Rookie Corner – 297 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 297

A Puzzle by Sundance

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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.

Welcome back to Sundance and apologies for the delay in the review.  The run up to Christmas is always a busy one and I am out most evenings when I would otherwise be preparing the review.  This is Sundance’s second crossword.  There was some improvement which was encouraging to sell.  There are still rough edges to address.  The number of interlinked clues might have been off-putting for some solvers and it is better not to rely too heavily on them unless there is a themed crossword.  Some of the verbal definitions missed the mark for being too imprecise and surface readings need to be improved in some cases.  The commentometer reads as 4.5 / 30 or 15%.


1 First son has appropriate rank (7)
CAPTAIN – The first son of Adam and Eve includes (has) a three letter word meaning appropriate.  Perhaps in this case had would be a better inclusion word as in I had / ate an apple.

5 Some voters have chosen a tory politician (7)
SENATOR – The answer is hidden in the forth to sixth words of the clue.  The words “voters have” are padding and as they create a large separation between the hidden word indicator and the words where the solution is hidden it detracts from the effectiveness of the clue.

9 Where to find Oliver or Sharon Stone perhaps (2,3)
ON SET – An anagram (perhaps) of STONE.  

10 The possibility of 6 with competence (9)
VIABILITY – The Roman numerals for six followed by a seven letter word meaning competence.

11 With the first part of 5d, notice an environmentally friendly timepiece (5,5)
WATER CLOCK -Another word for the first part of the answer to 5d followed by a five letter word meaning notice.

12 Rock without a friend (4)
OPAL – Split 1,3 the solution would imply zero and friend.

14 Transport facilitators containing river have bounce (11)
TRAMPOLINES – The rails one which urban transport runs includes (containing) a two letter name of a river.  Although I am lenient when it comes to surface readings, this one is particularly bad.  The verbal phrase defining the answer is not precise enough for my liking.  Have bounce would need to be it has bounce.

18 Sao Tome’s partner and a backward fool combine for Italian 8 (not first) (11)
PRINCIPESSA – An eight letter word that completes the name of the Islands (Sao Tome and …) followed by a reversal (backward) of a three letter word for a fool.

21 His can be self important but useful for writing (4)
NIBS – Double definition, the first being the word following his in the description of an important pend and the second a part of a pen.

22 Organise our violent struggle (10)
REVOLUTION – An anagram (organise) of OUR VIOLENT.

25 Heard about Rackham’s popularity where he learnt? (3,6)
ART SCHOOL – The diminutive form of Arthur (the first name of the artist Arthur Rackham) with an S to include the possessive form of Rackham’s followed by a homophone (heard about) of cool.

26 Land of certain dialects (5)
INDIA – The answer is hidden (of) in the last two words of the clue,

27 Blade is used to make ineffective (7)
DISABLE – An anagram (used) of BLADE IS.

28 FBI in whole or part (7)
SEGMENT– A phrase (1,3) used to describe the FBI inside a three letter word meaning whole.


1 Strangle holds with Bantu language (6)
CHOKWE – A five letter word meaning strangle includes (holds) the abbreviation for with.  Another surface reading that is not the best.

2 Bread returned in late September was once useful for 16 (6)
PESETA – A type of money (bread) once used by a person from Spain (see the answer to 16d) is hidden (in) and reversed (returned) in the fourth and fifth words of the clue.

3 Insect on top of the world – a long way from that (10)
ANTARCTICA – A three letter insect followed by the northernmost region of the plant.

4 Unusual month on the railway (5)
NOVEL – The abbreviation for the eleventh month of the year followed by the two letter word for an elevated railway.

5 Views 7 (for example) cloaks (9)
SEASCAPES – The bodies of water of which there are said to be seven followed by another word for the items of clothing cloaks.

6 Arrest one surrounded by nothing (4)
NAIL – The letter (indefinite article) inside (surrounded by) a three letter word meaning nothing.

7 Paying a little extra around the start of Ramadan whilst high (8)
TRIPPING – The gratuity paid at the end of a meal on top of the bill around the first letter (start of) of Ramadan.  I don’t like the whilst as a link word wordplay whilst definition does not work for me.

8 Supporter of Charles is not solitary (8)
ROYALIST – An anagram (is not) of SOLITARY.  Is not does not work as an anagram indicator for me.  As the definition is by example, this should be indicated.

13 Quiet meadows and posh jewellery can be gratifying (10)
PLEASURING – The abbreviation for quiet and a four letter word for meadows followed by the abbreviation for posh and an item of jewellery worn on the finger.

15 In the centre of fruit replace one hundred with five hundred and reveal a Devon village (9)
APPLEDORE – The piece of an apple at the centre with the (one hundred) replaced by a D (five hundred).  Another clue where the surface reading is sadly lacking.

