Rookie Corner – 088 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 088

A Puzzle by Fidelibus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Christmas is almost upon us, and Fidelibus returns with a puzzle that has a Yuletide flavour to the clues.  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.

Fidelibus did a wonderful job in getting all of the clues to follow the festive food theme.  As others have pointed out already, some of the resulting surface readings could have been polished a little more.  It was not as difficult as his previous crossword which elicited a “phew” from Gazza and several people throwing in the towel but it felt a little less polished.

Save in a small number of cases, the wordplay was, however, clearly indicated.  I think less repetition in some of the wordplay would have been welcome.  The words centre or central was used far too many times to indicate the middle letter and ten anagrams was probably a few too many.


1 Top table type maybe with GSOH clowning in short while (3,4)
BIG SHOT – An anagram (clowning) of GSOH inside a three letter word for a short while.

5 Possibly white meat cut back in a cut, cut (7)
ANAEMIC – Remove the final letter (cut) of meat and reverse the letters (back).  Put them in the A from the clue and a word meaning cut with the final letter removed (cut).

9 Half of rum’s left – ‘The Queen?’ Yes (5)
RULER – … yes referring to the fact that the the Queen is also the definition as well as part of the wordplay.  The first two letters of rum’s followed by abbreviations for left and the Queen.

10 I handle complaints re bones and mashed potatoes (hard) (9)
OSTEOPATH – An anagram (mashed) of POTATOES followed by the abbreviation for hard.

11 Choice meat dinner let stew with love (10)
TENDERLOIN – An anagram (stew) of DINNER LET O (love).

12 ‘They give us mutton during Yuletide’ we sniff (4)
EWES – The answer is hidden in YULETIDE WE SNIFF.

14 Where W Indians live get spicy goose mostly man, I don’t here (5,7)
SANTA DOMINGO – An anagram (spicy) of GOOS (goose mostly) MAN I DON’T.  I was not too keen on the construction of this clue, which breaks down to definition get wordplay here.

18 See father, weight that’s lost with taking exercise on wagon? Lots (7,5)
FREIGHT TRAIN – A two letter abbreviation for Father followed by the WEIGHT from the clue without (lost) the abbreviation for with followed by a word meaning exercise.

21 I’ll do oeufs Lyonnaise for starters I’m a star… (4)
IDOL – The initial letters (for starters) of the first four words in the clue.

22 …for the judges, fair Lyonnaise’s here unvarying at centre (10)
JUSTICIARY – A four letter word meaning fair followed by the French (Lyonnaise’s) for here and the central three lettes of unvarying.

25 What’s to be divided up neat rum or fizz? (9)
NUMERATOR – An anagram (fizz) of NEAT RUM OR.

26 Mark from nasty grease not stuffing (5)
BADGE –A three letter word meaning nasty followed by the outer letters (not stuffing) of grease.

27 Presented with portion of chicken do we dine? (7)
ENDOWED – The answer is hidden in (portion of) CHICKEN DO WE DINE.

28 For ‘more the merrier’ one needs 100% proof (7)
THEOREM – An anagram (merrier) of MORE THE.


1 Bread and tea both endlessly ruined carpet (6)
BERATE – An anagram (ruined) of BREA TE (bread and tea with the final letters removed – both endlessly).

2 Lead’s taken from this gang heading off up drinking beer (6)
GALENA – Remove the first letter (heading off) gang and reverse the letters (up) then include (drinking) a three letter word for beer.

3 Guffaw and expressions of surprise and disgust about small portion? No minute! (10)
HORSELAUGH – A word for a small portion with the initial M removed (no minute) goes inside a two letter word denoting an expression of surprise and a three letter word expressing disgust.

4 Start row online with small portion of turkey requiring a wad (5)
TROLL – The first letter (small portion of) turkey followed by another word for a wad.

5 Dear tat in crackers for what was unfair charge (9)
ATTAINDER – An anagram (crackers) of DEAR TAT IN.

6 On turkeys at centre getting short a crowd is wild (4)
AMOK – On top of the central letter (at centre) of turkeys add the A from the clue and a phrase for a crowd with the final letter removed (short).  I was not too concerned about the short being before the A but it could have been corrected with “getting a crowd briefly wild”.

7 Cat’s crying with nothing to eat, I am cutting up rough part of turkey (8)
MIAOWING – An anagram (cutting up rough) of I AM includes (eating) the letter representing nothing and is followed by part of a turkey.

