Rookie Corner – 263 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 263

A Puzzle by Willie

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have another setter making his debut. 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 Willie.  This was a challenging crossword but for all the wrong reasons.  Whilst the basic structure and wordplay is mostly in place (with a couple of exceptions), there were too many obscurities and elliptical cluing to make this an entirely fair or enjoyable crossword to solve.  However, there were also some excellent clues such as the fantastic sextuple definition in 2d and the anagram and definition in 19a.

The obscurities and somewhat convoluted wordplay in some of the clues means that the commentometer reads at 9 / 28 or 32.1%.


1 Uproar when a scholar breaks into city toilet (10)
HULLABALOO – The A from the clue and the abbreviation for bachelor of arts (scholar) inside (breaks into) a four letter East Yorkshire city and a three letter word for a toilet.

6 No slouches in this city? On the contrary! (4)
OSLO – The answer is hidden in No slouches.  The on the contrary reverses the wordplay suggested by the first part of the clue.

9 Many footballers facing a crowd filled with rancour finally flare up (10)
DEFLAGRATE – The Roman numeral for 500 (many) followed by the abbreviation for English Football League and a four letter word for the crowd or attendance at a match including (filled with) the final letter for rancour.  Many to clue a roman numeral is a little loose.  The abbreviation is not one recognised in the main dictionaries.  Setter should use only those found in one of the main ones.

10 Fit to enter races once medical assistance available (19) (4)
ABLE – The answer if entered into TT (race) would give something that offers medical assistance.  I am not sure what the (19) is doing in the clue.  As a structure, I am not sure that the clue works entirely fairly for the solver as the “once…available” does not lead you to tablet. 

12 Sterile drays for chewing gum suppliers (12)
DRYSALTERIES – An anagram (for chewing) of STERILE DRAYS.  Whilst not technically incorrect, cluing unusual words as anagrams is not the fairest way of setting.

15 Unaccountable, but following directions initially, I gave most aid to international charities (9)
ENIGMATIC – The abbreviations for East and North (directions) followed by the initial letters for the final seven words of the clue.

17 Contractors taking legal action get result (5)
ENSUE – The contractions for East and North followed by a word meaning take legal action.  I am not keen on contractors to clue abbreviations as the number of possible abbreviations is too many to make this fair.  Also taking legal action would give suing, not sue and, if taking, is taken as an indicator to joint the wordplay together, legal action would require the noun suit.

18 Rear parts of architectural feature remaining after dilapidated YMCA demolished (5)
RECTA – Remove an anagram (dilapidated) of YMCA from CYMA RECTA (architectural feature).  I think that this falls on the wrong side for fairness for the solver.  The word for the architectural feature is obscure.

19 1100 leaderless Kurds won pitched battle for Union supremacy (5,4)
SCRUM DOWN – An anagram (pitched) of MC (1100) URDS (leaderless Kurds) WON.

20 After meeting Italian composer Lady Heather is keeping in touch (12)
CORRIVALLING – An obscure Italian composer (Corri) followed by a three letter ladies name and another word for heather.  Again, the wordplay here is a little too obscure give the unusual word used as a solution.

24 No.24……a military alignment (4)
AXISI think that this is Across giving A X but cannot see where the IS is clued.

25 Develop strategy having bilateral support in fierce onslaught (10)
BRAINSTORM – A bilateral supporting garment for women followed by the IN from the clue and another word for a fierce onslaught.

26 Lack of energy creates an impasse (2,2)
NO GO – Double definition.

27 Poor No.10 tightens up in periods of extra time (10)
EXTENSIONS – I think that this is E for poor (as in a poor mark) followed by the roman numeral fo 10 and a word meaning tightens up.  I think that “poor” on its own is not sufficient to give the letter.


1 Opening of childrens’ play closely followed by Sikh audience (4)
HIDE – The first part of the game Hide and Seek (Sikh audience).  Audience on its own does not really give a homophone indicator.  It needs  to be for the audience.  A minor point, but as children is a plural noun, the possessive form is children’s.

2 Split wing abandoned over Port Said according to report (4)
LEFT – Sextuple definition!!  Said sounds like side.

3 Two postgraduates involved with rag antic – in such style! (12)
ANAGRAMMATIC – An anagram (involved) MA MA RAG ANTIC.

4 Two fronts united by cockney war hero (5)
ARRIS – How a Cockney might pronounce the surname of a World War II bomber commander in chief.

5 Employment agent offers university post in half-term (9)
OUTPLACER – The abbreviation for Open University followed by another word for a post or position in TR (half term).  A phrase such as half term should be used to indicate TE or RM, not the alternate letters.

