Rookie Corner – 206 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 206

Shoe by Solemate

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

I originally scheduled this puzzle for last Monday, but moved it back a week to accommodate the debut puzzle by Hippogryph. Little did I realise until I went to set it up that its theme was so similar to Saturday’s NTSPP by Alchemi.  Welcome back Solemate.  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.

After Solemate’s first crossword, I had a strong suspicion as to who the setter was.  This crossword left no doubts although, to be fair, one of his test solvers confirmed my initial suspicions when I asked her at a Sloggers and Betters meeting.

After a very impressive debut, I was looking forward to solving this crossword.  It did not disappoint but there were quite a few more snagging items in the clues that mean that running repairs might be required to bring it up to an better standard.

A number of the solutions were shoe related with 1a, 9a, 10a, 11a, 12a14a, 20a, 3d, 4d, 19d, 22d, 23d and 25d.

In terms of the commentometer (ignoring points where editor’s views may differ), then score is 4.5 / 32 or 14.06%.  I think that, we need another crossword with the polish of Solemate’s first crossword before promotion to the NTSPP is in order.


1 Pumps delivered by Spooner’s thin Europeans (9)
PLIMSOLLS – A homophone (delivered by) of SLIM (thin) POLES (Europeans).

6 See through quiet beer without beginning to belch (5)
SHEER – A two letter word meaning quite followed by the beer from the clue without the B (beginning to belch).  Perhaps the clue could have been better disguised with drink instead of beer.

9 Fixes salesman with music (7)
REPAIRS – A three letter word for a salesman followed by a four letter word for music.

10 Hide the real deal (7)
LEATHER – An anagram (deal) of THE REAL.  A very minor point.  If deal stands as a noun (as in an arrangement), then some editors would not permit this as an anagram indicator.  If it stands as a verb, then you would need deal “letters to be arranged” or “letters to be rearranged” dealt to make the clue read as a cryptic instruction.

11 Announcement of basement retailer (6)
SELLER – A homophone (announcement) of CELLAR (basement) 

12 Stag takes hint to find man with a plan (8)
DESIGNER – A four letter for for the type of animal of which stag is an exemplar includes a four letter word for a hint.

14 Box perhaps in centre everytime (4)
TREE – The answer is hidden in CENTRE EVERYTIME.  The word “everytime” is not in the dictionaries.  Whilst you could have every time, it would leave a letter not contributing to the wordplay or definition.  Whilst some editors permit this, it is not universally accepted.  Perhaps “Box perhaps held by centre employee” would have overcome this issue.

15 Legal document describes a tin whistle? (10)
INSTRUMENT – Double definition.

18 Toff caused criminal to be stifled (10)
SUFFOCATED – An anagram (criminal) of TOFF CAUSED.  As an adjective, criminal should precede the letters to be rearranged.

20 Assess sad sounds (4)
SIZE – A homophone sounds of signs (sad).

23 Seducer found destiny having laugh by Olympic City (8)
LOTHARIO – A three letter word for destiny followed by a two letter word for a laugh and a three letter word for a South American city that was a summer Olympics venue.  Definition found wordplay does not work particularly well as the definition is found from the wordplay.  Perhaps “Seducer’s destiny, having laugh with Olympic’s host“ would be better here.

24 Short cut symbolises the law (6)
COPPER – Remove the last letter from cut for a chemical symbol that, when spelled out is also another word for a policemen or the law.

26 Unruly nieces consume hot takeaway (7)
CHINESE – An anagram (unruly) of NIECES includes (consume) the abbreviation for hot.  Within the cryptic reading, it should read “An anagram of these letters consumes the abbreviation for hot.”  As this would jar in the surface reading, the way to overcome this is to change the consume to consuming.

27 Starts alternative newspaper on spirits (7)
ORIGINS – A two letter word for expressing an alternative followed by the single letter for a newspaper and a four letter word for alcoholic spirits.

28 Wise men point to a long time (5)
SAGES – The abbreviation for south (point) followed by a word for a long time.

29 Concoction from evil sounding dissertation (9)
SYNTHESIS – A homophone (sounding) of SIN followed by another word for a dissertation.


1 Trooper spots hangers on (9)
PARASITES – A four letter word for a airborne trooper followed by a five letter word for spots or locations.

2 Rascal goes to upper-class university on a whim (7)
IMPULSE – A three letter word for a rascal followed by the abbreviation for upper class and the abbreviation for London School or Economics (university).  

3 Quiet! Fashionable queen gets black eye (6)
SHINER – A two letter word for be quiet followed by a two letter word for fashionable and the regnal cipher for the current queen.  As quiet has already been used an indicator in 6a, a different indicator should ideally have been used.

