Rookie Corner – 221 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 221

A Puzzle by Fiddlesticks

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a new puzzle from Fiddlesticks. 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 was a considerable improvement on his previous two crosswords.  The obscurities, unusual abbreviations, incorrect clue constructions and sometimes repetitions evident in his last crossword have been largely removed.  The difficulty level was still high but this was manageable as the clues were much fairer.  I agree that some of the surface readings could have been improved but I would rather that the clue construction skills are in place then the surface readings can follow.

The commentometer reads at 4/31 or 12.9%.  By way of contrast, the previous crossword (Number 200) would have scored 10/30 or 33% so there is every indication that Fiddlesticks is heading in the right direction.


1 Pub rivals catching fish symbols with lines (3,5)
BAR CODES – A three letter for a pub and rivals in a game of bridge include (catching) a three letter type fish often eaten with chips.

5,11 Beatles song has farm animal reflecting on God given ability, hears Spooner? (4,2,2,3)
FROM ME TO YOU – A Spoonerism of FROM YE TO MOO.  I don’t think that this clue really works.  Ye is the Old English form of the or you.  In Old English “from God” would be “from Thee”  as thee and thou we’re used to address God. The Spoonerism is not what Spooner would hear but what he would say!

10 Left setter with rodent eating in car (9)
LIMOUSINE – The abbreviation for left followed by a single letter to represent the setter and a five letter word for a type of rodent in which is inserted (eating) the IN from the clue.

11 See 5

12 Called headless ape (4)
RANG – Remove the first letter (headless) from a species of ape.

13 Furniture for arranging notes? (5,5)
PIANO STOOL – Cryptic definition of where a musical composer might sit.

15 Make merry and return, bar used to pressure… (5)
REVEL – Revers (return) a five letter word for a bar used to exert pressure to open something.

16 …in this place charity’s natural (8)
INHERENT – The IN from the clue followed by a four letter word meaning this place and the abbreviation for National Trust (charity).

19 Six on ice sports, cutting out… (8)
EXCISION – An anagram (sports) of SIX ON ICE.

21 …series of slopes (5)
LISTS – Double definition, the first being a schedule or rota of events and the second another way of saying leans or slopes.

25 Carriage in wobble in line of four (10)
TETRAMETER – A four letter word for a form of public transport (carriage) inside a six letter word meaning wobble.

26 Throw up in pigeon shed (4)
LOFT – Double definition, the second being another term for where pigeons are housed.

28 Wood producing a lot of resin (5)
BALSA – Remove the final letter (a lot of) from another word for a fragrant resin.

29 Home challenging European court on setter’s accusation (9)
INVECTIVE – A two letter word meaning home followed by the abbreviation for against or challenging, the abbreviations for European and Court and a three letter contraction for I have (setter’s or setter has).

30 Flower show by Gaza leader (6)
AZALEA – The answer is hidden in (show by) GAZA LEADER. Grammatically, this should read “shown by”.

31 Wastes food (8)
FRITTERS – Double definition, the second being a type of battered and deep fried food item.


1 Dance coat (6)
BOLERO – Double definition, the first being a Spanish dance and the second a form of waistcoat.

2 Tale of ancient empire and present time (7)
ROMANCE – The ancient empire of Caesar and the abbreviation for Common Era (present time)

3 Composition of liquid discharged by duck (4)
OPUS – The letter represented by a duck or zero followed by a form of liquid discharge from a boil or ulcer.

4 Obtain wrong report (6)
ELICIT – A homophone (report) of illicit (wrong)

6 Poirot is series detective of restaurant (10)
ROTISSERIE – The answer is hidden in (of) POIROT IS SERIES. The “detective” is padding and should, ideally, be avoided. Also, of as a hidden word indicator needs come before the letters in which the solution is hidden.  Perhaps Poirot is series featured in restaurant – quite the reverse.  

7 Can European get support for dance? (7)
MAYPOLE – A three letter word meaning can (as indicating permission to do something used in common parlance though, grammatically, arguably incorrect as can indicates ability rather than permission) followed by a four letter word for an Eastern European.

8 Uniformity of drug grade (8)
EQUALITY – The abbreviation for ecstasy followed by a seven letter word meaning grade.

9 Moving in a roundabout way loses the German sense (7)
MEANING – A ten letter word meaning moving in a roundabout way or aimless fashion without the DER (the German).

14 Reduce extent of climbing plant, state overdue (2-8)
DE-ESCALATE – Reverse (climbing) a four letter word for something from which a plant grows and follow it with the two letter abbreviation for the State of California and a four letter word meaning overdue. I don’t think that plant is correct synonym here. Something along the lines of stock would have been better.

