Rookie Corner – 278 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 278

A Puzzle by Fringilla

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It’s taken Fringilla a long time to submit his second puzzle – let’s hope the next one comes a little sooner. 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 back to Fringilla.  When his clues work, they work well.  There were come good clues such as 1d and 3d.  Other clues did not work so well.  Particular problems were the use of abbreviations where some of the supposed abbreviations are not given in the dictionary, a lot clues where large chunks of the clue were repeated in the solution, too many hidden word clues and the use indicators to remove letters from the clue.  The commentometer reads as 8.5 / 32 or 31.25%.


1 Idiot poet after cosh lost its head (7)
LUBBARD – A four letter word for cosh without its first letter (lost its head) followed by a four letter word for a poet.

5 Hate being back behind revolutionary cat (7)
CHEETAH – A three letter revolutionary leader followed by a reversal (back) of the HATE from the clue.  It might have been better to use a synonym for hate here.

9 First car perhaps, in length and weight (9)
MILESTONE –imperial measurements of length and weight.

10 Guitar sound faded in Tate Gallery (5)
TWANG – A three letter word meaning faded inside the initial letters of Tate Gallery.  As TG is not a recognised abbreviation, you need to find a way of indicating the initial letters of the words.  You should use only those abbreviations in one of the major dictionaries.

11 Disaster if a Scot almost messed up (6)
FIASCO – An anagram (messed up) of IF A SCO (scot almost).  As only the F has to be moved to give the solution, this is not much of an anagram.  Anagrams with very little rearrangement of the letters should be avoided.

12 Steal ingredient (3,4)
TEA LEAF – Double definition, the first by reference to Cockney rhyming slang and the second used to make a drink.  The clue does not work as the solution is the rhyming slang for the person who steals, not the act of stealing and a single item of the solution would make an exceedingly weak drink.

14 Sir! One covers press (4)
IRON – The answer is hidden (covers) in the first two words of the clue.

15 Predictably, Ally Club a/c is corrupt (10)
CALCULABLY – An anagram (is corrupt) of ALLY CLUB AC.

19 Brass rod for dipping (10)
BREADSTICK – A five letter slang word for money (brass) followed by a five letter word for a rod.  The definition is here is too vague as verbal phrase to define a noun.

20 Skittish ornithologist gives warning of advance (4)
HORN – The answer is hidden (gives) in the first two words of the clue.  Gives is not strong enough to indicate a hidden word.  Perhaps conceals warning of advance.

22 Football Club (sic), almost all e.g. cats (7)
MUSICAL – The initial letters of Manchester United followed by the SIC from the clue and the ALL from the clue with the final letter removed.  MU is not a recognised abbreviation so should not be clued a football club.  This is another clue where most of the letters in the solution are given in the clue.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Almost has been used previously.  As a general rule, you can capitalise a common noun to mislead but a proper noun, here Cats, should not be put into lower case.This clue also has a very poor surface reading.  

25 Government I’m ever after Mr Dwight (6)
REGIME – The first name of Mr Dwight (better known as Elton John) followed by the IM from the clue and an E.  Another dodgy abbreviation with E for ever that is not supported by the dictionaries.

27 In the UN, literally, it’s dark (5)
UNLIT – The answer is hidden (in) the third and fourth words of the clue.  It is better to try and have hidden word clues that do not include the whole of one word (UN in this case).

28 Pink lace I foolishly used as anagram indicator (2,1,6)
IN A PICKLE – An anagram (foolishly) of PINK LACE I.

29 Execute cur: he looks guilty (7)
HANGDOG – A four letter word meaning to execute followed by a three letter word for a cur.  As a noun, Chambers gives the definition as a contemptible person.  As an adjective, it can mean to look guilty, but the clue requires a noun as the solution.

30 Rumour (or not!) she dislocated bone (7)
HUMERUS – An anagram (dislocated) of RUMOUR SHE after removing the OR (or not).


1 Flimsy material (4)
LAME – Double definition, the first as in a flimsy excuse and the second a glitzy fabric.

2 Offensive ringer I nearly chose (9)
BELLICOSE – A four letter word for something that rings followed by the I from the clue and the word chose with one of the letters removed.  Nearly as an indicator means to remove the last letter, not any letter.

3 Support bald guitarist (6)
ASSIST – Remove the first letter (bald) from a type of guitarist.

4 ‘Ado’ or cuckoo in dales valley. Roll on ! (9)
DEODORANT – An anagram (cuckoo) of AOD OR inside a four letter word for a valley or depression.

5 Box him at 5ac, on street (5)
CHEST – The revolutionary named in 5a followed by the abbreviation for street.

6 Almost dent track’s insides (8)
ENTRAILS – The first three letters (almost) of dent followed by a word meaning track’s.