16 Spiny rock plant from Barcelona, say (8)
SPANIARD – Double definition for a type of plant and homeward from Barcelona.

17 Could bad diets be a cause? (8)
DIABETES – An anagram (bad) of DIETS BE A.

19 Sieve can be confusing (6)
RIDDLE – Double definition for a sieve and a puzzle that can be confusing.  Verbal phrases such as the second double definition are problematical.  Whilst verbal phrases can be used as a definition, the work best when the verbal phrase defines precisely the solution or used with a pronoun such as “it could be confusing”.

20 Whole mix excluding the queen (6)
INTACT – An eight letter word meaning mix socially without the two letter abbreviation for the current queen.

23 Looks on web? – no go but still looks (5)
OGLES – A seven letter word meaning carries out a web search without the initial GO.

24 Crust keeps on working (4)
SCAB – Double definition – the first being a crust over a wound and the second a strike breaker.  This is another instance where the verbal phrase does not precisely enough define the solution.

33 comments on “Rookie Corner – 297

  1. Late getting on to this but an enjoyable solve when we did. A few answers that we thought were pushing the GK limits a bit 1d, 18a and 15d but we did manage to work them out correctly before we went to Google for confirmation.
    A pleasure to solve.
    Thanks Sundance.

    1. Thanks for the warning on those clues, 2Kiwis — after a brief look, I guessed (correctly) that I didn’t have the knowledge in question so pressed ‘solve word’. (Even with the answer, it still took me ages to work out what 28a had to do with the clue, but that turned out to be entirely my fault: somehow I was trying to fit 28a’s answer to the clue for 16d …)

      Thank you, Sundance, for the crossword. My favourite so far as 23d.
      I like a cross-referenced clue, but here I found so many that it made it hard to get a start.

      After a single pass, I’ve got 4½ clues by myself (the second word of 11a being the half), plus 1 anagram with electronic assistance, and 1 answer (25a) from a web search of general knowledge but where I haven’t yet worked out the wordplay. I’ll come back to it later.

      1. Dear Smylers

        Thank you for your interest. I had thought that cross-referencing would enhance the puzzle but I’m beginning to think that perhaps that is not the case.

        1. I think you’re right in that the cross-referencing probably does enhance the puzzle for those who can solve it; but if you’re struggling to find a way in, it limits the clues you can attempt.

          It’s good to have crosswords at different levels, and my solving abilities are well below the average for commenters round here, so my finding it tricky is often a sign that it’s at a good middling level.

    2. Dear 2Kiwis

      Sorry to be so late in posting comments – it has been a trying day! (Does anyone else have those?)

      Thank you so much for your kind comments.

  2. Thanks Sundance
    Lots to like; I thought your anagrams were very neat in 22, 27, 9 & 17 and I also liked 28.
    I was amused to see 19 – definitely fewer than last time (though 15 is one, and 18).

  3. A great improvement on the previous crossword from this setter. Lots to enjoy and fortunately I knew the GK elements, for which the wordplay was clear, although when checking I see that the rock plant in 16d would, surprisingly, be more familiar to the 2Ks than Pommers! There were a couple of clues needing a bit of a tweak, eg I think ‘to’ would be better than ‘and’ in 15d, but all minor things

    Thanks to Sundance and, in advance, to Prolixic

    1. Dear crypticsue

      Thanks for the kind words. I am pleased to receive feedback from everyone but seeing your name is particularly gratifying. (I hope that doesn’t sound too sycophantic!)

  4. Some really good clues here, I thought, and I enjoyed the solve. I did think 9A was a bit weak, unless there’s something I’m not seeing. 22A, 3D and 23D are my top three. Thanks Sundance.

    1. Dear Expat Chris

      Thank you for your comments – they are really appreciated.

      I thought 9A was reasonable but then I am somewhat biased! I see that another reviewer thought it o.k. so overall I’m not sure what to think. Either way I realize from looking at comments so far that I still have some way to go before the New York Times is calling for my services!

  5. Welcome back, Sundance.

    The earlier comments have started to make me think I was solving a different puzzle, as I had many more crosses on my printed page than ticks unfortunately. Whilst there were certainly fewer anagrams and it was reasonably entertaining to solve, some of the surfaces were frankly awful, if I’m being brutally honest. 14a, 18a, 1d, 24d, and particularly 15d being probably the worst offenders in that respect. I don’t like nouns being clued with verbal phrases, as in 14a, 19d and 24d, without including an “it”, “he” or “they” for instance, and there was surface “padding” in 5a. 16d is a NZ word according to Collins, I couldn’t find it in Chambers, and the obscurities in 1d and 18a looked suspiciously like grid-fillers to me because nothing else would fit. I don’t think either “not” in 8d or “could” in 17d pass as anagram indicators on their own.

