Rookie Corner – 271 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 271

A Puzzle by Grub

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Grub is our latest new setter in Rookie Corner. 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 Grub with a themed crossword with a number of the solutions being the propriety names of chocolate bars.  This was a good start for the first crossword from a Rookie setter but on digging into the clues there were a few weaknesses to address.  The main one is watching the use of synonyms.  There were a few places where word A = word B = word C was used where Word A did not mean Word C.

Whilst some of the surface readings were less than polished, this will come with practice.

One other point to watch is the construction of grid.  12 of the solutions had less than 50% cross-checked letters.  Whilst there is some latitude with themed crosswords, this was probably too many solutions without the usual 50% minimum cross-checking.

The commentometer reads as 5.5/28 or 19.6%.


7 Hands over influence, admitting criminal gains (5,4)
SIGNS AWAY – A four letter word meaning influence includes (admitting) an anagram (criminal) of GAINS.

8 Subject matter to photons, ionise charges initially (5)
TOPIC – The TO from the clue followed initial letters (initially) of the fourth to sixth words of the clue.

9 Uniform fit backwards, starting to turn fit is not possible to perform (9)
UNACTABLE – The abbreviation for uniform followed by a reversal (backwards) of a three letter word meaning fit, the initial letter (starting to) of turn and a four letter word meaning fit.  I am not too sure about the first synonym for fit.  I think it relies on an illogical link between fit = able = can.  However, you have to be careful with this sort of construction.  If word A = word B and word B = word C, this does not mean that word A means Word C.  Another point to note is that I don’t think that “starting to” works as an initial word indicator.  Beginning to would word as beginning is a positional indicator but starting is not.

10 Alcoholic drink without Northern wind (5)
SNAKE – A four letter Japanese alcoholic drink around (without) the abbreviation for Northern.  A couple of points here – first is the old canard that without means around.  Without means outside and, whilst outside can mean around, this does not means that without means around.  The second is that the surface reading here is nonsensical.

12 Peculiar, I start to yodel? (6)
SCREWY – A five letter word for a grub followed by the initial letter (start to) of yodel.  I think that there is too much indirectness in this clue to make it fair.  The solver has to get from I (= setter), grub (the name of the setter) to screw as a synonym of grub.  I= setter = grub = screw is to many stages.

13 Dancing only wows one bird (5,3)
SNOWY OWL – An anagram (dancing) of ONLY WOWS.

14 Good, good person in divine phantom (7)
GHOSTLY – The abbreviation for good followed by the abbreviation for saint (good person) inside (in) a four letter word meaning divine.

17 Organs heard from youthful joints? (7)
KIDNEYS – A homophone (heard) from KID KNEES (youthful joints).  I am not too keen on “heard from”.  Perhaps “Sound of young joints and organs” would be a little better.

20 Two handed arm gets Ali further (8)
CLAYMORE – The original surname of Mohammed Ali followed by a four letter word meaning further.

22 Increases takes (6)
BOOSTS – Double definition.  The second appears to be a slang Americanism for shoplifts.  If this was the intention, then the Americanism should have been indicated.

24 Swivel lopped off pair of hands (5)
TWIRL – A four letter word meaning pair of with the final letter removed (lopped off) followed by the abbreviations for right and left (hands).

25 Losing heart, once more chase is a battle (9)
AGINCOURT – A five letter word meaning once more without the central letter (losing heart) followed by a five letter word meaning chase or woo.

26 Perfectionist ain’t admitting to smear (5)
STAIN – The answer is hidden in (admitting) the first and second words of the clue.

27 Well mannered police department hiding evil is put straight (9)
CIVILISED – A three letter abbreviation for a police department includes (hiding) an anagram (put straight) of EVIL IS.


1 Dine out on choice steal, dropping a couple of thousand (6)
PICNIC – A four letter word meaning choice and a four letter word meaning steal, each without their final K (dropping a couple of thousand).  The use of “on” as a linkword does not work.  You have definition on wordplay.

2 Back to front pants? Brief time for titters (8)
SNICKERS – A seven letter word for pants and the abbreviation for second (brief time) swap places (back to front).

3 Lots of stars in fundraiser, and some unknowns (6)
GALAXY – A four letter word for a fundraising party followed by two letter used algebraically to represent unknown quantities.

4 Explosion covers nearly everyone in sandbags for example (7)
BALLAST – A five letter word meaning an explosion around (covers) a three letter word for everyone with the final letter removed (nearly).  I am not too keen on covers meaning around in a down clue as positionally, covers suggests over in a down clue.

