Rookie Corner – 312 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 312

A Puzzle by Jaws

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we welcome Jaws with his debut puzzle. 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 to Jaws.  I am tempted to make this review snappy.  However, this was a promising start.  In terms of the technical cryptic construction of the of the clues, there were only a few points to highlight.  Some of the words were grid-fillers but they were largely fairly clued.  There were too many take the initial letters of the following words type of clues and a few repetitions of wordplay indicators but these can be corrected easily.  A few of the clues had surface readings that needed attention but again, this is something that comes with practice.  Overall the commentometer is a respectable 3/30 or 10%.


1 Excited talk starts to annoy rather dangerous bird (7)
BUZZARD – A four letter word for excited talk followed by the initial letters (stats to) of the fifth to seventh words of the clue.

5 Eagle and lion joined segment of angry phone-in (7)
GRYPHON – The answer is hidden in (segment of) the final two words of the clue.

9 Queen’s after game animal (5)
TIGER – The abbreviation for the current queen after a three letter word for a children’s game.

10 Smashed iPhone then pain returned keeping up with the Joneses (9)
NEOPHILIA – An anagram (smashed) of IPHONE followed by a a reversal (returned) of a three letter word meaning pain.

11 Damaged, working female enters hotel (2,3,5)
ON THE FRITZ – A two letter word meaning working followed by the abbreviation for female inside the name (3,4) of a London hotel.  As the solution is an American term, this should be indicated.  A story could be told by having “Trump’s damaged working female entering hotel.

12 Vast digital photo, perhaps? (4)
EPIC – Split 1-3, the solution may indicate an on-line (digital) picture (photo, perhaps).

14 End of the line for this little piggy? (4,2,6)
WENT TO MARKET – Cryptic definition of one of the lines in the children’s verse about little piggies or toes.

18 Blackmailed – horrendous month’s ordeal! (4,2,6)
HELD TO RANSOM – An anagram (horrendous) of MONTHS ORDEAL.

21 Units On Her Majesty’s Service (4)
OHMS – Double definition of the units of resistance and the abbreviation for the final four words of the clue.

22 Carrots or game pie, perhaps? (6,4)
RABBIT FOOD – A six letter game animal followed by a four letter word for something of which a pie is an example.

25 Editor’s friend Derek starts to expect Times’ errant kerning – even yesterday (6,3)
DELETE KEY – A three letter abbreviation for the name Derek followed by the initial letters (starts to) of the final six words of the clue.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Starts to has been used in 1a.

26 Flavour provided by ammonium amines (5)
UMAMI – The answer is hidden in (provided by) the final two words of the clue.

27 Immortal fighter in day’s first drug overdose (7)
DEMIGOD – A three letter name of a fighter jet inside the first letter of day and the abbreviations for ecstasy (drug) and overdose.

28 Find university close to Hull’s origins (7)
UNEARTH – The abbreviation for University followed by a four letter word meaning close and the initial letters (origins) of to hull.


1 City then back? Anticlimax (6)
BATHOS – A four letter SW spa city followed by a two letter word meaning then reversed (back).

2 Endless gyoza mixed with endless tea, fertilised egg (6)
ZYGOTE – An anagram (mixed) of GYOZ (endless GYOZA) TE (endless tea).  I usually give latitude for surface readings but this one is definitely one that needs to be binned in place of something the has a sensible meaning in its own right.

3 Contracts a setter in new Telegraph supplement, initally (10)
AGREEMENTS – The A from the clue followed by s two letter word for the setter inside a five letter word meaning new followed by the initial letters of Telegraph Supplement.  Watch spellings.  Initially is missing the third I in the clue.

4 Money from day in state (5)
DINAR – The abbreviation for day followed by the IN from the clue and the abbreviation for Arkansas.

5 Write for nowt, desperate, in deserted place (5,4)
GHOST TOWN – A five letter word meaning to write for someone followed by an anagram desperate of NOWT.

6 Hush up after, ya posh sassenachs! (4)
YAHS – A two letter word meaning hush reversed (up) after the YA from the clue.

7 Part-shaft, part-blade, part-fish (4,4)
HALF PIKE – A four word for part of something followed by a four letter freshwater predatory fish.

