Rookie Corner – 287 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 287

A Puzzle by DMS

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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.

It was a long wait for DMS to reappear but worth the wait.  The high quality of the clues has been commented on and I echo those comments.  Given the quality, it means that there were a couple of clue that stuck out like sore thumbs as not being up to the standard of the remaining clues.  Often it is a good idea to put a crossword aside for a week or two after competing the clues.  Then come back and be ruthless to replace the weakest clues with better ones.

Once agains the anagram count was on the high side.  Rather than reduce the a little, I would aim to reduce them to about five or six per crossword.  Perhaps, as training, you could set yourself the challenge of setting a crossword without anagrams to wean yourself off them as the staple go to clue type.

There were a handful of minor comment on some of the clues.  There are to polish the clues.  There were no major problems with them.  The commentometer reads as 3/30 or 10%.


1 Snowman? (7)
CHARLIE – A lift and separate clue where the component parts of the clue give a double definition of a drug known as Snow or the solution and a man’s name.  Some editors will not permit lift and separate clues of this type without an indication that the word needs to be split.

5 Loads containers? (7)
BUCKETS – Double definition, the second being another word for a pail.

9 Alternatives for those unwilling to take flight (5)
LIFTS – Cryptic definition of something that can be used in place of the stairs (flight).

10 Killer transported to a prison (3,6)
RAT POISON – An anagram (transported) of TO A PRISON.

11 Well-populated areas? (9)
OILFIELDS – Cryptic definition of areas where there are wells used to extract a natural resource from the earth.

12 The end of tiresome game (5)
OMEGA – The answer is hidden in (of) the final two words of the clue.

13/19 On reflection, they show the way ahead (4,4)
CATS EYES – Cryptic definition of the reflectors used on roads.

15 This month workers will get ticks (8)
INSTANTS – A four letter abbreviation meaning this month followed by a four-letter word for insect workers.

18 Be the property of, eg, Bolton Wandering? (6,2)
BELONG TO – An anagram (wandering) of EG BOLTON

19 See 13

22 Bar serving gin to drunk (5)
INGOT – An anagram (drunk) of GIN TO.

24 Wipe the floor of surplus juice (9)
OVERPOWER – A four letter word meaning surplus followed by word for juice in the context of electricity.

26 Romeo’s back to idle outside for Eliza (9)
DOOLITTLE – The final letter (back) of Romeo with a phrase (2, 6) meaning to idle.  Perhaps a question mark to indicate that Eliza is a definition by example of the solution would be appropriate.

27 Is it parallel with 40? (5)
NINTH – A rather weak clue to part of the 49th Parallel.  This one does not really work for me.  First, Third, Fifth and Sixth would have been equally valid solutions.

28 Priest struggles to get round Sally (7)
RIPOSTE – An anagram (struggles) of PRIEST includes (to get) a round letter.  To get is a weak inclusion indicator.  You could have had Priest struggles to hide love for Sally.

29 Plant might be pointy! (7)
FACTORY – A six letter word for a point followed by the Y.  Another clue that does not really work very well.  If you have a lift and separate clue, they really should be confined to words where there is a natural break in the word to be split.  Putting in an exclamation mark is not sufficient.


1 Many admit being inexperienced (6)
CALLOW – The Roman numeral for 100 (many) followed by a five-letter word meaning admit.

2 Overheard a young woman brewing tea for partner (9)
AFFILIATE – A homophone (overheard) of A FILLY (a young woman) followed by an anagram (brewing) of tea.

3 Overheard a young woman making cold drink (5)
LASSI – A homophone (overheard) of LASSIE (a young woman).  You could have hidden the repetition of the homophone indicator by using ellipses at the end of 2d and had 3d as “… and another making cold drink”

4 Entering frightfully long line to eat starter in restaurant (9)
ENROLLING – An anagram (frightfully) of LONG LINE includes the first letter (starter in) of restaurant.

5 We are clean out of them! (5)
BATHS – Cryptic definition of where you might perform your ablutions.

6 Hot drink that is available in bars (9)
CHOCOLATE – Double definition of a drink and a confection made by Cadburys and others.

7 Follow tennis queen from time to time (5)
ENSUE – The even letters (from time to time) in the second and third words of the clue.