4 The French way to end (4)
LAST – The French feminine singular for the followed by the abbreviation for street.

5 Seems fleet at sea shows personal pride (4,6)
SELF ESTEEM – An anagram (at sea) of SEEMS FLEET.

6 Extensive debts follow internationals’ return (8)
SPACIOUS – Reverse (return) a four letter word for international players followed by the four letter word representing debts.  Perhaps following would be better than follow so that the cryptic reading is “a word for debts following a reversal of a word for internationals”.

7 To make things better first of all encourage new hope and never create enemies (7)
ENHANCE – The initial letters (first of all) of the final seven letters of the clue.

8 Blue compared to pink is more unusual (5)
RARER – Think of the cooking of steak and how your would compare a blue steak to a pink one.

13 United Nations’ simple sounding head creates uncertainty (10)
UNEASINESS – The abbreviation for United Nations followed by a homophone (sounding) of EASY (simple) and a four letter word for a head (in terms of a cape or head of land).  As sounding has already been used as a homophone indictor, a different indicator should be used here.

16 Wonders how horse ties in a tangle (9)
THEORISES – An anagram (in a tangle) of HORSE TIES.

17 Cruisers could be Peeping Toms dropping uniform and snorting a gram (8)
VOYAGERS – A seven letter word for peeping toms without the U (dropping uniform) around (snorting) the A from the clue and the abbreviation for gram.

19 Appropriate installation (7)
FITTING – Double definition, the second being a word used for items affixed to a property.

21 Single member raises topic and hinders progress (7)
IMPAIRS – The letter for single or one followed by the abbreviation for MP and a word meaning raises a topic.

22 People produce shiny finish (6)
POLISH – Double definition for the people of Poland and something that is applied to provide a shiny finish to shoes.  Perhaps producing would be better than produce so that you have definition A producing definition B.

23 They’re tied up in Oxford? (5)
LACES – What may be tied up in an Oxford shoe.

25 Brass comes from Hydrogen or Nitrogen (4)
HORN – The chemical symbol for hydrogen followed by the OR from the clue and the chemical symbol for nitrogen.

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 206

  1. How nice to see Solemate back with another great puzzle. I really enjoyed it, finding it not too knotty – mainly, I think, because of some generous definitions – but not a walkover either.

    I’m not the resident repetition spotter but I did notice “quiet” used twice in the same way. Couldn’t see anything else to take issue with at all.

    I really liked blue compared to pink in 8d (one where the definition was very helpful). There were many lovely surfaces (more than I care to list) which were a pleasure to see. My favourite is probably my last one in: 24a.

    After all that came a hunt for any themed content which I’d missed during the solve. An impressive amount to fit in the grid.

    (I wasn’t around the blog on Saturday (because I was doing crosswords in the pub instead) but I did notice that the ntspp also had a footy theme, as Gazza so beautifully put it.)

    Thanks Solemate – surely a shoe-in (sic) for promotion – and thanks Prolixic in advance.

  2. The similarity of the theme to the last NTSPP was not a problem at all as there is very little overlap in the way the two setters have dealt with the subject. A good level of difficulty for this slot I thought and well put together clues. Good fun to solve.
    Thanks Solemate.

  3. Thanks Solemate – very enjoyable, ‘beginning of the week’ back pager type of puzzle.

    I think the similar theme to the NTSPP only helped me on one clue – 1a – mostly because Spoonerisms and I do not get on!

    I really liked 11a, 12a, 29a, and 7d.

    Thanks again.

  4. A really quick solve but a slower go-round on some of the parsing. Interestingly, the ones Kitty names are the ones I’m struggling with. It’s late here, so maybe a fresh look in the morning will open my eyes. Meanwhile, thanks to Solemate, I enjoyed this, with succinct 19D at the head of the pack right now.

    1. The brain fog has cleared this morning and 8D and 24A are now parsed. I liked both of them a lot! Thanks again, Solemate.

  5. Hi Solemate,
    Many thanks for your entertaining puzzle! Generally pretty easy clues with accurate clue grammar and precise definitions. Appears that you’ve used a good breadth of clue types.

    How many anagrams: perhaps a few more that some papers would allow but that was fine by me. I was slowed up by putting a vaguely plausible alternative at 20a (that sounded much more up Kitty’s street :-) )!

    Quantity of themed material was impressive. Some of the surfaces didn’t quite work for me (16d, 12a) though many are good & I may well be missing something! Of the stronger-surfaced clues I really like the alternative chemistry at 25d, 8d’s interesting spectrum, 6d’s very plausible surface and those misbehaving nieces at 26a.


  6. An enjoyable puzzle, and not too taxing. Overall I thought the surfaces were pretty good, only 3d stood out as not making much sense, with the punctuation accentuating the point rather than helping.

    The double use of ‘quiet’ didn’t detract from the enjoyment so not an issue for me. My only other note was the use of ‘on’ in an across clue @27a which could have easily been remedied.

