Rookie Corner – 369 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 369

A Puzzle by plumbwizard

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Another debutant this week. 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 plumbwizard.  An accomplished start from our new setter but with the rough edges that inevitably are found in a setter’s first crosswords.  Overall, the surface readings were OK but some of the clues ran away with themselves – I’m looking at you 14d.

The commentometer reads as 6.5/30 or 21.67%


6 Requirement for five is pointless (7)
PROVISO – A three-letter word meaning for followed by the Roman numeral for five, the IS for the clue and a letter representing having no points (pointless).

7 Plot followed on the radio (5)
TRACT – A homophone (on the radio) of tracked (followed).

9 Solid opening gives opportunity for a dip (4)
LIDO – The answer is hidden (gives) in the first two words of the clue.

10 Irrepressible grower is sick in bowl over that female bishop (10)
WILLOWHERB – A three-letter word meaning sick in a three-letter word meaning bowl over followed by a three letter word meaning that female and the abbreviation for bishop.

11 Double ecstasy in reserve for breaks (8)
RESPITES – A four-letter word for a doppelgänger or double and the the abbreviation for Ecstasy in a three-letter abbreviation for reserve.

13 Palin moved around the east, settled in the Himalayas (6)
NEPALI – An anagram (moved around) of PALIN around the abbreviation for East.  Settled in the Himalayas is not a precise enough a definition for a particular national group.  Perhaps “Palin moved around eastern citizen of the Himalayas.

15 Lied about being unemployed (4)
IDLE – An anagram (about) of LIED.

17 Fey satire (5)
IRONY – The metal whose chemical symbol is Fe followed by the Y from the first word.  Where you use lift and separate clues where a word has to be divided to give the wordplay, it should be with words that have a natural word break (as in 16d) and even then, not all editors would accept this.

18 Report German car (4)
AUTO – A homophone (report) of Otto (German).  Possible the worst homophone for quite some time.

19 Swear in empty town pub (6)
TAVERN – A four-letter word meaning swear inside (in) the outer letters (empty) of town.

20 Book one in a hundred drinks offer (8)
LIBATION – A three-letter Latin abbreviation for book followed by the letter represented by one somewhere in the A from the clue and a three-letter word meaning a hundred.  Try to vary wordplay indicators – there are several clues in this crossword where “in” is used as an insertion indicator for A in B (10a, 11a and 19a).

23 Idiotic. Like Paul and Patricia? (10)
SOFTHEADED – The musical abbreviation P represents this and the position of the letter in the words Paul and Patricia.

26 Pirate card game (4)
CRIB – Double definition, the first meaning to copy and the second a type fo card game.

27 I’m into old time jazz – just three numbers though (5)
TRIAD – The I (I’m) from the clue inside a four-letter word for old-time jazz.  The I’m does not work as an indicator for inserting I here as the clue resolved to the ungrammatical “I am into…”

28 Refits the door, for example, she rang about (7)
REHANGS – An anagram (about) of SHE RANG.  Another example of repeating wordplay where about has already been used in 15a.


1 Poor hen is somehow England’s top layer (10)
IONOSPHERE – An anagram (somehow) of POOR HEN IS followed by the abbreviation for England.

2 Fool provincial clown (6)
NITWIT – A two-letter abbreviation for a province in the UK followed by a four-letter word for a clown.  Northern Ireland is province but that does not mean you can clue it as provincial in the same way that you cannot use Belgian to clue B for Belgium.

3 Try a left mark (4)
GOAL – A two-letter word meaning try followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for left.

4 A sober alternative to upcoming, hankering lawyer (8)
ATTORNEY – The A from the clue followed by the abbreviation for teetotal (sober) and a two-letter word meaning alternative to and a reversal (upcoming) of a three-letter word meaning hankering.

5 City substitute’s first hot strike (4)
LASH – A two-letter abbreviation for a US city followed by the first letter of substitute and the abbreviation for hot.

6 Award I held by advertising declining religion (5)
PRIZE – The I from the clue inside (held by) a two-letter abbreviation for advertising and a three-letter word for a religion with the final letter word removed (declining).   Don’t think that declining words as a final letter deletion.

8 Bright young thing loses head but has time for a pie (7)
TARTLET – A seven-letter word word an up and coming film actor (male of female) without the first letter (loses head) with the abbreviation for time inserted.  I think that “has” is a very weak insertion indicator and should be avoided.

