Rookie Corner – 296 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 296

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.

Welcome back to Fringilla.  Although there were a lot of improvements in this crossword, the number of obscure or stretched synonyms reduced the enjoyment of solving it.  The commentometer reads as 5 / 33 or 15.2%


1 28 across, perhaps, in the centre of it all in 10 down? (6)
HOOKER – Double definition for a lady of the night and a rugby player.

4 Correct a conservative minister (8)
ACCURATE – The A from the clue followed by the single letter abbreviation for conservative and a six-letter word for a minister of religion.

9 Overcome some ecstasy (5)
THEME – A four letter word meaning some followed by the abbreviation for ecstasy.  The solution is an obscure meaning of the word overcome as a noun.

10 Surveyor who races vans precariously (9)
CANVASSER – An anagram (precariously) of RACES VANS.  The “who” could have been omitted from this clue.

11 Shoe part at the back (4)
LAST – Double definition.  I don’t think that the first part is technically correct.  The solution is the form on which the shoe is made, not part of the shoe itself.

12 Fit back-space (4)
MOOR – Reverse (back) a four letter word for a space enclosed by walls in a building.  Another synonym that is not precise enough.  A good test is whether you could use the solution in place of the definition in a sentence.  Here, you would not fit a boat.

13 Spread defaced shoot (5)
RANCH – Remove the first letter (defaced) from a six letter word for a shoot or bough of a tree.

15 Sell paintings back to French fellow I contacted initially (7)
TRAFFIC – A three letter word for paintings reversed (back) followed by a single letter abbreviation for French, the abbreviation for fellow, the I from the clue and the initial letter of contracted.  A couple of points here.  First, F is the IVR code for France so cannot be used for French (whose abbreviation is Fr).  Secondly, there is a repetition of back as a reversal indicator (used in 12a).

16 Resign from finance department (4)
CEDE – The answer is hidden (from) in the last two words of the clue.

17 Light clamour (3)
HUE – Double definition.  The first being the appearance or complexion of something and the second being often used in the phrase ??? and cry.

20 Politician surrounded male member (4)
LIMB – The abbreviation for liberal (politician) around the abbreviation for male.

21 Perform nearby now (7)
PRESENT – Triple definition, the first being to put on a performance, the second being a word meaning readily to hand and the third being the current time.

24 Story of boxer who was put before the British Institute (5)
ALIBI – The famous heavyweight boxer followed by the abbreviations for British and Institute.

25 Fix on your finger (4)
NAIL – Double definition, the second being something on the end of your finger.  Although used by setters, I dislike prepositional definitions such as “on your finger” to clue something on your finger.

26 Trace a cat (4)
ATOM – The A from the clue followed by a three letter word for a male cat.

28 Mistress recounts a massage (9)
COURTESAN – An anagram (massage) of RECOUNTS A.  If massage is being used as an imperative verb, it should come before the letters to be rearranged.  If it is used as a noun, some editors would not allow it as nounal anagram indicators are frowned upon in some quarters.

29 A single off your own bat (5)
ALONE – The A from the clue (there are rather a lot of A from the clue clues!) followed by a four letter word meaning single.

30 Dearth of pastry is appalling (8)
SPARSITY – An anagram (appalling) of PASTRY IS.

31 Hell, the French interrupt! (6)
HECKLE – Another mild imprecation that might be used instead of hell followed by the French masculine singular form of “the”.


1 Used for cooking spicy muffin (8)
HOTPLATE – A three letter word meaning spicy followed by a piece of crockery sometimes known as a muffin.  There are a number of clues where one of the more obscure meanings of a word are used.  Overuse of this reduces the enjoyment of the crossword for solvers.

2 No more Dead Irish eg, abroad (8)
OVERSEAS – A four letter word meaning no more followed by a word for bodies of water of which the Dead and the Irish are examples.

3 Drawn back in? Never! (4)
EVEN – The answer is reversed (the third use of back as a reversal indicator) in the last word of the clue.

