Rookie Corner 461 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 461

A Puzzle by Hex

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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.

An excellent debut crossword from Hex with very little to comment upon.  To get 12 surnames of female vocalists (show by underlined definition) without having obscure words in the grid is no mean feat.  The commentometer reads as 1.5/30 or 5%.


7a  Perhaps Houdini’s dog (5)
HARRY: Double definition of the first name of Mr Houdini and a verb meaning to dog or pester.

8a  Anticipate everyone following Ashdown? (9)
FORESTALL: A three-letter word for everyone after (following) a six-letter word for a natural feature of which Ashdown is an example (indicated by the question mark).

10a  Surprisingly sparse asparagus? (6)
SPEARS: An anagram (surprisingly) of SPARSE.  As only one letter has to be moved, this could have been clued differently.

11a  Occasional fluency in fool’s manner of speaking (8)
IDIOLECT: The even letters (occasional) letters of fluency inside (in) a five-letter word for an idiot.  A pedantic point but occasional means infrequently or on an irregular basis so does not really work as an alternate letter indictor.

12a  Agree vote against, before start of debate (3)
NOD: A two-letter word for a vote against before the first letter (start) of debate.

13a  Keats initially shortened Nightingale piece (6)
KNIGHT: The first letter (initially) of Keats followed by the first five letters (shortened) of Nightingale.  Whilst shortened is imprecise in relation to the number of letters to be removed and is usually reserved for removing the final letter or a word, this convention is where the solver has to find a synonym of the word in the clue that is then shortened.  As the word to be shortened is given in the clue and the contribution of the word to the realism of the surface reading, I think that we can allow this.

14a  Plant vehicle’s heavy at the front (4)
BUSH: A three-letter word for a public service vehicle followed by the first letter (at the front) of heavy.

16a  Slice of unpleasant pie certain to be sent back for voucher (7)
RECEIPT: The answer is hidden (slice of) and reversed (to be sent back) in the third to fifth words of the clue.

18a  Turned round defeats and threw a banquet (7)
FEASTED: An anagram (turned round) of DEFEATS.

21a  Heads to Scotland to arrange reception for celebrity (4)
STAR: The initial letters (heads to) of the third to sixth words of the clue.

23a  Teach urchins about sanctuary (6)
CHURCH: The answer is hidden (about) in the first two words of the clue.

25a  Flower is out when the sun is up (3)
DAY: A five-letter word for a flower without (out) the IS.

26a  The way the birds and the bees do it, it’s a moving experience? (8)
SWARMING: Cryptic definition of the movement of birds or bees.

27a  Spring over adder? (6)
SUMMER: Double definition.

28a  Love face if not wrinkled (9)
AFFECTION: An anagram (wrinkled) of FACE IF NOT.

29a  Utter rubbish in Home Counties (5)
STATE: A three-letter word for rubbish inside the abbreviation for the region of England wherein the Home Counties are located.


1d  Fish go in chippy? (9)
CARPENTER: A four-letter freshwater fish followed by a five-letter word meaning go in.

2d  Altering unusual shape (8)
TRIANGLE: An anagram (unusual) of ALTERING.

3d  Idol seen around in Hay Festival (7)
HOLIDAY: An anagram (seen around) of IDOL in the Hay from the clue.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicator such as “in” to indicate an insertion.  This is the third use of the indicator.

4d  Soldiers to blame for sound (8)
RELIABLE: The abbreviation for Royal Engineers (soldiers) followed by a six-letter word meaning to blame.

5d  Stops running in theatre area (6)
STALLS: Double definition.

6d  Inside, pub lacks colour (5)
BLACK: The answer is hidden (inside) in the second and third words of the clue.

9d  Ain’t well-spoken? (4)
ISNT: How a well-spoken person would say “ain’t”.

15d  Cases in trains, carried by tourists on vacation (9)
TEA CHESTS: A seven-letter word meaning trains or educated above (carried by in a down clue) the outer letters (on vacation) of tourists.  The enumeration here should be (3,6)

17d  Rips sets apart and carries on (8)
PERSISTS: An anagram (apart) of RIPS SETS.

19d  A US motel demolished for similar one (8)
SOULMATE: An anagram (demolished) of A US MOTEL.

20d  Go and nudge floundering fish (7)
GUDGEON: An anagram (floundering) of GO NUDGE.  Try to avoid too many repetitions of wordplay types in row – for example we have three anagrams in a row.

22d  Prize engineer (6)
TURNER: Double definition.

23d  Bag found in empty city street (4)
CYST: The outer letters (empty) of city followed by the abbreviation of street.

24d  Bird in SW1 on foot (5)
SWIFT: The SWI from the clue on the abbreviation for foot.

28 comments on “Rookie Corner 461
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  1. A curate’s egg for me in which I stalled in the NE and needed some reveals to get going again.

    The BRB indicates the enumeration of 15d as (3,6). I also consider that there are some clues that will attract comments on construction and so on from the experts but I will leave that to them; but the ‘shortening’ in 13a might be one of them.

    Smiles for 8a, 29a, 4d, and 5d.

    Thanks Hex, welcome to Rookie Corner, and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Hex, with an accomplished debut, surely not your first ever cryptic crossword. This was light and refreshing, and was fun to solve with brief clueing and generally smooth surfaces.

