Rookie Corner – 331 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 331

A Puzzle by Spud

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Spud is the last of the current run of debutants.  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.

A highly creditable debut from Spud.  It is always a good sign when the points on the clues are minor ones, which is the case here.  The commentometer reads as 2.5 / 30 or 8.3%.

As an aside, if another setter has already used the pseudonym Spud it would be better to find an alternative.


8 Grain the French swapped with the Spanish? Hardly! (6)
BARELY – A type of grain has the LE (the French) changed (swapped) to EL (the Spanish).

9 The last Sri Lankan separatist gets time in the European Union when returned (8)
ULTIMATE – A five-letter word for a Sri Lankan terrorist includes (gets) the abbreviation for time and the resulting letters are placed in the abbreviation for European and everything is reversed (when returned).  Gets is a very weak insertion indicator and should be avoided.  

10 Garden variety similar to tree in street (6-2-3-4)
MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD – look at the the letters that surround the word tree in street and make a phrase that describes this. I am not convinced that Garden variety on its own is a correct definition.

12 Maybe volume that whispers are heard (4)
SIZE – A homophone (are heard) of sighs (whispers).  The that does not work well as a link word in the cryptic reading as you have definition that wordplay.  Perhaps Maybe volume of whispers overheard

13 Not the first estimate, but of lower value (6-4)
SECOND-RATE – A six-letter word meaning not the first followed by a four-letter word meaning estimate or value.  The but a a link word does not work particularly well.  You have wordplay but definition.  Perhaps Not the first estimate to give lower value.

17 Bike rider losing most of trouser grip results in nasty lump (4)
CYST – A seven-letter word meaning a bike rider has a shortened four-letter word for a trouser grip that they use removed from it.

18 Raliegh’s final docking procedure (5)
AXING – A cryptic definition of how Sir Walter Raleigh met his end.  Watch the spelling of proper names.

19 Cultivate wax (4)
GROW – Double definition.

21 Real v Inter fixed, pointless (10)
IRRELEVANT – An anagram (fixed) of REAL V INTER.

24 Record old reservists exercises (4)
TAPE – The abbreviation for Territorial Army followed by the abbreviation for Physical Exercise.

25 Pekingese men in sedan chair ridiculed (8,7)

29 Deride changes having the setter set right (8)
REMEDIED – An anagram (changes) of DERIDE includes (having) a two-letter word for the setter.  Another weak indicator for containment that should be avoided.

30 Make the grave-digger wait it’s said, tell me more (6)
DILATE – A homophone (it’s said) of DIE LATE (make the grave digger wait).


1 Means to take out shredded roasts after cooking satisfactorily (8)
FACILITY – An anagram (cooking) of SATISFACTORILY after removing the re-arranged letters (shredded) of ROASTS.

2 Gold for Robin Hood (4,6)
DEAD CENTRE – Cryptic definition for the middle of the archery target.  As Robin Hood would not have aimed for such a target, it does not really work.

3 Spy Rebecca cavorting where tweeters meet (10)
CYBERSPACE – An anagram (cavorting) of SPY REBECCA.

4 Cadge key documentation? (4)
BUMF – A three-letter word meaning cadge and a musical key.

5 Fancy vermouth before cow heel starters? (4)
ITCH – The two-letter word for Vermouth before the initial letters (starters) of cow heel.

6 Kalahari menfolk hold back chieftain (4)
EMIR – The answer is hidden and reversed (holding back) in the first two words of the clue.  For the cryptic grammar to work it would need to be holds back.  Perhaps Kashmiri menfolk holding back …

7 The first James perhaps to begin in uniform? On the contrary (6)
STUART – The letter represented by uniform in the phonetic alphabet in a five-letter word meaning to begin.

11 Give up taking Pernod on a regular basis (3)
END – The even letters (on a regular basis) of Pernod.  I think that the taking could have been omitted here.  Perhaps Finish Pernod on a regular basis would be better.

14 Introductions to chicks happen infrequently, need a friend? (5)
CHINA – The initial letters (introductions to) of the third to seventh words of the clue.

15 The dashing, criminal poisoner (10)
NIGHTSHADE – An anagram (criminal) of THE DASHING.

16 First of things removed from complete mess found in corner of square (5,5)
RIGHT ANGLE – A phrase (5,6) for a complete mess has the first letter of things removed from it.

20 On the other side, pertinent opener out for a duck (8)
OPPOSITE – An eight-letter word for pertinent has the initial letter (opening) removed and replaced by the letter representing nothing (a duck).

22 Lecturer of French in back seat (6)
READER – The French for of inside a four-letter word meaning your back seat.

23 Plain wallop – top to bottom (3)
LEA – A three-letter word for beer (wallop) has the top letter moved to the bottom.

26 Chinese water perhaps is overpriced reportedly (4)
DEER – A homophone (reportedly) of DEAR.

27 Bankruptcy? Mother’s spirited solution (4)
RUIN – Double definition, the second being the word that follows the word Mother’s when describing gin.

