Rookie Corner 520 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 520

A Puzzle by Dabrite

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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.

A review by Prolixic follows:

It is hoped that Rookie setters will gradually improve the quality of their crosswords as their puzzles are reviewed and commented on.  Uniquely Dabrite bucks the trend as the commentometer has gently increased with each successive crossword.  Today’s score is 8 / 29 or 27.6%.  Apart from the number of lesser known words necessitated by the Nina across the top and bottom rows (which are fair game but not overly liked by many solvers), there was a lot of slang / jargon as well in the clues/solutions that overall detracted from the enjoyment of the crossword and some of the clues (I am looking at you 10a) tended to run away with themselves.


9a  Station broadcast incorporating secretary’s titbits (9)
ANTIPASTO: An anagram (broadcast) of STATION includes (incorporating) a two-letter abbreviation for a secretary.  The solution is in the singular but the definition requires the plural.

10a  Fabian ignoring bad start overhauled organisation catering to the needs of Jack, Tommy and AC Plonk, et al (5)
NAAFI: An anagram (overhauled) of FABIAN after removing the letter B (bad start).  Cryptically, to indicate the first letter, you need bad’s start.  Bad start does not work in the cryptic reading of the clue.

11a  On reflection roué having change of heart about Guy’s charm (7)
ENAMOUR: Reverse (on reflection) the ROUE from the clue after changing the middle letters around (having change of heart) and having inserted a three-letter word for a guy.

12a  I rescue broken down car racing teams (7)
ECURIES: An anagram (broken down) of IRESCUE.

13a  Diana could be an expert swimmer (5)
NAIAD: An anagram (could be) of DIANA.  Overall there are eight anagrams in the crossword which is acceptable if on the high side.  However, having four of them in the first five clues makes the crossword seem unbalanced.  Perhaps a greater indication that you are looking for a river nymph would be better.

14a  Form of backyard cricket used to designate short, sudden attacks in war (3-3-3)
TIP-AND-RUN: Double definition.

16a  Confuse space cadet and touch down in realm of fantasy (5-6-4)
CLOUD-CUCKOO-LAND: A five-letter word meaning confuse followed by a six-letter word for someone slightly screwball (space cadet) and a four-letter word meaning to touch down.

19a  Sporting yarn bored lad employed by shopkeeper to deliver goods, inter alia (6,3)
ERRAND BOY: An anagram (sporting) of YARN BORED.

21a  Tremulous as jelly? (5)
QUAKY: A three-letter Latin word meaning as followed by a two-letter word for a proprietary brand of petroleum jelly.

22a  Visceral accomplice about to break with Conservative MP (7)
COELIAC: An anagram (about) of ACCOMPLICE after removing (to break with) the abbreviation for Conservative and the MP from the clue.

23a  Tit for tat well done! (7)
CHAPEAU: Double definition.  The first definition is a clue to a clue where you need to get from the Cockney rhyming slang to the word and then find a synonym for it.  I cannot find any reference in the three main setters’ dictionaries to the second meaning of the clue.

24a  Some of Loch Restil in Argyll and Bute is a yellowish orange colour (5)
OCHRE: The answer is hidden (some of) in the third and fourth words of the clue.  The words “in Argyll and Bute” are padding and should have been excluded.

25a  One who is outgoing, sociable, and especially green? (9)
EXTRAVERT: A five-letter word meaning especially followed by a four-letter word meaning green.


1d  Space character and cleaner tidied up house of worship (10)
TABERNACLE: The three-letter word for a key on the keyboard that inserts a spacing character to indent text followed by an anagram (tidied up) of CLEARNER.

2d  Italian cardinal admits having undressed smallest member of the Flute family (8)
OTTAVINO: The Italian word for eight (cardinal) includes (admits) the “having” from the clue without its outer letters (undressed).

3d  Papers behind private dick penetrating rings producing controlled substance (6)
OPIOID: A two-letter word for papers after (behind) a two-letter word for a private investigator inside (penetrating) two letters O (rings).   Behind works better as a positional indicator in an across clue.

4d  Russian leader a little too drastic in recession (4)
TSAR: The answer is hidden (a little) and reversed (in recession) in the sixth word of the clue.  The word “too” in the clue is padding and should have been omitted.

5d  Cheap ice cream sold by street vendors is apple sauce (5-5)
HOKEY-POKEY: Double definition.  The second part of the definition is given as North American term and this should have been indicated.

