Rookie Corner – 281 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 281

A Puzzle by Bodger

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Our latest new setter is Bodger, but let him introduce himself:

“I’ve been doing the Telegraph cryptic for several years now and occasionally manage the Toughie!  Sometimes I might even manage 60% of a Times crossword but more often then not, manage just two.  But this is my first attempt at creating a cryptic and, having done so, now realise just how good all the professional setters really are!  I’d appreciate any comments”.

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 Bodger.  This was a fair start for a rookie setter but there is room for improvement.  I have indicated the major weaknesses below.  Whilst as a rule, I am forgiving of surface readings in rookie setters, there were some clues where the surface reading of the clue was nonsensical.  There were some good ideas on display but they need sharpening up to make the crossword stand out.  The commentometer reads as 12 / 28 or 42.9%


1 At last, angrily eye null VAT (10)
EVENTUALLY – An anagram (angrily) of EYE NULL VAT.

6 Dog without the foggiest? (4)
FIDO – A common dog’s name is also the name of a fog dispersal system trialled during WWI.  Possibly a little obscure area of general knowledge.

10 Attempt another pathetic trailer (7)
RETRIAL – An anagram (pathetic) of TRAILER.  The definition is a little stilted.  Perhaps “Another attempt to rewrite trailer” would have flowed more easily.

11 Happy man included after animal sanctuary reproduction (7)
ZOOGAMY – A three letter word for an animal sanctuary followed by a three letter word meaning happy or blithe around an abbreviation for man.  M is the abbreviation for male, not man. 

12 Simultaneous party time managed drug ring before us (15)
CONTEMPORANEOUS – The three letter abbreviation for the Conservative party followed by a five letter word for time, a three letter word meaning managed, the abbreviation for Ecstasy the letter representing a ring and the US from the clue.

13 Hasten journey placing base instead of topless geisha district (8)
EXPEDITE – A ten letter word for a journey with the base used in natural logarithms replacing the ION.  After some research, I think that the ION is represented by the name of the Geisha district in Kyoto with the final letter removed.  Another somewhat obscure piece of general knowledge.

15 Such as frilly around heritage (6)
LEGACY – The abbreviation of “for example” with a four letter word meaning frilly around it.

17 Pickle jam (6)
PLIGHT – A single definition with the solution being a synonym for the two words in the clue.  It is better to have distinct meanings.  Here you could have “Pledge to provide jam.”

18 Dispersion on road to Pisa (8)
DIASPORA – An anagram (un-indicated) of PISA ROAD.  The clue requires an anagram indicator and the TO in the clue is out of place as it takes no part in the wordplay.

21 A rotten porn chick endlessly making man of the moment? (15)
ANTHROPOCENTRIC – An anagram (making?) if A ROTTEN PORN CHIC (chick endlessly).  I am not convinced by the definition here.  The solution means human centred.  Also I don’t think that making following the letters to be rearranged works as an anagram indicator.

23 Eternal Zombie? (7)
UNDYING – Double definition.  The second part of the clue confuses a noun (as defined) with an adjective required by the solution.  You could have zombie like.

24 Reduced fare for coach? (7)
RAILCAR – Remove the final letter (reduced) from a pass that gets you a discount on train fares.  I don’t think that the pass is the same as the fare.

25 Heard fuses burn (4)
STYX – A homophone (heard) of STICKS (fuses).  To described a major legendary river as a burn (a small stream) is a little unfair.

26 Clumsy canine glee? (10)
INELEGANCE – An anagram (clumsy) of CANINE GLEE.  The whole clue does not quite work as a definition.  Perhaps, the “The outcome of clumsy canine glee”


1 Each are anomalous for pain (7)
EARACHE – An anagram (anomalous) of EACH ARE.

2 Spinster barbarian worried? (5)
EATEN – A seven letter word for a barbarian without any letters H.  A spinster is someone who has never had a husband so it does not really work as an indicator to remove one or more Hs.

3 Back dying fool for defender (4-3,7)
TAIL-END CHARLIE – A phrase (4-3) meaning back followed by a seven letter word for a fool.