    I have only one question. Is it valid to use “shortening” in 13a to indicate removal of more than one letter?

    With plenty of very good clues to choose from, my top picks are 8a, 11a, 25a, 3d & 9d.

    Very well done, Hex, and thank you. More like this soon please. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic,

  3. An excellent crossword to accompany my breakfast. As RD says, I’m sure this wasn’t your first cryptic crossword.

    I’ll be the third, but definitely not the last person, interested to know what Prolixic has to say about ‘shortening’ in 13a

    Many thanks Hex, come back again soon – thanks in advance to Prolixic

    1. Hi Hex, welcome to RC. After working out 7a, I thought “I’m going to enjoy this” and I wasn’t wrong. It was a very accomplished and straightforward challenge with succinct clueing and witty deflections. 23d was my favourite but I don’t think shortening works in 13a and so the answer, when I worked it out, was a disappointment. Perhaps a case of chasing a good surface?

  4. Many thanks Hex, super stuff with some lovely surfaces and a nice mix of difficulty – plenty of ways in with a handful of trickier ones. Amongst many to enjoy my favourites included 7a, 12a, 16a, 25a, 29a, 3d, 4d, 9d, 19d, & 23d. Whilst 13a is perhaps unconventional, and in another context would raise an eyebrow, the wordplay is accurate (if not quite “precise”?) and I think the surface reading probably earns it the benefit of the doubt in this case. I wasn’t entirely convinced by a few indicators (18a, 23a, 17d) but intention was clear and all ‘gettable’. Very enjoyable indeed, thanks again – and in advance to Prolixic.

  5. Thanks to Hex for an accomplished and enjoyable puzzle. Top clues for me were 4d, 5d and 23d.
    More puzzles like this would be welcome.

  6. Welcome, Hex.

    An excellent Rookie Corner debut, the smoothness of the surfaces and succinctness of the clues deserve much praise. Technically, the puzzle was very sound, but I’m another unhappy with “shortened” meaning remove more than half of a word and I didn’t really like “turned round” as an anagram indicator in 18a. Talking of anagrams, I would always recommend using a different construction if the anagram involves moving just one letter, as in 10a. It’s easily overlooked, but “in” was used three times as an insertion indicator (11a, 29a and 3d).

    There are several ticks on my printed page but I had no overall favourite clue. Many thanks and congratulations on a very creditable debut, Hex.

  7. Hello Hex and congrats on your debut. Having seen several of your puzzles over on MyCrossword, it comes as no surprise that you’ve delivered a crisp and neat crossword. It felt a little bit chestnut heavy at the very beginning with 1d, 2d and 10a all in that NW corner but I needn’t have worried as there was plenty of variety thereafter. 16a, 21a, 23a, 25a, 6d, 20d and 24d were my favourites. Particularly nice to see an acrostic decently indicated in 21a.

    My only slight criticism would be the choice/construction of grid. Fortunately, the puzzle was straightforward so the relative lack of links between quarters/halves did not hold me back but it’s something to bear in mind.

    Thanks for this – and to Prolixic for the review in due course. I look forward to seeing more Hex submissions.

  8. Welcome to the Corner, Hex, and congratulations on a very promising debut. Prolixic may well have a few points to raise but I feel those will be fairly minor issues.
    I particularly liked 8a and 4d but my favourite was 9d which elicited a wide smile.

    Thanks for bringing us this puzzle and I look forward to seeing more from you.

  9. Delightful puzzle, Hex. And like PM, I’m not surprised, having enjoyed your work elsewhere. Favourites for me were 11a, 25a, 28a, 4d, 15d.

    I’m with Fez on the “shortening” – in the context, it’s ok. A few other minor technical details I could highlight but nothing to spoil my enjoyment so, for me, not worth mentioning – I’ll leave that to Prolixic.

    1. Thinking about the “shortening”, perhaps something like “drastically shortening” would keep purists (slightly more) happy?

  10. A light and very enjoyable puzzle Hex, thank you! Lots of ticks on my printout, particularly enjoying 25a, 27a, 3d & 4d. 11a was new to me but eminently gettable from the very fair clueing – just as it should be with any unfamiliar word in a puzzle. Add me to the list of those uncertain about the validity of 13a. It felt like there were more anagrams than there were, possibly because of the run of three in a row in the down clues.

    But a very polished puzzle, as others too have said, and I shall certainly look forward to tackling another from you if the opportunity arises!

    Many thanks, Hex, and in advance to Prolixic, too.

  11. Great puzzle which gave me a lot of enjoyment, Hex. Thanks for your efforts in producing this. I don’t have a problem with 13A & my favourite was the very clever 4D.

  12. The review will be up later as real life has intervened to delay its publication. In the meantime, how many female vocalists can you find in the solutions.

            1. I’ve found 12 (and there’s also another answer which is a homophone of a female singer). It’s very impressive to have a totally unobtrusive theme which has not led to a puzzle full of obscurities. A gold star for Hex! ✨

  13. Didn’t get round to this till today but glad I didn’t just give it a miss; what I did give a miss was the theme but now it’s pointed out it’s certainly an achievement. But I failed on 26ac – just couldn’t think of the word fitting the definition, even with all the crossers. Well done, Hex, and thanks to Prolixic.

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