Rookie Corner – 355 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 355

A Puzzle by Median

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Our second debutant of 2021 is Median. 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 Median with a debut crossword that was far from being half-baked.  It was a good first outing with some clever ideas on play, such as 9a, 3d and 22d.  In terms of the clues, the basics are there but a little more attention is needed to the cryptic grammar.  Cryptic definitions are often the hardest to produce and may of them in this crossword, were probably its weakest point.  Some of the surface readings needed attention where clues such as 18d (probably the worst offender) do not make sense in their right.  Surface readings come with practice but it is good to pay attention to them.  The commentometer reads as 3.5 / 30 or 11.67%.


8 Light ring in such a lot of cakes … (4)
HALO – The answer is hidden in the fourth to sixth words of the clue.  Normally, padding words for a hidden word clue are discouraged.  Here they could be seen with the ellipses as starting the definition of the next clue.

9 … 1 of 10 here with liquor and ice (10)
PONTEFRACT – put the liquor and ice together as one word and the solution is a type of cake made from the resulting word.

10 Apollo parts are what The Apollo does (6)
STAGES – Double definition by reference to an Apollo rocket and the Apollo theatre.  On the cryptic reading of the clue you have Definition A ARE Definition B, which does not work as it should be IS.

11 ‘No Taping’ order is pathetic (8)
POIGNANT – An anagram (order) of NO TAPING.

12 Complete agreement could be shop steward’s position (2,6)
IN UNISON – The membership of a trade union of which a shop steward could be member.

14 Country where gluttony doesn’t end before church (6)
GREECE – A five-letter word for gluttony with the final letter removed (doesn’t end) followed by the abbreviation for Church of England.

16 Relish starting Zoom every single time (4)
ZEST – The initial letters (starting) of the final four words of the clue.  I don’t think that starting on its own indicates the start of every word.

17 For tea, maybe, before one is sick, oddly (5)
SCONE – The odd letters is sick before the ONE in the clue.  Try to avoid vague definitions such as for tea maybe.  Look at what the clue says as a whole – here the sentence is not one that you would use in everyday conversation.  Compare the surface reading of this clue with the next one which is more convincing as a sentence in its own right.

18 Come across food in conversation (4)
MEET – A homophone (in conversation) of meat (food).

19 Aim to break cooker. What’s to be done? (6)
AGENDA – A three-letter word for an aim or objective inside (to break) a three-letter word for a type of cooker.

21 For one girl, following Maggie May ultimately makes things easier to see (8)
EYEGLASS – The abbreviation for “for example” (for one) and a four-letter word for a girl after (following) the final letters (ultimately) of Maggie May.

23 Desert absorbs a cold dessert, perhaps (8)
MACAROON – A six-letter word meaning to desert or strand includes (absorbs) the A from the clue and the abbreviation for cold.

26 Ebbing, dangerous tide engulfs whole pier (6)
PILLAR – A three-letter word for a dangerous tide includes (engulfs) a three-letter word meaning whole and all the letters are then reversed (ebbing).

27 Doing a headstand, accidentally wiped sound (6-4)
UPSIDE-DOWN – An anagram (accidentally) of WIPED SOUND.

28 Row when recipe is lost causes complaint (4)
AGUE – A five-letter word meaning row or have a disagreement without (is lost) the abbreviation for recipe.  Does the wordplay cause the solution.  Perhaps creates complaint would be better.


1 Jam-packed, four-square calorific cuboid (10)
BATTENBERG – A not very well disguised definition of a type of cake with four squares filled with jam between them and covered in marzipan.

2 Top of Homer’s list, he’s obsessed with money (8)
DOUGHNUT – Split 5,3 the answer would be a description of someone obsessed with money.

3 Brief periods when baths admit some every second (6)
SPASMS – A four-letter word for baths includes (admit) the even letters (every second) in SOME.  Care needs to be taken with the tense of the cryptic grammar of the clue.  Here the clue resolves A admit B which, for the cryptic reading, requires A admits/admitting B.

4 Cry when it’s the same card (4)
SNAP – Straight definition of a card game.

5 Call setter before uncle limits baked item (8)
MERINGUE – A four-letter word meaning call with a two-letter word for the setter before it followed by the outer letter limits.  For the cryptic reading of the clue, you need uncle’s limits to indicate the outer letters.

6 Fruit that fussy Sloane Ranger learns to leave (6)
ORANGE – An anagram (fussy) of SLOANE RANGER after removing (to leave) the letter in LEARNS.  Where you have a subtractive anagram and the letters to be removed are not in the order given in the clue, it is better to include a secondary anagram indicator to show this.  I would also omit the “that” in the clue as the cryptic reading becomes definition that wordplay, which does not read very well.  Perhaps “Fruit fussy Sloane Ranger sadly learns to leave”.  Even then, if you remove the rearranged letters from SLOANE RANGER, the letters remaining are in the correct order, so you could even remove the fussy from the clue.