17 Green, black and white one missing first back segment (8)
VERTEBRA – A four letter word for green used in heraldry (from the French) followed by a black and white animal without the first letter (one missing first).

18 Fruit grew fashionable (7)
ROSEHIP – A four letter word meaning grew or increased in height followed by a three letter word meaning trendy or fashionable.

20 Track-laying vehicle on mountain to get a tree (7)
CATALPA – A three letter abbreviation (given in Collins but not Chambers) for a vehicle that moves by laying its own tracks in front of it in a continuous loop system followed by a three letter word for a European mountain and the A from the clue.

22 Couple at age to cheat (3-4)
TWO-TIME – A three letter word for a couple followed by a four letter word meaning age.

23 Castor live? Declare to be true (6)
BEAVER – A two letter word meaning live or exist followed by a four letter word meaning declare to be true.

24 Hasten to exploit capital… (6)
ATHENS – An anagram (to exploit) of HASTEN. As to exploit is a transitive verb it needs to come before the letters to be rearranged.

27 …leave quickly, dropping fish (4)
SCAT – Triple definition.

15 comments on “Rookie Corner – 221

  1. That took us well into Toughie time and we thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through. We started looking for a favourite but there were so many good ones that we gave up. Also thought there was a pangram in the offing but that was not to be. A very competently put together puzzle that we appreciated very much.
    Thanks Fiddlesticks.

  2. Tough it certainly was, but we’ve come to expect that from previous puzzles from this setter, so I wasn’t expecting anything too solver-friendly. Unlike the 2Ks, I found it more of a slog than a pleasure to solve unfortunately. Indeed, had I not sought electronic assistance to complete, I don’t believe I would have finished it.

    There were some excellent clues, but for me too many surfaces that raised eyebrows or frankly didn’t make much sense (like 12a). 6d exemplified a good lurker in theory that doesn’t translate to a satisfactory clue in practice. Very little to fault technically I would suggest, so probably a very decent score on Prolixic’s commentometer, but once again it was pitched at too tricky a level to make it enjoyable for this solver.

    The clues I ticked were the less ambitious ones, namely 26a, 31a, 18d and 22d.

    Thanks, Fiddlesticks.

  3. Hi Fiddlesticks,

    I got completely bogged down in SW and had to reveal a few to get me going again. Not helped by having entered GUSHER in 30a (G[aza]+USHER=show). The cryptic grammar is wrong in the intended parsing, should be shown.

    Cryptic grammar also an issue in 7d, get should be gets or to get.

    15a saved by the ‘and’, note that only two checkers allow either word.

    I though detective (or detective of, not sure which was intended) an unusual indicator, not sure it works for me. I also wasn’t convince by 13a – is that really what you use it for? some store sheet music, but those kinds tend to have 4 legs.

    the definition for 25a feels incomplete.

    I eventually remembered a beatles song that fit the enumeration, and this was subsequently conformed by 7d checkers, but the spoonerism has eluded me, so i look forward to the review.

    Some of the surfaces are surreal and others are ok.

    I get the elipsis in 19/21, not sure i quite get the others

    I think my favourites are the simpler ones, 16a, 21a, 31a (though hard), 2d, 8d

    Congratulations on putting together this clever puzzle, though I found it slightly too clever hence difficult.

  4. Quiet today, is everyone at Wimbledon?
    Hi Fiddlesticks
    Thanks for the puzzle. I found it quite hard, and revealed a few to get it finished. While it probably is hard to judge by others’ comments, I think I’m having an off day and should have done better. eg, for 20d, I had the vehicle and the mountain and am familiar with the tree, but it just didn’t click. I also had help with 1a, 3d, 17d, 30a.
    I was tripped up by show in 30a, and ‘to exploit’ in 24d coming after the fodder. I also thought your homophone in 4d wasn’t great – they’re two words from the same Latin root with different prefixes, and you’ve tried to equate the very element that differentiates them.
    Otherwise it was generally pretty tight, and on another day I would have appreciated the challenge more. I liked 26, 31, 2d, 3d, 18d. 27d I have yet to fathom. I also liked the Spoonerism, though I may have misunderstood. Is ye God?

  5. Goodness, is this really Fiddlesticks’ idea of making a puzzle more solver friendly!
    After a great deal of guesswork coupled with electronic help, I am still left with a virtually blank SW corner and am not at all sure that I will get any further.

    My sheet is littered with ‘umms’ and comments about dreadful surface reads – sorry, Fiddlesticks, I’m not really enjoying this.

    1. Finally got there although can’t pretend that I have successfully parsed every element. I shall be very interested to read the review from Prolixic.

      My ticks went to 16&31a plus 8d.

