Rookie Corner – 086

A Puzzle by Fringilla

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

Crossword logo

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Another debut puzzle, this time Fringilla is the one who is putting his head above the parapet. 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.

Prolixic has updated his document entitled “A brief guide to the construction of cryptic crossword clues” which can be downloaded, in pdf format, from the Rookie Corner index page or by clicking below.

Download asa Word file

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

For a debut crossword, this was a good start.  As comments on the blog have indicated there were a number of rough edges that need to be smoothed and the grid contains four answers with triple unches (three consecutive unchecked letters) which are rarely, if ever, seen in national papers.  Whilst with simple clues and wordplay, they do not overly hinder solving the crossword, for new solvers and also with more complex clues, they can put the solver at a disadvantage.

There is a festive meal theme with the prospect of a kip in a chair afterwards.


1 Foe, we hear, is flower (7)
ANEMONE – A homophone (we hear) of AN ENEMY.  The pronunciation of the flower requires the stress on the M with a softer N sound at the end though in common usage, it is incorrectly pronounced with an initial N sound with a softer M sound at the end.  Also, it would also be usual to clue the article.  Perhaps “A foe, we hear incorrectly, is flower” to make a virtue of the usual mispronunciation.

4 Chair greaser (6)
ROCKER – A double definition, the second being another word for follower of a particular musical genre.

7 i.e., lets Tom roughly kiss her under plant (9)
MISTLETOE – An anagram (roughly) of IE LETS TOM.  Generously, I suppose you could allow the “kiss her under” to form part of an extended definition of the plant but they do come across mostly as padding in the clue. 

8 Boy is halfway to holiday (5)
CHRIS – Half of the word for the season after advent.  Actually, the boy is 5/9ths of the way to the holiday so perhaps “Boy just over halfway to holiday” would have been better.

10 Man in Canada video (5)
DAVID – The answer is hidden in CANADA VIDEO.

12 Gratis?  Originally, but became a charge (3)
FEE – Remove a letter from a word meaning gratis.  There is no instruction in the clue to delete a letter.

13 Gifted runners to start at front of fun run (5)
ELITE – I think that this is a double definition but the two meaning are very closely related.

14 HorseThat old joke! (8)
CHESTNUT – Double definition, the second being another word for a hackneyed joke.

16 Ma, Glen is upset trying to dry washing (6)
MANGLE – An anagram (is upset) of MANGLE.  I don’t think that the trying works here as a link word wordplay “trying” definition and, if it is part of the definition, the answer does not mean the same thing as the definition.

18 Relation has snooze first; use for dinner (6)
NAPKIN – A word meaning to snooze before (first) a word for a relation.  I think that the definition here is a little too oblique and does not really fit the answer.

20 Mr Branson’s cliff? (8)
RICHARDS – The first name of the founder of the Virgin empire with an S (from the ‘s in the clue) gives the incorrect surname of the evergreen singer whose name is spelled without an S at the end.

23 Temp doctor in “Hello Cumbria” video (5)
LOCUM – The answer is hidden in HELLO CUMBRIA.  As “in” has already been as a hidden word indicator in 10a, perhaps a different indicator should be used here.  Practice differs amongst editor about the use of additional words that contribute to the surface reading but which do not form part of the wordplay being used in the clue.  In this case, the “video” is ornamentation as it plays no role in the answer but adds to the surface reading.

24 Like some parts of deer (3)
ELK – An anagram (un-indicated) of LKE (some parts of LIKE).  An anagram indicator should be provided where you are instructing the solver to rearrange letters.  Saying some parts without indicating which letter is to be deleted will not be liked by all solvers or editors.  The usual rule for setters is that you can use definition of wordplay but not wordplay of definition.  Some editors will be stricter in enforcing this rule than others.

25 Boat in pools back underway (5)
SLOOP – Reverse (back underway) the POOLS from the clue.  The underway is strictly ornamentation as the reversal indicator is back.  Arguably, as a phrase “back underway” would mean on the way again which does not imply a reversal.

