Rookie Corner – 286 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 286

A Puzzle by Rex Bassett

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

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.

Rex returns.  Whilst this was better than his previous crosswords, there were still too many rough edges.  The grid was not solver friendly with eight solution where there was less than 50% checking letters.  The commentometer reads as 5.5 / 36 or 15.3%.


1 Grange accommodates six but closes down early for cleaning (7)
GRAVING – The GRANGE without the final letter (closes down early) includes the Roman numerals for six.

5 District roundabout central Chennai used as a sports stadium (5)
ARENA – A four letter word for a district around the central letter of Chennai.  The cryptic structure of wordplay used as a definition would be better as used for.  For conciseness, you could have …has sports stadium.

8 Gave beer all round as refreshment (8)
BEVERAGE – An anagram (all round) of GAVE BEER.

9 Craving insect, she shortly eats ant (6)
MANTIS – A four letter word term of address for an unmarried lady (she) with the final letter removed (shortly) includes the ANT from the clue.  The craving here is padding as far as I can see.  The clue could have avoided the use of ANT in the wordplay with “She shortly eats one insect and another”

12/25 Don runs here to get into the drink… (8)
ABERDEEN – The Scottish city at the mouth of the River Don.  The convention is that where the solution is split across the grid, the constituent parts must be words in their own right.  Here, the resulting two four letter words fail this test.

13 …two for Uncle Sam but non-alcoholic by the sound of it (5)
DEUCE – A homophone (by the sound of it) of JUICE (non-alcoholic).

14 6? No, an 8 (4)
VINO – The Roman numeral for six followed by the NO from the clue.  Several points here.  The wordplay for Roman numeral for six has been used already in 1a.  The convention is also that if you are referring to a clue and there is an across and a down clue with the same number, you should indicate this.  This is another clue where a portion of the solution is lifted directly from the wordplay.  Try to avoid doing this too often.

17 Secretly, at night few spinning a yarn (4)
WEFT – The answer is hidden in (secretly) and reversed (spinning) in the third and fourth words of the clue.  Try to avoid hidden word clues where the solution stops or starts at a word boundary.

18 Unfair distribution made by inexperienced croupier dropping the Queen (3,4)
RAW DEAL – A three letter word meaning inexperienced followed by a six letter word for a croupier without the final ER (dropping the Queen).

21 Accurate tackle? (7)
DEADEYE – Double definition, the second being a block used in a ship’s rigging.

23 Design course, so perversely never used beige (4)
ECRU – An anagram (design) of COURSE after removing the letters in SO.  The perversely indicates that the letters removed are in a different order.

26 Where Numbers include Deuteronomy (4)
CATS – Cryptic definition of the musical where the songs (numbers) include Old Deuteronomy.  The clue, whilst good, fails as the number is not Deuteronomy on its own.

27 Derrick caused lifeboat to go down (5)
DAVIT – The hoist on a boat used to lower a lifeboat into the water.

28 High-pitched whistle if made in metal (4)
FIFE – The IF from the clue inside (made in) the abbreviation for iron.  The use of “made in” does not quite work as a containment indicator as is does not indicate put in.

31 Hoods in front of the beak (6)
SNOODS – The first part of this is the definition.  How the “in front of the beak” works is a mystery known to the setter and God, and the latter is slightly bemused!

32 Second point off Bush and Botham, coming from Augusta! (8)
GEORGIAN – The name of President Bush with the second abbreviation for East (point) removed followed by the first name of Mr Botham.

33 Jackass kicked off late but was at the right pitch (2-3)
ON-KEY – The animal also called a Jackass with the first letter removed (kicked off late).

34 Grooves to sound of poetry being presented (7)
REEDING – A homophone (being presented) of READING.  The order of definition to wordplay is back to front.  


2 Analysis minister, that’s the quick way to Westminster’s leadership (6)
REVIEW – The abbreviation for reverend (minister) followed by the abbreviation (the quick way) of that is (that’s) and the first letter (leadership) of Westminster.

