Rookie Corner – 288 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 288

A Puzzle by Sundance

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Welcome back to Sundance.  Whilst there were some good clues, I regret to say that this was a step backward in terms of the cluing.  The biggest problem was a lack of precision in the definitions as well as some nonsensical surface readings.  The basics in terms of the wordplay are largely there but there needs to be greater precision in the clues.  The commentometer reads as a disappointing 7/24 or 29.17%


1/6 Playwright is recreating at rent review (8,8)
TERRENCE RATTIIGAN – An anagram (review) of RECREATING AT RENT.  Unfortunately, the playwright’s first name has only one R.  The surface reading is not the greatest here.

5 Searched for someone like Rip Van Winkle? (6)
PROBED – Split 3-3, this would suggest someone like Rip Van Winkle who is in favour of somewhere to sleep.

9 Sweet mother hurried to include type of gun (8)
MARZIPAN – A two letter word for a mother followed by a three letter word meaning hurried around (to include) a type of gun.  To call the solution a sweet is a bit of a stretch.  It is a sweet type of confectioner’s paste.  The gun is an American term for a gun that fires elastic bands.  It American origin should have been indicated.

10 Watching big cricket match, declare (6)
ATTEST – Split 2,4 this might mean you are attending an international cricket match.

11 We hear that strabismus can be containment (3,5)
ICE TRAYS – I presume that this is a homophone of eye strays.  There is so much wrong with this clue that it requires detailed analysis.  For a start, using a homophone of an obscure medical term goes beyond the bounds of fairness.  The medical term is the term for a squint, the fact that the eye strays the result of a squint, not the squint itself.  Finally, the definition does not define the noun required for the solution.  It would need to be container to work.

12 Resources nowhere in addition (6)
WITHAL – A 11 letter word meaning resources (usually used in the phrase “I haven’t got the ****” without the “where” (nowhere).  Some editors will not allow lift and separate clues without further indication that you have to split the word to give the required wordplay.

14/21 Concoction of chicken comes to the road and produces soap (10,6)
CORONATION STREET – A type of chicken dish originally produced for population to celebrate the enthronement of the Queen using limited resources followed by another word for road.

18 Seat at 24, for instance (10)
UNIVERSITY – Definition by example, being an institution of learning.  Whilst you can have a seat of learning as defining the solution, I don’t think that this makes the single word as a synonym of the solution. 

22 See 7 Down

23 18 followed by opening act can follow trade (8)
UNIONIST – The three letter abbreviation for the solution at 18a followed by a phase 2,3 (with the second word being an abbreviation for first) meaning that you are the opening act in a production.

24 Example of first part of 25 can come after morris (6)
OXFORD – A type of shoe (the first four letters of the answer to 25a that could also come after the name of a car called the Morris ******.  The convention is that where you are using a proper noun, you keep the capitalisation, so morris should have been Morris.

25 Heard to send away fine material on foot (8)
SHOELACE – A homophone (heard) of shoo (send away) followed by a type of fine material.  As we have already had “we hear” as a homophone indicator, a different indicator should have been used here.  Also, the definition is no really accurate enough to define the solution.

26 Some stuff is called in for financial reasons (6)
FISCAL – The answer is hidden (some) in the third to fifth words of the clue.  I am not sure that the solution means “for financial reasons”.  It means relating to the treasury, which is not quite the same thing.

27 Precious London police in hasty arrangement (8)
AMETHYST – A three letter word for the London police inside an anagram (arrangement) of HASTY.  You cannot use an adjective to describe a noun in the way.


1 Old cowboy star travelling to 2009 (3,3)
TOM MIX – The two from the clue followed by the Roman numerals for 2009.  The travelling seems to be padding and does not fit with any of the wordplay.

2 Right in, rode out and cheated (6)
RORTED – The two letter abbreviation for right inside an anagram (out) of RODE.  This is one of those unusual situations where another solution (rooked) would also have been a valid answer.

3 English man in Greece roved eastwards initially and moved home (6)
EMIGRE – The first letters (initially) of the first six letters of the clue.   The definition indicated emigrated as the solution, not the name of a person who has moved home.

4 Sounds like he shouted way too much about the Lakota (5,5)
CRAZY HORSE – The second word is a homophone of hoarse, the result of shouting too much.  How the first part of the solution is derived is not evident from clue.  The solution is the name of a Native American, not the whole of his people that the solution suggests.

6 See 1 Across

7/22 Type of spaniel and friend with unreturned service is stately near 24 (8,6)
BLENHEIM PALACE – The name of a breed of spaniel followed by a three letter word for a friend and a three letter word for a tennis serve that is not returned.  One of the clues with a very poor surface reading.