7 Young female captain returning to sinking ship offers resignation (10)
SUBMISSION – A three letter for an underwater ship followed by a four letter word for a young female and a reversal (returning) of No 1 (captain).  I think that there needs to be a better indication that the boat appears first in the answer.  Also, “number one” is not the captain.  It is the first officer below the captain.  Having offers as a linkword in consecutive clues should be avoided.

8 Ready to start sawing – or is that the foreman’s job? (10)
OVERSEEINGPass!  The wordplay makes no real sense even with the benefit of the setter’s notes.

11 Fundamentalists stop cars going on to back street (12)
DETERMINISTS – A five letter word meaning stop followed by a five letter words for small cars and a reversal (back) of the abbreviation for street.

13 Spraying pure Chanel is little help to Irish housewives (10)
LEPRECHAUN – An anagram (spraying) of PURE CHANEL.

14 Getting rid of dealer’s diamonds possibly (10)
DISCARDING – Loosely DIS-CARDING could be the dealer getting rid of cards – I am not convinced by the wordplay.

16 She wants to leave exam at Reading before 9 (9)
TESTATRIX – A four letter word for an exam followed by the AT from the clue, the abbreviation for reading (as in the three Rs) and the Roman numerals for 9.

21 In France you’ll find nothing to read about this region (5)
LOIRE – Put the letter representing nothing inside the French word meaning to read.

22 Country fare ready for eating (4)
TOGO – Split 2,2, the answer could mean ready for eating as in food from a takeaway.

23 Worldwide celebration when unidentified missile capsizes (4)
XMAS – One of the letters meaning an unknown or unidentified quantity followed by a reversal (capsizes) of a three letter word for a type of missile.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner – 263

  1. A very tough crossword – if it hadn’t been a Bank Holiday, I’d have had to give up with more than half the clues unsolved as I’d have had to start work. There are a lot of clues that work well (eg 1a, 6a, 15a, 17a…11d, 13d, 14d, 15d, 22 and 23d) but there is far too much ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ and quite a bit of checking things actually are what the definition says, eg 12a and 4d

    I have a lot of nq (not quite right) by a number of the clues, a couple of question marks, and an ugh, not to mention the indirectness involved in 3d, and a possible missing letter in 5d, but I feel that if I start to say why and what I think doesn’t quite work, I’ll be doing Prolixic’s job for him, rather than helping Mr CS in the garden

    Thanks to Willie – there are some good things in there and I’m sure once you’ve taken on board the suggestions made in the review, your next puzzle will be a lot more solver-friendly.

  2. I wrote 1a in straight away but it was mostly downhill after that. I completed about three-quarters of it and then succumbed and revealed several letters in order to get to the finish line.
    There are many bits I still don’t understand but also lots to admire. I particularly like the ‘bilateral support’ in 25a and the ‘battle for Union supremacy’ in 19a. 8d is brilliant (once the penny dropped) and I ticked 7d and 16d as top clues.
    If I’ve counted correctly I make 2d a ‘sextuple’ which is a stunning clue.
    Many thanks to Willie but I have to say that I think you’ve made it too tough with overcomplicated wordplay. I’d suggest you channel your undoubted talents into something a bit more user-friendly for your next puzzle.
    Incidentally, my answer to 14d (which I was pretty sure was correct) was marked wrong when I submitted it, in favour of a word which I can’t parse at all.

    1. My solution for 14d fits the wordplay but not the online grid so I think that’s the bit that’s wrong

    2. The setter provided the puzzle as a spreadsheet, so I had to set it up in Crossword Compiler. I obviously clicked on the wrong option! It’s now correct.

  3. Our experience with this puzzle was very much the same as the above comments.
    There seems lately to have been a string of puzzles where the setters have not appreciated the relationship that they need to have with their solvers. To make the clues so difficult that solvers just give up should not be the object of the exercise. This particularly applies here where, by definition, we know the setter is new to the task and the puzzle has not been subject to the process of test solving and editorial oversight that our usual diet of crosswords has been through.
    There are some brilliant clues as Gazza points out and we did appreciate these, but overall it was a negative experience for us.

  4. Broadly, my thoughts are in line with previous comments. There is plenty of craft on display and I would be intrigued to try another from this setter.

    As noted, I would have preferred more ‘Got It!’ moments and fewer ??s. There was some revealing for me too, plus some slightly strange vocabulary didn’t add to my enjoyment.

    An excellent debut and a clever puzzle William – perhaps it didn’t need to be quite so clever and possibly a little more humorous.

    Well done and many thanks for the challenge.

    PS After Harold on Saturday and now William, I desperately wanted to finish this at 11:06 :wink:

    1. Ok … I know it’s not 1066 but why 11:06 … hope I’m not too late for an answer?

  5. Far too tough for me.

    But why shouldn’t a Rookie Corner Puzzle be tough? It’s not for Rookie solvers.