27 Almost stayed in due to mess on tie (5)
STAIN – Half the word (almost) STAYED followed by the IN from the clue.  Can almost indicate only half of a word?  The strict rule would be that it means all but the last letter but some editors would allow the greater part to be represented by almost.  However, half is not the greater part.  As the definition is an example of the answer, some editors would require a ? or a maybe / for example to indicate that there is a definition by example.

28 Cockney eyes yummy Xmas fare (5-4)
MINCE-PIES – Cockney rhyming slang for the eyes gives you the answer.

30 Flavour?  Mix as nose dictates (6)
SEASON – An anagram (mix) of AS NOSE.  The dictates is strictly ornamentation to add to the surface reading unless you read it in a slight yoda-ish way of saying the definition is dictated by an anagram of these words.

31 Loosened a tether to watch play (7)
THEATRE – An anagram (loosened) of A TETHER.  The definition “to watch play” does not lead to the noun that the answer requires.  Perhaps to see play would give wordplay to see definition which would then work.  As a play is only one form of the answer, a question mark to other indication that this is a definition by example would be required by some editors.


1 Was ten cents up after a shot (5)
AIMED – After the A from the clue you can have one of two possibilities – a reversal of DIME for ten cents (which does not work as the letters required are IMED not EMID) or an anagram (up) of DIME (ten-cents) which gives an indirect anagram which are an big no-no is almost all crosswords.

2 Drunken idol – ‘e was well lubricated (5)
OILED – An anagram (drunken) of IDOL E.

3 Mixed tea for afternoon repast (3)
EAT – An anagram (mixed) of TEA.  We have already had “mix” as an anagram indicator and “mixed” appears again in 15d with “mix” in 19d.  Ideally, wordplay indictors should be used only once in a crossword.  I don’t think that the answer (a verb) is a synonym for the definition (a noun).

4 He caught fish whilst dancing? (6)
REELER – A double definition, the first being an oblique references to a fisherman and the second, equally oblique, to a person dancing.

5 Just for bikes?  Sounds mad to Northerner (5,4)
CYCLE PATH – How a Northerner might, after several strong gin and tonic, lisp pronounce psychopath.

6 Call after hearing aid for jewellery (7)
EARRING – A word meaning call after the organ that aids hearing.

9 Woman almost falls over collecting currency (7)
SHEKELS – A three letter pronoun for a woman followed by a word meaning falls over with the central letter removed.  I suspect that despite comments on the blog, editors would be unlikely to look with favour with using almost to remove one letter from any position in the word.  The structure wordplay collecting definition does not work for me as a link word

11 Struggle I’ve faced (3)
VIE – An anagram (faced) of IVE.  I cannot see that faced is an anagram indicator.  If struggle is the anagram indicator, I cannot see that faced gives the answer in the correct tense.  In any event, here and in 3d we have anagrams of three letter words which hardly seems worth the effort.

12 Number of Romans trying IV treatment (4)
FOUR – A rather round-about way of defining the English spelling of the Roman number 4.

14 Ron needs handles for light? (7)
CANDLES – A reference to Ronnie Barker’s famous fork handles sketch.

15 Royal Marine mixed Tim’s gin to get menu extras (9)
TRIMMINGS – An anagram of RM (Royal Marine) TIMS GIN.  The wordplay does not quite work here as the instructions do not tell you to mix the RM with the other letters.

17 Ill man in charge in South Korea initially (4)
SICK – The abbreviation for in charge inside the initial letters of South Korea.  Again the “man” is padding for the surface reading rather than adding to the wordplay.

19 Some cake mix in page made complete parcel (7)
PACKAGE – An anagram (mix) of CAK (some cake) inside the PAGE from the clue.

21 Regret, we hear, chasing marsupial (3)
ROO – A homophone (we hear) of RUE (regret).  As “we hear” has been used as a homophone indicator in 1a, a different one should be used here.  I don’t think that wordplay chasing definition works very well as a link word.

