Rookie Corner – 338 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 338

A Puzzle by Conto

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Conto is today’s debutant. 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 Conto.  The comments reveal how tricky this crossword was.  Trickiness is not a fault but if CrypticSue and Gazza start and then throw in the towel, it is a good sign that the complexity outweighs the enjoyment in solving the crossword.  I suspect that most solvers, by the time they had managed to solve this would have been too exhausted to see the Nina where etc cardinal points of the crossword appear in their appointed places around the perimeter of the crossword.

There were come good ideas on display in clues such as 12a ,20a (with the alliteration) and 16d.  Some of the surface readings of the clues do not make sense in their own right (compare 8a with 11a).  More of the former and fewer (ideally, none) of the latter would improve the crossword.

In terms of the style of the cluing, there were a handful of devices that would not be seen in all cryptic – such as the gift and separate device in 10a.

The commentometer reads as 6/28 or 21.4%.


8. Edwina prepared to make a bold entrance (4,4)
WADE INTO – An anagram (prepared) of EDWINA  followed by the “to” from the clue.

9. Aleluia! Take lithium then flap bastard wings! (6)
ALULAE – Correct the spelling mistake in the first word of the clue and remove the chemical symbol for Lithium then make an anagram (flap) of the remaining letters.  Watch out for typos.  Particularly unfortunate in an anagram clue.  Depending on your point of view, clueing unusual words as an anagram, whilst technically correct, is not liked by many solvers.

10. Lame duck’s close to the east of USA (4)
WEAK – The last letter (close) of duck after (to the east of) some complicated wordplay with USA.  Split to give US + A and replace the US with the corresponding direct pronoun.  Lifting and separating the USA in this way would not be accepted by some editors.  Where it is permitted, there should be a discernible spilt in the word as it pronounced.  Also going from the indirect to the direct pronoun without indication is too much a stretch for solvers.

11. Tree, high tree, broadcast by satellite (9)
PISTACHIO – A homophone (broadcast) of PISSED (high) ASH (tree) followed be a two letter name of a moon of Jupiter.

12. Bread-maker L-L (6)
EARNER – The word for which L is the abbreviation minus the initial L

14. Bereft of Johnson, England’s aristocracy (8)
NOBLESSE – A phrase (3, 4) that might indicate the absence of Boris Johnson or any other Etonian) followed by the abbreviation for England.  Perhaps a definition by example indicator that Johnson is an example of this category person should be included.

15. Penetrating documentary edited – we pay taxes, no way! (3-4)
SEX-TAPE – An anagram (edited) of WE PAY TAXES after removing the WAY.  The solution is not a phrase recognised by the main dictionaries.  A solution beginning “red” would have been better as setters should use words and phrases in the dictionaries.

17. A thousand quiet before man up the tree (7)
GRANDPA – A five-letter word meaning a thousand followed by the abbreviations for quiet and before (ante).  If there is a literary allusion to the solution and definition it has eluded me.

20. About now, about right, about the equator (8)
TROPICAL – A seven-letter word meaning current or about now around the abbreviation for right.

22. ‘Seized by Rioja’ or ‘Tasting from the Heart‘ (6)
AORTAS – the answer is hidden (seized by) the third to fifths words from the clues.  I think the plural just about works.  However prepositional definitions do not work for me in the same way that “in India” is a pretty poor definition for a town in India.

23. On a list up in South Queens: volunteers required (9)
SUPERSTAR – The “up” from the clue in the abbreviations for South and two abbreviations for Queen (the first two letters and the second one letter.  The insert (required) the abbreviation for Territorial Army (volunteers).  I don’t think that required works as an insertion indicator.  The definition puts the A in A list into lower case.  The rule is that you can capitalise to mislead but, should not put proper nouns into lower case.

24. Lower down (4)
FLAT – Double definition of lower in pitch and feeling out of sorts.

25. Combat resistance in Lyonnaise Buffet? (6)
WARREN – A three-letter word for a conflict followed by the abbreviation for resistance and the French word meaning “in”

26. Put on and take off, say (wrong-headedly) ‘it fits‘ (8)
APPOSITE – An eight-letter word describing “put on” and “take off” with a different first letter (wrong-heatedly).  I think that the initial part of the wordplay leads to the plural form of the word where the solution requires the singular.


