Rookie Corner – 321 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 321

A Puzzle by Jabberwock

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Jabberwock joins Rookie Corner 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.

Congratulations to a graduate from Rookie Corner who makes his debut in today’s Indy!

A review by Prolixic follows.

An impressive though tough debut from Jabberwock.  Some of the clues were very good and showed some ingenious ideas.  There were some shortcomings, many of which have been identified in the comments.  The commentometer reads as 6.5 / 32 or 20.3%


1 Matt finish? (6,3)
POLISH OFF – An elliptical definition where if something has a matt finish, it had its lustre removed and the whole clue also means finish.

6 Better dressed than in your pants (5)
CRABS – Type of seafood that might be presented in this way which is better than having public lice in your pants.  This is one of many clues where the link between the wordplay and the intended solution is perhaps a little too tenuous.  

9 Poorly trimmed mullet, say? In rather bad taste (7)
SICKISH – A four letter word meaning poorly followed by the animal of which mullet is an example without the first letters (trimmed).

10 Sprinter on drugs? (7)
CHEETAH – A homophone of cheater (on drugs).  This clue lacks a homophone indicator.  “Sprinter on drugs, we hear” would solve this.

11 Back two, as a mathematician might say (4,3)
ROOT FOR – The way that a mathematician might say that 2 is the square root of four.

12 Late adopter‘s nuts working? Not applicable (7)
MADONNA – A three letter meaning nuts followed by a two letter word meaning working and the abbreviation for not applicable.  Another clue where the definition, whilst technically accurate, gives the solver very little information about the solution.  However, the wordplay is clear here so it is not impossible to solve.

13 Abracadabra? Abra Cadabra?? Abra Kadabra??? (9)
SPELLINGS – Magic incantations with different ways of writing out the letters!

15 In time, Royalists backed scope of authority (5)
REMIT – The answer is hidden and reverse (backed) in the second and third words of the clue.

16 Soup containing what dangles from its end (5)
RAMEN – Look at the answer dangling from the end of this solution – the answer is a type of soup made from this.

19 In compliant mode after initial post-menopausal change? Big time! (9)
MASSIVELY – A nine letter word meaning in compliant mode with the initial P changed to and M (initial post-menopausal change).  Not sure that “initial post-menopausal change” means swap the P for an M.

22 Chooses not to put so cryptically (4,3)
OPTS OUT – An anagram (cryptically) of TO PUT SO.  

23 Most satisfactory interpretation of map in case (7)
AMPLEST – An anagram (interpretation) of MAP followed by a four letter word meaning in case.

25 Pestered husky driver, perhaps (7)
HASSLED – Split 3,4 this would describe the possession of a husky driver.  Husky driver on its own does not lead to the solution.  Perhaps “‘Pestered’ – a description of husky driver?’

26 Vaguely like paella stirred too carelessly. But less paprika? (7)
RISOTTO – An anagram (carelessly) of stirred too after removing the RED (less paprika).

27 After 12,  starting to “endearingly” emulate naff singers (5)
TEENS – The initial letters (starting) of the final five words of the clue.

28 Starship discovered when used to broadcast extra-orbitally (6,3)
SUSSED OUT – The prefix for a starship in Star Trek with an anagram (broadcast) of USED TO around it (extra-orbitally).  The convention is that the definition must come at the start or end of the clue..


1 Vain riddler? (5)
POSER – Double definition of someone who puts on a act and someone who sets riddles.

2 Performance in ditch not tolerated by some (7)
LACTOSE – A three letter word meaning performance inside a four letter word meaning to ditch.

3 Eventually drunk in wicked excess of booze (7)
SKINFUL – The last letter (eventually) of drunk in a six letter word meaning excess.

4 Remaining calmer after sobbing starts (5)
OTHER – A seven letter word for a baby’s calmer without the initial SO (sobbing starts).  Starts to indicate an indeterminate number of letters to be removed should be avoided.