22 State Nurse included extra service (6)
SERMON – An anagram (un-indicated) of MORE (extra) inside the abbreviation for State Nurse.  Not only do we have an indirect anagram but an un-indicated anagram to boot!  The answer is part of the definition, not a service in its own right.

25 Location is part of the act (5)
SCENE – A double definition.

26 Glue artificial jewel (5)
PASTE – A double definition.

29 Sheep came up to be idiot (3)
NUT – Reverse (came up) a word for a sheep.  I cannot find a reference to tun being a sheep but could this be a mistaken reference to a tup?


  1. Snape
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Hi Fringilla, always good to welcome a new Rookie.
    This was certainly a different sort of a challenge. I manage it, though not entirely sure how – plentiful use of the check button after bung-ins, and a couple of reveal letters at the top.
    There were some nice ideas, but a few problems, particularly with extraneous words, definitions in the wrong form, and what I think are simple errors that are very easy to make (for example 1d Aimed isn’t a+dime backwards, it’s a + demi backwards, and 1a isn’t a homophone of an enemy, even allowing a large amount of ‘homophone licence’ the consonants are the wrong way round.
    Adding words just to make a better surface tends to be frowned upon, too, and there are a few clues where I can see no use for the words other than ‘padding’ (such as video in 23a)
    You also need to make sure nouns are defined as nouns etc, for example in 31a ‘to watch play’ can’t be a definition of ‘theatre’ (unless Chambers, which I don’t have on me, is going to surprise me again).
    Also, it’s worth reading Prolixic’s excellent guide that is linked here. You will find things out, such as ‘almost’ being an indicator that the last letter is to be removed (you can’t just remove any letter, like you did in 9d, it’s almost an excellent clue, but you would instead have to use something like ‘loses energy’ to show the e is removed).
    Prolixic will no doubt provide excellent advice on each clue tomorrow, but thanks for the late night workout. My favourite clue by far was the entertaining 28a.

    • Encota
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Hi Snape, I was ‘impressed’ to see Chambers does have v.i. to attend the theatre!

      So, after all this blogging and Googling, that’s probably plenty enough verbifying for one day ;-)


      – ACTEON –

      • Snape
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        There you go – I stand corrected, apologies. And your comment reminds me, Acteon, I need to go back and do your crossword from when I was away – I read good things about it.

        • Encota
          Posted November 30, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          Hi Snape,

          Let me know if/when you get time to give it a go, as I’d really appreciate your feedback.

          – ACTEON –

  2. Maize
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Fringella on your first puzzle in Rookie Corner! I found this a genuinely fun solve with a wonderful theme (which I shan’t give away) and lots of unorthodox approaches that forced me to ‘think outside the box’.
    My favourite clues were 8a, 16a, 18a, 1d, 17d and my personal favourite 12d. Is the solution to 20a actually one letter shorter, perhaps? Doubtless Prolixic will give you some excellent advice in the review – it’s a great way to learn!

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Hi Fringella. A good first outing but there are a number of issues that I am sure Prolixic will help you resolve. Rookies cornerstones like Snape and Maize and others (who will doubtless be here later) will be a great help to you for future puzzles. The Rookies have an amazing support and assistance network that you should take advantage of for test solving. My only specific comment, pending the review, is on 16A. Those of us of an age to have used such a thing can tell you that it is not a drying device.

  4. Fringilla
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks Snape. Without mentioning anything specific, I am sure you are right in your helpful criticisms. Maybe, I just rushed it at the end, not taking time to smooth the edges.

    • Posted November 30, 2015 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Fringilla

    • Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      When replying to a comment, if you click where it says REPLY it keeps the conversation thread together.

  5. Fringilla
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks Maize. Of course, bearing in mind my comment above, you are right that Cliff’s surname does not have an “S”.

    • Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Apparently when his name was “changed” from Harry Webb his manager suggested dropping the S from the surname so that he could correct those who got it wrong, thus increasing the chance that they would remember him – hardly necessary today!

