Rookie Corner – 333 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 333

A Puzzle by Fringilla

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Prologue. 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 Fringilla.  There were a few rough edges but overall the cluing was good and the level of difficulty was about right.  The grid was not one you would find in national newspapers with three unchecked letter in row.  I agree that some of the surface readings of the clues were far from ideal but that comes with practice.  Most if not all of the obscurities that have appeared in previous puzzles have been eliminated.

The commentometer reads as 4 / 30 or 13.3%.


1. Small, with German backing singer (4,3)
TINY TIM  A four-letter word meaning small followed by a reversal (backing) of the German word meaning with.

5. To glide down a mountain drunk, full, is clever (7)
SKILFUL – A three-letter word meaning to glide down a mountain followed by an anagram (drunk) of FULL.

8. Broken slice, AKA putter (5)
KAPUT – The answer in hidden (slice) in the last two words of the clue.

9. Be unhappy, so resign (5,4)
STAND DOWN – A five-letter word meaning “be” (as in you need to be / ????? still) followed by a four-letter word meaning unhappy.

11. Train tough pony (4,5)
IRON HORSE – A four-letter word meaning tough followed by a five-letter word for a horse.  No mark down for this but I have recently had a clue rejected by an editor as a train is not a locomotive!

12. Map table (5)
CHART – Double definition.

13. Juggle ball in reproduction cupboard (7)
TALLBOY – An anagram (juggle) of BALL inside a three-letter word meaning toy.

15. Rip-off by fly (7)
SCAMPER – A four-letter word meaning a rip-off followed by a three-letter word meaning by.

17. Swamp Romeo after a date with sweetheart (7)
ADMIRER – A four-letter word for a swamp and the letter represented by Romeo in the phonetic alphabet after the A from the clue and the abbreviation for date.  I am not sure that the solution and definition are precisely synonymous.

19. Encourage to sing around centre of tom-tom (5,2)
CHEER UP – A five-letter word for to sing (as a bird does) around the middle two letters (centre) of a four-letter word for a type of musical instrument of which a tom-tom is an example.  As we have a definition by example, an indication of this should be given.

20. Toy dog (5)
CORGI – Double definition, the first being a brand of model car.

22. Clerk ruined hen supper (3-6)
PEN PUSHER – An anagram (ruined) of HEN SUPPER.

24. At this stage, motorcycle race in demand for attendant (9)
USHERETTE – A four-letter word meaning at this stage followed by the abbreviation for time trials (a motorcycle race) in a three-letter word meaning demand.

25. Bore, i.e. Nun, blessed (5)
ENNUI – An anagram (blessed) of IE NUN.  I don’t like blessed as an anagram indicator.  Chamber support the solution as a verb meaning to bore.

26. Territorials almost spoil identity paper (7)
TABLOID – The abbreviation for the former territorial army followed by a four-letter word meaning to spoil with the final letter word removed (almost) followed by the two letter abbreviation for identity.

27. Established English horse with National Savings (4,3)
NEST EGG – The abbreviation for National followed by the abbreviation for established, the abbreviation for English and a two letter word for a horse used by children and crossword setters!  I think that some indication that the abbreviation for National goes at the head of the solution should be provided.


1. Consider torment, including i.e. Cook can’t whisk (4,4,7)
TAKE INTO ACCOUNT – A five-letter word meaning to torment around (including) an anagram (whisk) of IE COOK CANT.

2. Not a puzzle? You’re welcome! (2,7)
NO PROBLEM – Double definition.

3. Bird sitting on church could be a small person (5)
TITCH – A three-letter word for a small bird followed by the abbreviation for church.

4. Mean man with no time on fringe of luxury (7)
MISERLY – A six-letter word for a man without the abbreviation for time followed by the outer letters (fringe) of luxury.  Fringe would be better as fringes.

5. Puppy, for example, small, but useful on board ship? (7)
SEA LEGS – A four letter word for an aquatic mammal whose young is described as a puppy (yes- it is given in Chambers) followed by the abbreviation for “for example” and the abbreviation for small.