5 They may protect us from dubious scams involving fake bananas (4,5)
FACE MASKS An anagram (dubious) of SCAMS and an anagram (bananas) of FAKE.  The cryptic instructions here do not work.  An anagram of A involving an anagram of B means put an anagram of B inside an anagram of A.

6 Dad unwisely invested in expensive foreign food (7)
CHEDDAR. -An anagram (unwisely) of DAD in the French word (foreign) for expensive.

7 In enemy not named we find friend, perhaps? (7)
ANTONYM – The answer is hidden and reversed in the third to fifth words of the clue.  The clue lacks a reversal indicator to show that the answer is reversed in the words of the clue.  I am not sure that the definition works here as you have to juxtapose the enemy at the start of the clue with the friend at the end.  Perhaps In revolutionary enemy not named we find friend to foe?

8 Schmoozy topless dance: yukky start, but not gooey, syrupy (9)
SCHMALTZY – Remove a four letter word meaning gooey from the first word of the clue, follow with the name of a dance danced in 3/4 time and the first letter (start) of yukky.  A small point, the spelling should be yucky.  Try to avoid using repeated wordplay indicators such as start / starting for initial letter indicators.

13 Sexy (ish) arrangement of photo crop (4,2,3)
SORT OF HOT – A four letter word meaning arrangement followed by the OF from the clue and the inner letters (crop) of photo.

14 Funny name, sounds like creep’s crawlers (9)
NEMATODES – An anagram (funny) of NAME followed by a homophone of TOAD (creep).

17 Paper-cutter‘s maîtresse snipping about it the wrong way (7)
MATISSE – Remove (snipping) the two letter word meaning about from maitresse and reverse (the wrong way) the it in the clue.  Another clue where the definition is perhaps too vague to be fair as you need to know that the artist was, as well as a painter, also known for collages and that to make collages you need to cut paper.

18 Loosely improvises new lots (7)
NOODLES – The abbreviation for new followed by a six letter word for lots.

20 Goblin behind gnome’s back, neither can advance (7)
IMPASSE – A thee letter word for a goblin followed by a three letter word for behind and the final letter (back) of gnome.

21 Audibly chews, or conversely hip-hop (7)
ELECTRO – A synonym for a homophone (audibly) of chews rolled by a reversal (conversely) of the OR from the clue.

23 They’re so far out and naturally kinky (5)
AFROS – Cryptic definition of a voluminous tightly curled hairstyle.

24 Caught tickling her bottom in time out (5)
TROUT – The last letter (bottom) of her inside the abbreviation for time and the out from the clue.  Perhaps They’re caught by tickling their bottom in time out would be better.

27 comments on “Rookie Corner – 321

  1. Hi Jabberwock

    Congratulations!! for a debut puzzle this is really impressive. There are some *very* inventive clues, though they are ambitious and hence i’m not sure they always do exactly what it says on the tin, or rather, precisely say on the tin what they do (initial post-menopausal in 19a, 25a (the answer doesn’t = husky driver), 17d would appear to clue maitsseti, 3d nice clue, eventually is not the same as ‘at last’, etc)

    I loved “Late adopter”, and a BIG penny drop when i finally understood the soup! I liked the topical 5d.

    I got off to a bad start by bunging in a whimsical MISSPELLS for 13a. A nice quirky clue, though it seems to me we have some incorrect spellings of a spell, so i didn’t think that was quite nailed definition-wise.

    I actually found the puzzle quite hard, especially finding the definitions. You have several clues where the answer is a noun, but the definition is not (e.g. 6a, 2d, 20d, 24d) – interestingly you do this correctly in 23d by using THEY’RE which makes the definition nounal, and that is how you could fix the others. The conventional way of writing 23d would be “they’re naturally kinky and so far out”, then you don’t split the definition – but actually i think it works the way you have it, though generally you wouldn’t want to split your def – which is usually the first or last bit of the clue. So in 28a, you’d want to swap the first two words so you start with the definition.

    Very enjoyable! Thanks for sharing. I imagine you have been clueing for some time. I hope you enjoy all your feedback and I look forward to your next puzzle

  2. Hello Jabberwock!

    This was fun and tough in (quite a few) places! I marked 24, 6, 5, 18, 4, 3 Down clues plus 11 Across as my favourites. And 16d as very inventive! A very good first publication.