3 Rave about insignia (4)
VARE – An anagram (about) of RAVE.

4 Fail to disseminate Intelligence Neil and I randomly put out (7)
NEGLECT – An anagram (to disseminate) of INTELLIGENCE after removing the letters in NEIL I.  The randomly indicates that these letters are removed in a different order.

6 Arab’s money seen when top of case is removed (4)
RIAL – Remove the first letter (top) of a five letter word for a legal case.

7 Salts used when announcing evening ceremonies (8)
NITRITES – A homophone (announcing) of NIGHT (evening) and a five letter word for ceremonies.  The structure definition used when wordplay would be better as definition uses wordplay.

8 Hand game‘s clothes round (4)
BRAG – Reverse (round) a four letter word for clothes.  I think that the hand indicates a card game.

10 Mars, Sun, originally Pluto, Castor possibly and Sigma (6)
SPOILS – The abbreviation for sun, the first letter (originally) of Pluto, a type of liquid of which castor is an example (possibly) and the letter represented by Sigma in the Greek alphabet.

11 One’s got a right to a tree (4)
ACER – A three letter word meaning one followed by the abbreviation for right.

15 Not even bleariest soldier wears this (5)
BERET – The odd letters (not even) in the third word of the clue.

16 Is given a draw after recalculation (5)
AWARD – An anagram (after recalculation) of A DRAW.  Is given would suggest a solution ending -ed.  Give a draw… would be better.

19 Fiats ordered by Authority (6)
EDICTS – A single definition put two ways.  Try to use double definitions where there is a different in the two meanings.

20 Leading herbalists who rant about natural cure for indigestion (8)
HAWTHORN – An anagram (about) of H (first letter – leading – of herbalists) WHO RANT.  As about has been used as anagram indicator a different indicator should have been used here.  I think that the definition requires a little too much specialist knowledge of natural remedies. 

22 Style illustrated by Basque language (4)
ELAN – The answer is hidden in (illustrated by) in the final two words of the clue.

23 Look what goes into horrible, vile yeast (4,3)
EVIL EYE – The answer is hidden in (what goes into) the final three words of the clue.

24 Wheel shows what to do with tails and a donkey (6)
PINION – In the game with a donkey and a tail you pin one on the donkey.

25 See 12 Across

29 Announced promotions for sculpture (4)
ADZE – A homophone (announced) of ADS (promotions).  The sculpture here is the wrong definition.  The sculpture is what the sculptor makes with a tool like the solution.

30 Hurry-up, it’s jazz! (4)
TRAD – A several (up) of a word meaning hurry.

48 comments on “Rookie Corner – 286

  1. We needed to reveal a few letters to get a completed grid. These were for the 12a/25d combo (still can’t see how that is meant to work) and for 8d and 34a which has a meaning we had not met before.
    Thought it was a particularly unhelpful grid for solvers, especially as there are some rather ‘rare’ words (eg 1a although simple wordplay here).
    10d really had us head scratching for a long time before we saw how it all worked and is probably our favourite clue.
    Thanks Rex.

  2. Two-thirds of this went in without too much difficulty – fortunately I knew about the Don and 12/25.

    I am, however, not keen on crosswords where unusual words, although fairly clued, mean you have to break off solving to check in the BRB that there is such a thing as a …. I did like 26a when the penny dropped, although it could be quite ‘specialist’ knowledge ;) I don’t understand 31a or 3d, I think 16d is using the wrong tense, and surely the solution in 29d does the ‘sculpting’? 24d surely needs an explanation as to how the second I gets there?

    Thanks to Rex – some good ideas but the grid and the unknowns meant that the solving process didn’t flow nicely for me. Thanks in advance to Prolixic for explaining the ones I can’t

  3. This was somewhat of a mixed bag for me. There are some clever touches but quite a lot of obscure terms and I ended up revealing a couple of letters to finish.
    When a single word (answer to 12/25a) is split in the grid the convention is that each of the constituent parts has to be a valid word in its own right.
    The definition in 16d (‘Is given’) doesn’t really work and I think a simple ‘Give’ would work better. I can’t understand 31a.
    I liked 26a, 10d and 24d (which made me laugh).
    Thanks Rex.