5 Geordie will almost certainly go on air for reward (6)
BOUNTY – Worst homophone of the year award for how a Georgie might say (go on air) bound to (will almost certainly.

6 Type in chairman of the board’s number for 3 (5,3)
MILKY WAY – A three letter word meaning type inside (in) a song by Frank Sinatra (Chairman of the Board.  The rule when setting is that common nouns can be capitalised but proper nouns must retain their capitalisation.

11 God, according to hearsay, is modest (4)
LOKI – A homophone (according to hearsay) of low key (modest).  A point to watch where the homophone indicator is in the middle of the wordplay is to make sure the solver can be clear which is the definition and which is the wordplay.  Here, the clue could equally be a homophone of God makes a word meaning modest.

15 Goons saw filth disguised (8)
HALFWITS – An anagram (disguised) of SAW FILTH.

16 Liverpool opener, one-nil, number one with Mané (4)
LION – The first letter (opener) followed by the letters representing one and nil followed by the abbreviation for number.  A couple of points here – First, to indicate the first letter, it should really be Liverpool’s opener.  Secondly, the point is well made in the comments that by adding the accent, this unfairly changes the definition.  A Mané is not a mane.  Whilst you can mislead, you have to mislead fairly.  As an early pioneer of crossword setting put it, “I need not mean what I say, but I must say what I mean.”

18 Freshly coined, branch embraced by new E-coin (8)
NEOLOGIC – A three letter word fora branch inside (embraced by) an anagram (new) of E COIN.

19 Perhaps emperor tucked in to open Guinness (7)
PENGUIN – The answer is hidden is the final two words of the clue.

21 Dog from royal house for example (6)
YORKIE – A four letter word for a royal house and the abbreviation for id best (for example).  I don’t think that “that is” means for example.

22 Outlaw, forbid, full-stop! (6)
BANDIT – A three letter word meaning forbid followed by a three letter word for a full stop.

23 Gobbler of a prison warden loses core (6)
TURKEY – A seven letter word for a prison warden without the central letter (loses core).

54 comments on “Rookie Corner – 271

  1. That took us well into Toughie time and there are still a couple, eg 24a, where the parsing needs a bit more thought. Our last one in was 12a where it took ages to understand the ‘I’.
    Really good clues from a setter who seems to know what the game is all about.
    We really enjoyed the solve.
    Thanks Grub.

    1. Have got 24a now.
      Still chuckling at the cleverness of 6d.
      Not knowing anything about footballers was a help with getting 16d.

  2. Embarking on the last few Rookie crosswords I have felt a little like a Christian in the Colosseum as the gates open and the lions saunter in. This time (at least at first) I felt as though a much friendlier animal had entered the arena. By the end, though, the emperor had clearly had enough and the the big cats arrived. That is to say, I really enjoyed this! Congratulations to Grub for an excellent puzzle. If I have any quibbles I think maybe 21d produces a very peculiar dog and I don’t get 5d at all.

    1. Thanks Atrica, glad it provided a bit of resistance in the end, once you have a few crossers to help!

      I’d be interested to know what dog 21d could produce? I was hoping the surface would draw people towards corgis.

      5d is based on saying ‘Bound to’ in a geordie accent. I based it on an old and slightly rude joke, but I think I will avoid these in the future as they will make it very tricky for non UK solvers particularly.

  3. Some very clever stuff – well done! The wordplay is, in the main, very accurate as are the definitions. Some lovely deceptive moves, too. Some of the surfaces are surreal at best and bordering on nonsensical in other places. I always feel the test that I was taught by others here, “Could I use this clue as a sentence down the pub without it sounding like crossword-ese?” is a very sound one and one I trial all my clues with (often without success!).

    Particularly liked 3d and 7a. And your audacity in 16d – very inventive!!

    There’s lots more I’ve written in notes against each clue as I solved but, looking through them, there are too many spoilers to post them here. Grub, if you’d like them then please ask Big Dave to put us in email contact and I will send them across. [I won’t be offended if you don’t, of course :-) ]


    Tim / Encota

    1. Many thanks Encota!

      Certainly some of the surfaces are lacking, whether or not it is something you would say out loud is definitely a good test. When bashing my head against a tricky word to clue I build up more background to the surface in my head which of course won’t translate to the solver.

      I would love to have your comments, I will ask Big Dave to pass on my email.


