Rookie Corner 442 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 442

A Puzzle by Sirdakka

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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.

A review by Prolixic follows:

Welcome to Sirdakka with a very impressive debut Rookie crossword.  Other than a couple of minor grammatical points, my only concern was with the form of clue at 10a.  The commentometer reads as 2/30 or 6.7%.


1a  Five ducks in retreat devoured by female wolf (6)
HOOVER: The Roman numeral for five and two letters O (ducks) reversed (in retreat) inside (devoured by) a three-letter for a female.

5a  Board not reviewing school dinners? (8)
PLANKTON: A five-letter word for a wooden board followed by a reversal (reviewing) of the NOT from the clue.  For the cryptic grammar of the clue to work, reviewing would need to go before the word to be reversed.  Perhaps “Board’s not reviewed school dinners” would be better.

9a  Career in brass work (6)
GALLOP: A four-letter word for brass or cheek followed by the abbreviation for work.

10a  Recurring angst provides everything you need to become inactive (8)
STAGNANT: The solution can be made up from some of the letters in ANGST ANGST.  I do not think that this type of clue is particularly effective.  You have to repeat the word, select eight letters from them and make an anagram (unindicated) from them.

11a  Embarrassed, blame moist bodily function (10)
METABOLISM: An anagram (embarrassed) of BLAME MOIST.

12a  Protest beside modern houses (4)
DEMO: The answer is hidden (houses) in the second and third words of the clue.

13a  Unbroken record held by knight (4)
KEPT: An abbreviation for a record inside (held by) a two-letter abbreviation for a knight.

15a  Fellow going round in an old car nowadays (4,6)
ANNO DOMINI: A reversal (going round) of a three-letter word for an academic fellow in the AN from the clue and the abbreviation for old all followed by a four-letter make of a small car.

17a  Male envoy welcoming leaders of Middle Eastern government (10)
MANAGEMENT: A three-letter word for male and a five-letter word for an envoy include (welcoming) the initial letters (leaders) of Middle Eastern.

20a  King remains over-hasty (4)
RASH: The abbreviation for king followed by a thee-letter word for burnt remains.

21a  Cut within a day? (4)
MOWN: The abbreviation for with inside (in) the abbreviation for Monday.  Some editors will not allow unindicated lift and separate clues of this type.  Even with the lift and separate, the clue repeats the word “in” as an insertion indicator.  Even with an innocuous word such as “in” try to avoid such repetitions. 

22a  Expert briefly coins a sequence of words (10)
SPECIALIST: A six-letter word for coins with the final letter removed (briefly) followed by the A from the clue and a four-letter word for a sequence of words.

24a  Mother’s second sister collects nothing that’s uncountable (4,4)
MASS NOUN: The contracted form of mother’s and the abbreviation for second and a three-letter word for a religious sister holding (collects) the letter representing nothing.

25a  America perhaps putting horse into space? (6)
EPONYM: A four-letter word for a horse inside a two-letter word for a printer’s space.

26a  Light source is fine (4,4)
VERY WELL: A four letter word for a type of light followed by a four-letter word for a source of water.

27a  Times featuring article on books about old needlework (6)
TATTOO: Two abbreviations for time with the indefinite article within them followed by a reversal (about) of the abbreviation for Old Testament and the abbreviation for old.


2d  Egg-shaped pioneer leaving pub (5)
OVATE: An eight-letter word meaning to pioneer without (leaving) a three-letter word for a pub

3d  Bold pin-up stopping tank (7)
VALIANT: A four-letter word for a pin reversed (up) inside (stopping) a three-letter word for a tank.

4d  Rogue agent worried, cradling rifle (9)
REPROBATE: A three-letter word for an agent and a three-letter word meaning worried include (cradling) a three letter word meaning to rifle.

5d  Give in, accept love – it’s love! (7)
PASSION: A four-letter word meaning I don’t know or give in followed by the in from the clue inside which you add the letter representing love or nothing.  For the cryptic grammar to work, this would have to be accepting love.

6d  Siren‘s call nearly human at heart (5)
ALARM: The central letters (at heart) of the second to fourth words of the clue.

7d  Country relations first to give money after party (7)
KINGDOM: A three-letter word for relations followed by the first letter to give and the abbreviation for money after a two-letter word for a party.

8d  Serviceman sent bearing gold trinkets? (9)
ORNAMENTS: An anagram (service) of MAN SENT after (bearing) a two-letter word for gold.  Another clue where some editors will not allow a lift and separate of this type.

14d  Nuts are able to expand? (9)
ELABORATE: An anagram (nuts) of ARE ABLE TO.

16d  Eastern border surrounded by crater damage (9)
DETRIMENT: The abbreviation for eastern and a four-letter word for a border inside (surrounded by) a four-letter word for a crater.

18d  Pardon bad manners, stay oddly removed (7)
AMNESTY: The even letters (oddly removed) of the second to fourth words of the clue after removing the spaces between them.

19d  Outside, wanting kiss that’s never-ending (7)
ETERNAL: An eight-letter word for outside without (wanting) the letter representing a kiss.

20d  Reject lure of cryptic crosswords! (4,3)
RULE OUT: How LURE might be clued as an anagram in a cryptic crossword.