1. Reveal wine – another Rose? (8)
NAMESAKE – A four-letter word meaning reveal followed by a four-letter word for a Japanese rice wine.  I think that the definition is an eponym, not an example of the solution.

2. By eck, Nan’s first snog! (4)
NECK – The “eck” from the clue after (by) the first letter on Nan.

3. I leave balls on first level (2,1,3)
ON A PAR – A phrase 1,4 describing the testicles without the I preceded by the “on” from the clue.

4. In retrospect, Captain is sorry he scored (7)
ROSSINI – The answer is hidden and reversed (in retrospect) in the third to fifth words of the clue.  “In retrospect” does not quite work for me as a hidden reversal indicator.  Together they imply a reversal but to work as a hidden reversal, it would need to be “Retrospectively in”.

5. Hot or cold starters for a Spaniard buying a range here (5,3)
TAPAS BAR – A three-letter word for something that could be hot or cold followed by the initial letters (starters for) in the sixth to tenth words of the clue.

6. Cuddle largebreasted, topless bird with iron back in his mansion? (4,6)
HUGH HEFNER – A three-letter word meaning cuddle followed by the cup-size of a very large breasted woman followed by a reversal (back) of a four-letter word for a type of bird without its initial letter (topless) and the chemical symbol for iron.  Largebreasted needs to be hyphenated.

7. Panjandrums‘ funk embraced by cops (6)
NABOBS – A two letter abbreviation for a nasty smell (funk) inside a four letter word meaning cops or captures.

13. Leaves? No, teaware is emptied daily (10)
NOTEPAPERS – The “no” from the clue followed by the outer letters (emptied) of teaware and a six-letter word meaning daily press.  “Teaware” is not a word.  It should be “tea ware” also the daily should be dailies for the plural required by the solution.

16. I.e. traded in one trillionth of city’s cheese (8)
PECORINO – The prefix for one trillionth and a city in Nevada have the I and E exchanged (I.e. traded).

18. Labourers around South Africa are cheap/non-U (8)
PEASANTS – A seven-letter word meaning cheap without the U around the abbreviation for South Africa.  For the cryptic grammar to work the structure would need to be around A is B, not around A are 

19. Serve up on gold table (7)
PLATEAU – A five-letter word meaning serve up followed by the chemical abbreviation for gold.

21. They witnessed the return of spiritual leader, an Emperor (6)
RASTAS – Reverse the first letter (leader) of spiritual and a phrase 1,4 for a Russian emperor.

22. This (6)
ABRUPT – This clue is this.  It also does not work very well as a clue.

24. Bass? A bit loud! (4)
FISH – A bit-loud would be loudish.  Now replace the loud with the musical abbreviation for it.  Perhaps a bit of a stretch for solvers to follow all the steps required to reach the solution.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 338

  1. Sorry Conto, not for me.
    Having reached my typical time for, say, a good Thursday Ray T or a good Friday back pager I have only four entries on my grid and I have comments on two of those.
    There is a typo/mis-spelling in 9a – it should be alleluia otherwise the anagram material is a letter ‘short.’
    There is only one 22a ‘from the heart’ in the human body but the expected answer is plural. Apologies if you think I am being over pedantic.

  2. Sorry Conto but I’ve got one more than Senf and I’ve got to get on with ‘real life’ – I did smile at 24d which of the five is my favourite I’d agree with Senf’s quibbles about 9a and 22a too

    Thank you for providing a crossword for Rookie Corner – I wouldn’t know where to start – and thanks in advance to Prolixic

  3. I gave this a good go but surrendered with only nine answers written in (and I’m not sure of two of them!). I’ll be interested to see how many solvers finished it. Of the ones I got I thought that 12a was clever.
    Welcome to Rookie Corner, Conto – please give us a more manageable puzzle next time.

