Rookie Corner – 290 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 290

A Puzzle by Fringilla

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

As with previous crosswords by Fringilla, there are a mixture of good and bad clues.  Particular issues here are two uses of indirect anagrams, too many uses of people’s names and some surface readings that are far from ideal.  The simple clues work well, such as 28a, 2d, 6d and 20d.

Perhaps time reading some of the guides to setting available on line or a book such as Don Manley’s excellent guide to setting cryptic crosswords would pay dividends.

The commentometer reads as 7 / 32 or 21.9%


1 Gave back mixed drink crush (6)
DEFEAT – A three letter word meaning gave food to is reversed (back) and followed with an anagram (mixed) of TEA (drink).  An inauspicious start.  The final part of the wordplay requires an indirect anagram.  The basic rule is the best to follow.  Don’t use them.  The device is used again in 14d.

4 Herbs Mac mixed for ‘bible’ I now use (8)
CHAMBERS – An anagram (mixed) of HERBS MAC.  A number of points on this clue.  The anagram indicator “mixed” repeats the indicator in the previous clue.  Try not to repeat indicators.  The surface reading is nonsensical.  Try to get more convincing sentences for the clue.  Finally, whilst the definition is OK within the context of a crossword blog, it would not convert to another publication where the link between Chambers and crossword setting would not be known.

9 Concerned an Ex promises to pay (7)
ANXIOUS – The AN from the clue followed by the letter phonetically pronounced EX and the abbreviation for debts.

11 Freeze mountain salad item (7)
ICEBERG – A three letter word meaning freeze followed by a four word for a mountain.

12 Hit ‘F’ string arrangement on play’s opening (5,5)
FIRST NIGHT – An anagram (arrangement) of HIT F STRING.  The link word “on” does not work in the cryptic reading of the clue as wordplay on definition.

13 Clue? Well, it’s a long story… (4)
SAGA – Not sure of the wordplay here.  It makes no obvious sense.

15 …Same again! (5)
DITTO – A straight definition.

16 Bride’s collection consists of a fish with tail cut off, the week-end and water (9)
TROUSSEAU – A type of freshwater fish without the last letter (with tail cut of) followed by the abbreviation for Saturday and Sunday and the French word for water.  A couple of points here.  S is an abbreviation for Sabbath, which translates as Sunday but S on its own is not an abbreviation for Saturday.  If you are using a foreign word, it should be indicated.

17 Below par result is a possibility (3-6)
OFF-CHANCE – A three letter word meaning below par followed by a loose synonym for a result.

21 Mandolin diehard embraces music (5)
INDIE – The answer is hidden (embraces) in the first two words of the clue.

23 Browse page (4)
LEAF – Double definition thought they are too closely related as one is the action of looking through the other.

24 Mum, Ian and I not at sea for e.g. shells and slugs (10)
AMMUNITION – An anagram (at sea) of MUM IAN I NOT.

27 No Kiwis initially amongst Dutch settlers? Mad! (7)
BONKERS – The initial letters of the first two words inside (amongst) the name of the Dutch settlers in South Africa.

28 Composed case (7)
PATIENT – Double definition, the second being a person being seen by a doctor.

29 Metal mop is, apparently, quite rare (4,4)
GOLD DUST – A four letter precious metal followed by a word meaning mop.  The synonym for mop is not precise enough.  They are two separate activities.

30 Brown boy protecting girl (6)
TANNED – A three letter girt’s name inside a three letter boy’s name. 


1 Small fight contained by Director Fellow (5)
DWARF – A three letter word for a fight inside (contained by) the abbreviations for director and fellow.

2 Run after cheat for a dance (7)
FOXTROT – A four letter word meaning run after a three letter word meaning cheat.

3 Punctuation mark for a support Hospital in moor (10)
APOSTROPHE – The A from the clue followed by a four letter word for a support and the abbreviation for hospital inside a four letter word meaning to moor.

5 Cheery expression from 1 dn perhaps? (5-2)
HEIGH-HO – Another straight definition.

6 Link up for racing (4)
MEET – Double definition.

7 Promote increase (7)
ELEVATE – Double definition though again the two meanings are perhaps too close.

8 Smell is up over dung without the man Frank (9)
SIGNATURE – A four letter word for a smell and the IS from the clue are reversed (up) and followed by a six letter word for dung without the MAN.  The definition here must operated as a verb but the solution is a noun.

10 Avoid Women! (please note that this is not really the opinion of the setter) (5)
SKIRT – Double definition.  The words in brackets are not necessary and detract from the clue.  However, it could have been woven into the wordplay as “Avoid a derogatory term for women”.

14 Plant me under snake, before man comes up with mangled rodent (10)
ASPIDISTRA – A three letter word for a venomous snake followed by a single letter word representing the setter (me), a reversal of a three letter mans name and an indirect anagram (mangled) of RAT.  Try to avoid having too many references to men and women’s names.  This is another clue where the surface reading does not make much sense.