    I think many of my comments have been already covered by Dutch, so I won’t repeat them.

    I always create a list of brief notes per clue whilst I solve, which are too detailed &/or spoiler-ish to include here. If you’d like them then I’ve no problem with you asking BD to put us in email contact. I won’t be offended if not, though! You’ll find Prolixic’s feedback tomorrow invaluable, I suspect. I know many of us did when we first started out (and still do) :-)

    I’ll look out for your next puzzle!


    1. HI again Encota – Don’t want to pester Big Dave with request to share email, I’m guy blue norman blue mail red gmial blue com, where blue is full stop, red is at symbol, and correcting the obvious typo in gmial (sorry for the tedious coding, evidently want to avoid junk mail). I’d really appreciate seeing your notes, though please don’t spend time tidying them up or anything. Thank you!

  3. I knew what to expect when I noted that there hadn’t been any comments from our overseas correspondents, and so wasn’t surprised to find this really difficult.

    In the time it has taken me to eat a bowl of muesli, wait for my tea to cool down and drink it, I’ve solved 12 clues, all of which work for me. Of those, I particularly liked 26a and 27a. I may return to it later and have another go, but as I have a lot to do in the garden on this lovely day, I’d say probably not

    Thanks to you and, in advance, to Prolixic

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Jabberwock. You have a lot of promising ideas, but I didn’t find this puzzle very accessible. Parts of it were very tough indeed and I needed a few reveals to complete it.

    Overall I found there to be some good clues but an equal number with scribbled notes and question marks by them. I felt your simpler clues worked better than the more tortuous ones.

    For the future, please take careful note of Prolixic’s comments tomorrow, and, if you haven’t already done so, I suggest you get yourself a test solver.

    Thanks Jabberwock, and in advance to Prolixic.

  5. Thank you so much to Dutch, Encota, Sue and Dave for comments and analysis. I’m sorry the puzzle was tough, tough is not good.

    I realise many of my clues didn’t follow the standard rules (e.g. definition must be at beginning or end of clue, definition of a noun must be fully nounal not just implied nounal, etc etc etc). Apologies!

    Next time (if I get a next time) I will try to create a puzzle which adheres much more closely to the standard rules, and which is more solver-friendly.

    Thank you again, and looking forward to Prolixic’s review, which I imagine will include “one or two” comments…

    I have a couple of more specific responses, but will hold those in case others comment. (Encota, I’d love to see your solving notes, thank you, will ask BD to give you my email.)

  6. I found this pretty tough but enjoyable – though I suspect that Prolixic will find quite a few points to raise. The clueing is very inventive producing a lot of d’ohs when the pennies dropped.
    I initially wrote in ‘hounded’ (i.e. with a dog) for 25a then had to re-think when I got 17d.
    I had a lot of ticks – I’ll mention 11a, 12a, 16a, 6d and 17d. My biggest laugh came from 6a.
    Many thanks, Jabberwock. I look forward to your next puzzle.

  7. Welcome Jabberwock.

    I have to say that I resorted to electronic assistance quite early on, as I knew fairly quickly that too many liberties had been taken with the clues to make this a fair contest between setter and solver and I was becoming grumpy from the absence of a homophone indicator in 10a and the repeated use of “start” as an initial indicator. Dutch has correctly pointed out instances where the parts of speech in the solutions don’t match those suggested by the clues. I’m sure Jane will have been even less impressed with 6a than I was.

    Dutch, Encota and Gazza have all used the word “inventive” to describe your style, but if the basic constructions are flawed or unfair then a puzzle doesn’t work for me, however much inventiveness may be on display. I’m intrigued to know why, if you knew that you were pushing or overstepping the boundaries with many clues, you continued with them?

    It’s always an achievement to put together a puzzle, and full credit is deserved for that, but I can’t claim to have enjoyed the experience unfortunately. I do hope you will pursue your intention of producing something more solver-friendly next time that doesn’t try to defy conventions.