    Good fun to solve so thank you Solemate.

  7. Very smoothly assembled puzzle there Solemate – I really like your style!

    In the vague expectation that you might like to know, here’s a list of the clues which I liked the best: 1a,12a, 18a, 27a, 29a, 1d, 2d, 6d, 8d, 13d, 17d and my favourite of the lot 24a. Excellent. Runner up was probably 1a.
    All the other clues were good too – except perhaps for 15a which I either don’t get (through Monday morning dimness) or else it’s just a straight double definition, which other solvers seem to like more than I do!

    I also thought the difficulty level was really well judged; indeed I wonder if others found it a quick solve simply because the clues were very fair, and free from dodgy synonyms, convoluted wordplay etc.?
    One suggestion to ‘paint the lily’ if I may – your grid design made the NW and SE corners pretty isolated, which wasn’t a problem today, but might be on any days you decide to crank up the difficulty level.

    Most enjoyable, many thanks.

  8. Thanks Solemate.
    Very good throughout. Quite easy, with just a few in the SE causing a minor delay at the end. My favourites were 1a (I liked it better than Saturday’s clue for the same) and 1d, and I liked the wordplay in 24a. Theme well done, and the way you approached it meant that there were no easy pickings of theme solutions from a list.
    I revealed 20a. I should have got it, but I don’t think there’s quite enough in the wordplay part of the clue. I also wondered about ‘on a whim’, thinking that ‘on a’ is padding. But I suppose you can use the solution adjectivally, so maybe fair enough.

  9. Welcome back, Solemate.

    I really loved your debut puzzle, so I was quite disappointed to find that this one had much less 22d than your 4d one in my opinion. Whether that was because of the constraints of the theme, I’m not sure, but I felt it to be a step backwards rather than forwards.

    In addition to the repetition of “quiet” to clue “sh”, “sounding” was used twice as a homophone indicator, whereas there seemed to be an absence of any indicator at all in 20a. Although the surfaces were generally good, 12a and 16d jarred for me, as they did for Encota. The cryptic grammar in 26a, 6d and 22d requires “consuming”, “following” and “producing” respectively (or variants). “Everytime” in 14a doesn’t exist as one word according to the BRB, but there were plenty of alternative options that could have avoided this. Several of the anagrams were excellent. My ticks went to 1a, 18a 5d, 19d, 21d and 23d.

    It was certainly an achievement to include so many themed answers, and the crossword was good fun to solve, but I’m much less convinced than Kitty seems to be about where we might see your next one! Many thanks, Solemate.

    1. Forgive my ignorance, Silvanus, but could you explain your point about the cryptic grammar in 26a, 6d and 22d? It seems to me to work either way. Is there a convention to be followed? Thanks.

      1. I think silvanus is pointing out that consume, follow, produce etc are verbs, but the -ing suffix grammatically indicates the action of the verb, which is required for an instruction in a clue – I think..!

        Don’t think it’s a major sin though, but then I’m quite Libertarian.

      2. Hi Kelotoph,

        Cryptic grammar regards the subject of verbs used in wordplay as single entities, irrespective of whether the words are pluralised, as in this puzzle “nieces”, “debts” or “people”. So, to use 26a as an example, it is the combination of “unruly” (anagram indicator) and “nieces” (anagram fodder) that requires (it requires, if you like) a singular verbal form, or an infinitive (“to consume”) or a present participle (“consuming”). Prolixic would no doubt explain it much better than me, but I hope this clarifies.

        1. Thanks Silvanus (and LetterboxRoy), you have taught me something new. If I’ve understood it correctly, it would also make sense to say ‘unruly nieces consumes…..’, although obviously that would make nonsense out of the surface reading.

          1. Spot on, Kelotoph. Therefore more experienced setters would get round this in one of the ways I’ve described above.

  10. Thanks Solemate,

    A fun puzzle to solve, I started of pretty quickly but slowed down especially in SE. 20a I thought the clues read fairly well. I think sounds might be doing a little bit of double duty in 20a, both as a homophone indicator and part of the meaning in the wordplay. 22d, when referring to people, i think the answer is an adjective, so it would need to be ‘of people’. I a greek with the cryptic grammar bit mentions by sylvanus. And if ‘they’ are tied up, wouldn’t you need more than one Oxford?

    My favourite was 24a which i didn’t see for some time.

    Congratulations and well done getting all the themed words in there.

    1. Hi Dutch. I think the answer to 22d is OK. It’s common practice to refer to the Dutch, for example, meaning the Dutch people.

  11. Welcome back and very well done, Solemate. I was wondering if this was going to be a load of cobblers, but nothing could be further from the truth. This was a lot of fun with mostly very good surfaces (although I did think that 12a, 16d & 17d were a little iffy in this respect) and nice accurate cluing. Setting a cryptic crossword is always going to be a tough task and building in a theme like this can only make it more difficult. I spotted 13 themed answers today.

