Rookie Corner – 354 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 354

A Puzzle by Sundance

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Although this was a lot easier than previous crosswords from Sundance, the number of comments on this crossword and the niggling points show that producing a simpler crossword is often harder than producing a harder one.  There were lots of good clues but still to inconsistent in quality.  The commentometer reads as 7.5 / 34 or 22.1%.


8 Maintained outside broadcast before being put into play (8)
OBSERVED – The abbreviation for outside broadcast followed by a six-letter word meaning to put into play as in a tennis match.

9 Diamonds after ten could be bait (6)
ENTICE – An anagram (could be) of TEN followed by a three-letter informal word for diamonds.  I don’t think that the anagram indicator woks in the way in which it is used.  Perhaps Lead on playing ten diamonds. 

10 Joint for President without front (4)
RUMP – The name of the outgoing president without the first letter.  The structure of definition for wordplay does not work.  Wordplay for definition would be ok.

11 Irritated, I steered following river (5)
RILED – The I from the clue and a three-letter word meaning steered after (following) the abbreviation for river.

12 Coward perhaps lacking railway (4)
NOEL – Split 2, the answer would suggest the absence of an elevated railway.

13 Spiritual presence held by others (8)
ETHEREAL – A four-letter word meaning presence inside (held by) a phrase (2,2) meaning others.  I don’t think that presence means the word using in the solution.  That would required present.  Heavenly present carried by others.

16 A loud fabric can be fiery (6)
AFLAME – The A from the clue followed by the abbreviation for loud and a four-letter word for a type of metallic fabric.

18 Admitted everything in his anger (4)
SANG – The answer is hidden (in) the final two words of the clue.

20 Kept back inside bodega cellar (5)
CAGED – The answer is hidden and reversed (kept back inside) the final two words of the clue.

21 Historically the war department’s rivals for the rockers (4)
MODS – The abbreviation (preserving the ’s) of Ministry of Defence (historically known as the War Department).

22 Stick he read about (6)
ADHERE – An anagram (about) of HE READ.

23 Rita once arranged act of God (8)
CREATION – An anagram (arranged) of RITA ONCE.  Occasional repetition of wordplay types in successive clues occurs but here with two hidden word clues followed by two anagram clues, it can make the crossword unbalanced.

26 Cliff taking love from film award (4)
SCAR – Remove the O (love) from a five-letter word for a film award.

28 On the south coast, starting life in a squalid dwelling (5)
HOVEL – The name of a town on the south coast followed bu the first letter (starting) of life.  Starting on its own does not work very well as an initial word indicator.  Also, prepositional indicators are not particulate helpful.  Perhaps Brighton neighbour left squalid dwelling.

30 Gives an extra to boy who is petty criminal (4)
WIDE – A double definition for a cause of an extra run in cricket and a description preceding boy for a type of petty criminal.  I don’t like the “Gives an” at the start of the clue as it implies that the first part of the definition is a verb.

31 Offer something delicate (6)
TENDER – Double definition of a contractual offer and something tender or sore.

32 Sister satisfied apparently in Warwickshire (8)
NUNEATON – A homophone (apparently) indicating that a religious sister has finished a meal.  Apparently is a poor choice for a homophone indicator.  Another prepositional clue.  In Warwickshire to define a place in Warwickshire is not ideal.


1 Take the tube after blood type (6)
ABDUCT – A two-letter blood type followed by a four-letter word for a tube.  I am more lenient than most commentators on surface readings for Rookie setters as good surface readings come with practice.  However, where the surface reading does not make sense, it must be pointed out.

2 River is quiet but not shallow (4)
DEEP – A three-letter word for a UK river followed by the abbreviation for quiet.  The use of “is” does not work as a charade indication.  It would have to be River has… which could be indicated by River’s deep…

3 Has a strong dislike of some of the poem (6)
AVERSE – Split 1,5, the answer would be part of a poem or song.

4 Agree to marry large hero (4)
IDOL – The phrase allegedly said by couples during their marriage vows followed by the abbreviation for large.  Rookies and all setters please note, the vows are “I will” not “ I do” and always have been in the Church of England’s wedding services.  

5 Handled a revision point (8)
HEADLAND – An anagram (revision) of HANDLED A.  Perhaps revised would read better in the cryptic reading of the clue.

6 Knock silly heads up (4)
STUN– Reverse (up) a four-letter informal word for heads

7 Expressed fright and made me scared (8)
SCREAMED – An anagram (made) of ME SCARED.  I don’t think that made works in this context.  

