Rookie Corner – 309 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 309

A Puzzle by DMS

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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 DMS.  This was of toughie standard but fortunately because the clues were good rather than bad.  There are a few minor points.  Most of these are were different editors would have different views so do not count towards the commentometer rating which, today, is 1.5/28 or 5.4%.


8 Found scoffing first of many a treat in the afternoon? (5,3)
CREAM TEA – A six letter word meaning found or establish includes (scoffing) the first letter of many all followed by the A from the clue.

9 Blue Nun leaves centurion drunk (6)
EROTIC – An anagram (drunk) of CENTURION after removing the letters in NUN

10 Descartes obscuring line from the past? (4)
SCAR – The answer is hidden (obscuring) in the first word of the clue.

11 She ultimately wanted to speak better (10)
AMELIORATE – The name of a girl with the final letter removed (ultimately wanted) followed by a word meaning to speak.  With such a wide range of girl’s names it is often better to use a definition by example such as Earhart for one ultimately wanted…

12 Reversing in dodgem – it embodies self care (2,4)
ME TIME – The answer is reversed and hidden in the third to fifth words of the clue.

14 Old hat had more court appearances? (8)
OUTDATED – Cryptically a person who has more opportunities to court someone.  This does not quite work for me.  It would need to be courting appearances to work correctly.

15 Mistake in imam’s belief in all things spiritual? (7)
ANIMISM – An anagram (mistake) of IN IMAMS.

17 In London, one learns juggling? (7)
ARSENAL – The letter representing one followed by an anagram (juggling) of LEARNS.  One of may least favourite forms of definition is the prepositional indicator.  In London is a very loose form of definition.  At its worst you get in India to define a place in India.  However, you do see this in some newspapers.

20 Song and dance with test pattern? (3,5)
THE TWIST – An anagram (pattern) of WITH TEST.  I don’t think that pattern as a noun works as an anagram indicator.  Whilst pattern can be a verb, it is a transitive verb “to pattern something” so would need to be before the letters to be rearrange.  Perhaps song and dance with test disrupted. 

22 Assembles before courts (6)
ERECTS – A three letter word meaning before followed by the pluralised abbreviation for courts.

23 Price, perhaps, loathing 18d? (6,4)
HORROR STAR – A six letter word meaning loathing followed by another word for the answer to 18d.

24 Pole dance finale in the nude! (4)
BARE – The final letter of dance inside a three letter for a pole.

25 Excellent advice to leading politician (6)
TIPTOP – A three letter word for advice followed by the TO from the clue and the first letter (leading) of politician.  Some editors would not allow leading X to indicate the first letter of X.  Perhaps to leader of party would be better.

26 I chose to allow discrete EU interruptions to provide a cool environment (8)
ICEHOUSE – Put the letters in EU separately (discrete) into the first two words of the clue.


1 Make wet and dirty? On the contrary! (3,5)
DRY CLEAN – The opposites (on the contrary) of wet and dirty.

2 Pretty reasonable? (4)
FAIR – Double definition.

3 A badger in a relaxed position (2,4)
AT EASE – The A from the clue followed by a five letter word meaning to badger.

4 Butcher loves a Yankee sausage (7)
SAVELOY – An anagram (butcher) of LOVES A followed by the letter represented by Yankee in the phonetic alphabet.

5 This setter gets rubbish help in review by referee (8)
MEDIATOR – A two letter word for this setter followed by a reversal (in review) of three letter words for rubbish and help.  I don’t think that wordplay by definition works as a clue structure.

6 Mirror writing? (10)
JOURNALESE – Cryptic definition of a type of writing that appears in newspapers such as the Mirror.

7 One of the most significant digits in base ten? (3,3)
BIG TOE – Cryptic definition of on of the digits on your feet.

13 Youth imperfection following split? (10)
IMMATURITY – Split imperfect to give IM PERFECTION then retain the IM and add a synonym of perfection.

16 Supporters of horse riding? (8)
STIRRUPS – Cryptic definition of part of a horses riding tackle into which the feet go.

18 Shifting 8 will help with the expletives! (8)
ASTERISK – The character above 8 on a key board accessed using the shift key.

19 Set it to go off for a roll? (7)
STOTTIE – An anagram (go off) of SET IT TO.

21 Essentially, school’s tidiest thug! (6)
HOODIE -The central characters (essentially) of the second and third word in the clue.

22 Made knowledgeable tip-off? (6)
EARNED – Remove the first letter (tip-off) of a seven letter word meaning knowledgeable.

24 Show disapproval of Kafka’s debut novel? (4)
BOOK – A three letter word meaning show disapproval of followed by the first letter (debut) of Kafka.

43 comments on “Rookie Corner – 309

  1. We really struggled with this and were finally beaten by 19d which was new to us.
    A real head banging moment when the penny dropped for 18d.
    Still a couple where we’re not sure of the wordplay.
    Certainly a very clever puzzle from an accomplished setter but we do prefer them a little more solver friendly in the Rookie slot.
    Thanks DMS.

