Rookie Corner – 237 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 237

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.

After a promising improvement in his last crossword, I did not find this crossword as approachable and well clued.  Where you are including more complex clues, you have to be much more precise in the clue construction.  There were some lose constructions and too many repetitions of wordplay indicators.  Four hidden words is too many.  The gird construction was unhelpful as 12 of the solutions have less than 50% checking letters with the first and last letters unchecked.  This would not be acceptable except, perhaps, in a themed puzzle where the theme provides additional help.  The commentometer reads as  7 / 28 or 25%.


7 Drag queen in Barbican, say (5)
TOWER – The three letter word meaning drag followed by the regnal cypher for the current queen.

8 Doctor gets people in scans for kicks, perhaps (9)
MOVEMENTS – The abbreviation for medical orderly (doctor) followed by (gets) a three letter word for people inside a four letter word meaning scans.

10 Land of the French is even nastier (6)
ESTATE – The French third person singular for is followed by the even letters (even) of nastier.  A couple of points to note.  By including “the” before French, you force the cryptic grammar to have the French for is.  Omitting the “the”, this problem would be overcome.  Secondly, for even letters, it should be evenly nastier.  This does not fit the surface reading.  The could be overcome by using “regularly” giving “Land of French is regularly nastier”.

11 After turning mushrooms, Fiddlesticks and female setter crack open Chardonnay and set (8)
SPECIFIC – Reverse (after turning) a four letter word for mushrooms and follow with a single letter representing the setter (Fiddlesticks), the abbreviation for female and the single letter representing the setter again.  The add the opening letter (crack open) of Chardonnay.  The surface reading leaves an unfinished sentence which is not ideal.  I don’t like crack open as the initial letter indicator as crack open means to break or remove the top from something.  Perhaps  “add a bit of Chardonnay”

12 Hardy’s pure woman faithfully presented, getting in twice, exposing triviality (8)
TININESS – The name of the heroine in a Thomas Hardy novel contains the IN from the clue twice.  Although not wrong, the definition of the heroine is over-elaborate and could have been shortened to “Hardy’s heroine” or “Hardy lady”

13 Failed to succeed with indecent pick-up (4)
BLEW – A homophone (pick-up) of BLUE (indecent).

15 Interpretation of Enigma adding new variation (7)
MEANING – An anagram (variation) of ENIGMA with an N (new) included (adding).

17 Setter found in watery grave (7)
SERIOUS – The single letter representing the setter inside a six letter word meaning watery.  As setter has already been used in 11a, a different indicator should have been used here.

20 Blemish coming to light in disc artwork (4)
SCAR – The answer is hidden in the final two words of the clue.

22 Current on after circuit indicates goal (8)
AMBITION – A five letter word meaning circuit followed by the abbreviation for current and the ON from the clue.  

25 Showers, and bathes taking a second hour (8)
LAVISHES – A five letter archaic word meaning bathes includes (taking) the letter I (a = one = I) and the abbreviation for second and hour.  A couple of points on this clue.  First, as the word for bathes is an archaic one, this should be indicated in the clue.  Secondly, the two step process A = One = I is a bit of a stretch and may not be acceptable to editors.

26 Grain of rice reallocated (6)
CEREAL – The answer is hidden in (of) the final two words of the clue.

27 Not like to be fed if “mixed raw starter” extends to chicken portion and rat’s tail (9)
DIFFERENT – An anagram (mixed) of FED IF followed by the first letter (starter) of RAW and the final two letters (portion) of a three letter word for chicken and the final letter (tail) of RAT.  The entire clue is something of a stew.  I am not overly keen on “extends to” as a concatenation indicator and portion to select only two letters is a little loose.

28 Custom initially holds AI back in technology (5)
HABIT – The initial letters for the final five words of the clue.


1 Crisis about insects having way in with turning points (9)
SOLSTICES – The abbreviation for save our souls (crisis) around (about) a word for insects that includes (having … in) the abbreviation for street (way).  The indicator for SOS is incorrect.  The SOS is a message following a crisis, not the crisis itself.  Perhaps “Call in a crisis about…” would be better

2 Respect is helping to restrain English League (8)
RELATION – A six letter for a helping or portion includes (to restrain) the abbreviations for English and League.

3 Control group given shots containing only peripheral ingredients (7)
POSSESS – A five letter word for a group or gang of people followed by the outer letters (peripheral ingredients) of SHOTS.  The use of containing only peripheral ingredients does not work for me to indicate only the outer letters.  Perhaps “using only” would be better.

4 Get back together, as losing favour (8)
RESEMBLE – Remove the AS from a word meaning get back together.  The construction “as losing” does not work in the cryptic grammar.  Perhaps without a special favour would be better.

5 Dirty pass (6)
DEFILE – Double definition the first as a verb meaning to make dirty or sordid and the second as a pass in mountain.

