Rookie Corner – 303 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 303

A Puzzle by Umber

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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 Umber who is continuing to improve.  Whilst I have a number of comments on the clues, these are really fine polishing points that turn good clues into better ones.  The main comment to take on board is the use of compound nouns where you cannot really clue one part of the noun by the second part of the noun.  The commentometer reads as 5/32 or 15.6%.


1 Sandwich station (8)
VICTORIA – Double definition, the first being a type of cake when followed by sandwich and the second a London railway terminus and underground station.  Care has to be taken.  The name of the cake is a compound noun and cluing one part of the noun by reference to the other is not something that finds favour with all solvers as you cannot say that one part of the compound noun is synonymous with the other.

5 Admission to the French: It’s a cake! (6)
GATEAU – A four letter word for a means of admission followed by the French for “to the”.

9 Seven-day report: Head is failing (8)
WEAKNESS – A homophone of week (seven day) followed by a four letter word for a head of land.

10 Volunteers to have suet spread over bust (6)
STATUE – The abbreviation for Territorial Army has an anagram (spread) of suet around it (over).

12 Contract to give satisfaction (no pressure) (5)
LEASE – A six letter word meaning to give satisfaction with the initial P removed (no pressure).

13 Call God or change neckware (3,6)
DOG COLLAR – An anagram (change) of CALL GOD OR.  If change is used as an imperative verb it needs to be before the letters to be rearranged otherwise it would need to be changed.  As a noun it would not be acceptable as an anagram indicator.  Neckware is wrong and should be neckwear.

14 Bank on black computer coming back (6)
CAMBER – A two letter word meaning about followed by the abbreviation for black and a three letter Apple computer all reversed (coming back).

16 Turn posh and flog stew (7)
GOULASH – A two letter word for a turn followed by the abbreviation for posh and a four letter word meaning to flog.

19 Drunk chose to drink port (7)
PICKLED – A six letter word meaning chose to includes the abbreviation for left (port).  An indirect abbreviation going from port to left to L might not be acceptable to all editors.

21 Official and German get pay back (6)
REFUND – A three letter word for a match official followed by the German for “and”.  The cryptic structure here wordplay get definition does not work.  Perhaps getting would have been better.

23 Shamus Pye’s alternative accompaniment to fish and chips (5,4)
MUSHY PEAS – An anagram (alternative) of SHAMUS PYE.  Making up fictitious names as anagram letters is frowned up.  You can use celebrity names – for example Britney Spears is an anagram of Presbyterian.

25 Goes to nothing when he’s out (5)
PETER – Mildly cryptic definition of the name that precedes “out” to describe something going to nothing.

26 Actually starts to increase numbers for all contributing trusts (2,4)
IN FACT – The initial letters (starts to) of the final six words of the clue.

27 Tea for every working escort (8)
CHAPERON – A three letter word for tea followed by a three letter word meaning first every and a two letter word meaning working.

28 Hugo ate everything, including Whiskers! (6)
GOATEE – The answer is hidden (including) in the first three words of the clue.

29 A gem of a firework (8)
SPARKLER – Double definition, the first being a shiny gem such as a diamond and the second a small handheld firework.


1 Promise the Spanish Society these letters? (6)
VOWELS – A three letter word a promise followed by the Spanish for “the” and the abbreviation for society.

2 Daily article on airline and state coach (9)
CHARABANC – A four letter word for a cleaner or daily followed by the single letter indefinite article, the abbreviation for British Airways (airline) and abbreviation for the state of North Carolina.

3 Advertise Ann’s missing cat (5)
OUNCE – An eight letter word meaning advertise missing the original thee letters ANN.

4 Popular spin runs to illegal trading (7)
INSIDER – A two letter word meaning popular followed by a four letter word meaning spin on a ball and the abbreviation for runs.  Another solution where part of a phrase has been clued by reference to the second part of the phrase.  The solution on its own is no illegal trading.

6 Four tarts weaved artificial grass (9)
ASTROTURF – An anagram (weaved) of FOUR TARTS.

7 Glorify from Sussex to Lancashire (5)
EXTOL – The answer is hidden (from) in the final three words of the clue.

8 Discovers Sean and Ruth’s arrangement (8)
UNEARTHS – An anagram (arrangement) of SEAN RUTH.  As a noun some editors will not allow arrangement as an anagram indicator.  Arrangement of Sean and Ruth would be acceptable.

