Rookie Corner – 346 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 346

A Puzzle by Conto

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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.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Conto. After the first crossword, this was a welcome step backwards in terms of the difficulty of the cluing. The theme of the children’s cartoon series was well woven into the solutions and the clues with many of the characters from the original series (rather than the later reboot on Boomerang) included.

There were still one or two rough edges in the clues. The main point of concern was the use of abbreviations with many of them not supported by the dictionaries setters use.

I am unable to find a satisfactory explanation of 19d.

The commentometer reads as 4/36 or 11.1%.


1. See 32

4. Despicable pop star found inside with lolly wrapper (9)
DASTARDLY – A three-letter word for pop or father includes the star from the clue and is followed by the outer letters (wrapper) of lolly.

9. Draft new ending to 11 (5)
ROUGH – A five-letter word meaning the answer to 11a has a new letter to replace the last letter of the word.

10. Damn good time (5)
BLAST – Double definition, the first meaning to condemn and the second being an informal word to say that you have had a good time.

11. Trot back in homemade rompers (3)
RED – The answer is hidden and reversed (back in) in the final two words of the clue.

12. Leaves Gibraltar after quiet morning (8)
SHAMROCK – A four-letter word describing Gibraltar after a two-letter word meaning be quiet and a two-letter abbreviation for the morning.

14. Performance of ‘Gas‘, one-act play (6)
OCTANE – An anagram (play) of ONE ACT.

15. Machine belonging to 4 is average (4)
MEAN – Double definition for the car driven by 4a in 32a 1a and a word meaning average.

16. Exactly what’s required for each foxtrot, etc. – dancing (7)
PERFECT – A three-letter word meaning for each followed by the letter represent by Foxtrot in the phonetic alphabet and an anagram (dancing) of ETC.

18. Burlap or hemp? To be determined (7)
PENDING – A description of the last letter of both burlap and hemp. I think something more than a question mark is required in this clue to indicate that the solution is related to the final letter of the words in the clue.

20. Take Rupert, for example (4)
BEAR – Double definition meaning to take or accept responsibility for an the children’s story character.

24. Cooks tell it how it is in Lilliput (6)
LITTLE – An anagram (cooks) of TELL IT. Having the anagram indicator cooks before the letters to be rearranged does not work in the cryptic grammar – it would be OK after the letters. Perhaps “Excitedly tell it how it is…”

25. Pipes stimulate each tear (8)
TRACHEAE – A anagram (stimulate) of EACH TEAR.

27. A new telephone worker (3)
ANT – The A from the clue followed by the abbreviations for new and telephone. T for telephone is not an abbreviation recognized in the main dictionaries.

28. Opening the end of a flower (5)
MOUTH – Double definition of an opening in the face and the end of a river (flower).

30. Initially round, until Baron Igor Kartoffel invented the cube (5)
RUBIK – The initial letters (initially) of the second to sixth words of the clue.

31. Can’t wait? Conto can! (9)
IMPATIENT – Split 2, 7, this would indicate that Conto (as the setter) can wait.

32. & 1A E-cars? (5,5)
WACKY RACES – A build your own anagram clue. A five-letter anagram indicator followed by another arrangement of the letters that would give E-CARS. Rather like the clue to 18a, I think that slightly more is needed to indicate that this is a build your own anagram clue.


1. Bloody good bloke, the sort most difficult to find (6)
RAREST – A four-letter word meaning bloody (in terms of cooking) followed by the abbreviation for saint (good bloke).

2. A cursed, maniacal campaign (7)
CURSADE – An anagram (maniacal) of A CURSED.

3. Sarah exchanged letters with an Algerian? (7)
SAHARAN – An anagram (exchanged) letters followed by the AN from the clue.

4. Recall friend’s name (3)
DUB – Reverse (recall) a three-letter American term for a friend. Perhaps an indication that it is an American term for a friend should be added.

5. Cinders – single girl, upset (4)
SLAG – The abbreviation for single followed by a reversal of a three-letter word for a girl. The abbreviation is that for “singular” not “single”.

6. E.g. an item in magazine (7)
ARTICLE – Double definition, the first being an description of AN and the second another word for a printed item in a magazine.

7. Lovelorn bouncer in the middle of nightclub, doing nothing (7)
DORMANT – A seven-letter word for a bouncer has one of the Os removed (lovelorn) followed by the middle letter of nightclub. The “in” in this clue is out of place. The clue should be re-written to omit it.

8. Different start to lots of songs (6)
YODLES – A six-letter word for lots has a different first letter to begin.

13. Fourth month in Guernsey? Another island is the answer! (5)
CAPRI – The three-letter abbreviation for the fourth month of the year inside a two-letter abbreviation for the island group of which Guernsey is a part.

17. Layman (5)
ROGER – A lift and separate clue to give a crude term for intercourse and the name of a man. Not all editors would accept this form of lift and separate clue. Outside the Cyclops cryptic in Private Eye, none would accept the crudity of the clue.

