Rookie Corner – 365 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 365

A Puzzle by Coot

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Coot is our latest debutant. 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.

Coot makes his or her first flight as a fledgling setter in the Rookie corner.  Whilst there are a number of comments, they are technical ones with no major issues.  There were too many anagrams as pointed out in the comments but you see higher anagram counts in some national papers.

The commentometer reads as 5.5 / 32 of 17.19%


1 Pick up nuts, taking in dance song of yesteryear (8,5)
FOOTBALL CRAZY – A four-letter word meaning to pick up a bill and a five-letter word meaning nuts or mad includes (taking in) a four-letter word for a formal dance.

10 Full pitch at cricket, awfully testing if pulled off, isn’t cheating (5)
CHAIN – Remove (if pulled off) an anagram (awfully) of TESTING from the final two words of clue.  The cryptic grammar is a little stilted as the “if pulled off” needs to come after “isn’t cheating” for it to flow smoothly.  Perhaps “Isn’t cheating avoiding random testing in series”

11 Dock salary (1000 off) – adjustment made for dirty storage areas (9)
COALYARDS – An anagram (adjustment made) of DOCK SALARY without (off) the abbreviation for 1000.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as off as a deletion indicator.

12 Vi spins round after an imaginary line (4)
AXIS – A reversal (spins round) of SIX (vi) after the indefinite article (an).

13 Balls turning with knock unfinished in first appearance (5)
DEBUT – Reverse (turning) the first name of the politician whose surname is Balls followed by a four-letter word meaning to knock with the final letter removed (unfinished).  Where you are referring to a person by reference to their surname, it is usual to add an indication that this is a definition by example.

14 Gloria devastated, both sides cut a tragic figure (4)
IAGO – An anagram (devastated) of GLORIA after removing the abbreviations for left and right (both sides cut).

17 “Keep it”, he thinks, exuding characteristic quality (7)
EPITHET – The answer is hidden (exuding) in the first four words of the clue.

18 Regularly set sum is no longer examined (7)
STUDIED – The odd letters (regularly) in set sum followed by a four letter word meaning deceased (is no longer).

20 Time to go for a haircut? It’s just a short sprint (7)
FURLONG – Split 3, 4 this may indicate that an animal needs a haircut.

22 Several this year may be moved to say au revoir (7)
VARIOUS – An anagram (may be moved) of the solution (this) and YEAR could make the phrase “to say au revior”.  Moved has already been used as an anagram indicator..

23 Take home pot? It’s been reported (4)
EARN – A homophone (it’s been reported) of urn (pot).

25 Guy is clumsy at first and competent thereafter (5)
CABLE – The first letter of clumsy followed by a four-letter word meaning competent.

26 What person abandons love for Coot’s fanciful idea? (4)
WHIM – A four-letter word meaning what person with the O love (replaced) by a single letter meaning the setter (Coot).

29 Woman has to accept scales – in a mess, social life having suffered (9)
DECLASSEE – A three-letter woman’s name includes an anagram (in a mess) of SCALES.

30 Before dark, light’s extremes revolved (5)
UNTIL – A five-letter word meaning dark with the L and T (light’s extremes) turned (revolved).

31 Ritual opening of e-coupon I meant to be chucked (4,4,1,4)
ONCE UPON A TIME – An anagram (to be chucked) of E-COUPON IN MEANT.


2 No tranquiliser, it leads to loss of clarity (9)
OPACIFIER – The letter representing no or nothing followed by an eight-letter word for a tranquilliser.  Watch the spelling of words in the clue.

3 Strong smell from dangling insect (4)
TANG – A reversal (dangling) of a four-letter word for a small insect.

4 Nice: a battered book from the mists of time (7)
ANCIENT – An anagram (battered) of A NICE followed by the abbreviation for New Testament.  Perhaps collection of books would be better to reflect the New Testament’s status as a set of books.  

5 Seagull, a little lost, has energy to fly around for some miles (7)
LEAGUES – An anagram (to fly around) of SEAGUL (seagull, a little lost – removing last letter) E (energy)

6 Sunshine provides lift in conversation (4)
RAYS – A homophone (in conversation) of RAISE (lift).

7 Greek send-up of chum absorbed in road atlas (5)
ZORBA -A three-letter word for a friend or brother in (absorbed) the two-letter word for a road atlas all reversed (send-up).

