Rookie Corner 502 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 502

A Puzzle by AgentB

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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. We do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

AgentB makes a welcome return to the fold.  There were a couple of over adventurous clues but on the whole this was an enjoyable and well-constructed crossword.  Although slightly on the high side for the number of anagrams, you see some national crosswords with a higher number.  It is usually only when Gazza runs out of fingers and toes to count them that I get overly concerned.  Again, three hidden words is on the high side and I would usually try to make one of them a reversed hidden word where there are more than two.  However, you will see three straight hidden words in some national crosswords.  The commentometer reads as 3.5/30 or 11.7%.


1a  In clean German, a gem entices treatment (5,10)
ANGER MANAGEMENT: The answer is hidden in the second to sixth words of the clue.  Clever though the hidden element is, it does result in a surface reading that is close to being nonsensical. 

9a  Be good from Ash Wednesday to Easter – really good! (9)
EXCELLENT: A five-letter word meaning be good followed by a four-letter word for the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter.

10a  Scoundrel‘s about-turn in Parisian street (5)
ROGUE: A reversal (about) of a two-letter word for a turn inside the three-letter French word for a street.

11a  Primarily a rich or meaty appetising smell (5)
AROMA: The initial letters (primarily) of the middle five words of the clue.

12a  College for General Studies? (9)
SANDHURST: Cryptic definition of the place where an army general might learn.

13a  Ugly demon not found in Canada (8)
EDMONTON: An anagram (ugly) of DEMON NOT.

15a  Fairy Liquid – sparkling! (6)
SPRITE: Double definition of an elfin creature and a brand of fizzy drink.

18a  Put up with crazy editor’s love (4,2)
MADE DO: A three-letter word meaning crazy followed by the two-letter abbreviation for editor and the letter representing love or nothing.

19a  Gripe carrying posh trunk at French port (8)
BOULOGNE: A four-letter word for a gripe includes (carrying) the abbreviation for posh and a three-letter word for a trunk.  I don’t think that at works as a link word wordplay at definition does not read well in the cryptic reading of the clue.

22a  He talked, I turned pale (9)
DEATHLIKE: An anagram (turned) of HE TALKED I.

24a  Reminder about international appearance (5)
RECAP: A two-letter word meaning about followed by a three-letter word describing an international appearance for a sports player.

26a  Northerner heard Cockney chap was well-informed! (5)
INUIT: A homophone (heard) of ‘E KNEW IT.  The homophone does not work for many readers as the solution is pronounced with a short “i” sound rather than an “e” sound.

27a  Ten of us are cut and disfigured by vampire (9)
NOSFERATU: An anagram disfigured of TEN OF USE AR (are cut).

28a  Drunk cameramen duet as seaside entertainment (9,6)


1d  It’s mean to affirm senility (7)
AVERAGE: A four-letter word meaning to affirm followed by a three-letter word for senility.  Congratulations on alienating the older solvers by suggesting we are senile.

2d  Opening of Genesis has noisy parrot and reptile (5)
GECKO: The first letter (opening) of Genesis followed by a homophone (noisy) of ECHO parrot.

3d  Revised deal René set out after Herr’s end (9)
RELEARNED: An anagram (set out) of DEAL RENE after the last letter (end) of Herr.

4d  A kind opposition (8)
AVERSION: The A from the clue and a seven-letter word for a kind or type of something.

5d  Temporary 8d (6)
ACTING: Double definition of someone who stands in temporarily and for the solution to 8d.

6d  Heart-breaking for the planet (5)
EARTH: An anagram (breaking) of HEART.

7d  A bit of ginseng or ginger stuffing (9)
ENGORGING: The answer is hidden in (a bit of) the fourth to sixth words of the clue.

8d  Place for cutting-edge drama? (7)
THEATRE: The place where a surgeon might wield a scalpel.

14d  Nervously I guard Emu for head of BBC perhaps (5,4)
MEDIA GURU: An anagram (nervously) of I GUARD EMU.

16d  Extremely dangerous animal (5,4)
POLAR BEAR: Dangerous animal that might be found at one of the polar extremities.

17d  Bathing area, wanting gin cocktail! (8)
SOMERSET: Remove an anagram (cocktail) of GIN from the first two words of the clue to give you the definition.  This would not pass muster with most editors.  The wordplay and definition should be separate.  The wordplay should not modify the wording of the clue to give a definition.

18d  Drink forced on Republicans (7)
MADEIRA: A four-letter word meaning force followed by the abbreviation for an Irish republican movement.

