Rookie Corner – 363 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 363

Breakfast by Alf

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Alf offers a tasty debut puzzle! 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.

A very creditable start from Alf.  The setter did well to maintain the theme of the crossword without it being strained and without introducing unusual words into the grid.  The good sign of a crossword from a Rookie is that the comments are ones of a technical nature.  All the basics are present.  The commentometer reads as 5/31 or 16.13%


1 Porridge resembles milky sauce, they say (7)
CUSTODY – A homophone (they say) of CUSTARDY (resembles milky sauce)

5 Standard practice following South African food – it might be silly (7)
SAUSAGE – A five-letter word meaning standard practice after a two letter abbreviation for South African.  The abbreviation SA is for South Africa.  It is not permissible to change this to South African in a clue.

10 Put a bit of cream in cake and stick a candle in it (6)
SCONCE – The initial letter (a bit) of cream inside a five-letter word for a type of cake.  Whilst you can have verbal phrases to define nouns, it is better to stick phrase them to lead to a noun, not a verb “where you might stick a candle”.

11 Regularly fail sick friend in financial matters (8)
FISCALLY – The odd letters (regularly) of “fail sick” followed by a four-letter word for a friend.

12 Ate frightfully English breakfast? (3)
TEA – An anagram (frightfully) of ATE.  Anagrams of three letter words are not a particularly effective form of clue.

13 Full English and thin rye off and on (6)
ENTIRE – The abbreviation for English followed by the even characters (off and on) of “and thin rye”.

14 Stir-fry sultana, wanting an abundance of in-flight meals? (8)
TRAYFULS – An anagram (stir) of FRY SULTANA after removing the AN.  Not all editors would accept joining wordplay and letters to be rearranged with a hyphen as one word.

15 Memory of butty crusts set to return (5)
BYTES – The outer letters (crust) of butty followed by a reversal (to return) of set.

16 Sweet spread on loaf creates first break in marriage? (9)
HONEYMOON – A five-letter word for a sweet spread created by bees followed by a four-letter word meaning to loaf.

19 Swimmer is blushing pink (3,6)
RED SALMON – A three-letter word meaning blushing followed by a six-letter word meaning pink.

21 Kickback with grub at last: tucked into cheese (5)
BRIBE – The final letter (at last) of grub inside a four-letter word for a type of French cheese.

24 Fried eggs in lard, trimming edges and lubricating (8)
GREASING – An anagram (fried) EGGS IN AR (the AR being the inner letters – trimming the edges) of lard).

26 Honours daughters after top-class fight (6)
AWARDS – A pluralised abbreviation of daughter after a single letter representing top-class and a three-letter word for a fight.  Daughter’s could be used to indicate DS but daughters without an apostrophe indicates DD.

27 Choose filling of Pop Tarts (3)
OPT – The answer is hidden (filling of) in the final two words of the clue.

28 Setter settled score outside (8)
ALFRESCO – The name of our setter today followed by an anagram (settled) of SCORE.

29 Characters angling like The Pearl Fishers? (6)
ITALIC – Two examples of the same thing.  Characters angling would suggest a plural solution but the correct solution is in the singular.

30 European resort has new kind of following (7)
SPANISH – A three-letter word for a resort followed by the abbreviation for new and a three-letter suffix that is used indicate “kind of”.

31 Scoundrels‘ unpleasant urges (3,4)
BAD EGGS – A three-letter word meaning unpleasant followed by a four-letter word meaning urges.


2 Bread roll topped with cunning?  That’s weird (7)
UNCANNY – A three-letter word for a type of bread with the first letter removed (topped) followed by a five-letter word meaning cunning.

3 Oranges the Queen scrubbed with special zest (9)
TANGINESS – A ten-letter word for oranges without the two-letter abbreviation for the current queen followed by the abbreviation for special.

4 Reduced-fare pass to explore Dakotas’ capitals (6)
DIETED – A three-letter word meaning to pass followed by the initial letters (capitals) of the fourth to six words of the clue. I think that the hyphen in the definition is misplaced in this clue.  

6 Mollifies with butchers sausages (8)
ASSUAGES – An anagram (butchers) of SAUSAGES – A shame that the wordplay includes the solution in an intersecting across clue.  The surface reading of the clue needs to maintain grammatical correctness so that butchers needs an apostrophe but this would prevent it being a an anagram indicator.  The two issues together suggest that a different approach is needed for this clue.  Some editors do not like “with” as a link word to the solution.