8 Clement scene had to be moved around – an unsympathetic response (13)
SCHADENFREUDE – An anagram (to be moved) of SCENE HAD around the surname of the psychologist whose first name is Clement.  Another clue where a definition by example indicator should be used.  Where possible, try to write clues in the present tense.  “Has to be moved around” reads a lot better.

9 Agadoo? I’m a less excitable Miss by comparison! (2,4,2,1,4)
AS GOOD AS A MILE – An anagram (excitable) of AGADOO IM A LESS.

15 Wobbled after slugs – bottoms up! (5)
SHOOK – A five-letter word for slugs or punches with the last letter moved to the top.  As given in the clue, bottoms implies two more more letters to be moved.

16 What’s unacceptable when volume’s halved? Rock, mostly (5)
QUART – Remove the last letter (mostly) from a type of rock.  The definition here is too indirect and too much of a flight of fancy on the part of the setter.  The solver would have little chance of getting the saying about quarts and pint pots.

19 Musical repetition equates to love over time (9)
ISORHYTHM – A two-letter word meaning equate to, the letter represented by love or nothing over a six-letter word for time.  I don’t think that the final six letters required are the same as time.  Love is repeated as a wordplay indicator.

21 Gal titivated at length, going on booze – it’s what she does (5-2)
GLAMS-UP – An anagram (titivated) of GAL followed by the abbreviation for metre (length) and a three-letter word meaning to drink.

22 Old tenant‘s very sick, beginning to expire at home (7)
VILLEIN – The abbreviation for very followed by a three-letter word meaning sick, the first letter (beginning to) of expire and a two-letter word meaning at home.

24 Military service provides cover for chemical manufacturer producing toxin (5)
RICIN – The abbreviation for Royal Navy (military service) around (provides cover) for a three-letter name for a chemicals company.  In a down clue, provides covers for implies it goes over the letters, not around them.  Also, the chemical company has not existed since 2008 so should be former chemicals company.

27 Concern shown when leading characters in plot swap roles (4)
CARE – A four-letter word for an area of land (plot) with the initial characters reversed (swap roles).

28 Fair fight with nothing barred (4)
JUST – A five-letter word for a medieval form of fight with the O (nothing) removed (barred).

53 comments on “Rookie Corner – 365

  1. I hadn’t expected to be the first to post today. Where are Senf and the 2Ks this morning?

    Welcome to Rookie Corner, Coot. This was an interesting debut, which for me was a curate’s egg. You have some very good clues (generally your shorter ones), some not so good and some with rough edges. I found quite a range of difficulty when solving this, which is just an observation not a problem. Some of the answers were easy to figure out, and others were quite a challenge.

    Although surface readings are often the hardest part for new setters to master, I was concerned when I started that all of the first half dozen or so clues which I tackled read very strangely. Thankfully however these were followed by several which I ticked.

    I’ve got lots of scribbles on my page but I’ll leave Prolixic to analyse the details and just comment on a couple of points at this stage. You have used a partial indirect anagram in 8d, and I can’t understand why half of 16d is deemed as “unacceptable”.

    My ticks went to: 18a, 20a, 23a, 24a & 22d.

    Well done and thank you, Coot. Please pay heed to Prolixic’s comments, think a bit more about your surfaces, and hurry back with your next puzzle.

      1. Many thanks RD for the generous and constructive feedback. I am certainly getting the message from this and others’ feedback that I need to work on clearer surfaces and dialling back the difficulty! On the two specifics: the partial indirect anagram is not intended to be this because the part you have identified as indirect does not need an anagram. I guess the question is whether the wordplay is reasonable to indicate this – maybe Prolixic will have something to say about that! As to 16D, I don’t think anyone has managed to work that out yet! In an attempt to minimise spoilers, for now I’ll just say that it’s a reference to a saying. I think that I realised that one would be difficult but hoped that the need for a certain letter to complete a pangram might help to get solvers over the line. Thanks again.

        1. Coot, 8d. I rather like this clue and it seems to include everything required to get you to the answer. It has an anagram indicator (to be moved) for the 2-word fodder, plus a containment indicator (around) to trigger the surrounding of the surname hinted in the clue by the 8 anagram letters, and a good phrasal definition at the end. But for some reason (I’m a veteran solver, but no technical expert) I can’t quite decide whether it’s construction is 100% legitimate? I do hope it is!