8 Sat before this, and German, for example, sat around this! (6)
SUNDAY – The German for “and” with a three-letter word meaning for example around it.

14 I’m the so-and-so mixing drinks (9)
SMOOTHIES – An anagram (mixing) of IM THE SO SO.

16 Feasted on nuts being totally oblivious (5-4)
STONE-DEAF – An anagram (nuts) of FEASTED ON.

17 Kicking and punching, Kate Tempest came first to the party! (9)
TAEKWONDO – An anagram (Tempest) of KATE followed by a three-letter word meaning came first and a two-letter word for a party.  The over preponderance of anagrams is highlight particularly where you have three clues containing anagrams in a row.  Some editors will not allow a noun to be used as an anagram indicator.

20 More excited by Billie Jean on the radio? (6)
WILDER – The surnames of two people called Billy and Gene (Billie and Jean on the radio).

21 Slyly get husband in Lycra for a change (6)
ARCHLY – An anagram (change) of LYCRA with the abbreviation for husband inserted.  If change is being used as an imperative verb, it could come before the letters to be rearranged.  The cryptic grammar definition get letter in anagram does not quite flow.  Perhaps “putting husband in” would be better.

23 Doctor covering John in slime (5)
GLOOP – The abbreviation for general practitioner (doctor) around (covering) a three-letter word for a toilet or john.In a down clue, covering has the sense of being above, rather than going around.

24 It’s unusual to mess up true love (5)
OUTRÉ – An anagram (to mess up) of TRUE O (lover).

25 Oversleep since missing every other alarm (5)
PANIC – Reverse (over) a three-letter word meaning sleep followed by the even letters (missing every other) in since.

87 comments on “Rookie Corner – 287

  1. When I was solving it felt quite heavy on anagrams but I have not done a count to confirm this. A lot of clues that took a lot of thought and then the reaction, ‘why did I not see that sooner’. A sign of a good clue. Not a quick solve for me and enjoyable.
    Thanks DMS.

    1. Many thanks, KC, for taking the time to solve it and for the comment.

      I really do need to lay off the anagrams a little in future!

  2. Thanks DMS for a good challenge.
    I did need to use some electronic assistance and some letter reveals to confirm answers and give me a nudge.
    Unlike KiwiColin, I did count the anagrams and made it nine – a few too many for some people.
    I did question the political correctness of the young woman in 2d.
    One or two that I am still pondering on the parsing – 20d for example – so I will await the review with interest.
    Standout clues – 9a, 13a/19a, 27a, 6d, and 25d.
    Thanks again and well done.

    1. Thanks Senf!

      The PC clue at 2d was needed, I felt, to preclude the clue at 3d using the same wording/device.

      20d was, as others have spotted, meant to be 2x homophones of Billie & Jean!

      And you have standout clues?! Lovely – thanks!

  3. I really enjoyed this – thanks DMS.
    As mentioned above the anagram count at nine is rather high but that’s something that’s easily remedied.
    There are a lot of great clues and I think the puzzle is pitched at just the right level. I particularly liked 1a, 11a, 13/19a and 14d.
    More puzzles like this would be very welcome.

  4. Pitched just right difficulty-wise and an enjoyable solve

    I’d agree there are few too many anagrams, it was a shame that the homophone indicator (and indeed the first four words) was the same in 2d and 3d (particularly noticeable when you have two of the same clue type in a row) – I suppose it was done for effect but I didn’t think it a good idea – and the enumeration of 17d should be 3, 4, 2.

    Thanks to DMS – more like this please – and, in advance, to Prolixic

    1. Thanks CS – and I agree (in retrospect) that there are too many anagrams!

      I checked 17d as I was concerned about the enumeration – Chambers has it as both, so I checked other dictionaries (which also had both) I seem to recall looking at the Graun (sorry!) who have it as (9)!

  5. Thanks DMS, great fun and a nice theme to boot.
    To pick a few of many, I liked 1 11 14 29.
    I’d say you’ve cracked CDs and anagrams, hope you’re as good at other types of clue too.

    1. First to mention a theme! Well done Mucky!!

      I decided on a NINA and then almost stymied myself by hiding Willy Wonka in the unchecked rows (I almost used ‘unches’ there, but felt Dave might tell me off for using crosswordese!)!