  6. Fringilla
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Thanks Chris. Are you up for a (friendly) argument? I too have used a mangle, and if the ‘material’ comes out less wet then it must be drying it? Also, according my dictionary, a mangle is a machine for “…pressing or drying clothes etc”. I am sure others of an age will join the debate.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Hmm. I’ll go along with that, albeit reluctantly. The BRB doesn’t mention drying, but as CS and you both point out, if the item is less wet after the process it could be construed to be more dry. I think it’s a stretch, though.

  7. crypticsue
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    It didn’t take me long to solve but I have lots of issues with at least thirteen of the clues. Some of them have already been mentioned by Snape and I have to start the day job in 5 minutes time so I won’t start to list my issues as I am sure Prolixic will cover all of them in his review.

    I did spot the theme early on in the process. I would point out that Cliff doesn’t have an S on the end of his surname. Unlike Expat Chris, I think 16d works because it says ‘trying to dry washing’ and the item in question did squeeze a lot of the water out to assist the drying process.

    As someone who doesn’t normally consciously look at a crossword grid until I’ve worked my way down the Across clues and then down the Downs, even I noticed the triple unches at the top and bottom of the grid so I would imagine double unch haters are going to be very grumpy.

    Thank you for a first effort – don’t be discouraged by the problem-pointing-out and send in another puzzle for us to try in due course.

    • Fringilla
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Sue. Will do better.

  8. Encota
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Hi Fringilla and thanks for an intriguing style of puzzle. I enjoyed 5d – had to say it to myself a couple of times before I got it! And I’ve only just got why Ron appeared elsewhere, too!

    You’ve managed to get readable surfaces into the majority of your clues, which is good. You’ve been more liberal with the addition of extra words to achieve this than I would personally do – e.g. 7a the wordplay half is fine but the rest of the sentence isn’t as accurate a definition as I would personally use. A useful tip to test these, if you want to go for precise clues (and some might say over-precise clues, which I am a fan of!) is to cover up the wordplay part of the clue and see if what remains is an accurate definition of what you want entered into the grid.

    In others you might benefit from slightly tightening up the wordplay (e.g. 8a might be better as ‘Boy is more than halfway…’ ), assuming I’m parsing the clue correctly.
    There’s scope to use a wider variety of indicators too (e.g. I think I spotted four ‘mixes’ or derivatives) – again some form of word count check when you’ve drafted all your clues can help spot this.

    I’d also strongly recommend the clue guide by Prolixic, who I have no doubt will provide you with more excellent feedback tomorrow.

    Thanks again!

    – ACTEON –

    • Fringilla
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Encota/Acteon (which is it?)

      Your advice duly noted.

  9. silvanus
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Hi Fringilla,

    Well done indeed for be sufficiently brave to “put your head above the parapet” as BD puts it so well. Those of us who have been in the same position will know that a debut puzzle can sometimes be quite a painful learning curve, but as I think you’ll find, it will be an immensely rewarding one at the same time.

    There were some excellent ideas, but as others have already mentioned, they were invariably let down by poor execution and construction. Whilst quite a number of these flaws can be forgiven on the grounds of inexperience, to misspell the name of the singer in 20a and believe that 1a was a homophone were both really inexcusable. Overall though, the surfaces weren’t as bad as I was expecting, and I felt 28a was the best clue of all.

    Snape has identified many of the problem areas already, but other good pieces of advice would be:

    1. Try to vary anagram indicators (and ideally reduce the number of anagrams to single figures!). “Mix” or “mixed” was used four times in the puzzle, and it is good practice not to use the same indicator more than once.

    2. Aim to avoid a grid where some words have fewer than half the letters intersecting. The NW and SE corners are examples of this.

    3. Try to remember that each word in a clue must contribute to the answer in some direct way, whether it be as the definition or as part of the wordplay.

    Finally, the best advice I can give is also to recommend that you read through Prolixic’s comprehensive guide to constructing crosswords using the link above, if you haven’t already done so!

    Thanks again for your first effort and I hope that the experience you’ll gain will lead to far fewer rough edges next time.

    • Fringilla
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Silvanus, for your advice of course.

