed using it (4,8)
CROP ROTATION – An indication of what the first four letters in PORChini undergoes.  Although it matches the surface reading, in the cryptic reading, contain could be contains.

14 Car thief found on the merry-go-round? (8)
JOYRIDER – Double definition, the second being whimsical.

16 Under this one feels sick unless on course (3)
PAR – A double definition of the phrase under *** which can mean ill or ahead on shots on a golf course..

18 Infusion, a bechamel ingredient (3)
CHA – The answer is hidden in (ingredient) in beCHAmel.

20 Report needing a blessing or one of these say (7)
ATISHOO –  A homophone (say) of A TISSUE.

21 Islanders, at least three, holding vote (7)
MANXMEN – A self-referential clue.  One male followed by two or more males, include the mark used when voting.  Since you need to know the answer to know the wordplay, it does not quite hit the spot.

23 Ask for passage noisily to lead up the garden path (7)
BEGUILE – A homophone (noisIly) of BEG (ask for) AISLE (passage).

24 The law can be a source of this (6)
WEALTH – An anagram (can be a source of) THE LAW.

28 Headcover I hear, was a politician (4)
WHIG – A homophone (I hear) of wig (headcover).  The surface reading here is nonsensical, for an old politician would have been much better..

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 168

  1. It took us some time to sort out what 7d was all about but eventually the penny dropped. We really enjoyed the 1a, 30a combination but there were heaps of others that kept us smiling too.
    Thanks Jaffa.

  2. I really enjoyed this, after the thin gruel of Rufus and a surprisingly toothless Tees in the Indy so thanks to Jaffa and BD. The frankly weird grid and the large number of quite tricky cryptic definitions made the solve quite difficult and I’m very pleased to have fiished it. I like all the long perimeter clues and the whole thing has a very retro feel about it, which is no bad thing

  3. Hi Jaffa
    I really enjoyed it too.
    I found it quite hard, but not in the usual manner of slogging through complicated wordplay, so quite unusual, and the better for it. I thought all your cryptic definitions were pretty charming, only occasionally a little stretched. I used the check button a little – for 13a, which I haven’t heard of, and without which I wouldn’t have got 9d, which is one where I don’t think you’ve given quite enough (though it’s funny).
    I ticked loads.
    I particularly liked 5d, 17a, 8a, 11a, 10d, 27a, and the 1a and 30a combo. Also ticked 12a, 16d, 3d, 21d.
    4d didn’t quite work for me as a cryptic definition. I think CDs should rely on alternative meanings, whereas ‘naturism’ here I thought was just a bit of a loose description.
    I wasn’t sure about 15a, the ‘relief heard’ bit. Usually indicating sound will refer to sound in the solution. Maybe it’s fine, just seemed a bit odd.
    I don’t understand 26a, but no doubt someone can explain it to me. Boating, perhaps?
    29a It’s nice in &lits if all the bits of the clue contribute to the wordplay. Here, ‘the end of WWII’ is an extra bit that’s not really pulling its weight.

    1. Hi Mucky
      Thank you for you very detailed comments – I find it quite humbling when people take so much time to analyse my efforts.
      I seem to have expanded people’s vocabularies with 13a. It was admittedly suggested by the software but I can honestly say that thanks to Mr Waitrose’s healthy drinks section I did already know of it.
      I did wonder about 9d – I think it comes into the category of “the old ones are the best”.
      I accept you criticism of 4d. Whilst dog walking I thought of 2 or 3 much better clues for it.
      26a is about boating and I too wondered if 15a does work. I guess I’ll have to wait for the Judgement of Prolixic to see if I’ve got away with it!
      Once again thank you

  4. Welcome back, Jaffa.

    I think you’ve had some grid issues before, and certainly this one, with triple unches as well as double ones, did you no favours. I would recommend using established grids for future puzzles rather than home-made ones.

    It was an entertaining solve, and I learnt a new word in 13a, but I felt that the puzzle lacked a smooth quality to it. Some additional work on polishing the surfaces would have helped. There was an over-reliance to use “this” or “these” to signify definitions, I counted five instances. My ticked clues were 1a (despite the middle word having no checking letters), 20d and 21d. On a couple of occasions, the cryptic grammar didn’t work (12a and 10d), but this could have been avoided with some tweaks.

    Thanks, Jaffa, I hope we’ll see you again soon.

    1. Hi Silvanus
      Thank you for your usual words of wisdom and advice. Amazingly the grid did start of as a standard grid from Crossword Compiler but I think I’m too guilty of adapting the grid to my solutions when I should perhaps be doing the opposite. I promise I will try harder in future.
      I’m glad you liked 20d and 21d. I felt quite pleased with myself when I wrote them, 21d especially. My lame defence for no checking letters or clueing of the middle word in 1a is that his sex is revealed in 30a – which is not much use when you’re solving 1a…..sorry!

  5. I used a few cheats to finish but then I am very tired today. Not sure I can make a coherent comment, but would like to say that I enjoyed it. Many thanks to Jaffa, and in advance to Prolixic.