18. When Stewart retired, finally, in Warsop, childless and bereft without IT work (3-4)
PIT-STOP – The final letters in Warsop, Childless and Bereft around (without) the IT from the clue followed by a two-letter word meaning work.  I don’t think that “finally in” works as a last letter indicator when used in the cryptic grammar of the clue.

19. Never-ending pop song from the Netherlands (2,5)
NO-LIMIT – Pass!

20. Drive taxi round to the rear of cinema (4,3)
BACK ROW – A four-letter word for drive and a three-letter word for a taxi are reversed.

21. Climb oddly up tree before getting dry (7)
ACERBIC – The odd letters in climb are reversed (up) after a four-letter type of tree.

22. Antacid component of chalk, a limestone (6)
ALKALI – The answer is hidden in (component of) the final three words of the clue.

23. Quietly and without heart, Muttley devours diced leek (6)
MEEKLY – The outer letters (without heart) of Muttley includes (devours) an anagram (diced) of LEEK.

26. He wrote two books, including ‘Universal King: the Spanish Uprising’ (4)
LUKE – The Spanish word for the is reversed (uprising) and includes the abbreviations for universal and king.

29. Each side contains a bowler? (3)
HAT – The abbreviations for Heads and Tails includes the A from the clue. Another clue where abbreviations have been used abandoning the use of a dictionary.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner – 346

    1. Looks like some sort of malfunction. Probably have to wait now until BD completes his beauty sleep.

    2. For some reason, the page had not published. I have corrected this so the puzzle should now be available.

  1. Thank you to Conto for a great accompaniment to my Shredded Wheat with a theme I remember well – my brother used to do impressions of 4d and his dog – wonder if he still can :)

    I have a few ? where I’m not sure about the parsing and I can’t find the abbreviation required at the end of 27a in the BRB under that letter. My favourites were 18a, 31a, and 32/1

    Thanks also, in advance, to Prolixic

  2. Spotting the shadowy theme helped enormously with this one (shadowy because 15 requires actual knowledge of it, whereas the other references don’t), and meant I rather enjoyed much of this solve.

    Really liked and appreciated the lift-and-separate wordplay element in 4, and also liked 20a, 24, 2, 6 and 7.

    There are some clues I don’t fully understand the parsing of, and some I don’t think work – e.g. the definition in 18 needs an “‘s”, requires a cryptic reading of a US spelling and contains a bit of GK which can hardly be described as current, and I wasn’t totally sure 31/1 or 17 are strong enough definitions to stand on their own.

    Many thanks for the crossword – the theme brought back fond memories of my childhood.

  3. A very accomplished and enjoyable puzzle – thanks Conto.
    I needed to Google 32/1 to realise just how many references had been squeezed into the grid.
    There are a couple of clues I can’t fully parse. I liked the same clues as CS but would add 4a and the excellent all-in-one 2d.
    More like this please.

  4. I wasn’t helped by the fact that the series came too late for me and too early for my girls – think I only knew two of the characters, plus the dog, so I had to ask Mr Google for some details.
    I’ve got a few question marks and parsing queries which await the review from Prolixic but in fairness I did find this puzzle rather more approachable than our setter’s debut.
    Thank you, Conto, brave of you to try a theme so early in your setting career!

  5. Welcome back, Conto.

    32/1 was one of my favourite TV programmes as a child so I am somewhat biased in saying that I thoroughly enjoyed solving this. It was a real tour de force to include so many themed entries, some I knew and several I didn’t until Googling them. Inevitably, those unfamiliar with the theme will not have found the puzzle quite so rewarding, I suspect.

    This represented a far more accessible puzzle than your previous one, and although some of the clueing in places was tough, I do get the impression that you had deliberately reined back the difficulty level after digesting the comments last time. I have ticks beside several clues, but my overall favourite was 1d because of the great surface reading.

    Well done and many thanks, Conto. I look forward to your next.

  6. Like others, spotting the theme helped greatly. A very enjoyable puzzle with just the right amount of head scratching. There were plenty of good clues and I liked 4a. I’m afraid I could not understand 29d because I could not see where “each side” came from.

    Many thanks, Conto.

  7. Very accessible theme even if I only saw it in French with different character names.
    The only clues I can’t parse are 17d and 29d and wonder if there is a mistake in 8d between the noun and the verb.
    Really enjoyed the solve.
    Thanks to Conto.

  8. A very enjoyable puzzle solidly clued, though there are still a few I can’t work out – whether that’s a parsing problem or me being dim, or not knowing the reference remains to be seen tomorrow. I had to do some Googling which for me is not ideal
    I have heard of the theme, but we didn’t have a TV when I was a kid and by the time we got one I had already found other ways to spend my time so never watched it
    Well done for producing a very entertaining puzzle Conto, a big improvement I think

  9. Welcome back, Conto. I agree with Silvanus that this was much more accessible than your previous Rookie Corner puzzle (although the theme meant nothing to me), and it was fun to solve.

    I have a few minor comments.