7 Evidence cut girl short (5)
TRACE – The name of a girl with the final letter removed (cut short).

8 Steep running, like an astronaut? (4-6)
HIGH-FLYING – A four letter word meaning steep followed by a six letter word meaning running quickly.

13 Cannot eat oily nut British Military Hospital cooked (3-2-5)
NIL-BY-MOUTH – An anagram (cooked) of OILY NUT BMH (British Military Hospital).  Another clue where the abbreviation is not recognised.  Although B for British and H for hospital are fine, M for military is not in the main dictionaries whether on its own or as BM or MH.

16 Me ol’ mate, somewhat near insect (9)
COCKROACH – A four letter word meaning an old mate followed by what I think is an an eight letter word meaning near or get close to with the first three letters removed (somewhat).  You cannot use somewhat to indicate the removal of an arbitrary number of letters from a word.

17 Accountant to reserve builder (9)
BOOKMAKER – A four letter word meaning to reserve followed by another word for a builder.

18 Informed Dad he is cute, somehow without his… (8)
EDUCATED – An anagram (somehow) of DAD HE IS CUTE with the letters in HIS.  If you are going use ellipses at the end of the clue, the next clue should begin with them as it indicates that the two clues run on.

21 Lego is marvellous for finding self-esteem (6)
EGOISM – The answer is hidden (for finding) in the first three words of the clue.  I think that for finding does not work has a hidden word indicator.

23 Soprano, La Scala, provides room (5)
SALON – The answer is hidden (provides) and reversed in the first three words of the clue.  This clue requires an indicator that the answer is reversed in the clue.  Five hidden word clues in a crossword is too many.

24 Prone to losing head whilst airborne (5)
LYING – A word meaning airborne without the first letter (losing head).  The whilst niggles me in this clue as it is not needed and whilst airborne does not mean flying it means whilst flying or when flying.  The structure of definition to wordplay does not work.

26 Deep water with me on boat (4)
MESS -The ME from the clue followed by the abbreviation for steamship.

23 comments on “Rookie Corner – 278

  1. Just back home from seeing Ludovico Einaudi perform some of his new work at the Barbican. What a superstar! Back to the plot …

    Good fun – thanks Frangilla. I particularly liked:

    – Support bald guitarist (6) Talking of live music, as a fan of Tony Levin (he’s in King Crimson currently) that’s perfect!
    – Disaster if a Scot almost messed up (6)
    – Pink lace I foolishly used as anagram indicator? (2,1,6)

    There are several where seemingly small touches, that I know Prolixic will define accurately, will make further significant improvement.

    Very enjoyable – keep ’em coming!


    1. Hi Encota,
      I do envy you being in the audience at the Barbican. I went with my elder daughter to a performance given by Einaudi at the Bridgewater Hall some years ago and it was a truly magical evening.
      I’m sure there are correct musical terms to use but it’s those pauses before notes and the unexpected placing of emphasis that give him such a unique style.
      Think that Berlin Song is probably my all-time favourite.

  2. We really struggled when we tried to start in the NW but once we moved on to the bottom half of the grid it started to flow more smoothly and eventually all came together. Plenty to enjoy here.
    Thanks Fringilla.

  3. Thanks Fringilla, but not a lot of fun with some head scratching required.
    I suspect that Prolixic will have quite a few comments but here are four obvious ones to me:
    I don’t think TG is an accepted abbreviation for Tate Gallery in 10a, at least it’s not in the BRB.
    Some solvers might not realise that British Military Hospital has to be abbreviated to BMH (almost specialist knowledge) as part of the anagram material.
    I presume that 21d should have started with an ellipsis to follow on from 18d.
    There is no indication in 23d that it is a reversed lurker.

  4. I have several quibbles, some of which, like the lack of a reversal indicator in 23d, have already been pointed out. However I only have one ? so that’s good for a Rookie. My particular favourite was 28a

    Thanks to Fringilla and, in advance, to Prolixic

  5. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Fringilla, after nearly four years! Now as then you have some good ideas on show and your cluing is commendably brief but some of your surfaces need a lot of attention. For example, in 22a you appear to have simply put together four elements of wordplay for a charade making a completely nonsensical surface.
    My page is littered with question marks mostly relating to various technical queries for the majority of the clues. I am sure Prolixic will address these in detail in his review, which will help you in future. Senf mentions several of the issues that I noted and at this stage I will only add that the cockney rhyming slang in 12a does not mean “steal”, it is the stealer.
    1d was my favourite.
    Many thanks, Fringilla. Please don’t leave it for another four years before the next one.

  6. Welcome back, Fringilla.

    I have to confess having no recollection of your previous puzzle in 2015, so BD’s archive was essential for remedying that.

    I made a lot of notes on my printed page, and my principal recommendations for a future puzzle would be:

    1. Avoid surface readings that make no sense (1a, 22a, 25a, 4d and 18d possibly being the worst offenders).
    2. Do not use (or invent) abbreviations that are not supported by Chambers or Collins.
    3. Avoid anagrams that require minimal rearrangement of letters (like 11a).