  6. Certainly a toughie (well, a lot tougher than Vulcan in today’s Graun!) and I resorted to ‘check’ in one or two places, so a sort of semi-cheat. But well done on offering us a puzzle which is both doable and challenging – tidy up a few loose ends and you’ll be promoted out of RC in no time!

    The minuses first. Like others I don’t quite get the spoonerism in 5/11 – unless our ‘farm animal’ is one that routinely communes with the Almighty! And in 4d I’m afraid the homophone isn’t OK for me either. This is a controversial topic, but my belief is that homophones, if they are to work, should be recognisable in the most often-spoken English dialects – including Received Pronunciation. Do others agree?

    In 13a I’m assuming a CD, but I think ‘arranging notes’ is a bit loose? I’ve a suspicion that Evgeny Kissin or Martha Argerich might have a thing or two to say about that! Oh well – see what Prolixic has to say.

    IN 6d – brilliant wordplay but a bit spoilt by the word ‘detective’ not quite serving the purpose it’s meant to. Can anyone think of a substitute that fits the surface (I can’t)?

    A few Wiki look-ups here – 20d, 23d, and 27d (see below). But I’ve come to accept this as ‘par for the course’. I sympathise with those who stoically insist on solving without recourse to Wiki. I don’t!

    But set against this several flashes of brilliance. I have to give an uptick to 17d – I reckon I was agonising (along with others, some of them literally!) over this for ages, especially seeing as one of the crossers (28a) put me totally on the wrong track. Also 18d (my LOI). Perfectly clear once you see it, but there I was spending hours trying to think of every possible ‘fruit’ I’ve ever eaten…. 9d, 25a, 29a and 31a also deserve an Honourable Mention. (It’s a pity that you used the word ‘setter’ twice – hard to spot these things!)

    And finally 27d, which happens to be a word I used in my very first rookie effort, submitted here last year (I think I clued it Dropping out!). Have to concede yours is an improvement (though I had to look up the third def.)

    Keep up the good work F.!

  7. Yes, a tough solve and, like Dutch, I needed electronic help in the SW quadrant, although 25ac elicited a ‘doh!’ when I saw it. My minus points are mostly those Dutch and others have already picked up, e.g the unfathomable Spoonerism, the rather loose cryptic definition in 13ac and the cryptic grammar in 30ac. Positives, though, for 1ac, 26ac, 2dn, 23dn and for the triple definition in 27dn.

  8. I thought this was a very cleverly constructed puzzle – but sadly too hard for me to be really enjoyable. I got the NW quadrant. In the NE quadrant I started confidently with ‘bench’ as the second word for 13a, and for the moment I can’t hear the spoonerism in 5 & 11 ac. There are some holes in the SE quadrant and I just gave up in the SW corner. Many thanks to all.

  9. Greetings all! Many thanks for your feedback on this puzzle. As always, I will be reflecting on the points made and feeding them into my thinking going forward.

    I will offer a little light on 13a, which was queried by more than one: regarding “arranging”, although some variants of the furniture do indeed have the storage feature mentioned by some, “arranging” might also evoke another meaning when the furniture is being put to its main use!

    On the Spoonerism, I actually expected it to go down a lot better than it seems to have done, and be easily understood and perhaps even raise a giggle. Still, I readily admit it warrants its question mark.

    I look forward to tomorrow’s review.

  10. Re Prolixic’s comment on 14d – I was wondering about SEED = PLANT, too. In the end I concluded that a farmer might very well SEED his field with wheat – or equally PLANT his field with wheat. Don’t quite mean the same thing, do they? But with a bit of a stretch…

    Fiddlesticks could maybe have got round the dilemma with “climbing part of plant”. But that’s hindsight, what!

      1. I remember thinking about this when I was working on the clue originally. But my Chambers tells me that to seed is to sow, and that to sow is to *plant* by scattering. I use the electronic Chambers (13th edition). Is this the Chambers others are using? It also supports “cat” in 20d, which came up. Definition 13 here:

        cat1 /kat/
        noun1.A carnivore of the genus Felis, esp the domesticated kind or any of the smaller wild species
        2.A spiteful or malicious woman (derogatory)
        3.A piece of wood tapering at each end, struck with the cat’-stick in the game of tipcat
        4.The game of tipcat
        5.A cat-o’-nine-tails
        6.A heavy tackle for raising the anchor to the cathead (nautical)
        7.A movable penthouse to protect besiegers (historical)
        8.A double tripod with six legs
        9.A showily dressed man (old slang)
        10.A man, chap (slang)
        11.A jazz fan (slang)
        12.A coward or timid animal (Aust sl)
        13.Short for caterpillar (tractor)

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I wish the commentometer also registered ‘marks for artistic impression’!

  12. Many thanks Prolixic, and thanks again everyone else for the feedback–I know it can take time to do, and it really is appreciated and helps setters improve.

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