8 Fruit selection can add 24 hours (4,4)
DATE LINE – Read literally, this could suggest a selection of fruit from a palm tree.  It is also the imaginary terminator where the day one one side is 24 hours ahead of the other side.

13/19 Green team found when organising steaming hot front (10,6)
NOTTINGHAM FOREST – An anagram (organising) of STEAMING HOT FRONT.  To define them as the green team is a bit of a stretch, given that their colours are red and white.  The only association is indirect to the colour of the second word of the clue.

15 Kills for what you may receive on your birthday – it’s not on (5,3)
BUMPS OFF – An activity children may indulge in to celebrate a birthday followed by the opposite of on.  The structure of definition for wordplay is back to front.  You can have wordplay for definition, not the other way around.

16 They get you upstairs but after dispensing with church they will bring in supplies (8)
AIRLIFTS – The type of device used on stairs manufactured by Stannah and others without the abbreviation for church.  The wordplay is a good spot but the surface reading suffers.

17 Ring sound before song is tadpole shaped (8)
CERCARIA – A homophone (sound) of a ring followed by four letter word for an operatic song.  If the intention is that the homophone is of circ for circle, then the clue does not work as the abbreviation circ is for circa or about.  The dictionary gives the solution as the final larval stage of many trematode worms, not the shape of a tadpole.

19 See 13

20 Larger compiler apparently has two partners (6)
BIGAMY – A homophone (apparently) of BIGGER ME.  My favourite clue though perhaps having two partners would be more precise.

21 See 14 Across

46 comments on “Rookie Corner – 288

  1. Thanks Sundance! I managed to solve most of this without any aids, though had to check the last three or four. There are some inventive clues. Some clues’ definitions or wordplay aren’t perhaps accurate enough: one test is often to see if you can replace the definition in the clue with the answer and check it still reads correctly.

    Good fun. I look forward to Prolixic’s comments tomorrow.


  2. We tackled this puzzle at our usual time (several hours ago now) and did manage to get a completed grid in a reasonable time so we had generally understood what the setter was intending to convey by the clues. However we then went back over the puzzle and put ticks beside the clues that completely ‘followed the rules’ of how we expect a cryptic clue to be. We found that we had ticks beside fewer than half of them. Although it is true that rules are made to be broken and the top setters do so all the time, we much prefer it when people who are new to the art attempt to stick within them.
    That said we did enjoy the process and even the looking up of new words like 17d which we suspect was even new to Sundance.

  3. Welcome to Sundance and well done on sticking your head above the parapet.
    I did get a full grid but there are a couple of answers I can’t understand. I think the main problem is the definitions often don’t match the answers in grammatical terms (e.g. the definition in 3d (moved home) is a verb but the answer is a noun).
    Quite a few of the surface readings don’t make a great deal of sense (e.g. 17d) and the 1/6 playwright has acquired a surplus R in his forename.
    You’ll get a lot of good advice from Prolixic. Good luck with your next puzzle.

    1. Dear Gazza

      Oh dearr. What a disasterr. I thought I could spell verry well.

      Thanks for your observations.

  4. I agree with the previous commenters, especially about the definitions not matching the answers. I also didn’t like the two ‘I’ve painted myself into a corner’ solutions at 2d and 17d, and the fact that I knew Mr R didn’t have two Rs in his Christian name, kept putting me off when solving the former

    Thank you for the crossword. Prolixic will give you some useful advice in his review and then we look forward to seeing your next puzzle.

    1. Dear crypticsue

      Oh dear, a silly mistake in 1 across does not get the puzzle off to the best start. (Frustratingly, I know someone called Terrence and someone else called Terence).

      Thank you so much for your interest.

      1. Some comment on the obvious ‘filler’ at 2d – as mentioned by crypticsue.

        Clearly few people will have known this word. It often happens (happens to me anyway) that you find what looks like an easy set of letters to fill: “R_R_E_”. And then find that nothing fits it except this obscure Australian word!

        Best, I think, is to take a step back, look at the crossers, and see if any can be sacrificed for a more amenable one. In your case, for instance, you could have changed MARZIPAN to MYSTICAL. This puts a “S” in the awkward position, so now you have R_S_E_ which is far easier to fill!

        I’m not saying this is the only way to solve this kind of problem, but something along these lines often helps to fill a grid. Of course, in your particular case, you’d have to do something about TERRENCE too!

        Hope this helps

        1. Dear Iaccaria

          And the debate goes on…the puzzle was far from perfect but at least it has inspired some discussion.

          Thanks for the further comment.