8 Bonding in company that guy’s number one getting up (8)
COHESION – The abbreviation for company followed by the pronoun for that’s guy’s and a reversal (getting up) of NO 1 (number one).

13 Not for mixing I’m miserable spending time round half of city (10)
IMMISCIBLE – The IM from the clue followed by the MISERABLE after removing a three letter for a period of time all around one half of city.

15 Scoffed first two pieces of turkey dry without giblets? Not a drop of gravy (3-6)
TUT-TUTTED – The first two letters (two pieces) of turkey followed by the abbreviation for teetotal (dry) and a word meaning without giblets from which you have removed the first letter (drop of) gravy.

16 Engage a very loud one for start of dance (8)
AFFIANCE – The A from the clue and the musical notation for very loud followed by the word dance with the first letter replaced by an I (one).

17 Feed dorm duff that’s misshapen (8)
DEFORMED – An anagram (duff) of FEED DORM.

19 I’ll supervise bird being stuffed with central ingredient of mushrooms (6)
WARDER – A type of bird that lives on or near water includes the central letter (ingredient) of mushrooms.

20 One’s taught here Yuletide chap enters initially through chimney (6)
LYCEUM – The initial letters of Yuletide chap enters inside a three letter word for a chimney.

23 A drop of rum? Another downed – I’m a card! (5)
TAROT – The A from the clue and the first letter (drop of) of rum go inside another word for a drop of rum (another downed).

24 Coffee maybe, and what’s needed for follower? Brandy coming up (4)
BREW – The answer is hidden and reversed (coming up) in FOLLOWER BRANDY.  I am not sure that (apart from the reversal indicator), the wordplay is set out clearly enough to indicate that there is a hidden word here.

34 comments on “Rookie Corner – 088

  1. Not a quick solve but I did manage to eventually get a completed grid. Perhaps many of the clues are a little longer than ideal and some of the surface reading is rather clunky. Just a suggestion of a seasonal theme that is more in the clues than in the answers so it did not make the solutions too obvious as sometimes happens with themed puzzles. I did enjoy working it all out.
    Thanks Fidelibus.

  2. Insomnia kept me up long enough to come up with a completed grid, but I can’t honestly say that I particularly enjoyed the ride.
    Too many of the clues seemed to be little more than a list of words that required chopping up and mixing around – I really do think you need to work on the surface reads in order to engage more with the solvers.
    There is undoubtedly talent demonstrated by the way in which you can take a word, pick it apart and clue each segment but I felt that some clues suffered as a result of over-use of this type of minute dissection.
    Sorry, Fidelibus – I haven’t tackled one of your puzzles before so don’t know whether this is just your ‘style’. I’ll be very interested to see what others make of it.

  3. Thanks Fidelibus. A fun solve. I particularly enjoyed the wordplays – especially the really crunchy ones for the biggies.

    All your surfaces painted clear pictures but maybe some of them weren’t as fluent as they might be – some might say crosswordy – which is apparently considered to be a sin these days – although it can sometimes be endearing.

    Arbitrary example – 25a

    What’s to be divided up neat rum or fizz?

    Surely that makes more sense as:

    What’s to be divided up? Neat rum or fizz?

    or even just:

    What’s to be divided up – neat rum or fizz?

    Ie by some means express the idea:

    Should we divide up the neat rum or the fizz?
    It seemed easy at the outset, with wordplay indicators easy to pick – but the thumbscrews tightened (for me at least) as the solve went on.

    Anyway – I got there – and I enjoyed it very much – so many thanks.

    1. that’s interesting and constructive JS – I agree completely – I picked up on this clue as well, and went in the direction that the “or” could equally apply to “neat”, so you might also reach a plausible surface with the simple “What’s to be divided up – neat rum or mixed?”

      Just thinking it might interest Fidelibus that there generally tend to be several directions that you can a clue.

  4. Well you have a fan here Fidelibus! I thought the surfaces were brilliant because they all, every one, had to do with Christmas Dinner.
    To sit here and read through them all is like being taken on a tour of the world by the Spirit of Christmas Present – complete with squabbles, accidents, booze (plenty of that!), a trip ro the Caribbean and a reminder, just as Dickens would give us, of the lone wolf at 13d… probably Mr Scrooge himself.
    Thoroughly impressed, and the ‘difficult’ new words at 22a and 13d were, crucially, words I instantly like and am grateful for. Thank you Fidelibus, it was brilliant!

