Rookie Corner – 277 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 277

A Puzzle by Modica

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Modica becomes the latest to make his debut 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.

Modica makes a promising start with his or her first Rookie crosswords.  There were some common Rookie errors, notably indirect anagrams but these are easily avoided.  In terms of the grid, some of the Telegraph grids have a word beginning with two unchecked letters.  Other national papers will not allow this.  There were some very smooth surface readings and nice anagrams.  The commentometer reads as 7/32 or 21.9%


1 Sitting pretty with pot noodle for stirring. Not I! (2,3,2,3,5)
ON TOP OF THE WORLD – An anagram (stirring) of WITH POT NOODLE FOR without (not) the I.

9 Refined characteristic of a town with east end (6)
URBANE – A five letter word meaning of a town with the abbreviation for east at the end.  This could also be parsed as the first letter (end) of east.  I am not sure which the setter intended.

10 Incomplete illusion takes in one fool for a period of time (8)
TRIASSIC – A five letter word for an illusion without its final letter (incomplete) includes (takes in) a letter representing one and a three letter word for a fool.

11 Treat moderate conservative grasped (8)
MEDICATE – A seven letter word meaning moderate includes (grasped) the abbreviation for conservative.

14 Having two sons in good health is a bother (6)
HASSLE – The abbreviation for sons twice inside (in) a four letter word meaning good health.

17 Overlooks commercial vehicle good man holds in esteem (13)
ADMINISTRATES – The two letter abbreviation for a commercial followed by a four letter word for a small car, the abbreviation for saint (good man) and a five letter word meaning holds in esteem.

20 Dare somewhat confused biblical son to follow? It’s doubtful (13)
CHALLENGEABLE – A nine letter word meaning dare followed by an anagram (somewhat confused) of ABEL (or ABEL with the final two letters exchanged).  Either interpretation gives an indirect anagram where the words to be rearranged have first to be guessed by the solver.

23 Cloakrooms Her Majesty visits are less secure (6)
LOOSER – A four letter word for toilets or cloakrooms followed by the abbreviation for the current queen.  I think that visits as concatenation indicator does not work.  Visits suggests A goes inside B.  Also, the link word gives the grammatical construction wordplay are definition which does not make sense.

25 A very loud long varied tune is a bit rich (8)
AFFLUENT – The A from the clue followed by the musical abbreviation for very loud an abbreviation for long and an anagram (varied) of TUNE.  L for long is not given in the dictionaries as a recognised abbreviation.

28 Devours a humbug and relished it? (8)
SAVOURED – An anagram (humbug) of DEVOURS A.

29 Twelve upheld appeal. Now there’s an idea (6)
NOTION – A four letter word midday (twelve) includes a reversal (upheld) of IT (appeal).  Upheld does not work as a reversal indicator in an across clue.

30 Befuddled domestic duo blab all over the place (15)
DISCOMBOBULATED – An anagram (befuddled) of DOMESTIC DUO BLAB.


2 Turbulent British river where impulsive sensations flow (6)
NERVES – An anagram (turbulent) of SEVERN (British river).  A common rookie mistake is to use an indirect anagram where the letters to be rearranged are not given in the clue.  Here the solver has to think of a six letter river and make an anagram of the letters or (to compound the number of possibilities) think of an anagram of a five letter river after the abbreviation for British.  The simple rule in standard cryptic crosswords is avoid indirect anagrams like the plague.

3 Competent ace detective is a beast (5)
OKAPI – The abbreviation for okay (competent) followed by the abbreviations for ace and private investigator (detective).

4 Hope ranch house accommodates Norma maybe (5)
OPERA – The answer is hidden (accommodates) in the first two words of the clue.  The house in the clue is padding and could have been omitted here.  Some editors are stricter that other in disallowing the use of padding words that do not contribute to the definition or the wordplay.  It is best to avoid padding words.

