Rookie Corner – 302 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 302

A Puzzle by Rex Bassett

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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 Rex Bassett who continue to delight and frustrate in equal measure.  There are still too many rough edges in the clues.  The commentometer reads as 5.5 / 31 or 17.7%


1 Creativity if New York City duet gets smashed (9)
FECUNDITY – An anagram (gets smashed) of IF NYC (New York City) DUET.  A brief comment on using abbreviations in anagrams.  Practice will vary.  I think that a single letter abbreviation that is clear (for example N for new) is acceptable but abbreviations that require two steps, for example Oriental to Eastern to E should not be used.   Here the abbreviation is a three letter abbreviation that forms a third of the solution.  I think that this is better avoided.

8/9 Steer car a distance ahead commonly on way to Marble Arch (6,6)
OXFORD STREET – A two letter word for an animal known as a steer followed by a make of car and a word that is used in the phrase ?????? ahead to indicate superiority or distance.  I am not sure that this clue works as the phrase requires the plural form of the word used in the solution.  The use of on as a link word does not work as you have wordplay on definition.

12 Somehow undo noodles (4)
UDON – An anagram (somehow) of UNDO.  As only one letter moves from the letters to be rearranged to the solution, perhaps a different form of wordplay should have been used.

13 Fiesta without one is unusual! (5)
FEAST – An anagram (is unusual) of FIESTA after removing the I (without one).  The whole clue provides the solution.  Again, another anagram where the only rearrangement is to move the final letter.

14 Sample of something rotten is unpleasant (4)
GROT – The answer is hidden (sample of) in the third and fourth words of the clue.  The solution is a noun but it has been clues as an adjective.  It does not really work as an all in one clue.

17 Prime TV rental? (3,6)
SET CHARGE – Double definition, to prime an explosive and the cost of renting a TV.

19 Legal decision returning to land (5)
TERRA – Reverse (returning) an obscure word for a legal decision.  Whilst not wrong using an unusual word in the wordplay, makes the crossword much harder.

20 Arm which allowed lifeboat to go down (5)
DAVIT – A clue masquerading as a cryptic definition but results in being a straight definition.

22 Charming girls department in top Galleria (9)
DISARMING – The plural of the abbreviation for Diana followed by a three letter word for a department, the IN from the clue and the first letter (top) of Galleria.  Some editors will not allow top on its own to indicate the first letter but would require top of.  One point to watch here is that the definition shares the final six letters with the solution.

24 Societies for drinking and courting? (4)
INNS – Cryptic definition of where barristers practice

25 Tripper employs husband as guide (5)
USHER – A four letter word for someone who takes drugs (tripper) includes (employs) the abbreviation for husband.

27 Slight mumble (4)
SLUR – Double definition for a slight on someone’s character and distorted speech.

30 Playing at leading for a while (6)
ACTING – Double definition for playing a part and a description of someone who temporarily leads an organisation until a replacement is found.

31 It’s terrible having to put out cigar after tea say (6)
TRAGIC – An anagram (to put out) of CIGAR after the letter that is a homophone (say) of tea.

32 It’s Rick’s?….asks Cathy Duff (9)
HAYSTACKS – An anagram (duff) of ASKS CATHY – I think that the definition rick’s does not work as we are looking for a plural noun, not a possessive form of the solution.


2 Painful back but shoots arrows for the love of it! (4)
EROS – A reversal (back) of a four letter word meaning painful.  Whilst verbal phrases can be used as a definition, it don’t think that this one works.  It would be to have “he shoots…”

3 Turn nude round. It’s improper! (5)
UNDUE – A form of turn to go in the opposite direction followed by an anagram (round) of NUDE.  There are too many clues where the solution is “It’s X”.  It makes the cluing seem rather stilted where the same device is used repeatedly.

4 Picks up Calamity’s dress as it is shot to pieces…. (9)
DISASTERS – An anagram (shot to pieces) of DRESS AS IT.  To definition the solution by a homophone gives a clue to a solution given by wordplay which would not be acceptable.

5 …..shot for entertainment usually (4)
TURN – Double definition.  I think that you could have omitted the usually.

6 Urge to get money with menaces but the first thousand’s hard (6)
EXHORT – A six letter word meaning to get money with menaces with the first T (first thousand) becoming an H (hard).  Again, some editors would require “first of” rather than first on its own. 

