Rookie Corner – 314 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 314

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.  This was something of a curate’s egg.  Parts of it were excellent but there were two major errors in the cluing and a lot of niggling points as well.  The commentometer reads as 7.5/32 or 23.4%.


1 Record one to one example (7)
EPITOME – The abbreviation for Extended Play record followed the letter representing one, the to from the clue and another way of saying one (as in “it does not really appeal to one”.  To get from one to me is a little contrived.  Me can be used for I but that would require a two-step: one = I = me.

5 Morning: American accepts gold Oscar for Randy (7)
AMOROUS – The abbreviation for morning and the abbreviation for United States (America) includes the heraldic word for gold and the letter represented by Oscar in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

10 Remove cap from tapioca and stir in a tiny amount (4)
IOTA – Remove the letters in CAP from TAPIOCA and make an anagram of the letters that remain.  The usual convention, though sometimes ignored, is that where the letters to be removed are not in the correct order, a secondary anagram indicator should be used, such as remove broken cap from…

11 Custom design arrived at (6-4)
TAILOR-MADE – A six letter word meaning design and an four letter word meaning arrived at (as in we arrived at a decision after a long discussion.

12 Spotty‘s baffled (5)
FOXED – Double definition, the first being a description of a book with spotty marks on the pages.

13 Denies listeners after those in favour of won (9)
FORSWEARS – A four letter word for the organs of hearing after a four letter word meaning those in favour of and the abbreviation for won (as in the Korean currency).

15 Can be cracked over report (4)
EGGS – A homophone (report) of over gives a clue to the solution.  A verbal or adjectival phrase to define a noun is not liked by all.  Perhaps here, you could have had “Gives encouragement over report” which improves the surface reading and cryptic reading of the clue.

17 Rum and scotch (5)
QUEER – Double definition of something strange (rum) and to stop or scotch something.

18 Lead takes time off to dance (4)
PROM – The intended wordplay was to take a six letter word meaning to lead or give someone a cue with the final two letter removed.  However, only one letter is indicated to be removed (the T – time) rather than the PT.

19 Which starters of Tottenham has Arsenal taken? (4)
THAT – The initial letters (starters) of the final four words of the clue.

20 Stella’s pickle contains jelly (5)
ASPIC – The answer is hidden (contains) in the first two words of the clue.

22 You all right in that harness? (4)
YOKE – A two letter word meaning you includes (in that) a two letter word meaning all right.

23 Iraq muses over noblemen (9)
MARQUISES – An anagram (over) of IRAQ MUSES.

25  Coals to Newcastle carries some weight (5)
STONE – The answer is hidden (carried) in the first three words of the clue.

28 Celebrity due to talent? Doesn’t look like it (10)
NOTABILITY – Split 3, 7 the answer would suggest no talent.

29 Smelly, way off and very black (4)
INKY – Remove the abbreviation for street( way off) from a six letter word meaning smelly.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as “off” for the removal of a letter.

30 Intially it’s on the screen (7)
WYSIWYG – The abbreviation for “what you see is what you get” where a computer screen reproduces what will be seen on paper instead of a coded representation of it.  Not sure that the definition is precise enough as it does not indicate the faithful reproduction.  Perhaps Initially its faithfully show on the screen.  Alway spellcheck the clues.  There is a typo in the first word.

31 Too wise, reportedly, to keep lawyer inside that man’s (7)
HEYDAYS – Two Ys (too wise reportedly) include the abbreviation for District Attorney (lawyer) with the resulting letters going into the contracted way of saying “that man is”.  Major error here that the clue does not contain a definition!


2 Stretch out and go ‘Ooh!’ pregnantly to doctor (7,3,5)
PROLONG THE AGONY – An anagram (to doctor) of GO OOH PREGNANTLY.  If you are using “to doctor”, in the cryptic reading of the clue, these words would need to go before the letter to be rearranged.

3 Article keeps one noble (5)
THANE – The definite article includes a two letter word meaning an, as in “I will have one orange”.

4 Very small point put after test (4)
MOTE – A point of the compass after the three letter word for a car test.  The definition suggests an adjective as the solution but the solution is a noun.