7 Breakfast: French stick (5)
STAFF – An anagram (break) of FAST followed by a single letter representing French.  Not all editors would accept an un-indicated split in a word to give wordplay and letters to be rearranged.  More importantly, the abbreviation for French is Fr, F is the abbreviation for France and the two cannot be interchanged.

8 Astronomer lass: “Io concealed: beginnings of lunar eclipse” (7)
GALILEO – A three-letter word for a lass followed by the IO from the clue around (concealed) the initial letters (beginnings) of the final two words of the clue.  Try to keep wordplay in the present tense.  The IO from the clue conceals the letters, putting concealed in the past tense implies this is no longer the case.

9 Marge is covered in much slime: dabbing top is no help! (1,3,3,2,4)
A FAT LOT OF GOOD – A three-letter word for margarine inside (covered in) a phrase (1, 3,2,3) implying much slime followed by the first letter (top) of dabbing.

17 Spooner’s spiritual leader manufactured jam (9)
MARMALADE – A Spoonerism of LAMA MADE.  As the spiritual leader is the Dalai Lama, perhaps “Buddhist monk” would have been better.

18 Served up some beans I spilled (8)
ELLIPSES – The answer is hidden and reversed (served up some) in the final three words of the clues.

20 Auditor behind funk organ cover? (7)
EARFLAP – A three-letter word for the organ of hearing (auditor) before a four-letter word for a funk or panic.  Behind does not work as a positional indicator in this clue.  In an across clue it is before or in front of the second word.  In a down clue it is over or above the word.

22 Promising black pudding, unopened (7)
BUDDING – The abbreviation for black followed by the word pudding without its initial letter (unopened).

23 Journalists’ article about half-cut Martin Sheen (6)
PATINA – The abbreviation for press association (journalists) and the indefinite article around half the letters in Martin.

25 Brief interest for borrowing one incomplete cookery kit (5)
APRON – The abbreviation for annual percentage rate (briefing interest for borrowing) followed by the one from the clue without the final letter (incomplete).

70 comments on “Rookie Corner – 363

  1. Thanks Alf for an entertaining puzzle which didn’t get ‘bogged down’ by the theme.
    A big smile for 18d but a raised eyebrow for 14a – it certainly needed the ‘?’ at the end of the clue.
    Well done and thanks again.

  2. We’ve been away all day so later than usual getting on to this.
    Lots of really good clues and 1a stood out for us as it took us a while to see it and then a pleasurable groan.
    Not sure that the title and preamble are needed as the puzzle seemed to stand up fine by itself.
    Good fun to solve.
    Thanks Alf.

    1. Thanks very much for the comment, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m not sure which preamble you’re referring to (apologies, I’m new to this!)

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Alf, with what I thought was a very promising debut. I was initially concerned when I saw the title and preamble as, particularly with Rookie puzzles, it often seems that a theme creates a lot of constraints for the setter. Thankfully that was not the case here.

    The main area that needs attention is that some of your surfaces read very strangely. Other than that, I have only very few minor comments:
    – 5a/6d. It was a pity to have crossing clues where the answer for one was present in the clue for the other, and, although it gets ignored for the wordplay, you need an apostrophe after “butchers”. Also I don’t think the cryptic link “with” works in 6d.
    – 11a. Your definition is a noun but your answer is an adverb.

    My favourite clue was the very clever 29a, with 1a running it close.

    Well done and thank you, Alf. Please pay heed to Prolixic’s review tomorrow and hurry back with your next offering.

    1. I think that if you take the last 3 words of 11a as the definition it works as an adverb.

    2. Thanks Rabbit Dave – I take your point about strange surfaces, I’ll try to work on those.
      On 6d’s apostrophe, I wasn’t sure which way to go – a less grammatical sentence with more correct wordplay, or the other way round. I guess the answer is probably to find a third way that doesn’t require a compromise! Particularly with the undesriable “with” that you mention.
      Gazza is right about the reading of 11a.
      Thanks very much for the detailed comments, really helpful.

  4. A very entertaining crossword – but it is so good for a Rookie, that I don’t think it can be your first crossword, if it is, I’ll go and eat another bowl of Shredded Wheat

    I have marked several clues I liked, a couple that aren’t quite right and two where I’m not sure I understand the wordplay

    Thanks to Alf – come back again soon, and in advance, to Prolixic

    1. Thanks a lot – really glad you enjoyed it. As mentioned below, it’s not my very first, but it’s my first outing in public as it were. So all of the comments are super-helpful.