6. Dicky or Alf plant life (5)
FLORA – An anagram (dicky) of OR ALF.

7. Finish after extensive manoeuvering at airport perhaps? (4,4,7)
LONG TERM PARKING – A four-letter word meaning finish after a four-letter word word for extensive followed by a seven-letter word for a form of manoeuvring.  A couple of points on this clue.  First, the usual spelling of manoeuvering omits the second e.  The definition at an airport, is imprecise and incorrect.  It is ???? Stay ???????.  

10. English Conservative Lady in challenge to confess (7)
DECLARE – The abbreviation for English and the single letter abbreviations for Conservative and lady inside a four-letter word word challenge.  I cannot find support for L = Lady in Chambers or Collins.  Take care not to repeat word play indicators such as English for E.  Also there are a few clues where “in” is repeated as the insertion indicator.

14. Announcer not starting after ban on e.g. iron curtain (7)
BARRIER – A three-letter word meaning ban followed by five-letter word for an announcer with the initial letter removed (not starting).  This is the third use of “after” as a positional indicator.

16. Maybe rest before topless gambol (9)
PERCHANCE – A five-letter word word a roost or rest followed by a five-letter word for a gambol with the initial letter removed.

18. Said “prepare cutting type of grass” (7)
REPUTED – A three-letter word meaning prepare inside (cutting) a four-letter word for a type of grass.

19. Youngster supporting prison cafe (7)
CANTEEN – A four-letter word for a youngster underneath (supporting) a three-letter word for a prison.

21. Recuperation amongst nature habitation (5)
REHAB – The answer is hidden in (amongst) the last two words of the clue.

23. Escorts, off heroin, still drug addicts (5)
USERS – A six-letter word for escorts without the abbreviation for heroin,

39 comments on “Rookie Corner – 333

  1. An enjoyable solve for us and a good level of difficulty.
    There are a few places where, although we got to the answer, have left a question mark beside the clue but even more places where we had put ticks.
    Thanks Fringilla.

  2. Very enjoyable with some head scratching required.
    One or two where I will be interested to read the review – 7d for example.
    I am not sure that I have ever heard puppy being applied to the offspring of the first part of 5d – I believe it has always been pup.
    I did like 8a, 14d, and especially 16d.
    Thanks Fringilla.

    1. Thanks Senf,
      See my note below re late response.
      The chambers dictionary 4th edition…

  3. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Fringilla.

    I enjoyed this nicely challenging puzzle on the whole. Your wordplay is generally accurate, although I do have a few scribbled comments by some of the clues on which I am sure Prolixic will comment. I will just mention that the definitions in 17a & 25a don’t seem quite right and I agree with Senf about 5d.

    For the future the main area on which you need to concentrate is your surface readings, several of which are rather surreal.

    Well done and thanks for the fun, Fringilla. Please keep them coming.

    1. Thanks R Dave,
      Yes, my surfaces need polishing!
      Please see my response above re 7 down

  4. A pleasant puzzle – thanks Fringilla.
    As RD says your wordplay is pretty good but quite a few surface readings need some work so perhaps that’s what you need to address for your next puzzle.
    My ticks went to 9a, 11a and 16d.

  5. I found this good in places but in others the definitions weren’t quite right. I was held up for a while on the RH side as the parking at the airport is ‘stay’ not the word you want us to use. I’d agree with others that there are some odd surface readings which would be the next thing for you to work on.

    Thanks for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic

  6. Welcome back, Fringilla.

    As soon as I saw the two triple unches (which I’m surprised previous posters haven’t mentioned) and winced at some of the surface readings, I knew this puzzle wasn’t going to be one I’d enjoy a great deal, unfortunately. There were some good ideas, but if the surfaces are contrived or unconvincing, as many were, that isn’t enough to redeem the puzzle for me. “English” was used twice to clue “e”, and there were a couple of other single letter abbreviations that neither the Telegraph nor Times would permit.

    My favourite clue was 16d.

    Thanks, Fringilla.

  7. We are amateurs and love the Rookie corner puzzles and NTSPP ones as well as the DT crosswords. We really enjoy reading all the comments from the solvers and gradually improve our results. We completed this one and really enjoyed it. Thank you Fringilla, Big Dave for the site and Prolixic for explanations and pointers.

  8. Hello again, Fringilla.
    I really did try to enjoy this one but I’m afraid the combination of odd surface reads, definitions that didn’t seem quite right and questionable abbreviations meant that it left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed.
    I do think you have some good ideas but more work is definitely needed to make the most of them.
    As others have said, 16d was nicely done and I also quite liked the toy dog.
    Thank you for today’s puzzle – keep going!