8 Time-savers for frenzied centaurs (4,4)
NEAR CUTS – An anagram (frenzied) of CENTAURS.

13 She tells stories about cute senora (10)
RACONTEUSE – An anagram (about) of CUTE SENORA.  Putting about as an anagram indicator before the letters to be rearranged does not work.

15 Sailor-man (educated south of Cambodia) surfaced (9)
TARMACKED – A three letter word for a sailor followed by a three letter informal way of describing a man followed by the abbreviation for educated after (south of) the IVR code for Cambodia.

16 Cloaked Dr housed tormented (8)
SHROUDED – An anagram (tormented) of DR HOUSED.

17 Florida cleric embraces Florida deception (8)
FLIMFLAM – The state abbreviation for Florida followed by a a four letter word for a Muslim cleric around the state abbreviation for Florida.

19 Goes up in a balloon? Nonsense! (3,3)
HOT AIR – Double definition of what rises from the burner in a balloon and another expression for nonsense.

20 Bash up hunk? Strange (6)
ODDISH – A two letter word for a bash or party reversed (up) followed by another name of a person who is a hunk.  Another repetition of wordplay with up as a reversal.

23 Marsh inlet opens up at first (5)
BAYOU – A three letter word for an inlet followed by the initial letters (at first) of opens up.

24 Lads’ weekend? Dear, by the sounds (4)
STAG – A creature that is a deer (dear by the sound of it).

29 comments on “Rookie Corner – 312

  1. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Jaws! I was up very late so I thought I would take a look at this before going to bed.

    As I worked my way down the first column of across clues, I thought this was going to be a promising debut. 1a, 5a & 9a made a very nice start (although the surface of 5a did conjure up a rather bizarre image). As I couldn’t immediately see what was needed for 10a & 11a, I passed over these two to look at again later. I then solved 12a, 14a & 18a, all of which I thought were very good and turned out to be my podium choices. So far, so good. Then, I’m sorry to say, things went downhill.

    By the time I had finished I realised that Prolixic will need to be rather busy when compiling his review. I ended up with the impression that you had produced a filled grid (including some odd words and phrases, e.g. 11a [American, I think?] and 8d), and then stuck with that come hell or high water, throwing together wordplay elements in some cases almost at random with the simple aim of arriving at the answer with little concern for the reading of the clues. In addition, some of your definitions are not entirely accurate, and you have used a lot of question marks.

    I’ve got lots of scribbled comments about points of detail, but I’ll leave the technical stuff to Prolixic.

    You have clearly put in a lot of effort and the first half-dozen clues I solved showed that you have some good ideas. If you take on board Prolixic’s comments, and also pay some attention to your surface readings, I am sure you will make significant progress.

    Thanks. Jaws. I look forward to your next offering.

    P.S. Classifying rabbits as game makes me nervous …

    1. Hi RD, I believe rabbit meat is not technically game – at least not if captive-reared – so you should be safe! On another forum I used to use the handle Oryctolagi. I’m sure you know what that means!

  2. Well we did get a completed grid but there are a few places where we haven’t totally understood the wordplay. Agree with RD that there are quite a few points that Prolixic will pick up in his review. We learnt a few new expression such as 14a and 6d too.
    Thanks Jaws.

  3. Hi Jaws,

    Congratulations on compiling a crossword! This was enjoyable, by and large technically correct, with some nice clues, i thought: for example, blackmailed (18a) the setter in the telegraph (3d) and the desperate writer (5d). Do i understand this is your first effort? well done.

    I did feel there was an over-reliance on using first letters to complete the wordplay, which i think fits in with RD’s comment about adding wordplay elements. Turns out it’s only 5 clues, but somehow that felt like a lot.

    Also, there were some surface readings that didn’t mean anything to me, e.g. 2d, 4d, 16d and i wasn’t sure about 10a. But the consensus seems to be it is important to get the grammar and structure right before you start polishing surfaces

    14a seems to request a nounal answer, that is important
    24d, do you say “by the sounds”? – maybe you do. I’m used to “by the sound of it”.

    Be sure to look carefully at Prolixic’s feedback, this is how many of us learned!

    Good luck

  4. A very pleasant end to my Sunday evening solving and well done on your first Rookie. Like the others above, I think that Prolixic’s commentometer reading might be quite high.
    I really liked 11a, 25a, 27a, and 17d – although, as RD says, 11a is an Americanism and that should be indicated in some way.
    6d as a term for time-savers was new to me; I am more familiar with ‘short’ as the first word but obviously that could not be used here.
    Well done again and thank you Jaws.