7 One Tory who can do no wrong? (4)
ICON – The letter representing one and a three letter abbreviation for a tory.

13 Used to keep people in suspense at Tyburn (5)
NOOSE – Cryptic definition.  Perhaps “It was used…” would be better.

15 The Pensioners’ hair style? (7,3)
CHELEA BUN – A cryptic definition of a cake without a definition.  Something more is required for this clue to work.

17 Being experienced, argued differently at first (8)
SEASONED – An eight-letter word meaning argued with a different first letter.  Perhaps argued and new start is required would be better.

18 Blended tall foam – it’s brown and chewy (4,4)
MALT LOAF – An anagram (blended) of TALL FOAM.

20 Biblical killer turns up in supplement (6)
NIACIN – A four-letter word for the killer of Abel reversed (turns up) followed by the IN from the clue.

22 Make bigger electronic version of Windows Plus (6)
EXPAND – The abbreviation for electronic followed by a two-letter version of the Windows operating system and a three-letter word meaning plus.

24 Afterthought behind the last two of Cleopatra’s horned vipers (4)
ASPS – The abbreviation for post-script (afterthought) after (behind) the last two letters of Cleopatra’s.

25 PM follows 12 (4) 
NOON – Another way of saying midday (12).

37 comments on “Rookie Corner – 355

  1. Thanks Median, that was fun. Some rough edges, the trio of 18,20,22 are my faves.
    There is I think a valid alternative answer to 12, but I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers this early.
    Last one in 9 – a doh! moment.
    Well done.

  2. A bit of a curate’s egg for me. I got off to a good start especially in the SE. Then it was one here and one there and there were a number of occasions when I was on the verge of giving up but another couple of clues revealed their secrets.
    A number of Hmms but I will wait for Prolixic’s assessment.
    I did like 12a, 26a, and 22d.
    Thanks Median.

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Median, with what is a promising debut. You have added to your challenge with a (tasty!) theme and have done well to incorporate it without adding unnecessary complexity. I thought at one stage it might be a pangram too but that turned out not to be the case.

    Your wordplay is generally in good order although there are some rough edges which I’ll leave to Prolixic to point out. Some of your surfaces read strangely, which is an area which takes a lot of practice.

    I can’t think of an example where “for one” and e.g. are interchangeable although they do have similar meanings, and I can’t parse either 9a or 1d. 15a was a new phrase for me, and I didn’t find 25d cryptic probably because I spotted the alternative meaning first.

    My favourite was 2d.

    Well done, Median, and thank you. Please take on board Prolixic’s comments, and I am looking forward to solving your next puzzle.

    1. Thank you for your review, Prolixic. Now I understand why I couldn’t parse 1d. I was looking for something cryptic!

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Median, and congratulations on producing an entertaining puzzle with a tasty theme.
    The pick of the clues for me were 9a, 2d and 22d.
    Do take note of Prolixic’s advice. I look forward to your next puzzle.

  5. Welcome from me too – although I don’t think this was Median’s first attempt at crossword setting as it was a very accomplished debut.

    Lots to enjoy in both the themed and non-themed clues – I did particularly like 9a, 1d, 2d and 4d although I could list a lot more

    Thank you Median and, in advance, to Prolixic – I too look forward to your next crossword

  6. Welcome from me as well, Median.

    As RD says, this was a very promising debut with many great ideas, although some (like 10a and 23a) didn’t translate into particularly good clues. It was unusual to see so few anagrams in a debut puzzle, but against that the number of cryptic definitions, or perhaps I should say attempted cryptic definitions, was probably overdone. For me, 4d wasn’t very cryptic and 1d just seemed to be an obscure way of describing the answer rather than a cryptic clue. I don’t think 15d actually has a definition?

    Prolixic will detail the technical faults in his invaluable review later, but there were several, particularly the absence of a secondary anagram indicator in 6d for “learns” and using verbal phrases to clue nouns, as in 21a for example. For a debut puzzle with a theme, the surface readings weren’t that bad on the whole, but certainly some failed to convince. My favourite clue was probably 17d, but there were definitely others I liked.

    Many thanks for an enjoyable solve, Median.

  7. Thank you Median, we really enjoyed the puzzle. Bottom half went in well but we struggled with 3 answers in the top half and we look forward to Prolixic’s review. Favourites are 2d and 12a. We look forward to your next one.

  8. Needed a bit of lateral thinking but got there eventually.
    Good thing I have a sweet tooth and remembered the cake in 1d from the description.
    Thought 9a would end in rock until I twigged the Good one.
    2d made me laugh.
    Great surface in 12a and 26a.
    Congratulations and thanks for a very enjoyable debut.