22d  Field officer inhabiting the Home Counties (5)
SCOPE: A three-letter for a police officer inside (inhabiting) the abbreviation for South-east (Home Counties).

23d  Look after pen for short writer? (5)
STYLO: A two-letter word meaning look after a three-letter word for a pig pen.

33 comments on “Rookie Corner 442
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  1. Certainly a ‘Toughie time’ solve for us. A competently put together set of clues that we enjoyed working through.
    Suspect that 21a uses a device that we don’t usually see in Telegraph puzzles.
    Favourite was 5a.
    Thanks Sirdakka.

  2. A curate’s egg for me. A few parsings that I can’t quite fathom so I will have to wait for the wisdom of Prolixic.

    Assuming that I have found the same device in 21a, I agree with the 2Kiwis that it is something we don’t usually see. I think a similar comment can apply to 8d.

    Smiles for 9a, 26a, 5d, and 19d.

    Thanks Sirdakka for a good first Rookie and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. In my view this is an excellent puzzle. The definitions in 1a and 5a both made me smile. As 2Kiwis and Senf have already hinted, the 21a and 8d technique is fairly common in The Guardian (for example) but wouldn’t satisfy the crossword editor at The Times. 10a is an interesting means of wordplay where I’ll be very interested to hear Prolixic’s view. All other wordplay works well for me. The surfaces of pretty-much all the clues work well and all clues are concise – no mean feat!! There’s one string of four letters that appears at the end of two grid entries (eg 17a) and within a third, which I’d normally try and avoid when constructing a grid but, goodness, if that’s the only other area where I can provide constructive feedback then this is fine work! Well done Sirdakka :-)

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Sirdakka. (Is your name Neil, by any chance? :wink: )

    Debut Rookie puzzles don’t get any better than this accomplished compilation. I think my money would be safe if I were to bet that this was not your first ever cryptic crossword. It proved to be a very enjoyable challenge with everything falling into place gradually but steadily. The parsing of 10a caused me a bit of head scratching but, when the penny finally dropped, it became my favourite, although I will be interested to learn Prolixic’s opinion of that particular device.

    My page is littered with ticks and, in addition to 10a, honourable mentions go to 1a, 13a, 15a, 25a, 26a, 27a, 6d, 19d & 20d.

    Doubtless Prolixic will mention that some editors will not allow “lift and separate” clues of which there were two, but I don’t mind them at all.

    Very well done and many thanks, Sirdakka. More puzzles like this would be very welcome. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks for all of the lovely comments so far, a most warm welcome indeed :smile: Am saving your scrolling fingers by avoiding thanking each of you individually, but appreciate the time taken to solve and feedback on my puzzle, most encouraging. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic, and anyone else who has a go!

      Not a Neil I’m afraid and curious where you’re getting your association for such a guess from, Rabbit Dave :wink:

      Apologies if the lift&separate devices in 21a and 8d are not commonly employed within the framework of RC – glad to have changed my original 1a as that was perhaps a lift&separate too far:
      Oh?! A sucker (6)

      1. And not my first cryptic, no – I’ve been setting since the start of the year and have been uploading to the rather good MyCrossword site (using sirdakka) if anyone likes this enough to try some of my other puzzles :smile:

  5. Welcome to the blog and thanks for replying. Your discarded 1a might be described as a reverse lift & separate clue!

    My wrong guess of your name was a pun based on singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka.

  6. I thought that this was excellent with smooth surfaces, inventive clueing and a welcome lack of obscurities – many thanks to Sirdakka.
    I liked both 21a and 8d because such devices appeal to me. I have too many ticks to list them all but I’ll mention 5a, 9a, 25a, 26a and 20d.
    I’d be delighted to see this as a mid-week Toughie. More like this please.

  7. I’d agree with everything Gazza says apart from the fact that I didn’t find it a ‘Toughie’.

    Thanks to Sirdakka for a great crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic

  8. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Sirdakka. I’m pleased that yet another MyCrossword compiler has found his way here, it’s becoming quite a well-trodden path.

    I thought this was an excellent debut, I particularly liked the disguised definitions such as “wolf” in 1a and “needlework” in 27a. It was surprising (and rather refreshing) to see so few anagrams in a Rookie puzzle and I thought the surfaces were generally very good. “In” was repeated as an insertion indicator (in 15a and 21a) but I had few, if any, other quibbles apart from question marks against the “lift and separate” devices of which I’m not a huge fan. My podium consists of 15a, 20a and 4d.

    Many thanks and congratulations on a memorable first puzzle, Sirdakka.

    1. Hi Silvanus, and thanks for the welcome and uplifting feedback.
      I had spotted the repetitive “in” operator but hoped that using one of them within a “lift and separate” device would somewhat counteract the duplication, or at least the subjective solving experience of the repetition. I previously had more “in”s used as container indicators in this puzzle and upgraded them to being unique, but was wondering if, say, “put in”, “taken in” etc count as repetitious for the use of “in”, and would “devoured by”, “covered by” say be considered repetitious use of “by”? I’m trying to work out where the line is for such considerations, and would appreciate if you’d be so kind as to elaborate.