    On the credit side, I thought 1a was an excellent start and I also liked 28a and, to a certain extent, 7d.

    Thank you for the puzzle, Sundance, I hope that you’ll come back with fewer niggles next time after digesting Prolixic’s review.

    1. Dear silvanus

      Thanks for your constructive feedback. I THINK that I can say that this puzzle is better than the previous one (although Prolixic may disagree) and that is at least in part because I have tried to take comments on board from last time and I will again from this time for the next puzzle (if Big Dave allows another one).

  6. I thought there were some nice clues in here but have to agree with Silvanus on many points
    Only thing I would add is that the multiple cross-references detracted from the flow of the solve for me, especially solving online
    I think I would have enjoyed the solve more without the referencing, obscure grid fillers and one or two somewhat forced …(instruction) surfaces
    Thanks for the challenge Sundance

    1. Dear LetterboxRoy

      Thank you for the kind comments – I’m pleased that you appeared to be happier with this than the last one. I will try and reduce the number of obscure grid fillers although I note that some/probably all of the great compilers have an occasional one.

      1. Dear Everyone

        I should probably read my comments before posting them.

        My wife has just pointed out that it sounds like I am including myself as a great compiler. I really didn’t intend that so I hope I’ve knocked that on the head before people start writing in.

        1. Not at all Sundance – we all know this is Rookie Corner and we are all here to try to help you improve, which you have and will continue to do so I suspect

  7. Definitely an improvement from the debut puzzle in that I did manage to complete this one! Having said that, I was relieved to read the comment from Silvanus as I had also started to wonder whether I’d solved the same puzzle as our early commenters, given the number of ‘umms’ on my sheet.
    The points I would make have already been covered by Silvanus and LbR – shame about those when 1a was such an excellent start.
    It will be very interesting to read what Prolixic has to say – I hope that Sundance will benefit from his wisdom.

    1. Dear jane

      Thank you again for your observations – it is pleasing that everyone seems to have something positive to say. I will keep trying, trying and trying again.

  8. Welcome back, Sundance. It was good to see an improvement over your previous puzzle although I did find this one to be a curate’s egg. A few bits of GK were extremely obscure, although I was helped by having had an aunt and uncle who retired to Devon living near 15d for several years. Some of your surface readings were nonsensical. In addition you had too many cross-references to other clues for my taste and some of your wordplay was over-complex. I would recommend while you are learning the trade that you try to keep things more simple.

    I have quite a few crosses and question marks on my page but I’ll leave the detailed comments to Prolixic. I will just mention the need to capitalise Tory and Queen. In the former case it would have helped to disguise the lurker.

    As an aside, I visited Barcelona a lot during my working career, and I would have been in grave danger if I had ever referred to the inhabitants as 16ds.

    On the positive side there were some good clues too. As others have mentioned, 1a made an excellent start and I also ticked 22a, 25a, 28a, 3d, 17d & 23d.

    Thank you, Sundance. Please take on board Prolixic’s comments and I await your next puzzle with interest.

    1. Dear Rabbit Dave

      Thank you so much for your remarks. As I said earlier it is great to have any feedback, especially from the ‘regulars’ such as yourself.

      On reflection I didn’t pick the best city for 16d.

  9. A quick note to say that the review will be up a little later tomorrow. Time has conspired to escape from me today.

  10. Thanks Sundance, a pleasant solve. My thoughts without viewing previous ones:
    Liked 22,25,28,1d (obscure word but I got it from only one crosser),7,13 and 23.
    5ac ‘Politician has chosen a tory faction’ avoids the excess words.
    12 Definition is slightly off imo.
    5d ‘Views set of 7 cloaks’ is a better surface, and clues ‘seas’ more fairly I think.
    17 nice spot, perhaps ‘Due to bad diets, developing this’ indicates the anagram better.
    Keep practising :)

      1. Dear LetterboxRoy

        I don’t understand why you have put in a newspaper headline…oh, I I get it. This is probably better than Gonzo’s and certainly better than mine.

    1. Dear Gonzo

      Thanks for the feedback, it is appreciated.

      Yes, I agree that 5A could have been slicker.

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and for sorting out a couple of instances where my parsing had gone awry!
    Hopefully, Sundance will learn a great deal from your comments and come back ‘bigger and better’ next time.

  12. Thanks for making time to produce the review Prolixic – I’m sure Sundance will take it all on board

  13. Dear Prolixic

    Thank you for the review and the encouragement. I will try even harder next time.

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