Rookie Corner – 370 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 370

A Puzzle by Dr Diva

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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.

Welcome back to Dr Diva.  There were good ideas on show in the clues but there needs to be much greater precision in the wordplay given by the surface readings.  In too many cases, the cryptic grammar coming from the surface reading did not quite work.  In part, this explains some of the difficulty in solving the crossword as the instructions to the solver were not quite right.

The commentometer reads as 8/32 or 25%.


1 Art lover finds biblical queen’s consumed about making king disappear (8)
AESTHETE – Take the name of a Biblical queen (who has a book of the Bible to her name) and the put a three letter word meaning consumed around (about) it and remove the single letter abbreviation for king.  Perhaps the link word does not quite work as Definition finds Wordplay seems the wrong way around – Perhaps Biblical queen briefly worried about art lover

5 Eton unexpectedly accepts church rave music (6)
TECHNO – An anagram (unexpectedly) of ETON includes (accepts) a two-letter abbreviation for a church.

9 Tricks cad into wise changes (8)
WHEELIES – A four-letter word for a cad inside (into) an anagram (changes) of WISE.  Cryptically, the wordplay works better if changes is changed to change.

10 Arrange for Geneva to retaliate (6)
AVENGE – An anagram (arrange for) of GENEVA.  The anagram indicator “arrange for” does not work.  Perhaps Geneva arranged to retaliate.  Try to avoid long runs of clues with the same wordplay such as three anagrams in a row.

12 Fib about liberal student town (5)
LILLE – A three-letter word for a fib around (about) the abbreviations for liberal and a learner or student.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  About as a containment indicator has been used previously in 1a.

13 Disappointing outcome of steamy satire (4,5)
DAMP SQUIB – A four-letter word meaning steamy followed by a five-letter word for a short piece of satire.

14 Why end argument with a tip? (6)
POINTY – The letter that sounds like why after (end) a five-letter word for an argument.  End on its own does not indicate that the letter goes at the end.  Ends would be better but does not fit grammatically into the surface reading.

16 Disorganised notice about vulgar nonsense (7)
SCRAPPY – A three-letter word meaning notice around (about – third time of use) a four-letter vulgar word meaning nonsense.

19 Oversees parasites in returning token (7)
POLICES – A four-letter word for parasites found in hair in a reversal (returning) of a three-letter word for a token gesture.

21 Old man gets you to say name of fruit (6)
PAPAYA – A four-letter word for an old man followed by a two-letter word for an informal way of saying you.

23 Chant to the sound of the prairie? (9)
PLAINSONG – Split 5,4 this could be the music or sound of a prairie land.  Definition to wordplay does not really work.  You can have wordplay to give the definition.

25 What you once had in the shell (5)
THINE – Take the in from the clue and put the :”the” from the clue around it (shell).  The wordplay here is stilted and does not work particularly well to me and the definition does not quite hit the mark.

26 Beneficiary of income stream? (6)
EARNER – A very, very, very mild cryptic definition.

27 Playful routine takes little time, in a way (8)
SKITTISH – A four-letter word for a routine on stage followed by the abbreviation for time and a three-letter suffix meaning in a way.

28 Fungal infection follows agreement (6)
YEASTY – A three-letter word for an infection after (follows) a three-letter word indicating an agreement.

29 Animal disturbed near outside source of milk (8)
ANTEATER – An anagram (disturbed) of NEAR around (outside) a four-letter word for the part of the body from which milk comes.


1 A fabric used as required (2,4)
AT WILL – The A from the clue followed by a five-letter word for a type of fabric.

2 Told to nick coat from abrasive stripper (5,4)
STEEL WOOL – A homophone (told) of a steal (to nick) followed by a four-letter word for an animal’s coat.   Definition from wordplay does not really work too well.  The definition comes from the wordplay though is it marginal as you might say the wordplay is from the definition.  Abrasive stripper’s told to nick coat would work.

3 Have to surround port of Split (5)
HALVE – The have from the clue around the abbreviation for left.  Try to avoid two-step clues where you have to get from port to left to L.  I have done this in the past and had my knuckles rapped.  Some editors will not allow wordplay of definition.

4 Period used to redesign Scottish river housing (7)
TUESDAY – An anagram (to redesign) inside (housing) a three-letter name of a Scottish river.  The use of an infinitive to redesign does not really work as an anagram indicator. 

