Rookie Corner – 295 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 295

A Puzzle by Umber

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Dumber returns with his second puzzle, although this time he has decided (understandably) to rebrand as Umber. 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 Umber under a new pseudonym.  This was a crossword that displayed some nice touches but it was let down by a number of errors and inaccuracies.  Whilst the use of unconventional abbreviations and repetition of wordplay indicators from the previous crossword has been addressed, there were a number of clues where definitions were not precise enough or adjectives were clued as nouns, etc.  For the next crossword, if Umber can nail down the precision of the clues, this would greatly improve the quality of the crossword.  As a result of the larger number of inaccuracies, the commentometer has risen to 71/2 / 30 or 25%.  To paraphrase one of the early pioneers of setting crosswords by adding the word precisely:  “You need not say what you mean you must mean precisely what you say.”

Across

1 Line of cocaine following admission of ambiguous sexual identity? (6)
IAMBIC – A phrase (1,2,2) that might be used by someone admitting to being bisexual followed by the abbreviation for cocaine.  The solution is an adjective describing a line of poetry, not the line itself, which would be iambus.

5 Novelty event for managers? (4,4)
SACK RACE – A humorous description of a competition between HR manager to dismiss people.

9 Pear-shaped bream got pear-shaped fruit from this (8)
BERGAMOT – An anagram (pear-shaped) of BREAM GOT.

10 Shots of Tiger and others bald and American? (6)
EAGLES – Double definition of a golfing shots and birds.

11 Concentrate and set fire to Sid’s turn-ups (6)
DISTIL – A reversal (turn-ups) of a three letter word meaning set fire to and the SID from the clue.  I don’t think that turn-ups works as a reversal indicator.  Firstly it is a noun and, secondly, as this is an across clue, you are not turning the clue up but back.

12 What’s left of soldiers’ unit before reported hand-to-hand combat (8)
RESIDUAL – The abbreviation for Royal Engineers followed by the abbreviation for System Internationale (unit) and a homophone (reported) of duel (hand-to-hand combat).  Again, the answer means relating to the residue, not what’s left itself.  The SI is a system of metric units, not the unit itself.

14 Yep, it’ll stick plastic instantly (7-5)
LICKETY-SPLIT – An anagram (plastic) of YEP ITLL STICK.  As the answer is an American phrase, this should be indicated.

18 For eample, a thing read by the vicar (6,6)
OBJECT LESSON – Another word for a thing and another word for a bible reading.  The whole clue provides the definition.  Watch out for typographical errors in the clues.  This should be “For example…”

22 Baffle computer-program addict (8)
DIFFUSER – A three four letter word for a command-line program used with the Unix and Linux operating systems followed by a four letter word for an addict.  I think that cluing a little used component part of an operating system as a computer program is pushing it and too specialist.

25 Tickled pink those involved run out (6)
ELATED – Another word for those involved without (out) the abbreviation for run.  Those involved would be “relations”.  The word required in the wordplay means to be allied by blood or marriage.

26 They wade holding up their bloomers, or so it’s said (6)
STORKS – A homophone (or so it’s said) of stalks (holding up their bloomers).

27 Little frogs are somewhat European, son (8)
TADPOLES – A three letter word meaning somewhat, a four letter East European and the abbreviation for son.  I would omit the are otherwise the cryptic reading has the inelegant definition are wordplay.

28 Herb to lace rice pudding (8)
CELERIAC – An anagram (pudding) of LACE RICE.  The answer is not a herb but a vegetable.  Also, the structure definition to wordplay does not really work.  Wordplay to the definition works better.

29 Wager he’s North American (6)
YANKEE – Double definition of a type of bet and a person who lives in the USA.

Down

2 Acid drops in Palace ticket office (6)
ACETIC – The answer is hidden (in) in the fourth and fifth words of the clue.  The “drops” and the “office” are padding words and would not be accepted by all editors.

3 Graduate, Georgia, joins Terry at the French game (9)
BAGATELLE – The abbreviation for Bachelor of Arts (graduate), the United States abbreviation for Georgia, a three letter diminutive form of Terence or Terry and the French masculine singular form of “the”.

4 Conniving politician has gripe about it (9)
COMPLICIT – The abbreviation for member of parliament with another word for gripe (as a stomach complaint) around it followed by the IT from the clue.

5 Liberate six games for nothing (3,4)
SET FREE – Something that may or may not consist of six games (it could be many more) in tennis followed by a four letter word meaning for nothing.  I don’t think that the six games is precise enough. 

6 Musical board game (5)
CHESS – Double definition of a Tim Rice (and others) musical and a matey form of board game.

7 Fixed outfit? I would! (5)
RIGID – A three letter word for an outfit and the contracted for of I would.

8 Climber mails sect by mistake (8)
CLEMATIS – An anagram (by mistake) of MAILS SECT.  The letters in “mails sect” give too many letters “MAIL SECT” works.