    1. It irks me to see a half-completed grid on my desk so I did have another bash at this and managed to complete it, aided by revealing two letters.
      There are still a few that I can’t parse fully (26a and 22d mainly) but there’s some clever (and slightly risque) stuff here.
      14a amuses but shouldn’t it have a homophone indicator since surely Johnson starts with a K?
      I think that ‘daily’ in 13d should be ‘dailies’.
      The clues I liked best were 8a, 17a, 5d and 24d.
      Thanks for the puzzle, Conto, but I still think you need to wind down the difficulty for your next puzzle.

      1. 26a – the first five words are an example of a word that starts with O, then swap that for an A (I think)
        The problem there is that S would be required at the end of the O word
        22d doesn’t have any parsing, it is a kind of definition by example and should accordingly be accompanied by a question mark (I think)
        As for Johnson – no comment

        1. Thanks, LbR. I assumed that was what was required for 22d but it doesn’t work for me.
          Incidentally, I’ve just spotted that there’s rather a clever Nina.

          1. So there is – that’s neat
            Being a serial Nina-ist I’m surprised I missed that!
            I did notice along the top but looked no further

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Conto. I’m sorry to say this beat me hands down with only a few answers scattered across my grid after a long time. I am going to need to wait for Prolixic’s review for enlightenment. Thanks for trying. You’ve obviously put in a lot of effort on this.

    1. You may be waiting a while. If Gazza and CrypticSue surrendered with only a handful of clues solved this is going to take some unravelling!

  5. I got close and finished with a few reveals, only to find the parsing unfathomable in places or at best a little unfair. Too much What? and not enough D’oh!
    The Christmas cracker analogy – if the joke needs explaining you won’t get a laugh or a groan, just a blank look. Smooth, misleading and simple works best
    There are some clever ideas on display but perhaps over-egged. I think there will be quite a few niggles, but not a disastrous debut in my book
    Well done for putting the puzzle together Conto, thanks for the challenge
    ps – I do hope your parsing notes are crystal clear for Prolixic

  6. Welcome, Conto.

    Like others, I managed to solve very few answers before resorting to electronic assistance to fill in the others.

    I think the difficulty level was far higher than it ought to have been by your deliberate choice of loose definitions and stretched or incorrect synonyms in many clues. 7d summed up the puzzle for me – “panjandrums” does not quite equate to the answer in my opinion, and neither of your synonyms for “funk” or “cops” are shown in the Chambers Crossword Dictionary, although I haven’t researched other sources. There seemed to be quite a few of these “nearly but not quite” sort of clues and overall the puzzle was not a fair one in the eyes of this solver.

    I would encourage you to check and re-check your definitions and synonyms in any future puzzles, and to reject those that are not widely supported or demand “leaps of faith” from the solver, otherwise those attempting the puzzles will lose interest at what they will perceive to be an unequal struggle.

    Thank you for the challenge, Conto.

  7. Many thanks, Conto but I’m afraid you beat me with this. Seeing the calibre of those who were also beaten I maybe shouldn’t have attempted it but I gave it a go. I may come back to it later but I only managed four unaided on my first pass.

  8. I think we need to give Conto, as a first-timer (and welcome Conto!) some latitude. This puzzle is certainly difficult, almost impenetrable in places (had to reveal quite a lot), and the surfaces are on the whole poor, but there are some gems in it.

    10a, once I sussed out the parsing, I thought it was neat, although the ‘lift-and-separate’ wordplay, whilst it might pass muster in the Guardian, would put off many solvers.

    11a I like the homophones, although the surface isn’t very good.

    16d is superb! Once again it took me a while to see the wordplay – but it works.

    19d I also like.

    But there are some thumbs-downs, I’m afraid, which others have already pointed out. 22d doesn’t work for me. I can see what you’re getting at (I recall that once The Times published a completely blank clue, just the letter count: the solution was MISSING). But best not to impose that on solvers!

    Don’t be discouraged! It’s a fair start and your first task in my view is to consider the surfaces.

  9. Started this in the wee small hours when it was first published and made almost no headway. Having returned to it this morning, I got very little further and am sorry to say that I’m not sufficiently intrigued to complete it with the help of the ‘reveal’ feature.
    Apologies to Conto as I’m sure a lot of effort went into the construction – perhaps you could try to be rather more ‘solver friendly’ next time?

