Rookie Corner – 311 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 311

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.  Apologies for the late review.  The last couple of days have been totally wiped out with legal advice for lawyers, landlords, tenants and all other whose businesses are being affected by the Great Lockdown.  A better crossword in many respects to the previous outing but perhaps too many loose synonyms and slightly jarring cryptic readings.  The commentometer is 6/32 or 18.7%.


1 Put up with bird (7)
SWALLOW – Double definition of a word meaning to bear or put up with something and a bird with a forked tail whose arrival does not necessarily herald summer.

5 Ruin meal with cold starter 7) (7)
SCUPPER – A late evening meal includes (with) the first letter (starter) of cold.  I don’t think that A with B means put B inside A.

9 Play after a cake?  Lots (9)
ABUNDANCE – A five letter word for play goes after the A from the clue and a three letter word for a cake.  I am not enamoured with the synonym for play being the same as the word in the solution.

10 Bogged down by Sapper in centre (5)
MIRED – The abbreviation for Royal Engineer (sapper) inside a three letter word for centre.

11 Square lock causes worry (6)
STRESS – The abbreviation for square followed by another word for a lock of hair.  Perhaps creates rather than causes would be a better line word.

12 Ground immersed after rainfall (7)
TERRAIN – The answer is hidden (immersed) in the final two words of the clue.  I think that for the cryptic grammar to work it needs to be immersed in.  Immersed on its own does not work.  Perhaps “Ground immersed in winter rainfall”

14 Loner lost it on Island 4) (4)
HERM – A six letter word for a loner without (lost) the final IT.  Perhaps loses it would be better.

15 Needs composition: read at side (10)
DESIDERATA – An anagram (composition) of READ AT SIDE.  Composition (as a noun) before the letters to be rearranged should be composition of…

19 Cartoon vehicle I nick, avoiding Priest (10)
CARICATURE – A three letter word for a vehicle followed by the I from the clue and a seven letter word meaning nick or arrest without (avoiding) the abbreviation for priest.

20 Police Dept capture son and return counter (4)
DISC – A three letter word for a police department includes (capture) the abbreviation for S with all the letters reversed (return).  Capture should be captures for the cryptic grammar to work.  Perhaps “Police Dept captures son returning …”

22 Former pilot embarrassed to take for a ride (7)
EXPLOIT – A two letter word meaning former followed by an anagram (embarrassed) of PILOT.  An anagram where only one letter is moved (here the I) should be avoided.

25 Girl takes throw at international (6)
GLOBAL – A three letter word for a girl includes (takes) a three letter word meaning to throw.  The form of link word wordplay at definition does not work.

27 Airline circles morning after old ex-President (5)
OBAMA – The abbreviation for British Airways (airline) around (circles) the abbreviation for morning all after the abbreviation for old.

28 Play with a mad latin dog (9)
DALMATIAN – An anagram (play with) of A MAD LATIN.

29 Outrage: dynamite covered up disaster (7)
TRAGEDY – The answer is hidden in (covered up) the first two words of the clue.  I think covers up would be better.  The two words still include the answer.

30 Regret about opening empty can for staff (7)
RETINUE – A three letter word meaning regret around the first letter (opening) of empty and a three letter word for a can.  Opening on its own will not be accepted by some editors as an initial letter indicator.  It would need to be opening of…


1 Box shop (4)
SPAR – Double definition of the verb to box and the name of a food retailer.

2 Raunchy couple of Queens flirt (9)
ADULTERER – A five letter word meaning raunchy and the abbreviation for the current queen twice (couple of).  Another clue where the synonym is too loose.  I don’ think that flirt is a good synonym for the solution.

3 Pecking Order:  a man may climb this, a woman may curse it (6)
LADDER – Triple definition of a pecking order in a squash tournament say, something a worker may climb and something that a lady may curse if obtained in hosiery.

4 Cleared up after blast, in a  mess (9)
WINDSWEPT – A five letter meaning cleared up with a broom after a four letter word for a meteorological feature that may blast.

5 Writing implement found in street empty (5)
SPENT – A three letter word for a writing implement in the abbreviation for street.  This clue could have been improved simply by putting Empty at the beginning or even better to tell a story “Empty enclosure in street.

6 Prize pup, not first, on sale (8)
UPMARKET – The PUP from the clue without the first letter (not first) on a six letter word for market.  