20d  Adopt Amazon bride? (7)
ESPOUSE: Split 1,6 this might suggest an on-line (Amazon) bride

21d  Betrothed, Ian’s caught in iron grip (6)
FIANCE: The IAN from the clue and the abbreviation for caught inside (in…grip) the chemical symbol for iron.  It might have been better to use something like Scotsman to indicate Ian rather than simply placing the word in the solution.

23d  Harbour once held by Delphi/Thebes (5)
HITHE: The answer is hidden (held by) the final two words of the clue.

25d  Girl initially chose the French artist (5)
CLARA: The first letter (initially) of chose followed by the French feminine singular for the and the two letter abbreviation for an artist.

36 comments on “Rookie Corner 502
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  1. Thoroughly enjoyable solve for us starting with a very clever lurker.
    A few clues, eg 16d and 17d, that we are a bit unsure about how they work cryptically, but overall a well put together fun solve.
    Thanks AgentB.

  2. A very lovely and fairly easy puzzle that did not take much time to solve. A lot of anagrams featured; two being partial. 28a took some time, while the rest of the anagrams could be guessed instantly. I liked 1a, 9a, 10a, 13a, 27a, 28a, 14d, 18d, 20d, 21d and 25d; 27a being the best among them. Thank you so much, AgentB. I will wait for tomorrow to gain insight into 26a, 16d and 17d in particular through Prolixic’s review.

    1. Thank you so much for the review, Prolixic. 26a was just a guesswork for me, but now it’s a great learning. However, for 16d and 17d, I had similar thoughts.

  3. Excellent, AgentB! I really enjoyed this and it seems to me that you have really hit your stride as a setter. You have managed to combine commendably brief and accurate clueing with (mostly) smooth surfaces and spiced it up with sprinkles of humour.

    The rest of the puzzle is so good that I will take the opportunity to focus on what is the icing on the cake – the surface readings. There are only a very few of concern, the worst one being 1a. (However it is a such a good lurker that it still makes it onto my podium!) The other three which read slightly strangely to me are 11a (can you have a rich smell?), 2d & 23d. I stress these are minor issues, but you are good enough now to concentrate on stepping up to the next level.

    There are just three clues on which I would like to comment:
    – 13a. I don’t like “ugly” as an anagram indicator. It may well appear somewhere in a list of anagram indicators but for me it is important that the word used conveys some sense of rearranging letters.
    – 16d. I think the animal in question would need to live at both poles for the cryptic definition to work. They are only found in the North.
    – 17d. This is AgentB pushing the boundaries! I can’t recall having seen a clue quite like this where the wordplay leads you to the definition rather than the answer. I’ll be very interested in Prolixic’s take on this.

    I’ve got lots of ticks and will simply mention my top picks which are: 1a, 9a. 18a, 5d, 18d & 20d.

    Very well done and thank you, AB. Please do keep them coming. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

          1. I’ve never come across that usage which seems very strange to me, Huntsman. Looking at the 19 definitions for “rich” in the BRB, I don’t think any of them apply to a smell even at a stretch.

            1. From Collins Online Dictionary:


              10. ADJECTIVE
              Rich smells are strong and very pleasant. Rich colours and sounds are deep and very pleasant.
              …a rich and luxuriously perfumed bath essence.
              …an attractive, glossy rich red colour.

  4. A lovely start to my Monday morning crossword solving, thank you AgentB. A splendid lurker to start and lots of other clues I really liked.

    Thanks, in advance, to Prolixic

  5. Mr K dropped a hint on Friday that we might hear again from you soon so I half expected you today. A very enjoyable puzzle indeed with a great lurker to kick off with. Didn’t find it quite as straightforward as Rahmat & there are a couple of parsings I’m not 100% with. Fav for me was 26a.
    Thanks Agent B

  6. Very entertaining puzzle – many thanks to AgentB.
    The top half was easier than the bottom.
    I liked 1a, 12a, 1d and 21d but my favourite was the novel and very clever 17d.

  7. Thanks AgentB, an enjoyable end to my weekend of cruciverbalism.

    However, 26a doesn’t work for me. As a resident of a Province where many of the ‘Northerners’ live the answer is ‘broken down’ as xx-x-xx with the start of the word as a definite ‘IN’ sound, not x-xx-xx with a leading ‘apostrophised’ pronoun sound.

    Smiles for 9a, 24a, 4d, and 8d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  8. What a lovely surprise; (a very) welcome back to the party. Excellent, as ever. I loved 20d and 12a was fun. I see 17d has unsurprisingly split the crowd but I liked it – unusual, clever and very you! I do rather agree with RD re 16d (I don’t think the man’s ever wrong!) but the actual definition is undeniably accurate – they are indeed very dangerous – and it was all hugely enjoyable. An absolute romp. Hats off, fella. Please keep ’em coming.