11 In the past, George got excited (4)
AGOG – A three letter word meaning in the part followed by the abbreviation for George.  George is only abbreviated to G in GR (George Rex).  It is not permitted to take one part of the abbreviation and use the word on its own where it is not included in the dictionary in its own right.  Again the link word is wrong as you have wordplay got definition.  Perhaps getting would be better.

15 Colic complaint (9)
BELLYACHE – Double definition, the first meaning the part of the body affected by colic and the second being another word for a grumble or complaint.

17 French cooking by the naked chef? (2,7)
AU NATUREL – A pun on a naked chef produces a type of French cooking.

18 Charts turned up with note – no good sending unwanted emails (8)
SPAMMING – A four letter word for charts reversed (turned up) followed by a two letter musical not and the abbreviation no good.

20 Mysterious flower power (4)
DEEP – A three letter name of a river (flower) followed by the abbreviation for power.

21 Got higher with joint and syrup (7)
ROSEHIP – A four letter word meaning got higher followed by a joint at the top of the leg.  The solution is the fruit used to make the syrup.  It is not the syrup itself but an adjective describing it clued as a noun.

22 King and Queen accept Reagan’s foreign currency… (6)
KRONER – A single letter chess abbreviation for king and the abbreviation for the current queen include the three letter informal name of the former president Ronald Reagan.  For the cryptic grammar to work, you need accepting to give A and B accepting C is (from the ’s) D

24 …Then, providing returns on American capital… (5)
SOFIA – A two letter word meaning so followed by a two letter word meaning providing reversed (returns) and the abbreviation for American.

25 …He’s paid for playing (5)
PIPER – A mildly cryptic definition for the person paid when the payer calls the tune.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner – 303

  1. We really enjoyed that.
    A well put together set of clues that showed us that the setter understands what clue writing is all about. Just what we like to see in a puzzle in this series.
    We’ve got lots of ticks but won’t pick out any one for special mention.
    Thanks and well done Umber.

  2. Another very enjoyable puzzle from Umber.
    I did get held up in the West because I put in an incorrect, but plausible, first part of 15d which caused problems with 14a and 19a.
    Unlike the 2Ks, I will give some special mentions to 1a, 9a, 20d, and 21d.
    Thanks Umber for a very pleasant and entertaining end to my Sunday evening.

  3. This was really enjoyable, Umber. It was a pleasure to solve with accurate cluing throughout and mostly smooth surfaces.

    Following the ellipses, I think that the first letters of 24 & 25 should be lower case. I don’t think either G = George or L = Port are acceptable abbreviations, the former is neither in Collins nor Chambers and the latter is what might be described as an indirect abbreviation! However these are very minor points and certainly do not detract from a fine puzzle.

    My page is littered with ticks and I’ll plump for 17d as my favourite.

    Very well done, Umber, and many thanks. Big Dave can scarcely afford to lose another Rookie setter but I suspect promotion beckons. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

  4. A nice puzzle with some good clues – well done! Ones that I thought particularly good were 8d, 10a, 7d, 1d & 3d.

    There were a couple of surfaces eg 16a, 2d, which didn’t make a huge amount of sense – but most were very sound.

    Rabbit Dave has covered all the main points where there were either minor typos (usually unrequired capitalisations), or the G and L he has described, which most editors wouldn’t be happy with. I wasn’t sure of you’d wanted neckware or neckwear, too – though I guess either works!

    I have a few more notes that I took whilst solving which contain spoilers so aren’t suitable here. I’d be more than happy to share them by email. If so then do ask Big Dave to put us in touch – though I won’t be offended if not!

    And it was good to catch up with some of you from here at the weekend!

    Cheers all,


    1. Still not properly awake to answer comments but I have no objections to Dave giving my email address to anyone here.

  5. Welcome back, Umber.

    Your best puzzle to date I felt, there were still a few niggles but they seem to be reducing each time, which is how it should be. The standard of difficulty was spot on too, and there were fewer dubious surfaces.

    Apart from checking spellings (“neckware/neckwear”, “Whiskers/Whiskas”) and eliminating unsupported abbreviations, the other area to watch I’d suggest is the cryptic grammar in clues like 21a, 11d and 22d, where “get”, “got” and “accept” respectively will jar for many solvers. Even if it is overused as a solution in crosswords, my favourite clue was 3d.

    Well done on the progress you’re continuing to make and many thanks for an enjoyable solve.

  6. Thanks Umber
    Very neat and tidy. I liked 3 6 12 20 28 (despite the problem with the Whiskers spelling).
    I had a few question marks along the way 4 (not quite a match between def and solution) 15 (are those two things different enough?) 25 (is there enough in the clue?).
    My main thought was that your definitions were mostly undisguised; i.e. the sense in which they are read in the clue is the one which gives the solution (as counter-examples, in 14 and 24, the solution is given by a different meaning of the definition than the surface meaning). This made the puzzle rather easy; that’s no problem, but that disguise is also the fun of it.

