Rookie Corner – 316 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 316

A Puzzle by Modica

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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 Modica.  It is encouraging that most of the comments on this crossword were concentrating on the minutiae of the clues rather than obvious errors.  It is a sign that there is a good grounding in the construction of the clues and it is achieving the final polish that is required.   The commentometer reads as 3.5/32 or 10.9%.


1 Ban on leaving boomerang flying around (7)
EMBARGO – An anagram (flying around) of BOOMERANG after removing (leaving) the ON.

5 Penniless Bob Dylan performance for ancient city (7)
BABYLON – An anagram (performance) of BOB DYLAN after removing the D (penniless).  A minor point but some editors will not allow a noun (such as performance) as an anagram indicator.  Here, this could be overcome by using performing.  Performing in or performing for both work though performing in reads more naturally.

9 What ‘D’ does at public event (4,3)
OPEN DAY – The solution could be read as a cryptic clue to the letter D.  Marginal given the discussion but I think that what D does it to open / start / begin the second word of the clue.  Used in a clue, though, some editors would not allow the solution on its own as a cryptic letter indicator.  I agree that the clue could be improved by using Dee rather than ‘D’.

10 At first a new acting engagement made Idris completely washed out (7)
ANAEMIC – The initial letters (at first) of the third to ninth words of the clue.  Initial letter clues work best where there are no single letter words.  It is not wrong to have at first a… but replacing it with “another” would be better.

11 Head off alone with no approval for cosy corner (9)
INGLENOOK – Remove the first letter (head off) a seven letter word meaning alone and follow with the NO from the clue and a two letter word meaning an approval.

12 Geisha keeps swallowing milky drink (5)
SHAKE – The answer is hidden in (swallowing) in the first two words of the clue.

13 Unhinged like a group of teachers? (5)
NUTTY – The solution, fancifully, could mean being a member of the National Union of Teachers.

15 Retired educator found hanging around galleries (3,6)
OLD MASTER – This type of art work seen in art galleries would be a description of a retired teacher.

17 He goes before Belgian town to produce conjuror’s command (3,6)
HEY PRESTO – The he from the clue followed by a five-letter name of a Belgian town and the TO from the clue.  The cryptic reading has wordplay produce definition which does not work without the “to” doing double duty as part of the wordplay and part of the link between the wordplay and the definition.

19 Massage one can’t do without, so to speak (5)
KNEAD – A homophone (so to speak) of NEED (one can’t do without).  I don’t think that ‘what one can’t do without” leads to need.

22 Prussian navy music (5)
BLUES – In the plural the colour of which Prussian and navy are examples.

23 Excessively fraudulent we hear. It hurts. (9)
TOOTHACHE – An appalling homophone of TOO FAKE.  This really needs an indicator that it relies on a regional pronunciation.

25 Could a no good fish describe this pastime? (7)
ANGLING – The A from the clue followed by the abbreviation for no good and a four-letter word for a fish.

26 Payment taking week is difficult to deal with (7)
AWKWARD – A five-letter word for a payment includes (taking) the abbreviation for week.

27 Hefty holy man is the greatest (7)
LARGEST – A five-letter word meaning hefty followed by the abbreviation for saint (holy man).

28 Reportedly disturbed daughter seated on high chair (7)
THRONED – A homophone (reportedly) of thrown (disturbed) followed by the abbreviation for daughter.


1 First erotic proposal creates feeling (7)
EMOTION – The first letter of erotic followed by a six-letter word for a proposal.  Some editors will not allow first X to indicate the first letter of X. 

2 Unwanted hangover after too much ale? (4,3)
BEER GUT – Cryptic definition of the excess weight put on if you drink too much ale.

3 Start off crossing narrow crest (5)
RIDGE – Remove the first letter (start off) a six-letter word for a crossing.

4 Clearly confused and randomly ordered figures of speech (9)
OXYMORONS – “Clearly confused” and “randomly ordered” are definitions by example of the solution.

5 Empty space left in reserve (5)
BLANK – The abbreviation for left in a four-letter word meaning reserve.

6 Runners’ chat helps Jack ascend (9)
BEANSTALK – The type of vegetable of which runners are an example followed by a four-letter word meaning to chat.  Not everyone likes verbal definitions of a noun but the reason is that the verbal definition needs to point clearly to the noun that it is defining.  Here, I think it does.