  9. By my reckoning six out of the last seventeen Rookie Corner puzzles have been Agent B ones, no offence to him but I think it’s rather a pity that there seems to be a dearth of new setters at the moment.

    Eight anagrams in the thirty clues was a little excessive and, with the three lurkers too, it meant that the puzzle was a little unbalanced in my opinion. Yes, 1a is a good lurker but the resultant surface is pretty disappointing. Clever as it might me, 17a doesn’t work for me as there is no definition in the clue, just wordplay. I also thought 16d was rather weak. Having said all that, I did enjoy the solving process, there was plenty to smile at, but no stand-out clues this time.

    Many thanks, Agent B.

    1. I think a couple of people who comment on the blog recently said they would have a collaborative go at setting a crossword, although one of them is sadly now suffering from shingles. I recall Chalicea saying that she doesn’t think you have to be an elite solver to be a good setter. I notice that Michael Callaghan has written a guide which is available on this blog. But I don’t know how people construct the grids, eg, is there some software to use that generates a grid full of words that a setter clues up, or does the setter start with a blank MS Word document, create a table and put words in and then clue it up, or perhaps something else.

      1. I use the free demo of Crossword Compiler because I’m a tightwad. I have a few favourite clues I’ll want to put in so select the grid based on that. I never use their autofill because it is trite to say the least. An hour or two of jiggery-pokery and the grid is done, I’ll have rough ideas for about half the clues. Three or four hours later it’s all done, troublesome answers can lead to grid tinkering. I do all that as a RTF file. Also important to review several times with fresh eyes down the line. I have a set of personal goals and rules about the kind of puzzles I want to set. No more than 6-7 anagrams for example (mildly annoyed that an eighth crept into this one), clue length etc.

        1. Thanks AB. I haven’t had a go at your crossword yet, but I will do in the not too distant future. Thanks for making it available on here.

          1. Oo I forgot to say, this all started as I used to make note of all the awful puns and anagrams etc I’d spot while out shopping or on the road. Sometimes I’d think such-and-such would make a great clue and pop it in the notepad file on my phone. Later on those little ideas often develop into actual clues

            1. Thanks AB. I am impressed that you can fill half the grid with words you have already selected. I am trying to fill a grid with Christmassy stuff. It’s not easy and I suspect the absolute best I will achieve is 50%. It’s quite a useful exercise in that I am seeing crosswords from the setter’s point of view.

      2. Hello, Mark. Prolixic/Michael’s guide to constructing cryptic crosswords is probably the best introduction there is for solvers venturing into setting cryptics.
        I suggest starting with a grid that’s been used in one of the major newspapers. Much easier than designing one’s own and no chance of ending up with too many or too few checking letters in an answer.
        I believe that a range of software and websites are used for actually filling the grid and writing the clues. Perhaps other RC setters can advise?
        For submission to Rookie Corner our first choice is a file format that can be imported by Crossword Compiler because that limits opportunities for errors to creep in. However we will always work with RC setters to get their puzzle into a form that we can use. Worst case there is a simple text file format that we can use as the starting point for the conversion.

        1. For setters who use the MyCrossword site, you can export a crossword from the site. If you click on the cog icon, there is an option to download the crossword. Select the PUZ file option and save somewhere on your machine. If you e-mail the PUZ file, we can open it in crossword compiler to generate the files we need to publish on the blog.

          1. Thank you for writing the guide Prolixic. I wonder if I might ask whether you think it is acceptable to use ‘without’ to tell solvers to remove a ‘w’? ‘With’ seems to be an accepted indicator of ‘w’. It seems to be along the lines of, say, ‘sweetheart’ indicating the letter ‘e’ and ‘bulkhead’ indicating the letter ‘b’. I imagine it falls in the libertarian camp, if it is acceptable.

          2. Thanks again for writing the guide to constructing cryptic clues. It is very useful and I now understand the setter’s position better. In the third bullet point of section 9.8 you say that “On a standard grid of 255 squares roughly 2/3 will be black squares”. I thought that the standard grid was 15×15 squares, which is what I have been working on. 15 x 15 = 225, so I wonder whether I am using the wrong size grid? I have looked at the stats for a grid I have been working on – it has 30 words and 73 black squares (32.44%). So I wonder whether there is a typo in the (excellent) guide; maybe it should say ‘roughly 1/3 will be black squares’?