7 Leave a coat (5)
PARKA – A four letter word meaning to leave or put on one side followed by the A from clue.

8 Marching Orders for leftist  and German woman, not leader (10)
REDUNDANCY – A three letter colour describing leftist, the three letter German word for and and a five letter woman’s name without the the first letter (not leader). Definition for wordplay is the wrong way round.  You can have wordplay for definition.

13 Bottle it, chuck away (7,3)
CHICKEN OUT – A seven letter word for the bird affectionately known as a chuck followed by a three letter word meaning away.

16 Corrupt professional under Irish rule (9)
IRREGULAR – Another word for a professional soldier under the abbreviation for Irish and Rule.  The abbreviation for Irish is IR not I. Corrupt Irish professional word have worked.

17 Go on after jockey, I am a nit! (9)
ANIMATION – An anagram (jockey.- as a verb this works) of I AM A NIT.

18 Tribute to Champion swallowing soft drink, definitely first (8)
ACCOLADE – A three letter word for a champion around a four letter word for a fizzy drink and the first letter of definitely.  Again some editors may not like first on its own and would required at first.  Another clue where the link word does not work very well as you have definition to wordplay rather than wordplay to definition which would work.

21 Urinate, move vehicle (2-4)
GO-CART – A two letter word meaning to urinate followed by a four letter word meaning to move something.

23 Hearing footballer on Argentinian beach (5)
PLAYA – A homophone of player (footballer).  As footballer is a definition by example of the word to be used, this should be indicated.  Another poor link word as wordplay on definition does not read well in the cryptic grammar.

24 Toy underwear (5)
TEDDY – Double definition of a cuddly toy and an woman’s item of underwear combining panties and a chemise in one garment.

26 Stake insect on bottom of tree (4)
ANTE – A three letter word for an insect on the final letter (bottom) of tree.

46 comments on “Rookie Corner – 311

  1. A very pleasant end to my Sunday evening solving of Monday back pager, Monday Quickie, On-line weekly prize Quickie, On-line weekly prize cryptic, and Rookie in that order.
    As with one or two of Fringilla’s other puzzles, a few that I will have to wait for the review to fully understand.
    I did like 9a (must be an oldie but goodie), 19a, 30a, 8d, and 18d.
    Thanks Fringilla and Prolixic/CS.

  2. An enjoyable puzzle to solve although we are still a bit lost on how the second definition for 1d works and a question mark by 21d.
    Lots of ticks on our pages.
    Thanks and well done Fringilla.

    Rather distracted as we were solving this as NZ has just gone into total lock-down in the struggle with COVID 19. Guess that we will be pretty much under the same restrictions that most of you have been coping with for some time now.

      1. Thanks Senf. A Google check now tells us Spar operates in many countries of the world but not in NZ. Surprised that we had never heard of it.

  3. Hi Fringilla,

    Good fun – many thanks. My comments as I solved (and solving order) are added below. Feel free to use or ignore, as you wish!

    My feedback summarises down to:
    – Wordplay generally sound, well done. There are a couple of points for wordplay improvement.
    – Surfaces need some more imagery. When you have an accurate wordplay, try jiggling it around to see if you can make the clue pass the “Could I drop this sentence into everyday conversation without anyone noticing it is a crossword clue?” test.

    As usual, any feedback from Prolixic tomorrow will almost certainly take precedence over my thoughts.

    Thanks again & Cheers all,


    …the gory detail…
    11a ok
    15a nounal anagram. Some won’t like this. There are lots of others to choose from!
    20a ok but surface doesn’t conjure up much of an image for me
    22a ok
    27a as 20a
    29a ok
    1d ok
    3d ok
    4d ok
    1a ok
    5d good
    23d good
    26d ok
    5a needs an Insertion indicator. Or, like 12a below, you could get away with a ‘?’ then “Almost”
    9a ok
    8d ok
    17d ‘jockey’ as a nounal anagram indicator? There must be lots more words that’d work at least as well in the surface
    30a some editors won’t like ‘opening entry’ to mean ‘the opening (letter) of entry’. I stare guiltily at my copy of “Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword” on the bookshelf in front of me whenever I’m even half tempted to do the same!
    24d ok
    28a ok
    25a ok if the central three letters are a synonym for ‘throw at’. Otherwise ‘at’ not ideal as a linkword, in my view at least
    10a ok
    7d good
    12a the ‘hidden’ indicator appears to be the wrong way round? Adding a ‘?’ at the end and then “Quite the reverse!” is an easy way to solve this.
    2d not sure of the accuracy of your definition?
    19a ok
    18d as 30a
    16d this didn’t quite work for me. I’m probably missing something
    6d good
    14a not sure about ‘on’ as a linkword
    13d I didn’t know that word meaning the first word of the answer – I’ll try and remember that!