      With Regard to Anemone, can’t it SOUND like a homophone?

      • silvanus
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        Hi Fringilla,

        It’s unusual, but no reason why it can’t approximate to a homophone, so long as it is made clear in the clue’s wordplay that the solver should be seeking that.

        The setter should not expect the solver to have to guess or make leaps of faith if the wordplay is sufficiently tight.

  10. Starhorse
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Lots of good ideas in this and a well-worked theme but as has already been mentioned some technical issues to.

    The thing that struck me immediately was the grid. Having 3 consecutive letters that do not cross (“unches” as they are generally known) is a no no. Some of the approved broadsheet grids do have 2 unches, but there will normally be places in the grid where there are also 2 consecutive crossing letters. You could really have done with having a 5-letter down clue starting with the 3rd letter of 7a, which would possibly mean changing the answer to 10a. It might have been a bit harder to deal with the equivalent at 21d as it would now be a 5-letter word ending in I, unless you re-wrote that corner quite extensively. But when you are trying to fit theme-related answers in it makes it very difficult to find a grid that is both fair and fits what you want to do.

    Thanks for offering this and good luck with the next one

  11. Fringilla
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Since it has been mentioned a few times, I should admit at this stage that the grid is fairly awful. I only do one cryptic crossword a week (Monday’s Telegraph, also best for the week-end sport), and only recently tried setting them; using old ‘straight’ ones I had set. This one started life for a local magazine and it didn’t seem to matter that I had to put in these “unches” (a new word for me). When I casually mentioned to Big Dave that I might try my hand at Rookie Corner and he said yes straightaway, I Panicked (yes, I intended the capital P). Even then, I expected some sort of editorial discussion, but here it is. So this is not the best example of my work, but all the criticisms so far – and still to come – are welcome and I’m sure will help me produce a much better second attempt.

    • Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      I don’t usually edit Rookie puzzles before publication, but I did correct a typo (intially in 17d) and capitalised Xmas in 28a as they came up in the spellcheck when I was preparing the puzzle.

      • Fringilla
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Sorry Dave

    • Snape
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      And don’t forget that we did complete it, and we did enjoy it. BDs crosswords have the advantage of the check button that the Telegraph ones don’t, which helps, but the whole point is that everyone enjoys themselves, and I certainly did that.
      If you can cut out the errors that Prolixic will detail, then what a crossword your next one will be (and I know from experience that there will be a whole new set of mistakes to learn about!)

      • Fringilla
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        Thanks, and thanks

  12. Maize
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I’ve been musing on the clue writing process since Metman’s puzzle a fortnight ago. I wonder, do others go with the first clue they can discover which works (hopefully), keep reworking a clue to improve it, or produce several clues before then picking a favourite?

    • Fringilla
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      One of the first two myself

    • Sprocker
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I tend to do a mixture of the first two – very occasionally I’ll hit on a clue that works straight-away, but much more often than that I’ll come up with an idea and then do lots of re-working to refine it and make it work. I’ve also learnt that it’s not too helpful to get too attached to an idea, and so sometimes it’s best to just scrap a problematic clue and start fresh. In that sense I suppose I may do several clues, but it’s not really a case of picking a favourite.

    • silvanus
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I tend to do exactly the same as Sprocker.

    • Starhorse
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I tend to start with a handful of clues that I am particularly pleased with (not necessarily with any justification!) and find a grid to fit them in. From there I add words to the grid which look as though they should be not too difficult to clue. I try to keep options open e.g. if I have *E*T*R there are a lot of possible fits, so I wouldn’t commit to one but would try to set clues for several of them to see what I liked. But for most words I probably use the first reasonable clue I can come up with.

      Once I’ve got clues for everything I find it very helpful to prepare a proper parse for every clue. Apart from anything else it tends to highlight if I’ve got too many anagrams or have used (say) daughter to clue d more than once, and so on. Effectively it’s the same as trying to appraise a puzzle on here and helps spot errors, even in the original “favoured” clues, before anyone else gets the chance. So out of around 30 clues I would say 15-20 get at least a tweak, or even a full re-write. Occasionally a whole corner has to be replaced, which can be very frustrating…..