7 Postgraduate entering after all the others gets severe reprimand (7)
LAMBAST – A three-letter abbreviation for a post-graduate degree inside (entering) a four-letter word means after all the others.  The solution here is a verb but has been clued as a noun.  Perhaps “… to give a severe reprimand”

8 Power source transparent after UN reversal (7)
NUCLEAR – Reverse the UN and follow (after) with a five-letter word meaning transparent.  The definition is a noun but the solution is used as an adjective to describe the power source.

14 Risky hero runs around county (9)
YORKSHIRE – An anagram (runs around) of RISKY HERO.

16 Do not dare change. No sweat! (9)
DEODORANT – An anagram (change) of DO NOT DARE.  I think that this might have been better in terms of the definition if it was “Do not dare to change toiletry item”

17 Unfashionable but not unsafe arrangement used to reinforce footwear (7)
HOBNAIL – An anagram (used) of UNFASHIONABLE after removing the letters in UNSAFE.  Correctly, there is an secondary anagram indicator for (arrangement) for unsafe as the letters are removed in a different order.

18 We all were yesterday! (7)
YOUNGER – Cryptic definition as we all are older today.  Perhaps “What we all were yesterday” would work better.

20 Hold fast in French mountain range (7)
ENCHAIN – The two-letter French word for in followed by a five-letter word for a mountain range.

21 Feared a Rastafarian perhaps (7)
DREADED – A way, perhaps, of saying that someone has dreadlocks as a Rastafarian might.

23 Penny-pinching drunk (5)
TIGHT – Double definition.

24 Walker says hello to king and queen (5)
HIKER – A two letter word meaning hello followed by a single letter abbreviation for king and the two letter abbreviation for the current queen.  The says is padding here and could be omitted by using “Walker’s hello to king and queen”

33 comments on “Rookie Corner – 316

  1. Apart from a bit of a Hmm about 23a we were very impressed with the consistent quality of the clues here. A lot of thought and and careful crafting has gone into putting these clues together and it really shows. 17a was the one that stood out as favourite for us.
    Thanks Modica. Well done.

  2. Well done Modica, I thought this was really quite good. I particularly liked the prussian navy music. Also 4d made me smile.

    I can give a few comments, in the hope they are of use to you.

    17a is a great clue with the wonderful Belgian town, but unfortunately grammatically it would need to be ‘wordplay produces definition’, not ‘wordplay produce definition”.
    17d is also a really good clue, very smooth which is hard to do with these, though I think it works better without ‘used’ – maybe some think ‘wordplay used definition’ is ok but it seems the wrong way round, and I dislike the past tense. You don’t need the link. The answer is a verb, of course, hence the definition works beautifully as “to reinforce footwear”.

    Interestingly, the definition/answer part of speech mismatch works fine in 15a, 6d, because here you use the wordplay as kind of a surrogate subject for the verbal definition, making the whole thing appear nounal to match the answer – still, not everyone likes this. “runners’ chat that helps Jack ascend” would get around that. but 8d I’m not so sure about. 21d I’m not sure either, unless he’s called Ed or there’s a more complicated homophone. Also not quite sure about the accuracy of the definition in 16d, even with the exclamation mark, albeit the right part of speech.

    Subtle perhaps, but in 9a I think “in” works much better cryptically than “at”, which seems to satisfy only the surface. Right?

    Hopefully that is interesting and will help you.

    good luck, and enjoy all the feedback

  3. Very enjoyable and just right for the third puzzle of my Sunday evening (not counting two Quicks).
    No Hmm for me on 23a – but I did have to say the answer a few times to get the homophone correctly.
    I did like 11a, 19a, and 2d.
    Thanks Modica and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  4. I enjoyed your last Rookie puzzle very much, Modica, and I was very pleased to see that this one was another step up from there. Accurate cluing with generally very smooth surfaces all make for great enjoyment.

    My comments on this one are very much points of detail:

    5a – “in” rather than “for” would improve the surface.
    10a – it’s a moot point but “at first” followed by a single letter, A in this case, is better avoided. This could have been achieved by replacing “a” by “another”.
    23a – this is a fun clue but simply doesn’t work as a homophone without qualification. You could perhaps change it to “Excessively fraudulent – Cockney says it hurts”.
    27a – is a bit “same-sidey”.
    16d – strictly speaking the definition leads to “antiperspirant”, but many people do use that and the answer interchangeably (including the BRB!)
    21d – I’m not sure this quite works.