  5. Thanks Fidelibus – I enjoyed this (and it’s a good idea to get your Christmas themed puzzle in early, before we get fed up with them!). I thought that there were possibly a couple too many anagrams and, as others have said, the surfaces in some cases could be made a bit smoother. As Jolly Swagman suggested, use of punctuation in the clue can be beneficial – for example in 14a inserting a full stop after ‘goose’ would, I think, improve the surface.
    The clues I liked best were 15d and 20d.

  6. I have to say at the outset that my thoughts are more closely aligned with Jane’s than those of Maize (sorry Maize!). Yes, it was extremely clever to incorporate variations of the theme into every clue, but possibly this constraint did lead to quite a few of the surfaces appearing forced and contrived rather than flowing naturally.

    I do remember tackling the last effort from Fidelibus back around the time of the UK General Election and finding it remarkably difficult. This one was slightly easier but it was still more Toughie than DT Backpager standard I thought.

    Some interesting and unusual words peppered the grid – I had no idea that 3d was an actual word until I checked, I had assumed it was merely a descriptive phrase!

    Although nobody else has mentioned it so far, I’m wondering if there is a typo in the clue for16d? Should it end “start off dance” rather than “start of dance”, since I’m able to parse it only using the latter interpretation. 23d seemed to require both a containment and deletion indicator, but I could see only “downed”. I don’t think that “drop” in 15d works as an initial letter indicator – although it did make for a great surface I’ll admit.

    I did enjoy the challenge and will nominate 1d as my favourite. 6d received a tick too, even if it is somewhat Yodaesque.

    Many thanks, Fidelibus.

    1. I took 23d as A (from clue) + R(um) downed (as in drunk by) another=TOT (as in another drop of rum = TOT)

      not sure where the deletion would be?

      1. Thanks, Dutch – I suppose that would work. I had been looking for something to indicate that the interior letters of “another” were to be deleted.

        If your interpretation is correct then the setter has used the same device for both 15d and 23d, i.e. using “drop of x” to mean selecting the first letter of a word. Personally, I don’t see why it should point the solver towards the first rather than any of the other letters (or even the whole word), do you?

        1. Hi Silvanus, this is Prolixic on the subject:
          A curious construction that all seem to accept is an indicator such as “a bit of cake” to
          indicate the letter C. Expressions such as this do not actually tell you which bit of the
          word you use but the accepted convention is that it refers to the first letter unless you
          use an expression such as last bit of cake!

          1. Thanks, Maize, that’s interesting. Can “drop” equate to “bit”? I suppose it can.

            I don’t like it personally (nor do I see the logicality), so I don’t plan to use it in any of my puzzles!

  7. I certainly had to think outside the box to sort out some of the surfaces and I agree with Kiwi Colin and Jane that they are a bit clunky and a couple made no sense to me. Does the acronym in 1A actually stand for anything? Just looking at the four letters, it strikes me that there were a couple of word possibilities there that could have been used instead. The right hand side was trickier than the left, I thought, with the SW corner the last to complete. I did enjoy this a lot, though, and I had ticks beside several including 5A, 22A, 28A, 3D and 15D. On balance, I think 15D gets the top spot. That answer always amuses me. Overall, very well done, Fidelibus! Keep ’em coming.

  8. Many thanks Fidelibus, very enjoyable. And very clever to have almost all the clues dealing with Christmas dinner – I think that is much harder to do than having theme words in the grid. Some clues I really liked include 27a (presented with portion of chicken…), though I might have been tempted to put a comma after chicken, 15a (Scoffed first two pieces…) – great play on scoffed, 20d (One’s taught here Yuletide …), and many more.

    I agree with the comments on surface, minor tweaks can accomplish a lot, for example 9a, 14a, 22a didn’t make an awful lot of sense to me (and in 14a I’m not sure what “here” is doing), but these are pretty minor quibbles ( I also wondered if “short” should come directly before “crowd” in 6d, not sure you need all the words in 6d, and i wondered about maybe improving the containment indicator) – yes, all pretty minor quibbles.

    Congratulations on putting together this feast, and well done theming the clues!

    1. I did try to edit – sorry, that should be 7d for all the words and 24d for the containment indicator

  9. I found this difficult – I quite enjoyed it.
    There are several answers that I don’t understand and I still have one gap.
    I’ve never met 22a, 3d or 13d.
    There seemed to be quite a few anagrams although I haven’t counted – not a complaint as I like them.
    I liked 7 and 15d.
    With thanks to Fidelibus.