    Like Senf, I was searching in vain for a reversal indicator in 23d. “Almost” or “nearly” are indicators for removing the last letters of words, not for removing first letters (6d) or middle letters (2d). The device was overused in any case, “almost” appearing three times, twice conventionally. I had question marks about the fairness of certain definitions too. My favourite clue was 1d.

    Well done on producing another puzzle, Fringilla, I do hope you’ll take heed of Prolixic’s detailed comments later.

  7. Hello Fringilla, thanks for the challenge.

    I too have quite a few technical niggles, but there are also some quite basic errors (12a, 23d etc). While solving I noted in particular a) nonsensical surfaces b) a lot of repetition of both words and devices. Also, the anagrams were, in many cases, rather obvious due to the fodder being unnatural and the indicator not quite fitting or lacking subtlety.
    Like Encota, I quite enjoyed the flavour of some of the other clues.

    Thanks again and well done for putting a puzzle together at all, and I look forward to your next.
    Thanks in advance also to Prolixic

  8. Welcome back after your long absence, Fringilla!
    I was hoping that you would have taken on board the comments from last time and you did indeed choose a much better grid without the ‘unch’ problem – and the necessity to deal with cluing pesky 3 letter words. I also noted that you’d cut down on the number of anagrams but I’m sorry to say that I felt this second puzzle still fell well short of improvement in other areas.
    Others have already pointed out the main problem areas and I’m sure Prolixic will go into detail for you in his review. Please take all the advice on board and look upon it positively – everyone here is looking to support our Rookies, not to belittle their efforts.

  9. Hi Fringilla,
    Thanks for the entertainment. I liked 11,30,1,4 and 13.
    Prolixic will advise on the others ;)

  10. As others have already commented, there are quite a few things that Prolixic is likely to pick up on; too many hiddens, no indication that multiple letters have to be removed from different places in a word, and non-standard abbreviations among them. But there were also some brilliant clues – I really liked 1dn and 28ac; the idea behind 5dn was good, too, but I thought it could have been phrased better.
    Thanks, though, for a pleasant diversion.

  11. In 4 I took the reference to ‘dales valley’ to be to Dent in Yorkshire.
    6 is another clue where ‘almost’ has been used unconventionally to mean ‘remove the first letter’.

  12. I hope Prolixic won’t mind me pointing out an oversight – in 6dn it’s the last three letters of ‘dent’ so it’s another case of the wrong use of ‘almost’. And, although it would have involved an old chestnut for ‘ent’, the clue could have been ‘Hospital department tracks insides’.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, plenty for Fringilla to think about for next time.
    I had the same thought as Gonzo about 4d – otherwise ‘dales’ would seem rather superfluous. Perhaps Fringilla will confirm either way.

  14. Some of the wordplay seemed wrong, or at least inadequate, to me. In 2d and 6d respctively, ‘nearly’ + ‘almost’ should indicate that it’s the last letter of the indicated word that’s missing. Yet in both cases in an earlier letter that’s been dropped. This needs to be more specifically pinpointed by the clues. Quite similarly, in 23d, the answer is hidden inside a phrase (OK as far as that goes), but it’s also backwards, which the clue needs to indicate.
    I also felt that some surface readings (eg 1a, 22a, 25a) made very little sense.
    My favourite was 1d (good double definition).

  15. Hello everyone, and sorry that I have not commented before but have just been reconnected after storm damage ten days ago; I didn’t even know it had been published. I obviously made a pet’s meal of this again, but need to read through Prolixic’s comments thoroughly, and those above before replying properly. All I will say for now is that I use “The New Penguin Dictionary of Abbreviations”, which seemed to me to be a reasonable ‘bible’.

  16. I shall comment ‘collectively’ in case one or more of you return here. I accept all the comments, although I slightly disagree with the criticism of 12 across. In my ‘Chambers Slang Dictionary’, a “tea leaf” is a thief but “tealeaf” is to steal, that’s why I had it as one word. I have mentioned the abbreviations above.
    In 4 down, Dent was indeed intended. In 18 down, the ellipses were a bad idea…
    A special thanks to Prolixic, and thanks again everyone else for all your comments, tips and encouragement. I have completed lots of these lately, so will return and amend as appropriate (and recycle my Penguin Dictionary of Abbreviations).

    1. Thanks for getting back to us to show your thinking – seems reasonable enough

      Should you wish, I am happy to test solve your next, BD can put us in touch. I am no expert, but I know a good clue when I see one and I’ve read enough of Prolixic’s reviews to have a fair idea what won’t wash

      Thanks again for sharing

    1. Romeo Gamma Sierra Charlie Oscar Mike {at} Golf Mike X-ray dot co dot uk
      Romeo Oscar Yankee :smile:

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