Rookie Corner 457 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 457

A Puzzle by JayKay

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Welcome to JayKay with, I think,  the first Rookie crossword composed by a duo.  At one point, I wondered if the couple had split the clues between them with one doing the across clues and one doing the down clues as there are far more comments on the down clues than the across.

The grid was not one that would be seen in national papers with four solution containing three unchecked cells in a row.  Also, the convention about not using full-stops at the end of a clue has already been noted.

The commentometer reads as 5/36 or 13.9%.

A gentle reminder to bloggers who comment on the puzzles, providing a detailed clue-by-clue analysis of the crossword is tempting to do, but makes my role (a) more difficult as I end up reviewing the reviews more than the crossword and (b) at worst, makes is a thankless task as everything has been covered.


1a  Uncouth to guzzle when time is lacking. (5)
ROUGH: A six letter verb meaning to guzzle (given in Collins but not in Chambers) without the initial T (time is lacking).

4a  Evil moneymaker is working the game. (9)
BADMINTON: A three-letter word meaning evil followed by an institution responsible for making money and a two-letter word meaning is working.  The “is” is redundant in the clue and could have been omitted or been replaced by “moneymaker’s” to disguise the “has” as a conjunction indicator.

8a  Eviscerations? Try the opposite this time! (3)
ERA: This is rather clever!  If evisceration means to tear the guts out, the opposite would be tear the outer letters out.  Doing so, gives the solution.

9a  Scavenger identified by any he mutilated? (5)
HYENA: An anagram (mutilated) of ANY HE.

10a  Collar of backward fellow’s coat. (4)
RUFF: A reversal (backward) of the abbreviation for fellow and a three-letter word for a coat.

11a  Covert rail disaster. (4)
LAIR: An anagram (disaster) of RAIL.

13a  Stop declaring grief! (4)
WHOA: A homophone (declaring) of woe (grief).

14a  See cat hair. (7)
EYELASH: A three-letter word meaning see followed by a four-letter word for a cat or whip.

17a  Ace impresses about 10 chiefs. (15)
SUPERINTENDENTS: A five-letter word meaning ace and a seven-letter meaning impresses around the number 10 in words.

20a  No-one comes after erect shoemaker. (4,3,8)
LAST MAN STANDING: Cryptic definition by reference to something that a cobbler may be using.

24a  Global ciphers decoded. (7)
SPHERIC: An anagram (decoded) of CIPHERS.

26a  Singer back from Scotland. (4)
ALTO: The answer is hidden and reversed (back from) the last word of the clue.

28a  Poet‘s overdose: take 6! (4)
OVID: The abbreviation for overdose includes (take) the Roman numerals for six.  Perhaps taking would be better to indicate that an insertion is required.

29a  Short note made even shorter. (4)
MINI: A musical note with its final letter removed (made even shorter).

30a  So long used to make thread in gold. (5)
ADIEU: A three-letter word for something used to make a thread by extrusion inside the chemical symbol for gold.

31a  Even locusts are gone. (3)
OUT: The even letters of the second word of the clue.  For the cryptic grammar to work, you need evenly, not even.  The construction wordplay are definition does now work grammatically.

32a  Working girl steps out with an illegal drug within. (9)
COURTESAN: A five-letter word means steps out or woos and the AN from the clue around the abbreviation for ecstasy (illegal drug within).

33a  Bring to mind first lady accepting all good. (5)
EVOKE: The name of the first lady in the book of Genesis includes (accepting) a two-letter word meaning all good.


1d  Allows Alasdair briefly to restate his case to practice. (9)
REHEARSAL: Split (7,2) with the final part being the abbreviated form of Alasdair, this might mean that he is allowed to restate his case.

2d  Took advantage of the old. (4)
USED: Double definition.  The “the” this clue should have been omitted as it changes the sense in old is being used.

3d  Warm girl? (7)
HEATHER: Spit (4,3) the answer might be warm and the pronoun for a girl.

4d  Counter getting counters used to counter dispute. (10,5)
BARGAINING CHIPS: A three-letter word for a counter or stand followed by a seven-letter word meaning getting and a five-letter word for gaming counters.

5d  Unknown number rejected by strange country, I was accepted instead: such distinction! (15)
DIFFERENTIATION: A nine-letter word meaning strange a six-letter word for a country has the letter representing an unknown number removed (rejected) and replaced by the I from the clue.