    1. RD – Too much of a challenge at the end of my Sunday, even though I am commenting at the start of my Monday, with less than half completed in more time than it takes for me to solve a challenging Ray T Thursday puzzle. And, when I read that CS admits to using ‘Reveals’ I understand why.
      Sorry Coot – not for me.

      1. Thanks Senf – no problem at all. This in itself is very helpful feedback. I didn’t mean it to be so challenging but, as Jane has pointed out, it is clearly impossible to judge the difficulty of one’s own clues. I hope that my next offering will provide a more satisfying experience!

  2. A very tricky debut crossword – I didn’t write anything in until 23a. I will admit to revealing several letters in order to get finished. I have numerous ??s by clues I didn’t really understand but I did like 20a and 31a

    Thanks Coot and, in advance, to Prolixic

    1. Thank you, CS – I am very grateful for the honest feedback and promise to work on making things a little simpler and smoother!

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Coot. You’ve given us a pretty tough debut puzzle. I enjoyed the battle to complete it – there are some good ideas on show here.
    My anagram counter reached 11 which I think is a few too many.
    I can’t parse 16d.
    My ticks went to 20a, 25a and 22d.

    1. I’ve had more thoughts about 16d – I think it’s saying that if the 2-letter abbreviation for the answer loses its second half (leaving a single letter abbreviation for the same thing) it becomes non-U (unacceptable).

      1. Wow – no, that’s far too clever for me! As per my comment to RD above, 16D is a reference to a saying (and the only one I know that refers to the solution).

        1. So it must refer to an old saying about not being able to fit a 16d into a smaller container?

          1. Indeed – one half the size to be precise! I couldn’t get away from the temptation to make the surface suggest musical volume and combine that idea with this well-known saying. Maybe there is a way of doing that, which doesn’t create an impenetrable clue, but I clearly didn’t find it! Ambition level to be turned down…..

    2. Thank you very much for the feedback, Gazza. I’m glad you enjoyed it despite the apparent trickiness! The point about the number of anagrams is helpful. I think I had been working on the assumption that half or dozen or so full anagrams was about the limit but that some additional partial anagrams would be acceptable. Given your comment, and that of Fez below, I think I must have been labouring under a misapprehension. Thanks again.

  4. Welcome to the Corner, Coot. My impression was that you’d tried to be too ambitious by fitting a pangram into your debut puzzle, there’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘don’t try to run before you can walk’!
    The solve took me quite a long time and I struggled with some of your surface reads which could definitely do with improvement. As others have commented, I don’t see how 16d works and there were a couple of other clues that left me somewhat at sea. My top three were 25a plus 22&28d.
    I’d like to see you bring us a puzzle without self-imposed constraints next time and I’d also recommend that you get a test solver on board. It’s impossible to judge your own clues given that you already know the answers!

    Thanks for sticking your head above the parapet – I’m sure that Prolixic will give you some sage advice.

    1. Many thanks, Jane. A very perceptive comment, although I think that the over-ambition related mostly to a shadow theme, which no-one appears to have picked up on yet. The pangram was relatively incidental; having got a Z in early on, many of the other less common letters were fairly easy to accommodate, albeit that I clearly totally misjudged the difficulty of 16D! You are spot on about the difficulty of judging one’s own clues. I am determined to put together a more straightforward, smoother puzzle and will run it past a test-solver first, as you suggest. Thanks again.

  5. Thanks Coot, quite tough but got there in the end.
    As with others, I can’t parse 16D (simply “Volume of rock, mostly” would suffice?) and only got it from needing to complete the pangram.
    I think book needs to be pluralised in 4D, and bottoms needs an apostrophe in 15D (though will see what Prolixic thinks) but both amendments would destroy surface readings. And I did feel there were a couple too many anagrams.
    But lots to like too, my favourites were 14A, 23A, 26A, 24D & 28D, and overall enjoyed the challenge.
    Thanks again!

    1. May thanks, Fez. Given the various comments on the difficulty of this, I think congratulations are in order for solving it! Your alternative clue for 16D would have been a great improvement and a good example of the sort of simplicity I clearly need to strive for. I too will be interested in Prolixic’s views on 4D and 15D – both points had occurred to me but I felt 4D was possibly ok as the book(s) in question tend to come bound together. On reflection, the omission of the apostrophe in 15D was possibly more wishful thinking that I could get away with it than a genuine belief that it was ok. See my comment to Gazza about the number of anagrams. Thanks again.