28 Acknowledges that head of state, a Spanish gent, is coming north (4)
NODS – The first letter (head) of state followed by a three-letter word for a Spanish gentleman, all reversed (is coming north).

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 331

  1. A good puzzle that had us working quite hard. Lots of clues with ticks beside them.
    A couple, 2d for instance, where we thought the wordplay was a bit too indirect but still solvable with a bit of lateral thinking.
    Thanks Spud.

  2. I enjoyed this – thanks Spud. You have some good anagrams, in particular. My favourite clue was 21a, which I pictured being the Mafia’s influence on sport – I don’t think I have seen that anagram before and it is a good one! I also liked 28d: I haven’t yet heard where the ex King of Spain is going to end up but nicely topical. In fact, I can’t work out how you had time to submit the clue as this is recent news, I think!!
    Some specifics:
    – 9a looks like it is missing one ‘put X inside Y’ instruction – I think it needs two;
    – in 13a I’d probably use “- one” rather that “, but” – though that’s largely a point of style;
    – I just looked up ‘cow heel starters’ in 5d which I hadn’t previously heard of – very good!
    – like the 2Kiwis, I added in my notes: “A Question Mark at the end might make it slightly better, I think, as a Definition By Example indicator”. To help with the indirection.
    You’ll get more from Prolixic tomorrow. I do have a brief set of notes that I made as I solved but which contain spoilers. If you’d like to see them then do ask Big Dave to put us in email contact. I won’t be offended if not!

    1. Hi Encota, thanks for the email. Your points are all valid and taken on board for next time.
      I should stop trying to justify 2d even if it was my favourite. The archery club would have had it in an instant, but you’re right about the question mark, I “might” have got away with it with one of those at the end.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Spud. This was an excellent debut which I really enjoyed. Your cluing is accurate and your surface readings are generally good, which together provide a very sound basis for an enjoyable solve.

    My only comments are very minor. I’m not convinced by your definition for 10a, and the definition for 30a doesn’t feel quite right. You’ve misspelled Raleigh, and Robin Hood wasn’t a target archer.

    With lots to like, I’ll give special mentions to 8a & 1d.

    Many thanks, Spud and well done. I’m already looking forward to your next one.

  4. Spud created that fabulous Listener Rubik’s cube puzzle in the Listener ten years ago and has had another Listener published since then and a ‘potato’ crossword in the Crossword Club magazine. Are you the same Spud? With the quality of this one, it looks likely.

  5. As Chalicea indicates, probably not Spud’s first crossword and it shows. I ended up with a completed grid before I’d finished my breakfast but working out the parsing some of the more cryptic clues has taken nearly as long again.

    10a I can’t find a garden variety with that name, and surely if the tree was where the solution indicates, the council would have removed it a long time ago? ;) Raleigh is misspelt in 18a and finding the solution does rely a bit on GK. I’ve looked up 30a in the BRB and, unlike RD, think the clue works.

    Thanks for the crossword – I too would like to see more in the future – and in advance, to Prolixic

    1. I assumed that garden variety in 10a meant average, as in ‘common or garden’ (but I could be on the wrong track completely!).

  6. A very enjoyable debut puzzle – welcome to Spud and thanks.
    I thought that there were some really good ideas here, including 18a although it is rather macabre.
    My ticks went to 13a, 30a (which made me laugh), 7d and 20d.
    More like this would be very welcome.

  7. Welcome, Spud.

    A promising debut and a puzzle that was enjoyable to solve too. Like last week, there was an over-reliance on initial letter devices (I counted at least six instances, but no repetitions!) and a few superfluous definite and indefinite articles in the clues. I felt that neither 10a nor 2d really worked, although I could see the intention behind both. The cryptic grammar jarred in 6d, “will hold back” would have rectified that niggle. I didn’t care for “gets” (9a) and “having” (29a) as containment indicators. The best thing about the puzzle was that the wordplay never tried to be too ambitious or complex.

    My ticks went to 13a, 11d and 15d.

    Many thanks. Spud. I hope you’ll return again soon.

  8. Well, that was a shock. Was Mrs Spud’s birthday yesterday so didn’t see BD’s email until just now – for mainly for spiritual reasons ;-).
    No, I’m not the Spud you mention Chalicea, I did sort of ask around if the name was in use and couldn’t find anything. Do I need to change it?
    The puzzle is indeed my very first (thanks Sue for those kind comments) and any medals for clue polish go to LetterboxRoy who play-tested and continues to provide great advice.
    2d was given the thumbs down from LBR, but as a target archer myself I couldn’t let it go. Robin Hood’s name is invoked a lot in the sport, and Hollywood always use the standard target.
    The clue for 10a was originally “common or garden”, but “garden variety” looked too good in the clue.
    Don’t know how the Raleigh typo got in there.
    Thanks for you comments, and thanks Encota, I’ll message BD to pass on my email address.

