Rookie Corner – 200 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 200

A Puzzle by Fiddlesticks

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It’s been just over a year since the forst puzzle from Fiddlesticks.  I hope you find it was worth the wait for his second.  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 review by Prolixic follows:

Welcome back to Fiddlesticks.  This crossword reminds me of the nursery rhyme, “The was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead…”  Parts of this crossword were very good, parts were not very good at all.  When you want to produce a crossword of this difficultly level the cluing has to be razor sharp (more so than for an easier crossword) to give the solver confidence that they will get there in the end.  Unfortunately this crossword had to many obscurities, unusual abbreviations, incorrect clue constructions and sometimes repetitions to give the confidence level required.  My advice would be to rein back on the difficulty level and get a better grasp of the basics before ramping up the difficulty level so that the foundations are in place before the more complex constructions are built on them.

There is nothing wrong in setting difficult crosswords and many solvers will relish the challenge.  Others will be less inclined to solve overly tough crosswords but there is room for all levels of challenge.  However, diving in with this level of difficulty for a Rookie is probably a mistake.


9 1 after strange rune unlocks cell (7)
NEURONE – The spelling of 1 after an anagram (strange) of RUNE.  Unlocks as a link word seems fine to me.  The wordplay unlocks or gives the answer to the solution.

10 Success with models (7)
VICTORY – Double definition, the second being possibly the name of a model making company or car marques – Victor and Tesla or famous statues of Nike and Victoria (both statues of Victory).  The second part of the clue is probably too obscure to give solvers a fair chance of solving the clue.  Maybe if the intention was car models, you should have had “Success with car models”

11 Anger and frenzy after test, having missed the start (7)
UMBRAGE – A four letter word meaning frenzy after a five letter word PLUMB missing the first two letters.  Plumb for test is a stretch.  Requiring the solver to remove two letters with the instruction missing its start is unfair.  The start of the word is simply the letter P.

12 Homeowner’s overhead as proof to administration (7)
ROOFTOP – An anagram (administration) of PROOF TO.  As you only have to move one letter, the P, to the end, this could perhaps have been clued with a different device.

13 Whenever returning, return to old flame’s bed… (9)
FIREPLACE – Reverse (returning) a two letter word meaning whenever and followed it by a word remaining return (as in put back).  I don’t think that the “old” here is necessary and perhaps adds confusion as to the wordplay.

15 …because of a couple finding love (3,2)
DUE TO – A four letter word for a musical couple followed by the letter representing love.

16 Get away from crab’s condition (7)
ABSCOND – The answer is hidden in (from) CRABS CONDITION.

19 Works point on old phone connectors (7)
SONATAS – The compass point abbreviation for South followed by the ON from the clue and the abbreviation for Analog Telephone Adaptors.  The abbreviation for the phone connectors is not given in Chambers or Collins.  As a rule, you should use only abbreviations found in the main dictionaries.

20 All in one getting nothing back? (5)
ALONE – An all in one clue.  If you add LIN (nothing back) into the answer, you get the phrase “All In One”.

21 Monitor picked up swap at wedding? (9)
SURVEILLE – A homophone (picked up) of something which is so obscure that it is not in dictionaries.  From his notes, I see this is meant to be a homophone of Sir Veil.  This is too obscure.  Also the answer is a US term so this should have been indicated.

25 Send note back to clear school concerns (7)
AFFAIRS – Reverse (send … back) the musical note Fa and follow this with a word (in weather terms) meaning clear and a single letter abbreviation for school.  I don’t know where the abbreviation S for School comes from but it is not in the dictionaries.  Again, only canonical abbreviations from main dictionaries should be used.

26 Centerpiece of record, desert area having a bearing (7)
EPERGNE – A two letter abbreviation for a record followed by a three letter word for a desert area and the abbreviation for North East (bearing).