  5. Hi Jaws,

    Welcome! I see from above that this is your first puzzle here. Well done!
    Others, especially Dutch, have largely covered my points.

    On surfaces: as just a few good examples (i.e. you have several more) of strong surfaces, 9a, 12a and 28a, one could readily slip these into conversation without them being spotted as crossword clues. The famous test: “Could I use it down the pub and get away with it?” still holds. Well, you know what I mean! With 5a, 10a, 2d it ‘might’ be harder to do so – I’d struggle, anyway :-)

    A few other tips:
    – always Prolixic’s clue_analysis_sheet to check the mix of clue types you use. Not a criticism here, just a reminder & to let me introduce …
    – … add to this an analysis of first letter, last letter, middle letter selections used – both the sheer number of them and ‘Have I used different indicators each time’? This probably would have flagged that you’ve slightly overused these
    – 26a’s technique might be better served by a known chemical eg potassium or sodium amide. Though this may be ignorance of your selection on my part. Minor – but all minor improvements help!

    Remember that many solvers will probably remember the solve through just a handful of clues – probably your strongest and weakest. With the latter, I find it helps to put the created puzzle aside for a couple of days then re-solve it and decide which are my weakest clues. Then keep improving those until some others become the weakest. And iterate until I am happy!

    In summary, a Very good first puzzle. See Prolixic’s feedback tomorrow for some point-by-point feedback – I’ve always found this valuable.

    And I look forward to your next.


  6. Welcome, Jaws. I thought that this was a promising debut. As others have said there are many points that Prolixic will pick up on and if you take his advice on board your setting will go from strength to strength.
    The clues I liked best were 18a (excellent anagram), 3d and 5d.
    I look forward to your next puzzle.

  7. Whilst several of the commenters are ‘night owls’ or ‘foreign correspondents’, the number of comments this early in the day is a sign of how solvable this crossword actually is. A Rookie I finish over a bowl of cereal without a single ? by any clue is a rare Rookie indeed.

    Yes there do seem to be too many ‘use the first letter’ type clues, an unindicated Americanism and so on but if this is your first ever cryptic crossword, then the future is promising.

    I second Encota’s recommendation that you use Prolixic’s clue analysis which can be found on page 37 here – the rest of the Guide is well worth a read too, by the aspiring setter or anyone else interested in how cryptic crosswords work

    I look forward to future crosswords from you

  8. Hi Jaws – well done for putting a puzzle together and having a go
    This did, however, feel like a first draft; a typical [unedited by the looks of it] CC grid fill and a lot of loose cluing
    I’d suggest you need a test solver or two before you publish your next to at least avoid howlers
    The nuts and bolts are generally there though, and I’m sure that you will improve rapidly with Prolixic’s guidance
    Thanks for the entertainment, I look forward to your next

  9. Thanks Jaws
    Excellent puzzle. I’m a little surprised at earlier comments focusing on technical problems. There were very few clues that I could see any issue with, and even then they were things that you’d see in plenty of newspaper puzzles.
    I noticed the initial letter repetition too; I’d agree you don’t want that to stick out in your clues, but you used it fluently and accurately. There’s one setter highly esteemed in these parts who used to rely heavily on the same thing and no one seemed to mind him doing it.
    I liked 1a 1d 3d 7d 14a (funny when the penny dropped) 18a
    I’ve never heard of 8d and can’t find any reference to it.

  10. I now have a completed grid, though I’m not at all sure of 6D. I thought it was rather good overall, particularly for a first outing. 18A and 5D were my favorites. Well done, Jaws.

  11. Welcome to the corner, Jaws. I found this to be something of a mixed bag and was certainly struck by the number of clues that involved initial letters – we even had the same indicator (starts to) used in 1&25a. There were some examples of good clues – 9,12&18a come to mind – but also several that didn’t quite work, particularly where the surface reads were concerned.
    Both 11a & 8d were unknown to me and I do think that the former required an indication that it is an American expression.

    Prolixic will give you a detailed analysis in his review – learn from what he has to say and I look forward to seeing Jaws 2!

  12. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Jaws.

    For a first puzzle, I thought this was very creditable indeed, thankfully you didn’t go down the route of many novice setters and attempt to make your clues as impenetrable as possible, for which most of us are very grateful I reckon!