  6. I had a lot of fun with this one and I never notice grid layouts so that aspect didn’t trouble me at all.
    Agree with Silvanus that 12a & 10d don’t quite hit the spot but that was a fairly minor issue.

    Needed to verify the tree ( wonder whether you’d worked yourself into a corner with that one!) and there is possibly an element that I’m missing in the parsing of 8a but everything else was reasonably plain sailing.

    Really liked the 1a/30a combo along with 11a & 7d but my outright winner was 9d – laughed out loud when the penny dropped on that one.

    Many thanks, Jaffa – keep ’em coming.

    1. I agree with you (and Silvanus), Jane. As you say 9d was a LOL moment, and my favourite too.

      8a is possibly your biggest nightmare of a clue as it combines football and cricket. There is a fielding area on a cricket field described as “the covers”, which I suspect is what you are missing:

      Many thanks for the entertainment, Jaffa, and well done. I think 15a is great, but let’s see what Prolixic has to say to about it! I very much like your concept of the “Judgement of Prolixic”. :good:

      1. Thank you – my inner devil is wondering about a totally sports themed crossword….😂

      2. Surprisingly, I’ve picked up on ‘covers’ before (probably down to your instruction) and I know a bit about the offside rule in football – maybe I just got panicked into thinking there was more to it!

    2. Thank you Jane for your comments and I think that I’ve explained some of the queries in my replies above. Thank you for not being too upset by the grid😂
      Being new to this game I find that I put a set of clues together which undergo several revisions which are hopefully improvements. I then begin to think that the answers are so obvious I’m insulting people’s intelligence by submitting them whilst not being able to see their flaws.
      I guess “wood from trees” and “practice making perfect” come to mind

        1. Oops – my secret is out. Yes, when I started compiling I thought I’d have an alter ego as Jaffa and keep Faraday for comments. Sorry – it’s obviously even confused me. I’m sure I can get help ……😜😂

  7. Hi Jaffa,

    A busy day today writing puzzles amongst other things, so apologies for the late comment here!

    An interesting puzzle with some real ingenuity on show (and bordering on quirky in places!). Silvanus’s comment about sticking to existing grids is a good one, as double unches (and beyond) definitely tend to put some solvers off. The edge clues were fun – and I spent a while counting to check out 28th December! I liked 6d – a really good spot on your part :-)

    Other sporadic comments below.



    10d I think the wordplay needs to read rotat-ed? Unless I’m misreading this one (probably)
    1a like it!
    17a is gaucho almost doing double-duty here, or is there a meaning of the answer I’m not aware of? I was expecting something like ‘The front of old loco’s gaucho (10)’ from a definition point of view
    11a clever
    7d I found difficult to unpick but eventually got it to work. I always wondered how the song lined up date wise, too!
    8a ‘covers’? Mixing your (meta)sports?
    20d I see what you mean but it didn’t quite work for me
    9d I can find the definition…oh, now I see.
    13a new word for me – thanks.

    1. Hi Encota

      Thank you for the comments. I find it quite fascinating (and slightly scary) how other people interpret my clues. As I said above I find I get sucked into the clues and I think it becomes quite difficult for me to be totally objective about them after a while and I do begin to think they are too simple. I guess it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt or something. Perhaps I should try setting them and then not looking at them for a couple of weeks.

      I wasn’t totally certain that 10d would work – I was hopeful. The jury in my mind is still out…
      I see your point about 17a. I was looking for brevity but perhaps I’ve overdone it.
      I think 8a works – the covers in cricket being on the offside. Perhaps adding “device” to the end of the clue might have helped.
      20d has clearly divided opinion.
      Thank you again for the comments, they are much appreciated.

      Having been called retro and quirky in these comments I think I should perhaps try to find my old tank top….😂

      1. Thanks Jaffa – I’d entirely missed the covers being on the offside – very neat!

        And I meant ‘quirky’ in a positive way! My train of thought:
        – Do you recall the time that the Telegraph experimented with computer-created puzzles?
        – They were so dull: as the solver, it all felt very robotic.
        – And yours don’t feel like that at all! I always feel, as the solver, that with the most interesting clues you feel you are getting a little bit of insight into the setter’s way of thinking – and that’s a lot of the fun!

        Hope that makes some sense! I look forward to your next creation :-)


        1. Thank you. I did take it as a compliment.
          My sons often feign boredom when I’m casting pearls of wisdom before them so to be described as quirky is praise indeed. I always enjoy crosswords that at some point make me smile so I try to do this for others. I even raised a smile or two from my younger son with some of these clues….😂

  8. I’m delighted that everyone else enjoyed this so much, unfortunately I found it nigh on impossible to get onto your wavelength, Jaffa, I’m sorry to admit.

    17a I don’t really get, the first half of 7d is a new word, the main word in the wordplay of 2d is new, 8a still mystifies me, 1a needed almost all the letters to be revealed… Unfortunately I’ve given up, even after heavy use of the reveal button and just two thirds of the way through. Lord knows why – maybe it’s the ‘cryptic’ style definitions. Heigh-ho.
    For me personally this was way harder than FirmlyDirac’s a fortnight ago, which others found much harder than I did… I’m perplexed!