28 Backward artist pursuing great end product to become solvent (7)
ACETONE – A three letter word meaning great followed by the final letter (end) of product and a reversal (backward) of the artist ENO.  Some editors will not allow “end” on its own to indicate the last letter.  There are also several instances of “end” being used a positional indicator.  Ideally, wordplay indicators should not be repeated.  Later on, end is also used as the first letter indicator.  Traditionally it is used as a last letter indicator but, of course, words have two ends (unless they are single letter words).

29 Drag around head right before end of term on Friday, damaging (7)
HARMFUL – A four letter word meaning drag around the first letter (head) of right, the last letter (end) of term and the abbreviation for Friday.  Head is not needed as an indicator as R = Right is an abbreviation in its own right and some editors will require “head of” as an initial letter indicator.  The abbreviation F for Friday is simply wishful thinking on the part of the setter (like S for School).  Only abbreviations from dictionaries should be used.


1 Deluge is eye-opener mid-evening at bay (6)
ENGULF – The first letter opener of eye, the middle letter (mid) of evening and a word for a large oceanic bay.

2 Trouble climbing plant when another copper turns up (6)
CUMBER – If you add (turns up or arrives) another CU (copper) to the answer, you have a climbing plant that produces green juicy edible gourds.

3 Clothing discipline as model becomes youth leader (4)
TOGA – Replace the Y (youth leader) in a a spiritual disciple with a T (model as in Model T ford).  The clue here is the wrong way round as it tells you to replace the T with a Y.

4 Classes in which teaching efforts are negated in opposition (6)
GENERA – The answer is hidden (in which) and reversed (in opposition) in ARE NEGATED.  The words “teaching efforts” are pure padding which should be avoided where possible.  Also the end of the hidden word ends as a word boundary and, ideally, the hidden word should straddle words.

5 Administers external report (8)
OVERSEES – A homophone (report) of OVERSEAS (external).

6 Hotel group trip agreement (10)
ACCORDANCE – A five letter word for a hotel group (owners of among others of the Ibis and Novotel chains) plus another word for a trip as in an activity undertaken at a ball.

7 Support for shooting centre in wood (8)
FOOTREST – Include the central two letters in shooting inside a six letter word for a wood.  The structure of the clue with definition for wordplay is back to front, it should be wordplay for definition.

8 Signs reverse of my check with confusing comment about first of signatories (8)
SYMPTOMS – Reverse (separately) MY and MOT (test) and mix in with a PS (comment) and S (first of signatories).  This clue is too complex to enable sensible parsing on the part of the solver, not aided by the fact that there is no instruction to reverse the MY and MOT separately.

14 Founder when one expert after another leaves us, having to recruit beginner (10)
PROGENITOR – A three letter word for expert (from professional) followed by another (a term used to describe someone like Einstein) with the US removed (leave us) followed by the TO from the clue and the first letter (beginner) of recruit.

16 Setter‘s melodic mode is back again (4-4)
AGAR-AGAR – Reverse (twice) a word for a traditional Hindu musical form.

17 Rattled at first after fag end in view in bed, but escaping injury (4-4)
SCOT-FREE – The first letter of rattled after the first letter (end) of fag in a three letter word meaning view with an insertion of a three letter word for a bed.  The clue implies that the letters are inserted into the word for bed, when exactly the reverse is required.

18 Force member’s flower to sticky end (8)
DISASTER – A three letter abbreviation for Detective Inspector (maintaining the S from the ’s) followed by the name of a flower.

22 Agree choir section for repeat (2-4)
RE-ECHO – The answer is hidden in (section) in AGREE CHOIR.

23 Before game, look at strong finish (6)
LOGOFF – A two letter word meaning look at followed by a two letter word for a game the musical abbreviation for very loud.  The indication in the clue would give only one F for forte.

24 Cathedral city accommodates cleric fairly (6)
EVENLY – The abbreviation for Venerable (the title of an Archdeacon) inside a three letter name of an East England diocese.

27 Peer at listener’s tail end (4)
EARL – The three letter organ of listening followed by the last letter (end) of tail.  I am not keen on the construction definition at wordplay.