15 Flea, after drawing bomb (9)
DOODLEBUG – A thee letter word for a flea after a six letter word for drawing.  As flea is a definition by example, this should be indicated.  

18 Two men rise around noon? Nonsense (7)
FLANNEL – Two three letter men’s names reversed (rise) around the abbreviation for noon.

19 Moi in Nebraska, South; is that fate? (7)
NEMESIS – A two letter word for moi inside the abbreviation for Nebraska, the abbreviation for South and the IS from the clue.

20 Provide Ecstasy joke (5)
EQUIP – The abbreviation for ecstasy followed by a four letter word for a joke.

22 Run home for food on the go? (5-2)
DRIVE-IN – A five letter word meaning run followed by a two letter word meaning home.

25 No man is distinguished (5)
NOTED – The no from the clue followed by a three letter man’s name.  The overuse of names has been noted but this one also repeats the name used in 30a.  As the two clues intersect, this was even more obvious

26 Garden drug (4)
WEED – Double definition, the second being a slang word for cannabis.

39 comments on “Rookie Corner – 290

  1. Liked 9,21,28,15d and 20 – more clues like these needed (easier said than done I know).
    No need to apologise for views apparently expressed in clues, it’s a work of fiction after all.
    Thank Fringilla.

  2. We got off on the wrong foot when we noted that 1a had an indirect anagram (assuming we have parsed it correctly) but as we got further into the puzzle found plenty of clues that we did appreciate. Scratched our heads for a while wondering whether the statement in brackets in 10a was subtle wordplay or just an aside comment. Decided it was the latter.
    Definitely there are some areas that could be improved on but, over all, we did enjoy the solve.
    Thanks Fringilla.

    1. I had exactly the same thoughts, especially about the apology :). More than one indirect anagram too – always a no-no I was once told. Mind you, I was also told that an author should never talk to the reader but Dickens did it often enough.

      Much like the previous RC by Modica I have only had a look through the clues on my phone and will print it out when I get back to Blighty from Tennessee (Wednesday)

  3. As with your last one, I found this not much fun and some head scratching was required to finish.
    Definitely an indirect anagram (mixed drink) in 1a – definitely a no-no.
    Generation of male and female names – 30a, 14d, 18d, and 25a – will have some solvers tearing their hair out.
    The parenthetical comment in 10a was probably unnecessary – political correctness is often overlooked.
    Having said the above, good clues – 4a, 16a, 29a, 3d, and 22d.
    Thanks Fringilla.

  4. A mix of the nice and obvious eg 4a and the chestnutty 20d and 26d. However, I’ve marked several clues where I’m sure Prolixic will have something to say, not least the indirect anagrams in 1a and 14d

    Some good clues in there but a number of things need addressing, including surface readings in places – thank you Fringilla for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review

  5. The night shift commenters have covered the points I wanted to make. As has been said before, for setters who are learning their craft accurate wordplay is more important than getting very smooth surface readings – nevertheless I think that you do need to do better than just stringing unrelated words together as in 16a and 14d.
    The clues I liked best were 29a and 2d. Thanks, Fringilla.

  6. Indirect anagrams? Another addition to my list of banned substances, sorry. You cannot please all the people all the time; a perfect example with Gonzo and Sent picking different five favourites. Thanks so far for your comments, I have only just found Big Dave’s email alerting me to its publication.

  7. Hi Fringilla,

    Some good stuff here. I thought 21, 6 and 8 were accurate, and my favourite was 24 with its deceptive surface reading. A few, hopefully helpful, additional comments:

    As others have stated, even if trivial, almost all crossword-setting conventions disallow the indirect anagram, certainly in the UK.

    Take care with double definitions where both meanings are under the same headword in the dictionary e.g. 7d.
    Editors will normally comment on such clues.

    Keep working on the surface readings of the clues to ensure they make sense in their own right. A few of yours were somewhat surreal, e.g. 20d. [Though note that most of us are guilty of it, at least sometimes!] For me, the writer of perfect surfaces that all should try and emulate is Nutmeg – she’s brilliant at them! Have a look through some back copy examples in e.g. the Guardian if you aren’t familiar with her puzzles.

    Finally, if you feel the need to apologise for a clue then you should almost certainly change it!

    I look forward to the next!