7 Will be paid when demanding to support Queen (6)
BEARER – A four letter word meaning to support followed by the two letter abbreviation for the current queen.  I think the definition would be better as “Will be paid when demanded”.

10 While dressing one undoes it if it’s on this way! (7,2)
OUTSIDE IN – An anagram (this way) of UNDOES IN.  The component parts of this all in one clue does not really hang together.

11 First Lord escapes lynchers who are in The House unofficially? (9)
STRANGERS – The first letter of lord is removed from a ten letter word for lynchers.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  First has already been used in 6d.

15 Reports Bob has sexy feelings (5)
SHOTS – The abbreviation for schilling (bob) followed by a four letter word for sex feelings.

16 Vacuous sadist takes needle to heifer (5)
STIRK – The outer letters (vacuous) of sadist followed by a three letter word meaning anger or needle.  Although the definition is an unusual word, it was clearly clued.

18 Changes plan and mixes Oriental dressing (9)
REDESIGNS – An anagram (mixed) of E DRESSING.  To get from Oriental to E as part of the anagram letters is maybe a step too far.

21 Very eye opening and pleasant seaside city (6)
VENICE  – The abbreviation for very followed by the first letter (opening) of eye and a four letter word meaning pleasant.

23 Signal regularly and help is dropped in (6)
INLAID – The even letters (regularly) in signal followed by a three letter word meaning help.

26 Particularly wide (5)
EXTRA – Double definition.  As wide is a definition by example, perhaps a ? should have been used.

28 Old car get six to museum (4)
VIVA – The Roman numerals for six and the abbreviation for the Victoria and Albert museum.  The word get should be gets.  Even then, whilst you can have wordplay to get definition here you have definition to get wordplay which does not work in the cryptic reading of the clue.

29 The forwards carry a gun! (4)
PACK – Double definition for a group of rugby players and a slang word meaning to carry a gun.

51 comments on “Rookie Corner – 302

  1. Good morning, Rex, and thank you for what I think is your fourth Rookie Corner puzzle.

    I really struggled with your first two. After I had completed your third offering a few months ago, I wrote, “… this was less impenetrable than your previous offerings although parts of it were still quite obscure and there are a lot of points of detail which are rather iffy which has meant that I have lots of scribbles and question marks across my page.”

    I am sorry to say from my point of view that this latest submission has gone back several steps. My page is once again covered with comments and queries, and I needed to reveal several letters in order to complete it. As before, I will leave Prolixic to analyse the detail.

    You clearly put in a lot of effort when setting and have a lot of good ideas. The frustrating thing is that something is going awry in translating those into a crossword which is accessible to solvers, and I don’t know what to suggest to overcome this.

    I really liked 17a, 24a & 15d.

    1. Thanks RD for taking time to try to solve and comment. Sorry things seem to have gone back to being impenetrable. If you get a moment, some details of a few of the “squiggles and question marks..” would help see my faults. Thanks RB

      1. Happy to do that, Rex, but let’s wait for Prolixic’s review first. If there is anything additional after that from my point of view, I’ll e-mail you via BD.

          1. Rex, it doesn’t surprise me that the review has covered virtually everything that I had marked on my page while solving. Many thanks for your usual very thorough analysis, Prolixic.

            I would only add one small point which is a personal bugbear for me. Please try to avoid using an undefined person’s name (e.g.: boy, girl, man, woman) as part of the wordplay. That doesn’t apply to an answer which is built up from the elements of the wordplay.

            1. Thanks again for comment. I’m not sure I understand the second paragraph here. Please indicate to which clued you refer.

              1. The “girls” in 22a.

                Coincidentally, 26a in today’s back-pager is an example of my second point in my second paragraph about a name being absolutely fine as an answer.

                1. Thanks
                  Not familiar with “back-pager” , please post a link or quote the clue for me. Ta

                  1. It’s the affectionate name for the cryptic crossword which is supposed to appear on the back page of the Daily Telegraph. It often gets usurped by a full page advert which I feel sure nobody looks at!

                    The clue is “Chap’s mistake to change direction at the end (5)”. The answer is a man’s name which you can arrive at by following the instructions in the wordplay.