13 Pinto’s evens to belonging to the thing (3)
ITS – The even letters in the first word of the clue.

15 When astute people weren’t born? (9)
YESTERDAY – Gentle cryptic definition based on the phrase “Do you think I was born …”

16 Clown with goat and duck with claw out (9)
PANTALOON – A three letter word for the goat (based on the pipe playing God who appeared in this form), and a five letter word for a claw around the letter representing a duck or zero.  I don’t think that “out” on its own makes a sufficient containment indicator.  It would need to be outside to work.

17 Sailors in the drink (8)
ABSINTHE – The pluralised abbreviation for Able Bodied seaman followed by both the IN and the THE from the clue.  Having 5/8 of the solution lifted directly from the clue is not ideal.

19 Featured in music: Puccini’s mainframe (3)
CPU – The answer is hidden (featured in) the third and fourth words of the clue.  I don’t think that the solution and main-frame are exactly synonymous.

20 Mercurial ruler – and traitor – in charge (7)
ERRATIC – The abbreviation for the current queen, a three letter word for a traitor and the abbreviation for in charge.

21 Night flight to look after wine (6)
REDEYE – A three letter word for a type or colour of wine followed by a three letter word meaning to look.

23 Whitehall speciality – leading characters falling after reversal changes everything (5)
FARCE – The initial letters (leading characters) in the final five works of the clue.  If you use a construction such as leading characters … it need to be leading characters from or of …

24 Keep mum out of first hotel and I will get rice and fish (5)
SUSHI – A five letter word meaning keep quiet without the first H followed by the I from the clue.


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39 comments on “Rookie Corner – 295
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  1. Just a couple of points we are unsure of. Don’t understand the wordplay with 5a and in 22a the computer program looks to have one more letter than is given in BRB.
    Those aside, we found it a very enjoyable solve with a special tick going for 15d.
    Thanks Umber

    1. 5a – for nothing = free, six games = set, as in tennis but not entirely accurate as a set is the first player to win six games provided the other player has won no more than four games. Hope that helps.

    2. Hello, 2K.

      Because the managers are known worldwide I thought the clue might not be too difficult. The clue I thought you might not completely get was the Whitehall in question in 23d

      As for the computer programme, I have to admit I Googled it as I couldn’t find my BRB (that is probably out of date by now anyway). With my (67th) birthday and Christmas within two days of one another, I think I’ll add a new BRB to my list of suggestions when the usual difficult questions are asked!

  2. Typo in 18a. Fodder error in 8d.
    I liked 5d, 20d, 9a, although I’d’ve thought Amber might be more likely to be pear-shaped than bream? 17d made me tut at myself when the penny dropped. Might need to see the review for a couple of parsings.
    Cheers Umber.

    1. Isn’t the first ‘pear-shaped’ the anagram indicator (with bream got as the material)? But, I agree amber would probably be better than bream.

    2. Just seen the mistakes in 18a and 8d (was originally ‘Climber to mail sect by mistake’ but didn’t look right so changed it in a hurry) and can kick myself for not seeing Amber! It all sums up my impulsive, careless personality. :(

      Thanks, TV, you’re a star.

  3. Very enjoyable, my favourite has to be 17d.
    A couple of comments:
    14a is a US term (indicated as US inf in the BRB) so should have some indication in the clue.
    I don’t think that 28a is a herb, neither does the BRB which says it is a vegetable.
    Thanks Umber.

    1. Thanks, Senf.

      As I wrote 14a for a GU crossword competition years ago, and no one pointed out it was a US term (the competition was just to write a normal cryptic clue for it) I didn’t think to check it this time, other to see if it was hyphenated or not.

      I’m surprised but delighted that 17d would be liked so much because I thought it would be deemed too easy.

      I think I used Herb for Herbert without thinking to make sure. On reflection, ‘Lace rice pudding with vegetable’ might have read better anyway.

      Thanks again.

  4. Hi Umber,
    Some good clues here – well done! I particularly marked 7d, 12a, 17d (I feel I’ve seen this one before), 4d & 20d. There are a few where the wordplay is fine but the surface reading doesn’t seem too meaningful – e.g. 5d, 21d (where the wordplay is particularly neat) and 25a. And other commenters have covered the minor errors already so I won’t repeat those.
    A fun solve – many thanks.
    -Encota-

    Other Notes taken whilst solving (feel free to ignore):
    2d ‘drops’ and certainly ‘office’ feel like surface padding here
    9a nice ‘pear’ re-use
    19d is the definition accurate?
    15d a very gentle cryptic clue
    27a the ‘synonym’ for somewhat doesn’t feel quite right
    23d ok, though a more meaningful set of five words must surely be available?
    22a Didn’t get the computer program: ah, the Unix command!
    16d goat=1st 3 letters? not sure
    11a this reversal indicator is probably better used in a Down clue
    26a LOI. Though close, this homophone won’t work for many people.