5 Nice not to carp on, but perhaps use this instead of rebellion for ‘extinction’? (13)
CONTRACEPTION – An anagram (perhaps) of NICE NOT TO CARP.  The definition here is meaningless in the context of the solution as far as I can see.  The “ON” in the clue is padding and, which an anagram clue particularly, is misleading. 

6 A cross in German and complete (10)
UNABRIDGED – The A from the clue (again) and a six letter verb meaning to cross all inside the German for AND.

7 Sailor posted miles away (6)
ABSENT – The abbreviation for able-bodied seaman (sailor) followed by a four letter word meaning posted.

8 Raunchy sod, Yankee (6)
EARTHY – Another word for a clump of soil (sod) followed by the letter represented by Yankee in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

10 Rugby Referee’s instructions: Dare to embrace, then lie down (6,4,3)
CROUCH BIND SET – A six letter word meaning to dare followed by a four letter word meaning to embrace or tie up and a three letter word meaning lie down.  The synonym for dare is not only obscure but is also marked as obsolete in Chambers.  I think that the final word might be better as “lay down”.  The solution is rather specialist.

14 Combines feast I fail to digest (10)
AFFILIATES – An anagram (to digest) of FEAST I FAIL.

18 Perfect reading before work (8)
TEXTBOOK – A four letter word for a biblical reading followed by a four letter word for a piece of literature that might be described as a work.

19 Beat bald Saint in race (8)
STAMPEDE – A five letter word meaning to beat or tread heavily on followed by the name of a venerable saint (famous for his work on the history of the English people) whose first letter has been removed (bald).

22 Dips lip over top of soup (6)
SAUCES – A five letter word for cheek or lip followed by the initial letter (top) of soup.

23 Lie at first under limp ankle bone (5) (6)
FIBULA – A three letter word for a lie followed by the initial letters (at first) of the third to fifth words of the clue.

27 Beware, it’s a man thing! (4)
CAVE – A term for a place where men can work on their hobbies (a man-????) and a Latin warning word meaning beware.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 296

  1. That took us well into ‘Toughie time’ and we eventually managed a filled grid. Have bunged in an answer for 9a but have not yet worked out how to justify it. Guess that 10d will be more familiar to us than to many solvers but even we had to do some googling to get it right.
    Certainly a clever puzzle, possibly a bit clever in places, but overall a satisfying solve.
    Thanks Fringilla.

    1. Thanks down there. According to THE book, overcome is a simile of theme, so some (them) ecstasy (e)…
      I think, judging by comments below I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there. Hope it’s not TOO hot down there.

  2. Very enjoyable, you seem to have taken the advice given previously on board.
    Two answers where I had to use Reveal for confirmation, and some I will need Prolixic to explain. For, example – 10d, easy enough to get the answer having watched three games on TV over the weekend but the connection to what is in quotes in the clue has yet to be made.
    I liked 1a and 23d (even if it does have two sets of enumeration (one of them incorrect)).
    Thanks Fringilla.

    1. Thanks Senf,
      I think, judging by most comments I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there.

  3. A tricky crossword in places, even allowing for my current inability to solve cryptic crosswords successfully. I have a completed grid but have five clues with ?? where I’m not sure how I get from the clue to the solution and I too don’t understand the quotation part of 10d. Having investigoogled the solution to that clue, I’m off to explain to Mr CS how rugby has changed since he was a lad! My favourite was 27a

    Thanks to Fringilla and in advance to Prolixic for his explanations of the ones I can’t.

    1. Thanks Sue,
      I think, judging by most comments I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there. I think most sports have changed since we were lad (and lasses)!

  4. I enjoyed this one – thanks Fringilla. I thought it was quite tricky in places and I don’t understand 5d. My main criticism is that, having avoided obscurities in populating the grid you have used some obscure meanings of common words – for example I needed Chambers to establish that 9a can mean overcome and I see in Chambers Crossword Dictionary that the first word of the 10d answer can mean ‘dare’ (though I don’t know in what context).
    My ticks went to 6d, 8d and 18d.