6 Unexpectedly saved rope for earwig (9)
EAVESDROP – An anagram (unexpectedly) of SAVED ROPE.  This is a repetition of an anagram indicator.

7 Bend back over religion (5)
HINDU – The letter that looks like a bend in plumbing piping with a four-letter word for back above it (over).  I think that a believer in the religion gives the definition.  The religion requires “ism”

8 Gets too many of you mixed up with verbs (8)
OVERBUYS – An anagram (mixed up) of YOU VERBS.

11 Vote to join Mum’s holiday (4)
XMAS – The mark or letter used when voting followed by (to join) a three-letter word meaning mother’s.

15 Unopposed when verifying the absence of fraud? (2,7)
NO CONTEST – Split 2, 3, 4 this might indicate something that verifies that there is no fraud.

17 Scientist said to have effervescent growth (9)
PHYSICIST – A homophone (said) of FIZZY (effervescent) CYST (growth).

18 A law accepting report on unknown anger (8)
APOPLEXY – The A from the clue an a three-letter word for law includes a three-letter word for a sound or report all followed by a letter representing an unknown amount.

20 Region has no internal screen interference (4)
SNOW – The abbreviation for south-west (region) includes (has … internal) the NO from the clue.  Again, looking at the cryptic reading has … internal does not resolve grammatically to putting the NO inside the other letters.

21 Hide pint before skiing accident (7)
PIGSKIN – The abbreviation for pint followed by an anagram (accident) of SKIING.  P for pint is not an abbreviation recognised by the major dictionaries.  Some editors will not allow a noun (accident) to be used as an anagram indicator.

22 Starter for three welcomes the restraint (6)
TETHER – The prefix meaning three (as in tercentenary) includes (welcome) the THE from the clue.

24 Vessel uses first alternative to army (5)
AORTA – The first letter of alternative followed by a two-letter word indicating an alternative and the abbreviation for territorial army.  Not all editors will allow first X to indicate the first letter of X.  As the territorial army no longer exists – it is now the army reserve.  Perhaps old army would be better.

25 Chap ends bird levy (5)
TITHE – A two-letter pronoun for a man after (ends) a three-letter word for a bird.  End has already been used (albeit incorrectly) as a wordplay indicator in a previous clue.

52 comments on “Rookie Corner – 370

  1. Took a bit of effort but we did eventually get everything sorted.
    An abbreviation not supported by BRB held us up a little with 21d.
    Plenty of ticks on our pages but can’t agree on any one favourite.
    Thanks Dr Diva.

  2. Thanks Dr Diva – definitely an improvement on your first Rookie but some head scratching required for completion.

    I agree with the 2Kiwis on the abbreviation in 21d.

    I also thought, perhaps it’s a personal whim, that there should have been an indication that the 12a town, which is actually a cathedral city, is not in the UK, and that the archaic, to quote the BRB, nature of the 28a agreement should have been indicated.

    I did like 19a, 15d, 18d, and 22d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Senf. I always like your feedback (for me and others) but never know if “head scatching” should be considered mission accomplished or “not adhering to the rules”! Perhaps a bit of both?
      Take your point about 12a but thought that the word play was straight forward enough to forgive the loose definition.

      1. My definition of head scratching includes the, probably nebulous, thought of how would I write a hint for this if it was in a Sunday Prize Puzzle. And, with apologies, some of your clues go ‘beyond Dada.’

        1. No apology needed. I get your (and Prolixic’s and others’) points and have to tighten up the grammar while keeping good surfaces. I am much clearer about that now, so all good.

  3. I missed your first puzzle here Dr Diva and enjoyed this one. Prolixic will have some very useful comments tomorrow, so do look out for them!
    If I were to suggest one area of wordplay that you focus on getting completely slick first, then it might be the use of anagram indicators (eg in 25a and 4d). There are a set of somewhat arcane – though very reasonable – rules by which to construct these. And there are some very good guides out there to help you with this.
    The other skill that all of us setters aspire to is ‘perfect surfaces’. I was advised to use the test (and still do): “Could you slip this sentence into conversation down the pub unnoticed?” Easy to advise, far harder to do. My recommendation is to study as many puzzles written by Nutmeg as you can. There are several other Very Very good setters out there but hers have that level of perfection that mere mortals can only hope to attain! Your clue at 1d easily passes this ‘try using it at the pub’ test. That at 6d perhaps less so?

