Rookie Corner 456 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 456

A Puzzle by Dharma

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 back to Dharma.  I am happy to say that, with the exception of 20a and the use of “is” as a link word, the mechanics of the clues worked very well and there were no major issues.  Even the point Silvanus raised about “X getting into”and “putting X in” are probably far enough apart in meaning not to count as repetition.  My only comment is that some of the definitions did not quite match the solutions.

The commentometer reads 2.5/28 or 8.9%.


1a  Mysterious Pole after Dharma’s heart (6)
ARCANE: A four-letter word for a pole after the middle letters (heart) of Dharma.

4a  Rather comical reverend quietly departs. (6)
SOONER: The name of the tongue-tied cleric who got his words in a muddle without (departs) the abbreviation for quietly.

8a  A new boring football team, nothing exciting here! (7)
VANILLA: The A from the clue and the abbreviation for N inside (boring) a five-letter name for a football team.

9a  Tense? You may need him though he needs you by the sound of it! (7)
MASSEUR: Cryptic definition of someone who kneads you to provide therapeutic relief from muscle tension.

11a  Old man getting into the music of Yes plus a bit of Abba for brainwashing (10)
PROPAGANDA: A two-letter word for an old man inside a four-letter word for the type of music played by the group Yes followed by a three-letter word for plus and the first letter (a bit) of Abba.

12a  Copy letters from hi-tech organisation. (4)
ECHO: The answer is hidden (letters from) in the final two-words of the clue.

13a  Filly staggered ashore, not amused at first (5)
HORSE: A anagram (staggered) of ASHORE after removing (not) the initial letter (at first) of amused.

14a  Eccentrics overdose with songs on the radio (8)
ODDITIES: The abbreviation for overdose followed by a homophone (on the radio) of ditties (songs).

16a  Rep slightly confused, sounding wound up is feigning. (8)
PRETENCE: A small-scale anagram (slightly confused) of REP followed by a homophone (sounding) of tense (wound up).  I am not sure that “is” works in the cryptic grammar of the clue as you have wordplay is definition when it should be wordplay has definition.  Here, “maybe feigning” would be preferable.

18a  &23a. Oddly attired man not happy with wardrobe (5,7)
CROSS DRESSER: Cryptic definition of a man who enjoys wearing women’s clothing.  I think that wardrobe does not define the second word of the solution.  Whilst a wardrobe may be a cabinet and a cabinet might define the second word of the solution, this does not mean that wardrobe and the second word of the solution are also synonymous.

20a  Tip for the French (4)
POUR: Double definition.  I think that the “the” in the clue would require a “le” to follow the solution.

21a  Where those humming and hawing are to be found? (2,1,7)
IN A DILEMMA: Cryptic definition of a problem by reference to the sounds someone may make when facing it.

23a  See 18a

24a  Away, rushes back for delivery? (3,4)
OFF SPIN: A three-letter word meaning away followed by a reversal (back) of a four-letter word meaning rushes.

25a  Selection of superstore’s ultimate fruit. (6)
RESULT: The answer is hidden (selection of) in the third and fourth words of the clue.

26a  Customer, about 50, oddly ignored fine coat from Next (6)
CLIENT: The single-letter abbreviation for about followed by the Roman numeral for 50, the even letters (oddly ignored) of fine and the outer letters (coat from) of Next.


1d  A match every batsman would like to avoid! (1,4)
A PAIR: Cryptic definition of a blank score sheet after two innings.

2d  Having adopted trendy exercise King is upbeat. (7)
CHIPPER: The regnal cypher for King Charles includes (having adopted) a three-letter word meaning trendy and a two-letter word meaning exercise.  Another clue where you have wordplay is definition.  Here, “King’s” would be better as it could be resolved as “King has”.

3d  Conservationist follows river leading to shade (4,5)
NILE GREEN: A five-letter for a conservationist after (follows) a four-letter name of an African river.

5d  City, large, also known as this? (5)
OSAKA: The two-letter abbreviation for large followed by the abbreviation for also known as.