      • Maize
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        Interesting. I think I probably only keep about 10% of my first set of clues. A further 10% will maybe have been imported at the beginning – as you do Starhorse – and then the rest recieve tweaks, re-writes, further tweaks,, start-all-overs, lists of alternatives, short lists etc etc ad nauseum. It’s all desperately inefficient!
        I too, Sprocker, have learnt to drag myself away from ideas, abandon them and try a fresh approach. That’s my version of the ’50 pots’ metaphor mentioned two weeks ago, if you will.

  13. Sprocker
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Hi Fringilla,

    Thanks for an intriguing puzzle – there were definitely some nice ideas on show (e.g. 14a and 28a), but as others have pointed out above there were quite a few technical issues. I’d echo the comments above that it would be very worth your while reading Prolixic’s excellent guide if you haven’t already done so.


  14. Rabbit Dave
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Great debut, Fringilla. Very well done! I was particularly delighted to see your commendably brief cluing throughout even with fairly frequent padding to improve the surface readings of several clues.

    I think almost all my comments have already been covered above, particularly by Snape, and I also agree with him that 28a is my favourite.

    I was going to mention Cliff getting pluralised, and I was interested to see BD’s explanation of the provenance of his stage name. By way of digression, Keith (or Keef) of that ilk had no S at the end of his surname early in his career but added the S later. One explanation was that in the early years of the Stones he wished to dissociate himself from his father.

    • Maize
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Maybe he wished to disassociate himself from Cliff!

  15. JollySwagman
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Hi Fringilla

    Thanks for providing this entertaining puzzle.

    My favourite clue was 28a – but congratulations too on 5d, which was the most groanworthy pun I’ve seen in a long while..

    Most of the clues were fine but I think you’ll cop quite a bit of flak from “grammar purists” on others. Your surfaces were great but some of the wordplays either didn’t crunch precisely – at least according to modern conventions – or had spare words – although I have to say – despite what anyone (including myself) might say – you gave me the clues – I got the answers – so if you were to produce other puzzles along the same lines no doubt we would all catch on to what’s expected.

    Just a few points:

    1d (as I read it) is an indirect anagram – ie the fodder is obtained by translating something else (10 cents into dime). Normally this is only done with very obvious things – well-known single letter abbreviations are commonly accepted. I got the answer because the translation was very obvious but some reduce this to a hard and fast rule “only single letters etc” – it”s not seen very often these days even when the obviousness test is passed.

    15d In the cryptic reading “mixed” can only apply to one or other of the two anagram fodder components. Something like “Case of rum mixed with …” would anagram RM as well as the rest – “with” making the critical difference.

    27a Surely “almost” applied to STAYED must give STAYE – STA is only half. I don’t agree with those who insist that “most of” must mean everything except the last letter. 3 out of 5 is most of – and who’s to say which ones? Once again I could easily see what was required – but the wordplay paid the price for the benefit of the surface. Maybe you’re using that line of thinking in 9d where almost KEELS gives KELS – for me that’s 100% logical – but some will quibble that “almost keels” has to be KEEL simply because “almost” usually means “all except the last one”. I’ll defend you on that one – but it’s daring.

    Once again many thanks.

    • Fringilla
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Jolly Chap,

      I realise now from several comments that rules are NOT to be broken here, but it’s good to know there are sympathisers…

  16. Expat Chris
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Snape’s comment on 1A got me thinking, because I swear that at school all those decades ago we were taught that the flower was spelled differently from t’other word. But the BRB says not, so I have been saying it wrong my entire adult life!!

    • silvanus
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      My theory, Chris, is that many people tend to mispronounce the flower in question (and therefore misspell it too) because it rolls off the tongue more fluently with the “n” preceding the “m”. Having said that, it seems easier to pronounce it correctly when it’s preceded by the indefinite article!

      • dutch
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 8:24 pm | Permalink ??