    Thanks, Jabberwock.

    1. Hi Silvanus, appreciate your frank comments!

      You write “I’m intrigued to know why, if you knew that you were pushing or overstepping the boundaries with many clues, you continued with them?”

      Quick answer: I’ve only been doing this for a couple of months, so I’m still trying to work out what is and isn’t considered fair/acceptable in different contexts, and that isn’t entirely straightforward (at any rate, not for me).

      As just one example, some newspapers require noun definitions to be complete noun phrases, whereas I think (?) others allow more freedom… the feedback is clear that I need to follow the “complete noun phrase” rule here and in similar contexts, but it also prompts me to try to gain a better understanding of exactly what is acceptable under other rule-sets. [And it’s certainly possible that some or all of my not-strict-noun-phrase definitions wouldn’t be acceptable even in the Guardian, I need to look into it.]

      Anyway, many thanks for taking the time to give this puzzle a try!

      [Re 6a, not sure what you mean: you mean that the solution is a distasteful word?]

      1. Also: with the above, absolutely not trying to suggest that the critiques just relate to different rule-sets, most critiques taken entirely on the chin, and with gratitude: for example, you’re absolutely right that 10a requires an explicit homophone indicator, guess I thought it didn’t need one, but obviously I was wrong!

      2. Hi,

        When you said above “I realise many of my clues don’t follow the standard rules” I thought you meant at the time of submission, but I suspect you might now mean following today’s comments?

        The “libertarian” versus “Ximenean” debate has cropped up many times in Rookie Corner. I think most would say “don’t bend the rules until you know the rules”, it’s far better for a would-be setter to adopt that approach, I’d suggest, rather than be too ambitious at the outset.

        I just felt the humour in 6a to be a little puerile, to be honest.

      3. There are some setters in the guardian I would not recommend imitating when you start – like in music, improvisation tends to work best when you are first expertly grounded in the rules of the structure!

  8. Hi newbie here. where can I ask about clues where I’ve got the answers now but I can’t understand why it’s the answer? It’s not related to this cryptic crossword though.

  9. Thanks Jabberwock
    I agree with others, there’s a broad mix of the very good and the very not so good. I enjoyed it despite the problems and having to reveal a few because there was a lot of fun in there.
    Good ones: 1a, 6d, 11a, 16a, 5d
    Big thumbs down: 13d (clunky clue, nonsense solution just about my least favourite thing in a crossword)

  10. Hi Jabberwock and well done for putting together a puzzle for Rookie Corner. I’m another who resorted to using the ‘reveal’ button at a very early stage in the solve and I’m sorry to say that there are very few answers on my print-out that don’t have a negative comment alongside them.
    I do hope that you will find the review from Prolixic enlightening and I look forward to seeing a ‘new, improved’ version of Jabberwock on your next foray into the corner.

  11. Welcome to Rookie Corner Jabberwock
    I thought this was a good challenge and a well written puzzle which I enjoyed unravelling, though it did take some doing and included a reveal or two
    I only noted three or four which I thought went too far over the line or the grammar failed
    A very promising debut regarding clue types, misdirection, surfaces etc, just the technical bits to hone – and for me at least, that’s the easy bit
    Well done and thanks, look forward to your next

  12. Who said there was no toughie on a Monday?
    That was really hard work but I enjoyed the fight.
    Took me a while to get round your way of thinking but eventually got there.
    Really liked definitions such as Late Adopter, Paper cutter and Caught tickling.
    Not sure if the steps to get the first part of 21d is acceptable but it made me smile.
    A reversed indicator might be needed for the lurker in 7d.
    I have a few other interrogations but shall wait for the analysis from Prolixic.
    In the meantime, I congratulate you on your first puzzle and hope to see more from you in the not too distant future.
    Thanks Jabberwock.

  13. Welcome, Jabberwock, great username and a great debut puzzle! Quite a toughie, I thought – but mostly fair. Some blemishes – as there are bound to be in a first submission (for example 10a needs an indicator of the right sort). I’m sure Prolixic’s analysis will point that one – and others – out!

