Rookie Corner – 250 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 250

A Puzzle by Jammy

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Jammy is the latest new setter to put his head above the parapet. 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 to Jammy.  A good start.  Although some of the clues might have offended, it is a reminder that the tone of a crossword should be targeted to the intended audience.  There were a few repetitions but otherwise apart from polishing some of the surface readings to make more natural sentences, there is little to comment on.  Apologies for the rather brief review.  i have been busy celebrating no longer having teenage children!

The commentometer reads as 3.5 / 30 or 11.66%.


1 See 23

7 Murder where noises may heard in the theatre (3)
OFF – A three letter slang term for murder is also follows the word noises in the theatrical stage direction indicating sounds coming from the wings.  There is a missing word as the clue should be “may be heard”.

9 Roofing operative goes around burning again (5)
RELIT – A reversal (goes around) of another word for someone who puts roofs on a building.

10 I pursue lead in interminably riotous feast, leaving unconscious (9)
REFLEXIVE – A four letter word for an electric lead followed by the I from the clue inside a five letter word for a riotous feast with the final letter removed (interminably).  Some editors would require I may pursue as there is a difference between I used as a pronoun and the verb pursue and I used as a letter in its own right that would require “I pursues” for the cryptic reading.  Perhaps “One pursues lead” would have been better.

11 Bachelor attired in athletic garb? (9)
SINGLETON – Split 7, 2 this would indicate an athlete is wearing a type of running vest.

12 Order cake before party (5)
BUNCH – A three letter word for a cake before the abbreviation for Companion of Honour (order).

13 Volcano found in energy state (7)
VIETNAM – A four letter name of a volcano in Italy inside a three letter word for energy.

15 Absent, but supposedly present where will is (4)
AWAY – Split 1,3 the answer would complete the phrase “where there’s a will there’s * ***”.

18 Big-mouthed water carrier/spectator drops six (4)
EWER – Another word for a spectator without the Roman numerals for 6.

20 German article in cipher is soporific (7)
CODEINE – The German masculine indefinite article inside a four letter word for a cipher.  There is a fair bit of repetition of using A in B where other containment indicators could be used.

23/1A/19 Disappearing act stages comeback? (3,2,11,7)
LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS – I am not sure that there is an entirely rational explanation for this clue.  It seems to be partly cryptic with act giving the law as in a statutory and stages comeback being the returns with disappearing giving diminishing but the whole clue does not really give a definition of the whole.  A nice try but it misses the mark.

24 Italian diner broadcast extravagant opera etc. retrospectively (9)
TRATTORIA – A reversal (retrospectively) of a three letter word meaning broadcast, the abbreviation for over the top and something of which an opera is an example.  Using opera, etc suggests that the plural “arts” is required but the singular art is all that is needed.

26 Crossword compiler’s companion, and hence Isaac’s son, right in the middle (9)
THESAURUS – The name of one of Isaac’s sons and the abbreviation for right inside (in the middle) of a four letter word meaning hence.

27 Notorious branch chopper chopped tree (5)
BEECH – The name of the infamous cutter of Britain’s railway network without the final three letters (chopped).  It is usual for chopped simply to refer to the removal of the last letter, not the deletion of an arbitrary number of letters.

28 Welsh town known for literary fodder? (3)
HAY – Cryptic definition of Welsh town on the river Wye where there is an annual literary festival. 

29 Ostrich is in outlandish performance (11)
HISTRIONICS – An anagram (outlandish) of OSTRICH IS IN.


1 Extract about jihadist group’s contemptuous (8)
DERISIVE – A word meaning extract or come from around the abbreviation of Islamic State.

2 Fake illness makes old lady tarry (8)
MALINGER – A two letter word for an old later and a six letter word meaning to tarry.

3 Region down south pertaining to buttocks (5)
NATAL – Double definition the first being a province of South Africa and the second being an adjective relating to the buttocks.

4 Hateful people keep rubbish in hairy sack (7)
SCROTUM – A four letter word for hateful people includes (keep in) a three letter word for rubbish.  As others have pointed out, the anatomical description is a sac, so perhaps a homophone indicator should have been added.

5 Trendy admirer thanks Spanish princess (7)
INFANTA – A two letter word for trendy, a three letter word for an admirer and a two letter word meaning thanks.

6 Old codger in drag turned up holding beery stew (9)
GREYBEARD – Revers the drag from the clue and include an anagram (stew) of BEERY.

7 Place of uprising? (6)
ORIENT – The place of the rising sun!  Not sure the this quite hits the mark.

8 Retiring pixie: bashful, soft and thick (6)
FLESHY – A reversal (retiring) of a three letter word for a pixie and a three letter word meaning bashful.

14 Novel and literary genre make fast breaking story (9)
NEWSFLASH – A three letter word meaning novel followed by the abbreviation for science fiction (literary genre) and a four letter word meaning tie or make fast.

16 One-nation Tory has nationality coming under notice (8)
DISRAELI – The single letter for a type of notice placing an embargo in a news story followed by the nationality of a middle-easterner.  I think that notice on its own is not quite sufficient to clue the D.  Perhaps press notice would have been better.