5 Flyer the French handle (5)
TITLE – A three letter bird name followed by the French for the.

6 Description given when former Soviet Union leaves trusteeship in confusion (7)
EPITHET – Remove the letters in USSR (former Soviet Union) from TRUSTEESHIP and make an anagram (in confusion) of the letters that remain.  Where the letters to be removed are not in the same order as they appear in the word, it is customary to provide a secondary anagram indicator to indicate this.  Also, it would have been better to have referred to USSR in the clue to avoid another indirect anagram.

7 Watering hole where brothers seldom agree? (5)
OASIS – Double definition of a desert watering hole and the group in which Noel and Liam Gallagher rarely agreed.

8 Dropped but got rid of Root perhaps? (9)
DECREASED – Definition and cryptic definition, the second being an oblique way of saying that Joe Root has been dismissed in a game of cricket.

12 Oddly claim we’ll follow this as the Carry On crew did (5)
CAMEL – The odd letters in the second and third words of the clue.

13 Saw group of musicians returning (5)
TENON – Reverse (returning) a word for a group of nine musicians.

15 Tea is stirred for a French man of note (5)
SATIE – An anagram (stirred) of TEA IS.

16 Spoke against Orange County boxer cursed with a lack of mongrel (9)
VOCALISED – A single letter abbreviation meaning against or versus followed by an abbreviation for Orange County, the three name surname of a former heavyweight boxer and the word cursed without the three letter word for a mongrel dog.  I cannot find the abbreviation for orange county in the dictionaries.  The convention is to use only those abbreviations given in one of the major dictionaries.

17 Gangster seen before a second mission (5)
ALAMO – The first name of Mr Capone (gangster) followed by the A from the clue and a two letter word meaning second.

18 Quiet little creature found under the sea? (5)
SHELF – A two letter word meaning be quiet followed by a little goblin like creature.  I think that the definition here is too vague.

19 Anarchist repeated by Bowie? (5)
REBEL – The solution, if repeated gives the title of a song by David Bowie.

21 Confuse a murder hearing with this? (7)
EARDRUM – An anagram (confuse) of A MURDER.

22 Once mistakenly placed in front of French convert? (6)
ENCODE -An anagram (mistakenly) of ONCE followed by the French for “of”.  The clue requires a second of to make the cryptic grammar work (although this would break the surface reading).  At present the instruction to the solver are “An anagram of ONCE in front a word in French meaning of.

24 One scot is injured being brave (5)
STOIC – An anagram of I (one) SCOT.

25 Car with zero sound (5)
AUDIO – A four letter brand of car followed by the letter representing zero.

26 Ballet movement is almost saucy (5)
FONDU – Remove the final letter (almost) from a meal involving meats or other items dipped in a cheese sauce.  The ballet movement is given in Collins but not in Chambers but is therefore fair to include.  I think that the clue requires “something saucy” as the wordplay requires the final letter removed from a noun not an adjective that the clue currently suggests.

27 Extremist is captured by difficult radical group (5)
ULTRA – The answer is hidden in (captured by) the fifth and sixth words of the clue.  Again there is a padding word, group, at the end that should have been avoided.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner – 277

  1. Welcome Modica. I enjoyed the ideas here, leaving aside the technical issues: suffice to say, was 29’s clue originally a down one?

  2. A very enjoyable and reasonably straightforward end to my Sunday evening of crosswords. A couple of parsings elude me so I look forward to Prolixic’s review. I must admit to needing electronic help on the ballet movement (26d) way outside my specialist knowledge, and the BRB’s.
    Well done on the two long anagrams.
    2d will probably receive comments as an indirect anagram.
    My particular favourite – 16d – a good charade, although you might get some comments on the abbreviation of Orange County.
    Thanks Modica.

  3. A bit later than usual getting on to this as other duties took precedence today. Started off on the wrong foot by encountering the first indirect anagram very early on. However, once we were over that, enjoyed the rest of the solve. Just love the word that is the answer for 30a so that is our favourite.
    Thanks Modica.

  4. A very enjoyable puzzle overall. The wordplay and definitions are generally very good, and most of the surfaces conjure up some clear images. I think 1a and 30a are my favourites.