    My LOI – and perhaps one of the faves – was 6a which I puzzled over for ages. So obvious once you see it! Also 19a – ingenious wordplay, some may object, but I think it works fine.

    Look forward to seeing more from you.

  14. Congratulations on your debut, Jabbwerwock.
    However, I found this tough going with several clues that didn’t work properly for me. Most of these have been picked up by other commenters but one in particular was 28ac where it appears to me that the definition is inside the clue, not at the beginning or end.
    But there were some nice touches as well; I liked the 26ac (glad you put the ? at the end) and 24dn, and the relation between 16ac and 18dn was very good.
    I’ll look forward to your next.

  15. Thanks Jabberwock for the challenge, comments absent reading others’:
    Ticks against 11,13,22,3,6dn,18,23dn.
    1dn ‘riddle’ would be better I think.
    4 ‘would be calmer’ is fairer to indicate the deletion. Not a fan of ‘starts’ for an arbitrary number of letters myself.
    19 if the abbreviation were a recognised one, ‘exchange’ would be fairer and still give an interesting surface.
    Generally, I think you might try harder to put yourself in the solvers’ shoes unless you want to make your puzzles very difficult.
    Definitions and wordplay you have used in 6ac,12,16,25,27,2,17 and 24 are so allusive/incomplete as to be borderline unfair imo.

    I look forward to your next puzzle.

  16. Thanks Prolixic as always for the review. In most cases you make the same observations that I would have.

    But not all! I still maintain that 6a is very good, in a slightly “libertarian” sort of way. At any rate, it’s funny! I suppose I’m showing my libertarian colours here. Funnily enough, over dinner last night (we were eating fish on the bone) we had a conversation about the difficulties of eating some varieties of fish. Crab got a mention (OK not exactly a ‘fish’). I recall the experience of struggling with a large tourteau in its shell, in a restaurant. Fortunately, if properly ‘dressed’, it’s a lot easier to manage!

    In 25a I like it as it stands: good surface and good ‘aha!’ moment. In general, Jabberwock has come up with some excellent surfaces (something I find hard to achieve!) and that should earn him a plus!

    Incidentally, we have a reproduction of one of Matisse’s collages hanging in our living-room, so I didn’t have too much trouble identifying the right ‘paper-hanger’. Others maybe found it more difficult. On the other hand, Madonna needed rather a lot of GK – I only figured it out from the crossers.

    I still say – good work, Jabberwock!

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, plenty of food for thought. Have to say, I’m rather worried by the idea of ‘public lice’!

  18. A million thanks Prolixic, your review and comments enormously helpful, and I realise you’ve been VERY gentle with me… the commentometer might well have read 80%!

    Encota also very kindly shared his detailed solving notes: these were enormously helpful, as were the multiple comments from other people, who I’d like to thank one by one (but that would get tedious). And big big thanks also to someone else (they know who they are) who responded privately, again with detailed solving notes that were massively helpful. And to another lovely person who has very kindly offered to test-solve in future.

    I think that some of the things you’ve all identified are perhaps debatable on the continuum Libertarian vs Ximenean-in-spirit vs Ximenean-by-convention; or as reasonable vs unreasonable in their general knowledge requirement (12a, 17d). [I guess where I’d centrally like to be is Ximenean-in-spirit, though I realise I have to learn how to work to Ximenean-by-convention, as Dutch suggests.]

    But these issues to one side, MANY OF MY CLUES HAD STRAIGHT ERRORS, and several were just plain cruddy clues (e.g. 8d). So it’s been enormously helpful (if somewhat gruelling!) to get this critical feedback. I won’t respond clue-by-clue, though I’ve done that detailed analysis myself.

    Many many thanks again, this has been VERY helpful, and if I submit again I will certainly run it past a test-solver first!

    – Guy

    [Plus one very minor comment just for the record: the intended parsing in 14d was homophone of toad’s, not toad.]

    1. Further to that, if anyone could point me to a PDF of Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword (£200 upwards secondhand), I would really appreciate that.

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