17 Repeatedly goes over her back and remains (8)
REHASHES – Reverse (back) the her from the clue and follow with another word meaning burnt remains.

19 See 23 Across

20 Blimey! Hugging backside is not so refined (7)
COARSER – A thee letter word meaning blimey includes (hugging) a four letter word for backside.

21 Most of spy agency admit being drunk and defect (6)
GLITCH – The abbreviation for the UK covert communications agency with the final letter removed (most of) around a three letter word meaning drunk.

22 Rather quaint, extremely dotty and robustly traditional (6)
TWEEDY – A four letter word meaning rather quaint followed by the outer letters (extremely) of dotty.

25 Bill has two loves, though it tends not to be mentioned in polite society (5)
TABOO – A three letter word for a bar bill and the letter representing love or zero twice.

31 comments on “Rookie Corner – 250

  1. That was no walk in the park but we did manage to get it all apart from the parsing of 10a. We got the answer from checkers and definition and could not think of anything else that would fit. Suspect that Jammy has had considerable prior experience in setting clues. A few bits of GK that we needed to check, eg 28a, the D in 16d and the acronym in 21d.
    Thanks Jammy.

  2. Thanks but no thanks, Jammy. I completed most of the grid, and was already beginning to get tired of buttocks and bottoms references when I looked at 4D. A compiler who chooses to include coarse euphemisms is definitely not one I am interested in.

  3. Very enjoyable – thanks Jammy. As 2k said I’d be amazed if this very skilful composition was your first.
    I’m still trying to parse 27a. Top clues for me were 5d, 21d and (with apologies to Expat Chris because it made me laugh) 4d.
    I think that there’s a ‘be’ missing in 7a.

  4. Some intricate wordplay would suggest that this is not a first effort. Quite tricky, overly so in places, and not particularly satisfying sorry to say, though I did like 21d.

    I also thought that the definitions were a tad vague here and there and I still have a few I can’t work out.

    Thanks Jammy, and in advance to Prolixic

  5. Thanks Jammy, very enjoyable
    Lots of good ideas, a few trickier ones, a couple I can’t quite fathom (the long one and 12a).
    My favourites were 3d and 8d. Also liked the branch chopper and the performing ostrich, make fast breaking story, and I think 7d is also good, despite having put ***GIN in originally.
    I had the impression of a few odd constructions, but going back to look I can only find one or two.
    I don’t see why someone shouldn’t write a good puzzle first time, so my money’s on this being a first or second go.

  6. Welcome, Jammy.

    There were plenty of good ideas in evidence, but I did feel that some of the surface readings needed more polish, and there was a tendency to repeat “in” as an insertion indicator – I noticed five examples.

    The clue for 7a doesn’t make sense as it stands (presumably “be” was omitted?), and the definition is shown in Chambers as American, so RD, for one, will not approve of this being unindicated. The cryptic grammar in 21d doesn’t work (it needs “admits” or “admitting”) and I do have some sympathy with Expat Chris’s comments.

    Overall, not a bad debut, but I’m sure that the setter could produce a much more polished product with more practice. Thanks, Jammy.

    It’s very appropriate that, just a few days before the Blog’s tenth birthday, Rookie Corner also reaches a landmark with this, its 250th puzzle.What an inspired decision it was of Big Dave’s to create this opportunity for new talent to emerge and I’m sure that I speak for many setters in saying that we owe him, as well as Prolixic, so much gratitude.

    1. I couldn’t agree more about the wonderful Rookie Corner. Many thanks to Big Dave on behalf of all us solvers too.

    2. I think Rookie Corner is brilliant and – as a solver – I’ve learned so much from both the comments and the excellent reviews from Prolixic.

  7. Nice to welcome another new face to Rookie Corner and there were certainly some good ideas in this one. My top two were 29a & 25d.

    I did think, like LbR, that some of the definitions were rather vague and would agree with Silvanus that more work is required on surface reads. As for 4d – sorry, not for me.

    Thank you, Jammy, look forward to your next one.

  8. This was an accomplished debut, Jammy, and, as others have said, you have some good ideas on show although a lot of your surfaces would benefit from more attention in future. Overall the puzzle was nicely challenging and I found the NE corner the hardest.

    As Silvanus correctly says, the answer to 7a is an American term and, as such, should be indicated (as today’s setter did with 5d in the back-pager).

    I can’t make up my mind if the ingenious 23a/1a/19d quite works or not and I’ll be interested to see Prolixic’s opinion tomorrow.

    Aside from any considerations of poor taste, the definition for 4d should actually be “… sac”, so I think “,we hear” needs to be appended to the clue.

    The synonym for “drunk” in 21d is not in my BRB, but it does crop up in the Telegraph cryptics from time to time.

    I had ticks by 11a, 12a, 15a, 27a, 21d & 25d.

    Well done and thank you, Jammy. Please keep them coming.

  9. Many thanks Jammy. Loads to like here. I thought 23a/1a/19d was a very good cd with a pun on act.

    the thing about rude clues is you have to make sure the clue is stunningly good, otherwise it can seem gratuitous.