6 Way to go by air for one section of flight (5)
STAIR – The abbreviation for street (way) followed by the AIR from the clue.  We have a repetition of way for ST here.  Also, it would better to have fewer direct inclusions from the clue into the solution.  This is the third clue where this has been done.

9 Lived in awe: redeemed (4)
WERE – The answer is hidden in the final two words of the clue.  Three simple hidden word clues is too many.  With a fourth coming put, then this is over-egging the clue type.

14 Aim to cut a mix without having to do anything (9)
AUTOMATIC – An anagram (mix) of AIM TO CUT A.  As mix has already been used as an anagram indicator, a different indicator should be used.

16 Arctic hornet near mutation (8)
NORTHERN – An anagram (mutation) of HORNET NR (NEAR).

18 Trainee best left inside (8)
INTERNAL – A six letter word for a trainee followed by the letter representing top grade or best and the abbreviation for left.

19 Source of fuel: Stars and Stripes flags (3,4)
TAR SAND – The answer is hidden in (flags) STARS AND.  The stripes as clued is a padding word.  This could have been corrected by hyphenating the words “stars-and-stripes”.

21 Heads perhaps hanker after these when streaming audio? On the contrary (6)
CHIEFS – The word that follows HANDKER (homophone – audio – of hanker) when describing something you would use on a streaming nose.

23 Muscle lacking power, section getting blue (4)
BICE – The name of the muscles in the arms removing the abbreviations for power and section.  For the clue to word, muscle needs to be muscles.  

24 Fear of a god (5)
PANIC – Double definition, the second being an adjective relating to the god Pan.

24 comments on “Rookie Corner – 237

  1. I have been trying to download the puzzle over the past several hours and all I get is “The requested page cannot be found”.

    1. There was a problem with the schedule date for publication of the page (it was set to appear on Tuesday). I have corrected and it should now be available.

      Apologies for the inconvenience.

    1. I thought I had sorted everything out last night but it wasn’t so – I’ve rebuilt the files so they should be OK now – but beware cached versions!

  2. Hi Fiddlesticks,

    many thanks for sharing this puzzle, which was fun to solve. It was hardish, i thought, but far from impossibly so – a nice level.

    Part of the difficulty comes from the choice of grid. 18 words are without a checking first letter, and there is only a single connection between quadrants. At time of solving I did not have the enumeration either, but that is now fixed. It only got me into trouble with 19d.

    I thought 28a was good, took me a while to see. Also liked Dirty pass.

    Some minor comments, in the hope that they are of use:

    10a I’m not sure “even nastier” works as an instruction, I think it needs “evenly nastier”
    11a Not overly keen on two setter reference, but technically fine
    12a. Maybe “Hardy’s woman” suffices?
    13a I don’t think you need “to succeed”. When is failed not “failed to succeed”?
    17a nice clue, but you’ve used the setter already. I had to check watery.
    25a strictly a to i is two-step, a to one, then one to roman numeral, but probably now accepted usage.
    27a I think there is a cryptic grammar mismatch between “to be” and “extends to”, unless i’m missing something. extending to would work. Think “definition to be wordplay extends to wordplay”. I’m taking chicken portion as EN, which i think is slightly dodgy, but i might be making a mistake. Overall, a little busy and clumsy.

    1d I think of sos as a call for help, not sure that is the same as crisis
    3d i think “containing” is a bit misleading here, would be happier with “having”
    4d, took me a while to see this, the “as losing” is a bit Yoda like.
    19d is this a hidden? if so not ideal with it finishing at the end of a word.
    23d new word for me

    Many thanks again and congratulations!

  3. Thanks Fiddlesticks
    The most enjoyable of your puzzles to date. I like that one has to puzzle out where the definition is and what its form is – in 2, 17, 25 say, but generally throughout.
    Clues I liked: 15a, 17a (v good, concise, elegant) 13a, 5d, 21d
    I found it quite hard (finally had to reveal 1d) but just about ok.
    Some of the difficulty was from unexpected usages:
    8a kicks – pretty random and unhelpful
    22a circuit – even if it’s ok, it’s unusual
    25a bathes – unusual
    1d crisis – doesn’t quite match what you have
    3d control – unexpected
    4d favour – don’t get it, though I haven’t looked it up
    19d flags – don’t see how this indicator works
    In 13a, I think your solution is transitive, though your def is intransitive. Maybe something like ‘Failed to take advantage of indecent pick-up’?
    I won’t repeat points Dutch has made, except the one about ‘en’ being a dodgy portion of chicken.

    1. Mucky, I was very surprised to find the answer to 4d listed as a colloquialism under “favour” in my BRB (although the correspondence is not confirmed if you look up the answer itself).

      1. favour is in chambers thesaurus under the answer. How do you use it? He favours his mother’s side?

  4. A slightly unhelpful grid and one or two iffy or vague definitions, but overall not a bad puzzle, I thought.

    I will be interested to see the review regarding the points raised by Dutch & Mucky.