Congratulations to all the Rookie Setters who have brought us to the 200th Rookie Crossword.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner – 200

  1. Nice puzzle Fiddlesticks – well on the hard side but I got there in the end. Well – I got letters in all the holes at least.

    I can’t parse 8d – I can see some components but I can’t crack the whole thing. Not sure if it’s relevant to the wordplay but for the surface I assumed “check” to be the US spelling of our “cheque” and wondered whether the clue would still work with the UK spelling.

    Some nifty definitions and wordplays – and some good misdirection. Eg 18d – was that intentional?

    My favourite clue was 13a but there were many others almost as good.

    My only suggestion would be to provide a few easy let-ins. I found it quite tricky to get started. Only when I had a few crossing letters (especially first letters) did it flow.

    Some will give up on it and miss out on all that goodness.

    A friendly grid though – and I was certainly glad of that.

    Many thanks. I’ll look forward to the next one – and be forewarned when I see your byline.

  2. My original quite long comment has vanished into the ether. Let’s hope I can remember what I said

    I agree with JS that this is on the hard side (and more) – it took me a long while to get started and I was grateful for the old friend in 24d and the lurkers to give me a few checking letters to keep going. I did have to use the reveal button on more than one occasion to make sure I had the correct solution which is reflected in the fact that I have seven ?s by clues where I’m still trying to work out the parsing. Some specific points I noted were

    2d to me the clue reads as if the other copper has to be added not taken away
    3d Again, I thought I had to put the youth leader in the place of the model not the other way round
    23d I would say 3,3 not 6

    Thanks for the Monday morning brain stretching. I look forward to reading the review tomorrow to understand how I got some of my solutions to a big thank you in advance to Prolixic

  3. Extremely tough indeed, I managed to complete the LHS unaided, but without electronic assistance I would never have finished the right. Not for the first time, the lack of anagrams contributed to cranking up the difficulty factor. During the solve I kept getting a strange feeling of deja vu, was Fiddlesticks a third pseudonym for Laccaria/FirmlyDirac I wondered?! Seriously though, their respective puzzles are from a very similar mould.

    I have to say this was more of a slog than a pleasure to solve for me. Whether that was because my repetition radar seemed to bleep much more than usual (“end” used four times as a last letter indicator, “back” used four times as a reversal indicator) or that there was an over-reliance of wordy charade-type clues, I’m not sure. I would have loved the occasional double definition or cryptic definition to be included just for variety’s sake. Even now, there are several clues where the parsing eludes me.

    Certainly many of the constructions were clever, but I couldn’t help feeling that often they were too clever. I wasn’t wholly convinced by the definition in 11a, the anagram indicator in 12a or a couple of the abbreviations used, which are possibly in Collins, but don’t feature in Chambers.

    Thanks, Fiddlesticks, I wish I had enjoyed the experience more, but well done on producing another puzzle, and congratulations to BD on reaching the landmark of 200 Rookie puzzles.

  4. Hi Fiddlesticks
    I filled it all in, but mostly by staring at crossers and guesswork. I’ve noted 10, 11, 19, 20, 21, 26 across and 4, 8 down as clues where I don’t understand fully what’s going on. There are others where I can see the parts but can quite make it work – eg. as CS says in 3d, since you have model becoming youth leader, I expected the solution to be the other word. In 17d, apart from it being odd to have ‘end’ to indicate the first letter of a word, I can’t see how ‘in view in bed’ puts the parts together in the way that is needed. I can see the bed, but there’s nothing in it.
    I found late on that there were some fairly straightforward clues I’d missed, such as 12a, 16a. Maybe if I’d sorted those out earlier I would have had a better time. I liked 7d and 13a best. Thanks.

  5. Hi Fiddlesticks.

    I got a grand total of seven last night, having spent about as long on it as on the average Toughie. Unfortunately, I already had a couple of quibbles – like the point Mucky makes above about 17d, and losing confidence in the clueing is something that might make me give up on a hard puzzle. I’d recommend dropping the difficulty level considerably, at least to start with – or, as JollySwagman suggests, provide some footholds.