6d  Aerialists regularly upside down for the Crown. (5)
TIARA: The odd. Letters (regularly) in the first word of the clue are reversed (upside down).

7d  Pole loses a point in getting thrown out. (5)
NORTH: An anagram (out) of THROWN after removing the A (loses a point).  As a set of cryptic instructions, the grammar here does not quite work as an instruction to remove a letter from thrown.  Perhaps “Thrown out after wife departs for Pole.

12d  Show the way for bullet. (4)
LEAD: Double definition.  I think that the solution is a mass noun when used to indicate bullets, not a single bullet.

15d  Soak pustule as pus starts to come out. (3)
SOT: A four-letter word for a pustule without (to come out) the initial letters (starts) of pus.  X starts does not cryptically indicate the first letter of X.  Perhaps “Soak pustule as a bit of pus comes out”

16d  Work making soup. (4)
OPUS: A anagram (making) of SOUP.

18d  Ruffian ending up innocent. (4)
NAIF: Reverse (up) the final four letters (ending) of the first word of the clue.  As a rule, ending should be used only to indicate the final letter of a word, not an indeterminate number of words.

19d  Mark to indicate quality needs no name. (9)
SIGNATURE: A four-letter word meaning to indicate followed by a six-letter word meaning quality without the initial N (needs no name).

21d  At the outset, all media programmes are current. (3)
AMP: The initial letters (at the outset) of the  fourth to sixth words of the clue.  Amp in the singular is not synonymous with current.  You cannot use wordplay are definition as a structure for your clue.

22d  Score. (4)
MARK: A straightforward quick crossword clue.  Something more is needed to make this a cryptic clue.

23d  Can reverse to assess fertiliser. (7)
NITRATE: A reversal of a three-letter word for a can followed by a four-letter word meaning to assess.  For the cryptic grammar to work, the indicator needs to be reverses, though this would break the surface reading. 

24d  Impervious to wild coitus without starting to undress. (5)
STOIC: A anagram (wild) of COITUS without the initial letter (starting to) of undress.  Again, the cryptic instruction starting to does not mean the first letter.  Perhaps “Impervious to wild coitus without undressing at first”.

25d  Seen on the paper, a note from the compiler: the writing takes form. (5)
HAIKU: There may be more to this but if written on paper in poetic form, the clue would be an example of this verse form.

27d  Top circle for outdoor bathing. (4)
LIDO: A three-letter word for a top or cover followed by the letter that is circular in appearance.

49 comments on “Rookie Corner 457

  1. Really good fun to solve. We’ve managed to sort out everything except the parsing for 25d which we will mull over for a bit longer.
    A pity about the triple unches in the grid which added a little to the difficulty for us, particularly in the SW.
    Lots of ticks on our pages but we’ll go for 20a as favourite.
    Thanks JayKay.

  2. Thanks JayKay. Quite enjoyable but there are some parsings that I will need guidance from Prolixic on

    Triple unchecked letters are unusual.

    I understand the convention is that ‘full stops’ are not included at the end of clues but, of course, when appropriate ‘!’ and ‘?’ are used.

    Smiles for 4a, 20a, 32a, 3d, and 27d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Send, yes I need to learn the punctuation conventions, I don’t think I’ve really followed them at all. Triple unchecked won’t happen again. Glad you liked the puzzle!

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, JayKay. This was a very good RC debut. I enjoyed the solve and it was sufficiently accomplished to suggest that it is not your first cryptic puzzle. Most of your clueing was commendably brief with some inventive ideas on show. Some of your surfaces read a little strangely but this is something that comes with experience.

    I don’t normally notice double unches, but, although it didn’t stop me solving the four clues involved, triple unches should definitely be avoided. Also, it is normal practice not to include full stops at the end of clues.