6d  Head of nemesia with a bouquet that’s flowering (7)
NASCENT: The initial letter (head) of nemesia followed by the A from the clue and a four-letter word for a bouquet or smell.

7d  Crudity … one shrugs awkwardly (9)
ROUGHNESS: An anagram (awkwardly) on ONE SHRUGS.

10d  Means test for Duty (6,3)
INCOME TAX: A four-letter word for earnings or means followed by a three-letter word meaning test.  Duty is defined in the dictionary as a levy on goods, not on money earned, so the definition in the clue does not work.

13d  Custodian‘s haven discovered here (9)
HARBOURER: a seven-letter word for a haven followed by the inner letters (discovered) of here.

15d  Fed clue? It could be insincere (9)
DECEITFUL: An anagram (could be) of FED CLUE IT.

17d  Drives speedily initially after putting husband in custody (7)
THRUSTS: The first letter (initially) of speedily after the abbreviation for husband inside (putting … in) a five-letter word for custody.

19d  Keep an eye on City, supporting Rovers … losing sides! (7)
OVERSEE: A three-letter word for a cathedral City underneath (supporting) the inner letters (losing sides) of Rovers.  As Chambers gives the definition, even if with a caution, I think that this is ok.

21d  Head of IKEA sitting on contract that’s flawless (5)
IDEAL: The first letter (head) of IKEA on a four-letter word meaning contract.

22d  Farah perhaps first to get sweaty (5)
MOIST: The first name of the athlete Farah and the shortened way of saying first.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner 456
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  1. Thanks Dharma – on a par with your second Rookie. I had heard of the 11a group although I was unaware of the short form of its music genre.

    Smiles for 4a (that’s a reference to the particular reverend gentleman that I can cope with), 6d, and 22d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. Thanks Dharma, another impressive puzzle and fun solve. My favourites were 4a, 9a, 2d, 5d & 22d. One quibble: “the” in 20a is not just “filler” but I think affects the cryptic reading too. 18a/23a super wordplay but, at the risk of “woke” accusations, I wonder if a more ‘neutral’ tone might have been adopted for the definition – “oddly” seems slightly disparaging, and “man” should not be assumed? Anyway very enjoyable indeed, thanks again Dharma and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Fez for your encouraging and thoughtful comment. Re 18/23a I do take both points. I originally had “strangely” but toned it down to “oddly” but maybe something like “unusually” would have been better. I think the practice is much more associated with men than women but of course your point is valid.

    2. Hello Fez, just a little thought on “X the French” to indicate “the French for X”. The clearest way to indicate a French word must be “French X” — no problem. We also happily accept “X French” in crosswords, but that doesn’t really make sense in the real world. You might possibly say “Station, French, is gare” — but I think it’s more likely that you would say “Station, the French is gare”. So although “X the French” is unusual, it seems to me it’s arguably more natural than “X French”, and should be equally allowable. All the best … or au revoir!

  3. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Dharma. Once again I enjoyed the solve although I thought some of your surfaces seemed more contrived than last time.

    You have included some random full stops at the end of a handful of clues, and you have put ellipses in the middle of two clues where dashes might have been preferable.

    Three specific points:
    – if my knowledge of French is good enough, I don’t think 20a works as “pour” means “for” not “for the”.
    – I am not sure that 10d is technically considered as a “duty” nor why you have felt the need to capitalise the word Duty.
    – in 19d, a “see” is not necessarily a city.

    My podium choice is 4a, 1d & 2d.

    Well done again, Dharma, on maintaining such a good standard and thank you. Please keep them coming, Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I had same quibble re “see” in 19d, but BRB does define it (def.2) as “a cathedral city” … albeit with the parenthesised qualifier “wrongly according to some”, so not sure if that makes it OK or not!

    2. Surely any tax is a “duty” but I, too, don’t know why it has a capital D.

      *Coincidentally, whilst quickly checking “duty” on Wiki (and in the BRB) I came across the word dharma: “religious and moral duties” governing individual conduct.