  4. A tricky one with a few where I still have ? and others where, like Encota, i could comment but I’ll leave it for Prolixic

    Thanks to Grub – as Encota says it is now time to work on your surface readings – and in advance, to Prolixic

    1. Just a bit ;) We have a charity cake sale this morning which, although not containing the themed items, will help to ease the hunger pangs

    2. Thanks for the feedback Prolixic!

      I have fallen foul of interpreting the rules from solving, seen capitalisations one way and assumed they were fair game, same for accents. Although I do think it is a bit of a shame for the cheekiness they can offer if not used unfairly.

      I agree about without in 10a, I included it because it has caught me out a number of times, but it is a very vague clue which doesn’t need further misdirection. I will avoid it in future

      Other than that some would be sorted by better proof reading, plus re-writing some of the surfaces entirely.

      The grid is a standard one from the Guardian, they way I fit theme words is to cycle through all of the Guardian grids and pick from the grids with the most words in.

  5. Overall, a good puzzle which I enjoyed, though I do agree with Encota that a few surfaces don’t make much sense and two I think are a little dubious. Despite that, I have quite a few ticks, 7a for one.

    My only real issue was 11d. It’s an obscure answer clued with a homophone. I guessed at L for the third letter which was wrong, then revealed, mystified. Not sure I understand 6d yet, there must be some colloquial relevance which I don’t know.

    Very good debut Grub, thank you.

    1. Many thanks LetterboxRoy!

      I agree 11d may be asking for a fairly obscure bit of general knowledge without much of a cryptic crutch to lend support. I’m not sure if I should give away full parsings yet, but in 6d Chariman of the board is a nickname for Frank Sinatra. Glad it was enjoyed over all!

      1. Thanks for the clarification, I half guessed it must be something like that. If that’s the case, shouldn’t it be capitalised in the clue, as it is in your comment?

        As I understand it, you can falsely capitalise to mislead, but not vice-versa.

        1. You could be right, my own comment doesn’t really leave me with a leg to stand on but I’m not sure if it requires capitalisation generally?

          That said I hadn’t heard of/noticed while solving the one way street on capitalisation, but it could well be exactly that, I just haven’t noticed.

  6. A very enjoyable puzzle with an impressive number of themed items – thanks Grub.
    I found the bottom easier than the top with 12a my last answer (very sneaky!). I can’t fully parse 5d.
    As others have said some of the surfaces (e.g. 9a) need a bit of polishing.
    I’ll pick out 1d, 6d and 19d for my podium.
    I hope to see another of your puzzles soon.

    1. Many thanks Gazza

      Some of the surfaces are definitely a bit rough, 9a was a bit unfortunate as I don’t like the word much but used it to get crossers for the theme words. That said, it could have been clued more smoothly! 5d is intended to be a homophone of “bound to” in a Tyneside accent, which I shamelessly borrowed from a joke I was told a while ago.

  7. Fortunately I spotted the theme quite early which certainly helped with some of the later clues. Well done to the setter for including so many themed answers.

    As has already been mentioned, the wordplay was sound in most cases, but some of the surfaces were fairly dreadful, if truth be told. However much one might become attached to a particular construction, a setter should always be prepared to scrap it, if the surface reading doesn’t pass muster.

    I could imagine a Glaswegian saying 5d more than a Geordie actually, and my repetition radar bleeped on more than one occasion with duplicated or near-duplicated wordplay indicators. I didn’t much care for the setter’s predilection for repeating words within the same clue, i.e. two “fits” in 9a, two “goods” in 14a, two “ones” in 16d, and “coined” and “coin” in 18d. My favourite clue was 3d.

    Many thanks to Grub, I feel as though I’ve gorged on chocolate now!

    1. Many thanks Silvanus, the number of themed answers is thanks to a program I wrote for filling grids, still a work in progress though!

      Certainly some of the surfaces could definitely do with a complete reworking. I think I will avoid regional accent homophones in the future, I can’t remember one I have enjoyed while solving. Although I cleaned up a bit of repetition across clues in my final go over before submission, clearly more needs to be done. Maybe 14a could use 1 and one to look better, although still the same out loud.

      Hope it was enjoyable over all!

  8. Not for the first time, I agree completely with Silvanus’ comments.

    I’ve got four answers that I can’t fully parse plus a couple of queries, all of which I am sure Prolixic will resolve tomorrow.

    Well done and thank you, Grub, for what was a tough but largely enjoyable challenge.

    1. Thanks Rabbit Dave, glad it provided some distraction, hopefully you will see what I was aiming for tomorrow, although they may be things which need tweaking.