    And thanks for 9a that reminded me of characters from the comedy series Mitchell & Webb, which I enjoyed re-watching just now!

    Finally, I always create brief notes as I solve which I am more than happy to share with you by email but which contain too many spoilers to add here. Ask Big Dave to put us in contact if you’d like to see them – I won’t be offended if not!

    Thanks again for a fun solve,


    1. Thanks Encota. Love the pub test and will bear that in mind in future!

      Not sure about the anagram ref for 25a as there is no anagram there -I presume a typo – but would love to see your notes. Will ask BigDave to forward you my details.

      1. 25a the word could be a container or an anagram indicator (in an explosive kind of way) – I parsed it the first way but still think there’s something awry with the grammar.
        4d I thought was fine (fodder followed by infinitive is ok isn’t it?) but I may well be wrong – anyway that clue was one of my favourites!

  4. Dr Diva, I am very pleased to see that the others who have commented felt this was a step-up from your debut, but I am very sorry to say that I really didn’t notice much improvement. Possibly I am destined not to be able to get onto your wavelength but I am happy to keep trying.

    Once again I am afraid I registered a “did not finish” without fairly copious reveals, although for some reason I did find I was able to complete the NE corner fully. Others have mentioned some of the details which need attention, and doubtless Prolixic will add more. On the very important subject of surfaces, Encota mentions two appropriate examples showing the extremes of good and bad. Can I add the names of Silvanus and Eccles as two other setters whose surfaces are worthy of study? They are both graduates of Rookie Corner and are now well-established setters for national newspapers.

    Many thanks, Dr Diva. You have clearly put in a lot of effort to compile this puzzle and there are a lot of good ideas on show. Please work on your surfaces and on making your next offerings more solver friendly.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Rabbit Dave! I am obviously disappointed that a solver of your calibre found little to no improvement. I am trying hard to get the right balance between challenge and solver-friendliness but clearly haven’t got it right yet and need to reflect on where I am going wrong But, as they say, there is more to be learned in adversity. Once I have Prolixic’s take, I’ll spend some time studying more of the names suggested and will begin working on the next offering, accepting Encota’s pub challenge for better surfaces and the overall need to create a more solver-friendly puzzle.

      1. Thanks for responding Dr D, and for taking the comments constructively.

        I should have mentioned that when looking for Eccles’ puzzles you can find them under that pseudonym on the Fifteensquared website when he sets for the Independent. If you look back through BD’s Rookie Corner and NTSPP archives here, his alias is Snape.

  5. Thanks Dr Diva, that was an entertaining solve – more accessible than your debut (though by no means easy!)
    In some cases I thought that, although the right words were there to get the solution, they didn’t provide a clear instruction – I expect Prolixic may pick up on a few ‘cryptic grammar’ issues (thanks in advance for review)
    I think 2d was my favourite :-)
    Thanks again!

    1. Glad you liked it Fez. Thanks too for the clarification on 25a above. I am keen to see Prolixic’s take on that and other matters.

      1. Hey Dr Diva, re 4d I can see the problem. The phrase “used to redesign” doesn’t indicate that “used” is itself to be redesigned – the verb needs some object to act on (it’s transitive). Something like “used to change” would be ok (I think) as the verb “change” can be intransitive, ie “used to change” does on its own imply that “used” is the thing to be changed. I hope that makes sense – anyway, it has been educational for me so many thanks!

        1. Yes, it makes perfect sense Fez. Thanks for your input. I was thinking about this clue last night and came up with:
          Refurbish used Scottish river housing once a week (7)
          The wordplay works but is ‘once a week’ a fair definition?

          1. I don’t think “once a week” is precise enough, although I guess you might hear e.g. “Tuesday, I go to the pub” to indicate a habitual weekly visit (though more likely in the plural, “Tuesdays”) so it *could* substitute, i.e. “Once a week, I go to the pub”… but I think it’s a bit of a stretch. I preferred the original, just changing the verb to one that can be intransitive:
            “Period used to transform Scottish river housing”
            … I think that’s OK, but there are more experienced solvers/setters on this site who may be able to offer better advice!

  6. I don’t usually go back to a setter’s previous crosswords to see what I thought, but I made an exception today. I agree that this is more accessible than Dr Diva 1 but it still took a while to solve, probably as Fez says above, the cryptic instructions weren’t as clear as they could have been. I didn’t have to reveal any letters this time.

    I did like 13a (it reminded me of my late mother-in-law, who always called it a xxxx squid!

