Rookie Corner – 353 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 353

A Puzzle by Dr Diva

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This is Dr Diva’s debut in Rookie Corner. 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:


1 Associate policeman with cunning adoption of new sovereign (9)
CO-PARTNER – A three-letter word for a policeman followed by a three-letter word for cunning, the abbreviation for new and the two-letter regnal cipher for the current monarch.  I think that the solution should be indicated as 2-7.  The words “adoption of” should have been omitted and the clue would have worked better without them.  Looking at the cryptic reading of the clue you have A + B adoption of B + C.  For the cryptic reading to work, you would need A + B adopting B + C.  Even then, adopting means to contain rather than to add on to the end.

6 Thanks to note, makes sense (5)
TASTE – A three-letter word being the plural of thanks followed by a two-letter musical note.

9 Structure to improve on protest (7)
ROOFTOP – A four-letter structure over a building followed by a three-letter word meaning to improve on.  I think that the definition here is a type of protest, not the protest itself.

10 Popular opinion results from uptake of language in church (7)
CLIMATE – A reversal (uptake) of an Asian language inside a two-letter abbreviation for a church.  In an across clue, I don’t think that uptake indicates a reversal.  It would work in a down clue.

11 Absolutely take the risk! (3,3)
YOU BET – Double definition for a phrase meaning absolutely or I agree and the second meaning to take the risk.  I am not sure the second part of the double definition is synonymous as it seems only to give a clue to the second part of the solution.

12 Conclude by taking Mini south to plantation for inspection (8)
SCRUTINY – A four-letter word meaning mini comes after (conclude by taking) the abbreviation for south and a three-letter French word for a vineyard (plantation).

14 Stick to confirmation following award (4)
OBEY – The abbreviation for Order of the British Empire followed by the abbreviation for yes.  Mad, I know, but the main dictionaries do not include the abbreviation for Yes.  Technically, as setters should use only those abbreviations in the dictionaries, this would not be allowed!

15 Apparently android makes clumsy side entry to mistreat people (10)
DEHUMANISE – How you might describe an electronic person (1-5) (apparently android) in (makes…entry) and anagram (clumsy) of SIDE.

18 Virtual container has supporting evidence for a fruit cake (6,4)
BASKET CASE – A six-letter word for the on-line area where your purchases are recorded before paying for them followed by a four-letter word for supporting evidence. Surface readings are important.  Here the surface reading does not mean much.

20 Person chased after rising stench to get brief life story (4)
OBIT – A two-letter word for a person chased in a children’s game after a reversal (rising) of the abbreviation for body odour.  I don’t think that rising works as a reversal indicator in an across clue.  It would be fine in a down clue.  Also, whenever I played the game, it was the person chasing, not the person chased that was described as the first part of the solution.

23 Means of breathing has turn on Tube (8)
WINDPIPE – A four-letter word meaning turn or meander followed by a four-letter word for a tube.

24 Revolutionary massage for divine sidekick (6)
CHERUB – A three-letter word for a South American revolutionary followed by a three-letter word meaning massage.

26 Ref gets rid of phone. Wish in vain! (7)
WHISTLE – An eight-letter word for a referee (given what he blows when on the pitch) without (gets rid of) the final letter R.  I am at a loss to see how you get from the word phone to R.

27 Boy and girl I found in Asia (7)
BENGALI – A three-letter boy’s name followed by a three-letter word for a girl and the I from the clue.  Whist you sometimes see this form of definition, one of my least favourite forms of definition is the prepositional definition where “in country/place” is used to define a place or a person in that country or place.

28 Mrs Bunny has fractional indication of former act (5)
DOETH – A three-letter word for a female rabbit followed by a two-letter suffix that is added to a number to indicate a fractional part.

29 Unsure whether it immediately follows (9)
THEREWITH – An anagram (unsure) of WHETHER IT.


1 Spice up crest for grooming (9)
CURRYCOMB – A five-letter word meaning to spice up followed by a four-letter word for a crest.  I think that the definition here “for grooming” needs something more to indicate that the solution is a noun.  Perhaps Spice up hunt for grooming item.