6 Lunatic bares bum to traffic (10)
MOONSTRUCK – A five letter word meaning bears bum to  followed by a five letter word meaning traffic.

7 China grass  – with butter, that is (5)
RAMIE – A three letter word for a male sheep (butter) followed by the abbreviation for that is.

8 Wayward Edna knuckled Roy and got put away (5,4,3,3)
UNDER LOCK AND KEY – An anagram (wayward) of EDNA KNUCKLED ROY.

9 Two ducks sitting on the French aerial (6)
DIPOLE – A three letter word meaning duck (as in move downwards to avoid) followed by the letter represented by a duck over (sitting on) the French masculine singular version of that.

14 Quint: Aye, I’m suffering sangfroid (10)
EQUANIMITY – An anagram (suffering) of QUINT AYE IM.  As others have mentioned, the Quint here is contrived.  Unlike 2d where the names in the letters to be rearranged tell part of the story, here it looks as though you ran out of useable words and had to make up a name.

16 Settled – Susan’s initial acceleration starts treadmill (3)
SAT – The first letter (initial) of Susan followed by the abbreviation for acceleration and the first letter (starts) of treadmill.  Starts treadmill does not mean the initial letter – it would have to be start of treadmill.  There is another wordplay repetition in the use of Initial / initially as an initial letter indicator.

18 Nose and winkle (3)
PRY – Double definition – the first meaning to be nosy and the second to prise something out.

21 Bird cry’s over it (6)
PEEWIT – Reverse (over) a four letter word meaning to cry and follow by the IT in the clue.

24 Question: Similar to India to some degree? (5)
QUASI – A two letter abbreviation for question followed by a two letter word meaning similar to and the letter represented by India in the Nato phonetic alphabet.

26 I’m in a type of jazz group of three (5)
TRIAD – The I from the clue inside a four letter word for a type of jazz group.  As the I is not functioning as a pronoun, critically I am in X does not work as you could not say for other letters, B am in x.  The usual way to resolve this is to say “I may / can be in”

27 It’s plucked from quarterly records (4)
LYRE – The answer is hidden (from) the final two words of the clue.

44 comments on “Rookie Corner – 314

  1. We got it all sorted and enjoyed it for the most part.
    Looks like we should have to remove platinum rather than time from lead in 18a and in 31a we can’t find any definition at all in the clue.
    Thought that 30a was a bit sneaky but on checking find that it is in BRB so will go along with that.
    Loved the long anagrams along with plenty of other ticks.
    Thanks Umber.

    1. Thanks, 2k. I could kick myself for forgetting to edit 31a. It was difficult finding a way to make the definition fit and still read well. It’s only now that ending the clue “…that man’s best times” doesn’t seem as bad as it first seemed.

  2. Thanks Umber,
    congratulations on this crossword which was fun.

    I’ll comment on two important points:
    4d the definition is adjectival but the answer is a noun. make sure your definition is the same part of speech as your answer. see also 15a
    26d A typical rookie cryptic grammar error. The “I” is a piece of fodder in the cryptic reading, not a pronoun, which makes it third person, so you cannot use first person grammar. (cryptic grammar needs to be “I is”, not “I am”). You can fix this by using a verb form that is the same for first and third person, e.g. “I can be found in a type of jazz group of three”

    well done and good luck

  3. Very enjoyable with a little bit of head scratching especially over 18a and 31a where I had the same ‘problems’ as the 2 Kiwis.
    I did like 28a and 6d and the two long anagrams.
    Thanks Umber for another very good puzzle.

  4. Pedantry apart, I loved this – what a bonus to have an extra puzzle on a grey, rainy lockdown day in Mallorca. Will we ever get home? Not sure with all that is going on in the UK that we really want to yet. No flights anyway so keep the puzzles coming please!

  5. Thanks, Umber.
    I thought that this was a bit of a mixed bag. I had the same misgivings as others about 18a and 31a and agree with dutch about 4d. I also think that the definition of 15a is an adjectival phrase whereas the answer is a noun.
    The clues I liked best were the 8d anagram, 17a and 9d.