14 Ray possibly in quite a gleeful mood (5)
EAGLE – The answer is hidden (in) in the fourth to sixth words of the clue.  Try to avoid padding words such as “mood”.  Also, where you have a compound noun, such as ????? Ray cluing the first part of the collective noun by reference to the second does not not work.

15 Record I collated initially had reasoning (5)
LOGIC – A three-letter word word a record followed bu the I from the clue and the initial letter of collated.  The past tense of had as a link word is not ideal.  Wordplay had definition should be wordplay has definition.

17 Restrict busy road with bright surroundings (5)
LIMIT – The name a motorway (busy road) has a three-letter word meaning bright around it.

19 Performed about heartless parent I hooked (8)
ADDICTED – A six-letter word meaning performed on stage around the outer letters (heartless) of DAD (parent) and the I from the clue.

20 Literary cat or revolutionary horse? (8)
CHESHIRE – The name of the well known South American revolutionary followed by a five-letter word for a type of horse.

24 Remove app from delightful place of comedy (6)
EALING – A nine-letter word for delightful without the initial APP.

25 Peculiar child is favourite (4-2)
ODDS-ON – A three-letter word meaning peculiar followed by a three-letter word for a child.

27 Russians have 15 on the table (4)
REDS – Double definition for Russians and the colour of 15 of the balls on a snooker table.  The have breaks the cryptic reading of the clue as you have definition 1 have (should be has) definition 2.

29 Release opening in coat (4)
VENT – Double definition meaning to let out steam or a type of opening in a coat.

30 Accept flower (4)
WEAR – Double definition.  Again three double definitions in row is not ideal.

48 comments on “Rookie Corner – 354

  1. I was a little leery about attempting to solve this puzzle for two reasons. Firstly, I took another look at the review of Sundance’s last Rookie, and, secondly, there was no comment from the 2Kiwis when I got to look at the puzzle. But, I remembered that the 2Kiwis were on a ‘road trip’ and Sundance ‘told’ Prolixic that he would try for a simpler puzzle next time.
    Well, this is definitely simpler and, for me, was on the easier end of a Monday back pager. Cryptic Sue may not even have time to pour the milk on her cereal of choice!
    So, well done Sundance.
    I did have a couple of Hmms over the 9a and 7d anagrams but, instead of embarrassing myself, I will leave comments to greater minds.
    I did really like 8a, 13a, 32a, 19d, and 25d.
    Thanks again Sundance and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. I enjoyed this easy stroll in the park and managed to complete it without wiping it clean half way through by inadvertently hitting the ‘revert’ button with my stubby fingers ( which I blame for my frequent typos!). I do wish this feature wasn’t there.
    Anyway, good fun and not too taxing. */****.

  3. Good fun and a well-selected level of difficulty. The majority of clues are fine; perhaps a handful or two require polishing. I’ll leave most of the detailed comments to Prolixic’s review tomorrow, though here’s one example/ tip, using 2d’s ‘River is quiet but not shallow (4)’…
    … If you require an ‘is’ for the wordplay to be smooth but it has no role in the cryptic grammar, then use ‘s (apostrophe s) instead. Using this you still get the meaning ‘is’ from the wordplay but it can also be read as ‘has’, an abutment word in the cryptic, allowing a cryptic charade-type clue. I hope this helps. And I can recommend Don Manley’s Chambers Crossword Manual for this kind of thing.
    Many thanks Sundance and I look forward to your next.

  4. Well done, Sundance. This was a good step-up from your last puzzle, and I thought it was light and fun. Some of your surfaces still read strangely, but I think they are better overall than last time.

    A few comments:
    – I agree with Senf that we need the judgement of Prolixic regarding the anagram indicators in 9a & 7d.
    – In 13a, “here” is synonymous with “present” not “presence”.
    – In 21a your word order implies the war department is historic, which it isn’t. “The war department’s old rivals …” would work.
    – The wording and surface of 30a could be improved by “Extra given to boy …”
    – In 3d, the answer is not quite synonymous with the definition. “Has a strong dislike of” = “averse to”.
    – In 14d, “mood” is padding.

    I had several ticks and my podium comprises 20d, 25d & 27d.

    Many thanks, Sundance, and congratulations on your improvement.

    1. Dear Rabbit Dave

      Thank you again for your very detailed remarks. I accept the comments about some of the surface readings and am interested to note your different opinion to silvanus. I am please to report, however, that President Trump has issued me with a pardon for all dodgy surface readings to date! I really will try and improve them in the future.
      Thank you for your general encouragement.

