Rookie Corner 487 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View comments 

Rookie Corner 487

A Puzzle by Dr Diva

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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 Dr Diva.  The cluing in this crossword was very tight and fair and the only comments are not on the technical details but on the fine polishing of the clues.  The commentometer reads as 1.5 / 26 or 5.8%.  I think we have another candidate for the NTSPP.


7a  Slug caught in early stage of development (7)
DRAUGHT: A homophone (caught) of draft (in the early stages of development).

8a  During speech, welcome, perhaps, Harlow’s sanitation  (7)
HYGIENE: A homophone (during speech) of hi (welcome) Jean (perhaps Harlow).

10a  Stretch point (6)
PERIOD: Double definition of a stretch of time and a punctuation mark.

11a  Stupid admitting bad smell is “grim” (8)
INHUMANE: A five-letter word meaning stupid includes (admitting) a three-letter word for a bad smell.

12a  Sell a blazer not entirely tailored for someone unpleasant (10)
SLEAZEBALL: An anagram (tailored) of SELL A BLAZER after removing the last letter (not entirely) of blazer.

14a  The most important part about leaving ground (4)
PITH: The single letter representing circa (about) is removed from the middle of a five-letter word for part of a cricket or football ground.

15a  Foil male heterosexual (8,3)
STRAIGHT MAN: Double definition, the first being the foil for a comedian.

19a  Scuttles with shoes on, heading to the right (4)
HODS: A four-letter word meaning “with shoes on” with the first letter (heading) moved to right.

21a  Dealing with expectation of opening batter heading for the middle? (10)
OVERCOMING: Split 4,6, this might be what an opening batsman expects with the first of six deliveries.  I wonder whether the clue might be better without the “heading for the middle”, which not incorrect is perhaps over elaborating the clue?

22a  Against American fighter making a comeback with rhetoric that’s ill-informed (8)
IGNORANT: A two-letter word meaning against and a two-letter word for an American soldier or fighter all reversed (making a comeback) and followed by a four-letter word for rhetoric.  I might have chosen a closer synonym for the final four-letter word.

23a  Even dropping hospital papers inside provides solutions (6)
FLUIDS: A five-letter word meaning even or level without (dropping) the abbreviation for hospital includes (inside) a two-letter word for papers.

24a  Worked out prize is returned with virtually every draw at the outset  (7)
EVOLVED: A four-letter word meaning to prize or admire is reversed (returned) and followed by the initial letters (at the outset) of the seventh to ninth words of of the clue.

25a  It stings to let half of TV duo go (4,3)
FIRE ANT: Literally this would mean to sack Dec’s partner.


1d  Tell vacuous lackey to get organised (7)
ORDERLY: A five-letter word meaning to tell or command followed by the outer letters (vacuously) of lackey.

2d  Thoughtful pathologist’s findings when worker drowned in distilled molasses? (8)
RUMINANT: Split 3,2,3, this might described what a pathologist might find inside a worker insect that had drowned in the alcohol made from molasses.

3d  Tesla should periodically crash (4)
THUD: The abbreviation for Tesla followed by the even-letters (periodically) of should.

4d  Hic tipsily? It could be infectious (10)
SYPHILITIC: An anagram (it could be) of HIC TIPSILY.

5d  Scrap plan to make digital image (6)
BITMAP: A three-letter word meaning a scrap followed by a three-letter word for a plan.

6d  Frees a French king before the first signs of nationalist opposition turn sour (7)
UNKNOTS: The French masculine singular for a followed by the chess abbreviation for king and the initial letters (first signs of) the final four words of the clue.  Perhaps having two clues with initial letters from a sequence of words is too much.

9d  Live naked up giant tree, not normally dressing for dinner (11)
VINAIGRETTE: The inner letters (naked) of live are reversed (up) and followed by an anagram (not normally) of GIANT TREE.

13d  Vanished with duty free, led by half of Geneva’s population initially (10)
EVAPORATED: A phrase (1,5) meaning duty free after (led by) the first half of the word Geneva and the initial letter of population.

16d  Toughened up over eardrum bursting (8)
ARMOURED: An anagram (bursting) of O (over) EARDRUM.

17d  Given no extraneous information to be enthralled by: make excuse! (7)
FORGIVE: Remove (no)a three-letter word for information from given and insert (to be enthralled by) the remaining letters into a five-letter word meaning to make something.

18d  Annoyed about being dull (7)
ANODYNE: An anagram (about) of ANNOYED.

20d  Defaces Spanish paintings (6)
SPOILS: The two-letter abbreviation for Spanish (given in Collins) followed by a four-letter word for paintings.

23d  Decent payoff airline provides (4)
FAIR: The answer is hidden (provides) in the second and third words of the clue.

18 comments on “Rookie Corner 487
Leave your own comment 

  1. Thanks Dr Diva – a bit more of a head scratcher than your last Rookie which, once again, required some e-help to get across the finishing line although most of that is probably due to my eyes and brain almost becoming disconnected as I missed my Sunday afternoon nap..

    I could not find the abbreviation for Spanish required for 20d in the BRB.