6d  Indirect reference to Italian suppository? (8)
INNUENDO: A homophone (reference to) of how Italians might suggest you use a suppository (IN YOU ENDO”.  The clue nearly works but it lacks an indication of how the suppository might be used.

7d  Relish Roman road in land yacht, perhaps (6)
CAVIAR: A three-letter word for a Roman road inside a three-letter word for a vehicle that might be described as a land yacht.  Again, the usage for “land yacht” is a specifically North American term so this should be indicated.

8d  Messes around bin lids (4)
KIDS: Double definition, the second being Cockney rhyming slang of possibly dubious origin.  I would try to limit the use of Cockney rhyming slang to one use per crossword.

14d  Hands back Tom’s pilliwinks (10)
THUMBSCREW: A four-letter word meaning hands or a ship’s personnel after (back) the name of a children’s character associated with Tom.  Back needs to be backs for the cryptic reading to work correctly otherwise you have A back B for C as the structure of the clue.  In any event, backs works better in an across clue.

15d  Protective clothing – not something for big ears, perhaps (5,5)
NODDY SUITS: Cryptic definition.  The clue only works if you have Big Ears.  The rule is that you can falsely capitalise a common noun but you must preserve the capitals in a proper noun.

17d  Sea duck is brown one that goes to ground all too readily (3-5)
DUN-DIVER: A three-letter word for brown followed by a five-letter word for a footballer who goes to the ground all too readily.

18d  Aroused naked awe by accident (8)
AWAKENED: An anagram (by accident) of NAKED AWE.

20d  One to sound off again and again (6)
REECHO: Split the one from the clue and use synonyms for the ON and E.  Many editors will not accept an unindicated requirement to split a word into two to form the wordplay.  Where it is used, usually you have a word where each part of the word to be split is pronounced separately.

21d  Energised galactic core as 4 scratched head (6)
QUASAR: A three-letter Latin word meaning as followed by the solution to 4d without it’s first letter (scratched head).  Avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  As was used in 21a.

22d  Scotsman’s fool about money (4)
COOF: A single letter abbreviation for about followed by a three-letter slang word for money.

23d  Censor is Mr Nine-Tails? (4)
CATO: The word (3’1) that proceeds nine-tails.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner 520
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  1. Sorry Dabrite not for me, but before I retired hurt I did notice the following:

    9a – the definition is plural but the answer is singular; a correct plural answer would not fit with 5d.

    25a – the BRB has the middle letter of the answer as ‘O’ but that would not fit with 21d.

    15d – as Big Ears is the storybook companion of the first word of the answer capitalisation is probably appropriate.

    Thanks anyway and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. Hello again, Dabrite. I was hoping for an easier ride from you this time, but I struggled with this one and failed to finish. Some of your surfaces are unconvincing and several clues are too verbose. Two of the clues could easily have been shortened by omitting “in Argyll and Bute” in 24a and the unnecessary “too” in 4d.

    I found myself needing to look something up every two or three clues, as well as having to reveal three letters at the end to find the answers to 8d and 22d in order to finish. Although I worked in the East End of London for well over 40 years and was exposed daily to cockney rhyming slang, I can’t recall ever having heard “bin lids” before and, even having revealed the missing two letters in 22d, I still found this clue and answer incomprehensible. I also can’t find any explanation for the wordplay for 6d unless it is simply meant as a joke, but that doesn’t really work for me.

    I agree with Senf’s points although the very unusual spelling of “extravert” is in the BRB as an alternative but, surprisingly, entirely separate entry.

    My repetition radar bleeped with AS = QUA twice. This was made even more noticeable with the two occurrences appearing in crossing clues.

    You use too much jargon for my taste, e.g. space cadet, noddy suits, apple sauce, the non-cricketing bit of 14a, and several others as well. Perhaps I am being too thick for words :wink: but I’ve never heard of 12a, 2d, 17d (I’m sure Jane won’t have had a problem with this one) nor 22d. The pilliwinks in 14d were new to me.

    Nevertheless, you do have some interesting ideas and I have ticked 21a & 23a.

    Thank you, Dabrite. Please work on making your future submissions more solver friendly and try to master the basics before introducing things like a Nina. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Interesting analysis as usual, RD. Just one point, 8d. Even here in rural Derbyshire you often heard kids referred to as “bin lids” (a shortening of “dustbin lids”). I’m pretty sure it’s Cockney rhyming slang.