  4. Thanks RD, I’m pleased you enjoyed the puzzle. I compiled this a few months ago and if I had a reason for the capitalisation of “Duty” then I’ve forgotten it now!! This was meant to be a reply to RD @3

  5. Thanks for a nice approachable puzzle, Dharma. I’d heard of both of the bands in 11a (!) and the genre to which you refer is a favourite (both the music and the string of letters which I’ve used myself several times).

    4a, 8a, 15d and 22d were favourites.

    Like RD, I’d query the use of ‘duty’ in 10d: a duty is levied on the value of goods and services rather than on income. And, yes, 18/23 is potentially tricky – I wanted to use the simple three letter word ‘gay’ recently and found myself so concerned about avoiding causing inadvertent offence to someone, I ended up going down a different path. I’d certainly steer clear of anything that could be considered pejorative.

    Thanks again and, as always, to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Thanks PM, as in life these days one has to be careful not to use anything that could be construed as remotely pejorative so perhaps “unusually” would have been better though Collins has the as synonyms! It’s a fine line…

  6. Very enjoyable – many thanks to Dharma.
    18/23 made me laugh though I’m not convinced that wardrobe and the second word are synonyms.
    I ticked 8a,1d, 2d, 17d and 22d with 4a being my favourite.

    1. Thanks Gazza, so pleased you enjoyed the puzzle. Collins has the second word and wardrobe as synonyms in the sense of “cabinet”.

  7. Welcome back, Dharma.

    Another well-constructed and enjoyable puzzle with just a few small niggles as have already been mentioned. I’d throw into the mix the near repetition of “in” and “getting into” as insertion indicators, but I think very few solvers would mind about that! I found the 18a/23a combo and the use of “batsman” in 1d refreshingly un-PC, I’m sure national editors would be very sensitive about such things, but sadly we live in a world these days where somebody somewhere will take offence about absolutely anything, and the less we pander to the vociferous, perpetually offended types “clutching their pearls” the better in my opinion!

    I have many ticks on my printed page, with 4a 24a and 26a making my podium.

    Well done on creating another very enjoyable puzzle, Dharma. I look forward to your next one :-)

    1. Many thanks for your feedback Silvanus, much appreciated and I’m pleased you had quite a few ticks, that’s very encouraging.

      Last word on the 18/23a combo…I do think by over-sanitising these things there’s a danger of squeezing the humour out of them.

  8. Didn’t find it a stroll by any means but very much enjoyed the solve Stephen. Absolutely no problem for me with 18/23a & fully agree with the point made by Silvanus about it being refreshingly un-PC. You’d probably guess I had 11a as my fav among a number of ticks – 1,2,5&22d plus 4,8(preferred it to Robyn’s clue for the same yesterday) & 24a. Last in for me was 9a & I’m not sure I have it fully parsed.
    Thanks Dharma

    1. Pleased you enjoyed the puzzle Huntsman (especially that you preferred my version of 8a to Robyn’s!) and thanks for the plug on the back-page blog.
      For 9a, as Stan has indicated, “needs” is a homophone of one of the actions the solution performs on his clients. Hope that helps. 😊

      1. I got the homophone/last bit bit ok but just a bit slow to twig the first part of the clue which is blindingly obvious now I’ve re-read it.

  9. I thought this a lovely and accomplished puzzle, Dharma. There were a few definitions that were perhaps a bit of a stretch for me, but otherwise I enjoyed it very much. 9a and 6d were top of my podium!

  10. Many thanks for your review Prolixic, much appreciated. I’ll study your sage advice in detail and try not to repeat the errors, taking particular care on the accuracy of the definitions and the “wordplay is definition” aspects of my clueing.
    Thanks again to all who added their advice too.

  11. Late to comment as we have been away but really enjoyed the puzzle. Many thanks Dharma. Our brains needed to be stimulated again and this did the trick. Favourite was 4a. We look forward to your next one.

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