    Hopefully even the anti-Spoonerists amongst us will have enjoyed 1a – a great start I thought. I had several candidates for favourite but 24a just edged it ahead of 8d.

    8d brought back memories of my first form English teacher who also taught Latin. He was at pains to shout at us, “compared WITH not compared TO – com is Latin for with‘, and I for one have never forgotten it even though it was 60 years ago.

    Many thanks, Solemate, and please keep them coming.

  12. Enjoyable solve, thanks Solemate. Feeling a bit downtrodden following Saturday’s NTSPP theme and this! Favourites were 29a and 8d.

  13. I enjoyed that. I had to reveal a couple of letters for 21d & I’m still not convinced. Favourite clue has to be 17d if only for the imagery that the clue evokes. Thanks to Solemate and to the reviewer.

  14. Another enjoyable offering from one of our newest Rookies although I’m somewhat inclined towards Silvanus’ opinion that his debut was the more accomplished of the two.
    I have slight doubts concerning 20a&25d – the former appears to require a rather longer answer and the latter an extra word in the clue but doubtless Prolixic will say one way or the other. As others have mentioned, there were also a couple of dodgy surfaces and a sprinkling of grammatical errors.

    None of the above detracts from the fact that this was still a fine puzzle in many ways, not least of which was the handling of the themed entries (13?). My top slots went to 1&18a plus 1&19d.

    Many thanks, Solemate, please do keep them coming.

  15. Nice and easy and very clever to shoehorn in so many theme words. Btw, 21d is also a homophone of how shoes come! Some really nice surfaces (what a lovely thought in 7d!), but a couple, as mentioned elsewhere, not so great. I’m not instep with Encota on 5d’s surface — very poor chemistry!

    Well done, Solemate. I hope the sting of the small criticisms will soon heel.

  16. Many thanks for the excellent review as always, Prolixic.

    I was interested to read your comment regarding the use of “criminal” in the 18a anagram, bearing in mind the following clue from Chris Lancaster in yesterday’s backpager:

    “Get rid of elected criminal, not Conservative” (DELETE).

    If acceptable for a backpager, then surely it’s ok for Rookie Corner too?

  17. (Sorry silvanus, comment overlap)

    Rookie Corner by Solemate:

    18a Toff caused criminal to be stifled (10)
    An anagram (criminal) of TOFF CAUSED. As an adjective, criminal should precede the letters to be rearranged.

    Back pager by Chris Lancaster, Telegraph Puzzles Editor:

    25a Get rid of elected criminal, not Conservative (6)
    Anagram (criminal) of ELEcTED minus the letter C (not conservative)

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Have to confess that I still can’t get my head round the rights and wrongs of 18a having noted the clue used by Chris L. yesterday. Can anyone have another go at explaining the difference to me?

    I was also unsure about horn = brass, thought it might have needed the addition of ‘instrument’ or some such. No comment from Prolixic so I guess it must be acceptable.

    Hope Solemate has got another one in the pipeline, I’m enjoying watching his progress.

    1. Completely forgot that I had another question to ask –
      20a – ‘sad sounds’ is surely used as the synonym for the answer so where is the homophone indicator? Is ‘sounds’ doing double duty?

      1. Good point Jane. Either you’re right, and everyone else missed it (including me) or else ‘Sighs!’ is one of those one-off words that youngsters say as a sort of commentary on life sometimes – as in a strip cartoon.

        1. Hi Maize,

          Dutch and I had similar thoughts to Jane when solving the puzzle and we both mentioned it at the time. I was hoping that Solemate might have popped by to clarify his intention, but no sign of him as yet!

          1. So you both did – that’ll teach me for not reading other people’s comments properly!

  19. Late to the party – I did the puzzle as soon as it appeared – then the the ohne rang … .
    NIce puzzle Solemate – very easy – but by no means a write-in – and th esurfaces were generally very smooth.

    My favourite was 20a – the pun is strictly speaking unindicated – or indicated by making “sounds” do “double duty” – but it is too compelling to fuss over that sort of thing – even if one accepts that as a rule.

    Do keep them coming. Whilst my own preference is for tougher stuff and some crunchy wordplays puzzles like this do have abroad appeal.

  20. I think the split-up of 22d in the blog is wrong.

    “Produce” does not need to be treated as a link – it can be part of the second definition.

    The breakdown:

    People: the people from Poland
    produce shiny finish: apply a product which will do that and rub

    gives a clue which is kosher by any reckoning – even the faomous “some editors”.

    Not sure what your intention was there – that I hope. It’s a word whose twists of meaning get used a lot around the place.

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