  5. I’m sorry, Sundance, but unlike RD I found probably more unconvincing surfaces in this puzzle than in your last one. I had question marks against 10a, 12a, 16a, 21a, 23a, 30a, 1d and 19d and I find it hard to understand how, after numerous appearances in Rookie Corner now, these not only continue to appear but actually are on the increase. “Coward perhaps lacking railway” and “Take the tube after blood type” are two examples of phrases that make no sense – imagine if you read them in a book you’d be scratching your head as to what is meant. I’m concerned that many solvers seem to think any surface is fine provided it leads the solver to get the right answer. I’m not one of those people.

    Once again, the grid wasn’t the best – if more than 50% of the clues consist of either four-letter or five-letter words, that’s far from ideal. I liked the concept of 20d, but my favourite clue was 25d, even if it is a bit of an old chestnut. Aside from the surfaces, I had technical queries on several clues and I’ve never been a fan of “apparently” as a homophone indicator, even if some setters do use it.

    Sorry to sound a negative note overall, Sundance, but I don’t see the point of sugar-coating the pill. Thank you for the puzzle.

    1. Dear silvanus

      Thank you for taking the time to contribute. I had thought that this simpler crossword would be more straightforward but I can see that I need to keep working on those surface readings.
      On that topic…does anyone look at the crossword in Radio Times? I am probably biased but think that my surface readings are perhaps a little better than those I sometimes see in the magazine and presumably those puzzles are set by a professional compiler?

      1. Hi Sundance,

        I think you’d do far better to judge surface readings against what you’d encounter in the Daily Telegraph rather than what you’d see in the Radio Times! No disrespect intended to its setter or setters, but it’s not normally used as a yardstick in my experience. I would recommend you examining the surfaces in today’s Campbell puzzle in the DT, I thought they were exemplary.

        1. Dear silvanus
          I’m not trying in any way to make excuses – I agree that some of my surface readings do not reach the standards that you expect. I was pointing out that some professional compilers appear to have some clues some of the time that do not reach your standards. (Radio Times is just one example). In fact my wife and I are currently working through CHAMBERS BOOK OF ARAUCARIA CROSSWORDS VOLUME 1 and even the occasional clue in there probably does not have a perfect surface reading. We are, nevertheless, thoroughly enjoying the puzzles and the challenges.
          I know that there will always be debate on which puzzles are best and which clues are the most ideal and that can only be healthy.
          I wonder if any compiler can provide clues with a perfect surface reading 100% of the time and still produce puzzles that are widely enjoyed. I look at Elgar’s puzzles, for example and see that everyone agrees that they are all exemplary in their quality …YET some people appear to give up on them. Can a puzzle be too good?
          I will keep working on surface readings but would be interested to know other peoples opinions as to overall how important they are when balanced with the enjoyment of a puzzle.

          1. Hi again,

            I make no apology for being harsh on surface readings, as they will invariably make the difference between a good puzzle and a great one. If you prefer, it’s a bit like that little bit of extra polish you might put on your ornaments at home in order to make them shine far more brightly. It is useful to imagine reading them (or hearing them) in another context and, if they don’t make complete sense first time, something is usually amiss. I think every compiler would concede that not all his or her surfaces are always perfect by any means, but I think it’s better to set the bar high rather than low, don’t you?

      2. Sundance,

        Silvanus is too modest to say so, but his surface readings are impeccable. Keep an eye out for his Telegraph Toughies (occasional Tuesdays) and back-pagers (occasional Fridays).

        1. Dear Rabbit Dave
          I have seen puzzles by silvanus and totally agree with your comments. In fact silvanus sets a standard that all rookies should aim for as he started life as a rookie. If he can do it, can I?