  7. A steady and enjoyable solve, despite one or two small issues that I suspect you’ll be kicking yourself for not spotting
    Quite a rapid improvement so well done and thanks for the challenge

  8. Assuming that I’ve guessed correctly, all I can say is ‘what a difference having a test solver makes’!
    There were still a few issues which others have raised and a couple of dodgy surface reads but this was definitely your best puzzle to date.
    My favourite was 3d but I also have to give a mention to 23a just because fish and chips wouldn’t be the same without them!

    Well done, Umber, hopefully you’ll make good progress with this one under your belt.

    1. Thanks, Jane. Yes you’ve guessed correctly, but I had actually got rid of most of the mistakes before sending it for a test solve. Unfortunately though, although, correcting the one or two mistakes that were made and commented on – completely rewriting 10a for instance – I fiddled about with a few of the clues and sent it to Dave before checking with my solver first, hence the new errors that she would have picked up.

      Needless to say, I am thoroughly annoyed with myself for fixing was wasn’t broke!

      Incidentally, 3d was my favourite too.

      1. Oops – you’ll doubtless get a sharp rap on the knuckles from your test solver! You have to learn from your mistakes but a little grovelling could be in order here……..

      2. It could be said that a crossword is like a (great?) work of art and so can never be considered to be finished. The artist just has to stop!

  9. Enjoyed the puzzle today and concur with the congratulations on your rapid progress up the ranks. I had a bit of difficulty with 25 a and d and revealed the first letter. I should have been able to get 25a but I am still a bit perplexed by the ellipses between 24d and 25d. I see the neckware/wear problem but Whiskers is spelled correctly in the pdf?
    I am working on my 2nd rookie submission but I am listening to my test solver and giving it a bit of room to breathe before submitting. I hope it is as good as this and will be getting back to her soon ;-

  10. Yes, a pleasant and enjoyable solve, with just the occasional niggle (G, L, neckware instead of neckwear) and one cause for comment in 22dn. The cryptic grammar there seems wrong – the apostrophe S appears to be a possessive but can only be short for ‘is’ and so doesn’t make sense. Maybe ‘accepting’ or perhaps ‘taking in’ would make more sense. And the answer is actually plural, though that might not matter too much.
    A lot to like, though, and despite the typo 13ac was my joint favourite with 23ac.
    So I don’t think it’ll be too long before we see your name in the NTSPP series.

  11. I felt this crossword was put together with a lot of thought. I enjoyed it very much, especially 14a, 19a, 25a, 25d and 17d amongst others. Inter alia, I feel it shows that a puzzle can be good fun without going off the scale in terms of degree of difficulty! Very well done, Umber and thanks for what I thought was a pretty good crossword.

    I look forward very much to Prolixic’s comments.

    1. Thanks, Catnap. I’ve been feeling a bit fed up today because I feel I let myself, and my solver, down but sending it before a final edit. But, as my primary goal is to make solving my puzzle an enjoyable experience, your comments have given me a shot in the arm :)

      1. I hope you’re feeling more cheerful today, Umber, after Prolixic’s review. His comments that you are improving, and that whilst he has ‘a number of comments on the clues, these are really fine polishing points that turn good clues into better ones’, are very encouraging. So very well done to you, Umber. Looking forward to your next puzzle…

        Very many thanks to Prolixic for an invaluable and enlightening review.

  12. Please add me to the list of those who enjoyed this very much. I thought that, in general, the clues were beautifully economically worded – 27a for instance where not a single word was wasted. I agree with others who found this an ideal level of difficulty. Many thanks, Umber, and I look forward to more of your puzzles.

  13. Thanks Umber, for some reason the clues got better once I got to the Down ones – 3d, 20d, 24d in particular.
    Prolixic has covered any quibbles I had, to whom thanks.

  14. Thanks to Prolixic for the comments. I was a bit surprised that using a fictitious name as an anagram was frowned upon but not so regarding the rest of the comments. I’m already working on my next puzzle and hope to cut out the niggles whilst keeping the enjoyment level the same.

  15. Many thanks, Prolixic – your reviews invariably make sense of clues that I instinctively realised weren’t quite correct but couldn’t quite put into words. It’s apparent that Umber has learnt a lot from having a test solver on board, let’s hope he continues to make headway as a result.

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