  4. Although there was a lot to enjoy here, Fringilla, I don’t think this is as good as your previous Rookie puzzle particularly with regard to some of your surface readings.

    I have some scribbles relating to points of detail but I will leave commenting on most of those to Prolixic. I will just mention:
    – You have two clues in which you have duplicated the enumeration.
    – The definition for 2d is inaccurate, not even a stretch.
    – Please try to avoid the use of vague names as part of the wordplay which you have done in 8d. It’s not wrong and some solvers don’t mind it but others such as me feel it is unfair. I know several setters who agree with me too.

    The clues I ticked were 1a, 28a, 4d, 7d & 13d.

    Many thanks, Fringilla, and please keep them coming.

  5. A mix of things I liked and things I questioned.

    I’ve made a couple of notes on things I don’t think are quite right but I’ll wait until Prolixic has provided his review as if we all add our quibbles, he won’t have anything left to mention

    Thanks to Fringilla an, in advance, to Prolixic

  6. Thanks Fringilla
    I liked it, the clues were generally snappy and just hard enough. 13d was my favourite – chuck away is very good.
    There were quite a few clues in which your cryptic grammar seemed awry; not how you were breaking the words up, which was good, but the detail of your instructions. To pick on one element, I noticed a few linking words that seemed out of place: at, on, etc.

  7. I thought this was pretty good overall, well done

    Agree with Mucky regarding bending the grammar in places to improve the surface
    I noticed one or two which could have been easily remedied by switching the word order

    Nice level of difficulty and an enjoyable solve so thanks Fringilla, and in advance to Prolixic – I look forward to the review every bit as much as I look forward to the RC puzzles

  8. Hi Fringilla,

    congratulations on putting together another crossword, always an admirable accomplishment. This was fun, though there are some minor niggles. I think i can complement some of Encota’s comments, in the hope that is of use to you. No doubt prolixic will give you further help
    5a I don’t think ‘with’ is a good containment indicator
    12a to me, immersed doesn’t work as a hidden indicator here, would have to be “immersed in” to make grammatical sense
    15a this nounal indicator works only after the fodder
    20a wrong grammar, should be captures and returns
    25a ‘takes” not the best of containment indicators
    29a past tense makes little sense for hidden indicators – the answer is there now!
    30a needs to be ‘opening of empty’ to work
    2d agree with RD
    3d why can’t a woman climb this?
    5d – “street empty” is weird way to end your surface. When this happens, just turn your clue around “Empty street inspires writer” or similar. oh, the writing implement is empty? then you need a link “street is empty”
    8d agree with RD – there are so many woman’s names which makes this annoying, and removing the first letter makes it harder still
    16d the abbreviation for Irish is IR according to chambers?
    17d I don’t think any imperative anagram indicator would allow you to say “on after” before it. jockeying would work

    and keep thinking “how can i turn the surface into an exciting story?”
    Hope that helps, best wishes

    1. Hi Dutch – whilst I share some of these thoughts, shouldn’t we leave it to Prolixic to go into detail?
      I wouldn’t be surprised if Prolixic just posted ‘See below!’, as he understandably has done before
      That’s my opinion anyway, just saying

    2. Yes, I’ve stayed away since this last came up. But being at home a bit more at the moment, I thought I’d have a look. I’m just trying to help the rookie, of course. There is no intention of stealing prolixic’s show; I find he always provides enormous value. In fact, i read his comments religiously even if i haven’t done the puzzle. I do appreciate that he may think “oh, it’s all been said”, but mostly he has added a great deal of further insight and sometimes respectfully disagreed or downplayed other concerns, all of which is valuable to the rookie. What I especially like about prolixic’s reviews is that he highlights a few key messages for the rookie.

      With all respect to prolixic, whom i admire for a multitude of reasons, here it should be about the rookie. At one point, the name of the game was to provide the rookie with as much feedback as possible, and this site became the go to place for that. There was nowhere else where a rookie would get such volume and quality of feedback. I believe that whereas there may be some overlap in the comments, there is also unique advice in each, and that any overlap only serves to strengthen a point. My view was the more comments, the better for the rookie. If the game has changed, I’m happy to stay away with no ill-feeling. I can imagine a compromise restricting the number of points made in a comment, though surely the rookie might want it all. I will discuss the best way forward with Dave.