    Thanks Fiddlesticks, and in advance to Prolixic

  5. Here goes for the second time …

    I enjoyed parts of this but not all. There was a mixture of very good clues together with some tortuous and clunky ones (e.g. 11a, 27a & 21d).

    Dutch and Mucky have covered most of my comments and even I noticed the duplication of “setter”.

    Wouldn’t 19d work better using “Stars-and-Stripes”? Even so I struggled with this one as I was working with my printed copy without the enumerations and it took a while for the penny to drop that it was (3,4) and not (7)!

    I learned a couple of new words in 5d & 23d.

    24d was my favourite.

    Thank you, Fiddlesticks, and in advance to Prolixic.

  6. That’s me in the corner waving the white flag while throwing the towel into the ring. This was a real toughie for me & I’m left with a plethora of white squares.

    Thanks anyway Fiddlesticks & to Prolixic in advance for his enlightenment.

  7. Welcome back, Fiddlesticks.

    I’m afraid that I didn’t enjoy this very much, far too many liberties were taken with clueing conventions for my liking, there were some very unconvincing surfaces, several verbose constructions, and my repetition radar seemed to bleep much more frequently than usual. Apart from “I” being clued on three occasions either by “setter” or “Fiddlesticks”, “way” was used twice to clue “ST”, and “mix” was repeated as an anagram indicator. The unhelpful grid only added to the difficulty factor unfortunately.

    Others have raised quite a few of my concerns already, but I’m not a fan of four-letter lurkers, and there were two in evidence today, and I thought it disappointing that “on” in 22a and “air” in 6d were not replaced by alternative words as they transferred directly into the respective solutions. 24d deserved a question mark I feel. 19d and 23d represented new words, only Collins seems to feel that the latter is a colour, Chambers specifies it as a paint.

    I tried very hard to be enthused, but it was more of a slog than a pleasure, I’m sorry to report. My one tick went to 7a, but it went downhill rapidly for me after that promising start.

    Prolixic will have invaluable advice to give, as always, about the more unconventional constructions, i.e. what is permissible and what isn’t, and I hope the setter will take that on board before embarking on his next one.

    Thanks, Fiddlesticks.

  8. Think I’m going to have to accept that this setter’s style of compiling simply doesn’t appeal to me.
    Like Silvanus, I was full of hope after solving 7a but that clue along with 15a were the only bright spots for me in an otherwise unrewarding slog.

    Others have already raised many of my concerns and I shall look forward to reading the comments from Prolixic who always manages to take a step back and deal solely with technical issues.

    Thanks to Fiddlesticks and apologies for not fully appreciating your efforts.

  9. I’m afraid this was too hard for me. Like spindrift, I had to throw in the towel with not much completed.

  10. Thanks everyone for the feedback. I’m glad the puzzle was enjoyed quite a bit by those who said as much. Also that my efforts to reduce the difficulty level seem to be starting to have the desired effect, though it’s something of a balancing act, as witness for example silvanus’s disappointment that I didn’t take the opportunity to obscure 22a and 6d any further than I did.

    As before, the detailed points are invaluable. I am grateful for them, as well as for the positive sentiments and the negatives too of course. Jane, I’m glad the one clue gave you hope at least! I’ve now set myself a goal to one day create an entire puzzle you love! Not sure how yet, but I’ll find a way…

    Thanks again all, and best wishes.

  11. Well, this puzzle kept me amused for a long time, which is good, but ultimately it defeated me, having to look up answers to 8a, 25a, 27a, 1d, 3d, 5d, 19d, 21d and 23d.New words to me were 19d and 23d. I managed to screw up 7a right at the start by putting in “lager”, which seemed to fit the clue (albeit loosely – I don’t think that anyone who can remember the ghastly drink Barbican could seriously call it a lager).

    Thanks anyway, Fiddlesticks for the puzzle, and to Prolixic for the review.

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I do hope that Fiddlesticks will take all your advice on board when constructing his next puzzle.

  13. Many thanks for your review, Prolixic, and to everyone for all the comments. I think I stared at this one for too long, and let some silly mistakes creep in while tinkering perhaps. More lessons learned. The intended surface of 11a was something akin to “walkers get on their coats and walk”, but of course “set” as an intransitive verb doesn’t actually work that way. On 23d by the way, biceps isn’t plural, it just happens to end with an “s”! Something I only discovered myself while checking another aspect of the clue.

    Once again, thanks and best wishes to all.

    1. Thanks to Prolixic for the review
      I thought ‘set’ at the end was OK and quite neat since you’d set up what you meant earlier. Also don’t see why ‘of the French’ won’t do ‘of the French (people): is’ is how I read it.

  14. Good thing I got 11a earlier on, otherwise Khyber was going straight in 5d.
    Never been very good at double defs.
    Found it really hard and gave up on the last few unfortunately.
    Thanks to Fiddlesticks and to Prolixic.

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