Rookie Corner 142 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 142

A Puzzle by Melvis

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Melvis’s debut puzzle is this seasonal offering. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A very happy Christmas to all on the blog and particularly to all of the Rookie setters who have entertained us throughout 2016.  Today we welcome Melvis with a debut puzzle.  This was a promising debut.  There were a few rough edges but these can easily be polished.  The grid was an unusual one.  Double unches are frequently seen but as a general rule, each word should have at least 50% of the letters cross-checked.  7 and 26 down would not be acceptable in a national paper’s puzzle having only one cross-checking letter in five.  A greater variety in the cluing would help as well.  Five hidden word clues and three consecutive central letter clues was over egging the figgy pudding.


1 Oh, fizz dear! Two prepare for Christmas viewing (3,6,2,2)
THE WIZARD OF OZ – An anagram (prepare) of OH FIZZ DEAR TWO.  If prepare is used in the imperative, it should come before the letters to be rearranged, as in prepare XYZ.  After the letters, prepared would be more appropriate.

8 Recalls losing sleep over smouldering remains (6)
EMBERS – Remove the REM (sleep or rapid eye movement) from the beginning of a word meaning recalls.

9 Take frustrations out on this grumpy lady with drink (8)
PUNCHBAG –  A drink made from fruit and alcohol followed by a disrespectful term for a grumpy old lady.

10 Crud olfaction has quite a nose! (6)
RUDOLF – The answer is hidden in (has) CRUD OLFACTION.  I don’t think that “quite a nose” works as the definition.  If the “has” is included in the definition, it is then doing double duty as the hidden word indicator and part of the definition.

11 Confused Diane expels new notion (4)
IDEA – An anagram (confused) of DIANE without the N (expels new).  The surface reading could be improved by using “without new notion”.

12 First under navy vessel (3)
URN – The first letter of under followed by the abbreviation for Royal Navy.  Depending on the editor, constructions such as first X to indicate the first letter of the word may or may not be accepted.  The grammatical construction would be first of X.

13 Party’s in full swing – it’s no good in there! (6)
SINFUL – The answer is hidden in (in there) PARTY’S IN FULL.  Usually definition comes at the beginning or end of the clue but the construction “definition is in there” works well.  The “swing” in the clue is padding to make the surface reading work.  This would not be acceptable to some editors.

16 Having a laugh playing around start of lecture (8)
GIGGLING – A word in meaning playing (as in playing music at a concert) around the first letter (start of) lecture.

20 Environment outside initially lousy getting more comfortable (8)
SETTLING – Another word for the environment or context for something around (outside) the first letter (initially) of lousy.

23 Involve in late shenanigans (6)
ENTAIL – An anagram (shenanigans) of IN LATE.  Some editors would be unhappy with a noun (shenanigans) being used as an anagram indicator.

25 Cure for bad acting? (3)
HAM – Double definition.  Neither side of the clue works particularly well.  Cure implies the process for making the answer and, as a noun, does not mean the answer.  Bad acting implies a verb as the answer but, again, the answer is the actor who is a poor performer.

27 Cause congestion sleeping heavily like this with cold (4)
CLOG – The abbreviation for cold followed by a word that is description of sleeping heavily.

28 Fan missing drink gets ale (6)
PORTER – Omit a three letter word meaning to drink from another word for a fan, as in a football *********.

29 Reserve assessment to keep ones place (8)
BOOKMARK – Another word meaning to book something followed by another word for an assessment.

30 Justification for beheading capital offence (6)
REASON – Remove the initial letter (beheading) from another word for a capital offence.  Given the sensitivity over terrorist executions, it is probably better to steer clear from this type of first letter deletion.

31 Fancy chain as on list for Christmas visitor (5,8)
SAINT NICHOLAS – An anagram (fancy) of CHAIN AS ON LIST.


1 Roosevelt gets up and ponders (9)
THEORISES – The shortened form of the first name of the US president followed by another word meaning gets up.

2 Sickly and ill – hear this is common over the festive season (4,3)
WEEK OFF – A homophone of sickly (hear) followed by another word meaning ill.  Perhaps this would have been better as “Sickly, we hear, and ill…”

3 Bubbly like a good lemonade (7)
ZEZTFUL – Double definition.

4 Tupac’s music – sounds for gift presentation? (7)
RAPPING – The musical genre of the musical artist Tupac Shakur is a homophone (sounds) of what gifts are presented in.