    Thanks Dr Diva and in advance to Prolixic for the explanations of the clues where I have a ?

    1. Very glad you manage to complete it CrypticSue and, more importantly, found it more accessible. I am very keen to get the balance right between challenge and simplicity, but perhaps I am still overcomplicating. I will definitely reflect on that. I await Prolixic’s take on any technical issues especially, but I really appreciate your feedback

  7. Thanks Dr Diva. I enjoyed much of this. There are some neat wordplay ideas. I can see what people mean about the surfaces. 21d is my favourite clue.

    1. Thanks Conto. I am very glad you enjoyed it. Still some improvements to be made though!

  8. Welcome back, Dr Diva.

    My printed page had a lot of NBNQs (nearly but not quite) beside a lot of the clues and I think you need to watch very carefully where you have “wordplay from definition” constructions (like 2d) and, to a lesser extent, “wordplay of definition” ones (like 21a and 3d) as they are contrary to the normal conventions. You’ll find Section 3.7 of Prolixic’s guide a great help as far as what is and isn’t permissible in that respect. It was unexpected to see “unexpectedly” repeated as an anagram indicator and I thought the definition in 9a was far too vague. I struggled to find anything very cryptic in 26a and three anagrams in the first four clues wasn’t ideal either.

    My other quibbles have been mostly raised already, but despite all the rough edges I do see promise in the way you have constructed certain clues, so I really do hope that your third puzzle will be much improved.

    Many thanks, Dr Diva.

    1. Re 2d I enjoyed the surface so didn’t notice the ‘incorrect’ link word … perhaps (at a stretch) the ‘from’ could be thought of as part of the whole homophone phrase? I guess “for” would be better though, and still maintain a decent surface.

      1. I think I was too pleased with it too, Fez, and overlooked the link error! Easily corrected with:
        “Abrasive stripper told to nick coat”.

    2. Thanks Silvanus. Your advice is greatly appreciated and I have just downloaded Prolixic’s guide (of which I was unaware and which I will study in full). Section 3.7 has already helped and I see your issue with those clues, although the definition of 21a, in my defence, was meant to be “name of fruit” not “of fruit”. And yes, the repeated unexpectedly was unexpected for me too as I thought I hade corrected this! Sorry. If you are happy to share your notes then please ask Big Dave to send them on to me. Third time will be better, I hope.

      1. Hi Dr Diva,

        Sorry, I should not have included 21a. I don’t make detailed notes as such, just annotated marks or abbreviations of my own against the clues, so I don’t think they would be of any help to you, in any case it is Prolixic’s comprehensive review that will be of far more value.

  9. Hi again, Dr Diva. Sorry to say that I’m in RD’s camp today as I really didn’t see much of an improvement from your previous offering. There seemed to be quite a lot of clues where you had included all the right words but not necessarily in the correct order – the ‘pub test’ should help considerably where that is concerned.
    I think all my individual points have been covered by others so I’ll just add that my ticked clues were 23a plus 1&17d.
    Please take careful note of the comments from Prolixic and other experienced solvers, I hope to see Diva 3 showing your ideas to their best advantage.

    1. Well, obviously I am disappointed Jane, but I fully take on board the criticisms, I had hoped to have made some progress. . But I will, of course, take heed of everyone’s comments and pay more attention to the technical aspects mentioned above. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  10. Eureka – Finished it the end but I found some of it really tough. I still don’t get 25A or 16A but most of the other clues were fine.

    1. Congratulations Tincatel. I hope there was a measure of enjoyment to go with your success!
      Can I help with the parsing of the 2 clues as you have the answers? (not sure if that is good form, so sorry if not)
      16a – Wordplay = notice (1st + last 2 letters) and the remainder = vulgar nonsense. Definition = disorganised
      25a – Wordplay = 6th word surrounding (shell) 5th word.; definition = old fashioned (once) word for your (what you had)

  11. Plenty of good ideas but some of the wording needs more thought – always an idea to try to say what you’re saying in as few words as possible, which almost always improves the surface
    I did enjoy the solve and I can’t find much that’s categorically wrong, but I think you perhaps missed a trick here and there
    A good self-test for clues is ‘Does it make you smile?’ If you’re having a bit of a laugh, guaranteed your audience will too, so have fun and it will shine through

    1. Great advice Letterbox Roy and I am glad you enjoyed the solve overall. I do realise there is room for improvement and, thanks to everyone’s generosity of spirit, hope to do better with v3!