2 Get successful treatment with early advantage (7)
PROCURE – A four-letter word for a successful treatment after (with early) a three-letter word for an advantage.

3 Artist’s right about the expression of preference (6)
RATHER – The two-letter abbreviation for an artist and the abbreviation for right around the “the” from the clue.

4 An upstanding subject for the axeman’s aim? (4)
NAPE – Reverse (upstanding) the AN from the clue and follow with a subject taken at school involving exercise.

5 Track direction of inappropriate care at the outset (10)
RACECOURSE – An anagram (inappropriate) of CARE before (at the outset) a six-letter word for a direction.  I think that the “of” in the clue needs to be “with” to make the cryptic grammar in the clue work.

6 Test out key point back in court (8)
TRIBUNAL – A five-letter word meaning to test out has a reversal (back) of a three-letter word for a key point included within it.

7 Devon and Cornwall hail broken Italian language (7)
SWAHILI – The part of the country where you find Devon and Cornwall followed by an anagram (broken) of HAIL.

8 Poetic reflection found on the bottom of a supermodel and the head of Egyptian (5)
ELEGY – The final two letters (bottom) of supermodel and the first three letters (head) of Egyptian.  It is not usual to use bottom / head / top, etc to indicate an unknown number of letters.

13 Nice tipper turns out to be astute (10)
PERCIPIENT – An anagram (turns out) of NICE NIPPER.

16 Found tumbledown stable – well, sort of (9)
ESTABLISH – An anagram (tumbledown) of STABLE followed by the three-letter suffix that is added to the end of a word to indicate sort of.

17 Penny led the pact she brokered for an official report (8)
DESPATCHES – The abbreviation for the old penny coin followed by an anagram (brokered) of PACT SHE.  The cryptic grammar required Penny leads the pack she brokered for the clue to work.

19 Dawn finds nurse is upset (7)
SUNRISE – An anagram (upset) of NURSE IS. 

21 Dish I poke fun back at Ian about (7)
BIRIANI – The I from the clue and a three-letter word meaning to poke fun at are reversed (back) before an anagram (about) of Ian.  Try not to repeat wordplay indicators.  Back has already been used as a reversal indicator.

22 Break note to be different? (6)
CHANGE – Double definition of breaking a note into different denominations and to be different.

23 Amazed that lad ended up with caught, dot ball and bowled (5)
WOWED – A two letter abbreviation for Edward (lad) after (end up) with how you might write caught, dot ball and bowled on a cricket score card.  There are a few comments on this clue.  You begin with a structure definition that wordplay where the link word “that” does not really work.  The definition for the first three letters requires too much technical knowledge of cricket scoring and the required letters are not given as abbreviations in the dictionaries.  I don’t really think that “ended up” necessarily works as a positional indicator to show that the letters come at the end.

25 Rank those who can (4)
ABLE – Double definition of a naval rank followed by seaman and a description of those who can do something.

44 comments on “Rookie Corner – 353

  1. Well that has taken us a very long time and there are several places where we can’t yet understand all the intended wordplay. Lot’s of clever original thinking but think a little more solver friendliness would have given a more satisfying experience.
    Thanks Dr Diva.

  2. Like the 2Ks, this has taken me a long time to solve too and I have several clues where the parsing eludes me. Sadly, if the weather had been better and/or we were able to leave home, I’d certainly have given up about half way through the solve and got on with the day.

    There are quite a few examples of ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ and some lengthy clues. Also I don’t think some of the definitions match your intended meaning – eg 9a. I’ve marked a lot of things I’d mention about other clues but I’ll leave them for Prolixic to cover in his review

    It isn’t all negative – there is some good stuff in there but again, like the 2Ks, I’d like to see you come back with a bit more solver-friendliness, Thank you Dr Diva and in advance to Prolixic

  3. My experience is very similar to the 2Ks and CS, except that I gave up after two long head banging sessions with about half the puzzle completed. I may come back to it later.

    Thanks, Dr Diva (are you called David R by any chance?) You’ve obviously put in a lot of work to compose this and there are some promising signs but please make your next puzzle more user-friendly.