  4. :phew:
    On the plus side, Rex, I think this was less impenetrable than your previous offerings although parts of it were still quite obscure and there are a lot of points of detail which are rather iffy meaning that I have lots of scribbles and question marks across my page. How this translates into Prolixic’s “commentometer” reading remains to be seen.

    Several of my comments have already been made by CS and Gazza, and I am sure that Prolixic will cover the others. I will just mention that you really ought to specify that the 8 in 14a is 8a as you also have an 8d (although that would of course wreck the surface); “accurate” in 21a is an adjective defining a (US!) noun; and, strictly speaking, the Deuteronomy in 26a is Old Deuteronomy.

    I agree there are some clever ideas on show, but I don’t think most solvers are looking for puzzles which require a stop/start solve and frequent recourse to Google and dictionaries.

    10d has a seriously weird surface but it nicely disguises the definition and I’ll opt for that as my favourite.

    Thanks Rex and in advance to Prolixic.

  5. I’ve nearly finished this but will have to leave it now as my time is up (on the computer, not mortally!). I agree with the points made my CS and Gazza above. I think 31a is a cracking clue!

  6. Some decent clues in there, but also some where I lost the will. The grid is very disjointed and consequently there are too many short solutions, some of them rather obscure. While not specifically wrong, those aspects plus the niggles already mentioned made it slightly tedious for me
    I’d suggest creating a more conventional puzzle next time and concentrate on developing your style in the surface readings

    26a & 24d are my picks too. Thanks for the challenge Rex, and in advance to Prolixic

  7. I’m still working on the printed version and am about halfway through – mostly the right hand side. So far I think ‘made’ is confusing and unnecessary in 28a; the first A in 11d is questionable; ‘for sculpture’ in 29d should be ‘used on sculpture’ at the very least, and can’t see the point of an explanation mark in 32a.

    Although I have yet to find the answer, I realised straight away that 31a has more to do with fowl play than foul play, but I like the clue even if I am yet to solve it

    Time to get back to it..

    1. Having changed your name, you went into moderation – both old and new aliases should work from now on

      1. I’d like to say that I typed that intentionally, Dutch, but it’s a typo that I have only noticed since I read your post. I’ve already submitted my next puzzle so I’d better have another look at it!

  8. I’m still going, but I like 2, 7 & 15 so far. And possibly 12/25, but I haven’t got that yet…

    1. With about 9 clues left, I had to reveal a couple of letters to kick me on to the end. I’ll need the review to parse a few, but I’ll add 10, 12 (I was lost in Russia) & 26 to my favourites.
      Cheers, Rex

  9. Welcome back, Rex.

    Not for the first time, I share the reservations of CS, Gazza and RD – it was a mixed bag for me too, a bag of Bassett’s Allsorts, perhaps. Admittedly, like RD, I managed to secure more answers than in the setter’s previous puzzles before needing to resort to electronic assistance, but I was disappointed to find three obscure words in the grid that I’d never encountered before, when they could have been substituted by more solver-friendly alternatives. One particular anagram indicator triggered my repetition radar, and, like Umber, I felt there were several instances of unnecessary (“padding”) words that jarred.

    Once again, plenty of really good ideas in evidence, but after three puzzles now the cluing should really be tighter and showing many fewer rough edges. I’m not convinced that the setter is doing enough to stop solvers echoing LbR’s opening comment.

    Thanks, RB, I do hope that you will eventually make it a more even battle between setter and solver, at the moment you are winning every time.

  10. I’m another ‘halfway through’ – may be reduced to revealing letters but will persevere for a while longer.

    1. I did finish up by doing a couple of reveals and confess to having quite a few ‘umms’ for one reason or another – doubtless Prolixic will set me straight.
      I did think that 10d was rather clever and I would have given star rating to 26a had it not been for the obvious error pointed out by RD.

      Keep going, RB, but do take on board the advice you are being given.

