Rookie Corner 379 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner 379

A Puzzle by Fez

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Prologue. 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.

Another impressive crossword from Fez.  I was pleased to see that there were little or no obscure answers in this crossword (obscurity is in the eye of the solver) and there was not an over reliance on initial and final letter indicators.  Even with 36 clues, I agree that four hidden word solutions is a little on the high side but you will probably be able to find a similar number in some national crosswords.  I would echo the positive comments from many of the commentariat on this crossword.  The quality reflected in the commentometer, which reads 1/36 or 2.8%.  Another crossword like this, and we will need to move Fez upstairs.


1 Dan puts off tidying up? This might help (7)
DUSTPAN – An anagram (off) of DAN PUTS.

5 Beat by supposedly easy target, suggesting something fishy (7)
LAMPREY – A three-letter word meaning to beat or hit followed by a four-letter word for a supposedly easy target.

9 In the main, an irrational tone (5)
SEPIA – A three-letter word for the main (in the nautical sense) includes a two-letter word word for an irrational number being the ration of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.

10 Philanthropic Frenchman’s refusal to go for breaks (3-6)
NON-PROFIT – The French word for no followed by a three-letter word meaning to go or suit into which (breaks) you add a three-letter word meaning for.

11 Get to bottom of ground (6)
REASON – Double definition for a word meaning to deduce and the motive for something.

12 Drink spiked with whisky? Half-cut for some time (6)
AWHILE – A three-letter word for beer (drink) includes (spiked with) half the letters in whisky.

15 Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon principally thought to be strong female … or object of derision? (5)
SCOFF – The short form of the nationality of Nicola Sturgeon with the T (principally thought) replaced by the abbreviations for strong and female.

18 Shiny fabrics lit school up (9)
OILCLOTHS – An anagram (up) of LIT SCHOOL. I have no problem with up (in an excited state) as an anagram indicator.

20 Fruit trees (9)
PINEAPPLE – A four-letter coniferous tree followed by a five-letter tree found in an orchard.

22 Clean and tidy – that’s a turnaround for public transport (5)
SMART – Reverse (a turnaround) of a five-letter word for public transport making a comeback in many cities.

25 Benidorm area’s in recession; to some extent, it pushes down charges (6)
RAMROD – The answer is hidden and reversed (in recession to some extent) in the first two words of the clue.

26 Part of foot soldiers’ way of marching (6)
INSTEP – Split 2, 4 this would describe how soldiers may march.

29 Delicately balanced koala to start casually feeding on tip of eucalyptus (5-4)
KNIFE-EDGE – The initial letter (to start) of koala followed by an anagram (casually) of FEEDING and the first letter (tip) of eucalyptus.

30 US prison’s always short of methods of punishment (5)
PENAL – A three-letter word in America for a prison followed by the word always after removing a four-letter word meaning methods.  Some editors will not allow wordplay of definition with of as the link word.

31 Spooner’s perhaps not considering uncle, in the end, as a godparent (7)
SPONSOR – An anagram (perhaps) of SPOONERS after removing (not considering) the final letter (in the end) of uncle.

32 Maybe Panama is briefly the second in importance to America (7)
ISTHMUS – The IS from the clue followed by all but the last letter (briefly) of the, the second letter of importance and the two-letter abbreviation for America.


1 Primarily desolate and covered in sand – trees rarely found in these (7)
DESERTS – The first letter (primarily) of desolate and the first letter of sand (and covered meaning removing the sand) include an anagram (rarely) of TREES.

2 Wayward son probed by Oprah – hard going for family member to watch on TV (7)
SOPRANO – An anagram (wayward) of SON includes (probed by) the Oprah from the clue without (going) the abbreviation for hard.

3 Bribe Arsenal’s right-winger to interfere, deciding match (4-3)
PLAY-OFF – A phase 3-3 for a bribe includes (to interfere) the rightmost letter (winger) in Arsenal.

4 Square in upwardly-mobile Newcastle area (4)
NINE – Reverse (upwardly-mobile) the IN from the clue followed by the abbreviation for the region of England where Newcastle is located.

