Rookie Corner – 285 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 285

A Puzzle by Dumber

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Dumber joins the ever longer list of budding setters making their debut here 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 fofllows.

A creditable start for Dumber.  There were some good clues here but the use of abbreviations and repeating wordplay indicators needs to be addressed.  The commentometer reads as 4.5/29 or 15.5%.


1 Board game with model of car kept in old northern theme park (11)
CHESSINGTON – A five letter board game with white and black pieces followed by a two letter abbreviation for a type of car in the in from the clue and the abbreviations for old and northern.  The “in” in the clue is doing double duty as part of the containment indicator (kept in) and the IN as it appears in the solution.  I am not persuaded by the car-kept in old… argument.

7 Catered for agent (3)
FED – Double definition of having provided food for and an American agent.

9 Charlie and Ruby love this doctrine (5)
CREDO – The letter represented by Charlie in the NATO phonetic alphabet followed by another word for the colour ruby and the letter representing love or zero.

10 She sings in clubs to husband and, to the audience, against trees (9)
CHANTEUSE – The abbreviations for clubs and husband followed by a homophone of anti yews (against trees).  As the solution does not have the same pronunciation of the final seven letters, I think solvers would be right to grumble that the homophone does not work in the solution.  It is something I have (rightly) been picked up on.

11 Getting better non-themed arrangement (2,3,4)
ON THE MEND – An anagram (arrangement) of NON THEMED.  As you need only to move the first N to the right, this is not really an anagram that demands much of the solver.

12 Scandinavian alternative hidden in named quarter (5)
NORSE – A two letter word expressing an alternative inside the abbreviation for named and the abbreviation for south-east (quarter).  Whilst name can be used as an abbreviation for name, the dictionaries do not support its use as an abbreviation for named.  NSE on its own is not an abbreviation for a quarter.

13 Motorists clubs (7)
DRIVERS – Double definition, the second being golf clubs.

14 It goes pear-shaped for this disagreeable person (6)
EGOIST – An anagram (pear-shaped) of IT GOES.

16 Small amount of paper with hidden credit charge (6)
SCREAM – The abbreviation for small and a four letter word for a quantity of paper includes an abbreviation for credit.  Again, the abbreviation usage here is questionable.  The abbreviation for credit is CR.  However, the R in the solution is already accounted for with the definition of the quantity of paper.  C on its own is not a recognised abbreviation for credit.  There is also the repetition of hidden as a containment indicator.  To scream along can mean to charge or move rapidly.

18 Interrupt DA’s removal from bargained reshuffle (5,2)
BARGE IN – An anagram (reshuffle) of BARGAINED after removing the letters in DA.

20 Wife to doctor: “Rust in Otto’s sausage!” (5)
WURST – The abbreviation for wife followed by an anagram (doctor) of RUST.

21 Sickened by new article, upstart sat down (9)
NAUSEATED – The abbreviation for new and a single letter article followed by the first letter (start) of up and a six letter word meaning sat down.  Some editors will not allow constructions such as upstart where you have to split the word to give the wordplay.

22 Ambiguous? It’s the same as the non-instrumental part (9)
EQUIVOCAL – Split 4-5 this might mean that it is equivalent with the sung part.

23 Tipped the French worker… (5)
LEANT – The French for the followed by a three letter word for an insect associated with work.

24 even so, the elusive creature didn’t finish (3)
YET – A mythical Himalayan snowman with the final letter removed (didn’t finish).

25 Ted keeps Pep confused after team’s avoided (11)
SIDESTEPPED – The TED from the clue keeps an anagram (confused) of PEP after a five letter word for team’s (preserving the ‘s in the solution).  As kept has been used as container, a different indicator should ideally be used here.


1 Frigid head of state holds flower for cheated husbands (8)
CUCKOLDS – A four letter word meaning frigid and the first letter (head) of state includes a three letter name of a river whose source is in Wales that flows through to the Severn Estuary.

2 The model-racing version of Silverstone? (8,7)
ELECTRIC CIRCUIT – An appalling cryptic definition where the solution bears little or no resemblance to the definition even allowing for a lot of poetic licence.  A resounding thumbs down on this one.

3 Arsenal-supporting policemen and private eyes (5,10)
STORE DETECTIVES – A five letter word for an arsenal followed by a ten letter word for policemen.

4 Two kilos of joints are ignored, university admitted to core group (7)
NUCLEUS – The joints in the fingers without the two Ks (two kilos ignored) include (admitted) the abbreviation for university.