  5. Congratulations on a fine debut, Alf. I enjoyed this a lot.
    You’ll probably get a “Some editors don’t …” from Prolixic for 14a and 7d but I like this type of clue.
    My podium contains 30a, 7d and 18d.
    More like this would be welcome.

    1. Thanks Gazza – yes, ones you mention are likely persona non grata for some papers and readers, but I’m glad some like them! Thanks very much for the feedback.

  6. I always look for my peers’ comments before printing out a puzzle that I may have no chance of starting never mind finishing ( this has been the case previously with “rookies”), so given the comments above I’m willing to give this one a go (I hate wasting paper). Thanks Alf & in advance, Prolixic.

  7. Good fun – thanks Alf! Some very good clues & good work on continuing a theme through so many of the clues.
    A few first thoughts from when I solved are included below.
    I look forward to your next!
    Cheers & thanks again,
    6d many editors won’t like ‘with’ as linkword. Perhaps ‘get’ (in the sense of get=understand) or ‘using’ would both keep the surface making sense whilst keeping the clue’s Definition wordplay format. There may well be better.
    7d very Guardian! (i.e. an unannounced break in one word). Some of the stricter ‘keep to strict rules’ folk – those rules sometimes described as Ximenean, after the work of D.S.Macnutt, won’t like this but it is often used (as you’ll know) in several national crosswords.
    18d (very petty!) ideally a space between spilled & ‘…’
    1a Is the definition accurate here. I am not convinced but I may well be missing something.
    4d I haven’t parsed ‘pass’ yet! Ah, just got it but I won’t add a serious spoiler here. Though I did wonder if BismarckPierre had a hidden string within it! Last One In.

    1. Thanks very much indeed Encota for the detailed feedback – super helpful.
      Your comment about the “with” link echoes one above – I’ll definitely try to avoid in future.
      And glad you got there on 4d!

  8. Hi everyone – thanks for all of the comments and feedback so far. I’m looking forward to going through them all and replying properly to each when i have a moment a little later – and of course for Prolixic’s notes tomorrow. But for now let me just say hi! This is I think my 4th crossword, but the first I’ve submitted for public attention here or elsewhere. I hope you enjoy it and that the groan/smile ratio is favourable. Alf

    1. Welcome to the blog Alf

      I think the consensus so far is that we enjoyed it and are looking forward to more crosswords from you in the future

  9. My heart did sink a little when I read the preamble but in reality it didn’t detract from the puzzle which seemed to be very accomplished for a debut effort. I didn’t care for 14a and have yet to fully parse 20d but overall I thought it was a well constructed compilation. I think it would have benefitted from a little more attention to surface reads, maybe that’s something to work on for next time.
    Thank you for an enjoyable solve, Alf.

    1. Thanks Jane, I’ll definitely take surface readings as something to work on. Thanks for the feedback.

  10. Thanks Alf! As others have said, for a first crossword this is very impressive, though perhaps it isn’t your first. I personally enjoyed 7D and don’t have a problem with it, particularly as breakfast is a compound word, though there are some who won’t like it. I was also fine with the construction of 14A, albeit the surface is odd. 29A is great – well done! I also have ticks by 10A, 15A, 28A, 3D and 18D, all of which contained neat constructions with relatively natural surfaces. Thanks again!

    1. actually, I don’t think 29a works. the answer doesn’t correspond to the definition. I think it needs to be ” Like characters angling in The Pearl Fishers (6)”

    2. actually, I don’t think 29a works. the answer doesn’t correspond to the definition. I think it needs to be ” Like characters angling in The Pearl Fishers (6)”

      1. I think I see what you’re getting at Dutch – the double definition construction requires ‘italic’ singular to exist as a noun, which it doesn’t. There’s a great clue there somewhere, I’m sure!

  11. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Alf.

    I enjoyed solving this and there was plenty to smile at, but there seemed to be an over-reliance on deleting letters, around one third of the clues required this of the solver including the final three clues in succession. A big tick from me for avoiding repetition of deletion indicators though, if any did creep in then my radar missed them!

    I’m on the fence when it comes to constructions like 14a and 7d, you will certainly see them elsewhere but I’m pretty sure they would never be accepted in the Telegraph! Whereas DD could legitimately clue “daughters”, I’m struggling to see how DS could (26a) and “behind” in 20d would be fine for an Across clue, but in a Down clue it’s back to front. 29a points more to a plural solution rather than a singular one for me, and lama and Dalai Lama seemed to be confused in 17d, it’s the latter who is a “spiritual leader”. I agree with RD about the missing apostrophe in 6d and some of the questionable surfaces, although I don’t think that’s an area of huge concern in your case.