4 Doctor endlessly unproductive walk (8)
ALLOPATH – A six letter word meaning agriculturally unproductive without the outer letters (endlessly) followed by a four letter word for a pavement or walk.

5 Monitor pass after girl (6)
LIZARD – A four letter girl’s name followed by the abbreviation for road (pass).  I don’t think that pass and road are synonymous.  As the definition is an example of the solution, this should be indicated in the clue.

7 Beloved home with rumble in a low sound (9)
INAMORATO – A tow letter word meaning at home followed a three letter word meaning to rumble or betray inside the A from the clue and the sound made by cows (low)

8 Strange Cockney man’s journey? (7)
ODYSSEY – A homophone (un-indicated) of ODD IS ‘E (strange Cockney man).  The clue lacks a homophone indicator to tell the solver they the solution sounds like the wordplay.  Also I don’t think that Cockney man translates to is ‘e.

9 Censor in gun kit made room for flush warder (14)
COUNTERSINKING – An anagram (made) of CENSOR IN GUN KIT.  If warder is a kind of screw, its definition is not given in Chambers or Collins.

14 Deny pilot flying intentionally (9)
POINTEDLY – An anagram (flying) of DENY PILOT.

16 Feeling irrational will rupture vile scar (8)
VISCERAL – An anagram (rupture) of VILE SCAR. The will in the clue seems out of place as you have a cryptic reading of definition will wordplay.

17 Shields tablets (7)
PLAQUES – Double definition.  Another single definition where the two meanings are too similar.

19 Electric expletive? (7)
ACCURSE – Split 2-5, this might might imply an expletive delivered by a form of electricity.  The solution here is a verb but the wordplay suggests a noun as the solution.

20 Went off shortly after abbreviated narrative of copycat (6)
EPIGON – A three letter word meaning left (went off) with the final letter removed (shortly) after a four letter word for a long narrative with the final letter removed (abbreviated).  Some editors will not allow wordplay of definition.

22 Pronounced paddy field free from toxin (5)
– A homophone (pronounced) of RICE IN (paddy field).  I don’t know what the free is doing in the clue.  Also wordplay from definition does not work.  The definition is obtained from the wordplay.  Finally, I think that you need something to indicate that is is something that describes a paddy field. 

23 comments on “Rookie Corner – 281

  1. Congratulations, Bodger, on your first crossword! This was quite hard for me, but I am very grateful for the anagrams, without which I would have been lost. Unfortunately I required a letter-spray for the last couple of words I did not know, even when I had half of the letters filled in. I would aim in the next one to make it a bit easier!

  2. Hi Bodger,
    Welcome aboard.
    I got most of the way through, but revealed about 5 answers.
    I liked 25 (though I didn’t get it), and the idea behind 8 (but not sure I’ve parsed it right – perhaps “Cockney’s enquiry about strange man’s journey” works better?).
    I quite like 26 as an &lit, although the definition is a bit of a stretch. :-)

    I think you’ve done something that I did in my early puzzles: Coming from being a solver, you know that the literal meaning of the clue doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the answer, right? Sure. However, the literal meaning of the clue (called “the surface”) should have *some meaning*. For example, as a phrase or sentence, what does “Hasten journey placing base instead of topless geisha district” mean?

    There are quite a few clues I don’t fully understand, so I’ll wait for Prolixic’s review to hopefully clear those up.
    I’ll leave others to comment on other points. Some nice ideas, so keep going!

    Got a background in biology?


  3. We needed to reveal some letters in the SW to get a completed grid but there are still quite a few where we cannot fully understand the parsing that Bodger was aiming at. Perhaps some of the clues suffer from trying to make them ‘hard’ rather than ‘clever’ and there are a few words such as 4d and 20d that look like the result of a word-search to fit with existing checking letters. Feel that the input of a reliable test solver could have ironed out quite a number of the shortfalls here. Definitely shows promise so keep them coming.
    Thanks Bodger.

