Rookie Corner – 329 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 329

Political Correctness by PhiSH

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Another setter makes his debut in Rookie Corner. 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 our new Rookie, PhiSH.  Settings a themed crosswords with clues and solutions relating to a theme is tricky and our setter is to be congratulated on trying to pull this off with this crossword.  However, in places, it does mean that the clues ran away with themselves and became overly wordy or did not make a coherent sentence in their own right.

A lot of the basics for creating clues have been achieved but there needs to be closer attention to ensuring that the definition matches the solution and not repeating wordplay ideas.

The commentometer reads as 7.5/28 or 26.8%


1 Thus you, Benn, change name for a protein source (4,4)
SOYA BEAN – A two-letter word meaning thus followed by an informal spelling of you (as in see ** later” and the Benn from the clue with the first N (name) changes for an A.

5/9 Pain in the neck lacking energy is member, actually PM (5,7)
BORIS JOHNSON – A four-letter word for a tiresome person (pain in the neck) without the E (lacking energy) followed by the IS from the clue and the member of Parliament who is the member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and also the Prime Minister.  I think that defining the surname as member when it is the person in the solution does not work particularly well.

10 Agitated mum – Senate delight (9)
AMUSEMENT – An anagram (agitated) of MUM SENATE.

11 One is in the game despite debilitating disease (5)
POLIO – Insert the letter I in a four-letter game played on horseback.  The despite is out of place here the cryptic grammar reads wordplay despite definition.  The “the” in “the game” should be omitted.  Perhaps “One taking part in game with debilitating disease”

12 Not hard having badly joined Charles’ first together with his George and he sent the kids back to school (5,10)
GAVIN WILLIAMSON – An anagram (badly) of HAVING without the H (not hard) followed by the name of Prince Charles’ first son and the relationship between that son and his offspring George.

13 Assume that Boris has this? – huge prostitutes turning over (9)
STRATAGEM – A four-letter word meaning huge and a five-letter word meaning prostitutes all reversed.  There needs to be a stronger link here between the definition and the solution.  Perhaps “Maybe plan for Boris to have huge prostitutes coming back”.

15 Stupid man – to begin, Boris half starting Zoom (4)
BOZO – The first two letters (to begin) of Boris followed by the initial half (starting) of Zoom.  You should only use beginning to indicate the first letter, not an arbitrary number of letters.

18 “Blink first Boris” rejected relationship (4)
LINK – Remove the B (first Boris) from the first word of the clue.  Some editors will not allow first to be used as an initial letter indicator unless used in the form “first of”.  Perhaps, “Blink when Boris initially rejected relationship”.

19 Choice of government is a brief demonstration and shout about bill (9)
DEMOCRACY – A four-letter word word a demonstration followed by a three-letter word for a shout about the abbreviation for account (bill).

24 Socialist philosophy follower is frustrated instant Mr Xi lies (7-8)
MARXIST-LENINIST – An anagram (frustrated).of INSTAND MR XI LIES.

25 Endorses poor guess in dropping EU (5)
SIGNS – An anagram (poor) of GUESS IN after removing the EU.  Where the letters to be removed are in a different order, this should be indicated by an anagram or here, preferably, a reversal indicator.  Perhaps “Endorses poor guess in dropping return of EU”

26 Probing “Tango Kilo” scandal (7,2)
LOOKING AT – An anagram (scandal) of TANGO KILO). Some editors will not allow a noun such as scandal as an anagram indicator.

27 Inquiry is robust after expelling Right (5)
STUDY – A six-letter word meaning robust without (expelling) the abbreviation for right.

28 As Gove did with Boris? Take a punt on a flash education (8)
BETRAYED – A three-letter word meaning take a punt on followed by a three-letter word meaning a flash of light and a two-letter abbreviation for education.  Another clue where getting from the definition to the solution is perhaps too remote and would not be solvable by overseas solvers.


1 Boris? Droopy welcoming hard (6)
SHAGGY – The abbreviation for hard inside a five-letter word meaning droopy.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay elements such as H for hard (already used in 12a.  This could have been avoided and made more topical by using “leaving hospital”.  This is another clue where the link between the definition and the solution is a little too tenuous.  Perhaps “How Boris looks disheveled and droopy leaving hospital”.

2 Solver with Rousseau’s lead, against suffrage, a share certificate provides you with this? (4,6,5)
YOUR VOTING RIGHT – A three-letter word for the solver followed by the initial letter (lead) of Rousseau and a phrase (6,5) for suffrage.  This looks like a made up phrase.  This should be avoided when selecting grid entries.  Whilst I am fairly lenient with new setters when it comes to surface readings, there are limits and this one sailed past them at a rate of knots.  Clues should make a coherent sentence in their own right.