    The comments above have enabled me to fill in a bit more and I might come back to this later, but Mondays are one of my busier days so no promises.

    Thanks for the puzzle, Fiddlesticks. You clearly have talent and I’d definitely be interested in seeing more from you – just please go a little gentler!

    Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review which I look forward to reading.

  6. Hi Fiddlesticks

    Congratulations on putting together this puzzle. I think it is a barred crossword dressed up as a blocked puzzle. I had to use reveal repeatedly to get through it.

    Ticks go to 16a, 7d, 18d (but I don’t really like ‘to’ as a link, it does get used though) and the 13/15a ellipses pair especially 15a which i think is very nice. 13a uses ‘to’ again and the def is not super accurate (why old?).

    i’m not sure what the models are (10a) the test in 11a, or the phone connectors.

    Some thoughts, which may be personal preferences

    I’m not very keen on all the recruit beginner, youth leader, end product, fag end (especially since this refers to the F), tail end, etc. They don’t say what they mean. I think it should be end of product, youth’s leader, tail’s end etc. To your credit, you do have rattled at first, end of term, etc.

    9a I though unlocks was a strange link word

    12a not wrong, but only 1 letter moves in the anagram (a firs-to-last opportunity)

    20a not sure where the definition is, and it seems to me are losing not getting, but i may be missing something

    25a s for school is in collins but not brb, so that’s fine. I guess clear works as in weather.

    26 you are using an obscure word in the wordplay for an obscure answer. I’d suggest one or the other.

    29 not sure why you need ‘head’

    3d – mentioned by other, should be ‘as leader of youth becomes model’

    4d Not working well for me. ‘in which’ to me reads as though it refers to the def instead of to the fodder. ‘teaching efforts’ would appear to be superfluous hidden fodder. one end of the hidden word coincides with the end of a word, better to have it completely contained

    5d i guess the homophone works for UK since it’s an island

    8d I didn’t understand ‘confusing’ – i would have thought these are clarifying comments.

    16d not sure the repeat is spelled out sufficiently ‘back once and again’?

    17d order seems wrong, surely this should be ‘in bed in view’?

    22d doesn’t the answer mean re-repeat?

    27d I don’t think ‘at’ works as a link

    I hope that is useful and i look forward to the review and to your next (hopefully easier) puzzle

  7. I am blinded by the amount of white spaces staring back at me. I will await Prolixic’s review to provide some enlightenment.

    1. Is it really 200 Rookie puzzles? I can remember the concept being discussed when there were comments on the blog about the lack of a Toughie on Mondays & then BD came up with this. Well done BD – sterling work.

  8. I found this altogether quite confusing for many of the reasons already mentioned, so I never really got stuck into it.

    There are some (perhaps too) clever constructions which I appreciate, but it’s impossible to be succinct with so much chopping and changing going on.

    I felt it could have done with a final, detailed edit, as the little niggles are mostly minor, but they all add up. A bit more variety would also have benefited the solve. Prolixic has produced a printable chart for checking ‘clue types used’ in his very useful guide – if you haven’t already, see page 22 here.

    On the plus side, I didn’t give up on it and 7d & 13/15a got big ticks.

    Well done and thank you Fiddlesticks for putting the puzzle together, I look forward to your next.

    Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  9. I would echo Dutch’s comment about this being a barred crossword dressed up as a blocked puzzle. I got exactly the same impression after grinding to a halt with only two clues solved, and I had to make frequent use of the reveal and check buttons.

    One or two specific points, by no means all that I could raise.
    3dn seems to require replacing ‘t’ with ‘y’, not vice-versa
    I don’t understand the phone connectors in 19ac
    21ac is a complete mystery to me
    in 14dn the ‘A leaves B’ construction implies A is removed from B, not B from A which is what it is here.
    ‘head’ seems superfluous in 29ac since ‘r’ is a standard abbreviation for ‘right’

    But I liked 12ac, 16ac, 17dn and 18dn.

    Can’t say I enjoyed the solve, but thanks for your efforts.