    I had lots of ticks on my page and will give special mentions to 2d, 4d, 6d, 17d, 23d & 24d.

    Very well done and thank you, Modica. I am looking forward very much to your next one and imagine promotion can’t be far away.

    P.S. 22a reminded me, we haven’t seen a puzzle from young Navy for quite a while. Hopefully she is busy preparing one/several during lockdown?

  5. Good fun – thanks Modica.
    I’m very firmly in the “does not work” camp for 23a. As RD says qualifying it with ‘Cockney’ or similar would improve it.
    I ticked 11a, 2d and 23d but my favourite was the excellent 4d.
    More like this would be very welcome.

  6. Very enjoyable thank you Modica – nice and straightforward, I hadn’t even finished my Shredded Wheat when I wrote the last one in.

    I’m not going to do Prolixic’s job for him so I’ll just say – nice mix of clues, my favourite was 22a and although I’ve never hmmd at a crossword clue in my life and don’t intend to start now, for me 23a doesn’t work

    Thanks to Modica and in advance to Prolixic

  7. Thanks Modica
    Very solvable, plenty of nice clues; I liked the Prussian navy and the boomerang ones best.
    My impression while solving was that while most of the clues were concise and accurate, there were still quite a lot which seemed just a little off. Going back through them I think the most common issue was with parts of speech; i.e. the part of speech in the clue didn’t always match that in the solution. I’ve noted that against 6, 7, 8 (maybe), 16, 17, 19, 21 and 24.
    I didn’t enjoy 18d; as a sentence it doesn’t obviously make sense (though I can imagine it as a remark in a conversation) but it also has no meaning that distracts from the answer – there’s no picture.

    1. yes agree, 18d seemed worrying but hard to put a finger on the exact issue. I think it includes part of speech (“as we all were yesterday” would address that) and perhaps also, i’m not sure just how cryptic it is – no clear pun, though i realise we could have been anything else yesterday and that yesterday is kind of the key word which needs looking at more carefully

  8. Welcome back, Modica.

    Enjoyable as the puzzle was to solve, I was surprised to find possibly more niggles in it than your last one. My printed page has “DQW” (doesn’t quite work) written against several clues, where the ideas are good, but the constructions are slightly lacking. The surfaces were very smooth on the whole.

    In addition to previous comments, I noticed “first” repeated as an initial letter indicator, and “off” was duplicated as a deletion device. To me, 9a clues “OPENS DAY” not the solution, and “says” in 24d is padding for the surface. I felt your best clues were 2d and 4d.

    I think you (or maybe your test solver(s)?) need to be a little more critical when going through the suggested final clues, as this puzzle seems to be a prime example of one that could have been considerably better with just a few tweaks and refinements. It was once again very promising though.

    Many thanks, Modica.

    1. yes you’re right, 9a could become “What does Dee do in public event”, which is cute as it begins to sound like a song. I like Dee as a girl’s name and it’s the spelling of the letter (in chambers).

      1. Hi Dutch,

        I think the grammatical answer to your change would still be OPENS DAY, no? Perhaps “What Dee will do in public event?” would nail it.

        1. Open day seemed ok to me. It’s not an uncommon device, but quite often raises the same question. I don’t see that there’s a natural rule that requires us to choose ‘D opens day’ over ‘what D does is open day’. Sometimes clues will use the past tense, eg. what D did, in which case the answer would usually be ‘opened day’ (given a context in which the past tense made sense), but I think ‘open day’ is an acceptable or even preferable solution in that case too.

          1. Interesting.
            What the postman does – deliver letters.
            What the postman does – delivers letter.

  9. Nice to see you back with another puzzle, Modica. Whilst there were certainly a few niggles which have already been mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed solving this and that counts for a great deal in my book. It’s all too easy for setters to lose track of the fact that their audience wants to be entertained.
    Thank you, Modica – hope we see plenty more from you.

  10. I thought this was fairly sound bar a few loose ends which really should have been spotted before final draft
    Switching a few synonyms might have added interest or improved the cryptic reading in places
    Entertaining though, so thanks for that and I look forward to your next
    Thanks also in advance to Prolixic

  11. Very good work Modica.

    As soon as I wrote in 23a I guessed it’d get some stick – and I wasn’t wrong! But – my own penchant for RP notwithstanding – I wonder if this is admissible, seeing as ‘Estuary English’ is becoming the norm now? I’ve long noticed that in homophones you need to allow some licence.