  9. Thanks Grub, very good puzzle
    I liked some a lot (3,4,12,13,20 favourites), some not so much, but overall it seemed to be very coherent, nice balance of clues, just enough tricky ones, so very satisfying.
    I hope it’s about crisps next time – much more my bag

  10. I liked a lot here. 6 down was very satisfying to parse, and 3 and 19 down were also very nice surfaces, I thought.

    A couple of points: I think you could plausibly solve 26 across as TAINT using the same device, and that’s what I had until crossers set me right. Secondly, although it’s an ingenious clue, 16 down’s use of diacritics to misdirect seems unfair to me. My gut feeling is that while accents can be withheld to misdirect (pate actually meaning paté, say) any accents that *are* used in a clue should properly belong there (a similar one-way street to the one regarsing capitalisation discussed above). That may just be me, though: I’d be interested to see if Prolixic has a view on this.

    Bottom line: a fun crossword with some very good clues. I hope there’s another helping of Grub on the way soon…

    1. Forgot to say: if you haven’t seen it already, the recent Guardian cryptic numbered 27823 (by Paul) may interest you, based on your theme here.

      1. Thanks Chameleon!

        I think as LbR says TAINT doesn’t quite fit, although that is more by luck than by judgement, something to look out for!

        I take your point about accents. Personally I like the possibility of maximum misdirection, but if it grates too much it can be avoided.

        Enjoyed the Paul crossword very much, although I promise this one had already been fitted into the grid!


    2. HI Chameleon – re 26a I see your point, but if the answer were TAINT it wouldn’t really work, since there’s no letters after the last T, so it wouldn’t be lurking between two words as the instruction suggests.

  11. Oh dear. :sad: I’m seriously stuck now.
    I’ve got enough answers to have spotted the theme – at least I think I have otherwise I’m barking up the wrong tree.
    I’m going to leave this for a while and possibly have another go later – there isn’t much that a glass of wine and some supper can’t sort out.
    In the meantime thanks to Grub and, in advance, to Prolixic.

  12. Thanks Prolixic
    10a: ‘the old canard that without means around’
    I have tried in the past to understand this objection, and again today, but I cannot. Perhaps someone can help me out.
    Without can be a preposition or an adverb. Here it is used as a preposition. Chambers gives it as ‘outside or outside of, outside the limits of, beyond (all archaic)’. That would be the A = B part of the equation, if outside is B and C is ‘around’, or whatever suffices to act as a containing instruction. What I do not understand is why it is accepted (claimed) that outside means around, but not that without means around. Outside is not defined as around anywhere that I can find. We may understand it to mean around, but isn’t that because being outside and around are often coincidental?
    To take two examples:
    1) ‘the eggshell is outside the white’
    2) ‘the green hill is outside the city wall’
    In the first, outside also happens to be around. In the second, not. In both examples, you could replace outside with without and be left with acceptable sentences. I do not understand how it changes the meaning of either.
    In both examples, it’s only the context that makes us think outside means ‘around’ in one case and ‘not inside’ in the other. Why is this not acceptable if without is used? What is it that limits the use of without to examples of the second type, rather than the first?

    1. I’m with you on this, mucky. I’ve never understood why without is disliked as a containment indicator. Just because without doesn’t always mean around doesn’t mean that it never does and there’s no reason that I can see why it can’t be used as a containment indicator. In the same way, for example, ‘carry’ doesn’t always mean to ‘hold inside’ but it sometimes does and is accepted as a containment indicator.
      Chambers Crossword Dictionary lists both without and outside as containment indicators (with within and inside as insertion indicators).

      1. Elgar, for example, uses without as a containment indicator. In Toughie 2166 he had the following clue:
        Move on — without husband, it’s clarified (4)

      2. Thanks for replying.
        Here’s one by Picaroon in the Guardian, 27805:
        Form are without the greatest teaching aids (6)
        (ARE)* containing ALI = REALIA
        I don’t think Guardian clues are necessarily reliable indicators of good cluing practice but Picaroon’s not one of their cowboys.
        You also see it in the Times often enough.

      3. G. I’m with you and mucky on this subject. This is what I wrote on DT 28144:

        POSTED JUNE 20, 2016 AT 11:17 AM | PERMALINK
        BD. Sorry to harp on about this, but without can and does mean surrounding. Have a look at the primary definition in the SOED: Without – “On the outside or outer surface; externally”. Therefore it would be correct to write: “The hard shell is without the soft part of the egg”. Presumably, that’s why the setters keep using this much-maligned construct in their clues. Why is everyone on here so against it?