    1. 23a made me think of you, Jean-Luc, and thanks to your comment I can now parse 9a and put a big tick by it!

  9. Really enjoyed that, Median. Great effort (2D my favourite) and look forward to your next offering. Thanks, it has brightened up lockdown for me! :)

  10. There were certainly a few issues, as have already been outlined by others, but I found it a refreshing change to tackle a Rookie puzzle that was relatively uncomplicated and most enjoyable.
    Studiously avoid anything to do with Homer and his ilk so 2d was a guess and I doubt there’d be much call for 18d if it was described as per the clue but I thought 9a was very well contrived.

    Thank you Median (Damien?) I’ll look forward to seeing more puzzles from you.

  11. It’s a big tick from me & might pop into the bakers after my walk & treat myself to a 2d. Found the south easier than the north & grateful for the theme otherwise doubt I’d have got 1d or 9a, my last in & now understood thanks to jean-luc. 20d was new to me & needed confirmation. The clues that stood out for me were 2d, 6d, 12a, 17d, 22d & 26a in what was a thoroughly enjoyable solve.
    Many thanks Median – look forward to the next one

  12. Apart from a couple of bloopers (missing secondary anagram indicator, non-explicit definitions), and one or two rather strange surfaces (what is tall foam?) this was a good puzzle and enjoyable to solve
    I was expecting a Nina until the theme revealed itself, which was smoothly worked into the less than ideal grid
    Prolixic will brush up one or two in detail but generally a good Rookie debut
    Well done Median and thanks for the entertainment

  13. Thanks, all, for the comments so far. I’m encouraged. I look forward with interest to what Prolixic will say.

  14. Well done Median, congratulations. As you now realise, it is quite an effort putting together a crossword and it can be daunting putting it up for everyone to see.

    I laughed at 2d. Some perfectly good clues, e.g. 18d. I first had CUT for the 2nd word in 15d ( a hairstyle I wasn’t familiar with, perhaps my next look) – until i twigged the theme. And well done for the theme! That’s even harder to do.

    There are many minor technicalities to watch out for, so please do pay attention to Prolixic’s review. I’ll mention just one which illustrates the subtlety of correct cryptic grammar:

    In 17d, you use ‘differently’ which is an adverb, qualifying a verb in the surface reading. However in the cryptic reading it qualifies a word, a thing, ( just fodder in the cryptic reading, something to be manipulated) so you cannot use an adverb if you want strictly correct cryptic grammar – you’d need an adjective. That becomes a fiddle, so you’d probably get around it with something along the lines of “… argued with a different opening”.

    Best wishes and i look forward to your next puzzle

  15. Thanks to Median for the crossword and to Prolixic for the helpful review. I like 19a and 27a. Personally I was OK with 15d, in the context of the theme, though I accept it doesn’t fulfil strict Ximenean standards.

    Well done Median for creating this!

  16. Thanks a lot, Prolixic, for your interesting, instructive and supportive review.

    Looking back at everyone’s comments, I’m struck by their diversity in respect of some clues. In part, I guess, that’s a reflection of how Ximenean people are. For the last 50+ years my usual solving fodder has been The Guardian cryptic, topped up latterly by discussions on FifteenSquared. So I’m used to a broad range of setters, and have been exposed to plenty of decidedly non-Ximenean thinking. Not surprisingly, that has left its marks on me!

    I know I have a lot to learn as a setter. On the whole, I accept the point about my cryptic grammar. I’ll try to give it more care and attention in future. As for surfaces, I recognise their importance and I was well aware that 18 down’s was a dud – ‘tall foam’, indeed!

    You make an interesting point about trying to avoid vague definitions, as in 17a. In my head, vagueness/precision of a definition is one of a setter’s controls on the level of difficulty of a clue. Do you think this illegitimate?

    A Rookie question: How does the commentometer work?

    Thanks again, Prolixic and everyone else. I hope to be back in a while – after studying your ‘Brief guide…’

    1. just the percentage of clues that get a comment from prolixic!

      cryptic grammar is tricky. i found the weekly clue writing contest at DIYCOW at very useful

  17. I enjoyed this a lot and thought it a fine debut! Well done, Median! Thank you very much the entertainment. Do follow Prolixic’s excellent guidance, and you will go from strength to strength.
    Many thanks to Prolixic for the excellent review.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I hope we see more from Median.
    OK Median – how about Maiden, Mandie or Medina? After that, I give up!

      1. Nope, jane and LetterboxRoy, you’re both wrong. I challenge anyone to come up with the explanation for my pseudonym.

                  1. It’s beginning to look like the technology can’t cope with the number of replies here, so I’m going to abandon this thread.

                    Thank goodness, says everyone else!

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