    Aside from the obvious over-reliance on initial letter indicators (as an alternative perhaps look to use middle letter or last letter ones instead to avoid such repetitions if nothing else will do), I had two other principal concerns. Firstly, the repetitions of words or devices in the same clue, i.e. as seen in 2d, 7d and 17d, for instance. I think these should be used sparingly, and three occasions in one puzzle seems too much to me. Secondly, the use of obscure words as grid-fillers because nothing else will fit the available spaces. If a setter is left with the likes of 26a, 2d, 6d, 8d etc., it is seldom through choice. I’d recommend spending a little more time planning the grid, starting with the longer solutions, and if it looks as though awkward words will be needed around them, think of something else.

    I thought the anagrams were excellent, particularly 18a and 13d, and the surfaces will improve with future puzzles, for a debut they weren’t actually that bad on the whole.

    I enjoyed the solve very much and would echo others in saying that you’ve made a very promising start. Many thanks, Jaws.

  13. I thought it was a good crossword, specially as a first go, so thank you and welcome, Jaws.
    Can’t get the last bit of 11a and there are a couple of others that I’m not sure about.
    I particularly appreciated the really good 18a anagram and 28a and my favourite was 5d.
    Thanks again to Jaws and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review (and a couple of answers) tomorrow.

    1. Ignore what I said about the last bit of 11a – I didn’t know it but my nearly son-in-law’s Mum was American and he’d heard of it.

  14. Thanks Jaws, that was entertaining. Comments absent reading others’:
    Liked 9,18,28,3,13,20.
    10 definition not quite on.
    5d ‘Write for’ is not quite right – I know how annoying it can be when the correct phrasing ruins the surface.
    7 I got it, but can’t adequately explain how.
    8 new to me – a local usage?
    15 perhaps ‘man’ for MAC is a bit unfair.
    I’m sure you don’t need telling that some of your surfaces are poor.
    Good debut :)

  15. Thank you, Prolixic, for the review. Thanks, everyone, for the comments. I have a clear way forward.

  16. Welcome to BD, Jaws. Look forward to many more contributions from you.

    I suppose I must say, I hope every contributor to this blog, and their families, have stayed well clear of this dreadful disease. My wife and I, and our son, are all OK – though since I turn 70 in a few days I shall then be in the ‘at risk’ category. Keep healthy, folks!

    Of course with so many people stuck at home, there are likely to be more occasions for crosswording – both solving and setting. In one sense things are looking up!

    A very good debut puzzle. I agree that surfaces are a bit of a problem – so hard to get smooth flowing clues, I think it’s the mark of a real expert setter over us amateurs! I still have trouble with them.

    Like others I didn’t recognise 11a, although the phrase rang a bell somewhere – must have read it in an American book. In 9a I’ve always known the game as TAG but I looked it up and TIG is a recognised variant. 10a was another word I had to look up. And I thought 14a was a bit too easy – though I like the implied secondary meaning – for the unfortunate ‘little piggy’ at least! 21a also rather easy. Other words/phrases I didn’t know or recognise were 8d and 23d – and 20d looks a bit contrived-ish!

    But on the whole very good work. My favourites, I think, are 27a and 5d. I love the misdirection of ‘fighter’ – was trying to fit “ALI” in there! – and GHOST as “write for” reminds me of that excellent novel by Robert Harris (worth a read!) – but took a while to click!

    Thanks to Jaws and Prolix.

    1. Thanks for you best wishes. I am fine when it comes to the virus but I put my back out this morning helping a neighbour pick her husband off their kitchen floor after he’d slipped. I actually had to do it myself as there was only room for me. Robert has very little strength in his arms or legs so, if you can imagine a rugby front rower many, many years after retirement, you’ll get an idea of what a dead weight he was!

  17. As for the crossword, Jaws, I thought it was an excellent first attempt overall. Being a Rookie myself I know how hard it is to get every clue to fit the criteria whilst being entertaining too. I expect your next puzzle will be a wowza!

  18. Thanks for the review Prolixic. It was 19d that jarred in particular, the first definition doesn’t work for me
    Well done Jaws

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, particularly the parsing of 3d where I’d got tangled up by trying to use the initial letters of New Telegraph Supplement as the last three letters of the answer.
    I’m sure that Jaws will be greatly encouraged by the reading on the commentometer.

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