    1. Thanks, Encota. Having looked again at the clues I completely agree with all your queries. I wasn’t entirely sure about most you mentioned but thought the best test was to leave them in and wait for the comments.

      17d is a reused clue of mine, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it had used by someone else as it seemed a rather obvious clue to write, if a bit easy to solve for seasoned solvers.

      14a is also a reused clue (the GU competition winner I mentioned) and is the clue I thought might be recognised.

      23d seemed apt at the time I submitted the puzzle as it was during the ‘great’ BREXIT debacle in Parliament.

      Thanks again. I’ll probably wait for Prolixic’s comments before responding to anyone else’s.

  5. An enjoyable crossword which flowed very nicely (which is something I like to experience when solving cryptic crosswords)

    I won’t go into too much detail with my quibbles (we must leave something for Prolixic to write about!) but I’m not sure the definition in 1a is correct, I wondered whether ‘out’ in 25a would be better as ‘off’ and I’m not sure I entirely understand how I get 23d. Oh and, still having quite a lot of 28a in the veg patch (this year’s most successful crop) it is definitely not a herb

    Well done Umber – more like this please. Thanks in advance to Prolixic too

    1. Thanks, Sue. I often ask my wife (also Sue – we solve the DT puzzle between us every day) to have a look at a completed puzzle when I think it’s finished but she says she already knew the answers to most and the others were too difficult. If you’re not already snowed under (I hope that’s proved to be a prophetic term!) I’d appreciate a test solver. Maybe Dave could pass on my email address if it’s of any interest?

  6. Welcome back, Umber.

    Another puzzle that showed a lot of promise, although I agree with the quibbles that have already been raised, so I felt that “nearly, but not quite” applied to quite a few clues. My personal picks were 12a and 29a, 14a would have earned a tick too, had it not been for the missing US attribution, it’s a great surface and an excellent anagram. Unlike others, I was less enamoured with 17d since more than half the solution is lifted directly from the clue without any wordplay.

    Having an experienced test solver will benefit you immensely, and I’m sure that CS will put you right on much more than just herbs!

    Many thanks, Umber.

    1. Thanks, Silvanus. Your comment about 17d is exactly what I expected to see here. I suppose it just goes to show how opinions vary. Overall I am very disappointed by some of the obvious errors I made, especially using Herb instead of Vegetable for 28a!

      Had I realised the need to mention its origin, I would have changed 14a to ‘Yep, it’ll stick plastic instantly in America’ or ‘Yep it’ll stick plastic American instantly’

      A test solver is long overdue.

  7. To crib from Silvanus, ‘nearly, but not quite’ sums up my feeling about much of this. I’m sure that having a test solver will make a world of difference and please give more thought to surface reads.
    My favourite, as a salute to Brian Rix, has to be 23d.

    Thank you, Umber, I expect to see great things from you next time!

  8. Overall an enjoyable puzzle, a shame about the careless mistakes. The good ideas are all there but the devil is in the detail
    I’m sure you are beginning to see the kind of little tweaks that can turn an OK-ish clue into a great one and 100% accuracy is paramount
    I suspect that with a test solver on board your next will be of a very high standard

    Thanks Umber

    1. Thanks, Roy. Like most things in life I’m self taught but tend to get impatient and rush to a conclusion. I’m already working on my next puzzle so, hopefully, with Sue’s advice, I can reach towards that high standard.

  9. I enjoyed most of the puzzle however I have ?marks against 5a, 10a, 11a, 20a and 4d so I’ll need Prolixic’s review to fully understand my answers always assuming the’re correct of course!

    Thank you Umber

    1. Thanks, Spindrift. Enjoyment is what I get out of writing clues so it’s nice to see that solvers enjoy them too, even if they’re often a bit iffy. I’ve already had a bit of a chuckle over a couple written today. Hopefully they’ll get the nod from Sue.