  10. Hi Fidelibus,

    I found this to be pretty tough, though not perhaps quite as difficult as your previous offering. Excellent work on the theme, and I think it’s totally forgiveable that maybe some off the surfaces weren’t quite as smooth as a result. I think you had some very nice misdirections which added to the fun.

    I’ll pick 5a as my favourite clue.


  11. Congratulations Fidelibus.
    Really enjoyed it.
    It was a very slow process to decipher some of the clues but a very good exercise for the brain.
    6d ( turkey’s centre) was my last one in as I put Aenemic in 5a. And one of the hardest one to parse.
    13d (not for mixing) is very clever. A lurker with an extraction and an inclusion that is also a swap and a misleading anagram indicator. Quite busy really.
    20d had a lovely surface and wins my vote for the most festive of all.

  12. Thanks Fidelibus – this one took me quite some time! Also got round to this a bit late today – and can’t even blame that time-sucking darn GCHQ Puzzle today either!

    Well done in maintaining the theme in the clues pretty much throughout – I know how challenging that is!

    Wasn’t sure about use of re in 9a, would probably have opted for ‘about’ – but loved the anagram/grind ‘combo!

    Tough words for me at 22a and 13d though fairly clear from the wordplay – I do like it when a puzzle stretches one’s vocabulary a bit so thanks for these!

    25a one of my favourites – great definition. 1d appealed as well. Also liked ‘spending time’ in 13d.

    A few slightly clunky surfaces e.g. 4d would perhaps benefit from a bit more refining.

    You might want to double check the distribution of clue types to be sure you’ve got the variation you want e.g. number of hiddens, anagrams etc – but today’s selection worked for me!

    Thanks again!

    – ENCOTA –

  13. Well, I’m feeling pretty pleased because I did most of this with only a tiny slice or two of help, and there were no moments of irritation at anything that felt unfair. Well done!

    Just a couple left to do (3d and 18a), but I will ponder a little more before giving up.

    My inner Rev Scrooge (a cousin of the more well known one) let out a Hah Bumhug at the theme, but it wasn’t bothersome to me at all. Quite an achievement.

    Out of what I’ve done, I think I will have to pick 7d as a favourite. With reference to the above, I’m inclined to mention 13d too.

    Many thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Fidelibus.

  14. I found this pretty tricky, and had to cheat fully in the SE corner (compared to my normal cheating of using word finders and other electronic help). I would agree with pretty much everything that was said above. The surfaces were sometimes strained, although some would not require much tweaking to make a big difference – 13d, for example: just a comma after not for mixing would help, and perhaps there is some still better way of integrating the definition into the surface to more heavily imply someone who dislikes social interaction. I really liked the word play in this clue, it was one of my favourites. Others have also pointed out the benefits of carefully chosen punctuation in avoiding awkward cryptic grammar problems and clunky surfaces.

    There are quite a few I haven’t fully parsed, but I did also enjoy the nicely crafted lurkers (I’ve not seen during as an indicator before, but it seems logical), and 5d.

    Finally, what a great effort in getting the theme in. Looking at the completed grid, I would never have thought that a food/Christmas theme might be possible to achieve from that collection of words – so I have no idea where your starting point’ was.

    Many thanks Fidelibus for an enjoyable challenge

  15. Thanks to Prolixic for the analysis.
    Pretty perfect really.
    Congratulations to Fidelibus again.

  16. Thanks to Prolixic for the review, and well done Fidelibus – for the most part you seem to have the cryptic grammar sorted.
    Perhaps it would be worth doing a crossword that isn’t themed (or where the answers are themed, not the clues) so there are no constraints on the clues and which will enable you to try to really nail the surfaces, which seems to be the only missing piece of the jigsaw?

    Congratulations again.

  17. My previous comment thanking Prolixic for the review seems to have wandered off somewhere so – thank you again, Prolixic!
    Particularly for the parsing of 13d which I hadn’t achieved.

  18. A thank you from Fidelibus:

    Many thanks for all constructive comments, kind remarks and valuable criticism. You can rest assured that I will take your advice and observations on board and redouble my efforts in future to present a good mixed bag of clues with particular attention to avoiding repetition.

    Kind regards and best wishes for Christmas and a most cruciverbal New Year!


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