5 Beastly tonic is ok in gin cocktail (7)
OINKING – An anagram (cocktail) of OK IN GIN.  I don’t think that “tonic” as a noun strictly means a noise or sound other than a musical note, but poetic licence would give this meaning!

6 German talks underwear, the animal! (5)
ZEBRA – How a German might pronounce “the” followed by an item of female underwear.

7 Merkel gets pedicure from heaven (5)
ANGEL – Remove the last letter (gets pedicure) from the first name of the German premiere.

14 On reflection, such a large quantity of wine is lunatic (3)
NUT – Reverse (on reflection) of an old measure for 216 gallons of wine!

15 Curtail surly address (3)
URL – Remove the outer letters (curtail) from SURLYI think that curtail means only to remove the final letter.

17 Shot in imaginary heart (3)
GIN – The answer is in the centre (heart) of IMAGINARY.

18 Marie heartily backs violent movement (3)
IRA – The answer is hidden and reversed (heartily backs) MARIE.  Three clues in a row where you have to use the central letters of a word for the answer means that the puzzle lacks balance.

19 Time to take five? (4,5)
GOLD RINGSI am not sure that this clue has any meaningful wordplay other than a rather indirect allusion to the number of gifts received on the fifth day of Christmas.

21 Soak in driving rainstorm (7)
INGRAIN – The answer is hidden (in) in DRIVING RAINSTORM.

22 Serving her kindly with savoury snack (7)
GHERKIN – The answer is hidden in (with) SERVING HER KINDLY.

23 Experimental inspector involved in heinous crime (7)
EMPIRIC – An abbreviation for a private investigator goes inside (involved in) an anagram (heinous) of CRIME.  I don’t think that inspector is a fair indicator for a private investigator given that you have to get from inspector to the synonym and then to the abbreviation.

24 Road not ravaged by freak weather (7)
TORNADO – An anagram (ravaged) of ROAD NOT.

26 Sound of thieving bird (5)
ROBIN – A homophone (sound of) a word meaning thieving.  Perhaps has the final letter of the synonym for thieving is not sounded, you need a dialect indicator such as thieving Cockney.  As sound has already been used as a homophone indicator, a different indicator should be used here.

27 Cruelly scorns, no new affront (5)
CROSS – An anagram (cruelly) of SCORNS without the N (no new).  As new has already been used in the context of a letter deletion, a different letter indicator should have been used.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner 142

  1. Thanks and welcome to Melvis! What with the season, I forgot that today is Monday and was pleasantly surprised to find Rookie Corner in action with a brand new setter.

    I thought this was a good debut, pitched nicely so that everything was solvable even when checking letters were thin on the ground in 7d and 26d. My favourite was the “beastly tonic” in 5d, but that may be a controversial choice. On the negative side I had only some technical quibbles, which I’ll leave to Prolixic, and I found 30a and 18d a little jarring in tone for a Christmas puzzle.

    Well done, Melvis, and I hope we’ll see you back again soon.

  2. Thanks Melvis – I enjoyed this and there’s plenty of inventive thinking here (although I suspect that Prolixic will have a number of helpful suggestions). I don’t usually take any notice of the grid but I couldn’t fail to notice that the 5-letter clues in the NE and SW corners have only one checked letter out of five.
    The clues I liked best were 6d (because it made me laugh though it’s probably not very PC), 3d and 5d.

  3. Like Gazza, I don’t take notice of grids at all, so when even I notice all those double unches, you are definitely in trouble grid-wise.

    Lots to enjoy, l too would select 6d for special mention but I also liked 27a, and 7d. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mr Roosevelt abbreviated in the way you require for 1d, so that made me pause a little before writing in the solution.

    A very good debut puzzle

      1. That’s my point – I’m not a grid pedant at all – I never consciously look at the grid until I’ve had a couple of goes through the clues, writing in as I go, so for me to see the double unches, I dread to think what Andy will have to say about them!

  4. Thanks for all the positive and constructive feedback – very much appreciated!! Glad to hear one or 2 clues have raised a smile!!

