Rookie Corner – 344 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 344

A Puzzle by Gonzo

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

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.

Welcome back to Gonzo.  This was a step up in terms of the quality of the crossword.  Apart from a couple of minor points at the end of the crossword, there were no issues with the clues.  A comment on the grid is in order.  The usual rule is that solutions should have at least 50% of their letters cross-checked.  You may have a handful of solutions that do not do this, but overall, the cross-checking should be maintained.  Here out of 26 clues, 20 had less that 50% cross-checking.  Coupling  this with the fact that each corner of the crossword was isolated from the centre, it meant that the grid was highly solver unfriendly.

The commentometer reads as 1/26 or 3.8%.


7 Nut from Arkansas initially needs keeping company (5)
ACORN – The state code for Arkansas and the first letter (initially) includes (keeping) the abbreviation for company CO. in (AR. + N[eeds])

8 Denial of the French Revolution tipped balance, making you speechless? (3-6)
NON-VERBAL – The French for no (denial) followed by a reversal (tipped) of the abbreviation for revolution and the bookkeeping abbreviation for balance

9 Carp in waders? (5)
SNIPE – Double definition meaning to complain or a type of wading bird.

10 Cover taken off before Prince’s hit single entertains (9)
UNWRAPPED – Before the abbreviation for Prince add a three-letter word meaning to hit and include all the letters inside (entertains) a five-letter word meaning single.

12 In pieces, garment torn up in brawl (11)
FRAGMENTARY – An anagram (torn up) of GARMENT inside a four-letter word for a brawl.

16 Officer that’s stolen binoculars gets sack (4)
LOOT – The abbreviation for Lieutenant (officer) includes (stolen) a pair of letter that look like the end of a pair of binoculars.

17 Predictable mess in DC as fun goes bad (5)
SNAFU – An anagram (goes bad) of AS FUN.

18 Impetuosity displayed in cycling lane (4)
ELAN – Move the last letter of lane to the beginning (cycling). 

19 Drew out nurses at the expense of government chief, being intransigent (5-6)
WRONG-HEADED – An anagram (out) of DREW includes (nurses) a two-letter word meaning at the expense of, the abbreviation for government and a four-letter word meaning a chief.

22 Thanks to warning seizes 50 knives? (9)
TABLEWARE – A two-letter word meaning thanks followed by a six-letter word word of warning that includes (seizes) the Roman numeral for 50.

24 Traveller tumbles in pigsty when temperature drops (5)
GIPSY – An anagram (tumbles) of PIGSTY after removing (drops) the abbreviation for temperature.

25 Receipt found in tan crop-top that’s quite arresting (9)
QUITTANCE – The TAN from the clue and the first letter (top) of crop inside (arresting) the QUITE from the clue.

26 Hint of deformity (5)
HUNCH – Double definition for a hint or suspicion and a deformity from a spinal curvature.


1 Ran around in swimming cossie – what could possibly happen? (9)
SCENARIOS – A reversal (around) of the RAN from the clue inside an anagram (swimming) of COSSIE.

2 Reproduce formal style of walking in audition (9)
PROPAGATE – A homophone (in audition) of proper (formal) gait (style of walking).

3 Rector’s not about to turn over rent (4)
TORN – The abbreviation for rector has the not from the clue around it (about) with all the letters then reversed (to turn over).

4 After 6 deliveries made too tense (11)
OVERWROUGHT – A four-letter word meaning six balls or deliveries in cricket followed by a seven-letter word meaning made.

5 Hamster up the trousers to burst out? (5)
ERUPT – The answer is hidden in (trousers) the first three words of the clue.

6 Spent a penny standing between judge and journalist (5)
JADED – The A and the abbreviation for an old penny all inside the abbreviations for judge and editor (journalist).

11 A wise ruler, from the outset employing sacked casuals (11)
LEISUREWEAR – An anagram (sacked) of A WISE RULER E (the initial letter – from the outset – of employing).

13 Artillerymen can set about exercise (5)
TRAIN – The abbreviation for Royal Artillery has a three-letter word for a can around it (set about).

14 Wicked, miserly fellow called in debts (9)
NEFARIOUS – A four-letter word meaning miserly has the abbreviation for fellow included (called in) followed by the four-letter for debts.

15 First of squaddies to be carried by stretcher shoulders own kitbag (9)
HAVERSACK – The initial letter (first of) squaddies inside (to be carried by) a four-letter word for a stretcher all after (shoulders) a four-letter word meaning to own.

20 Equivocal outcome of very old illness (5)
VAGUE – The abbreviation for very followed by a four-letter word for an old illness.

21 Frequently fill up the glass (5)
FLUTE – The odd letters (frequently) of the second to fourth words of the clue.  I don’t think that frequently is a alternate word indicator.

23 Contest account in Scripture? (4)
RACE – The abbreviation for account inside the abbreviation for religious education (Scripture).  Religious education has not been called Scripture for nigh on 40 years. You would get short shrift from the editor of the Church Times crossword if you were to use this as the indicator.