    1. I won’t reply to all comments as they are very similar but Rabbit Dave gets the “honour” for being first to work out that I am indeed DAVID R!!. This is my first effort on this site (I have had 3 published in the BYLINE TIMES) so I really appreciate all your comments. I fully take on board Brian’s statement “that the object of puzzles is to solve them” and totally agree. There have been a few comments about “dodgy” clues so I will think hard on those those, if anyone wants to be specific, and explain and revise my thinking. I want to improve ASAP and await Prolixic’s review keenly. At least everyone seems to agree it wasn’t all bad and am happy to report, as I was once told in a training context, that it will never be as bad again!

  4. Congratulations on your Rookie debut, Dr Diva. Like the commenters above this took me some time and there are a few clues which I think are a bit dodgy.
    On the plus side there’s some clever thinking here. I particularly liked 26a, 3d and 16d.
    Do take note of Prolixic’s advice – I look forward to your next puzzle.

  5. Far too difficult for most people I suspect, the setter needs to learn that the object of puzzles is to solve them not to make them so obtuse as to put off most solvers. I managed 2 clues.

    1. I should have known better than to even attempt it after having read the initial comments of the A team. I’ve managed a dozen in about the time it takes for a middling difficulty back pager & am retiring hurt.

  6. I’ve finished it – after 2 goes, and a little bit of ‘reveal’-ing. As people have said above, perhaps some attempts to be ‘too clever’ but I did enjoy some of them as well, and satisfying to find a hunch actually works out when the clue is parsed. Particularly liked 13d and 16d

  7. Welcome, Dr Diva.

    I managed to complete over half the puzzle unaided, but sought electronic assistance to complete it. There were several clever ideas but these were outweighed by the raw edges unfortunately, but that’s not unknown in a debut puzzle.

    As others have commented, the puzzle was a tricky one but that was more down to the unorthodox constructions in many cases and rules being broken rather than the use of obscure words or stretched definitions. I’m pretty sure that 28a was a grid-filler.

    “Uptake” and “rising” are not permissible as reversal indicators in Across clues, and “back” was repeated as another reversal indicator. I had question marks against certain abbreviations used too. Several of the surface readings were questionable at best, particularly 18a, 23a, 28a, 7d and 8d.

    Lots of areas to work on for next time, I’d suggest, please read Prolixic’s review carefully, it will provide you with invaluable help.

    Many thanks, Dr Diva.

  8. After about the time that it would take to solve two Ray T Thursday back pagers, and with a considerable amount of head scratching, I had the NE and SW completed plus two or three in the SE. Then the need for electronic assistance and reveals ‘kicked in’ so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and brought an end to my Sunday evening solving.
    Of those I did solve I did like 18a, although the container can be real as well as virtual but I imagine you are thinking of on-line shopping, and 21d, although I am used to the spelling with a different fourth letter.
    Thanks Dr Diva but not really my cup of tea.

  9. Welcome to the Corner, Dr Diva, I’m another who thought that your name is possibly David R.
    I found myself frequently trying to look inside the setter’s mind rather than follow the wordplay which suggests to me that the clues in those instances weren’t sufficiently sound and although I eventually filled the grid without assistance I did then feel it necessary to reveal several letters in order to reassure myself that I hadn’t gone astray somewhere.
    Take careful note of the observations to come from Prolixic in his review and please give a little more thought to decent surface reads and enjoyment for solvers.
    Well done for taking the plunge and I hope you’ll be back again with a more accessible puzzle.

  10. I found this to be quite difficult and I didn’t understand some of the clues. Why “fractional indication” at 28a. I get the “Mrs. Bunny” part but I floundered with the rest. There were some really good clues, though and I especially liked 15a because I thought it had quite an original word for android.

    All the constructive thought has been given by those who commented above. It was a good puzzle but needed to be less obscure in places.

    Thank you, Dr Diva. I look forward to more offerings from you. I have a feeling you are going to become a really good setter.

    1. Fractional indication – what letters would you add, for example, to six to be able use it in a statement referring to a part of something.