  5. Hi Melvis and welcome on your debut!

    Putting aside reservations about the grid, I thought this was a very promising first puzzle, with much to enjoy and a fun seasonal theme overall. Appropriately for Boxing Day, there were plenty of lurkers, which when added to the anagrams and homophones, meant that approximately 50% of the clues consisted of at least one of these three devices. Perhaps a few more reversals, double definitions and charades would have achieved a better balance.

    There were quite a few very good ideas on paper which didn’t quite work in execution, but Prolixic’s expert eye will guide you with those. My “repetition radar” picked up the deletion of “new” in both 11a and 27d, and “sound/s” in both 4d and 26d. The latter clue would have also benefited from the addition of “Cockney” or “East End” before “bird” methinks. I gave ticks to 16a, 28a, 29a, 1d, 6d and 21d.

    The big positive is that, for me, the surfaces were fairly smooth on the whole and that you have displayed clear evidence of having a setter’s eye for a good clue. I’m sure that the experience and feedback you’ll receive will enhance your next puzzle greatly.

    Many thanks indeed, Melvis.

  6. Excellent, I particularly liked 8a – Although it’s been a bad day i’m not losing my religion, I now have wanderlust and shall be leaving New York and heading all the way to Reno, just finished the puzzle before I was out of time.oj.

  7. I don’t/can’t analyse puzzles, I leave that too people who know what they are talking about!
    I enjoyed this puzzle, all clues eminently solvable and a few smiles along the way.
    Many thanks Melvis.

  8. A very good debut puzzle with some inventive ideas – 8a&1d take top places for me.
    I would agree with Silvanus that a broader mix of clue constructs would be worth aiming for and I’ll be interested to read what Prolixic has to say about one or two that I’ve put a question mark alongside, but I enjoyed the solve.

    Thanks and well done, Melvis, hope to see more from you ‘ere long.

  9. Well done, Melvis! A very good debut and pitched right for tired old me today. I agree with CS that the Rough Rider President was never called by that name but it doesn’t detract from the puzzle, even for me who bristles at 3-letter State abbreviations. My favorites are 25A and 15D.

  10. Well I agree the grid didn’t help. Otherwise , very few complaints. I don’t quite get why losing sleep and removing “re” in 8a work, but that is probably just me.
    Thanks for the bonus puzzle.

  11. Good fun and not too tricky – just right for the day after Christmas – not sure which day is being called Boxing Day.
    I’ve never seen 10a spelt that way.
    I don’t see why silvanus says that 26d would benefit from ‘cockney’ or ‘East End’ – either I’m being dim or I’ve got the wrong bird.
    I liked 9a and 7d. My favourite was 6d because it made me laugh.
    With thanks to Melvis and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Hi Kath, I thought 26d only qualifies really as a homophone if the final “g” I dropped, as is the case with many of the verbs used in an average episode of Eastenders!

    1. The answer is probably still the same – because that’s the way we do it. If you continue with petty criticisms and spattering comments all over the place I’ll put you back so that all your comments are moderated before publication.

      1. Apologies for the spattering, I was hoping someone would spot all of the REM song titles re 8a and join me in my silly game.oj.

  12. Hi Melvis

    Late to the party and even now I’m on generator power (again).

    Very nice puzzle with just the right light-hearted flavour for the season – although a couple of non-PCisms and non grandma’s drawing room-isms might better have been avoided.

    1a, 8a and 10a set the tone – and got a tick – also 5d and 6d – after which I forgot to keep ticking.

    I liked the misdirection in 8a – ie recalls commonly suggests reversal of letters. I wonder if that was intentional or just a “happy accident”.

    Your clue-writing style is reminiscent of the 60s – no doubt others will have tried to manleyise it for you – don’t fall for that. Sometimes you can keep all parties happy with a minor tweak – other times you lose something – focus always of course.

    I liked the crypticness of things like “tonic” for a sound (from a musical pig) – that sort of thing makes the difference between genuine crypticness and word-substitution/letter-shuffling – so you’ve definitely got something that’s worth building on.

    Thanks for the fun – hope to see more.

  13. Thank you, Prolixic – clear and concise as ever.
    All the very best of wishes to you for the year ahead and hope to see you at the birthday bash.

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