      1. ok so 16D you take a volume halve it and then what’s left won’t fit (is unacceptable) into the pot… I get it but probably a bit too convoluted. I had similar issues with my debut but the feedback – and, crucially, a test solver – have hopefully helped me improve (well, we’ll see…). Looking forward to Coot #2!

        1. It’s what you had in the first place that won’t fit into something half the size. But the point about being convoluted is clearly spot on – see my comment to Gazza above. Thanks.

      2. Coot, 16d. I think this is an excellent clue. 7 words long, which is not all untoward, and once you’ve sussed the referenced saying (which is well known) it’s not tremendously difficult to parse. Wouldn’t be out of place in a DT Toughie in my book.

        1. Well I’m delighted someone liked it, Jose – many thanks indeed! I guess it’s one of the delights of crosswords that we don’t all perceive clues in the same way, and what is impenetrable for one can be satisfying for another. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated.

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Coot.

    You’ve certainly set us all a tough challenge first up, the dearth of comments overnight from our foreign correspondents and CS’s reaction are always good indicators of the battle ahead! I surprised myself by requiring electronic assistance for just one clue, 16d, my LOI.

    I thought there was a lot of invention here and a good deal of promise on show, but I also felt that certain clues were far too ambitious and consequently very tough on the solver. I didn’t care for the rather loose definitions for clues like 29a and 8d, which only served to crank up the difficulty factor in my opinion. Like Gazza, I thought the number of full and partial anagrams was excessive (almost one in every three clues contained one), and my repetition radar was kept busy with “moved” and “love” repeated, and “off” used as a deletion indicator in successive clues. Talking of deletions, there appeared to be an over-reliance on them as well, at the expense perhaps of containment or insertion devices instead.

    You need to watch the use of names like “Balls” and “Clement”, each really requires a “possibly” or a “maybe” after it, as I can think of numerous Eds and quite a few different Freuds as well. A minor point, but neither the BRB nor Collins seems to suggest “tranquiliser” (2d) is a legitimate spelling, it appears to be a transatlantic compromise between “tranquilliser” (UK) and “tranquilizer” (US). “Book” in 4d jarred for me too, as I would much prefer to see “set of books” instead, but our reviewer is far better qualified than me to adjudicate on matters ecclesiastical!

    My favourite clue in the puzzle was 28d, my least favourite probably was 9d.

    Well done on your debut, Coot, I hope you will return soon. Many thanks.

    1. Many thanks, Silvanus – that is all extremely helpful feedback, which I will try my best to take on board in future puzzles. Well done on (nearly) completing what was clearly a much more difficult challenge than I intended it to be! Thanks again.

  7. Sorry. I must not be bright enough for this puzzle. I can’t figure out how 10 across works, even with the answer. I’d be most grateful for an idiot’s guide. I manage most of the DT toughies, but could only manage the more straightforward ones like 3d and 22d.

    1. Rob, I think the phrase is “it isn’t you, it’s me”! This was clearly much more difficult than I intended, which I guess is all part of the learning process so the feedback is greatly appreciated. 10A is trying to get you to take (an anagram of) one word away from two other words, leaving the solution. I must admit to agonising over whether the cryptic grammar works ok – it is clumsy at best – and will be interested to see what Prolixic has to say about it. I am determined to produce a less challenging puzzle next time. Thanks.

    2. For 10a remove the jumbled letters of ‘testing’ from “isn’t cheating” to leave a word for the length of a cricket pitch.

      1. Ah! Many thanks. I’d forgotten the maths if learned about 70 years ago. My bad. Quite straightforward now.
        Thanks Gazza.

  8. We have to admit that we needed some reveals but nevertheless enjoyed working on the puzzle. We realised it was a pangram and we picked up a theme. We are still unable to parse some answers so we shall await Prolixic’s review for enlightenment. Favourite clues are 10a, 12a, 18a, 31a and 22d. 19d and 29a were unknown to us and we’re not familiar with the phrase in 9d although we worked the answer from the clue. Many thanks, Coot. We look forward to your next one and hope we have no need for any reveals. Thanks also to Prolixic in advance.

    1. Thank you very much Hilton. I’m glad you enjoyed it and well done on spotting both the pangram and the theme. I promise the next one will be a little less difficult!