    Slightly more words ending -ed than is ideal in the grid. Six clues (I think) with double unchecked letters, e.g. 16d. Easy to fix next time. Worth doing so as this upsets more solvers than you might at first think.

    A few ‘per clue’ comments:

    1a Great clue. Strong surface and accurate wordplay.
    10a I’d be interested in other reviewers’ views on changing ‘one’ to ‘a’ in this clue. Modica is clearly more accurate using ‘one’, though I think ‘a’ makes the surface read slightly more smoothly. Any thoughts, anyone?
    25a I don’t think L=long, though I may be wrong (length is probably the nearest)? East Anglian festival goers might like, “A very loud Latitude varied tune – that’s a bit rich (8)”
    2d an indirect anagram. These are considered to require too much of a response to the setter’s ‘Guess What I’m Thinking’ on the part of the solver and so are strongly discouraged by convention. Even when they are as clear as yours here!
    7d I can see the definition but … I’m missing something

    I agree with 2Kiwis about 30a too: Blackadder is very much to blame in my case.

    Finally, based on your 22d, I’d like to offer the confusingly surfaced clue:
    Once mistakenly offered thanks after this setter’s provided feedback (6)

    If you’d like to see them all, I have a page of notes that I made when solving which contain too many spoilers to post here. If yes then do ask BD to put us in email contact. I won’t take offence if not!

    Do keep them coming!



    1. The only thought I had on 10a was regarding the ‘a’ preceding ‘period of time’ and whether it should be there as part of the definition.
      ‘One’ being used to create an ‘I’ in the answer works well for me.

  5. It’s a pity about the indirect anagrams but that’s a problem that’s easily fixed and I enjoyed the puzzle. Thanks to Modica and well done on putting yourself up to be shot at – you’ll get some excellent advice from Prolixic’s review.
    I liked the nice anagram at 30a, the amusing 7d and 8d (after I’d crossed out my initial answer of ‘dismissed’).

  6. As others have said, pity about the indirect anagrams. There’s some good clues but equally some confusing ones

    30a is one of my favourite words so I’ll pick that as favourite clue in this crossword

    Thanks to Modica and to Prolixic in advance

  7. Welcome, Modica.

    There was certainly an over-reliance on anagrams, probably at least three or four too many, and, to compound the felony, it was disappointing to see two anagram indicators repeated. As Prolixic will stress, not for the first occasion in Rookie Corner, indirect anagrams are totally unacceptable, and subtractive anagrams like 6d, where the letters removed are also jumbled, would usually require a second indicator.

    My advice would also be to avoid “home-made” grids like this one, especially those with successive unchecked letters, as Encota has mentioned. Much better to copy grids used by established setters in the daily papers, you can’t go too far wrong that way.

    Apart from a couple of exceptions, I thought that the surface readings were very smooth, only “cursed with a lack of mongrel” really jarred, and also trying to understand why having “two sons in good health” would constitute a worry. 10a was probably my favourite clue, to address Encota’s point I actually prefer the use of “one” to “a” here.

    I had a few other minor quibbles about some of the constructions, but overall I thought there was a lot of promise shown and I would be very interested to see a second Modica puzzle with a more conventional grid and fewer anagrams!

    Many thanks, Modica.

  8. Many thanks for all your comments so far. I can promise that I will never use an indirect anagram again! If I am honest the double unchecked letters had passed me by but, once again, I will take this on board. The criticisms have all been very helpful – compiling crosswords is very new to me – but your positive comments have given me the confidence to have another go. Thanks again.

    1. Welcome to the blog

      I for one would like to see another crossword from you – Prolixic’s review will give you some insight into things to work on and/or avoid

    2. I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle which was, for me, challenging but achievable, which is exactly what I want!! Total respect for anyone who can put together a crossword of this type and, especially, one as good as this. Many thanks & I look forward to your next offering.