      1. Well said. Let us know what Dave thinks following your discussion. If the outcome is for us to make less review comments then so be it. This Site was very kind to me when I first started and I am here to return / pass on that kindness that was given to me. Many of us here are now published Setters – and most likely wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the powerful and insightful feedback received from Rookie Corner, whatever form that feedback took. I always loved receiving the whole package of feedback and especially that from Prolixic. And, several years on, I still read all feedback on all RC puzzles.

        Peace & Love

        Currently listening to: Octane Twisted by Porcupine Tree

  9. Welcome back, Fringilla, you’re getting to be quite a prolific compiler! As others have commented, there were a few untidy edges in this one but I really enjoyed the solve and appreciated the injections of humour. Have to say that I thought ‘urinate’ was unnecessary in 21d but I accept that’s a personal preference.
    I think your penchant for single letter abbreviations could well become your trademark!
    Many thanks, looking forward to the next one.

  10. Judging by the above ‘helpful’ comments, I would guess Fringilla will be well and truly flummoxed by the variety of advice offered.

    I would leave it to the ever-dependable and much respected Prolixic to do his normal sterling job and maybe pick up on anything missed afterwards. That is supposed to be the job that he undertakes to do so brilliantly each week.

    1. When I submitted puzzles in Rookie Corner, I was appreciative of as many comments as possible, clearly not all solvers think along the same lines but they will always offer very valuable feedback, some in more detail than others.

      I’m sure Fringilla regards all comments as helpful (unitalicised).

      1. Afternoon all.

        Yes, I too found all comments in advance of the official review welcome when I was submitting to RC, although it was Prolixic’s verdict that I always took as “Gospel”.

        There was an excellently written guide to setting written by Prolixic which I found very helpful indeed. I can’t immediately find it on the site now, but wherever it’s hiding (probably in plain site knowing me) I’d highly recommend it.

        Good health to everyone; I hope nobody else is following my lead and stockpiling Chardonnay.

    2. I don’t like the idea of commenting after prolixic on anything missed, that would just suggest he wasn’t thorough

  11. Welcome back, Fringilla.

    I have to concur with those who have said this was something of a mixed bag and not an improvement on your previous puzzle, unfortunately. I’m sure that you must have spent quite a lot of time on it, but the finished product suggests the opposite in certain instances. 21d is a good case in point, “go” has countless synonyms, but I don’t understand why you preferred “urinate” rather than considering alternatives, possibly something like ” try” which gives a much more meaningful surface.

    I mentioned last time that you should try to keep verbs in the present tense in wordplay wherever possible, but 14a and 29a are examples of where that hasn’t been done. I think one can be reasonably tolerant of questionable surfaces in a debut puzzle, but when a setter has submitted quite a few puzzles now, as you have, it becomes much less excusable. Encota’s “could you put the sentence into an everyday conversation” is very sound advice.

    There seem to have been quite a few examples recently of Rookies going backwards rather than forwards, consistency isn’t always easy to achieve, but I would suggest going back to analyse what clues worked previously rather than be too ambitious with ones that could be suspect.

    Thanks, Fringilla.

  12. Thanks for the entertainment Fringilla. I’ll leave Prolixic to point out technical errors, here are some opinions for what they are worth:
    Ticks against 9,19,4,5d,7,13,18.
    9 ‘play’ for ‘dance’ makes the clue harder.
    20 ‘,capturing son, returns’ would be better.
    2 definition doesn’t do the answer justice.
    6 definition is a bit of a stretch.
    21 perhaps ‘cart’ originally meaning ‘move with a cart’ is the wrong way to go when the answer is a type of cart.
    23 is that really how they pronounce it?
    Thanks again, keep at it.

  13. On the ‘commenting in detail’ issue, I think it more useful to the setter to have only one person rule on technical matters (after which we can all cry ‘are you blind, ref?’ if we feel like it) and everyone else concentrate on matters of taste, judgement and overall enjoyment. You can’t please all the people all the time.

  14. Re overcommenting, I find myself, rather contrary to habit, agreeing with everyone. That is, I think it’s better to leave out quibbles that I know will be covered in the review, and I think it’s better for the setter to have as much comment as possible, and I think we should concentrate on matters of taste, judgement and overall enjoyment, as Gonzo says. Don’t really know which way I’d choose to fall off the fence.
    As someone who does occasionally voice my disagreement post-review, I can report that it always makes me uncomfortable.

    1. This is what I wrote when launching Rookie Corner:

      “You are invited to adopt the role of test solver and to provide feedback. Which clues did you like, which you didn’t like and which are flawed? In the latter two cases please explain your reasons. To a new setter feedback is of paramount importance – without it they are working in a vacuum.”