  10. I’d expected that, after the comments on his previous puzzle, Fiddlesticks would have made this next one rather more accessible but it would seem that was not to be. In desperation, I revealed letters to get the last two answers and that was after using a fair amount of electronic help to get that far. Even now, I have several question marks alongside clues where I’m doubtful about parsing or definitions.

    A few more like 15a & 7d would have been very welcome!

    I’m sorry to say that this was more of an endurance test than an enjoyable solve. No doubt my solving abilities play a part in that but it would seem, from reading other comments, that even our expert solvers have struggled to get to grips with this one.

    My apologies for the negativity, Fiddlesticks – I’m sure you put a great deal of effort into compiling the puzzle anf that is much appreciated but – please – could you scale back somewhat in the future to allow us a fighting chance.

    1. Well done indeed on reaching the 200 mark, BD. I have no doubt that there are many very appreciative ex-Rookies out there in crossword land.

  11. Sorry Fiddlesticks but I really really can’t do this and I have tried hard.
    If we’re snowed in in the morning I might try again then – thanks anyway.

  12. I spent longer on this than I normally do on a Toughie and still had not much more than half the grid filled. As I was finding it such a grind, and especially as some of those I did get had doubtful reasoning, I did something that I rarely do and gave up.
    Sorry Fiddlesticks.

  13. Thanks Prolixic for a particularly insightful review this week and I’d like to add my own thanks to all who have got us to Puzzle 200!

    I’m currently in the Alps on an Internet connection with the behaviour of a piece of wet string: I tried commenting a couple of times yesterday but it clearly wasn’t meant to be.

    Fiddlesticks, I enjoyed many parts of the puzzle but did need Reveal in several places where I did not get the wordplay. Prolixic has summarised my challenges so well that I won’t repeat them here. My own first puzzles here were too hard and, though I like and do set hard puzzles, it was the help of the kind folk here that helped me hugely with the getting the clue algebra spot on before taking them that step further.

    Hope this helps and I’ll await your next with interest.



  14. 10a I took the models to be VIC (Victoria Beckham) and TORY (Tory Burch) so read it as a charade – although not at all obvious I freely admit.

    F for Friday
    S for School

    Are both in Collins online – not sure about the paid for version – never use that. Neither in Oxford online though.

    In the past Chambers usually had all that the others had and more besides – plus a load of Scottishisms – so it was a safe bet that if Collins had something then Chambers would have it too.

    But things are fluid – particularly since Collins scored the Scrabble gig. If working to Chambers as the dictionary of reference it’s probably necessary to actually have one – I suppose that was always their idea. Follow the money. Cynic? Moi?

    I don’t buy the notion (@blog and comments) that there’s anything wrong with eg “head of right” (assuming head of to be a valid first letter indication in whatever cluing system you’re using) for R simply because R would do on its own. So what. If the given construction works it works. The fact that there may be an alternative more economical approach (typically at the expense of the surface) is logically neither here nor there.

    As a general issue this crops up both here and elsewhere from time to time so I’m not homing in on the curent example in particular.

    1. F = Friday
      S = School
      Neither are in the brb but F = Friday frequently found in bus/train timetables as FO, FX – Friday only/excepted and S for school in combination as, e.g. LSE – London School of Economics.
      I had a lot to complain about in this puzzle, but those two abbreviations weren’t among them.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I am now not at all surprised that I didn’t manage to parse 10&21a or that the constituent parts of 8d seemed to be somewhat jumbled.
    I do hope that Fiddlesticks follows your excellent advice.

  16. Thanks all for your comments, and to Prolixic for the great review. All the feedback from everyone is very welcome and will be taken note of. As before, I can see that there are some great points (now that I’m aware of them!).

    After people said my first puzzle was too hard, I did try to make this one less impenetrable, but plainly I still have more to learn about exactly how to achieve that (though I’m pleased that the latest feeback includes some very useful pointers about it).

    Thanks too to BD, and congratulations on RC’s success as we celebrate its 200th appearance.

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