5 Club’s after temporary signing – reportedly, they’re unlikely to play for the team (4,6)
LONE WOLVES – The nickname of a Midland football team after a homophone (reportedly) of LOAN (temporary signing).

6 Fighting related to marriage when it goes awry (7)
MARTIAL – The word marital (related to marriage with the IT reversed (going awry).

7 Wonder if leather clothing range is the right place for this? (5)
RIFLE – The answer is hidden (clothing) in the first three words of the clue.

8 Fez still getting mixed up – it’s abominable! (4)
YETI – A single letter for the setter (Fez) and a three-letter word meaning still have their order swapped (getting mixed up).

13 It’s used for cleaning area blanketed with very soft fresh snow (4,6)
SOAP POWDER – The abbreviation for area inside (blanketed with) a two-letter word meaning very and the abbreviation for soft followed by a six-letter word for fresh snow.

14 God’s found in the hearts of religious leaders (4)
THOR – The initial letters (leaders) of the fourth to seventh words of the clue.

16 Spring wind (4)
COIL – Double definition.  Perhaps the two meanings are too similarly related.

17 Enemy returning of course – ultimately … (3)
FOE – Reverse (returning) the OF from the clue and follow with the final letter (ultimately) of course.

19 … that’s a disappointment to head of military resistance unit (3)
OHM – A two-letter word word used to express disappointment followed by the first letter (head) of military.

21 Don’t point so much, it’s frivolous (7)
AIMLESS– Split 3,4 the answer could mean don’t point so much.

22 Crossword essentially puns, beginning to end – pointless, not a patch on our setter (7)
SUNSPOT – The central letter (essentially) of crossword followed by the PUNS from the clue with the first letter moved the the end and the NOT from the clue after removing the abbreviation for North (pointless).

23 When considering chaos, order partial retreat of army? Not Napoleon! (7)
ANTONYM – The answer is hidden and reversed (partial retreat of) in the final three words off the clue.  I am not sure that the definition is quite tight enough to indicate that you need to consider the relationship between chaos and order.

24 Time over for a tech giant – finally, business collapses (7)
TOPPLES – The abbreviation for time followed by the name of a tech company with the abbreviation for over replacing the A in the name and the final letter of business.

25 Animal one’s grabbed by unusual horn (5)
RHINO – The letter representing one inside (grabbed by) an anagram (unusual) of HORN.

27 Runners worn out in wintery conditions? (4)
SKIS – Cryptic definition of items worn to travel over snow.

28 Some guidelines for food shop (4)
DELI – The answer is hidden (some) in the second word of the clue.  Some has already been used as a hidden word indicator in 25a.

52 comments on “Rookie Corner 379

  1. Thanks Fez, and congratulations. You must have done something right, for I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this, and it cheered me up after the disappointment of the penalty shootout! Hopefully I’ll comment further during the day on Monday…In the meantime, special mention to 20a and the wonderful surface of 2d. I haven’t yet fully parsed 22d, though what I have parsed of it is very nice indeed. Well done Fez!

    1. Thanks Conto, glad you enjoyed it – comments here have cheered me up this morning too!

  2. Lots of ticks on our pages after a very enjoyable solve.
    We’ll leave the technical comments to others but suspect that they won’t find much to complain about.
    Thanks and well done Fez.

  3. Fez, like your first some head scratching required but, as I commented then, this is the third cryptic of my Sunday evening so it might just be ‘brain fade’ on my part.

    It was also one of those puzzles where it was fits and starts – several times I nearly put it to one side but another two or three clues ‘fell’ and so I carried on until it was complete.

    One, for me obvious, comment – I don’t think that UP in 18a is a valid anagram indicator. Chambers Crossword Dictionary only shows it as a reversal indicator.

    29a was a standout clue for me.

    Thanks Fez and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I think that UP (in the sense of ‘in an excited state’) works as an anagram indicator though Chris Lancaster doesn’t allow it (except when it’s used by Elgar).