    PS It was great to catch up with several of the folks from here at the weekend :-)

  8. Welcome back, Fringilla.

    Had this been your first puzzle, I think many of its faults could have been excused, but as it’s now your third one, it’s extremely disappointing to see two indirect anagrams and the surface readings generally no better than before. As Gazza says, even if the wordplay is accurate, it’s not sufficient just to string a series of words together in the hope that something meaningful results. The worst examples of this for me were 4a, 16a, 3d, 8d, 14d and 15d. Could you really imagine ever hearing anyone speak those sentences, or reading them away from a crossword? Four instances of “man”, one “boy” and one “girl” in the same puzzle was certainly far too many (one name appeared twice too), and made me think at first there was a theme of sorts. Like the 2Ks, I also originally thought the twelve-word disclaimer in 10a was part of the wordplay, and it should not have been included. I presume it was added because Chambers shows the second definition as “offensive”, but there were other ways to get round that, and Encota’s comment is spot on.

    My favourite clue was 29a, and I was pleased to see that 4a is now the setter’s “bible”, I did notice that the unsupported abbreviations from last time now seem to be a thing of the past, so that’s definitely progress!

    Thanks, Fringilla.

    1. Hi Silvanus, Hi Fringilla,

      I wondered if 15d was aiming to refer to the musician Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers? If yes, then the small change to “Flea’s drawing on bomb (9)” would seem to make it work, with the two different uses of the apostrophe (‘is’ and ‘has’) – albeit adding a third drug reference to the puzzle. :-)

      The “Could you use this sentence down the pub and it not seem weird” test is a very good one and one that Silvanus is (effectively) alluding to above. I have ditched numerous draft clues of my own in the past that have woefully failed this test!



    2. Thanks. As I belated reported on my last submission the “unsupported abbreviations” came from the ‘Penguin Book of Abbreviations’ which at the time seemed like a good idea.

      1. Sorry Encota, I have never known the members of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Oh, and I don’t go down the pub – but I get the idea. Thanks

  9. I’m afraid I struggled to see beyond those nonsensical surface reads, definitely time to get some test solvers on board, Fringilla!
    All my other points have already been mentioned so I’ll leave it at that except to say that I’m pleased to note that you’ve got a new ‘bible’.

    Thank you for your efforts, Fringilla, hopefully you’ll take careful note of the comments from Prolixic et al and deliver a much improved puzzle next time.

      1. I do agree Senf and I even volunteered last time round, but on the other hand we are the test solvers. Rookie Corner can’t become a stream of highly polished puzzles or it becomes slightly self-defeating doesn’t it? It’s nice to see Rookie setters giving it a go and aiming to improve over time and ‘off their own backs’ if they wish
        Speaking of which, Moutarde’s deuxième is somewhat overdue :whistle:

  10. Hello again Fringilla – I won’t repeat what’s gone before…

    I think there a few places where you could have swapped constructions around to make your life easier
    For example, you have some very simple anagrams for simple words which have plenty of scope for wordplay, which pushes you into having to come up with some pretty bizarre charades for difficult words which conversely have scope for more difficult anagrams
    Aren’t 13 & 15 straight definitions? Please tell me I’m missing something!

    Thanks for the puzzle and in advance to Prolixic

  11. .. and finally, I thank you all for your comments and criticisms and/or suggestions. My initial reaction is to only really consider whether I am wasting my time and that my time could be better employed!

    1. Hello Fringilla: I can well understand your uneasiness at some of the reception: I’ve been through the same myself! Rather than go through all the comments already dealt with by others, I’ll just say that my favourite was I think 24a. Nice misdirection and the surface makes sense (although you could have left out the “and slugs” I think – “shells” is sufficient).

      Please don’t get fixated on the idea that you’re “wasting your time”! That’s what I thought, almost a year ago, when I said to myself (also after some far-from-perfect submissions on here): “No More Crosswords!”. Well I did nothing for quite a while, but I’ve started again (I have one in the pipeline).

      If you really think you may be losing the ‘mojo’, as I did, by all means take a break. But come back when you’re ready. You’ll always be welcome!

      One more thing – as other have suggested, find some test solvers. It really helps!

  12. A pretty good, lively puzzle. Some minor niggles: Can’t see what’s cryptic about 13a +15a? In 12a, ‘on’ seems an inaccurate link word cryptically. A few of the surface readings are unsatisfactory – 15d makes no sense at all semantically, as far as I can see, while 16a + 14d are too forced and convoluted. Ones I did like were 21a, 27a, and 25d, mainly for the surface readings.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I do hope that Fringilla takes your advice regarding sources of material for aspiring setters and then chances his arm again in Rookie Corner.

    1. The number of clues where Prolixic picks up on something and adds a ‘comment’, described as a percentage of the number of clues
      7 / 32 or 21.9% = 7 queries from 32 clues

  14. I am currently waiting for my 22:50 (American Eastern Time – 02:50 GMT) flight from Philadelphia to Heathrow. After reading Prolixic’s comments I suppose I’m forewarned for when I attempt the puzzle.

    1. Given the slating I have received, I am not really one to give advice, but looking back at several of the recent rookie corner puzzles – with Prolixic’s comments – should be quite helpful to you.

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