3 French good with broken nail comic relief, as an example (8)
BIENNIAL – A four-letter word in French meaning good followed by an anagram (broken) of NAIL.  Comic Relief needs to be capitalised for the definition to work.

4 Crime cracked in centre-ground of Blair and May for us (7)
AMERICA – An anagram (cracked) of CRIME in the central letter of Blair and May.  US in lower case is not a valid definition.  The rule is that you can add false capitalisation but not deliberately change a proper noun or abbreviation to lower case.

6 Labour then rejection produces this? (6)
ORPHAN – Cryptic definition of a child that has lost its parents.  The solution is defined as the loss of parents through death not rejection.

7 Rees-Mogg admonished for being this child selling you nonsense (4,11)
IDLE SLOUCHINGLY – An anagram (nonsense) of CHILD SELLING YOU.  Whilst Rees Mogg was accused of sprawling across the bench in the House of Commons, I don’t think that the solution itself is a phase that was used.  If anything he was accused of “slouching idly”.

8 PM initially accepted then turned leftist-electorate’s enemy (6)
ATTLEE – The initial letters of the final six words of the clue.

9 See 5 Across

14 Orgy Minister owning private club (3)
GYM – The answer is hidden (owning) in the first two words of the clue.  Not sure that the solution is necessarily a private club.  It is not the defining characteristic of the solution.

16 Spot gerrymandering’s first slack state boundaries (7)
GLIMPSE – The initial letter (first) of gerrymandering followed by a four letter word meaning slack and the outer letters (boundaries) of state.  Perhaps states’ boundaries would give a better cryptic reading of the clue.  Another wordplay repetition with first as an initial letter indicator.

17 Raunchier appalling filibuster – switch sides and remove the bull (8)
FRUITIER – An anagram (appalling) of FILIBUSTER Ofer changing the L to R (changing sides) and removing the BS (bull or bullshit).

20 Brexit deprived of UK national taxes – no Left singing the praises (6)
EXTOLS – Remove a four-letter word for a British national from the first word of the clue and follow with a five-letter word for taxes without one of the letters L (no Left).  The definition would require extolling as the solution.  

21 Lots of Labour? Dramatic work lacking ending and even monster (7)
OPEROSE – A five-letter word for a sung dramatic word with the last letter removed (lacking ending) followed by the even letter letters of the final word of the clue.  The solution is an adjective so is not correctly defined by lots of labour.  To indicate even or odd letters you should use evenly or oddly or another alternate letter indicator.  Perhaps “Short dramatic work with Wooster oddly missing is tedious”

22 Killed Left twice, switched for SNP Sturgeon’s openers – an action that resulted in many a politicians’ downfall? (6)
KISSED – The first word of the clue has the two letter (left twice) replaced by the initial letters (openers) of SNP Sturgeon’s.   Another clue where the definition would imply an an ING ending.

23 Reported that Heath should remain? Clearly expressed (6)
STATED – A homophone (reported) of STAY TED (Heath should remain).

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 329

  1. BD – at 1:30am BST, and with several attempts on two different devices with cache clearance, when clicking on the Crossword logo all I got was Error Message 404 – Requested page could not be found.

  2. I have updated the site where the crossword is stored and published the page that contains the crossword. You should now be able to open it.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, PhiSH.

    My two immediate thoughts after I had printed out the puzzle were that your cluing was very wordy and that you were presenting us with a themed crossword. As a general rule I would suggest not trying to compile a themed puzzle for Rookie Corner. It looks as if you have hamstrung yourself as a result of the theme leading to verbose and, in some instances, tortuous cluing as well as many problematic surface readings.

    My finished page was littered with scribbles, which will doubtless be covered by Prolixic when his review is published tomorrow. I will just mention that you have used a couple of examples of US slang which ideally should be indicated as such and you have made one or two references which some solvers will find in poor taste. Part of the enumeration for 5/9 is missing.

    You have clearly worked hard to produce this and some of your shorter clues show promise, e.g.: 25a, 27a, & 23d.

    For your next offering, my advice would be not to have a theme, keep it simple, and take note of Prolixic’s wise words. It’s a good idea to get someone to act as a test solver if you haven’t already got one.

    Sorry not to be able to be more positive, PhiSH, but well done on actually compiling a cryptic crossword – it’s not an easy task!

    1. The enumeration for 5/9 was set automatically when I linked the clues in Crossword Compiler – I don’t know how that happened but I unlinked then relinked them and it is now OK

    2. Dear Rabbit Dave.
      Thanks for the feedback. I’m new to setting so value any feedback. I wrote this one for my son and his girlfriend who’s just finished a politics degree (hence the theme). Next one I’ll keep themeless!
      Noted on the clue verbosity – I’ll need to work on that. Not sure how the US slang crept in but I’ll dig that out too!
      Thanks for the comments.