      I’ll now work on using more types of clue in future crosswords! Thanks!

  6. Welcome back, DMS.

    I thought this was as good a puzzle as I’ve seen in Rookie Corner during 2019. I do wish DMS hadn’t made us wait so long since his last one (December 2018).

    The surfaces were truly excellent, and I can offer no higher praise by saying that at least four clues (9a, 13a/19a, 5d and 6d) could have been lifted seamlessly from a Rufus puzzle. (I hope they weren’t though!). Yes, there were too many anagrams (I counted eleven full or partial ones) which constituted more than one third of the total clues, but I looked back at DMS’s last puzzle and that contained twelve, so I suppose a reduction of one is progress of sorts! With such a reliance on one particular construction, I suppose it was hard for others to get a look in, and reversals were certainly conspicuous by their absence. I had a couple of minor reservations, but they didn’t detract from an extremely enjoyable solve indeed. My printed page is littered with ticks and double ticks, far too many to list individually.

    Congratulations and well done, DMS. More like this and a very bright future beckons I feel.

    1. High praise indeed! Thanks very much SIlvanus! Truly honoured to find this sort of comment on ones puzzle!

  7. So refreshing to see concise clues and decent surface reads in Rookie Corner – well done, DMS.
    There were a couple of film references I didn’t know but those were easily checked with Mr Google. I think Prolixic may point out a couple of setting errors but overall this was a very good puzzle with a neatly achieved theme.

    Plenty of ticks on my sheet but I think my favourite was 11a.

    Thank you, DMS. As has already been said, don’t make us wait as long for the next one!

  8. I did enjoy this. Really good surfaces. I didn’t notice the theme until reading the comments. If I’d spotted it before, it would have helped with 1A, my last one which was a bung-in that I can’t parse. My picks are 5A, 11A, 5D, 14D and 16D. Great job, DMS!

    1. Everyone’s being too nice! Thanks EC!

      1a is a drugs reference which, in hindsight, I could have clued differently, but the answer was needed for the theme.

  9. Really enjoyed this. Some great clues and a challenging but achievable level of difficulty. Thought 1a was a brilliant clue although it took me a while to work out. Very happy to see (a very clever) reference to the wonderful Kate Tempest in 17d.

    Many thanks.

    1. Kate Tempest is indeed wonderful -I’ve been listening to too much 6Music when setting crosswords!

      Thanks for your kind comments, Modica!

  10. It’s been a long time, DMS, since your last offering, but my goodness you are back with a bang. With its concise cluing, clever ideas, smooth surfaces and humour, this was a superb puzzle.

    I thought there were quite big variations in difficulty (which, in my opinion, is a good thing). The NE and SW corners went in quite smoothly but the NW and particularly the SE were much more of a challenge. I didn’t help myself right at the start by pencilling in “Frostie” for 1a (forgetting that he would have been Frosty), but I was way off beam with that idea!

    I thought 27a was a bit devious for a British puzzle and I don’t understand why 20d needs “Billie”. Also I’m not sure that 18a quite works, although it is a clever idea.

    My page is littered with ticks and on my podium are 9a, 11a & 5d.

    Brilliant! Many thanks DMS and please don’t leave it so long before the next one.

    1. Hi RD,
      A look through the film credits of this particular Jean will show you the relevance of ‘Billie’ in 20d. Mr Google is quite good where films are concerned!
      PS Glad I wasn’t the only one with Frosty/Frostie – earworm still with me.

    2. I took 20a to require homophones of both Billie and Jean to get the forenames of two separate film-related men with the requisite surname.

      1. Right again, Gazza, of course! I was thinking of the character in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Fitted the clue but not as precisely as the correct answer which I see has now been confirmed by our setter.
        Ho hum – if at first you don’t succeed, continue to get it wrong and have Gazza bail you out…………..

    3. Many thanks, RD – may I quote you on ‘superb puzzle’ ?!?!?

      I spent so long on 18a that it ended as something which I wasn’t entirely happy with, but too exhausted to change (again!)

    4. Although “Billie Jean on the radio” had me scratching my head even though I was sure I had the answer (until that A-ha! moment, I couldn’t stop myself humming the tune.

      Now I can’t stop humming “Take on me”!