  10. Another entertaining puzzle from this setter which felt a bit anagram heavy in places. A few boundaries pushed as mentioned by others, so it will be interesting to get Prolixic’s take on those, but plenty to enjoy. Biggest laughs for me came from 18&20d.

    Many thanks, AgentB.

  11. Well done AgentB. You eased up on us quite a bit this time with the top half racing in. As others have mentioned, a great lurker at 1a. Maybe the surface wasn’t as brilliant as your other surfaces but – well worth going for. Stand out clue for me was 18a. I’m sure it made you chuckle when you thought of it. It certainly got a laugh from me. I did think some may not believe the homophone works perfectly, but it was eminently gettable and as long as the pennny drops for everyone then heigh-ho the clue works! My only spoiler was trying to understand how a county equals the area for a town in 17d but I did like the innovative clueing.

    Lots to like here. Keep them coming.

  12. I thought this was pretty solid, AgentB. I haven’t seen enough of yours – despite their frequency – to really comment on the progress to which others allude but I have enjoyed the ones I’ve done here. As I did this one. I agree the surfaces are well-constructed on the whole: 1a is a devil – rather like RD, I want to admire it for the achievement but struggle to like it. Others are much better.

    12a, 28a and 21d were my podium. Thanks for the puzzle and in advance for the blog.

  13. Well done on putting together another amusing and witty puzzle AgentB that I enjoyed solving.
    Overall very good but a one or two “nearly but not quite” clues added to a couple of dodgy surface reads and a surfeit of anagrams took the shine off it just a little. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to Rookie solvers it would be to concentrate on having believable surface reads (biblical parrots should be avoided!) as it instantly gives your puzzle a more professional look. 1a is case in point, a great lurker tainted somewhat by a meaningless surface read. It’s not ideal to have Ian in both wordplay and solution in 21d either, why not use crosswordland’s favourite Scotsman?
    I liked 9a (but I think it needs “in period from” Ash etc to parse), 12a is very neat and 26a funny but having the homophone indicator between Def and wordplay is somewhat ambiguous. I also liked 1&4d.
    Many thanks and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Fair comment (as all the others), this is actually quite an old puzzle, much older than the previous two submissions, but it had some ideas I wanted to get out there (no comment on those yet). Surfaces have obviously come along since those halcyon Summer days

  14. We thought 1a was great, loved 26a, 15a and 14d. Thank you for another puzzle, AgentB. Please keep them coming. Much enjoyed on a miserable cold day. Thank you in advance to Prolixic for explanations on a couple which we still haven’t parsed.

  15. Thanks all for having a go and leaving thoughts, really very much appreciated. Thanks Prolixic for the review too, excellent as always. 1d comment made me laugh!

    All points made very fair and valid, as mentioned above this is quite an early attempt so some of the lessons have been learned already but it had ideas I wanted to put out there. And what’s the point of sitting on an unsubmitted puzzle! I do like to have three lurkers in my puzzles for easy access, but will aim to keep to two plus a reversal in future. This was puzzle #5 and the latest is #19 so that comment may be repeated for quite a while 😏

    17d, I knew this would be Marmite. I must’ve rewritten it a hundred times. I’m glad some solvers liked it. You know me, can’t resist this sort of thing 😎

    16d, the original clue was “extremely furry animal but only at the top end”, felt that was a tad clunky/rubbish but may have been a better option.

    Eight anagrams! I have a limit of seven, ideally six. Tinkering with clues led to that, mildly annoying.

    Silvanus has a good point, Monday is RC and not AgentB-day, besides that makes me sound like a posh toilet. I’ll have a short break from RC after this and hope some rosy new recruits take centre stage. Anyone here not had a go yet?

  16. We have a brand new setter queued up for next week. Also waiting in line is puzzle number three from a setter last seen a year ago. But more RC submissions are most definitely welcome.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and your take on the clues that had given me pause for thought.
    Thanks again to AgentB for the puzzle which was certainly puzzling in places!

  18. How very good it is to see you back here in the Rookie Corner, AgentB.
    I thought this was a very good puzzle as well as a thoroughly enjoyable one.
    I have many clues that I particularly liked, including 1a, 9a,12a, 15a, 18a and 26a, 5d, 16d and 18d.
    I struggled a bit with 17d as I’ve never heard of this cocktail and had to Google it. Otherwise I didn’t need any help which, for me, is always a sign of an intrinsically good crossword.
    Big thanks to AgentB for the entertainment. Much appreciation to Prolixic for a most excellent review. Continue to follow his wise comments, AgentB, and you will grow from strength to strength as a setter.

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