    Smiles for 11a, 19a, 25a, 3d, and 13d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

      1. Thanks to all who have commented. I think I knew, when submitting this puzzle, that it would be challenging in parts and I accept everyone’s experience of solving it. But, while freely acknowledging I have the advantage of knowing the answers 😁, I felt there were only really perhaps 3 or 4 clues that were properly tough, with the remainder mostly being middling to middling +. I suppose the whimsical cryptic clues are slightly different in that you either get them or you don’t.

        Still, if I have misjudged it, mea culpa and I am sorry. I will be interested in Prolixic’s take on matters technical. Point taken Silvanus – I had in mind that 2, even 3 such clues would be OK but I can dial that back.

        Thanks for all the feedback one and all.

  2. Well we did eventually get everything sorted but it did take us quite a long time and some electronic assistance. Maybe it asks a bit much of the solvers?
    Technically it all looks pretty sound to us with some clever misdirection along the way.
    We’ll nominate 15a for favourite.
    Thanks Dr Diva.

  3. A very tricky crossword, solved corner by corner – SW NE SW and NW, the latter requiring a couple of letter reveals. I also needed to do quite a lot of checking in the dictionary of various definitions and synonyms. Like Senf, I couldn’t find the required Spanish abbreviation in 20d

    Thanks Dr Diva – could we have something a little friendlier next time please? – and in advance to Prolixic

  4. As others have said this was pretty tricky but there were some neat touches and some laughs – thanks to Dr Diva.
    Top clues for me were 19a, 21a, 1d and 5d.

  5. As others have commented, some of this was really tough – perhaps too much so? I did finish up by using 3 letter reveals to get me across the line, something I hate having to do.
    Top clues for me were 15&25a plus 13d.

    Thanks, Dr Diva, would appreciate it if you dialled down the difficulty level a little next time!

  6. Welcome back, Dr Diva.

    I agree that this was quite challenging in terms of difficulty, but I thought that the standard was very high indeed. “Duty free” in 13d was very clever, but top of my podium were 15a and 5d.

    I would caution against the over-use of multiple initial letter indicators, presumably as a last resort when no other wordplay elements would fit? I’m referring to 24a (three letters in the solution clued by “at the outset”) and 6d (four letters in the solution clued by “first signs of”). I think that one such device in a single puzzle is more than enough.

    The puzzle was very enjoyable to solve, many thanks Dr Diva.

  7. Interesting to note that in the BRB section “Abbreviations used in the dictionary”, Sp is listed as the abbreviation for Spanish.

  8. A struggle for us and we ended up having to reveal letters. We still need Prolixic to parse several answers for us. Thank you Dr Diva but something friendlier next time, please.

  9. I too needed 2 letter reveals to complete the NW & was pretty chuffed to get that far without one. Very much enjoyed the battle & it was certainly toughie territory. 7a last in & a complete letters fit bung in. 15a my runaway fav once the parsing penny eventually dropped.
    Thanks Dr Diva

  10. Hi Dr D! Thanks for the puzzle. I printed it out and had a long look but couldn’t do any clues I’m afraid. Don’t take that personally – the vast majority of Toughies/NTSPP are the same, maybe it’s psychological. But as a fellow rookie I’m paying close attention to everything going on here, even if I can’t offer much advice.

    I did like your surface readings a lot though. And once Silvanus explained a couple of clues they suddenly seemed obvious 🤦😂

    One thing I read on here last month that really hit the snail on the head for me: “a crossword is a battle of wits the setter should expect to lose gracefully”. I hadn’t considered that before but it makes sense. Last week all the DTs were tough and everyone was griping, even considering cancelling subscriptions! Whereas a gentle Monday finish gives everyone a warm glow and sense of smug satisfaction. Call me a loser but I know which I’d prefer 😉

    Having said that, so far I find it absolutely impossible to gauge difficulty compiling a puzzle. They seem too easy when you know the answers! I sent mine to my mother (who taught me) and got told off for it being too hard 🤣 What I’d really LOVE to hear is advice from very experienced setters, some pointers on how to assess toughness inside this setting vacuum – any tips and tricks would be really welcome. Thanks again Dr D, I’ll print out some of your previous puzzles in the week 😁👍

    1. Thank you AgentB. It may well have been me that said we setters should lose gracefully 😂 so I’m sorry to have failed in that respect. I hope now you’ve seen Prolixic’s review that you may feel a bit more like “Hmm…perhaps I should have got that” in some cases at least!

      I am pleased you picked up on the surfaces, though, as I do work hard on those and, actually, I think the better they are, the harder a puzzle can seem. It’s just that one has to work harder to unpick a really fluent surface reading.
      But judging difficulty as a setter is not easy. It is still a work-in-progress for me!

      1. You’re absolutely right about the surfaces, knowing this is going to help me solve better too. And as for the review, yes, they did 😅🤦

        Congrats on the promotion and good luck in the NTSPP!

    2. Thanks very much for the review Prolixic. I take your suggestions on board and your point about 21a seems obvious now you point it out! Not sure what promotion means, if promotion it is, but I appreciate the confidence shown. Is there a different procedure?

  11. Thanks for the 7a explanation Prolixic – missed the homophone indicator & the slug context passed me by – annoying as I’ve been known to slug down the occasional pint of wallop

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and congrats to Dr Diva on his promotion. Please don’t take that as an excuse to make your puzzles even tougher!

Join the Conversation, Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.