  9. A good effort Coot with some interesting ideas; I’ve nothing to add to what has already been said
    Attempting a themed pangram for a debut was more brave than wise – keep it simple at this stage would be my suggestion too
    Also, if you don’t have a test solver, seek one asap!
    Thanks for the entertainment

    1. Thanks Letterbox. Message received! I do now have a test-solver but didn’t involve them in the production of this debut effort (which clearly showed)!

  10. Oh dear – this is way too difficult for me.
    16d which seems to have caused trouble is one of the very few answers that I have got – strange how our brains work so differently.
    Now that I know I’m on a pangram hunt I’ll keep going for a while longer but I think I’m probably defeated.
    Thanks anyway to Coot and, in advance, to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks for persevering, Kath, but I won’t be offended if you decide to call it a day. I hoped there were enough easy ones to make up for the trickier clues, but I have clearly misjudged it a bit. I promise the next one will be easier.

  11. Well done for putting yourself forward Coot. I think you’ve already been offered lots of helpful advice from people who know a lot more than me. I think working a theme into a pangram was very ambitious for a debut crossword. Some of the clues were very good – especially when the surfaces were more concise and convincing, such as 20a, 22d and 28d. I got some good advice a while back to give easier clues for 5 letter words with only 2 crossers. This may have helped you with 16d, which was too difficult I think. I remember feeling a bit gutted at the feedback from my debut here, but am glad I gave it another go. Really hope you do the same. All the best, G

    1. Grecian, thank you very much for the encouragement, which is really appreciated. That advice re 5 letter words is something I will definitely keep in mind. And fear not, the bit is well and truly between my teeth and (assuming I survive the judgement of Prolixic!) I hope to be back before too long with something rather smoother and more approachable. Thanks again.

  12. Just a late note to say that we did solve this but decided to reveal the last few letters when we had spent more time than we like to.
    We did not comment at the time as a less than positive early one is often unfair to the setter.
    Generally we do enjoy a tough challenge BUT when we take one on we like the reassurance that a) the setter is experienced and follows the rules and, b) we know that it has had trial solve and editorial oversight. Neither of these is guaranteed in Rookie Corner puzzles so the difficulty level should be lower.
    That said we did find many clues to enjoy and appreciate the effort that has gone into putting it together.
    So, thanks Coot and look forward to your next one.

    1. Many thanks 2K for your comments and for the effort you put into solving the puzzle. I can assure you that the next one will be easier!

  13. Many thanks for the review as always, Prolixic, even though it is sometimes a little difficult to see beyond the typos!
    It will be interesting to see what Coot brings for us next time.

    1. It is as difficult to proof read ones own work as it is to judge the difficulty of clues one has written.

  14. Huge thanks to Prolixic for the review and detailed feedback. And many thanks again to everyone who took the time to give my debut puzzle a go (which I realise took more time than was generally bargained for) and to post comments. This really is a superb facility for aspiring setters to learn from highly experienced solvers and, of course, a technical expert. I’ll do my best to take on board all of your feedback and to come back with something rather less ambitious and more digestible. Finally, an enormous thank you to Big Dave for affording me the opportunity to appear in Rookie Corner.


  15. Prolixic. That’s an excellent review with some good advice. But, to be annoyingly pedantic, in 8d it’s Clement’s grandad Sigmund who was the renowned psychoanalyst.

  16. Thank you for the puzzle, and the review and explanations.

    Prolixic, while Clement Freud was known for many things — broadcaster, politician, chef, and one which sadly means he perhaps isn’t suitable for including in diverting puzzles on taste grounds — I don’t think psychologist was one of them.

    Edit Ooops, I see Jose already made this point while I was typing my comment. Apologies for the repetition

    1. Thank you Smylers. Yes, I did wonder whether the information about Clement Freud that has emerged in recent years would make him a no-go area for clueing purposes. I hoped that a bland reference to his name only would be ok, but I’m interested to know if there are any generally accepted views on this. (And none of the other Freuds that I could think of would have worked in the surface meaning)!

      1. Coot. I think you’re OK using names of people who are relatively or very famous and that device does crop up quite often in cryptic clues. Clement or Sigmund would be equally OK and there aren’t really many other famous Freuds I can think of. Prolixic hasn’t picked you up on it but there are some purists, both setters and solvers, who don’t care for it. Personally, it’s fine by me – just gives you a bit more in the clue to mull over.

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