  11. Most enjoyable & completed while looking after my 8 month old granddaughter. As Jane has commented it is good to have clever concise clues. As far as the number of anagrams are concerned then on first scan the backpager is not exactly lacking in these.

    Thank you DMS.

    1. And thank you, spindrift! Completing whilst looking after an 8-month old is dedication to the cause!!

  12. Hi DMS,
    Good stuff, with several very funny clues. Favourites were 9, 11, 28, 5d (this seemed familiar… Had you done it on Twitter before, maybe?), 8, 14. I quite enjoyed the repetition in 2/3, although it did give the device away. I think it should be more like “Billie or Jean” in 20, although that would spoil the surface.

    1. Thanks very much TVTLMB! Funny clues are what I aspire to!

      As you know, I am (relatively) prolific on Twitter so there will always be a crosswordcrossover!!

      1. [Off Topic – Yes. I believe that was an attempt at archiving it which went wrong. It may get fixed (to remain as static pages) at some point, but I’m not holding my breath.]

  13. Thanks DMS for an enjoyable solve. I see this is your third puzzle here, practice certainly shows. Comments absent viewing others’ so forgive any duplication please:
    The cryptic grammar is near perfect, and surfaces are good to. Some lovely cryptic definitions. I particularly liked
    1a,9,15,5d,8,20 and 25. 20 favourite.

    1d I’m not a fan of ‘many’ for a random Roman numeral. ‘A ton’?
    27 a bit weak unless I’m missing something.
    28 alas the definition is pretty much the opposite of the solution – such a nice clue otherwise.
    17 not the usual enumeration.

    Thanks again DMS

    1. Thanks Gazza, for this lovely review!

      I’m unsure how 1d ended up as ‘many = C’ and I’m not a fan either!

      27 was almost an afterthought as the SW corner went through an overhaul at the last minute

      28 definition is definitely in Chambers as riposte!

      17d I’ve previously addressed, but seems interchangeable!?

      1. 28 in Chambers dictionary or thesaurus? The dictionary does give ‘retort’ so I concede that, though the other meanings are all for the initial attack rather than the response.
        I’m sure Gazza would prefer not to be confused with me ;)

    2. Aaaaarrrgh! Profuse apologies to Gonzo for referring to her/him as Gazza! And apologies to Gazza also!

  14. This was a very well put together puzzle; it has clearly been thoroughly test-solved with only a minor wrinkle or two (18, 28 perhaps)
    The ‘Billie Jean’ clue is not really my thing, but I could just as easily be saying that about the odd back pager
    Thanks and well done DMS

    1. Indeed, a thorough test-solve was acccomplished due to the kindness of (internet) strangers! And thanks to the kindness of other internet strangers (including LetterboxRoxy) on this wonderful website for their thoroughly thoughtful words!!

      1. Steady on DMS – you’ve replied to Gonzo’s comment #13 above thanking Gazza (definitely different people), and if I ever get the urge to do a drag stage show, LetterboxRoxy will definitely be worth considering… :smile:

        1. LetterboxRoxy as a name does have a certain something to it!

          On a completely different subject, I thought of you yesterday whilst walking around the perimeter of Chessington World of Adventures (circular walk starting at Chessington South station and taking in Ashtead Common in case you wondered). Your recent comments about said establishment remained fresh in the mind!

          1. The Bear in Oxshott (or the Vic) is just up the road – see you in there for a pint one day Silvanus
            We could set a puzzle as Rox… no, perhaps not :grin:

  15. I loved this, for some reason it reminded me of a Wednesday back pager and that’s praise indeed. Well done DMS, I thought your surfaces were all 14d! Ok, it may have been slightly “over anagrammed” but I thought they were not the most obvious and very imaginative eg 10a
    I loved the penny drop moment of the contemporary 1a, the same with the brilliantly clued 17d and the witty 23d. Even the lurker at 12a was subtle and clever.
    Many thanks for the top notch entertainment DMS, come back soon please.

    1. Thanks very much, Stephen, for those very generous comments. To compare the puzzle to a back-pager is blummin’ marvellous and something I aspire to!