  11. Thanks Rex
    I generally agree with the earlier comments, in that I was able to get only so far before being stymied by a mixture of curious solutions, lack of crossing letters and clues that weren’t reliably accurate.
    I liked 23a, 14a (I think it was fair enough to leave out the d for appearances sake) 26a and 4d.
    You have quite a few cryptic definitions – they’re a very mixed bag. Everyone seems to like 26a. 12/25 is also good (maybe ‘to’ rather than ‘into’ would help the surface) except that it’s possible to understand the clue and still not be able to solve it. 27 isn’t terribly cryptic, relying only on the solver misreading Derrick, which as it’s not the usual form of the name, is not very likely. Also, if it’s a whole clue definition, the whole clue should be equivalent to a noun. 19 was very weak. The only bit that might be cryptic is Fiats, which I suppose might be read as cars. But the rest of the clue weakens rather than strengthens that reading.

  12. Hi Rex Bassett

    congratulations on putting this together. I struggled, bit of a nautical theme which goes beyond my knowledge, so i needed a few reveals.

    some suggestions i hope will help

    The grid. (1) It suffers from the 4 mini-puzzle syndrome (a single connection only between quadrants) and (2) it has about 8 words with more unchecked than checked letters, and others with unchecked first letters. Not wrong, but solving is a much more pleasant experience if you avoid both these issues.

    be careful of “double definitions” like 27a and 19d, where you in fact have the same definition twice. Actually you have a synonym plus definition. point is, if you have two indications they should be unrelated.

    Gazza mentioned but worth repeating given it’s importance. You cannot split 12/25 unless each 4-letter word is a word in its own right. Now you have two non-sensical words in the grid, which is not allowed.

    Try and make sure hidden words are entirely covered in fodder, in 17a one side is bare.

    good luck and thanks!!

    1. This morning I was all set to continue with a self-portrait I am working on but, after starting to solve your puzzle, Rex, I was in cryptic mode and got the urge to edit and submit my own second puzzle. Anyway, I have now completed yours and have to admit that I revealed so many letters that I decided to reveal them all and do the puzzle in reverse.

      A lot of clever clues but some unfairly so I think. For instance, 26a should definitely had a question mark, especially at you used the proper noun ‘Numbers’; 1a and 31a took a bit Googling and probably needed specialist knowledge – if I was a seagoing turkey farmer I might have got them easy enough I suppose.

      Although I get the reference to Don, 12/25 has so much wrong with it, as already mentioned, I’ll leave it there, along with other clues already covered before me.

      Finishing on a positive, I especially liked 18a, 21a, 33a, 7d, 15d, 23d, 24d and 30d. But my undoubted favourite was 10d, which I thought was a brilliantly clever clue!

  13. Looking at previous comments I’m satisfied that I got well over half of this unaided, evenly distributed around the grid, without being able to establish any real foothold. I may go back to it but will probably wait for the review. I thought the setter showed great creativity in clues like the excellent 10d, 20d and 23a. I also liked 30d and the simple but smooth lurker at 22d.

  14. Well, with five left unsolved in the bottom left corner, and no more time, I revealed letters. I have to say that I would definitely not have been able to solve those five from the clues. I have question marks by a few others, also. In 31A, surely the answer is something that is worn at the back of the head, not the front? I did know the 1A term and liked 10D, but I’m sorry to say that was about it for enjoyment.

    1. I think enjoyment is key. There weren’t enough clues easy enough to gain a foothold. I sometimes think some setters (myself included, I’m as smug as you can get!) can sometimes be so keen on their own clever wordplay that they lose sight of the ultimate objective – to enable the solver to enjoy the experience. That’s why I always enter words manually, rather than let CC’s software automatically fill it, when I design a new grid. I don’t want obscure words to find their way in.

      1. CC was not used to fill the grid here, I’m sorry you found it too challenging. I do find it hard at present to set clues at a “solvable level”, with time I’ll improve I hope.