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner, PhiSH.
    I thought that the theme was very ambitious for a first puzzle and although I enjoyed it (because I’m a bit of a politics junkie) I imagine that a lot of the references will go over the heads of some of our overseas solvers.
    I don’t usually object to long clues because I think that clear wordplay is more important than brevity but even I found a few clues here rather verbose (e.g. 12a, even though I enjoyed picking apart the wordplay).
    The definitions in several clues (e.g. 22d) don’t match the answers grammatically.
    You’ll get a lot of help from Prolixic and I hope that we’ll see you back with another puzzle.
    My favourite clue was 6d which made me laugh.

    1. Thanks Gaza – very helpful comments. Noted on the verbose clues – I’ll work on that. The politics theme was set for my son who’s just completed a politics degree – but yes, it did constrain a few clues throughout. Noted on the grammar too. Thanks again.

  5. A very ambitious puzzle indeed – I’m not a fan of politics in crosswords and, had it not been drizzling heavily outside, I’d have gone for my morning walk without going far with this one.

    I think a lot of the references will go over the heads of many UK solvers too. The clues that worked best for me were the nice straightforward ones eg 15a, 18a, 27a, 14d and 23d. The nineteen word :roll: 12a, I got from checking letters and the definition and knowing who sent the children back to school. The nearly as long 22d, once you have the checking letters, goes in from the first part of the wordplay, although I do think the definition makes no sense at all, either grammatically or otherwise.

    You obviously have clue-writing talent – a non-themed, less wordy puzzle, would receive a great welcome from us solvers – thank you for putting your head above the parapet – and, in advance, to Prolixic

    1. Many thanks crypticsue – for the comments and for persevering with a politics theme! My apologies for the theme as well. I’ll heed your comments and feedback – very useful.
      Noted on the UK-centric focus too.
      Thanks again.

  6. I enjoyed that and found quite a lot of laughs. I had to reveal a few towards the end as my politicalknowledge was running out but an impressive amount of themed entries was great. I am sure that if you follow the advice you will come back with a great second attempt. My own second attempt is staring accusingly at me from my to do pile! but on the whole it stinks and might need a complete rewrite.

    1. Thanks John Bee – glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for the encouragement – it’s greatly appreciated.

      1. My first was rookie corner 283

        Rookie Corner – 283

        I thought I might have had more time during lockdown to work on the second but it is still staring at me from the to do pile and as I said to PhiSH the 2nd attempt may have to be ditched and redone before I am brave enough to submit it.

        1. I still have the original first draft that I ‘test solved’ for you. Don’t know how I missed it here.

  7. Welcome to RC PhiSH
    This puzzle ticks a whole list of boxes of my personal dislikes in puzzles I’m afraid so I ended up revealing much of it
    Names, verbose clues, GK references (esp. bollotics), unfathomable surfaces and jarring grammar
    There are some good devices on display and I’m sure you can produce a good ‘normal’ puzzle, which I look forward to with interest
    Sorry this wasn’t my cup of tea at all, but well done for putting the puzzle together and thanks for sharing

      1. Sorry if that wasn’t very helpful PhiSH
        In 22d for example, the ‘action that led to many a politician’s downfall’ leads to kiss, or kissing rather than the answer, ie it is in the wrong tense
        There are a few of these and definitely something to watch out for
        Prolixic will elaborate far more succinctly than I, no doubt

        1. Thanks for the additional clarity (although your earlier comment was helpful too!). I thought I’d used “led” in the past tense – having said that, grammar never was my strong point and I see from the comments that’s something I need to work on. Probably “check and double check” is the key?

          1. Yep! It’s a tricky malarkey this setting business but once you get the hang of the grammar it will stand out like a sore thumb because you can see it as the solver does. Prolixic’s comments still haunt me while I’m compiling, so do take careful note and make sure you fully understand the whys and wherefores – it’s gold dust (…and I still make silly mistakes, btw, just different ones)

  8. Welcome, PhiSH.

    I hope that your son and his girlfriend will be encouraged to solve other puzzles. I thought you did pretty well to avoid non-themed obscurities when populating the grid, although Chambers does list 21d as “rare”. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy solving the puzzle for many of the reasons others have stated, the wordy and tortuous surface readings were the main turn off for me. My personal bete noire of repetitions occurred with “first”, “hard” and “Left”, and I thought 12a failed rather than succeeded with sending most kids back to school?