  15. Thanks to everyone above. I think I have a headache coming and it’s nothing to do with Covid-19. Of course, I appreciate comments, and I know they are made with good intention, but as Gonzo says – and I think I said it previously: “you can’t please all the people all the time”. I will write more after Prolixic’s review…

  16. On the question of feedback and comments before the review there is no right and wrong approach. My main concern is that where there have been two or three detailed reviews of the individual clues it makes the process of producing the review a lot longer and complicated as I have to look not only at the clues but also see where the pre-review comments may or may not be correct or subject to degrees of interpretation and themselves need to be factored into the comments I make in the review. Also, if there has been so much dissection of the crossword, it can reduce the incentive to prepare another review particularly after a busy work day.

    1. I’ve been pondering this overnight and am sorry to say I haven’t really reached a satisfactory conclusion. I think the problem isn’t helped by the Rookies (like the NTSPPs) being a solve on one day, read the review the next day puzzle as everything the blogger might have liked to explain or clarify has already been done, and in the case of the NTSPPs the publication of the review only elicits (in my case) comments along the line of ‘you’ve got that wrong’ which again isn’t the greatest incentive, particularly when it comes to proof reading as I know others will do that for me.

      1. I have been pondering it too, Sue. I wonder if – in view of some comments above – whether it may be better to publish the crossword WITH Prolixic’s comments. You don’t have to read them until you have finished the crossword, but before YOU comment.
        That said, I appreciate that I am a relative newcomer to this, and that Dave and Prolixic had good reason to do it this way for the past 311 weeks.
        I’m also feeling rather guilty that MY crossword has raised this discussion, and am now tempted to put myself into self-isolation…

        1. Hi Fringilla

          One thing that I find very useful is to write my own parse out, similar to what Prolixic does, (though not in full joined up sentences with pretty pictures). I normally do this at least a few days after I’ve written the last clues. It can be a bit of a chore but it’s very illuminating and often saves a lot of grief later.

          I nearly always pick up a serious error or two and tweak a few clues to improve the surface or definitions. The other thing it often picks up is using the same wordplay more than once e.g. daughter to indicate d in different clues. That’s not the worst sin, but some people comment on it and I try to avoid it.

          Good luck with the next puzzle.

        2. Sorry for starting all this on your puzzle Fringilla, it was certainly not my intention
          I note with interest the previous posts by Tilsit, Prolixic and CS, ie from the perspective of those who donate their time to prepare reviews

        3. Fringella, there is nothing for you to feel guilty about. You are innocent, and anyway this is a valuable discussion. As promised, i discussed with Big Dave and he pointed me to his reply@14, which encourages commenting

        4. looking forward to next puzzle – by the way there are people (not me, alas) who pick the clues they like most from several draft puzzles to create a new puzzle, don’t know if that is of any help

  17. Recent announcements relating to business and restrictions on eviction of commercial tenants have kept me busy on work related matters all evening. The review will be delayed.

  18. For those who may have missed it on 15² a chance to see this crossword documentary again:
    ht tps:

    1. Many thanks from me too, it was fascinating to watch.

      I had no idea that Araucaria had appeared on University Challenge (alongside Dada too). Sadly I suspect Prunella Scales is no longer solving crosswords these days.

  19. As I’m also a rookie I wonder if my comments carry any weight, but I’m glad to see my own notes have already been picked up on. I’ve found it hard to get motivated enough lately to properly edit my next Rookie. I also paint and have been painting simple ‘cat silhouetted against the moon’ pictures for my wife’s cat charity auction. In the end I sent it in before I had ironed out a couple if iffy clues. I think they’ll stand out like sore thumbs!

    Stay safe everyone and we’ll done Fringilla, my fellow rookie. It’s bloody hard work isn’t it?

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, especially after what sounds like another long day at the office.
    I’m sure that Fringilla will take all your comments on board and put them to good use in his next compilation.

  21. My thanks to Prolixic, particularly given his busy schedule. I thank everyone above who commented, those who enjoyed it and those who didn’t so much. This has become my main hobby, although with the recent good weather the garden has been demanding more of my time. This crossword was ready before the previous one was published and another half dozen or more have since been completed. However, I usually end up with some clues I really like, but with some I don’t. My problem is obviously that I spend too little time ‘tweaking’ and improving the bad ones. If I do submit another, I promise it will be better.

Comments are closed.