5 Rabbit starts to walk like a duck (7)
TWADDLE – The first letter (starts) of to followed by a word describing how a duck walks.  Starts implies two or more letters so this does not really work.

6 Use entirely non-U loo? Never! (3,2,4,6)

7 Light virus or two points to Penny (American, red cap) outside Los Angeles (11,4)
FLUORESCENT LAMP – A three letter word for a severe viral cold followed the OR from the clue, two points of the compass, an American coin equivalent to the penny and the abbreviation for a military policeman redcap inside the abbreviation for Los Angeles.  Chambers gives redcap as one word, not two.

8 Having eaten healthily, Lawrence dropped dead outside (6)
DIETED – The initials Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame inside a four letter word dropped dead.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Outside was used in the previous clue.

15 Ovbiously this clue wasn’t checked (8)
UNEDITED – A clue that has a mistype and allowed through the checking process would be this.

17 Hands account to newspaper boss when threatened (7)
MENACED – A three letter word for hands or a crew followed by the abbreviation for account and the abbreviation for editor.  Perhaps when works better with the structure definition when worplay rather than wordplay when definition.

18 Lies about gold and black (many Egyptian) trinkets (7)
BAUBLES – The abbreviation for b******t around the chemical symbol for gold, a Roman numeral for a large number (many) and the abbreviation for Egyptian.  The abbreviation for Egyptian is another not supported by dictionaries.

19 Outdoorsy, kind of square and feeble (6)
TWEEDY – A type of square used by a draughts-person followed by a word meaning feeble.

64 comments on “Rookie Corner – 285

  1. Amused; a very good debut Alex
    Couple of inaccuracies (eg it’s not a theme park?) unless I’m missing some subtleties, but a good start anyway
    Nice one, well done and thanks for the challenge, some really good cluing on display here

    1. It became the ‘World of Adventures’ in the 1980s when the ‘original business’ was on the decline and a theme park was added apparently under the management of the Tussaud organisation.

      1. CWOA is 2 minutes down the road from me. You are right that it was given a marketing makeover in the 80s when the word Zoo became unfashionable (plus it was terrible anyway), but installing some plastic elephants hardly cuts the moutarde, however they market the place.
        The only theme is a financial one in my experience – well, that and stuffing kids full of evil food and drinks. Also, it is located on a small but important arterial route into London and causes misery to thousands of motorists every single day in summertime; miles upon miles of stationary traffic
        For the sake of decency, I cannot post how the locals regard it, nor how we refer to it

        1. I went there when it was still a zoo, probably in about 1980. Can’t remember much of the zoo itself, but I have fond memories of the day out which involved travelling on the top deck of a Routemaster the entire length of the 65 bus route from Ealing to Chessington.

      1. I know that Jose, but that doesn’t mean it is one, they simply want that term in the name for the search engines
        As Mucky says, he went there and the highlight was the bus journey which, incidentally, is probably not possible these days
        My memories are of sad, bald, caged animals banging their heads against concrete walls out of boredom, frustration and bewilderment

        1. Yes, I understand where you are coming from and acknowledge the description of your experience of the place but this is a crossword clue – not a submission of evidence in a court of law. The setter needed a suitable clue definition for the answer and probably researched on the internet to find one. Most of the entries listed on a Google search describe it as a Theme Park. You can’t really expect the setter to visit the site and conduct personal in-depth analysis of whether it actually is one or not. If it is devoid of a unifying setting or idea then maybe “amusement park” might be a better term to use?

          1. It was just a tongue-in-cheek pop at CWOA, not a criticism of the clue – though I would have expected a def by example question mark

            1. Yes, no probs LBR, I see your point. Just for the record, I hate zoos (and cruelty to animals of any sort) and if I had my way they would all be completely banned everywhere in the world!

  2. We started off badly as we had not heard of the 1a place or the 1d ‘flower’ but we got them both from the wordplay and a Google check. Once we were further into the puzzle we appreciated it more and more with plenty of ‘aha’ moments. If we have parsed 16a correctly there is an abbreviation used that does not seem to be in BRB and a few other points that we will look at later. All in all, a competently put together puzzle that we enjoyed solving.
    Thanks Dumber.

    1. After further looking we still are having trouble equating the definition with the answer in 16a. Although we got 18d from definition and checkers and can see ‘gold’ and ‘black’ but the rest of the wordplay is still a mystery.

      1. I am putting 16a down to an ‘extended synonym’ – I wonder if Prolixic will agree.
        In 18d, I see a two letter abbreviation, often an interjection, of a synonym of lies, which the BRB says is US slang, as the first and last letters. However, I am slightly confused by ‘many’ in the clue.