21 comments on “Rookie Corner – 344

    1. Having now completed the puzzle I agree it was enjoyable to solve with no real quibbles, and the surfaces flowed on the whole
      Thanks and well done Gonzo (still don’t like the grid tho’)

  1. That took us quite a long time and we now have a filled grid although there are a few which we will come back to later to sort out some parsing. Certainly agree that it is a very solver-unfriendly grid with such an absence of starting letters.. Lots of clever clues and well disguised anagrams.
    Thanks Gonzo.

    1. Having gone back and checked all the parsing, we are even more impressed with the quality of this one. And had another chuckle at the surface of clues such as 6d.
      Well done Gonzo.

  2. That’s much better, Gonzo. Although this was quite tricky in places, it was far more accessible than your previous Rookie Corner puzzles and your surfaces, with one or two exceptions, are much improved.

    Unless there are triple unches I never notice grid formats, but, having read LbR’s comment @1, I can see this one might be a problem for some solvers.

    I dislike the answer to 17a intensely and I am not convinced by your definitions for 19a & 26a but I haven’t got my BRB to hand to check them at the moment.

    Overall though I enjoyed this with 9a, 1d & 6d making it onto my podium.

    Well done and thank you, Gonzo.

  3. I didn’t have any problems with the grid and enjoyed solving the crossword

    Thanks to Gonzo and, in advance, to Prolixic

  4. I hardly ever notice grids but, alerted by LbR’s comment above, I did spot that many answers have unchecked starting letters. Apart from making the solving process a tiny bit trickier I can’t see why this is a problem.
    I enjoyed the puzzle – thanks to Gonzo. My ticks went to 6d (very amusing), 14d, 15d and 20d.

    1. It’s the disconnected corners that bug me – a crossword should cross words
      Congrats on a winner, btw

  5. I rarely notice grid layouts and I do hope the first comment left by LbR doesn’t deter people from giving this one a try, it was well worth tackling. As RD said, it was definitely a big step up from this setter’s previous puzzles in every regard and a most enjoyable solve.
    Plenty of ticks on my sheet – 9a along with 1,4,6,20,21&23d all getting the heads up here. Perhaps 9a & 6d were my top two.
    Many thanks, Gonzo, keep up the good work.

  6. Thanks Gonzo – I enjoyed this. I found it quite tough in places but got there in the end! I liked 8a, 16a (haven’t seen that before) and 15d, but I’d give the gold medal to 1d.

  7. I agree with the consensus that this is a notable step up in quality from the setter’s previous puzzles. None of the surfaces jarred and many of the constructions were very clever. I particularly liked the containment indicators disguised as nouns (“nurses” and “trousers”), I can tell that Gonzo likes using them too. I would have preferred “pinched” to “stolen” in 16a and I don’t really think that “frequently” is an adequate alternate letter indicator, but they were my only reservations. My printed page shows lots of ticks.

    Many thanks to Gonzo and congratulations on creating such an improved puzzle.

  8. We have now completed – after checking a couple of letters – but still struggling to parse a couple. We shall look forward to the review tomorrow. Many thanks Gonzo and in advance to Prolixic. Now back to MPP …..

  9. Thanks Gonzo. I seemed to take a long time on this but was impressed by the construction of many of the clues. Favourite by far was 6d.

  10. Thanks Big Dave for publishing and to all for playing.
    Thanks Prolixic for the review. Interestingly, ‘frequently’ as an alternate letter indicator was accepted without comment by an editor elsewhere (apart from pointing out I had used it twice) but I can see your point of view.
    Although ‘Scripture’ for RE struck me as testing solvers’ knowledge, OED has a quote from 2017!
    The grid is from Monkey Puzzles, where it appears several times.

  11. Thanks, Gonzo. A very enjoyable puzzle.
    Loads of ticks on my printed version.
    I am assuming that BAL at the end of 8a is an abbreviation of balance?

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As I said in my comment, the grid didn’t trouble me in the least – it was just a delight to see that Gonzo has progressed so well.

  13. (*popping head above parapet for a moment*)

    I think this is an excellent piece of work by Gonzo – but considering that he’s just made his second appearance on Alberich’s oh-so-strictly curated site, I was expecting no less – and I wasn’t disappointed! Where do I put my ticks? 10a has to get a mention: surface isn’t as fluent as it might be, perhaps, but it does its job of misdirection admirably.

    Regarding grid layout – personally I think the rule should be set as “no more than n/2 unches where n is even, and no more than (n+1)/2 when n is odd”. Nearly ever grid I’ve seen – certainly every one I’ve used – conforms to that; and while some may call it ‘solver-unfriendly’, I don’t go along with that.

    What of poorly-connected grids, such as this one with four ‘peninsulas’ linked by only a single cell each? Doesn’t bother me. Boatman did discuss this problem in his masterclass; I can understand why it’s a controversy. In my view, the value of a good crossword lies in the clues, not in the grid.

    Oh, and Gonzo if you’re reading this, I’d welcome you getting in touch. Alberich has probably sent you my E-mail address already.

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