  6. I surrender. After a flying start with the excellent 1a and the incredible sextuple definition 2d, I thought we were in for a treat but after a few more entries I ground to a complete halt.

    I think the 2 Kiwis have summed up my feelings perfectly.

    You clearly have a lot of skill, Willie. I look forward to your next offering in the hope that you can make it more accessible.

  7. Thanks Willie
    Some smart stuff. I liked 8d, 13d and 14d among others. (btw, at 12.30, the solution for 14d is ****E*N***, which I think is still wrong)
    I had to reveal quite a few, and didn’t feel after revealing that I should have tried harder – there’s difficult vocabulary combined with tricky wordplay – so overall too hard for me.
    No problem with 2d, but to say there are 6 definitions is overdoing it a bit, isn’t it, since there’s a lot of overlapping?

    1. i often think a triple definition detracts from what could have been an excellent double definition. So when setting multiple definitions, it is worth asking whether each addition is improving the clue or not. Having said that, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen a sextuple definition, which is an amazing achievement in its own right – though ideally all the meanings should be independent.

  8. Far too tough for me as well, I’m afraid. As the 2Ks rightly say, if a puzzle is weighted too much against the solver, as this one is, then it ceases to be an enjoyable experience unfortunately. Like CS, I had “doesn’t quite work” against several clues (those I could decipher), but, even after seeking electronic assistance, there are just as many that I still don’t understand.

    StanXYZ is perfectly justified in saying that there is no reason why a Rookie puzzle shouldn’t be hard, but it should always be fairly clued. This one failed that test on a number of occasions, in my opinion. The best clue for me was 13d.

    I hope that the setter will read Prolixic’s review with care, there is a lot of potential here, but future puzzles need to be more accessible.

    Thank you, Willie.

  9. I’ve managed to slot in 11 answers but am still unsure about two of those – reckon it’s time to call a halt.
    Might come back to try again later but am not holding out much hope of completing this without a serious amount of cheating.

    Sorry, Willie, I’m sure you’ve put a lot of time and effort into compiling the puzzle.

    1. I did come back to it and don’t feel bad about having given up earlier – there were only a couple of other answers that I thought I should have managed first time around!

  10. Thanks Prolixic for the illumination. It now occurs to me that the contractors for E N must be bridge players, as I also took discarding to be a bridge-related CD. When seeing is over you start sawing on a see-saw; I liked that

    1. I actually wrote ‘ah – bridge’ on my sheet of paper yesterday morning when I was trying to parse the clues

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Quite a relief to read that even you struggled to make sense of a couple of the clues!

  12. I had a hard battle with this one, more or less hammering out all the answers in the end with the aid of a dictionary and solver software. I found some of the cryptic wordplay vague and sometimes baffling (I haven’t yet read Prolixic’s comments, though, which may explain some points!) Examples:
    9a – I can see how you get the last 6 letters, but not the first 4.
    18a – I follow ‘Rear parts’, but not the wordplay
    24a – I think the wordplay must involve SIX and A somehow, but can’t put it all together in the right order
    27a – again, don’t follow the wordplay (X (Roman numeral? or ‘TEN’?)
    1d – the homophone indicator is inaccurate (should be something like ‘Sikh for audience’). The whole thing seems a bit woolly, too.
    2d I think this is 6 meanings of th answer (v good as far as it goes), but I don’t see ‘ ‘Said according to report’, though it’s clearly a homophonel
    5d – ‘half-term’ represents TR in the answer, as I understand it, but if you split ‘term’ in half you get either TE or RM (to get TR, the clue would needs to specify that you need only th odd letters of ‘term’.
    8d – I think ‘sawing’ is meant to indicate that ‘seeing’ is now finished, and that ‘see’ (in the present tense) thus becomes ‘saw’ (the past tense). If so, it’s quite good, though v sneaky!
    14d – you need to get the answer cryptically from ‘dealer’s diamonds possibly’, but this phrase doesn’t correspond grammatically with the answer, though I see the oblique definition of the answer that’s intended.
    23d – I find this clumsy cryptically – it should strictly result in MASX, and ‘unknown’ is more accurate than ‘unidentified’ as a definition of X.

    Nevertheless there were some good ones- I liked 19a, 25a, 4d and 16d. I should also add hat about 4 of the words were new ones n me, and I’ve been advised that obscurities should preferably be avoided (though personally I’nm happy to have my vocabulary enlarged!)

    1. Hi Brunel – I would suggest reading the blog and the review before posting!

      By the way, yes X = ten in Roman numerals, probably the oldest one in the book along with M, C, L, D, V and I.

      Big Dave’s Mine may help

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