    1. Thanks for popping in, Spud, and thanks again for such a good puzzle, made all the more impressive as it is your first.

    2. Thanks for the acknowledgement Spud, but I didn’t write any of the clues so any credit is all yours
      Full marks for perseverance, well done

    3. Dave Hennings’ database
      gives names of setters and the crosswords they have written. It even gives details of themes they have used so that you can hopefully avoid spending weeks setting one then finding that it has been done before in much the same way. For your own sake, it might be worth becoming Spuds, Spuddo or Spuddy for future ones, though we haven’t heard from the other Spud since 2014. His debut was brilliant and I can’t believe he will have given up compiling.

  9. Welcome Spud and thanks for an interesting puzzle. Comments absent reading others’:
    Favourites 8,25,1,14.
    17 perhaps ‘losing most of speed’ could work in some way.
    11 not sure about the definition, can’t think of a sentence offhand – ‘give up on’?
    2 Bit of a two-step process (not sure RH used those sort of targets except in Disney)
    Some other niggles but I won’t step on Prolixic’s toes.
    Well done.

    1. Thanks for the comments Gonzo.
      I can see Prolixic starting forward from the far end of a red-lit foggy tunnel with demonic music playing!

  10. Like Gonzo, I found this one ‘interesting’ and certainly impressive for a first compilation. I wasn’t overly persuaded by 10a or 2d and there did seem to be a heavy reliance on the use of ‘in’ but there were plenty of good clues.
    Hope Mrs Spud enjoyed a ‘spirited solution’ yesterday!

    1. She did thanks, but not the “ruin”, hers was either fizzy or red.
      I see what you mean about the “in’s”. I suppose it comes from writing one clue every couple of days – you put them aside once you think their done. I’ll scrutinise Spud 002 even closer before submission.
      Thanks for commenting.

  11. Full grid, but a question mark or two. 18A was my last one one in and I laughed (quite inappropriately under the circumstances) when the penny dropped. Very clever. Wasn’t it 6D who was responsible for poor old Walter’s demise? Thanks Spud. That was fun.

    1. Thanks Chris. It was indeed James I that did it. Is it too late to claim a theme?
      Actually Raleigh was the only decently famous axee I could come up with.

  12. Well, as someone who has gone by the name of ‘Spud’ in the past (and occasionally still does) and a target archer to boot, I might be accused of being biased when I say how much I enjoyed this puzzle. It was not overly pretentious and although there were one or two niggles (as pointed out in earlier comments), for me it did what I expect a good puzzle to do – to entertain. I did need help on a couple of clues (4d and 18a) but I did get 2d straight away, notwithstanding its technical inaccuracy. Favourties were 21a and 7d. Thank you, Spud, an excellent debut in my opinion.

    1. Hi Kelotoph, Thanks for your kind words. Fires you up to have another go.
      I spent many years with RCA (Rochdale) but became club-less when we retired and moved areas. I do miss it.
      Still not sure whether I should continue with the name if it is claimed elsewhere.

  13. Thanks Prolixic.
    In 12, should it be “…whispers is heard” for the cryptic reading? The old use vs mention debate – which Prolixic’s suggestion sidesteps.
    I thought 22 had two definitions.

  14. I too found this a very impressive debut. Congratulations Spud! I hope we shall see more from you.

    I confess I did not get 10a. My thanks to Prolixic for the enlightenment and most interesting analysis. And, of course, my thanks to Spud for the enjoyment. I think my fave must be the rather bleak 18a!

    1. Thanks Catnap. Poor old Walt’s last years were certainly bleak. He got his final docking procedure 15 years after the sentence in unlucky circumstances.

  15. My thanks to you all for your kind words and helpful comments, especially Prolixic for his review and “brief guide” which along with LBRoy’s gentle suggestions lifted Spud 001 from iffy to promising.
    I’m glad I left in the controversial Robin Hood clue 1) for the mild debate it generated, and 2) because Kelotoph got it straight away! 😊
    #002 is all but complete, but will be getting a further scrutinising with slightly wiser eyes before submission.
    I say #002, because it looks like the name Spud is to be left with its original owners. Perhaps “New Potato”? Jersey Royal’s bound to be copyright.

      1. Hi Jane, the note below should have been a reply to you. Don’t know what happened but thanks for the suggestion.

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, always well worth reading your analysis of a puzzle. Sounds as though there’s another Spud in the pipeline, I shall look forward to it.

  17. Unfortunately Chalicea’s database shows “chips” in use. I’m settling on Tater (at the moment)

  18. Unfortunately Chalicea’s database shows “chips” in use. I’m settling on Tater (at the moment).

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