    I’m completely lost on 4d, can’t see any wordplay. I’ll have to wait for Prolixic I reckon.

    Surfaces are always a bugbear, and don’t I know it! A few in your puzzle could do with tweaking a bit. For example, in 25a, “A no good fish…” is a bit clumsy. How about, “A fish, no good to eat, result of this pastime”? Does that work?

    In 27a perhaps you want to watch words in your wordplay which are too obvious, meaning almost the same as the whole word.

    What do I really like? I think 28a is very good. This is an example of a homophone that really does work, and won’t upset anyone (I hope)!

  12. An enjoyable puzzle with some quite clever clues. As others have said, 23a did not quite work for me, either but I am not qualified enough to suggest improvements. Same goes for 21d.

    My favourite is 11a.

    Thank you for the challenge, Modica.

  13. Thanks Modica, enjoyed this, some lovely surfaces too. Comments before reading others:
    Ticks against 1ac,10,12,28,2,7,23d.
    23ac I cannot parse – is there some dialect word meaning ‘fraudulent’? There’s an anagram of ‘cheat’ in there…
    4,22 This device is only fair imo if the examples are indicated as such – ‘A and/or B, perhaps…’. ‘Clearly confused’ is not actually an o___
    9 I think you could fairly have used ‘What daughter does…’.
    26 Not a fan of ‘taking’ in this context.
    Shame about the same device being used in the first two clues.

    Thanks for the entertainment, I look forward to your next.

    1. 23a….too fake. Not the best homophone without some kind of indication of the region where it might work.

      1. Ah yes, ‘some might say’ is the usual formula, especially where the rhotic pronunciation is very different.

  14. I liked this puzzle a lot. 11a and 22a in particular, but lots of other good stuff too. I am fairly confident I have seen 2d clued very similarly before but we are allowed a few oldies but goodies I hope. I will pass over the 23a issue as I got the right answer with only a little hmm. Interested to see the review as it will help me with my next rookie too.
    Thanks to you Modica and Prolixic in advance.

  15. This was probably the most accessible Rookie crossword I’ve done, and all the better for it. In the main the clues were concise with smooth surfaces, and with the cryptic clues not requiring great leaps of faith.
    Standout clue for me was 17a but I liked lots of others too.
    Thanks Modica and in advance to Prolixic .

  16. I enjoyed this Modica. I agree with Jane at 9# above. I certainly found this puzzle entertaining. I particularly liked 4d and 17a, as well as a number of others including 5a, 10a, 11a, 15a, 22a, 17d and 23d. Looking at this selection, I did notice that there were several clues that required the removal of one or more letters…
    Well done, Modica and I hope you will be back soon. I look forward very much to Prolixic’s review, for which appreciative thanks in advance.

  17. Many thanks for all your comments and, of course, to Prolixic for the review. I am pleased that people seemed to enjoy the crossword and that it was accessible. This is what I set out to do. As ever, all the feedback is very helpful and I will take it on board. The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing and, after reading the feedback, I am a bit cross with myself for not making some changes here and there. What Dee does would certainly have improved 9 across for example.

    As for the ‘appalling’ homophone at 23 across perhaps the less said the better! Earlier versions of the clue did acknowledge that it was a bit rubbish but I left this out to make the clue a bit snappier. You live and learn!

    I have no test solver so the first indication of whether a clue works for others or not (and whether I have made the right decisions) is when the puzzle is published here. If anyone wants to volunteer I would be delighted.

    Thanks again to all. It really is appreciated. Off into the garden now to tackle today’s backpager.

    Stay safe and well.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As usual, there were a couple of errors I’d overlooked – hopefully, I’m still learning from your sage advice!
    Well done, Modica, nothing in the review that you can’t easily deal with but maybe exercise a little more caution when it comes to homophones?!!

  19. I just wanted to add that I found this a hugely enjoyable puzzle, and thank you very much, Modica.

  20. Thanks so much – really brightened my day. An easy canter, I didn’t even mind the homophone in 23a as it is certainly true that ‘fings ain’t what they used to be!

  21. Very late to the party – printed it out on Monday but didn’t pick it up till today. But in the unlikely event of anyone reading this now can I just add that I enjoyed this. Favourite was 22ac – brilliant!

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