      4. I’m quite used to crossword clues that use ‘without’ to mean ‘around’ but that’s just crosswordese. Strictly speaking, though, ‘without’ simply means ‘outside’ but not ‘surrounding’. The hymn words ‘without a city wall’ (modernised in many hymn books to ‘outside’) use it in its correct sense. Actually, I think that meaning is a bit archaic; it’s sometimes encountered in the names of churches, such as “St ——– Without”, to distinguish a parish that was outside the walls of an old town from one with the same name inside the walls.

          1. BTW Dave, the link from the puzzle page to this blog is broken – this page has ‘corne’ instead of ‘corner’ in the URL

        1. Exit. It depends on the circumstances of its use. Without = “on the outside or outer surface; externally.” That green hill is without the city walls – fair enough, that’s one meaning (outside). But the eggshell is without (on the outer surface, another meaning of the word) the egg and therefore it surrounds and contains the inner part of the egg. That’s why the setters use it, quite reasonably, as a containment indicator. They are both, of course, old-fashioned/archaic terms, but still in the SOED.

      5. In my opinion, “outside” does not necessarily mean “around” either. In one dimension, 1 is outside the range [2 – 3] and so is 4. Neither surrounds the range.

    2. Correct or not, I just don’t like it, simple as that. The English language is rich enough so I don’t see the need for anything remotely contentious.

      Similarly, ‘following, chasing’ etc in an across clue; as written left to right, the D of BAD one could argue following means after/following BA, but it could also mean behind/following BA to give DBA.

      Convention is not entirely logic, thus not any base for reason. I just avoid constructions such as those for something more specific, if I can.

      Things have to develop for innovation or go stale in my view, just as language does.

    3. Another vote for ‘without’ here. Just so useful.
      “The house is in good repair within and without”.

  13. Hi Grub,
    Not the worst debut here that I’ve seen – thanks. Here are my thoughts prior to reading the Review or others’ comments.
    7ac ‘relinquishes’ would be better for the surface
    9ac CAN clued by ‘fit’? ‘Is fit to’, maybe. Can the surface be explained?
    12ac I can see why you couldn’t resist that :)
    20ac is ‘arm’ trying to disguise ‘weapon’ under a boxing reference?
    24ac ‘pair’ doing double duty?
    25ac liked this – ‘agin’ is also ‘again’ (facetious or dialect)
    27ac interesting anagram indicator…but nice surface
    1d ‘dine out on’ has a specific meaning, so Is ‘on’ a link word? Doesn’t work for me
    2d oops spelling?
    3d very nice
    5d just about for the homophone, but I can’t think how to fix the indicator
    6d like it, wonder how many would get the reference to FS pre-solve (I didn’t)
    16d very cheeky
    19d very good
    21d i.e. for e.g. ?
    23d I hope good surfaces come easier to you eventually ;)
    Thanks again, keep at it.

    1. And I missed the theme! Well done. If you are writing compiling software, I’d be interested to see it sometime. I’ve tried a few themers myself.

    2. Thanks Gonzo!

      7ac Yes, I like that much more
      9ac I agree, I liked the idea of a mirrored FIT for the cryptic bit NAC | ABLE but it’s a stretch for CAN and I couldn’t get it to work anyway. My vague idea for the surface was a uniform jacket say being tailored to fit backwards, and therefore cannot be worn forwards
      20ac Yes, the surface I had in mind was a ridiculous arm with two fists
      24ac I was intending TWIN to be pair of, and hands to be RL, as in right hand side, left hand side
      1d Definition should be dine out, I think on got left there from a previous attempt at clueing it, and somehow got left as a linkword, which it isn’t. maybe ‘Choice steal, dropping a couple of thousand to dine out’ although the surface still isn’t water tight.
      2d. Yes, can’t believe I hadn’t spotted that until now. Maybe can be clued with a substitution K => S
      21d I was using a bit of licence as I think they are often used interchangeably, even though they aren’t of course
      23d and in general, I hope so too! I have clued up 3 grids now and almost finished my 4th, which is taking me some time as I’m being much stricter on what surface is acceptable.

      As for the compiling software it’s all on github, I won’t link without Dave’s permission. However at the moment it is unusable unless you have a working knowledge of Python, although I’m in the process of writing a GUI for it.

      1. 24ac I think it strictly has to be ‘a pair of’ e.g. ‘with twin/a pair of engines’. Doesn’t harm the surface either.
        If you want to post the Github project name, I’ll be able to find it.

        1. Ah yes, fuverdred/Crossword-Filler will get you there, sorry it’s in a bit of a mess, happy to discuss any thoughts you might have on it

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