    I have a few comments, and I am interested particularly to learn Prolixic’s opinion of three of these:
    – In 1a, “puzzle” and “trough” can be synonymous as nouns. However, using “to puzzle” in the clue implies that “puzzle” is being used as a verb but there is no synonymous verb “to trough”. This is one for Prolixic.
    – In 32a “steps out with” is a quaint archaic expression, which I haven’t come across for decades.
    – In 1d, for the surface reading to make sense, the final word is a verb and so needs to be spelt “practise” (unless you are American!). However, for the definition the word needs to be spelt “practice”. You could get round this by changing the clue to “… restate his case for practice”.
    – 5d is another one for Prolixic. The past tense “was” feels incongruous to me. I think “I am” or “JayKay is” would have been better.
    – In 12d, I believe the slang “lead” means “bullets” not “bullet” so the wordplay should reflect this.
    – In 21d, amp is a unit of electric current not a synonym of current.
    – 22d is rather clever in that you have managed to create a double definition with a one-word clue. I would like to know Prolixic’s view if this is technically OK.
    – I can see that the clue for 25d is an example of the answer, but is that sufficient or is there some wordplay I am missing?

    I have a lot of ticks: 4a, 20a, 24a, 3d, 4d, 7d, 18d, 19d, 22d & 23d.

    Please take heed of Prolixic’s wise words and the comments of other bloggers.

    Well done and thank you, JayKay. I look forward to your next submission. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. THanks Rabbit Dave!
      It *is* my first puzzle, or at least my first since1985 when I made one for K (my wife now), which proved ludicrously easy; to be fair though I should say *our* first puzzle in that the polishing of the clues was very much a joint effort, and she is the “Kay” of “JayKay”.
      BTW, I think your autocorrect changed “guzzle” to “puzzle” … and we do use “to trough” in the sense of “to pig out”, but possibly that’s a family usage.
      In 1d I was thinking of a doctor making his case to his GP partners, hence “to practice”; but your suggestion of “for” is good, as are your other ideas. On 25d you are correct, but note that the clue does contain a defining word as well. Thank you for the helpful feedback!

      1. Whoops, sorry about the puzzle/guzzle confusion. I normally spot things like that but pethaps I can blame the early hour in this instance. :wink:

    2. I think I’ve heard ‘amps’ used informally for current, but not ‘amp’ singular. And I couldn’t find a dictionary that supported me anyway. Though in looking it up, it did amuse me that one of the earliest OED citations for ’amp’ is somebody in 1886 grumbling about it: “But ampère shortened to am or amp is abominable.”

        1. Sorry, Senf, if I was unclear. Your example is using amp as the unit, which is uncontroversial. But I was responding to Rabbit Dave’s pointing out that this crossword uses ‘amp’ to mean current itself, not the unit. I think I’ve heard something like “Let’s increase the amps” — but “Let’s increase the amp” doesn’t work.

  4. An enjoyable crossword. which I don’t think can be your first

    There are faults, not least the grid, but I’ll leave the listing of them to Prolixic, not least because he’ll then have fewer detailed comments to read before he starts to prepare his review – I will just say that 15d isn’t the nicest clue to read while eating your breakfast!

    Thanks very much – take notice of the review and the comments and come back with another crossword in due course. Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  5. Welcome JayKay. I enjoyed working my way through this, you have some good ideas. However there are a few “almost but not quites” for me along with some “unusual” surface reads.
    Best to choose a grid with no double, let alone triple-unches! Clues don’t have full stops. I presume with 22d you are trying to make a double definition, in which case you need another definition to make it cryptic?
    My ticks go to 4(though “the” is padding) 9,13&32a plus 4 (unusual but great fun!)& 21d
    Many thanks and well doneJayKay and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. For 22d to work as a double definition, could it be repeated? Maybe something like “Score? Score! (4)” so it as a plausible surface reading?

      1. Smylers, Double definitions work best when there can only be one meaning from two or more different words that form a plausible surface read. So in the case we have here “Assess score” would work nicely.

    2. I agree about 22d. Surely this isn’t really a legitimate cryptic clue of any known “type”.

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner, JayKay.
    Some clever thinking has gone into this puzzle – well done on your debut.
    I liked 4a (although “moneymaker’s” would be better than “moneymaker is”), 14a and 32a with my favourite being 20a.
    I hope to see you here again.

  7. Welcome to Rookie Corner, JayKay.

    I’ve no wish to rain on your parade, but I do have many more crosses and question marks than ticks on my printed page, unfortunately. The puzzle contains quite a lot of cryptic grammar errors, which detracted from my enjoyment. Constructions such as “definition makes/making wordplay” run counter to convention and “wordplay are definition” jarred badly as well. 31a was possibly the weakest clue as “even locusts” does not mean cryptically to take the alternate letters of locusts and the wordplay should be regarded as a single entity and not followed by a plural verb. I don’t see how a single word in 22d qualifies as a cryptic clue. Aside from everything else, please please please do not use home-made grids like this one for future puzzles, triple unches send a shiver down my spine every time I encounter them! I felt 9a was your best clue.