    My favourite clue was 23d. A very promising debut overall, congratulations and thanks, Alf.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. I hadn’t noticed about the letter deletion so thanks for mentioning it, and the other points too – very useful. With lama, I was aiming for monk/priest = a spiritual leader (rather than _the_ spiritual leader), but happy to be corrected if that’s not right! Thanks for all the detailed comments.

      1. Alf. I’d agree with that. The Dalia Lama is the foremost spiritual leader, but surely a Lama is also a “spiritual leader” of lesser/local status. But I could be wrong, too.

    2. 29a. As a noun “italic” (in the singular) can mean a style or type of printing modelled on italics (or the adjective italic) and the opera quoted is typed using that style of “characters angling”, or if you like, “characters angled (leaning) to the right”. That’s how I’d justify the clue, but I’m not 100% sure.

        1. * That should read printed in “italic” script. If it was hand-written it would be written in “italics”.

          Blimey, I wish I’d never started this!

  12. Thanks Alf, really enjoyed that. Lots of good clues… 18d & 30a perhaps favourites, but plenty to choose from (1a, 13a, 29a, 5d, 9d, 23d all up there for me)
    A couple of very minor quibbles – I don’t really mind what you’ve done in 14a and 7d, but in both cases the clues would still work without hyphens so I think they ought to have been omitted. In 7d of course this isn’t the case… fine by me, but I expect some might disagree!
    Wasn’t keen on using an anagram for a 3-letter word. 29a a great clue but I think may have been fairer with “like those in” rather than just “like”? But perhaps that’s just me.
    So… a great puzzle, thanks again!

  13. Yes, liked much of this, Alf, though 29a is over my head and I will look forward to Prolixic’s take. I am also not sure 17d, though clever, actually works due to the R and perhaps needs a homophone indicator – but I could be wrong. Other than that, a couple of definitions and surfaces could be improved, I feel, but it is generally creative, imaginative and very competent.
    Good job!

      1. Well, Prolixic didn’t help me on the Pearl Fishers reference!! Can you Alf?

        Also he did not pick up on my point on Spoonerism of LAMA MADE becoming MARMALADE. Spoonerisms make opening letters interchangeable, but without a homonym indicator I don’t know where the R in MARMA comes from. Would be interested in your thoughts.

        1. Spoiler alert…

          On the Pearl Fishers, it’s purely typographical: the words themselves are in italic font.

          Re Spoonerisms, I’d always understood them to be homophonic rather than strict letter swaps, such as the probably apocryphal ‘The Lord is a shoving leopard’. Or maybe your question is of pronunciation of ‘lama’? I’d have it rhyming with farmer (and hence ‘marma’) but maybe others differ?

          1. Spoonerisms are spoken so a homophone is implied, rather than a direct letter swap
            ‘Hissing your mystery lessons’ for example – perfectly valid

          2. Aaaah – now get it ! Just me, not for the first time, being thick! So, a really nice idea though I’d agree with Prolixic that the clue as a whole points to a pluralised definition.

            Doesn’t detract from an excellent debut though.

  14. An accomplished and enjoyable puzzle – a lot to like
    There are one or two details (daughters, lift & separate etc) which will earn a comment, but relatively minor sins for a Rookie Corner debut
    30a raised a smile and several others were nicely done too
    Well done Alf and thanks for the entertainment

  15. Thanks Alf, I thought this was pretty good, almost professional quality. I am no fan of word splits (breakfast), I don’t think rookies should be tempted by that – learn to write good clues before you bastardise them

    Most comments i had have been made. Encota gently suggests, and he is right: please note that an ellipsis REQUIRES a space either side. See my comment on 29a in reply to conto@10. I agree with silvanus regarding daughters – you cannot pluralise abbreviations like that. I didn’t like the Memory definition, not accurate. And as been suggested, leave out the hyphens if they interfere with the cryptic reading. Sounds like i’m being harsh, but i have to say i enjoyed the puzzle a lot. Keep them coming.