    Mind you, I loved 10d and look forward eagerly to Prolixic’s review.

    1. I’m sorry we’re not on the same wavelength with this one – that might be a good thing for you😂
      It never ceases to amaze me how some days I can sail through a crossword and then wade through treacle 24 hours later.
      Hopefully Prolixic will provide elucidation for you. Thank you for trying.

      1. I’ve been puzzling over the wavelength thing… I think, having looked back over your clues and the answers, that your style could be described as both humorous and whimsical. Those are precious, precious qualities in a setter, so ‘where your coming from’ as they say is brilliant, and will ensure your style, as it develops, will be very popular, I suspect.
        So really, I feel like the dullard at the dinner party to whom you have to explain all the jokes. Sorry!

        1. Thank you Maize for these very kind words.
          As I’ve never been good at joke telling I’m not quite sure where the humour comes from but I seem to have the odd “Road to Damascus moment” usually when dog walking – hopefully they’ll keep coming!
          When solving, I frequently adopt the dullard role😂

  9. I had a hard time getting into this but when I did it was so much fun. I loved 15A! I don’t see anything wrong with it. I fell on 9d and 13a because I had slip as the second word for 8a but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. Thanks Jaffa.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to attempt it. It really is encouraging to receive these comments – even the slightly negative ones!

  10. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Reading through your comments I initially thought you were perhaps being a bit harsh but, with hindsight, I can see that you were as ‘spot on’ as ever.
    Just goes to show that if a solver finds a puzzle really enjoyable they can mentally gloss over the mistakes!

    Thanks again to Jaffa – I’m still giggling over 9d!

  11. On the whole a fine puzzle – I have some issues with 17a COWCATCHER – this is not really the right synonym for cowboy or ‘gaucho’ – and is only part of an ‘old loco’.

    2d: INFAME is rather archaic – or so says the OED. I was wondering whether there was confusion with DEFAME.

    21d I disagree with prolixic – don’t have any problems with MANXMEN. A fine piece of wordplay. Many years ago, I recall coming across a splendid clue for the singular version in the Times: “Islander captures in chess”. Refers to the old system of chess move nomenclature e.g. “RxB”.

    Good work jaffa! Keep em coming!

    1. I agree about the Manxmen. In some clues the wordplay is there to help you get the solution, but there are plenty when all it does is confirm a correct guess, as here, and that is fine.
      In 22a, ABUT, after initial doubts, I decided that as the article and conjunction were abutting in the solution, I liked it.
      Thanks, Prolixic, for all the detail

  12. It took me ages to get into this, Jaffa.. In fact, at one point I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. I’m not altogether convinced I ever did get completely onto the right wavelength. Nonetheless, I did manage to complete the puzzle and have quite a bit of fun in the process! The clues I liked most were 1a and 30a, 11a, 26a, 3d and 9d. So many thanks, Jaffa for an enjoyable mental workout. :phew: :lol:

    Grateful thanks to Prolixic for the excellent elucidation. Despite having the correct answer, I couldn’t fully parse 7d. My fault entirely as I should have looked up the meaning of the first five letters!

  13. Thank you Prolixic for your usual very informed insights. Like many, I suspect, I instinctively look for the comments in italics to see where I’ve sinned.
    Thank you to FirmlyDirac and Mucky for the support about Manxmen. I gave myself a pat on the back when I thought about it and I still enjoy it even if there is a slight question mark about it.
    The whole experience was encouraging and I don’t feel too bruised by it. Thanks again to all who have taken the time and trouble to comment and I’m pleased that I’ve managed to bring a few smiles to your faces 😂

  14. Nice puzzle Jaffa – very remiscent of puzzles from a long while back – before the ximenean terror – plenty of ideas and allusions – not just a lot of synonyming and letter fiddling.

    ’10a “Porcini contain” as opposed to “contains” is the sort of thing the ximmies get excited about. For me either will do – if I can be bothered to go to that length of nit-picking at all when the inference is so clear.

    In the surface “porcini” can be thought of as a mass noun (as with many things like types of animal, fruit varieties etc) so either will do. In the cryptic reading we are maybe talking about the letters of that word – not the word itself so: [the letters in] porcini contain PORC. gives it perfectly accurately.

    The ximmies prefer the opposite – the only way I can make a singular out of that is to use eg the computer programming term “string” and say:[the string of letters in] porcini contains PORC.

    I don’t think that’s anything to lose any sleep over – I didn’t have any other quibbles – well in fact – as explained – that wasn’t one.

    23d and 24d came in quick succession for me and I thought them both very good – also 10d mentioned above.

    Many thanks for the fun – hope to see more.

    1. Thank you for these insights. I have to confess that you’ve grappled with the dilemma of contain v contains for much longer than I did. I think I assumed that porcini was plural (without checking) and therefore used contain as it seemed to be more grammatically correct – I think I’m still doing GCSE Compiling rather than A-Level😂
      I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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