12 Political leader hugged by dirty baby (5)
SPOIL – The initial letter (leader) of political inside (hugged by) a four-letter word meaning to dirty.  Some editors will not allow constructions such as political leader as you cannot have a leader of political.  Polish leader would be more acceptable has you could have a leader of the Polish.  Alternatively, you could have Peru’s leader.

14 Quiet student goes to the movies, drops off mother and drinks some wine – versatile stuff (10)
PLASTICINE – The abbreviations for quiet and a student followed by a six-letter word for the movies without (drops off) a two-letter word for mother into which is inserted (drinks) a four-letter word for a fizzy wine.

16 Backward, unsuitable stretch (4,3)
DRAW OUT – Reverse (back) the ward from backward and follow with a three-letter word meaning unsuitable.  Not all editors would accept and uneducated lift and separate clue where backward has to be split into back ward

17 Acts out inaccurate, unsanctioned suggestion (8)
INNUENDO – An anagram (inaccurate) of UNSANCTIONED without (out) the letters in ACTS.  Where the letters to be removed from the words to be rearranged are not in the order given in the clue, it is customary to indicate this with a secondary anagram indicator.  Perhaps “Randomly acts out…”

21 A climbing centre enrols amply-proportioned teacher (6)
BUDDHA – A reversal (climbing) of the A from the clue and a three-letter word for core or centre including (enrols) a large bra size (amply proportioned).  The clue does not work cryptically as the instructions leave the A at the beginning of the word.

22 Skips over with German lead singer (5)
OMITS – The abbreviation for over followed by the German word for with and the first letter (lead) of singer.  German lead does not indicate the first letter of German.  Leader would work but leader has already been used in 12d.

24 Father essentially is nearer than that (4)
THIS – The inner letters (essentially) of father followed by the IS from the clue.

25 Blast repair (4)
DARN – Double definition, the first being a mild expletive and the second to repair an item such as a sock.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner – 369

  1. After a lot of effort we eventually got a full grid but several where we have not yet been able to fully parse our answers. Wonder whether the fourth word in 17d was intended as written or a typo.
    Thought there were a lot of clever clues but many went just too far and needed a two stage process to get from the wordplay to the answer.
    Found the Nina.
    Please try to be a bit more gentle on the solvers with your next one Plumbwizard.

  2. Sorry plumbwizard that was hard work and not very enjoyable needing several reveals towards the end as I started running out of steam.

    In addition to the 17d typo, I have the following:

    The 18a homophone is a real stretch for me.
    I presume that declining in 6d is a deletion indicator to be applied to a three letter religion. If it is, I think it is very unusual.
    I will be interested to see what Prolixic says about ‘combining’ the reversal indicator and the word to be reversed in 16d.

    But, I really liked 23a, 22d, and 24d.

    Thanks for your efforts but I echo the 2Kiwis plea for you to be more gentle in your future efforts.

  3. Until I got to 10a, 13a and 15a, I would have agreed with our overseas correspondents that this was a difficult crossword but once I got going, I finished while my breakfast cup of tea was still a satisfactory temperature. I’m also delighted to report that I saw the Nina

    For me too, the homophone in 18a doesn’t work and I have one clue which I got from definition and part of the wordplay, so I’ll be interested to learn how the rest of it works. The 15-word 14a is gettable from the first two letters, the N from 28a and the definition. I think the clue is far too complicated for its own good, but that may just be me. My favouite clue is 17a.

    Thank you plumwizard and in advance to Prolixic

    1. Thanks crypticsue. Interesting re the homophone. It’s a device that I personally don’t like much. Mostly because – as a Scot – I frequently find it doesn’t work for me. Roar and raw for example are two completely different sounds to my ear. So I guess in this instance I was hoist by my own petard, so to speak

    2. Re 14d. Completely agree that the clue is far too complicated. Like most I suspect I stumbled on the definition & worked backwards. I guess highly skilled solvers able to complete before their cuppa gets cold twig it from the P&L wordplay but given that the surface is pretty nonsensical is it a good clue? For the less able solver like me there’s a certain satisfaction in breaking it down but that’s about it in my view – a Graun clue if ever there was one.

  4. Pretty tricky but well worth the effort of getting to the end and I enjoyed the process – thanks plumwizard (I presume from the Nina that you’re Scottish?).
    The typo in 17d doesn’t affect the wordplay so was no real problem.
    17a is clever but probably needs a question mark or similar.
    I don’t remember seeing ‘pointless’ for O (6a) before so I’ll be interested in Prolixic’s take.
    The clues I liked best were 11a, 2d and 12d.