    1. These are all really useful comments – thanks for taking the time, and glad you enjoyed it.

  16. I reckon that’s about as positive a reception from our A team of critics/reviewers/solvers as I can remember for a debut in Rookie Corner & richly deserved in my book. I thoroughly enjoyed the solve. I’m always pleased if I’ve noticed things they highlight & wouldn’t have anything to add. 29a, despite the pluralisation, was a definition bung in as I’ve no idea what The Pearl Fishers relevance is & I can’t fully parse 3,4&30a but otherwise got there though it was no push over, Ticks aplenty for me – 1,11,16,21,28a plus 2,6,7 (ok with me),17,18 &23d. COTD 23d.
    Thanks Alf & look forward to your next one

  17. ‘The Pearl Fishers’ is in italics Huntsman, hence the discussion on whether like [this] is italic, italics or italicised
    *EDIT* This was posted as a reply to Huntsman – don’t know what happened there

  18. This was an enjoyable solve, better than the average Rookie puzzle. There’s probably a few iffy technicalities that the reviewer will address tomorrow. There are some very good clues, my favourite being 23d. My only minor quibble is 22d – 6 letters in the clue appearing in the same order in the 7-letter answer. Overall, very good!

      1. I tried my best to back you up with 29a and 17d, but listen to the experts – they know much more than me. Good luck with the next one!

  19. Thanks, Alf. Late to the puzzle today but enjoyed the solve when we got there. Still unable to parse a few but will check in with Prolixic tomorrow. Favourites were 1a, 24a, 29a and 9d. We look forward to your next one.

  20. Many thanks for your usual thorough review, Prolixic, which I am sure Alf will find particularly helpful.

    Your comment for 6d confirms my opinion that the inclusion of an apostrophe is essential for the surface grammar, but you have gone on to say this negates the use of “butchers” as an anagram indicator. While punctuation needs to be correct for the surface reading, I had thought the convention was that it can be ignored for the wordplay, or have I got that wrong?

    1. The issue is that the butcher’s with an apostrophe is a noun rather than a verb and does not work as an anagram indicator. Whilst punctuation can generally be ignored, I am less convinced that you can omit it to change a noun to a verb.

      1. Thanks very much Prolixic – and everyone – for your helpful comments. All makes sense. I’ll definitely have a care with my hyphens and country vs belonging-to-country abbreviations from now on. (And see if there’s a way to rewrite the butchers one to avoid controversy!)

        A procedural question: may one submit another puzzle to Rookie’s Corner, or am I by definition no longer a rookie?

        1. You can certainly submit more puzzles to Rookie Corner – you ‘serve an apprenticeship’ here and then get ‘promoted’ to the Not the Saturday Prize Puzzle, and then probably as many have done before you, go on to get published in a national newspaper

      2. Alf – my apologies for butting in, but I was interested in the discussion and so had a loook at the original clue.
        The only ways to utilise the idea are “mollifies butchered sausages” or similar, as butcher is a transitive verb. Thus “mollifies sausages after butchering” (or butchery) would also be acceptable. Of course this leads to a nonsensical surface reading. Sometimes you have to accept that what looked hopeful – the convenient anagram – simply won’t work, and find a fresh approach. You certainly can’t have a phantom repunctuation between cryptic and surface readings. I hope this helps.

  21. I’m just re-reading, and realised I’m not sure I understand the feedback on use of “behind” in 20A: “In an across clue it is before or in front of the second word. In a down clue it is over or above the word.” Here, the “auditor” part needs to be written over/above the “funk” part, so is “auditor behind funk…” not right? Apols if I’m being dim…

      1. argh, yes I meant to write 20D! But still, “behind” here *is* meaning over (clue is “Auditor behind funk” meaning “Auditor funk”), so is that not the right way round?

          1. Is it, though? My ‘funk’ is below my ‘auditor’, which by my reading of Prolixic’s comment means my ‘auditor’ is behind (=over) my ‘funk’
            (Not trying to be argumentative here, by the way, just trying to understand! Silvanus made the same point earlier, so I’m sure you’re all right) Maybe an example would be easier, to save dodging around spoiling the answers? Here goes…

            If I had a down clue for CATNAP, is that CAT behind NAP, or NAP behind CAT? CAT is written above NAP in the solution, so “… In a down clue it is over or above the [second] word” suggests to me “CAT behind NAP”.

            I have a feeling I’m misinterpreting Prolixic’s wording. Thanks for your patience… :-)

            1. Hi Alf,

              In the example you have mentioned, NAP is behind CAT in a Down clue, try to imagine how the words would appear visually (i.e. one on top of the other). If you were part of a team climbing a mountain, the person ahead of you wouldn’t be behind you, would they? You would be behind them.

              1. Fair enough, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying, I think it was just the turn of phrase in Prolixic’s explanation that had me thinking twice.

                (NB the devil on my shoulder is now chirping that it’s a down clue not an up clue, so they’d be behind you if you were descending the stairs! But I’ll definitely stop now… Thanks again for persisting.)

  22. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Seems to me that Alf just has to work on a few technical issues, this was otherwise a most impressive debut.

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