    I urge you to go through Prolixic’s review extremely thoroughly and I hope you can return with a puzzle containing far fewer flaws next time. Many thanks, JayKay.

  8. Welcome to RC JayKay and thanks for sharing this one with us. There is plenty of evidence of nice ideas – the ‘erect shoemaker’ is a nice find (I think) and the mutilating scavenger is a really super clue. There were plenty of other clues which I felt were nearly there. But they were let down by little things, particularly in the cryptic grammar. There should be plenty of useful advice and feedback from Prolixic on the morrow.

    Thanks again, and to Prolixic in due course.

  9. Welcome to the Corner, JayKay. There were certainly some technical issues with this puzzle as have already been pointed out by others but overall I enjoyed solving it which counts for a great deal.
    My favourite was 20a with 4a & 3d not far behind it.
    Take careful note of the comments from our experienced solvers and also from Prolixic’s review, and I hope to see JayKay mk.2 very soon.

  10. Thank you so much JayKay (J, presumably?) for putting your head above the parapet and making this splendid puzzle available for us all – I really enjoyed it, and while I look forward to Prolixic’s review in order to understand the parsing of a few of my answers, the vast majority of the clues have ticks alongside rather than a ? or X.

    Triple unches are really not my thing but fortunately the clueing of those four answers was straightforward. I had already settled on 20a, 5d and 18d as being podium contenders when 25d dawned on me – so clever and original, and it comfortably takes the prize for me.

    While Prolixic (to whom thanks in advance) will have various comments alongside those from Silvanus and others, I thought that for a first-time puzzle this was excellent, and I look forward to the next gauntlet you throw down for us!

  11. Welcome to Rookie Corner JayKay

    There are some rookie errors, which is to be expected here but I think you can take some positives in that you have created a solvable puzzle
    Prolixic will focus your attention on why some clues don’t work so understanding his analysis will set you on the right track in no time

    Many thanks for the challenge

  12. Thanks JayKay an enjoyable solve.

    I liked 1a (“trough” as a noun seems fine, even though not in Chambers), 9a, 10a, 11a (though would prefer not to see noun as anagram indicator), 13a, 14a (my favourite), 17a, 20a (although arguably you have the definition in the wrong part of speech?), 24a, 29a (although I think “even” is padding), 32a, 33a, 1d (if taking into account Rabbit Dave’s observation/suggestion), 3d (I think, though some may argue it needs a little more to be “complete”?), 6d (although “the” is padding”), 24d & 27d.

    Various quibbles already pointed out: 4a’s “is ” and “the” both padding – Gazza’s solution is neat; 5d, 12d, 21d & 25d I agree with Rabbit Dave – 21d also needs “is” not “are”; 22d not cryptic, Stephen L has provided a good suggestion; 31a agree with Silvanus; and the triple unches and full stops are to be avoided!

    A few other minor points: 26a I think “in” works better than “from”; 28a “taking” rather than “take”; 2d omit “the” (not just padding – it affects the definition); 4d definition in wrong part of speech, else “counters” is doing double-duty (and also, therefore, is a bit “same-sidey” if intended as part of wordplay); 7d’s grammar doesn’t seem quite right; 16d “making” not a very convincing anagram indicator when there are many suitable alternatives, e.g. “stirring”; 18d “ending” usually refers to just the final letter (and in any case should indicate possession i.e. “ruffian’s ending”); 19d unfortunately contains the solutio to the nearby 22d, and the SIGN part is perhaps a little same-sidey; 23d “reverse” as transitive verb should come before “can”.

    But despite all that, lots of fun with plenty of good ideas – will look forward to seeing more JayKays! Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Fez, “trough” is a noun. My concern is that it is not a verb – except apparently in JayKay’s family!

      1. Hi RD: it could be that JayKay’s family hail from Cambridge … because trough – verb – to eat greedily – appears in the Cambridge Dictionary on the Web. And in Collins and Wiktionary (if that has standing)

        1. It’s common usage here in Derbyshire with the meaning to eat/to scoff, though probably considered slang. “Where’s the trifle that was in the fridge?” “Your brother’s troughed it all”.