  6. Good to see you back Umber. I enjoyed most of this with only few scribbles in my margins. Some of your surfaces don’t make a great deal of sense and this is the main area that needs attention.

    1a – Perhaps I am missing something. Although “one” can equate to “I”, is it ever used to equate to “me”?
    10a – I think you need an anagram indicator to specify that the letters of “cap”to be removed are in a different order.
    11a – If I am parsing it correctly, I can’t quite get from “arrived at” to “made”. For example, you would need to replace “arrived at” by “made it to” in, say, “I arrived at the station”.
    12a – How does “spotty” relate to the answer? This was my last one in and made more difficult by being a five letter answer with only two checked letters both of which were vowels.
    18a – This doesn’t work. “Lead takes part time off to dance” would be better.
    31a – As previously mentioned by others, there is no definition.
    14d – This is your most bizarre surface; “quint” is either an organ stop or a sequence of five cards in piquet!

    Well done and thank you, Umber. Please keep them coming.

    P.S. I see you have given the name of this slot a makeover as “Rooki Corner” in the PDF version of your puzzle! :wink:

    1. Hi RD,

      “Quint” was also the name of the shark-hunting captain in Jaws, perhaps that was Umber’s intention? Still not a great surface though!

      1. Spotty relates to the foxing on paper. A bit of a stretch I suppose. I found compiling this quite hard work as I have been concentrating on my painting and suppose I’ve been using a different part of my creative mind. I’m working on architectural line and wash so maybe that’s more suited.

        I had the puzzle mostly finished at least two months ago, struggled with a couple of iffy clues and sent it in too soon, three weeks ago. Or so I thought! I changed one clue and send it last week.

      2. Yes, I used Quint because of Jaws – one of the very few books I’ve read twice. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched the film. In terms of favourite character performances, Robert Shaw’s Quint is equalled only by Jack Nicholson in ‘As Good as it Gets’ and Alan Rickman on ‘Galaxy Quest’

      1. The BRB has one of the meanings of make as ‘to reach’, e.g. We made the station just before the train was due to leave.

        1. Thanks, Gazza. I did think along those lines but I ruled that out as phraseology which I would never use. I would always say “made it to” the station, as per my comment.

          I guess a firm of builders could say, “we made the station just before the train was due to arrive”. :wink:

    2. Hi RD,
      I think 12a refers to paper, old books, prints and the like which have acquired brown spots.

    3. Spotty relates to the foxing on paper. A bit of a stretch I suppose. I found compiling this quite hard word as I have been concentrating on my painting and suppose I’ve been using a different part of my creative mind. I’m working on architectural line and wash so maybe that’s more suited.

      I had the puzzle mostly finished at least two months ago, struggled with a couple of iffy clues and sent it in too soon, three weeks ago. Or so I thought! I changed one clue and send it last week.

  7. Hi Umber,
    I thought a lot of this was very good; in particular the top left which all went in first and set a good tone. But then it went off the rails a bit; it was like you’d run out of steam about half way through and just didn’t give some clues much attention.

  8. Hi Umber,
    Perhaps I was expecting too much after the improvement shown in your last puzzle but I felt this one represented something of a retrograde step and was left disappointed as a result. I’d be interested to know whether you had the same test solver in your corner this time?
    The most obvious errors have already been pointed out by others but I’d also ask you to give more thought to surface reads next time.
    17a was probably my favourite – sounds like a lethal combination!

    1. You’re right, Jane, it was a backward step. I didn’t give enough forward thought to the potential clues as I filled the grid. I wanted to use the two long anagrams that I wrote years ago and I think the rest of the words suffered because of it. I should always start from scratch and write the clues in one or two sittings. It’s not as if I don’t have the time. I won’t submit another puzzle unless it’s at least as good as the one I submitted before this one.

  9. Welcome back Umber – mostly enjoyable, but again there are some basics that you have overlooked, perhaps in eagerness?