    2. I missed ‘extravert’ in the BRB but I have always used ‘extrovert’ because of its commonality with ‘introvert.’

    3. Thanks for your confidence, RD, but I’ve never come across that term, which I now understand refers to a female Merganser.

  3. Like Senf, I was going to retire hurt but I persevered with aid of many letter reveals. I would also agree with Senf about 9a and 25a, although reading his comments on those clues did help me solve both 5d and 21d

    There are quite a few clues which are ‘nearly but not quite’ and I think the inclusion of quite a few ‘rarely known’ things such as 5d (which I knew) and 22d (which I didn’t) doesn’t help the solver. I have several question marks by clues I can’t parse so will await the review with interest

    Thanks Dabrite – please take note of the review and any comments made by solvers, and come back with a more solver friendly puzzle in due course. Thanks in advance to Prolixic

  4. Thanks to Dabrite for a strenuous exercise in which my copy of Chambers put in a hard shift.
    I did end up with a full grid although I had to reveal two letters in 22d. Spotting the Nina came too late to help.
    I echo most of the comments above. Although I did know ‘bin lids’ there are a couple of clues I can’t fully parse.
    Having anagrams for four of the first five clues is excessive.
    Please do take note of Prolixic’s advice and try to cut down on the obscure terms in your next puzzle.

  5. Thank you for the puzzle, Dabrite. Well, I did finish this one but it was rather a chore. I agree with most of the comments above and and I’m sure Prolixic will advise on various technical issues. Some of the briefer clues are fine, but there’s a few that are too verbose. I always prefer clues to be 8 words or less – see Ray T’s puzzles. For example, 24a could easily be reduced from 13 words to 8 words with: Some of Loch Restil is an earthy colour (5). 25a from 9 words down to 5 words: One’s outgoing and especially green (9) – no problems with the obscure spelling, it’s listed in the BRB so fair game. With cryptic clues, I think optimum brevity is best but sometimes not possible.

  6. Welcome back, Dabrite.

    After three Rookie Corner puzzles now, I was hoping to see a less challenging puzzle and one more enjoyable to solve, but like the previous commenters I still found too many clues that that either didn’t quite work or that were crying out for alternative and better constructions, such as 10a in particular. Blatant surface padding (24a) and removing capitalisation from proper names (15d) can probably be excused in a debut puzzle but not in a third submission, in my opinion. Some of the surfaces were very unconvincing, the afore-mentioned 10a, 14a and 23d being three of the worst offenders, and 21a and 20d seemed to be barely cryptic.

    I can certainly see quite a lot of humour behind some of the clues, but this should not blind a setter to the fact that the basis of a clue may be flawed or not read especially well. 10a ought never to have made the final draft, it might have seemed a good idea initially, but then it should have been quickly rejected for something much shorter and less clunky. Ninas are often fun to include, but if they mean that the grid has to be populated by several obscure words to accommodate them, then it is sometimes better to abandon the idea entirely.

    Thank you, Dabrite.

  7. Thank you for bringing us another puzzle, Dabrite. I was really hoping for better things from you by this stage – too many obscurities and an excess of padding seem to be your downfalls. I only completed the grid with copious use of the BRB and resorting to ‘reveals’. Please take careful note of the comments from our experienced solvers and the review from Prolixic. Hope to see a vast improvement on your next outing.

  8. Prolixic, thank you for the review. Re the second definition of 23a and dictionaries, The OED has:

    Additional sense (2020)

    Used to express admiration, approval, or respect; ‘I take my hat off’; ‘well done’.

    So it’s recent (the citations include a 2019 Tweet), but I think legitimate.

  9. Regarding this – The rule is that you can falsely capitalise a common noun but you must preserve the capitals in a proper noun.

    I’ve seen this said in other places on the internet as well, but I’m wondering if anyone could provide an explanation beyond “the rules are the rules”?

    1. I always presumed it’s just the normal rules of English: a name isn’t a name if it doesn’t have initial capital letters, because the capital letter is intrinsically part of it. Whereas most other words don’t require capitals, but they do sometimes have them in certain contexts (or sometimes for emphasis), so it isn’t wrong for any word to have a capital letter; it doesn’t cease to have that meaning (although it may be unconventional).