      2. Sorry, I meant “verb”, d’oh! “To trough” is not in Chambers, but I think it’s pretty standard usage as “to eat greedily”

      1. hi JayKay, thanks & sorry I tend to go a bit overboard with analysis especially when a puzzle is so engaging, ie excellent in terms of fun & ideas (and for me part of the fun is also the analysis!) I started out in Rookie Corner a couple of years ago and the commentary and advice from all the “regulars” here was immensely valuable – most importantly, of course, from Prolixic – do pay good heed to his review!

  13. Thank you, JayKay, we really enjoyed solving your puzzle – good fun – although we did have to reveal a couple of letters to complete it. Our favourites were 4a, 17a, 20a and 30a. We look forward to your next one. Thanks in advance to Prolixic

  14. Thank you all for your august advice. I am the K in JayKay and as J said, we made it together. It took us weeks and was for a large family gathering. Hitherto, we have learned by doing, so devising our own was a bit of a departure. I can see we have a lot to learn about cryptic grammar! I have already learned from you what ”unch’ and ‘surface’ mean and if we submit again I can promise no homemade grid, no triple unches, and no full stops. We’ll work on the grammar! Your time and comments are much appreciated and we’re intrigued to have discovered this world of seasoned and supportive crossword enthusiasts.

    1. Thank you K (as well as J) for the additional background which certainly sheds light. And, in my opinion, suggests you should take away from this experience primarily the encouragement and the commendations for ideas and imagination. If you bent/broke a bunch of rules/conventions of which you were unaware, you shouldn’t beat yourselves up but, instead, display exactly the attitude you have: we’re gonna learn this stuff and come back stronger. There are lots of sources of advice on writing cryptic clues and several forums in which advice is shared and puzzles, whether nationally published or privately submitted, are dissected. There is great advice on both Big Dave’s site – the parent to Rookie Corner – which focuses on the Telegraph, and on which covers Guardian/Independent/FT. The other site to be aware of is which focuses on private setters. Good luck and I look forward to another family collaboration in due course.

  15. Thanks for that – good fun!
    As a Rookie myself, I prefer to leave the marking to those here that are better at it. However, I did finish unaided (with a few question marks) and rather enjoyed the process.
    Loved 20a.
    If anyone skilled in the art offers to playtest for you, bite their hand off. Somebody did it for me and it made a world of difference.
    Looking forward to your next.

    1. I very much concur! LBR has been an invaluable help to me.
      Like others I enjoyed this with the odd misgiving. Despite the redundant “is”, 4a was my COTD.
      Something not mentioned here (I think) is that you have 6 anagrams (about the max I’d say), but 2 are only 4 letters and 2 are 5 (albeit one with a letter subtraction first). While there is no rule saying you can’t have such short anagrams (and occasionally a really good surface justifies it), they don’t offer the greatest challenge to the solver. Just a thought!

  16. I concur with Tater. As a fellow Rookie I’ve found that having a test solver previewing one’s crosswords is extremely helpful.
    Congratulations J and K on producing an entertaining puzzle. I thought there were many amusing clues and a number of interesting ideas. 4d was my favourite.
    Despite the technical issues I thought the puzzle was, for the most part, eminently solvable and provided some fun on the way. That’s a big plus in my book so well done for putting it together. I look forward to seeing your next one.

  17. Great puzzle; thanks to Jay & Kay and I look forward to the next one. Really enjoyed this; the excellent 3D was my favourite ***** for enjoyment for me

  18. Well I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle & didn’t even notice the triple unches but maybe that’s only because it was a brisk solve. I did spot a few of the technical/grammatical glitches but they didn’t detract from my enjoyment. As a first effort I’d say it’s a very good start.Can’t parse 25d.
    Thanks both.

  19. Well done, Jay & Kay. Despite the technical errors already mentioned by others, I found more to smile at than to frown at. There’s humour and a general sense of fun underpinning this puzzle. The technical stuff will come with practice (as a starting point, there are some excellent resources on this site that are well worth reading for help with that).

    No problem with trough=guzzle for me.

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I think you may rest assured that our Rookie duo will take careful note of your comments before, hopefully, compiling their next submission.

Comments are closed.