        1. See what you mean about BS. Then L can be the Roman numeral and perhaps E = Egyptian although BRB does not support this

  3. Very enjoyable, well done Dumber.
    I have the same concern as the 2Kiwis on the use of a single letter abbreviation in 16a; but, that is assuming, like them, I have parsed it correctly.
    Perhaps 7a should have an indication of an Americanism.
    Top clues – 25a, 4d, and 19d.
    I think I see a low ‘commentometer’ score in your future, but that depends on the higher power of Prolixic.

  4. An early thanks to those of you who have so far commented. I started this crossword after my brother gave a cryptic answer when I asked where he was when he took photographs shared on the family WhatsApp group, and I told him it I’d write a cryptic clue for it (1a – Jack’s clue gave reference to a musical, a Dutch bank and 2,440lbs) and start a new crossword with it.

    I hadn’t written a single clue for a long time and had to get a link for my Crossword Compiler software as my Microsoft Surface Pro doesn’t have a CD ROM tray. For the same reason I couldn’t load my Chambers Dictionary and Thesaurus CD so relied on CC10’s lists of letter definitions, hence E for Egyptian. Despite originally questioning it myself I was guilty of accepting it as it fit nicely into the clue (lesson learnt!)

    I had to Google BRB (I still have the battered one my dad gave me with the reminder that “Bull***t doesn’t baffle brains” – Dad was Guardian solver and, later, a DT one) and am not sure if a low commentometer is better than a high one, but assume by Senf’s comment that lower is better.

    I look forward to reading more of your comments as, like Otto,’s sausage, I am rusty!

    1. Just a brief comment re 2d. I think the clue is fine – a pretty clever and whimsical cryptic definition in my book!

  5. Nice puzzle Dumber.
    I am in agreement with Senf re faves and had similar parsing probs with 16a and 18d.
    I thought 1a was hardly very northern until I followed the instructions.
    The highlight for me was the mental image of Otto’s rusty sausage and his frustrated wife.

    1. I deliberately tried to word 1a so the solver might think I meant a northern theme park. I also hinted at Monopoly as the board game but no one has picked up on that yet. My clues (when written fairly/correctly) are always going to be too easy for seasoned solvers as my red herrings aren’t going to fool you/them. But I want novice solvers to be able to work them out and always want as many as possible to provide humorous imagery. I have to admit that the clue that always makes me laugh when I read it is 8d. I’m not sure what that says about me!

  6. Avery good crossword although I have the same quibbly queries as others above. We did visit 1a (we looked after the grandchildren while mummy and daddy went on all the scarier rides) and I don’t think I’d go there again in a hurry – too much continuous music for a start

    Anyhow I digress – thanks to Dumber and in advance to Prolixic

  7. A very promising start – thanks Dumber.
    Like others I can’t see how the definition in 16a works and there are a few unsupported abbreviations in use.
    I thought 15d was neat and had to laugh at the unfortunate Otto in 20a.
    My ticks went to 4d and 19d.

  8. I’m tempted to explain the definition of 16a but think it’s best to wait until after Prolixic’s comments.

  9. Hi Dumber,
    I enjoyed solving your puzzle which contained some good humour along the way! Lots of good clues.
    10ac didn’t quite work for me – I am either being Dumb or it’s just an accent thing.
    I’ve a few minor quibbles which are either already raised or I know Prolixic will raise, so I won’t repeat here.
    The combined surface of 23 & 24 as a ‘pair’ was neat, too, when I re-read them.
    PS As a fellow (new) MS Surface Pro user I’d be very interested to learn any tips you may have. I will ask Big Dave to put us in email contact, if you’re happy with that? I’ve just moved Crossword Compiler and WordWebPro across so far – getting there slowly!

    1. Thanks, Encota, I have no objection whatsoever regarding email contact, in fact I would welcome it. I’ll be able to explain a couple of my reasoning behind some of my clues!

  10. Thanks Dumber
    Very good puzzle, particularly if it’s your first. Lots of care and skill evident.
    The clues I liked best were those in which you’d used the surface to hide/distract from the definition: 20a, 4d, 7d. In the rest the definitions were rather literal. That makes for easier clues (no problem in itself) and you don’t get the same light-bulb moment.
    I had the same queries as others have mentioned, but would add:
    5d I can’t equate definition and solution
    1a Either your ‘in’ is doing double duty (you really need ‘kept in in …’) or your word order is awkward
    10a A general point, as plenty of setters use homophones that way; there’s no fun in homophones if you can’t hear them in the solution. They are supposed to be an aural pun, but when the pun is so far buried it loses its effect. Compare a recent one from Paul ‘Club that may follow club, loosely speaking’ for SAND WEDGE. It’s a terrible homophone, but you can’t miss the joke.