    2. Because if you are using a proper noun it has to be capitalised no matter the context in which it is used, otherwise the word is grammatically incorrect
      The rule is grammar; proper nouns must be capitalised to be valid

    3. CM. As far as I know, it’s just as you stated. The general convention/”rule” for cryptic clues is that you can falsely capitalise common nouns (usually to create misdirection) – ford (a river crossing) could be Ford (evoking a car maybe). But you can’t falsely de-capitalise proper nouns – Big Ears, Noddy’s mate, couldn’t be big ears. Is that the info you were looking for?

  10. Just a couple of points after reading the review:

    10a. This is a 17-word clue comprising 5 words of word-play and a 12-word phrasal definition. Is this a record regarding the ratio of word-play/definition?

    6d. I was wondering if there are any solvers who might require an “indication of how the suppository might be used”? :-)

  11. Thanks all. This distinction seems strange to me.

    Ford could well be either, but in normal usage I’d only expect to see the river crossing version capitalised at the start of a sentence. With a capital, it generally wouldn’t have that meaning elsewhere in a sentence. A common noun is presented as a proper noun to misdirect the solver to think of e.g. Henry.

    In this instance Big Ears is a proper noun that has been presented as an adjective followed by a common noun, also to misdirect the solver.

    As long as the resulting clue is grammatically correct and the reference is common enough to be solvable I don’t really see a difference except convention.

    It might just be this specific clue. When I see or hear ‘big ears’, in any context, one of the first things that comes to mind is an old joke about elephants and an unpaid ransom, so this just felt like any other crossword trick. I still couldn’t solve the clue, but that was because I’d never heard the answer before, not because of a couple of missing capitals.

      1. Well I certainly wasn’t intending to shoot anyone. I was just curious about the basis for the ‘rules’. On and off I’ve attempted to solve cryptic crosswords for about 30 years – with very mixed results. Inevitably, given the length of time involved, I’ve also tried to write a few clues (for personal interest and small scale fund raising) and I wondered if I’d been doing it all wrong.
        Tentative conclusion on this point – some people would clearly be annoyed, but if I thought the clue was otherwise strong enough I’d probably do the same as setter and use lower case for a proper noun.

        1. It’s a fairly strict rule, I would say. A bit like indirect anagrams. Please, no! But, of course, rules are there to be broken. And there are certainly many I don’t get at all. For instance, why, when “people’s last” = E, cannot “their last” = R? It’s frowned upon but, personally, I don’t understand the logic against. However, we are seeing more and more “union leader” (instead of union’s leader) for the U. And RayT has his swEetheart, of course.

          But you’d have to have a very, very strong justification, I think, to get away with breaking this one re caps to lowers. Ultimately, setters have got to be fair to the solver. Having said that, setters do play with syntax – a crossword’s punctuation is seldom, if ever, there to help. But there’s a limit. And I think disguising proper nouns like this might just be it. The basic rule of thumb surely has to be … if something doesn’t feel right, it almost certainly isn’t.

        2. I was merely conveying my understanding of the general convention/”rule” – not any definitive reasoning for it. Using Ford (a river crossing) at the beginning of a clue wouldn’t really create misdirection because all common nouns are capitalised at the beginning of sentences. Using Ford (a river crossing with false capitalisition) in the middle/end could create misdirection (in appropriate word-play) because the reader could well be tricked into thinking about cars or an ex-president (for example). Especially if the clue definition was Ford and the solution was RIVER CROSSING.

          I don’t wholly disagree with your comments about big ears – you do have a point. Regarding the solution (once you’ve got it), big ears is a rather obvious reference to Big Ears and Big Ears could have been used in the clue – but then the (frowned upon/verboten, in this case) “misdirection” would have been lost making the clue much easier.

          Like indirect anagrams, I think there is a strict blanket ban on falsely de-captalising proper nouns in cryptic clues. Certainly with DT puzzles – you might well get away with both in some other publications.

          If you like writing cryptic clues, how about compiling a puzzle for Rookie Corner on this blog?

          1. If you like writing cryptic clues, how about compiling a puzzle for Rookie Corner on this blog?

            It’s a nice idea, but at the moment I’m lucky if I have time to solve the Telegraph cryptic. Writing something I’m happy with would take longer than I can currently spare. I do visit the site quite often for hints though – so I won’t forget Rookie Corner is here.

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