        1. It was more laziness than an inability to solve it, Rex, even if I did find some clues tricky. I’m more of a Wednesday DT crossword solver really (I can’t even solve my own clues when I look back at them!) but wanted to get the answers and see how the clues worked. I admire you for composing a grid without the aid of software. All I want to do is write clues, so the quicker I can fill a grid with words the sooner I can get on with it. I have made one concession though – I have bought another copy of the Big Red Book to make sure I don’t include any more dodgy letter definitions like E for Egyptian (it’s in CC’s database). If I was wearing a hat I’d take it off to you as you definitely worked a lot harder than me and we both got the same Commentometer percentage.

    2. EC, 31a. A snood is a long fleshy appendage/hood that hangs over/in front of the upper beak of a turkey. A snood is also a woollen tube worn as a hood on the head. They are both certainly hood-like coverings and whether they are at the front or back is not relavant. This is a great clue where the whole surface provides themed misdirection (criminality). So, the word-play is not only known to the setter and God!

        1. Maybe you intended the whole clue to be a cryptic definition? And if it is, the more common meaning of “snood” doesn’t come into it. And as such it’s probably an even better clue.

  15. May thanks for the review, Prolixic. I don’t quite understand what you are suggesting the setter should have done to improve the reading of 7d – perhaps someone can enlighten me?

  16. At the risk of appearing to put the boot in, in 6d ‘case’ and ‘trial’ are not synonymous, a distinction that is reinforced whenever somebody says ‘the case has yet to come to trial’ or ‘the trial found that there was no case to answer’.
    ‘Hearing first goes into Arab’s money’?
    Some very good clues and surfaces though. Thanks Rex and Prolixic.

    1. G, from Chambers Thesaurus (online), see 2:

      1 occurrence, circumstances, context, state, condition, position, situation, occasion, event, specimen, example, instance, illustration, point formal contingency
      2 lawsuit, suit, trial, proceedings, action, process, cause, argument, dispute
      3 a doctor?s case patient, invalid, victim, client

      1. Yes, but thesauruses are notoriously loose.
        Case: subject of question, investigation or inquiry
        Trial: examination by a court to determine a question of law or fact

        1. Try this from Collins Online Dictionary:


          7. countable noun
          In law, a case is a trial or other legal inquiry.

          1. Chambers thesaurus gives trial under case, but not case under trial
            The English language is so fluid it can’t possibly be an exact science

            ‘During the trial, the prosecution presented their case against the defendant’ – those two words cannot be interchanged

            But then a legal precedent can be referred to as ‘The case of A versus B’ but that’s case as in ‘instance of’, perhaps :wacko:

            1. LBR. Yes, I take your points. Some words have a narrow/specific meaning when used by a particular profession/group, but also a more common/generic meaning when used by the general public. I think “case” is one, otherwise why would it be listed?

  17. Thanks for feedback. 12/25 was a bit of a boo-boo I’m afraid, won’t try that again. I’m not averse to odd words so long as the cluing is clear and grid was copied from a paper long before I became aware of the intricacies involved.

    1. RB, I was just wondering, did you get an independent/experienced solver to final-check this puzzle? Doing so would have picked up most of, if not all, the technical slips.

  18. Pretty ingenious, and pretty hard (I didn’t get a few of the cryptic readings). 3d, 34a and 21a, in the sense used, were new ones on me, though I have no problem with a few obscure words used as answers. I did find some of the phrasing inaccurate. Eg, in 28a, ‘made’ seems a loose indicator of sandwich – maybe ‘set’ was better. In 16d, ‘is given’ is an inadequate definition given that the answer is a noun. In 23d, ‘look’ seems a rather vague definition on ts own, and I think needs reinforcing with a suitable adjective. A couple I loved – in 10d, the definition is beautifully disguised. I thought 12a/25d was a very good oblique definition, though I didn’t think it should have been split over two 4-letter lights, as this resulted in each light containing a non-existent (as far as I’m aware) word – my understanding is that, if you do split answers in this way, each light should contain a word which is ‘real’ in its own right once the answer has been filled in.

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