    1. Hi Mucky,

      I had exactly the same thought as you originally regarding “in” 1a, but I think the setter’s intention was possibly “board game + model of car outside (“kept”) in (from the clue) + abbreviations for old and northern”.

      Congratulations on your MPP win by the way!

          1. Noted, Dutch. I’ll bear that in mind in future. I already have another completed puzzle so will take another look at the clues and edit if necessary.

            1. yes, it’s because wordplay often doesn’t make much sense in the past, for argument’s sake “was hidden in”, when it still is.

      1. Thanks :-)
        @ Alex: I see now. I was misled by the kept, as active verb forms are conventionally given in the present tense; i.e. it would usually be board game with car keeps in …
        If it’s ‘car kept’ that would conventionally indicate that the car is kept, rather than does the keeping

    2. Re 5d, I was pleased to learn it can be a verb.
      Ah, in 1ac we are to read ‘model of car kept’ as paranthetical. Get it now.
      Yes, the ‘anti-yews’ is not something I would ever have got ‘forwards’.

  11. In the BRB’s list of definitions for 16a’s solution there is ‘to move with a ******ing noise’, which could equate to the word in the clue, though it’s a bit of a leap.

  12. Welcome finally, Dumber. I think we’ve been expecting you!

    I thought the puzzle was pitched at the right level for a debut, and it had many good qualities – most of the surfaces stood up to scrutiny and there were some good wordplay ideas, although perhaps they tended to concentrate too much on charades, containment devices and anagrams, I didn’t spot one reversal or “lurker”, for instance. On the subject of anagrams, it’s best to avoid those with minimal rearrangement of letters – just one letter in both 11a and 20a needed to move.

    Apart from the unsupported single-letter abbreviations, there were a few repetitions of indicators, i.e. “hidden” appeared twice in the space of four clues, and “outside” was repeated in successive clues. “Kept/keeps” was also used twice, in 1a and 25a.

    The clues I liked best were the more concise ones like 7a and 23a, but I also thought 6d was a well-constructed anagram.

    Thank you and well done on a promising debut, but I would recommend changing your pseudonym, to be honest I don’t think it does you any favours.

  13. I had the same 16A and 18D issues as others and had to Google 1A for confirmation. It took me a while to get past Mr. Ford’s car model there too and see the right one. A promising debut, Dumber. Well done.

    I agree with Silvanus about your pseudonym!

    1. The reason I use Dumber is because I once sent a puzzle to my wife’s local MENSA group magazine and they asked if I could dumb it down a bit!

      1. Also, recently another brother said of a conversation between my third brother and myself that it was like listening to Dumb and Dumber. That’s what reminded me of the MENSA incident.

  14. Welcome to the corner, Dumber. I thought this was a good debut effort and it was apparent that you have some clever ideas. Having said that, I agree with Silvanus that it was the more concise clues which worked best, things seemed to fall apart a little where you constructed clues from a plethora of little bits and pieces – 7&18d in particular spring to mind.
    As for what I assume was intended as a homophone in 10a – perhaps not your finest work!

    I do hope that you’ll produce more puzzles and would advise you to check the validity of abbreviations in future before you include them, scale back a bit on the assembly work and – yes – consider a change of pseudonym!

    Well done for braving the den.

  15. Welcome Dumber, congratulations on putting this together!

    a very enjoyable puzzle which, to your credit, was imminently doable without being too easy. Some mini quibbles as you might expect, but also some gems.

    ‘Motorists clubs’ is an excellent double definition, though it seems to want an apostrophe somewhere. I liked “tipped the French worker” because the surface works so well. The homophone in 10a has been mentioned – it needs to sound like the answer.

    I too wondered about 16a. I would not encourage up-start=u, not accepted everywhere.

    using names like pep in anagram fodder seems an easy way out somehow.

    5d problem with starts being plural. 7d was too convoluted for me, i just guessed the answer.

    15d, brilliant concept, very innovative, but it seems like a double negative to me. It would be an excellent clue for the opposite answer, with “Obviously this clue wasn’t” and “checked” as the two definitions. Although the two definitions would be very close, something else to watch out for (also in second half of 3, also 22 – ambiguous is a literally what the answer means from being split into the wordplay components)

    These comments are intended to help you, i hope they do.

    good luck and thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks, Dutch. I had to contact Dave about the deliberate misspelling of ‘Obviously’ in case he corrected it. I could have added [sic.] to the clue but it would have spoilt it.