      3. Hi Sundance. I have two points to make here. 1. Do you have a test solver or even two test solvers? Most of the minor problems would be picked up before submission and you would be able to discuss what your intentions are with a test solver. There are many on here who would be willing to lend a hand. 2. Surface readings. It’s a bit like writing poetry. A clue, like a poem can always be improved. Read your clue. Edit it. Read it again. Edit it. Read it again. Edit it until you are sick of it. Then do it all over again. Clue by clue. The greatest writers still have editors.
        Prolixic’s comments in italics are the main points to consider. Aim for less italics with each submission. You clearly care, that is obvious. You can see and understand the problem but seem to be trying to justify ignoring it because the poor clue still leads to the answer. As for Silvanus, well I’m glad he wasn’t my head master, but I’d have driven him to distraction if he was

        1. Dear Miffypops
          Thank you for your well considered remarks and interest in my points.
          1. Yes, I do actually have 2 test solvers. The first is my wife and she is quite critical and tries very hard not to be biased. The second person is independent and quite professional. I ultimately take responsibility for my output, however.
          2. I would certainly prefer to receive only positive criticism and on that basis I will strive to improve. I am not in any way trying to justify any of my clues that are deemed to have poor surface readings but have merely observed that there are a number of published puzzles that have clues that silvanus would probably find fault with. My own experience in solving puzzles is that there are some that I like and others that I am not so happy with. Some of the ones I like have good surface readings and some I dislike have good surface readings. Similarly some I like have less good surface readings and likewise for some I dislike.
          I get the impression that some solvers notice the quality of surface readings far more than other solvers but I would like to be able to please all of the people all of the time.
          Thanks again.

  6. Really enjoyed this after struggling to find answers for the NTSPP on Saturday. Thank you Sundance. Favourites were 28a, 7d, 20d and 25d.

  7. The few technical faux pas didn’t spoil the enjoyment too much.
    Thanks to Sundance for the workout.
    Favourites the same as Senf.

    1. Dear jean-luc cheval

      Thank you for your kind remarks. I can see that my puzzles are far from technically perfect but at least everyone seems to find something to like.

  8. I found much to like in this Sundance. Not difficult but still an interesting solve. The across clues at 8,13,16 & 32 plus the downs at 4,20,24 & 25 were the ones that stood out for me. The occasion iffy surface didn’t spoil things for me but I understand where Silvanus is coming from & as RD says if you can get anywhere near to matching his surfaces then you’re going some. Don’t understand 12a.
    Many thanks

    1. 12a – split the answer (2,2) – the second part refers to a mid-West US city’s transit system, which has been seen before.

      1. Ah – didn’t know the EL bit. Could only think of the Elizabethan Line which doesn’t exist

  9. Thanks Sundance – this was a nice, gentle solve. Ticks against the following, for their nice, natural surfaces – 28A, 2D, 5D, 7D, 20D, and 25D.

  10. Welcome back, Sundance. The notes I’d made virtually mirror those from RD with regard to 13,21&30a plus 3&14d and I can’t stress sufficiently how much I agree with Silvanus when it comes to surface reads. It is sadly apparent that some setters and even editors pay less attention to such ‘niceties’ these days and there are indeed solvers who claim not to be overly concerned but I suspect they simply aren’t realising just how much has actually been added to their enjoyment of a puzzle when it’s been crafted around decent surfaces.
    It’s a high bar to aim for and I have no doubt that even a master of the art, such as Silvanus, would be the first to admit that not every clue he’s written has met his own high standards, but he’s proved over and over again that solvers do respond very positively to well-constructed clues.

    I spotted your observations regarding Elgar’s puzzles and I think the simple answer is that many solvers find the workings of his mind just too complex to render the resultant puzzles enjoyable challenges!

    You obviously do have some good ideas and I particularly liked 20&25d today. Several others could have joined them given just a little more attention to detail.
    Look forward to seeing more from you in the future.

    1. Dear jane
      Thank you for your remarks and I am pleased that you found some of the puzzle enjoyable.

  11. A rather curious mixed bag
    A few technical oversights which you probably should have weeded out but the bigger issue is the abstract surfaces
    Do cowards usually have railways? Can a blood type get on the tube?
    If you can spot these issues in the final draft the puzzle would be much improved
    Thanks for an entertaining challenge

    1. Dear LetterboxRoy
      Thank you for your usual helpful remarks. As I said earlier I notice many other professional puzzles have a number of clues with less than ideal surface reading but I know that doesn’t offer much defense. (“Well,officer, I might have been speeding but so were a number of other drivers”).
      I’m pleased that you found at least some of it entertaining and in fact every reviewer appears to have made at least one positive comment,

  12. I enjoyed this puzzle but felt it was spoiled by quite a few little inaccuracies. (What, I hear you say? Is the pot calling the kettle black? LOL! I’m hoping to try again soon in Rookie Corner, day job permitting, and will strive to get a little nearer the high standard expected by my keen friends here at Big Dave.) Back to the present: reviewing is not my forte so I’ll stop there and leave the detailed analysis to the regular bloggers and of course Prolixic, but I must say I am looking forward to more from this setter, who I feel has some nice ways, some original ideas and much potential once they eradicate the inaccuracies.