  11. Struggling now but we have completed most of the bottom half – one still to do for which we have an answer but can’t parse it. The top half is sadly lacking answers but we shall struggle on for a while longer. Thank you for the challenge, Dr Diva and thank you in advance to Prolixic for clarification.

  12. Welcome to Rookie Corner Dr Diva
    I found this tricky too, not helped by the isolated corners in the grid and some rather strange entries
    Plenty of inventiveness but I think a tad too much in places resulting in a puzzle that is not a great deal of fun to solve
    Many of the surfaces are statements you would only ever find in a cryptic crossword, ie unnatural and a tad clunky, but that will come with practice so keep going
    There are several instances where the clues could be condensed with a re-jig eg 1a: ‘adoption of’ is not required and is therefore waffle (and it actually makes more sense without it) – something to look out for in the final draft
    Prolixic will have plenty of advice for you, no doubt, so let him guide you and I’m sure you will progress rapidly
    Well done for putting the puzzle together at all and thanks for the challenge

    1. Thanks very much for the excellent feedback Roy (and to all others who have taken the time). I take the “waffle” criticism on board and will in future spend time to weed it out. So too the need for more natural phrasing.

  13. Thanks Dr Diva, and well done for completing this crossword. I eventually managed to finish it, although I did require some help. Even then, there are quite a few answers I can’t parse. Focussing on the positives…I liked 10A, the def’n part of 2D, 3D, 5D, 7D, 19D. In my opinion, 5D is the most successful clue.

  14. Thanks DrDiva for the challenge, I agree with other comments on the difficulty level and spotted the couple of clues that were perhaps devised in isolation from the grid. Favourites 6d,16,5. I look forward to Prolixic explaining a couple (e.g 23d).

    1. caught = W (wicket in a cricket scorebook)
      dot ball is no score so 0
      bowled = W again
      with Ed as the lad at the end – though I’m not entirely happy with using ‘up’ with end in a down clue as it implies reversal

      1. I thought that there was perhaps a missed opportunity to use Balls (i.e. the former Labour politician) for the last bit of the answer.

  15. Welcome to the corner Dr Diva.
    That was hard but satisfying to finish it after a long day of head scratching.
    As Jane, I was trying to get on your wavelength and it did help in clues like 14a, 15a and 16d.
    Quite a lot of Indian references. Did you live there?
    24a made me laugh.
    Shall wait for Prolixic as there’s a couple that I can’t really parse.
    Thanks again and hope to see more from you.

    1. Thanks for the great feedback. Glad some of it tickled your fancy, though I do appreciate it could have been better and can see plenty of opportunity to improve.

  16. Welcome from me too.
    My main mistake was reading the earlier comments from people who really can do anything that a crossword throws at them.
    I have got quite a few answers but not enough to make me keep going – I did try!
    Well done and thank you to Dr Diva – it must take some guts to do this.
    Thanks also, in advance, to Prolixic for the review tomorrow.

    1. You know, Kath, everyone has been really nice and helpful – so no guts required! If I get another chance, I aim to produce a much better puzzle that offers fairer challenge and take on board the feedback provided..

      1. With that delightfully positive attitude coupled with your undoubted ability, you deserve to be successful. Bravo!

      1. There is a piece of code that sets the time that the full review appears. It had been wrongly set to Monday rather than Tuesday so I corrected when I realised what I had done.

  17. Many thanks for your review, Prolixic.

    The ref in 26a is a whistle blower, from which the “blower” is removed.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and thanks to RD for finding the missing phone! Quite a lot for Dr Diva to think about – did it all prove to be too much for the commentometer?!!

  19. Once Prolixic explains the answers they don’t seem anywhere near as impenetrable. Actually with the aid of some letter reveals I got fairly close to a finish late last night & could certainly appreciate the setter’s effort & ideas.
    Thanks Dr Diva & good on you for embracing the feedback so positively.

    1. Thanks Huntsman. I write songs too and was once told by my tutor “Just write what it in your head. The good news is that once you have it written down, it will never be as crap again!”. So I hope to improve!!

  20. A co-partner? Partner is good enough surely.
    All words beginning with “co- ” should be banned.
    Another americanism that’s destroying the language

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