    I can’t find any justification for some of the abbreviations you have used (T for telephone, and, if I have parsed 29d correctly, H & T for head and tail), and you need to be careful when using non-verbs as anagram indicators. I would have said the friend in 4d should have been indicated as an American term. The spelling in 8d looks decidedly odd, but I see it is listed in the BRB. In 15a you need to specify 4a.

    With lots to like, my podium choice is 18a, 20a & 1d.

    Many thanks Conto, and in advance to Prolixic.

  10. Despite remembering the theme reasonably well I still found this very tough & needed to use a letter reveal on 3 occasions to finish. Even then there are a few that I’m unable to parse (though RD’s comment has answered one of them). 32/1a was my clear favourite and also really liked the downs at 2,3&7.
    Many thanks Conto & look forward to the review

  11. Many thanks to everyone for their feedback. I REALLY appreciate it. Thanks in advance to Prolixic, and thanks to Dave for publishing it. Now to get started on puzzle #3 – watch this space!

  12. We seem to have found this much more difficult than most solvers as the theme was totally unknown to us. A quick Google just now and we can see how many of the answers are related to the theme. Needless to say that 32/1 was one of our last answers to solve. However we did finish so proves that knowing the theme not absolutely necessary which is a compliment to the quality of the cluing.
    Thanks Conto.

  13. Thanks Conto, that was quite chewy but interesting, I like the theme. Comments absent reading others’:
    Favourite 21, ticks also against 24,1dn,13,20dn.
    12 I’d not have got it from the definition, but I see the dictionary lends support.
    I thought 14,18,27 and 7 didn’t work for various reasons – I’ll leave those to Prolixic.
    I still haven’t parsed 29.
    19 I didn’t know know, know know know know they were Dutch, so thanks for that :)
    Keep it up.

  14. We struggled with some answers and being imprudent with 31a certainly didn’t help us. We weren’t familiar with the theme so google helped solve several gaps. Enjoyable though, although we need to see Prolixic’s review tomorrow to understand some of the parsing. 12a and 13d were favourites. 8d is an unfamiliar spelling to us. Many thanks for the puzzle, Conto, and thank you in advance to Prolixic.

  15. Many thanks for your review, Prolixic. 19d took quite a bit of hunting down. It is the title of a 90s’ pop song by a very obscure (to me) Dutch group called 2 Unlimited!

    1. Not sure what it says about me that I actually remembered the name of the song/group but not a lot else about it

    2. The song isn’t that obscure though: it was number 1 for 5 weeks in the UK, and Europe’s biggest-selling song in 1993; I think most people who were listening to a pop radio station that year would know the song (even if they haven’t heard it for years, and would rather not recall it).

      I wrongly thought it was called No Limits, but Conto is correct.
      Listen if you dare — “Techno techo techno techno”.

  16. Thank you for the puzzle, Conto — that was fun to solve. And to Prolixic for the explanations and advice.

    I thought 32a/1a was clued sufficiently given this is a themed crossword; it provides a nice penny-drop moment. Though I can see it’d be mystifying to anybody unfamiliar with the theme.

    Like others, I was even more impressed when I looked up the complete list of characters and saw how many had been included. I was concerned by Prolixic’s mention of a modern reboot, and shaken when I read on Wikipedia that the new episodes don’t even feature a winner at the end — what kind of a race is that?

    I particularly liked 6d’s articles, 26d’s book-writer, and 20d’s reversal. Well done.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which sorted out my queries. Not knowing much about the theme was my main problem during the solve, 17&19d convinced me that I should perhaps have left it alone!

  18. An enjoyable puzzle Conto, keep them coming! I especially liked 32/1a (didn’t know the theme but I’d heard of the title). I don’t see the clueing as inadequate – the use of a ‘reverse anagram’ is ingenious, well done!

    Although I don’t mind in the least, I’m surprised no-one’s commented on the grid – unlike last week! Four ‘islands’ connected to the centre by only a single cell each, isn’t to everyone’s taste (of course, the grid in last Saturday’s Guardian Prize by Puck probably left the ‘grid police’ gasping!)

    I would suggest, the best ‘ghost’ themes (a formula I’m particularly keen on!) should be those that rely on absolutely no knowledge of the theme at all (I slipped up there, in one of my earlier efforts). Your 15a needs the GK: I had to just write in from one of the defs.

    But on the whole, a good effort.

  19. Having discovered Rookie Corner, I have been trying out a few in the archive. I was happy to find the comments still open! I completed the grid somewhat tentatively having no experience of the TV series – although I had an awareness of the term ‘Wacky Races’; and I was completely baffled by 19d. Overall, I appreciated the challenge, but I was not really in a happy place as I had no rapport with the theme. For what it is worth, I had an alternative answer for 4d – Deb. This derives from “Bed is my friend.” considered to be a Quotable Quote from Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ I have risen to Smylers challenge to dare to listen to 19d. In future I think I’ll stick to my favourite decades between the 60s-80s!

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