    1. Dear Fiddlesticks
      Well, thank you so much. Are we masochists? Despite the lack of total adulation I still feel that I have achieved something and aspire to the day when one day one of my puzzles will be published that will be fault-free!

  13. I must say in the round I really enjoyed this. Previous commenters have no doubt pointed out where it could be improved and there are little niggles here and there but they didn’t impact on my enjoyment too much.
    Lots of ticks from me including the simple and elegant 18a, the part homophone 32a plus the amusing and clever 20d &27d, both great clues. Well done.

    1. Dear Stephen L.
      Thank you for your thoughts which are most appreciated.
      It seems to me that the Telegraph puzzles are really at the top of the Premier League (please excuse the football analogy non-football fans) and are tough to equal, let alone beat. Perhaps I’m in one of the lower leagues and am thus going to look poor by comparison but hopefully I can get better. Many years ago I lived in Wimbledon and some of you will remember that Wimbledon went from non-league side to beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final not many years later.

  14. I have done the puzzle and read the comments and await the review. I quite enjoyed this and it didn’t look out of place when solved after 29,575. it was better IMO than cryptic 639 on the Telegraph puzzle site. I will agree with jane in picking 20 and 25d for mention. they were the tops for me. I did have a question mark against 12a
    not many would associate the last two letters with railway outside of New York or Chicago…

    “After Boston’s demolition of the Causeway Street Elevated in 2004, only three cities with el trains remained: New York, Chicago, and the commonly forgotten Philadelphia.”

    30d grated on my ear a bit but a brief investigoogle taught me the difference between Homophones Homonyms and Homographs. Today’s learning moment for me.
    Thanks to Sundance for the puzzle and in advance to Prolixic for the review

  15. Dear All
    Thank you to everyone who took the time and trouble to have a go at this puzzle. Thanks especially to Prolixic for the very helpful comments and to Big Dave for continuing to offer this wonderful opportunity for Rookies.
    I accept the technical errors and I understand the comments about surface readings. I am, however, left somewhat confused by the variations in comments – some reviewers like certain clues yet the same clues are disliked by other people. I know that you can’t please all of the people all of the time but am left wondering if some of the clues are good or bad.
    I fully accept that the very best clues will work on all levels for all people and will have wonderful surface readings but I refer to my earlier observation about my current Araucaria puzzles and repeat that not every clue in that book has a superb surface reading yet my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the puzzles we have so far completed. This is just one example of professional puzzles not necessarily always having ideal surface readings yet someone chooses to publish the puzzles and place them in a book/paper/magazine etc that someone is paying for. If a puzzle is enjoyable is that not the main reason for it?

    1. You are right Sundance–but turn it on its head: as Rookies, we are the fortunate ones. It’s not that we’re being singled out for unfair treatment; rather, we are at an early enough stage in our growth to acknowledge that we are Rookies and invite criticism. Later, if we make it as known compilers or even great compilers, the world will still have a variety of opinions about our work but will stay silent. Make the most of it while it lasts.

      1. Dear Fiddlesticks
        You make a very good point. I will not worry too much unless Big Dave says….”PLEASE do not send any more puzzles”.

    2. It is an interesting debate, I think. Silvanus suggests imagining coming across a clue in a book, which largely I agree with. Something I also do is imagine Dylan singing the clue as part of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. One of the actual lines from that song is ‘you used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat, who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat’. Some solvers may criticise Dylan here for an overly surreal surface, which would be taking the desire for smoothness too far, in my opinion. But a surreal clue should allow the solver to conjure up an image in their head. My issue with some of your clues is that no resulting image can be conjured up. E.g. for me, I can’t really glean any image or sense from the idea of a ‘coward lacking a railway’. I say this in the spirit of constructive debate – I hope that’s how it comes across.

      1. Dear Conto
        It is a little known fact that Noel Coward wanted to emulate his hero Cornelius Vanderbilt and have his own railway.
        No, actually I made that up but I suppose it indicates that the clue is not completely inconceivable. I would certainly agree that it is not a patch on Bob Dylan.
        Thank you again for your input.

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I do hope that Sundance uses your comments to guide his future setting.

  17. Always interesting to read Prolixic reviewing the rookie corner.
    Thanks for the analysis and look forward to the next offering from Sundance.

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