  2. My main concern, DMS, is why has it been so long since your previous Rookie Corner puzzle?

    This was very accomplished with accurate, and mostly commendably brief, wordplay with some cleverly disguised definitions. The smooth surfaces were the icing on the cake.

    I was sorry to see the vague girl’s name used in 11a (especially when combined with removing a letter) and I’m not convinced by 16d even with the question mark.

    19d was new to me and presumably a grid filler. I played around with the anagram fodder and checking letters before Googling the only feasible combination to confirm it existed.

    I had lots of ticks on my page with 9a, 23a, 25a & 24d making it onto the podium.

    Many thanks, DMS, for a very enjoyable puzzle and please don’t leave it too long before your next one.

    1. I’ve no idea whether 19d was a grid filler, but possibly it only seems that way if the word is new to you?

      In Northumberland and Newcastle, a 19d — a hefty yet soft type of bread, baked on the bottom of an oven — is often the default type of bread roll used for sandwiches. At school dinners in the 90s we could choose from that day’s hot option or ‘a 19d’.

      In that usage it gets used, like ‘roll’, to refer to the finished filled sandwich, not just the bread component. So you can have ‘a tuna 19d’ or ‘a cheese 19d’. I miss them!

      Thanks, DMS — well done on such an acclaimed puzzle.

      1. I’d heard of 19d – I think if, like me, you read anything and everything, then the majority of lesser-known bread products turn up somewhere!

  3. A very enjoyable breakfast time solve, although I will admit that the last inch or so of my cup of tea went cold while I was trying to finish off the SW corner.

    Lots of great clues, my particular favourites being 20a, 23a, 7d, and 18d. I only have one ? where I’m not sure about the parsing

    Thanks to DMS – I agree with RD that it was far too long between crosswords – and, in advance, to Prolixic

  4. Thanks DMS
    Very enjoyable and polished. I liked among others 8 9 & 11a. Of your CDs, I liked 6d & 7d but thought 16d weak. Also 1d (not quite sure how to classify it) didn’t quite pull it off – while the clue conjures up an image of muddy puddles, the solution was a little disappointing being so closely related to what’s in the clue.
    The solution to 23a is rather odd; while it might be a phrase one would use as a description, I wonder if it’s really a standalone thing? Your grid is very setter-friendly, so you shouldn’t have been compelled to make up a term unless there’s something going on in the grid that I can’t spot.

    1. There is something going on that nobody has yet spotted, but point taken. I should probably concentrate on just setting a good crossword without trying to be too clever! Thanks!

      1. So there is – how clever, even though I now have the ‘must go to a sweet shop worm’

        1. Ha!

          Probably a bit too clever as it forced some of the crossword.

          I’m learning, though!

  5. I thought that this was pretty tough but very enjoyable – thanks DMS.
    I initially had the last three letters of 6d wrong which held me up in the right-hand side.
    I can’t see a proper definition in 17a and I can’t parse 13d.
    My ticks went to 8a, 1d, 4d and 18d.
    More like this would be welcome.

    1. Gazza, I think 13d is a little weak; I took it to be IM + a synonym of perfection.

  6. This was an enjoyable puzzle, generally well crafted
    There are a few chin-rubbers though, which I’m a little surprised made it to final draft given the quality of the rest of the clues
    Last hurdle is to spot these and rethink them
    A fair challenge all the same, so well done and thank you DMS

  7. Welcome back, DMS.

    I felt your previous puzzle was superior to this one, even though you have reined in the anagrams this time, although not quite to the level Prolixic previously suggested.

    The first thing I noticed about the clues was just how many question marks and exclamation marks they contained, so I started counting them. Nineteen of the twenty-eight clues contained one or the other and 1d had both. Fifteen question marks in a single crossword possibly constitutes some sort of record, but quite a lot of them are entirely superfluous as far as I can see.

    If the definition to 17a is “in London” I think it’s a poor clue, and I wasn’t that enamoured with 1d or 13d either. The bottom half was much harder than the top half I thought, my ticks went to 8a and 7d.

    Although I enjoyed the solve and welcomed the reduced number of anagrams, I personally didn’t feel that this puzzle maintained your upward momentum as a setter, but I would certainly be keen to see your next one.

    Many thanks, DMS.

    1. Point(s) taken, silvanus! The original clue for 17a (which went down well on Twitter!) was, “Learns about a different side of London” but ti was felt that the anagram indicator didn’t work in that position (after the fodder)

  8. Following on from an excellent outing in Rookie corner last time, I have to admit to being rather disappointed by this one. It didn’t help when an anagram of 8a produces ‘macerate’ and I know from experience that’s a good way to shift ‘the expletives’!
    Eventually revealed a lot of letters to complete the puzzle and still wound up with plenty of ‘umms’ so I guess that I simply never found the setter’s wavelength – more competent solvers apparently found it very enjoyable.

    Apologies, DMS, I really preferred your previous style.