  10. Very much a hot-and-cold one this. There were a couple of excellent and ingenious clues, but also a number which were inaccurate or even wrong. In 11a, ‘turn-ups’ isn’t an accurate instruction to the solver to reverse he order, and, further, the use of ‘up’ is inappropriate in an Across clue. 2d isn’t exactly wrong, but I don’t like the way one word (‘office’) from the string within which the hidden word sits isn’t used in the answer. In 5d, ‘six games’ won’t wash as a definition of the answer’s first word, because six is only the MINIMUM number of games in a tennis set (unless some other sport I’m not aware of is referred to). In 19d, the CPU is only part of a computer, whereas a mainframe is the whole thing. In 23d, an instruction (along the lines of the word ‘from’) needs adding to specify fully that only the 1st letters from the given string of words are to be used in the answer – simply stating ‘leading characters’, and then listing the words, is ungrammatical cryptically. Perhaps most glaring of all, in 8d, ‘mails sect’ ISN’T an anagram of the answer (too many Ss).
    On the other hand, a few clues I really like. 10a’s an extremely crafty double definition. The wordplay in 17d is extremely neat and apposite. I enjoyed the anagram and surface reading in 14a, too – v lively.
    To sum up, some nice ideas, and a good range of cryptie techniques, so there’s some potential here. But I do think a good deal more care needs to be taken in the clue construction.

  11. This is the kind of rookie puzzle I enjoy seeing: A sensible grid and a very good effort that is not overambitious.

    Like others have mentioned, some definitions suffer from lack of precision. For me, little frogs was one of them. A little frog to me has four little legs. Young frogs might work, in that a young man needn’t be a man, etc. mainframe was another.

    I thought 9a would be better without “from this”.

    6d not so satisfying since the musical is named after the board game – double definitions are best when independent
    15d I don’t think is cryptic – is encota being polite or am i missing something? A cryptic definition has two readings, usually involving a pun. I struggle to see two readings here.
    21 is hyphenated in chambers
    23 needs to be “leading characters OF” i think to make sense as a cryptic instruction, else the “leading characters” should follow the fodder.

    If you are looking for test solvers, I would recommend you find other people like yourself who also write clues, and you can help each other

    1. I think there’s a perfectly good test solver around these parts who has an absolutely impeccable track record right to the top of the crossword tree.

  12. I came late in the day to this one, and pretty much everything I was intending to say has already been said.

    This was good fun, which for me is the top priority, although one or two experienced solvers seem to have forgotten this. If you can iron out the mistakes and, as Jane says, work on polishing your surfaces, you will arrive at a very good end product.

    Thank you, Umber. I’m looking forward very much to seeing your next puzzle – but don’t rush it!

  13. Hi Umber
    I’m not best qualified to comment on how technically correct the puzzle is but I can say that I enjoyed trying to solve it. I say “trying to” as have to admit a couple of reveals.
    I’d never heard 1a but you have clued it “imaginatively”! I didnt like 11a on any level but I did like several others, 12 and 28a foremost amongst them, where I thought the surface readings were smooth and clever.

  14. Thanks Umber for the entertainment, and Prolixic for the review (I think you have got Afrit’s quote backwards though).
    In 1ac iambic can be used to mean ‘an iambus’ (according to Chambers), but a ‘foot’ is not the whole ‘line’.

  15. Thanks for your comments and advice, Prolixic. I think it proves that I should sometimes abandon a clue and start again, rather than include it because I think it sounds funny (as in setting fire to Sid’s turn ups). I should also look at the whole thing again in the week before its likely publication in order to look for typos, anagram letter count and mixed veg.

    I’m embarrassed, more than disappointed, in the overall result, but encouraged that most see potential in me. I hope my next effort is enjoyable and (mostly) correct.

    1. Thank you for your crossword, and Prolixic for the detailed explanations. In terms of learning about writing crossword clues, this works better when the commentometer is high!

      In 12a, Oxford is fine with ‘residual’ being a noun — “A quantity remaining after other things have been subtracted or allowed for”, so the definition seems acceptable to me.

      In 17d, while the answer does have ⅝ of its letters in the clue, ‘in’ and ‘the’ are such innocuous little words, that it’s still quite masked, so possibly OK in this context?

      Conversely, I’m not sure the definition for 24d is acceptable without ‘for instance’ or something in there to indicate it’s a definition by example. (Sushi sometimes has fish in the middle of it, but often doesn’t.)

      Finally, Prolixic, I was wondering if you would consider in the list of answers putting ‘a’ or ‘d’ after each number (as is the style for most other bloggers on this site)? When reading the list, it’s of course completely unnecessary: the subheadings perfectly indicate which are across and down clues. But when a commenter says “I liked 7d”, it’s useful to be able to press Ctrl+F in the browser and search for “7d” to look up which clue they are referring to. Thanks.

      (Just searching for “7” of course matches too many other things — timestamps, days in the calendar, enumeration of 7-letter answers, and clue 17.)

  16. Not really much to add to the comments of others, except that I liked 15dn, and in 18ac I wasted a lot of time thinking the typo in the clue might have been deliberate and looking for an answer that somehow referred to losing an X.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Now that Umber has accepted that he needs a test solver, hopefully most of the points you mentioned will be checked before his next puzzle is published. I look forward to seeing the results!

  18. Very long time since I had a go at a rookie and really enjoyed the experience.
    Thanks to Umber and to Prolixic for the analysis.

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