  2. These days the Rookie Corner crosswords are solved while I eat my breakfast. As I said to Mr CS as I sat down, I think this might be ‘one of those’ crosswords as there isn’t a single comment from our overseas correspondents which is usually a good sign of problems ahead

    Quite a lot of the bottom of the puzzle went in quite quickly although some of the surface readings aren’t as helpful as they could be. I think that 20a isn’t cryptic at all, it is just a description of the solution. I’m not entirely sure that creativity and the solution to 1a are exactly synonymous. However, in amongst the several ‘needing a bit of GK’ clues, I did like the relevant capitalisation of The House in `11d. I’ve also had a little argument with myself about whether the ‘oriental’ in 18d makes it ever so slightly an indirect anagram but I’ve decided it may be OK. Also does anyone actually say 10d when they’ve got their jumper on wrong?

    Sorry Rex but this for me had too many elements of the curate and his egg trying too hard to be cryptic. Others may disagree but hopefully you’ll gain some useful insights from both the comments and Prolixic’s review

    1. CS, 1a. As usual, my BRB is at home but Collins Online lists the following for the answer word, which would suggest that the clue is fine:

      1. fertility; fruitfulness
      2. intellectual fruitfulness; creativity

    2. I think you’re right about 18d. This type of construct is described in the December DT Puzzles Newsletter. It stipulates that an abbreviation of a word in the clue cannot be used as a direct part of the anagram fodder. The abbreviation E (Oriental, is that a valid abbreviation anyway?) should be inserted into an anagram of “dressing”. Knowing me I’ve probably got that wrong, at least partially?

      1. I’ve had mixed feedback from other sources regarding this topic, some saying it’s ok, borderline but ok but I see what you are saying, thanks.

    3. Point taken re 20a. 1a definition taken from Cambridge.
      Always thought GK was an integral part of being able to help solve clues as opposed to the need for it having to be avoided while setting. Should puzzles not be a bit educational? (former teacher talking!!)
      Glad there were little bits you liked and would appreciate details of the “curates egg” bits if you get a chance. Thanks for taking time to solve and help.

  3. There are some very good ideas here but several clues which don’t quite work. For example in 2d the definition (shoots arrows for the love of it) is a verbal phrase but the answer is a noun – the insertion of ‘he’ would have improved the clue considerably.
    My ticks went to 17a, 6d and 29d.
    Thanks Rex. I look forward to your next puzzle.

  4. Thanks for replying after trying to solve Gazza. Point well made re 2d. Would appreciate more examples of clues which “didn’t quite work” and why, if you’ve time.
    Glad you liked bits of it though.

    1. I think that we have to leave some things for Prolixic to comment on. I’ll just mention that the 18d anagram doesn’t work for me (as Jose explains) and ‘first lord’ in 11d is generally frowned upon as a way of getting L – ‘first of lords’ or ‘lord initially’ would be better.

  5. Welcome back, Rex.

    With three puzzles under your belt now, I was hoping that this one would be largely niggle-free, but unfortunately I have quite a lot of annotations on my printed page.

    I wrote down the same comment as Gazza regarding 2d, and 4d doesn’t contain a definition, only a homophone of a definition (it should be “picked up” rather than “picks up” in any case). “Get” makes for both an ungrammatical surface and an unsatisfactory link between definition and wordplay in 28d, and “eye opening” in 21d needs hyphenating to be an adjective. Chambers and Collins both suggest 14a is only a noun, although it’s clued as an adjective. It did bring back happy memories of Reggie Perrin though! Like CS, I did wonder whether 20a is actually cryptic. I felt the choice of definition in 22a was poor, considering that it shares 75% of its letters with the solution, in the same order, and 16d was new to me. I had a few other minor quibbles, but my ticks went to 25a, 6d and 15d.

    So, another mixed bag overall, I hope you’ll find my observations helpful.

    Many thanks, Rex.

    1. Thanks for taking time to solve and all the help here.
      Agree with comments re 2d but didn’t realize 4d homophone of a def.was unacceptable. “Get” in 28d I suspect is a typo!
      Would hyphenating “eye opening” not spoil the illusion of taking initial letters of “Very eye…”?
      14a is intended as an &Lit clue and as such is clues as a noun…”Sample…”
      22a…I see what you’re saying and glad to have added stirk and hope not knowing it before didn’t “irk” you too much.