    1. Thanks Gazza,
      I think, judging most comments I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there.

  5. I felt unable to comment on your previous Rookie puzzle, Fringilla, because I didn’t know where to start. Although my page is littered with question marks, I can say with confidence that this represents a significant step in the right direction.

    My concerns fall largely into three categories: (a) those where I have worked out the answer from the definition and checkers but am flummoxed by the wordplay; (b) those where I have worked out the answer from the wordplay and checkers but for which the definition is either inaccurate or a stretch too far; and (c) 9a, my last one in, which is an utter mystery to me to the point where I needed to reveal the two missing letters.

    In terms of difficulty this was, as CS says, quite tricky in places and I found the NW particularly tough.

    On the positive side there are some clever ideas on show and, although some rough edges remain, you have clearly worked hard on your surfaces.

    Do take heed of Prolixic’s wise words and please keep going on your upward trend. Many thanks.

    1. Thanks Dave,
      I think, judging most comments I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there.

  6. Welcome back, Fringilla.

    Yes, a tough solve for me too, especially the NW corner.

    I agree with RD that the surfaces do show a distinct improvement from last time, but there’s still some work to do there, I feel. I also concur with Gazza about including certain obscure or stretched meanings on occasion, that made several clues fairly solver-unfriendly. I didn’t think it was a wise move to make the first clue dependent on solving two others, and clues such as 10a and 24a would have benefited from removing the “who” and “who was” respectively. There was also surface “padding” in 5d. My favourite clue was 22d.

    Definite signs of improvement, I do hope that more progress will be evident next time. Thanks, Fringilla.

    1. Thanks Silvanus,
      I think, judging by most comments I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there. Did you also miss the anagram in 5d, and if so did the ‘but’ mislead?

  7. Definite signs of improvement in some areas but I still have several question marks and ‘umms’ awaiting the review from Prolixic. Not at all sure how the likes of 9a & 5d work and doubt that anyone other than an avid rugby fan would be able to fathom 10d – I waited until all the checkers were in place and then tried every permutation of words I could think of until Mr Google kindly came to my rescue.
    I’d recommend ditching the obscurities in future puzzles and concentrating more on clever wordplay – 27d proves that you can do it!

    Thanks, Fringilla – I’m sure you’ll get there.

    1. Thanks Jane,
      9 across: According to THE book, overcome is a simile of theme, so some (them) ecstasy (e)…
      5 down: Nice not to carp on is an anagram (but perhaps) . Maybe the ‘but’ was misleading?
      I think, judging by comments below I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there.

  8. I thought this was a good puzzle which I enjoyed. There were one or two new definitions which I don’t mind, but I agree the parsing is unfathomable in places
    The surfaces are pretty good throughout and overall I liked the mix of clues, even the simple ones are nicely worded
    I do have a niggle or two, so Prolixic’s review will be interesting as ever (and thanks in advance to him)
    Well done and thanks for the entertainment Fringilla

    1. Thanks Roy,
      I think, judging most comments I am relying too much on the more obscure definitions in THE book, but they are all there.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I don’t see any need for the obscure definitions since your wordplay is generally perfectly good on it’s own
        You may have searched the dictionary/thesaurus to find obscure synonyms to make it more difficult, but someone solving on a train will not be impressed
        BD calls it thesauritis or something similar
        The enjoyment is largely derived from penny-drop moments, or ‘Christmas cracker’ clues – no good if your audience doesn’t get it

  9. Thanks Fringilla
    I have bad memories of being a 1a at school. The qualification was apparently being small, rather than being someone who actively enjoyed having enormous louts pull your shorts up round your chest then trample your face into freezing mud. And I’ve never heard of 10d despite (or perhaps because of) that.
    I thought there were plenty of good, snappy clues, the majority in fact. 7d & 26a good examples. There were a handful that still puzzled me when I had finished, and for those I rather agree with Rabbit Dave’s three points. I have looked up 9a’s solution and am still none the wiser.