  10. When I wrote last night to advise Conto that his puzzle was being published, I received an “out of office” reply, so he may be away at the moment.

  11. Thanks to everyone who’s spent some time looking at this and commenting – I really appreciate you taking the time to do so. Unfortunately I don’t know many cryptic crossword enthusiasts ‘in real life’, so this has been an invaluable way to get feedback so that I can get better at the art of setting. All feedback is welcome – I’m just starting out and have a thick skin!

    1. Welcome, Conto.

      If you are just starting out then I admire your courage in submitting your effort. Well done and I am sure you will take note of the experts such as Silvanus and LetterboxRoy. Of course there will be the review by Prolixic tomorrow, which will be constructive. I will read that with interest.

      I don’t have any crossword friends in real life either. Lonely, isn’t it?

    2. Welcome to the Corner, Conto. I’m somewhat relieved to hear that you have a thick skin, it would be sad if you were deterred from having another try at this setting lark. I think it would benefit you to pay attention to making your clues read as sensible sentences and to forget about making clues difficult until you’ve mastered all the basics. Plenty of time to get ‘devious’ in the future if you wish to do so! If you look back through the comments on previous Rookie Corner offerings you’ll find that many of the most positive comments have been made about relatively straightforward puzzles – food for thought?

    3. Conto, well done for getting your first puzzle “published” on here – a feat in itself, I guess. With respect, my only advice would be not to try to run before you can walk. But many novices try to produce the most extreme Toughie or Stinker with their first effort(s). Probably better not to concentrate on difficulty/profound esotericism, but more on well-written, fairly basic, clues with good surfaces and no technical flaws. As Jane says, you can let rip later on in your “career” with some rip-snorting ultra-arcane ones. Good luck and let’s have another soon.

          1. Yes, I think you’re right. I only asked because Prolixic mentioned the possibility of a literary allusion.

  12. I have two answers that I’m sure of, (20a and 2d), one that I think is what Conto intended but I agree with others that it isn’t quite right,( 22a) and one that makes sense to me and if it’s right I really like (24d) and after that I’m well and truly stuck.
    Well done to Conto for the crossword and for having the guts to have a go.
    I only have one friend who also does crosswords – all the others think I’m loopy – said friend set one for me as a birthday card a couple of years ago and managed to get my husband’s name in, both daughters names, my sister, our dog and various cats and sweet peas because he knows that they’re my favourites.
    Thanks Conto – I look forward to the review.

  13. Thanks Prolixic for the much-needed exegesis. In 17, the tree is the family one I think.
    Re Johnson, I thought, “that’s not how I spell knob”.
    Thanks for your efforts Conto.

  14. Thank you, Conto, for the puzzle, and Prolixic for the explanations.

    I was surprised 15a hasn’t made it to major dictionaries. It’s a term that gets used (and it’s in Wiktionary).

    And I’m with Gonzo on 17a in interpreting it as the family tree.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I did rather like 19d and a few more in that vein would have been very welcome.
    I do hope that Conto takes all the comments on board and brings us something a little less challenging next time.
    PS A ‘gift’ and separate sounds intriguing!

  16. Thanks again to everyone for their comments. Big thanks to Prolixic too for going through everything in detail. This is a wonderful online community I can’t quite believe actually exists! You may be surprised to hear that the experience has really inspired me. It will be so much easier to create something based on what people have said. So far I’ve had difficulty judging how opaque to make the clues. The answer I’m hearing loud and clear is LESS OPAQUE! I’ve also taken on board the comments about the surfaces. Hopefully you’ll find my next one more enjoyable.

    As some others have already picked up, not all of Prolixic’s parsing tallies with what I intended. The main lesson I’m drawing from this is to make things cleaner. (The clues in question are 14, 17 and 23 actoss. For the first one, I suppose both ways work – my intention was the rude version, so thanks for pointing out the error – I could’ve added ‘weightless’ somewhere.)

    Thanks too of course to Dave!

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