  5. Hello Sundance, thanks for the challenge
    However, I wasn’t keen on the grid having one checker per corner nor the excessive (for my liking) use of cross-references/multiple entries, and the awkward grid-fillers (as per CS). Also have to agree with others regarding the accuracy of some of the definitions grammatically

    I’d suggest using a more conventional grid and more simple words to get started next time, so that you can concentrate on accurate wordplay and smooth surfaces
    Perhaps your test-solver is not brutal enough, in which case you need to be able to read a clue and be satisfied that it could easily, or even just about, appear in a Wednesday back-pager. If you don’t have two or three test-solvers, mail BD and he can put us in touch – I’d be happy to oblige
    Thanks for having a go Sundance, I know how much work goes into creating a puzzle at all

    1. Dear LetterboxRoy

      This grid was not popular last time so I promise I won’t use it again!

      Thank you so much for your input.

  6. Thanks Sundance
    I enjoyed solving this. There were a few things I didn’t know, but the clues were clear enough to help (except for 17d, in which I think the wordplay for the first half of the solution is not precise enough for a very obscure word) I like the range of references you’ve included – that made the puzzle interesting though it was not quite in the usual cryptic crossword mould. The clues often seemed like riddles; 16d is a striking example. It has all the elements of a cryptic clue – two ways to get the answer with instructions on how to treat the letters – but the final step of presenting the elements so they don’t read like a list of instructions hasn’t been taken. You manage this fine in plenty of other clues, though 1d, 9a, 10a, for example.
    This particular grid can be difficult for solvers because it’s so disconnected, but you helpfully mitigated against that by having several solutions split over more than one quadrant.

    1. Dear mucky

      Thank you very much for your comments. I THINK that this puzzle is perhaps slightly better than my previous one (although that may or may not be confirmed by Prolixic) but I will take everyone’s comments on board for the next time.

  7. Welcome, Sundance. This was a real curate’s egg puzzle for me with some very good clues mixed with some very strange ones. Some of your surfaces were good and some not, and I didn’t warm to the number of double entry clues and cross-referencing which made for quite a bitty solve. There were also a number of obscurities which meant this was not particularly solver friendly. Nevertheless there were some good ideas on show and, if you take on board Prolixic’s advice, I am sure your next offering will be much improved.

    Thanks, Sundance, for the undoubted effort that has gone into producing this and I look forward to your next one.

  8. Welcome back, Sundance.

    It’s never a great start when the opening clue of a puzzle is misspelt, and I’m sorry to say that I was also disappointed to see that many of the surface readings hadn’t improved from your debut. Even if a clue is technically sound, if its constituent parts make a meaningless or nonsensical surface it really shouldn’t be part of the final puzzle.

    As others have said, there were several good ideas that didn’t translate into satisfactory clues for a number of different reasons. I do think that perhaps you need to be more ruthless with discarding clues that don’t work, if you are too close to them yourself, then one or two fresh pairs of eyes should be able to point these out to you, as LbR has suggested.

    I hope that you’ll read through Prolixic’s comments carefully and take these on board for future puzzles. Thanks, Sundance.

    1. Dear silvanus

      Thanks for your comments. I had a puzzle prepared and then changed a number of clues that I felt could be improved. I thought that I was on the right lines but I will be more ruthless next time!

  9. Hi Sundance,
    I was really hoping that you would have taken all the comments on board following your previous puzzle and acted on them but, to be honest, I’m struggling to understand why you believe – as you state above – that this one is an improvement.
    Please pay close attention to the words of wisdom from Prolixic and take up LbR’s offer to help with test-solving, it would be a shame to see your good ideas go to waste for want of some guidance.

  10. Hi Sundance,
    I agree with the comments above. But on a positive note, I enjoyed 5 and 9.

    1. Dear TheVoidTLMB

      Thanks for joining in. I’m pleased that at least some of my clues meet with approval.

  11. 12A, 2D and 17D got the better of me. For a long time I was convinced that the answer to 2D was rooked (OK for right in an anagram of rode) so that was a major hold up. Like others who’ve commented, I’m not a fan of multiple cross-references though 7/22 did give me the answer to 24A. I had to look up the new-to-me word in the 11A word, too. All in all, a bit of a struggle on the parsing front. 5A made me smile, though. I appreciate the effort that went into creating the puzzle. It’s not something I could do.

    By the way, is there a word missing in 27A?

  12. As others have said, there are some good ideas here but the cluing is not precise enough in many cases. However, I particularly liked 12ac; although some people would object to having to split ‘nowhere’ into two separate words, that’s not a problem with me. I also liked 10ac, perhaps because I used a similar clue a while ago. I liked the idea behind 1dn, too.
    The grid is not terribly user-friendly but I would prefer it to some of the “fussy” grids with lots of short words that appear here sometimes – though I won’t claim my grids are always perfect.
    Anyway, I’ll look forward to your next offering.