  6. Thanks Rex
    Some nice ideas, but occasionally the cryptic grammar seemed a bit random which meant I revealed a few when I would usually have thought a bit harder. For example in 10d you have the whole clue as definition, so it works on one level, but you also have an anagram of two words in the clue. I don’t think you’ve identified your anagram fodder among all the other words, nor does ‘if it’s on this way’ seem quite right as an anagram indicator. You have mismatched parts of speech in 14 and 7d, among others.
    I don’t know about DT rules for anagrams, but where anagrams are allowed to include simple abbreviations, I think you should give the word that the abbreviation stands for. E is not an abbreviation for oriental, though of course it wasn’t so hard to figure out. I found the plurals given by possessives in 4 and 32 rather odd. I suppose the solutions themselves might be possessives but I expect you meant them to be plurals.
    I liked 8 and 13

    1. Thanks for your time and comments.
      Yes 10 is &Lit but anagram indicator is “While dressing” one (I) undoes it…
      14a is also &Lit so is clued as a noun..”Sample of…”
      7d does need “He” or “They will” at the start.
      4 …homophone of “Calamity’s” sounds plural and solution is plural (disasters) and in 32 “Rick’s” in a bit of a homophone too as a definition. Been criticized already for having definitions as homophones. Glad there were bit you liked.

  7. Hello again Rex – I won’t repeat what has already been said; I largely agree. In an effort to provide constructive criticism…

    Many of the ideas are fine, but could have been better phrased for smoothness and misdirection. Eg the 28a ‘get’ could have been easily avoided with ‘Six visiting museum in vintage car’ – there may be some debate about ‘visiting’ or ‘vintage’ or even wordplay ‘in’ definition, but the answer would still be gettable and the surface a little more pleasing
    The reading of 32a doesn’t quite fit. The possessive apostrophe makes the definition inaccurate and anyway the clue should read – “It’s Rick’s?” asks Cathy Duff

    These are the type of details you need to be able to spot and improve on. I don’t know if you print off the puzzle before final draft but it is a good way to spot things that don’t read well. I did like this in parts so well done and thanks for the challenge

    1. Thanks LR for your time and effort. I have commented on most of your points in above replies.
      I use a test solver to try to help spot things before sending in a puzzle. Glad you enjoyed bits.

      1. Wasn’t supposed to be possessive, just a lame effort at a kind of homophone as a disguise. 😏

  8. Hi again, Rex. Most of my queries have already been mentioned by others although I did wonder whether 28d could have been easily fixed by having ‘gets’ instead of ‘get’.
    My overall impression is that you are perhaps trying to run before having totally mastered the art of walking – there are some good ideas on display here but the clue construction often lets you down.
    Please don’t be disheartened – the likes of 24a proves that ‘you’ve got what it takes’.

    1. Yes, I do seem to be falling over rather a lot! Already added the “s” to 28 though.
      Perhaps I’ll pop down to my local “Inn” before reading any more comments!

  9. Prolixic
    Knows all the tricks it
    Takes to make a rookie’s crossword neater:
    By following his advice and checking the commentometer.

    Though now I’ve written that, I wonder if I’ve been saying ‘commentometer’ wrongly in my head all this time? Maybe it actually rhymes with ‘thermometer’, rather than with ‘voltmeter’.

    Anyway, 1 bonus point to the first Rookie to get ‘clerihew’ into a crossword here …

  10. Thanks Rex,
    I found this quite tough, which isn’t a bad thing although some definitions I thought were a bit of a stretch, and the wordplay in 19 is a bit ‘Azed’. Finished with a minimal amount of online help though.
    Ticks against 8/9,31,15 and 23.

  11. Good of you to comment Gonzo. Would be interested to know which definitions you thought were iffy.
    Please expand on thoughts on 19!
    Glad you found some good ones and finished without too much help.

    1. Azed often uses obscure words (like the legal term in 19 imo) as parts of clues to obscure words (which 19 isn’t really, but ‘land’ has lots of synonyms, especially if you include nations).
      I’ll comment later on anything Prolixic doesn’t pick up on but I feel worth raising, if you like.

      1. Thanks, please do that.
        Been criticized for using obscure words before but feel if they’re clearly clued it’s ok but in 19’s case having to know the obscure word to use it as fodder IS unfair on reflection.

        1. Further thoughts:
          14 Answer is a noun, so maybe just ‘Sample of something rotten’.
          30 ‘Leading for a while’, though correct in the case of an Acting President say, doesn’t really define the ‘acting’ part – you could be an Acting Janitor…
          6 Are you using ‘first thousand’ to clue T, or the first T? If the latter, is T an accepted abbreviation?
          7 I think your definition is OK – tricky but OK. Do notes still say ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand’? Empty wallet :(
          15 (Pedantry Alert) If a shot is fired in a vacuum, does it still have a ‘report’?
          Enough already…thanks for the entertainment.