  4. Hi Bodger and welcome to the Corner. I found with several of your clues that it was possible to guess what you had in mind but, sadly, they failed in the execution. You do need to ensure that definitions are clearly indicated and that the part of speech used in the clue tallies with that in the answer – 26a is an example of where that goes awry. Also, it is important that clues should have sensible surface reads, don’t forget that the solver doesn’t share your knowledge of the answer! This is where a test solver would prove to be invaluable.
    I’d also advise you to scale back on the obscurities – a known word, cleverly clued, is far more effective.

    I do hope that you take on board the review from Prolixic and make the most of his advice. You’ve got through the worst part by taking the plunge, now it’s time to hone those skills.

    Thank you, Bodger.

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Bodger.
    I found this challenging but you have some interesting ideas on show and I very much enjoyed solving it. I liked the general brevity of your cluing but many of your surface readings left something to be desired. I have marked a lot of technical queries which Prolixic will no doubt cover and you will learn a lot by taking on board his wise words.
    I will just mention a few details. I thought you used too many question marks and I believe that 24a is an American term and so should be indicated as such. A personal bugbear of mine is using an undefined boy, girl, man, woman as part of the wordplay as you have done in 5d, but for a first puzzle this isn’t really a significant issue.
    You need to take care that the case of the definition and answer match. e.g. 21a is an adjective but the definition calls for a noun, and 26a is a noun but the definition calls for an adjective. Also the surface of 1d is grammatically incorrect; it should be “each is” (but that, of course, would ruin the anagram fodder.)
    I’ve got two clues I still can’t parse and I learned a couple of new words.
    When I found Q, X & Z quite early on, I suspected a pangram but that didn’t materialise.
    My joint favourites were 25a & 17d.
    There is lots of promise here, Bodger, and I look forward very much to your next offering. Well done and thank you.

  6. Way above my pay grade Badger. I’ll wait for Prolixic’s review to understand the answers for 25a & 19d in particular. Thanks to both.

  7. Hello Bodger, always nice to see a new setter come forward so welcome to Rookie Corner from me too

    This was a struggle – so many unusual words and parsing problems, so it was a bit of a reveal-fest for me. Absolutely agree with Jane that everyday words cleverly clued are far more satisfying and enjoyable to solve. For a first puzzle you made it extremely difficult for yourself, I thought
    Did you manually edit the entries or just use auto-fill set to 100? Building the grid with mostly ‘friendly’ words is half the battle.
    When thinking up clues, or ways to clue a word for that matter, it is a good practice to nail the definition first and work from there so you don’t lose the correct tense or noun/verb/adjective form etc which happened here in places

    After a few puzzles plus Prolixic’s excellent reviews I suspect you will improve rapidly

    Well done for putting a puzzle together at all – thanks for sharing and I look forward with interest to your next

  8. Welcome, Bodger.

    A lot of promise in evidence, but I think that, for a first attempt at setting, you ought to have opted for something closer to a backpager standard than aim for a Toughie level puzzle. I would not have completed this without a liberal use of BD’s Reveal button, although my job was made harder by convincing myself that SCREENS was the solution to 17d. There were several good ideas that didn’t manage to translate into satisfactory clues, but that will improve with more practice.

    Previous commenters have encapsulated most of my areas of concern (surfaces that jar, wrong parts of speech in the clues etc.), and there are one or two clues where, even having the solution, I can’t decipher the wordplay at all. That suggests that they are probably unfair on the solver. “Burn” to clue a mythological river was certainly unfair, I thought! Double definition clues like 17a ideally require different meanings rather than two that are so similar.

    Thanks, Bodger. I hope that you’ll analyse Prolixic’s comments carefully and return with an improved product next time.

  9. Hi, Bodger. Welcome to the rookie ranks! Thanks for this puzzle. My favourites were 10, 12, 1d and 22. This part-time reptilian was pleased to see the answer to 5d, although I’m not entirely sure I follow the parsing at the moment. I agree with other commenters on making sure the definition is a grammatical match for the solution. The only other thing I’d add which I don’t think has been mentioned so far is that it’s not ideal to have words doing “double duty”. Unless I’m missing something, 18 and 26 only work if the definitions are also doubling as wordplay indicators.