    A few where i wasn’t sure of the parsing. let’s see what prolixic says.

    There are a few surfaces where i thought what is that about? but most were good.

    Impressive debut, many thanks

  10. I thought this was great – lots of sneakiness although I confess to being easily fooled.
    There were quite a lot of bums and buttocks but so what? They do exist and I’d never heard of the 3d one.
    As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong with 4d – apart from the ‘K’ in the clue it’s a correct anatomical term with a correct description.
    I still have three little mysteries – 12a and 7 and 16d.
    I’m not much good at ‘surface readings’ and all the technical stuff so will leave all that to Prolixic who knows about it.
    The clues that stood out for me were 27a and 2, 4, 5, 8 and 22d.
    With thanks and congratulations to Jammy for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. I do agree that words relating to anatomy are perfectly valid, but ‘hairy sack’, is not accurate and rather crude in my view – I would have avoided it altogether. Apart from the spelling, it’s not that hairy, unless I’m a biological freak.

      There are lots of words that are valid, which are to be avoided; solvers may be having their lunch.

      Crossword Compiler has given me ‘foreskin’ and ‘paedophile’ to clue before in auto-fill, but I have amended the grid because I don’t want solvers to have to go there.

      A puzzle is supposed to be light fun with penny-drop moments for entertainment, I for one see no necessity to use unsavoury vocabulary.

      Not offended, just sayin’, Kath. :smile:

    2. I’m glad I’m not the only non-tutter at 4d – I liked it.
      For 12a you need the abbreviation for an order or honour preceded by a small cake.
      In 7d what’s uprising is the sun.
      16d is a 19th-century Conservative Prime Minister – It’s a type of government notice stopping the press publishing stuff followed by a Middle Eastern nationality.

      1. Ah – thanks Gazza – crossword now finished but I would never have got my problem three without your hints.
        Probably best that I stay out of the rest of the exchange between you and LbR!

  11. Thanks Jammy. I really enjoyed this, some great penny drop moments. I had no problem with 4d, in fact laughed aloud when I got it.
    Last one in 3d – a new word for me.

  12. Thanks so much for all the feedback, and special thanks to Big Dave for the honour of being picked for Rookie Corner.

    This is about the sixth or seventh puzzle I have concocted, so I still consider myself a learner, although as Big Dave says, I have had a couple of puzzles published on Alberich’s website.

    A number of commentators have mentioned a lack of surface polish, and I agree that this is not my strong suit. Partly perhaps it’s because I feel that it’s more important to be fair to the solver than to produce an impressively smooth surface, and if the two come into conflict it should really be the latter that gives way. Of course, the best thing is when they don’t come into conflict, but I fear in my case this is more a matter of luck than any devising on my part. I shall persevere!

    Mortified by the typo spotted by Silvanus. This is a case of reading what one wants to read, rather than what is actually on the screen. And I think the point about having to many “in”-type clues is probably fair. And I’m truly sorry for having upset Expat Chris. This has been a valuable lesson in itself.

    Thanks again for all the encouraging comments. There are more where this came from if anyone’s interested. I would love to take my setting on to another level, but am rather unsure as to how best to proceed. Any hints/tips/thoughts would be most welcome!

    1. Hi Jammy,

      Assuming you don’t already have one, I would suggest having a regular test solver (preferably more than one actually) would help you immensely, especially if, as you say, you are very keen to raise your setting to a higher level. It’s also often a good idea not to choose a family member or a close friend for that role, i.e. it’s better to have someone who is not afraid to tell one when something doesn’t work!

      The other piece of advice I’d offer is not to be satisfied when thinking one has completed drafting a puzzle. Prolixic has said before that a successful setter requires an almost obsessive attention to detail, and, in addition to careful editing, it often pays dividends to go back to finished clues to see if they can improved, either by minor tweaks or by re-writes.

      Good luck with your future puzzles.

      1. Excellent advice from silvanus – although in a way we, the contributors to this blog, are the test solvers.

        I would add that it’s a good idea to print out your puzzle for proofreading, preferably in a layout which allows each clue to have just one line. This makes it easier to spot repetition and typos, which can be easily missed when scrolling down a screen.

    2. Hi Jammy – I would agree with Silvanus entirely. I’m still learning so I know how you feel.

      When you look back through the review, you will see that actually most of the clues are perfectly good. Study Prolixic’s comments carefully and make sure you fully understand the reasoning behind his comments so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

      Most of his observations are small details, so it really is attention to detail in the final draft, looking for inaccuracies and improvements.

      Have you ever tried leaving it for a week and then solving and thoroughly parsing it, ie not from memory, yourself? Often you will find niggles yourself – plurals, grammar etc.

      Going through RC archives is also a big help – you will see a pattern emerge of the most common points to look out for.

      Prolixic’s reviews are gold dust and there is no doubt in my mind that it will only take one or two puzzles for you to nail it.

      Keep ’em coming!
      Cheers, Roy.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – insightful as ever.

    Hope you enjoyed the celebrations but if you think it gets any easier from here on, I’m sorry to have to disillusion you!

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