    Try to read your surfaces *not* as clues and see what they actually convey, ie the mental picture or scenario they describe and don’t be shy of ditching ideas – that also helps with grammar issues (eg 26d as per Dutch)
    Thanks for the mention (!?), but random names always stick out like a sore thumb to me – who are they? Maybe that’s just me, I prefer to stick to simple normal words and concentrate on a plausible surface

    A fair effort but I’m not convinced this was a huge improvement on your last
    Many thanks for the entertainment and I look forward to your having another go

    1. This is a good point about names in anagram fodder. It’s not “wrong”, but (1) it makes the anagram fodder stand out instead of hiding it in the surface (2) it looks like not as much effort has been put into the anagram fodder.
      For example “Obnoxiously loud redneck Yank gets put away (5,4,3,3)” maybe avoids that. (gets here is a link, should be present tense, “put away” works fine as def)
      Do people know about Anagram Artist? It’s free.

      1. That is a great example Dutch, it deals with the surface story too
        No, I hadn’t come across Anagram Artist – needless to say I have now! Cheers

  10. Welcome back, Umber.

    I must agree with Jane and LbR that this didn’t represent an improvement on your last appearance, and for a fourth Rookie puzzle I was disappointed not to see a more polished product. Could this one have been compiled before your last one, I wonder? In addition to the niggles already mentioned, “off” was repeated as a deletion indicator and “initial/initially” appeared twice too.

    As RD and Jane have said, quite a few of the surfaces required sanding down and being re-varnished rather than just receiving a waft of the Mr Sheen. 5a is a case in point – technically it works, all the constituent parts are there, but collectively it doesn’t read very well. For those situations, I’d recommend scrapping the clue and starting again, however much one might be attached to it. My ticks went to 6d (initially I was misled into trying to make an anagram out of “bares bum to”, with “lunatic” as the anagram indicator!) and 17a.

    Thanks, Umber, I do hope your next puzzle will be more like your third one.

  11. Hello Umber, my comments before reading others’.
    Liked 10,17,28,6,9,18d,27.
    30 got it eventually, but unfair imo.
    1 ‘one’ for ‘me’ is not really used outside satire.
    11 ‘tailor’ in the answer and ‘design’ are the same word really.
    21 ‘to cry’ would be better imo, though changing the surface sense.
    26 ‘One’s in…’ for grammar.
    I suspect when I look at previous comments I am going to get confirmation that there’s an editing error in 31 and a spelling mistake in 18ac.
    Not as much fun as your previous – I lost faith enough to use Check – but thanks for the effort.

  12. Concerning 18a I’m not sure what the problem is. If you take T off the word meaning ‘to lead’ it gives the name of a dance/ball. I know it’s an American thing but it’s quite usual in the UK now too.

    1. I think the issue is that to get from prompt to prom you’d need to remove ‘pt’ (physical training, Port, platinum, part, pint, point) not just T

  13. Thanks for the review, Prolixic. Apart from feeling a complete pillock for not noticing the typo and the spelling mistake, I was wondering when someone was going to call the doctor out in 2d because I knew from the start it was probably at the wrong end of the anagram. Over the very long time it took me to eventually finish writing the clues there were times when I fell out of love with compiling, such was the mental strain. I tried removing some of the words I was struggling to clue but I’d already painted myself into a corner. The fact that those words are the ones most picked up on tells me that I should have started afresh with an empty grid.

    There were, however, times when I was really enjoying myself and I hope my next offering shows that it was compiled with a smile on my face.

  14. Thanks to Prolixic for the review.
    On the point about ‘[anagram fodder] to doctor’ I must disagree. Putting an infinitive after the verb’s object is a common and natural usage. A ball to kick = a ball for kicking or a ball to be kicked. Here we have ‘gooohpregnantly’ to be doctored.