  13. I’m visiting family in America who don’t have Internet or a printer so I had to attempt your puzzle on my phone, Sundance. The general awkward surface reading, too much reliance on solving one clue before another clue could fully be made sense of, and the fact that some of the definitions weren’t quite right, made solving this a little like having teeth pulled. As such I wanted it over as quickly as possible so revealed a lot of letters.

    You were unfortunate in having to follow last week’s excellent (DMS) puzzle. One or two of your answers were words new to me and I agree with all who suggest you take Prolixic’s advice on board.

    Also to end on a positive note, the Rip van Winkle clue made me smile :)

    1. Dear Umber

      I’m sorry that this did not work well for you but I do appreciate your thoughtful comments.

      1. I shouldn’t have attempted your puzzle when I did, nor post the comments so soon after either, because I was very tired after the flight. I’m not really the person to dish out constructive comments anyway because my own clues are generally too easy for an audience such as those here (as you’ll find out whenever my next one appears – my first was under the pseudonym ‘Dumber’), and I often struggle with clues that are too convoluted. So I’m very sorry if my comments seemed a little harsh or flippant, Sundance.

        1. Dear Umber

          Thanks for the update.

          Setting puzzles is a challenge. Perhaps I should look for a new career? Maybe as Prime Minister – would that be any easier? (Certain people are telling me that there may be a vacancy soon).

  14. As ever, well done for having the courage to submit a puzzle. As others have said, it’s a mixture of good and not-so-good and I won’t repeat what others have already said about the not-so-good, suffice to say I agree with most of the previous comments. On a positive note, I had double ticks next to 5a and the very clever ‘opening act’ in 23a, and I liked the hompohone in 20d.

    Thanks, Sundance and in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. Dear Kelotoph

      What a nice review, thank you.

      I think that I will look at it all as ‘glass half full’ – it does appear that most people seem to find that the puzzle was not all bad.

  15. Thanks Prolixic. I think Sundance was intending ‘cirque’ for the homophone in 17.
    Surely a chairlift gets you up a mountain, not upstairs. ‘After sweeping the street…’?
    The homophone in 20 reminds me of this exchange (roughly).
    GROUCHO MARX: Marry me!
    MARGARET DUMONT: I already have a husband!
    GM: Marry me anyway.
    MD: That would be bigamy.
    GM: It would be big o’ me too – can’t we both be big about this?

    Thanks Sundance.

  16. Thanks for your review Prolixic, always interesting
    It was 20d that rang alarm bells here early on; ‘has’ would clue -ist whereas, as you say, ‘having’ would give the required -y
    Plenty of food or thought for Sundance, so looking forward to his next offering

  17. Well, I was going to go back to the drawing board but perhaps I need a new drawing board.

    Thanks to Prolixic and to everyone else for their interest.

    1. It definitely helps having crossword software. I remember when I first compiled a grid. It was around 1997 and I used a pencil, paper and ruler to mark it out, and a dictionary to fill it with words. I was machine-minding in a rope factory at the time and it took a whole 12-hour shift and a lot of rubbing out. To think it now takes me less than ten minutes (I select words one at a time as I don’t want the software to insert obscure words) to do the same.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Slightly surprised that you didn’t comment on the fact that Stannah et al produce stairlifts rather than chairlifts which, as Gonzo commented, propel folk up a mountainside.
    I don’t think Sundance needs the new drawing board he refers to – just a different approach to setting subsequent puzzles – and a decent test-solver on board!

    1. Dear jane

      I have found a definition of chairlift for something in the home but do agree that stairlift is the much more common usage.

  19. Hello Sundance, it’s been a while since I commented here!

    Appreciate that this one needs some work done on it, as Prolixic and others have pointed out. I will say however that I think your WITHAL is perhaps my favourite. I have no objection to lift-and-separate’s myself, and this is a pretty ingenious one – even if the surface isn’t as good as it might be.

    Keep it up! You will certainly get better reviews!

    1. Dear Iaccaria

      That’s nice of you, thank you. I had really thought that this puzzle was better than the last one so now I fear that if I send in a third, believing it to be better, that it will probably be even worse.

      I would be curious to know if any Rookie has ever started so poorly but then managed to progress to a good standard.

  20. I found this quite a toughie, with some obscure references (which is OK by me) and bits of wordplay that I still don’t understand. My main criticism is that some of the definitions are either inaccurate or use the wrong part of speech. Examples: 27A, where the definition (‘precious’) is an adjective, but the answer is a noun. 20D, where ‘has’ is the wrong word ( think ‘having’ would make the clue OK). 24A, where the definition (‘on foot’) is clearly incomplete, being an adjectival phrase used to clue a noun – something needs adding to make it clear that the answer is an object associated with a foot. My favourite clue was 26A, a neat hidden word.

    1. Dear Brunel

      Thanks for joining in. Once again I’m pleased that the puzzle has not been seen as a total disaster.

Comments are closed.