  9. I thought this was packed with great stuff. I happen to know DMS was considering “a side of London”, pity that was hard to work seamlessly into a final clue.

    Well done DMS

    1. Perhaps, “A side of London where one learns juggling (7)”? (Without the ? in the clue itself!)

      1. good thinking. i’m not super keen on where as a link, but i think it works. or “One learns to juggle in this side of London”. i like the dual surface of juggle, literal and figurative. i think DMS wanted a side=aspect surface, but maybe that works here too. sorry, i’m just playing / thinking out loud here, but hey, that’s fun.

        i loved Blue Nun – oh dear, do you have to be a certain age, or is it still available?

      2. A criminal learns in one side of London (7)

        I wouldn’t be happy with ‘juggling’ *after* the fodder, it would have to be ‘juggled’ – the fodder isn’t juggling, the solver has to juggle the fodder

        Looking forward to your next submission, RD! :smile:

        PS Dutch – Blue Nun = disgusting stuff that tastes like it’s been drunk once already, pah!

  10. Well done DMS – a fair mix of toughies and rather easier clues. I have several comments: hope you don’t mind my going through it point-by-point.
    First of all, like several others I had to look up 19d – had a vague recollection of the word but I’m not from that part of the country. Yes I can see it must be a filler – trying the crossers in CC almost nothing came up! And perhaps the wordplay grammar doesn’t quite work, with ‘go off’ as the anagrind.
    I’m not sure about 12a – rather colloquial maybe and does the definition fit? At least the clueing was fair.
    In 10a the surface looks a bit contrived.
    In 14a I’m not convinced about “court appearances” – that can only apply to law or tennis courts surely!? How about ‘assignations’ or something like that?
    in 15a I think ‘mistaken’ is better than ‘mistake’.
    In 26a – excellent wordplay but again the surface doesn’t quite work.
    In 5d perhaps “review for referee”?
    7d: excellent, very funny!
    13d: clever idea, not sure what Prolix will make of it though!
    18d: excellent; have seen this idea used recently in the Guardian but very good nonetheless.
    21d: possibly ‘thug’ is too strong a word?

    Hope this helps. L.

  11. Thanks DMS, comments absent reading others’:
    I got most of the across clues on the first pass and thought they were good, then things got a little looser/simple on the downs.
    Ticks against 8,14 for the cheekiness,23,26,4,6,7. Favourite 6 for the aha moment.
    18 is a bit hardware specific and doesn’t have a definition really.
    I dislike 21 for the prejudice in the definition – and the wordplay is stretching ‘essentially’ imo.
    Thanks for the entertainment DMS.

  12. Thanks for Prolixic for the analysis, but I see that we disagree on some points! Particularly 21d where I agree with Gonzo, and what I posted earlier: I think THUG is not an appropriate definition for HOODIE. According to Wiki, “Hoodie” refers to the garment, not the wearer. Moreover, many people, of all ages, wear hoodies, mostly for warmth, and they’re certainly not thugs! It’s a shame that such a useful item of clothing has such negative connotations.

    But let that pass. I’m told I offended a number of people with one of my clues last week (though I don’t see it as particularly offensive, myself). I suppose this is bound to happen sometimes, in crossword-setting!

    But apart from HOODIE, and the few other minor points, an excellent piece of work, DMS. Keep them coming!

    1. ‘Hoodies’ definitely gets used to refer to a group of people associated with the garments (and Oxford defines it as such); the political discussions over whether to hug a hoodie (a phrase David Cameron didn’t actually use) weren’t about people snuggling up to the item of clothing!

      It’s equivalent to ‘suits’, used pejoratively to refer to upper-management or a group of decision-makers or bureaucrats with power over others, distinct from ordinary people or lower-level staff.

      Not everybody who wears a suit is in a position of power, and not everybody who wears a hoodie is a youth roaming the streets — language isn’t fair!

      (Declaration of interest: I own one hoodie — purple, with ‘Geek’ emblazoned across the front of it— and one suit, which I pretty much only wear for weddings and funerals.)

      1. Early Rap Music (c1973, Lightnin’ Rod, aka Grandmaster Flash, and later Gansta Rap, ie Boys From The Hood) referred to Hoodies as neighbourhood people, ie local gang members, similar to Jamaican Yardies
        It may well be that the wearing of hooded tops to conceal their identity is coincidental to the term

    2. Hoodie has been synonymous with thug for the past 20 years. I’m not saying I agree with this, though!!

  13. Thanks everyone for your kind and encouraging comments.

    I too felt that this was slightly weaker than my last, but choosing to hide chocolate bars in all the rows forced some issues for me! My next crossword (almost completed) is more about the clueing than trying to be too clever witht he grid fill!

    Thanks also to dutch for the encouragemnet and help, and to Prolixic for the comprehensive review!

    For what it’s worth, my favourite was the simple 24d


    1. Good heavens, I hadn’t spotted the chocolate bars – and nobody else has mentioned them so perhaps it was rather a waste of effort?
      Look forward to your next one, DMS, hope it’s not quite as tough!

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