    A few things to tighten up, then, but just as much if not more which is already in place to act as the foundation for your next puzzle. Looking forward to your next, and nice pseudonym, by the way!

  10. Welcome to the bear pit, Bodger.
    I found this quite difficult and needed an anagram unscrambler for 21ac and 9dn. And, like others, I managed to deduce the answer in some cases and could see what the clue was getting at but thought it was badly constructed. For example, in 10ac the surface is good but the first two words need to be interchanged to describe the answer – which would ruin the surface. On the other hand I liked your double definition in 17ac. I also liked 18ac although I don’t think the clue really works. 5dn was good, too, in that ‘monitor’ was a nice misdirection, though I’m not sure that ‘pass’ is a suitable synonym for the last part of the answer.
    One other good point to mention is your selection of a fairly conventional grid. Some setters, and that includes me, sometimes come up with weird grid patterns to accommodate particular words or themes, and that can be confusing to solvers.

  11. Thanks Prolixic.
    In 2, perhaps ‘Barbarian woman, multiply widowed, is worried’?
    In 9, ‘screw’ is slang for prison warder, so the definition is employing additional wordplay.
    In 20, I can’t think of a sentence where you can replace ‘gone’ with ‘went off’ grammatically.
    In 21 ‘making man of the moment’ defines the answer – but then ‘making’ is doing double duty.
    Interesting but obscure knowledge for FIDO and EXPEDITE (it’s GION for the geisha district I learnt).
    Thanks Bodger, keep practising.

  12. I began to wonder about the quality of the clues when I read the early comments and saw more experienced solvers than I having to reveal letters and answers. But I soldiered on did what I could without revealing letters…and it wasn’t a lot. I therefore very much appreciate Prolixic’s review. I hope Bodger takes the comments of said experienced solvers on board and comes back with a more user-friendly second attempt.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Quite a lot for Bodger to take on board, I hope he uses it to his advantage.

  14. Prolixic, in 22dn, to be fair to Bodger I think the ‘free’ is meant as a synonym for ’empty’. So if the paddy field is empty it’s because all the rice is in, i.e.harvested. That’s how i parsed it, anyway.

  15. Mmmm….When I read the first 11 comments, I was quietly reassured and found them very reasonable and constructive.

    Then I read Prolixic’s review and the phrase ‘damning with faint praise’ sprang to mind. The comments are, however, fair but a commentometer score of that magnitude has put me off creating crosswords.

    Shuffles off to lick wounds ….

    1. Welcome to the blog Bodger

      Wouldn’t a better reaction be to try and do better next time! I have never set a cryptic crossword, and probably never will.

    2. Yes, it is a whopping score, but it’s Rookie Corner so to be expected, and nothing to be ashamed of
      I thought most of your ideas were very good and original, but mainly your ‘cryptic grammar’ let you down
      Should you wish to ask BD to put us in touch, I would be happy to test solve and give you some feedback before you publish your next

    3. Hello, Bodger. I strongly encourage you to continue. As LbR says, your puzzle contains many clever and original ideas. Coming up with those is the hard part of creating an enjoyable crossword. The high commentometer score mostly reflects cryptic grammar issues. I suggest that you read Prolixic’s excellent Guide and then have another go. If you follow the advice and guidelines found in the Guide your commentometer score will plummet and solver enjoyment will soar.

  16. Dear Bodger,
    I just want to echo the encouraging comments of others. The hard part is already over — you have created a solvable (although rather difficult) crossword. I think as you go on you’ll find that if you search for common factors linking the various words in the clue the surfaces will become easier to make sensible. Then just proofread for the cryptic grammar. As you’ll see from Prolixic’s comments, nearly all of your clues could have been fixed without losing the original concept. As Mr. K mentioned, if you have not already done so, you should read Prolixic’s guide. It is full of wisdom.

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