        • jean-luc cheval
          Posted November 30, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

          Sometimes I wish I had your email address.
          It would be great if you were to allow BD to send it to me.
          And of course if BD was kind enough to oblige.

        • dutch
          Posted November 30, 2015 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          i was merely pleasantly confused, no offence intended at all

  17. Jane
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi Fringilla and well done for sticking your head up and producing a puzzle for us. Most of the notes I’d made have already been covered in some depth by others – my overall impression was that you had some great ideas but fell down somewhat in the execution of same. As Chris said, the Rookies seem to have an extremely good support group in place and you would have doubtless benefitted from taking advantage of it – another pair of eyes and all that!
    I do think that you gave yourself a difficult grid to work with – three-letter words are always going to present problems and I don’t think anagrams work very well in that instance. Multiple ‘unches’ are another issue – they don’t bother me particularly, but I know that others have issues with them.
    I shall be very interested to see what Prolixic has to say in his review – make good use of his advice and I believe that we can look forward to some great puzzles from you in the future. I look forward to it.

  18. Kath
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Good fun, and not too tricky although I have several answers that I can’t quite explain.
    Others have mentioned a theme – I can’t find it, yet! I’ll carry on hunting.
    I liked 7 and 14a and 5d. My favourite was 28a.
    With thanks and congratulations to Fringilla and, in advance, to Prolixic for sorting out my problem answers.
    I have to ask, because I always do – where does the name Fringilla come from?

    • Jane
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Three of your favoured clues should give you the theme, Kath!

      • Kath
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Yes – of course. I’m just keeping head well buried in the sand about all that as, so far, I’ve done precisely nothing!

        • Jane
          Posted November 30, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          I’ve taken delivery of several parcels from No.2 (very organised) daughter, which need wrapping and distributing to folk at this end, bought cards AND stamps, so am now feeling decidedly holier than though, despite having achieved absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things! Hopefully, turning the calendar over tomorrow will stir me into action – or panic – or probably both!

    • Fringilla
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Kath,
      Fringilla, like me, are members of the Finch family (No, I didn’t know either until Big Dave suggested it).

      • Kath
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        Thank you – I’ll try to remember that one. I love knowing how people with a bit of imagination come up with their names – some are really amazing – I could go on but, just for once, I won’t.

        • Maize
          Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

          Kath, you never asked me! :(

          • Kath
            Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

            Oh, I’m so sorry – I didn’t mean to offend you. Maize, how did you come by your name? I’d love to know.

            • Maize
              Posted December 1, 2015 at 8:02 am | Permalink

              Well, since you ask (!) Apart from the homophone for another kind of puzzle, the first 4 letters of my surname (and also my county) are Corn. I first chose Maize for doing botanically themed crosswords in the magazine where I work at the Eden Project. So now you know!

              • Kath
                Posted December 1, 2015 at 8:40 am | Permalink

       Thanks, and yes, now we know. How lovely to work at the Eden Project.

              • Fringilla
                Posted December 1, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink

                For as split second there Maize, I thought you had written (and also my country)!!

  19. Beaver
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Don’t often have time for the Rookie, but I did enjoy today’s and the new setter should be congratulated.
    Is there a review of the clues anywhere ,as the parsing eluded me on a couple and it would be nice to know the reasoning.

    • crypticsue
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      As it says at the top, a review will be added in the morning

      • Beaver
        Posted November 30, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink


  20. jean-luc cheval
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the rookie corner Fringilla.
    Although I am not a fan of this grid, you managed to write a total of 36 clues and kept them short and concise.
    I’m a fan of short and concise clues.
    Even if some had extra fodder,which is not to the liking of everybody, it was needed.
    You certainly put us in the mood for the month to come.

  21. dutch
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Fringilla, congratulations. There is something very refreshingly quirky about your style which i hope you will never lose. Yes, some clues had extra words, and i think you’re getting plenty of feedback to sort all that out and help you achieve perfection. I hope you get a lot from all the feedback. Prolixic normally gives a thorough review so I’ll hold off any additional comments until after that – but i certainly enjoyed it, well done.