      1. Condensed version of 5a – Scribbled note about church music (6)
        Happy to try v3 if you like, BD can put us in touch if you ask him nicely

        1. Much more elegant!
          V3 not yet ready as I want to assimilate all the feedback first. But if you wouldn’t mind being a test solver for it, I would be very grateful. Please confirm if that is OK and I’ll powder my nose before speaking to BD!

  12. As in today’s back page, I spent an awful lot of time in the SW or the Region as you called it in 20d.
    Nice misdirection with the Report in 18d.
    Not sure that L can be directly substituted to Port in 3d and can’t see P for Pint in 21d either.
    Good laugh at 17d which became my favourite.
    Look forward to Prolixic’s review and also to your next one.
    Thanks for the challenge.

    1. Thanks Jean-Luc. I am glad you found merit in it.
      The P for pint is wrong, I agree. It was on a letter selection list I collected (from an Aussie site I think) and is not fair here, even if it is there. I should have checked it and it won’t be used again. So apologies for that. Anticipating LetterboxRoy’s advice above, 17d did make me smile too!!

  13. Like CS I went back to your debut to remind myself what I’d thought of it. Unlike RD & Jane I thought this one far more accessible & all the better for it though I still found it jolly tough & particularly so in the south. Pleased to be able to complete using only 1 letter reveal – the P in 24a, a clue I didn’t care for but as nobody else has mentioned it it’s probably just me. Don’t quite understand the 18d wordplay but that’ll be me being dim.
    Agree that some of the surfaces need work but overall I think it’s a commendable 2nd effort. My likes were 5,9,12,13,16(Graun not DT),23,25,28&29a plus 1,2,11,17,20&24d. My favourite a close call between 2d (revised version much better)&17d which made me chuckle.
    Look forward to your 3rd offering & thanks Dr Diva

  14. Many thanks for the review Prolixic. Lots to think about – and in many cases just a ‘tweak’ would suffice to improve the clue. There are undoubtedly good ideas there, so with benefit of Prolixic’s guidance and generous offers of test-solving, I’m very much looking forward to Diva 3.

  15. Hi Dr Diva
    Late on parade as usual, but as a rookie myself I know how important it is to get opinions. As with others here I had question marks over a few constructions but did (almost) finish unaided and quite enjoyed it. I had ticks for 29a and even 21d, despite the illegal abbreviation. P for pint seems to be used in America – it is in online Collins as such and is also on the (suspect) list in Crossword Compiler. If it’s not mentioned in Chambers, chances are it is unacceptable here.
    Good move to let LBR playtest!

    1. Thanks Tater. Very glad you enjoyed it and managed to complete it for the most part. As you say, P is ‘a thing’, just not here – I really should have checked! I have taken on board the lack of grammar and will work hard to get that right in future. Thanks for your feedback.

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I shall be very interested to see Dr Diva’s next puzzle now that he has a test solver on board to ‘iron out the creases’!

  17. A very late comment from me, thanks to an enormous Windows 10 update a week or so ago which is still messing up my laptop!
    I found this puzzle tough — very tough! Was it entertaining? Yes, but my enjoyment was somewhat tempered by difficulty in unravelling the wordplay of some of the clues. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that I was able to complete all but one of the clues without any kind of assistance. And, moreover I did manage to follow the parsing correctly. I feel this is promising!
    Thank you very much Dr Diva for a challenging puzzle. I trust that your next one will be much of an improvement, what with Prolixic’s excellent guidance and LBR as a test solver. I am looking forward to it. All the very best to you!
    Thank you very much for your review, Prolixic, and for clarifying the clue I was dubious about. Much appreciated.

    1. Thanks so much Catnap. Glad you are up and running again!
      I am very pleased you managed to complete the puzzle and make sense of my (sometimes convoluted) thinking – many don’t! I am working to get better technically and become more solver-friendly so hopefully, with LBR’s good guidance, the “promise” will become a reality!

      1. That sounds excellent, Dr Diva. Enjoy your endeavours, and it will be great to see the promise become a reality.

  18. Tried this late last night and didn’t get very far – combination of tirerdness and the clues not being very smooth – although I got 1ac straight off. Came back to it today and got on better, but I agree with the general drift of Prolixic’s comment that there are some good ideas let down by less than precise cluing. On the positive side I liked 23ac and 17dn.

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