    There are quite a few technical errors that Prolixic will point out in his review, I’d be interested to see how you would handle a puzzle that doesn’t include 5/9 or mention him in three successive clues!

    Thank you, PhiSH.

    1. Thanks for the comments Silvanus. Noted on the use of repetitions – I’d spotted the “hard” replication but failed to resolve it – my bad. I’ll await Prolixic’s pointers avidly.

  9. I liked this. Thank you, PhiSH. 1a made a good first impression, being one of those clues that I wasn’t sure where it was going, but doing what it says made the answer appear, which is always pleasing. Ditto, 19a.

    And I finished it, in a single session, without revealing any letters or using any hints, which is still pretty rare for me with crosswords. So it was well pitched, with all clues being ‘solvable enough’ — though there are still some I don’t full understand, for which I’m awaiting for enlightenment by Prolixic tomorrow. (Thanks in advance, Prolixic.)

    Both 3d and 4d need some initial capitals for their definitions to work†, unfortunately (because this would spoil those clues in other ways), and I’m not sure that 7d is actually a phrase (rather than just two words you’ve put together). One of the across answers suffers from being used in several other clues; it isn’t ideal to give away answers like this.

    I particularly like the cryptic definition in 6d‡, and 23d made me laugh out loud.

    More importantly, how did your son and his girlfriend get on with the crossword?

    † It’s acceptable to use unnecessary capital letters for misdirection or surface meanings (because all words can still have their normal meanings when written that way), but not to remove them from proper nouns that require them (because they can’t be interpreted with their intended meaning without them).

    ‡ Though now I look at it again, I’m not sure that it works: someone becoming a 6d requires their parents to die, not just reject them (even though rejection could lead to them living in a 6d-age). But if I hadn’t been specifically giving feedback on your crossword, I doubt I would’ve noticed this; I both solved and enjoyed the clue at the time, and in a ‘normal’ crossword wouldn’t have continued to think about it enough to find fault with it.

    1. Many thanks for the detailed assistance and comments Smylers. There’s a lot for me to take in and consider in your helpful comments. Glad you found a smile or two in there! Thanks again.

  10. Welcome to the corner, PhiSH, and well done for putting a puzzle together. Not a theme that particularly appeals to me but I realise that there was a specific reason for it being used.
    My biggest issue was with the fact that many of the surface reads don’t make any real sense, something to work on for future puzzles. You also need to make sure that you are using the correct parts of speech – no doubt Prolixic will give you more detail in his review.
    It will be interesting to see what you can produce without the constraints of a theme.

    1. Thanks Jane – I’m certainly regretting choosing the politics themed submission now! But thanks for the pointers – Anything that helps me improve.

  11. Welcome PhiSH! And thanks for the puzzle.

    As I’ve only come to this quite late today then most of my feedback comments have already been covered. Do look carefully at Prolixic’s feedback tomorrow – he always offers a wealth of constructive comment. Take those into account and you’ll make huge leaps forward.

    I look forward to your next!


  12. Despite, or maybe because of, some outrageously manufactured surfaces I really enjoyed this very amusing puzzle.
    I’m not usually a fan of themed crosswords but as someone interested in today’s it helped in both the solving and in the level of enjoyment.
    Not sure how PC the wordplay in 13a is but it induced a laugh as did 1d.
    Definitely not the most technically proficient puzzle I’ve ever solved but a whole lot of fun.
    I’m sure Prolixic will have plenty to say but don’t be discouraged PhiSH, (maybe dont be as ambitious next time) and thanks for the entertainment.

    1. Thanks Stephen L for the encouragement and comments. Glad you enjoyed it despite the “despites”. My target audience (of 2) enjoy crosswords at the easier/middling end of the spectrum so I recognise that many here may whip through it with some ease. But I’m getting the impression that this probably led to some of the problems too (verbose and extracted surfaces). All useful feedback to me. Thanks again.

  13. Many thanks to Prolixic for the massively helpful comments and indicators of where to improve. Grammar matching being an obvious area as well as clarity of the surfaces. Thanks for the tips.
    In relation to 5/9 I was using the dictionary definition of ‘Johnson’ as a part of the anatomy hence the clueing of “member” rather than a circular reference – but clearly that didn’t work very well if it wasn’t spotted!!
    Much to work on and thanks to all for the pointers.
    If I’m not banned for life for choosing a hated theme then I’d love to return once I’ve practised implementing this new wisdom. Thanks again and especially to Prolixic for the detailed comments.

    1. For what it’s worth, I worked out which ‘member’ you meant.

      (Though only quite some time after putting in the solution. With a definition of “PM (5,7)”, the answer was gettable without parsing the wordplay.)

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. You’ve doubtless given PhiSH plenty of food for thought!

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