    1. You have made the point correctly in your last sentence, Mucky, but drawn the wrong conclusion. The passive voice “… to be doctored” is fine coming after the fodder but the active voice “to doctor” needs to be before the fodder. Unless you are American, of course. Our US friends don’t appear to recognise the passive form, e.g. “your goods will ship next week” instead of “will be shipped next week”! :wink:

      1. I wasn’t trying to draw any conclusion, just to illustrate by an example how I understand the words used.
        I think the comparison I have made with ‘a ball to kick’ is a direct one. If you think there is a difference in how the words are used in the two cases perhaps you’d explain it to me. For your point to be right, I think you must deny any one of three things about ‘a ball to kick’: 1) that it is good English, or 2) that ‘to kick’ comes after ‘ball’ or 3) that the kicking is done to the ball.

        1. I think that the difference is between transitive and intransitive verbs. To doctor something (as in to meddle with) is a transitive verb that takes an object after the verb. To doctor can be an intransitive verb as in to practice medicine but it then loses the element of rearrangement that is necessary to indicate the anagram.

          1. Yes, but that is why I chose an example that used a transitive verb. ‘X to Y’, where X is the object and Y is a transitive verb is a standard construction that means X is to have Y done to it. Is there not a bit of confusion here with the case in which doctor is put after the fodder but without the ‘to’? For example, I’d agree that ‘Bad doctor Pat’ is a bad clue for ‘dab’ but would say ‘Pat bad to doctor’, meaning bad is to be doctored, is OK.

            1. I think the objection is that the active infinitive after its object doesn’t read either as a description of a result or as an instruction.
              ‘Ball to kick’ is neither ‘ball [having been] kicked’ nor ‘kick ball’.
              Whereas the passive infinitive does read like an instruction: ‘300ml of milk [is] to be added to the flour and sugar’.
              But I’ve probably tried to get away with it myself somewhere … and we all have too much time on our hands ;)

              1. That may be a fair objection, but it is not the objection as stated, which says that the clue would be ok if ‘to doctor’ came before the letters. ‘To kick ball’ is also neither ‘ball having been kicked’ nor ‘kick ball’. In fact I’d say putting the infinitive after the object suggests something needing to be done better than putting it before.
                ‘Letters to edit’ means ‘letters that need to be edited’.
                Out of:
                ‘Board’s supporter to edit letters’ or
                ‘Letters to edit, one supporting the board’
                I’d prefer the latter

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Such a pity that Umber didn’t check for silly mistakes such as missing out the definition in 31a and not checking his spelling of ‘prompt’. I hope the frustration he is undoubtedly feeling leads him to be rather more careful over his next puzzle!

  16. Some excellent clueing but alas! marred by the errors which Prolixic and others have pointed out.

    One which jarred is 21d which contains a ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’. Whilst this is becoming acceptable in general writing, I’m afraid it simply will not do in a cryptic clue. Grammar and spelling have to be accurate, otherwise solvers will complain! Gonzo’s suggestion above: “to cry” instead of “cry’s” is a possible way around it.

    When I got to 31a with its missing definition, it was disappointing, because it’s perfectly obvious that you meant to add another word or words after “man’s” (“prosperity”? “full bloom”?) but it somehow got lost in the transcription. More unlucky than careless, I reckon.

    But there’s plenty to like here. My favourite, perhaps, is 9d. I got the last three letters almost at once, but I struggled for ages over the first “duck”. And there I go thinking I remember my physics!

    Like me, you need to watch over your surfaces. Some of them don’t seem to have much meaning. I’ve been taken to task for that, too.

    But keep ’em coming!

    1. To be fair to Umber, I don’t think 21d is a grocer’s apostrophe, just a clunky surface( ‘cry is’).
      [btw I think I have the theme from last week’s Hodd, q.v.]

      1. Yes that thought did occur to me – if that was what you meant, sorry Umber! But I’m doubtful, it would make for a horribly clunky surface.

        Re Hodd’s theme, yes I just looked up your post: I would never have guessed it – despite being a fan of obscure themes (when I’m the setter, that is :-) ! ). I dimly recall basing a theme on Struwwelpeter – can’t recall whether I sent it to BD or not. That would have foxed most people. I’ve got a ghost in my next submission which may be a little easier – or maybe not! Hard to tell.

        1. It was what I meant, yes. I’m going to forget I ever compiled that puzzle, but not the lessons learned.

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