  16. Thanks, DMS — I managed to get the grid filled in before Prolixic’s hints were published (albeit with a little help from others’ comments), so I’m very happy with it. Once Mucky mentioned a theme, I spotted 3d, 6d, 14d, and (before I’d solved them) the clues to 3d and 22a — so confidently identified it as being ‘drinks’. So your explanation of 1a being needed for the theme really didn’t help with solving it!

    I’m never a fan of a mere ‘of’ as a lurker indicator (but I concede it’s generally accepted). There seemed to be an above-average number of plurals in the grid, but looking back at it now it may just be that those were all the clues I solved first.

    (Or maybe that isn’t a co-incidence: perhaps clues for plurals are generally easier to parse, because putting a plural definition stands out?)

    And thank you, Prolixic, for explaining the answers I didn’t understand. For 26a I’d got confused because as well as the O, all the letters of ‘to idle’ are in the answer, leaving ‘tl’ unaccounted for — apparently I’m the only solver who was expecting more anagrams than there were!

    Quibble: I’m not sure the “a” in 3d can be justified (other than it’s neat to have it matching 2d).

    8d was my favourite. Cheers.

    1. Re 3d, in his book The ABC of Crosswords, Alec Robins says about grammatical articles that “In my view, their inclusion or exclusion is entirely at the discretion of the clue-writer, and considerations of space, neatness of wording, consistency within a clue and so on will be the determining factors”. The usage in 3d is consistent with the dictionary definition of “lass” as “a young woman”. Same thing applies to prefacing verbs with to, should the setter wish to do that.

      1. Thanks, Mr K. My apologies to DMS (which happens to be an anagram of my own initials — I’m seeing anagrams everywhere now!) for the slight.

        Should I have heard of Alec Robins? And do I take it The ABC of Crosswords is worth a read?

        It seems to be out of print, but we have a trip to Alnwick during the forthcoming school half-term holiday, so it’s possible I’ll stumble across a copy in Barter Books.

        1. You can read about Mr Robins here:

          That Teach Yourself Crosswords book mentioned at the end was republished as The ABC of Crosswords. It has a lot of useful information about setting crosswords. And unlike the Ximenes book, used copies are not crazy expensive. I got mine from Amazon.

    2. Thanks for the comments, Smylers – all points taken on board!

      I’ve been extremely encouraged by everything said so far!

  17. Thanks Prolixic for the explanations. It’s encouraging for me that the clues you had reservations over were the ones I had doubts about or couldn’t quite understand, ie 27 and 29a. Shows I’m learning!

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I’m obviously not learning as rapidly as Stephen – I thought you might have reservations about c = many and the separation required in ‘oversleep’!

  19. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a puzzle as much as this one, DMS (I wondered if those were your initials or you are, or were in the army or were once a Skinhead!) I know there were too many anagram clues but they were all so good I can see why you had trouble leaving any out. So many clues I wish I’d written and a masterclass in how to write clues that don’t don’t so much as look like crossword clues but statements that make the solver smile with their wittiness ingenuity. I like to think you’ll think similar when you read my next set of clues here because we obviously think alike (puzzle submitted but date of publication unknown) There were a couple of clues didn’t quite work, as have already been mentioned that didn’t distract from the overall brilliance the whole. Those I especially liked were 1a, 5a, 10a, 11a, 23a, 24a, 26a, 1d, 2d, 4d, 5d, 6d, 8d, 14d, 16d, 17d, 20d and 21d. Very difficult to chose an outright favourite so I’ll say any of 1a, 10a, 5d, 14d, 16d, 21d and 23d.

    I’ll leave the last word to my wife. “Yes, I know he’s good, you’ve told me five times already!”

    1. Wow! Thanks very much Umber – I’m extremely grateful for all the positive comments received, you’re all being too nice!

      I look forward to seeing your puzzle in the not too distant future.

  20. Just a short note to reiterate how much I appreciate all the comments on my latest offering, I am often in awe of setters in Rookie Corner (and of NTSPP), so to receive such positive feedback is truly humbling! Thanks to Prolixic for the exhaustive review – I’m so pleased to make a 10% commentometer score!

    And for those wondering about the name…

    DMS > DMs > A pair of Docs (Martens) > A paradox!