    1. I thought the 6a pointless was quite clever with the ‘O’ representing ‘yet to score any points.’ I am surprised we haven’t seen it before.

      1. It looks like pointless has typically been used to indicate deletion of N, E, S, or W. However, Rufus and Araucaria have also used it in constructions like Pointless emotion (4).

        1. Hi Mr K,

          Yes, I suppose that if you think of it in the context of the BBC quiz show of that name (where the aim is to score zero), then it does work.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone – much appreciated. This is my fourth or fifth puzzle since I started out on my setter journey a few weeks ago. I’ve been concentrating until now on trying to get good surfaces but that has sometimes led to the puzzles themselves being deemed too easy (by commenters such as yourselves). I may have gone too far in the other direction now :-( But all of this will help me hit the right note in future so thanks for all the feedback so far and I will look forward to the analysis from Prolixic

  6. Welcome to the Corner, plumbwizard. This was a real mixed bag for me and there were a few decidedly odd surface reads dotted about the grid. The 18a homophone doesn’t ring true for me, I don’t think the synonym is accurate in 8d and I wonder what Prolixic will have to say about the construction of 16d and the use of ‘declining’ in 6d.
    Quite a few clues that worked well and I ticked 17&23a plus 2,21&25d. Found the Nina after the prompt from the 2Ks but I had to check on the team’s nickname.

    Thank you for braving the den, I’m sure you’ll learn a great deal from Prolixic’s review.

  7. Welcome to Rookie Corner, plumbwizard.

    I think the smoothness of most of your surfaces may have won me over already, but there were quite a few technical niggles that prevented a very promising debut from becoming an excellent one. I do think you have an eye for a good clue though, as evidenced by some clever (and, perhaps in some places, too clever) wordplay.

    I had reservations about “pointless” in 1a, the weak lurker indicator in 9a, “declining” in 6d, “political leader” in 12d and “backward” in 16d, and question marks over a few others. “I’m” in 27a doesn’t work, although “one” would, except you have already used that in 20a. Subtractive anagrams like 17d should really have a secondary indicator if the letters removed are in a different order from the anagram fodder, it’s something that has been overlooked in several Rookie puzzles in recent months. Overall though, I think this is an impressive first puzzle, so many congratulations. My favourite clue was 19a. I’m guessing you may be a supporter of a certain football club?

    Many thanks for an entertaining solve, plumbwizard. Hope to see you again before long.

  8. Took a while to parse my last one in 11a in this very pleasant crossword.
    Still have a couple of things to check such as the three letter word for bowl over in 10a as I am not sure if it is a verb or an exclamation.
    The first four letters in 20a also give me a hard time.
    Nice touch of humour in 23a and 21d.
    Noticed the Nina even if I am not a footie fan.
    Thanks to plumbwizard for the fun.

  9. Welcome to Rookie Corner, plumbwizard. This was a promising debut but I think Jane’s description of this puzzle as a mixed bag sums up my feelings too: some good clues, some iffy; many good surfaces, a few not so smooth; parts proved reasonably straightforward to solve, other parts were very tough and there are two clues which I can’t parse. I’ll leave the details to Prolixic.

    I spotted the Nina but I thought the club’s nickname was “The Binos”?

    Please take heed of Prolixic’s advice, plumbwizard, and also do try to rein in the difficulty level next time.

    1. Thanks Rabbit Dave. Re the nickname. The spelling has been an ongoing bone of contention for many years now and I’m sure any Beanos fan who is reading this will either be delighted or enraged in a Big/Little Endian kind of way. And I’ll certainly look at the difficulty element in future. It’s quite a hard thing to judge obviously and I am still feeling my way into this whole process

  10. Hello Plumbwizard!
    As a debut puzzle this is very good. My thoughts are very similar to those of Silvanus above, so I won’t repeat. And I look forward to your next. 17a & 1d (great surface) were my favourites.
    I always make brief notes as I solve, which I am more than happy to share but which are too full of spoilers to post here. Please ask Big Dave to put us in email contact if you’d like me to send them to you. And I won’t be offended if not!
    PS As for spotting the Nina, I wasn’t close!