          1. Thanks for further input.
            15 I agree, it’s been changed already
            30 well agree to differ here
            6 first thousand
            7 no idea, wife doesn’t give me notes! 😒
            15 science never was one of my strengths.🥴

  12. Hello Rex. I have to admit that I revealed quite a few letters. I wonder if, like me, you rushed to get the crossword in after the appeal from BD and didn’t get them all edited in time. It’s a shame because there’s some good stuff in there – my favourites being 17a, 6d and 29d.

    I have learned that not all clues have to be too convoluted, and that the solver appreciates a couple of relatively easy clues to get some cross-referenced letters into the grid, so when I saw you were ahead of me in the queue I changed a couple of my clues and resubmitted. It probably means my next puzzle won’t be as difficult to solve but, fingers crossed, it will still be overall an enjoyable experience.

    1. Thanks for your comments Umber.
      No rush putting puzzle in, I’ve had it for ages and it’s had at least two revisions since it’s inception and I’d used a test solver first so……
      Comments about difficulty seem quite prevalent, I think I must have a subconscious fear of puzzles being too easy. Food for thought!

      1. I sometimes think my clues are too easy, until I look again after forgetting the answers and struggle to work them out!

  13. Well done Rex. I enjoyed this. Some really good ideas, I particularly liked 24 and 32.
    Some polishing needed in a few places as others have mentioned but overall very promising.

    1. Thanks Gordon, appreciate the time taken to comment.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the puzzle but yes, some changes already made to make it better thanks to previous comments.

  14. Thanks Prolific for the helpful review as always. Same wee things seem to keep creeping in but I AM trying, I promise!

  15. Well, I completed this with some help from an assistant looking over my shoulder, and we thought, “Hmm, Prolixic will have quite a few comments on this” – and so it turned out. So I won’t re-hash what he and others have said, although I will come to the defence of 32ac – as far as I’m concerned punctuation can be ignored in wordplay so the apparent possessive leading to a plural is OK by me. But one comment on 28dn is that Viva is not necessarily an old car – the name has recently been revived, although judging by the fact that I’ve seen very few on the road it’s not exactly taken the world by storm!

    1. I noticed but didn’t mention the Viva thing, probably because I would probably have said the name had been ‘revivaed’, a
      which would have led to groans and headshaking.

      Incidentally, my neighbour has a new Viva.

      1. RB. Just a couple of further points, if I may.

        1. Don’t worry too much about using boy, girl, man or woman in the clue to trigger a person’s name/shortened name as part of the answer (22a). Most of the professional setters do it and have been for decades – and the vast majority of solvers are OK with it.

        2. Did you get an experienced solver to test-solve this puzzle before submitting it? If not, then it might be a good idea next time – but maybe that would spoil the fun as, by nature, I guess most setters are very independent/indivualistic people.

        Good luck, my friend.

      2. RB. Just a couple of further points, if I may.

        1. Don’t worry too much about using boy, girl, man or woman in the clue to trigger a person’s name/shortened name as part of the answer (22a). Most of the professional setters do it and have been for decades – and the vast majority of solvers are OK with it.

        2. Did you get an experienced solver to test-solve this puzzle before submitting it? If not, then it might be a good idea next time – but maybe that would spoil the fun as, by nature, I guess most setters are very independent/indivualistic people.

        Good luck, my friend.

        1. Thank Jose, many details and opinions differ from person to person and it can be hard to know what to accept and what to “file”.
          I do get someone to test solve puzzles first although even though he has cleverer ideas than I don’t know if he’d be what you’d call “an experienced solver” but any input he gives seems good.

        2. I do agree Jose, but a test solver only points out what they do or don’t like, ie clues to have another think about – ultimately the setter still has to learn to see the difference between a good clue and a poor one. Going over clues again and again works best bearing in mind 1 – is it accurate: 2 – can it be improved with a change of word order or misleading synonyms: 3 – does the surface make sense. Much the same as solving and parsing, you will know when it’s right; don’t stop reworking until you get there
          Indivualistic? Probably :smile:

          1. Your 1,2,3 is just how my puzzles have evolved. I started with 15 old puzzles, each of which has had at least 3 reviews, both on my own initiative and after Prolific reviews and solver comments. They all started as completely terrible and are now, well,…… above!! 🤔 At least I’m doing something right!

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Certainly plenty for Rex B to take on board and utilise in the future!

Comments are closed.