  9. As others have noted, some of the surfaces need more work and one or two clues are simply not a good idea for the word to be clued (eg Dicky or Alf)
    If you can spot your best clues, ie not just OK but good, then look for the weakest handful and rethink those – that will raise the average bar height and make for a better puzzle overall
    It only takes a few poor clues to bring down the overall impression of an otherwise decent puzzle; no matter how good the rest is, you’ll never ‘redeem’ it, as Silvanus puts it
    Well done on a good effort though, tantalisingly close but no cigar this time
    Thanks for the entertainment Fringilla and I look forward to your next

  10. Thanks Fringilla. Completed with the occasional use of the check answer function & pretty enjoyable though I agree there were a couple of slightly clunky surfaces. Favourites were 4d, 20a, 16d & 23d

  11. I enjoyed this but do agree with comments above about some of the clues. Mind you, I couldn’t do any better – I have tried and found it difficult.

    Many thanks Fringilla and I am looking forward to more from you.

  12. Very solvable but not too easy – thanks Fringilla. There are a few tidying-up points that Prolixic will spell out tomorrow, I am sure. Cryptic Sue has already covered my main thoughts. I look forward to your next one 😊

  13. Thanks for an entertaining puzzle, Fringilla. Yes, there were areas for improvements as others have said, and if you work on your surfaces in particular then I’m sure your next puzzle will be that much better. Yes, there were two triple unches in the grid (for the uninitiated, that’s three consecutive squares that don’t cross with others) and it’s often best to avoid them (and double unches) if you can, but they’re not unheard of in published puzzles. Where they do occur, it’s usually best to give the solver a relatively easy clue.

    Keep ’em coming!

  14. Hello Everyone, I have just opened my email to find that Big Dave wrote this morning to alert me that this crossword that I submitted in May was on today. I’ll need some time to consider your remarks, although I get the gist: poor…

    1. Not at all, it seems pretty 5a to me. I need Prolixic’s help to explain the last few but I have enjoyed what I have managed on my own. I did like 1a and have a tulip based earworm now!

    2. I wouldn’t say this was a poor puzzle, I don’t think anyone would; the gist is that a few scrappy little nose-wrinklers lets it down
      More time spent checking abbreviations, definitions, identifying weak clues and massaging the wording of your surfaces would serve you well, as the ideas are all there

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and my apologies for doubting Fringilla over 25a. I was so convinced that ‘boredom’ was necessary that I didn’t bother to consult the BRB. Fatal mistake – wrist duly slapped.

  16. Thanks, Prolixic for the review. I agree that, on reflection, this was not as good as I remember thinking it was when I submitted it in May. However, there seem to be some discrepancies with at least three clues. I have a copy of The Chambers Crossword Dictionary (4th Edition).
    You have already agreed that ‘puppy’ is ok for seal (page 765)
    ‘L’ for lady is on page 480
    ‘Romeo’ for sweetheart is on page 846
    Oh and…
    ‘Locomotive’ for train on page 880 (tell YOUR Editor)
    Thanks again.

  17. Thanks Fringilla,
    I think Prolexic’s objection in 17 is that ‘sweetheart’ is not a good definition for ‘admirer’, the former implying reciprocity at least.
    I haven’t been able to find a date for Chambers 4th ed, but maybe a newer edition is called for. The current one defines ‘train’ as ‘a string of railway carriages or wagons with a locomotive…’. (It also calls ‘iron horse’ a ‘worn out circumlocution :) )
    Thanks for the entertainment.

    1. In 19 I took ‘sing’ to be CHERUP (just as valid as CHEEP imo) so had no chance of spotting the two-step ‘centre of tom-tom’.

      1. Have to say CHERUP was a new one for me, CHIRRUP was the closest I could get!
        By the way, I looked up the date for the 4th edition and it came up as Set. 2015. Surely that can’t be right – if it is then they’ve revised it a lot of times over the past 5 years!

        1. That can’t be right – I have an old (and tatty) 7th edition which was published in 1988.

          1. Are you perhaps not making a distinction between Chambers Dictionary and Chambers Crossword Dictionary?

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