  22. Una
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations , Fringilla, on entering the hallowed halls of crossword setters. Well done. I liked 1a and 9d among many others.The seasonal element is a little too early for me . And I didn’t much care for all the triple unches.
    I look forward to your next opus.

  23. Fringilla
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to all of you for your comments, both encouraging and critical. Together with the forthcoming demolition by Prolixic I am sure it will serve me well for the next one…

  24. Expat Chris
    Posted November 30, 2015 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    The rookie corner is extraordinary in that as it has grown there are typically more current and former setters and experienced reviewers/bloggers commenting than there are “just solvers” like me. It has enormous value to those starting out in this challenging field, not just as a unique launching platform, but also in the considered commentary (which I prefer to think of as critique rather than criticism) and in Prolixic’s thorough review. It won’t be too long now before the 100 milestone is reached. What fun it would be if we were treated to a multi-rookie setter puzzle, as had been done in the NTSPP!

  25. Expat Chris
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Prolixic, for such a thorough and thoughtful review that I am sure will be well received by the setter and lead to another most welcome contribution to the Rookie Corner.

    By the way, 14D was one I had a question mark by. I got the answer from the checkers, but famous sketch? From the Ronnie Barker reference, I take that to be famous to aficionados of a specific comedy show. This is the kind of “in” reference that is very irritating to those of us not UK-based.

  26. Encota
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks Prolixic for the detailed review (as ever) – much appreciated. Re. 31a, in some earlier discussion we spotted that Chambers does have ‘to theatre’ as a verb meaning to go to the theatre. Does this meaning of ‘theatre’ improve the reading of Fringilla’s clue, do you think? (I think so but I may well be missing something – I wouldn’t be surprised in my case!).

    Of course verbification (sic) of the English language is a different topic entirely…;-)

    – ACTEON –

  27. Fringilla
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I thank Prolixic for his generously mild but very useful critique. Perhaps, like most of the modern world, a relaxing of some of the tighter rules would not be a bad thing. Ouch! some will no doubt shout.
    I would just like to clear up 20 across. Whilst Silvanus is right that to misspell Cliff’s surname was “inexcusable”, does not the clue also work as a double definition, i.e. Mr Branson’s (Richard’s) and Cliff (Richard(s)) ? or Keith (Keef) (Richards) (thanks Rabbit Dave). Blimey, too many parentheses.

  28. Jane
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Many thanks for the review, Prolixic and your expert ‘take’ on the clues I’d got question marks beside. Maybe Fringilla will let us know how he arrived at 29d? I did find a reference to a ‘tun’ as a description of a walk in sheep-dip but it does seem more likely that he was thinking of ‘tup’ and simply got the wrong word. I’m also not sure why 5d specifies Northerners – can anyone enlighten me?

    • Fringilla
      Posted December 1, 2015 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      It’s to do with pronunciation Jane. A Southerner would say cycle parth (as in laugh) (or parff even), whereas a Northerner would say cycle paff (as in naff). So, their pronunciation is closer to “psychopath”… Clear as mud?

      • Jane
        Posted December 1, 2015 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely! It wasn’t the ‘path’ bit that bothered me, it was how you arrived at ‘cycle’ for ‘psycho’.
        Maybe I don’t drink enough – although that seems unlikely!

  29. dutch
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Many thanks Prolixic for the excellent review as usual, and hope you find it useful too Fringilla, best of luck for your next crossword. to answer your question, I don’t think you can get 20a to work with cliff, maybe someone else, keep up the lots of nice ideas and concise clues.

    • Fringilla
      Posted December 2, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Dutch. And good luck to the Silkmen.

  30. Fringilla
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    As for “tun”, I humbly apologise (again) for getting the word “tup” wrong. My only excuse is that I am a southerner living in Cumbria, and I made a reet maff.

  31. JollySwagman
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I read 11d as I faced with (ie veneered with) VE – so V(I)E which I thought was nifty.