    1. Thanks Encota – more than happy to receive your comments via email. I will contact Dave as you suggest and look forward to connecting with you

  11. Thanks plumbwizard, a lot to like but as with others a mixed bag for me – for some reason I found it difficult to get on the right wavelength.

    Apologies for long list below, I really appreciated detailed comments on my Rookie debut so I hope this is OK! Of course Prolixic will provide excellent advice in the review (for which many thanks in advance)

    Senf’s explanation of ‘pointless’ in 6a cleared that up, and is a clever touch.
    17a I do think needs something to indicate the trickery involved (a ‘perhaps’ at the start, or just a question mark?)
    27a “I’m” doesn’t work but “plumbwizard is” might do (as you’ve already used “one”)
    7d I’m not sure about “declining” but open to persuasion a la “pointless” above!
    14d I love a long clue but I think perhaps in this case it’s not really justified
    16d I’d prefer an indication of the split but I think that’s just a matter of taste
    17d needs secondary anagram indicator imho
    21d the ‘A’ seems to be in the wrong place (I may have missed something here!)

    Despite all that, an enjoyable solve with plenty of promise and some really good clues – I liked 9a, 5d, 24d & 25d, with 11a, 8d, 12d & 22d getting extra ticks.

    Thanks again!

  12. I enjoyed this so many thanks, plumbwizard. It wasn’t easy, though and I did need to reveal a few letters to get me across the finish line. I especially liked 23a because the “soft headed” part came to me with a bang after scratching my head for ages. I also liked 14d and this is my favourite.

    Many thanks, plumbwizard. Hope to see more from you. Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    I found the Nina, which is unheard of for me!

  13. We enjoyed most of the puzzle but then ran out of steam and had to reveal a couple of letters in order to finish. We couldn’t parse the first 3 letter in 20a. 28a didn’t seem to need ‘for example’, still not twigged 18a even though we have an answer and struggled with 6d. Nevertheless good fun and many thanks to plumwizard and to Prolixic for tomorrow’s analysis.

    1. Just checked by revealing letters why our our Nina didn’t quite work and discovered we had the incorrect (city) answer to 5d. Our answer had worked for us at the time!

      1. Yes. I put Bath as well at 5d
        Really liked 17a, it works for me as it is.
        Most enjoyable, though will need Prolixic’s help to parse fully a couple.
        Very well done

  14. Welcome to Rookie Corner Plumbwizard
    I found this enjoyable overall, despite a handful of clues that strictly speaking don’t seem quite right, as others have noted
    Well done, thanks for the entertainment and I look forward to your next

  15. Well done plumbwizard. I enjoyed this and especially liked 17a and 23a. The surfaces were generally succinct and read well and I think it’s good to push conventions a little sometimes; otherwise crosswords run the risk of being a little predictable IMHO.

    1. Thanks Grecian. What I’ve been trying to do is tweak the conventions a bit to get better surfaces – mostly varying word order or using apostrophes in different ways. I love the strict Ximenean rules too so sometimes find myself in a bit of a dilemma…

  16. I too very much enjoyed this Plumbwizard despite finding it pretty tough & having to use 3 letter reveals to grind a finish out. Like others there were a few clues that didn’t quite do it for me but plenty that did & a few I can’t parse or fully understand. The ones that impressed me most were 6,10&17a along with 1&4d. I look forward to your next visit with hopefully maybe something pitched a wee bit easier. Many thanks.

  17. Many thanks for the review Prolixic.

    In plumbwizard’s defence… I think “NI” could be used similarly to “US” as an adjective, so “NI twit” could indeed be a provincial clown. Pasquale (Guardian… I think Bradman in the Telegraph?) recently clued NILOT as “Riverside resident in provincial group”, ie “provincial group” = “NI lot”

    And whilst I won’t go so far as to defend the homophone, I think taking into account regional accents it’s perhaps a little harsh! I was never quite sure if the Simpsons’ school bus driver was “Otto Mann” or “Auto Man”

    Thanks again to Prolixic & plumbwizard

  18. Thanks for the review Prolixic & most particularly for explaining 11a which resisted all my attempts to parse it.

  19. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I was sorry to see you give the thumbs down to 17a along with 2&12d as I thought they worked rather well. I must remember to look out for setters using examples of an ‘uneducated lift and separate’ in future!

  20. Thank you, Prolixic. A lot for me to consider there and I hope to show improvement with the next offering. Really good to get down to such a detailed level. Thanks to everyone else too for their contributions. Most appreciated.

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