    See – we can’t all have clever names!! :)

    1. I was close. DMS also stands for Directly Moulded Soles, i.e. army boots, (field, rather than drill – I was an army cadet for six years in the sixties) and of course Doc Martens were favoured by skinheads (I wasn’t a one) .

  21. Very enjoyable, I did reveal a few letters at the end but I was tired by then (5am)
    11ac was my favourite. Can’t find anything negative to say, thank you.

  22. Very much enjoyed. I found the top left corner hard to crack at first. But I like it when a section that won’t reveal itself starts to crack when some cross letters are found. Lovely!

  23. It’s all been said, but this was a terrific puzzle with one or two weak clues which only really disappointed by contrast with the excellence of the others. I had three quarters pretty much filled but the NW almost empty at one point, but perseverance paid off and I got everything without help in the end. Really enjoyed every moment. CATS EYES was the last to fall in fact.

    Missed the theme till Mucky pointed it out. I don’t really know the book or film but I spotted the three title words and the nina. I suppose there might be more?

    Pleased to learn of Kate Tempest, too. Hadn’t heard of her before.

    Well done, DMS. Thanks for the fun.

    1. Proof that like minds think alike (as in myself and DMS) because I got CATS EYES straight away without any cross letters. OILFIELDS almost as quickly. I imagine seasoned setters and solvers also did but, for me, the alikeness was more in the style the clues were written and the humour in them. As much as I like the Wednesday DT crossword I actually preferred this one despite the overuse of anagrams. A good/fun anagram clue is a joy to behold. I have to confess to reusing two of my clues in my next puzzle, one of which is an anagram clue voted the best clue in a Guardian Unlimited clue-writing competition a few years ago. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone here remembers it. The other clue will be deemed too easy, but I like it, so there!

      1. I look forward to it, Umber!

        I never win the Graun competitions, but have been mentioned for the audacity award on a few occasions!!

      2. Umber, in my first Indy puzzle I reworked a clue from my second Go-themed special (as Sphinx) for the British Go Journal. I had avoided doing that originally even though I really liked the clue and despite the low readership of the BGJ. However, the editor didn’t like the clue I submitted so (with full disclosure to the ed) subbed in a version of the old clue. I think it’s well-known that Rufus kept a note of all his clues and was happy to tweak an old clue when the occasion arose. The BGJ version of the clue I’m talking about was:

        With stylish clue, almost doing nothing superfluous (9)

        1. I had a database of all my clues. I used to set for a local paper and turned out two cryptics and two non-cryptic a week. There must have been over 500 cryptics and I never reused a clue. Obviously the paper didn’t have a crossword editor because, even though I have only just started compiling again after a break of eight years and am obviously a bit rusty, I’ve only just been picked up on some errors I must have made in the past.

          That database is in some cloud or other but as I can’t remember more than a handful of my clues their loss is not something that bothers me.

          I always found the Indy puzzle very tough by the way!

          1. Now you mention it, DMS’ puzzle is reminiscent of a local paper’s cryptic with its preponderance of anagrams and cryptic definitions. Our local paper is published by Archant and the cryptic crossword comes from an agency and is presumably published in Archant locals across the country. They’re often not very good, but very occasionally one as good as this will appear.

            1. I supplied the paper directly. I emailed newspapers all over the UK. I didn’t give my address but it turned out the one that eventually asked me to set for them was my own local!

              1. Haha. Mind you, my free antivirus is always warning me my location is knowable, offering to sell me protection against that.

                Why did you stop? (I think you said you hadn’t done it for a few years).

        1. The theme words were:


          with WILLY WONKA hidden in unchecked squares!

          1. Ah, thanks, DMS. I didn’t realise BUCKET, GLOOP and WILDER were relevant (though I suspected the last). Btw, I didn’t really understand the WILDER clue (biffed it really, with Gene WIlder in mind but not Billy), but now that I do I think it’s one of the best with the Jackson track giving a double homophone like that.

  24. That was fun, thank you! I didn’t notice the unchecked ‘Willy Wonka’ – though that’s probably due to my scrawly handwriting. Kate Tempest and the so-and-so were my favourites.

      1. Thank you! I like the ominous countdown when a comment is posted – it brings a feeling of jeopardy…

    1. Thanks Barchetta!

      Getting Willy Wonka in there caused me no end of strife, but I was pleased with the finished grid!

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