  9. Welcome to the Corner, Modica. There seems to be general agreement that you’re off to a good start by including the delicious word at 30a!
    I liked some of the ideas in this one but felt that several of the surfaces didn’t make a great deal of sense and that some of the clues relied rather heavily on the solver having a knowledge of the likes of ballet, cricket, Bowie, the Gallagher brothers and the Carry On films.
    Think my favourite was the simple 25d.

    Many thanks for the puzzle and hope to see more from you in the future.

  10. Overall I enjoyed this and thought it a very promising debut

    Yes, that grid. Five checkers in a row, and six of an eight letter word is not ideal. I also noticed the number of anagrams and the cultural references
    Re 10a ‘one/a’ I think ‘one’ works better too – ‘a’ meaning one = 1 = I is slightly clumsy whereas one = 1 = I is more tidy in my view. I also think that somehow ‘one idiot’ sounds more natural – would ‘an idiot’ be acceptable?

    Well done for putting the puzzle together and thank you for the challenge, Modica. Look forward to your next

  11. This was a great debut, Modica. My main concerns have already been mentioned in various comments above: indirect anagrams and the use of “upheld” in an across clue. I will only add that two lurkers each contain an unnecessary word neither of which is even needed as surface padding as the clues would read perfectly well without them.

    Your surfaces (with a couple of exceptions as mentioned by Silvanus) are generally very smooth which is an excellent attribute particularly for a first puzzle, and your wordplay is mostly commendably accurate.

    Fighting to get onto my podium are 1a, 10a, 30a, 5d & 7d.

    Very well done, Modica, and please keep them coming.

  12. A couple of question marks on my page, but generally I thought there was some good stuff here and a very promising debut. I bow to other solvers for the more technical aspects of the cluing. 30A was my favorite, too, though 29A wasn’t far behind. Well done Modica!

  13. Thanks Modica
    I liked the first two I solved, which were the long ones top and bottom, and that usually makes me enjoy the whole thing. There were a few hiccups as others have pointed out, but all readily gettable and the clues generally read very smoothly.
    To pick a quibble, I didn’t like the definition in 13d, or maybe I didn’t like the solution. Anyway, they don’t match.
    On the one/a question in 10a, you are quite right to use ‘one’ and I hope you never use ‘a’ to clue ‘I’.
    One and I are used synonymously, there is no need for one > 1 > I.
    A > one > 1 > I is horribly indirect and a bit lazy, IMO.

  14. Thanks Prolixic for the review.
    I briefly thought 14 was faulty because ‘hale’ means ‘in good health’, but if we take ‘having’ as the containment indicator that fixes it. Perhaps that was Modica’s intention.
    I’m in two minds about ‘visits’ as a concatenation indicator – the sense ‘attends’ seems close.
    In 26 it seems FONDU is a variant spelling of FONDUE also, so you could have dispensed with the ‘almost’.
    Thanks again Modica for the entertainment.

  15. Congratulations on your debut, Modica. It’s a very good offering. I’m sure you’ll find Prolixic’s excellent review most helpful. His advice is indispensible.

    I enjoyed solving this. My fave was 30a — excellent! Silver medal goes to the short and sweet 15d. Thank you very much and well done!

    Many appreciative thanks to Prolixic for the enlightenment.

  16. I needed help for 26dn and couldn’t parse 29ac because it was an across and not a down. Apart from that it was fairly rapid solve, even with the indirect anagrams (2dn took the longest to crack) – but as, Prolixic says, indirect anagrams are taboo. As for double unchecked spaces, they are frowned on by some although provided the complete word has at least 50% checking I don’t have a problem.
    A good debut, though, so don’t give up.

  17. I noted some inaccuracies in the wordplay that need to be tightened up. Some examples: in 23a, ‘visits’ suggests that ‘Her Majesty’ should be sandwiched into ‘cloakrooms’, whereas in fact it’s tacked on at the end. In both 4d + 27d, one word in the phrase containing the hidden answer contains no letters of the answer at all. In 28a, ‘humbug’ seems pretty loose as an anagram indicator to me. Still, a lively debut. My favourite was 1a.

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