      I thought ‘Motorists clubs’ was a bit of a lazy clue, and a bit obvious, so it’s nice to get a mention for it. I thought about the possessive apostrophe but decided it was irrelevant.

      I should have spotted the mistakes in 10a. I did spot it in my original homophone clue for 20a once I realised that the answer is not pronounced the same. Not my worst decision considering the positive comments about poor old Otto and his wife!

      1. I think the apostrophe is necessary for a smooth surface. Motorists’ clubs or motorist’s clubs. i have a preference for the former. You could forego it if you had an adjective (motorist clubs), but you don’t. Point is, there is surface, which is why i think it is a good dd.

        1. I would have used Motorists’ of the two as Motorist’s is singular. On reflection I should have used it anyway because it looks like two random words rather than a phrase.

  16. With all the comments so far, which I’ve not had time to read in detail, some of the following may duplicate what’s already been said. Apologies if that’s so.
    This was quickly solved as the clues were generally clear as to what was required, although I thought some of them were not particularly accurate. And I thought both 1ac and 1dn called for specialised UK geographical knowledge – 1dn particularly so for the ‘flower’. In 16ac, if I have parsed it correctly, ‘c’ is not an accepted abbreciation for ‘credit’ – in the BRB at any rate.
    But there were some great clues, notably 4dn. And I liked the use of ‘upstart’ in 21ac; that sort of thing is fine by me but is frowned on by some editors.
    A good debut – hope we won’t have to wait too long to see your next contribution on this site.

    1. Just looked at 16a again and seen I’ve mistakenly used the R twice (credit and first letter of the definition of amount of paper). Very sloppy editing on my part, sorry.

  17. A pleasant solve, I liked 10,14,23-24,2,4,15 and 19. Favourite has to be 4 – I was looking for something involving knees :)
    I can’t parse the BLES part of 18, and ‘in’ in 1ac appears to be doing double duty.
    Thank Dumber!

    1. You’re not alone regarding 4d, Gonzo. After I’d printed the puzzle and looked at that clue I forgot which joints I’d referred to, thought it was knees and wondered where I’d got the two Ks from!

  18. Thanks for your comments, Prolixic. Apart from my admitted mistake in using the R twice (CR and REAM) and failing to spot it, most of the rest – like RED CAP instead of REDCAP; ANTI YEWS; E for Egyptian etc., were also questioned by myself but included to see if they would pass muster.

    The use of the same/similar indicators shows that I didn’t look again at all the clues before changing some. I was quite annoyed with myself when I saw what had already been pointed out by many!

    I hope my next puzzle shows I’ve taken everything on board. Thanks again.

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I think Dumber will be checking his abbreviations and indicators most carefully in future!

  20. Thanks for the review Prolixic. Fair, concise and accurate as always.
    My only other wonder was 18a where the letters to be removed are not in order [DA] – should that not be indicated or is that just too picky? Or is it a different case because DA is an abbreviation?

    1. I thought about that, too. Alan Connor at The Guardian blogged about that in the past year (but I can’t find it now) —when the letters of one word are to be removed from a second word and then the remaining letters re-arranged, stating a preference for two anagram indicators.

      Here I think the particular cryptic meaning is fine, because the reshuffle happens before the removal. So “bargained reshuffle” could be, say, DABARGEIN, at which point it’s possible to remove ‘DA’ without a second re-arrangement.

  21. Thanks for the review, Prolixic – I note you picked up some of the points that concerned me. But in 1dn the river that rises in Wales and flows into the Severn estuary is the USK. The river needed here is the UCK, which flows through Uckfield in Sussex – how many solvers would have known that?

    1. I suppose I was guilty of using a river I knew. I used to work in Uckfield. Mind you, it was on the news when it broke its banks and flooded the town some years ago.

        1. I suppose anyone who’s going to comment will have done so by now, so thanks to you all for your positive comments and constructive criticism. I hope my next submission will show I’ve taken it all on board but without the loss of humour. Whether I will still be using the pseudonym Dumber remains to be seen.


            1. Alex is probably not unique enough, Jane. I had to use 4lex Logan in my gmail address as Alex Logan was already taken

              1. You could borrow my grandson’s middle name of Xander – I’m guessing that you were perhaps christened Alexander?

            1. I’m glad you suggested that, Prolixic, as “Um-ba!” was what my excited baby daughter used to call out when looking at her older brother. “Umber” would perfect, thank you.

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