      1. Hi Sirdakka,

        Very pleased to elaborate. I’m probably stricter than most when it comes to avoiding repetitions, but I would say “put in”, “held in” etc. are really no different from just “in” itself. I endeavour to use “in” (or expanded alternatives thereof) as an insertion indicator no more than once in any puzzle. I certainly wouldn’t class “covered by” and “devoured by” etc. as repetitions personally, as the verb is different in each case, but I would suggest limiting the number of these sort of “passive containers” wherever possible.

        I’m pleased to see you adopting such a clinical eye to your puzzles, I’m sure it will serve you very well.

  9. A clearly very competent puzzle Sirdakka. Although a couple of parsings escape me, there is enough in those that didn’t for me to know they will have rational explanations, but I will have to await the wisdom of Prolixic! I really liked the great surfaces and copious sprinklings of humour. For that alone, 5a gets my COTD seal of approval! Well done.

  10. Splendid debut, sirdakka, with a nice mix of innovative cluing, humour and a good dose of ‘tricksyness’. I quite enjoy L&S as a device – though it is probably the one that defeats me more than any other. However, my reaction when the penny drops – or, on occasion, when I’ve had to admit defeat and reveal – is generally a smile and a kicking of myself for not seeing it. Of the two, 8d particularly appealed – though 21a is gloriously succinct. 5a, 15a and 20d are my favourites amongst a set of super clues.

    Many thanks and well done

  11. Thanks Sirdakka, a fabulous debut (but not surprising, being familiar with your super work on MyCrossword). I think I can just completely echo Encota’s comment above, except I hadn’t noticed the MENTs. I’m getting more appreciative of clever L&S clues but expect Prolixic (thanks in advance!) may provide a “Some editors…” caveat. Only quibble for me was 10a so will be interested to see what Prolixic thinks about that one. Favourites … too many to mention, top stuff all round – thanks again!

  12. I thought the excellent 1&5a set the trend for this super puzzle.
    I’ve one I’ve yet to parse but I know that’s down to me and will keep looking. On the difficulty level I’m more Gazza than CS because of the ample misdirection and well hidden definitions.
    As well as the two I’ve previously mentioned I particularly liked 20,25&27a plus 5&20d.
    Many thanks Sirdakka (must check out the website) and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. While very naive about most crossword communities, MyCrossword is a great place and if you ever run out of puzzles to do there are plenty of good ones there! (Does this fall foul of some rule about outside promotion? If so, apologies, and please ignore/delete!)

  13. Thought this was going to prove very tough after the first read through yielded slim pickings but happily muddled through in gentle Toughie time with a couple yet to satisfactorily parse. An excellent puzzle in my book full of great clues – the first 3 across all beauties & loved the surface read at 11a. Also had ticks against the ones highlighted by Stephen.
    Thanks Sirdakka – more like this welcome any time.

  14. Welcome to the Corner, Sirdakka, and what an excellent debut you have made. Not at all surprised to learn that this isn’t your first foray into the ‘dark art’.
    A plethora of ticks on my sheet and perhaps 5a was my favourite.
    Keep up the good work!

  15. What a cracking crossword with 1 and 5a bringing the biggest smiles.
    I have a full grid but half a doz waiting for a full Prolixic parsing explanation.
    Reading others’ comments I now get my 21a answer. Not really unfair, just not what I’m used to.
    Hope you’ll come back with another :-)

  16. Great to see you here sirdakka, and congratulations on an excellent puzzle! I’ve come to this rather late in the day so can only echo the glowing remarks of others. My favourites were 1A, 5A, 11A, 27A, 3D, 7D and 19D

  17. Good puzzle – L&S clues are cryptic in my book therefore fine, but DT/TT doesn’t allow
    Silvanus makes a fine point which you clearly received well and understand which is great
    Very well done and thank you for the entertainment Sirdakka

  18. Abundant thanks to everyone who’s welcomed me so warmly and had a crack at my puzzle, your feedback has been most useful and made this rookie very happy. While on MyC I like to respond to each commenter individually, I surmise that’s not the done thing, but suffice to say I appreciate you all taking the time taken to solve and reply with such insightful and encouraging remarks. I look forward to Prolixic’s review and offer my thanks in advance :smile:

  19. Many congratulations sirdakka on a really professional debut. I thought the complex but very fair wordplay of several clues was quite outstanding – not to mention some of the very entertaining misdirections.
    I started to tackle this early on but only managed to solve about a quarter and returned to it later this evening. It still took a couple of reveals for me to finish it and I’ll still need Prolixic’s help to parse a couple in the NE. My inexpertise no doubt! Big ticks for 9a 22a and 3d with the picks of the bunch 5a and 25a which I’m pretty sure many compilers would be proud of!

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I needed your help for the parsing of 10a – what a strange construction!
    A very rewarding score for Sirdakka – hope we see him back here again ‘ere long.

  21. Very late to solve as we’ve been away but what a great puzzle. Head scratching, doh moments and smiles along the way. Many thanks Sirdakka and to Prolixic for clarifying 10a which we couldn’t parse. We look forward to your next one.

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