    1. Thanks Mucky,
      Sorry to hear about your rugby experiences. Too bad it wasn’t rugby league, I don’t know how they can call THAT a scrum.
      9 across: According to THE book, overcome is a simile of theme, so some (them) ecstasy (e)…

  10. Thanks Fringilla for the tough challenge. I agree with the sentiment re obscure meanings in wordplay.
    I’m struggling to see ‘light’ as a synonym for ‘hue’, or ‘them’ for ‘some’. Is not ‘muffin’ a definition by example?
    I think ‘mistress’ is a bit loose for ‘courtesan’, and is sparsity the same as scarcity?
    In 5, are we to take contraception to be making something extinct? These are deep waters Watson.
    Many good clues here though, UNABRIDGED springs to mind.
    Thanks Prolixic for the helpful review.

  11. Thanks to Prolixic his comments and suggestions. There was definitely a general consensus that obscure synonyms (all taken from the book)were a problem, so I can and will easily fix that problem. However, I am flummoxed by the general dislike of 5 down’s solution, and wonder how it is different from, say, yesterday’s “Lord of the Flies” answer?

    1. Could you please explain how 5d is meant to work? I got the answer from the anagram but I’ve no idea what the definition is and what it’s got to do with extinction and rebellion.

      1. G and Smylers (and Prolixic), 5d. Isn’t the u/lined definition merely a whimsical (and obvious) reference to Extinction Rebellion, the global environmental movement? With the suggestion that the answer could be used to achieve extinction of the human race instead of allowing global warming, etc. to do it instead. All the “stumped solver” has to do is Google/look up “Extinction Rebellion”. But I am a simple soul and have probably got it all wrong again…

        1. You are spot on Jose, thanks.
          I obviously did not consider that such luminaries would not have heard of ER

        2. PS. I’ve just read the comments at #13, below, which seem to have dealt with this subject. Never mind, I’m still happy to throw in my tuppence worth.

    2. Hi, Fringilla. I think the difference from yesterday’s 26a (which several solvers commented on not being keen on either, so may not be the best clue to emulate) is that it was trivial for those of us who hadn’t read Lord of the Flies to look up what the characters in it are called (or to solve the clue first, then check that the discovered answer is indeed in the book).

      Whereas with your 5d, there isn’t anything that the stumped solver can look up or used to confirm the answer. So I’m afraid i don’t see the similarity between the two clues.

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, quite a relief that you found the same clues to be questionable for one reason or another.
    I’m sure that Fringilla has it in him to scale back on those and produce a much improved compilation next time – here’s hoping!
    PS Like Gazza, I’ll be interested to hear what Fringilla has to say about 5d.

  13. 5 down.
    I humbly suggest that, “Extinction Rebellion” is trying to persuade us that ‘ if we do not rebel against all the things supposedly causing global warming, ie chopping down/burning trees, polluting with fumes and rubbish etc etc’ then we shall all be extinct (or “doomed” as Fraser is still staying in Dad’s Army).
    I was merely suggesting that contraception would equally make us extinct.

    1. Doesn’t pass the ‘you must say what you mean’ test , I think.
      I humbly suggest that contraception is part of warding off extinction, in fact. :)

      1. Gonzo, etc., 5d. With the greatest respect, I think some of you guys are taking this clue too seriously and scrutinising it too deeply. Everything is there to allow the solver to reasonably work out the answer. It’s a bit offbeat/whimsical, perhaps, but in my book it’s certainly an OK clue.

        1. I respectfully disagree. The ‘for’ in the clue is ambiguous as to whether it means ‘to achieve’ or ‘to prevent’, and there are many things that could bring about extinction, of which contraception is hardly high on the list. This ambiguity and the ‘on but’ between the fodder and the anagram indicator make this a poor clue in my opinion.
          It is just a crossword, but we are invited to comment so may as well give it some thought.

    2. Thanks for the explanation, Fringilla. I’m afraid it’s far too convoluted for me and I agree with Gonzo’s response.

Comments are closed.