    2. Thanks Senf – hope the head-scratching wasn’t too painful… I’m glad you found enough in the puzzle to warrant persevering. I’m guessing ‘up’ as an anagram indicator may have been discussed here previously – I’m going with the “(nearly) everyone else is doing it so why not me!?” excuse. Thanks again!

  4. I thought that this was great – many thanks to Fez.
    I have loads of ticks on my printout, including 10a, 20a and 23d but my favourite, for the excellent surface, was 2d.

  5. A fun puzzle with some excellent misdirection and many strong surfaces (I’ve just re-read the Oprah one!). And I loved 22d.
    Well done Fez!

    1. Thanks Encota, really glad you enjoyed it. I hoped 22d might be popular with ‘setters’.

  6. Welcome back, Fez.

    Whilst your previous puzzle had many good points, this one was considerably better in my opinion and I thoroughly enjoyed solving it. The surfaces read well, although I would still suggest aiming for slightly less wordy clues in future, not only is it good discipline for a setter but it also should make the clues even smoother.

    Top clues for me were 2d (two ticks, I loved the “hard going” construction) plus 29a, 5d and 7d. “Some” was repeated as a lurker indicator, possibly a device that was overused, and I will be interested as to Prolixic’s take on the fairness of 6d, as the solver is effectively being asked to rearrange two letters from a word not previously mentioned in the clue.

    A very strong second puzzle, Fez, you deserve to be congratulated and you should be proud of what you have created. Many thanks.

    1. Many thanks Silvanus. I’ll try for less wordy clues in future.
      I should’ve spotted “some” being used twice (not sure how I missed “to some extent” and “some” being essentially the same … “to an extent” would have been a simple fix too – d’oh!)
      I agree there’s probably at least one lurker too many – actually, yet another was edited out relatively late as a result – but as there are quite a lot of clues (36) I thought I might just about get away with it, especially as there’s a mix of regular and reversed lurkers.
      Thanks again!

  7. Very impressive Fez. Lots of creativity and wicked misdirections. Big ticks for 29a & 32a.
    Excellent wordplay for 2d but the definition means nothing to me – is there something I should have watched?
    A couple of very minors:
    I think 25a would have been punctuated better as “Benidorm area’s in recession. To some extent it pushes down charges”
    22a Does “for” give an instruction to “turnaround”? Perhaps, but I’m not sure.
    And in some cases I thought the definitions, albeit very clever, were so borderline “fuzzy” that fairness was called into question. But that is probably just me as it set the level beyond my ability. Better solvers than I seem happy enough!! And like I say, I am very impressed overall and there is plenty for me to learn from here. Really well done!

    1. DD, in 22a, isn’t “for” simply the operator telling you what word needs to be turned around?

      1. You’re quite probably right RD, but it suggests to me more the result of turning around whatever needs turning. Using “of” would be an instruction but the surface wouldn’t work. In fairness it is not like the setter can’t parse it, so perhaps it doesn’t matter – it was more a question than a criticism.

    2. Thanks Dr Diva, much appreciated.
      The 2d definition refers to a very well-known show (which is often highly recommended, but I’ll confess I’ve never actually watched!), I thought well enough known to be fair game. I’m not always sure with punctuation – 17d another example where I probably could have improved this.
      Thanks again!

  8. That was absolutely excellent, Fez, and I can do no better than echo Silvanus’ comments @6 above. He has written my thoughts exactly but more eloquently than I could manage.

    Very well done and thank you for a fun challenge. More like this please!

    1. Thanks Rabbit Dave, glad you enjoyed it – I’ve addressed some of silvanus’ points above. Hopefully the next Fez will continue the upward trend … we’ll see!

  9. Hi all, many thanks for the kind (and constructive) comments – all very much appreciated; hopefully I’ll get a chance to respond to individual comments later.

    I’m delighted that quite a few clues have earned ticks. Oprah seems very popular: this clue was written around the time a certain possibly ‘wayward’ son had a high-profile meeting with Oprah – it’s been modified so as not to be out-of-date, but originally included “Harry” as an anagram indicator.

    Huge thanks to Big Dave for the opportunity (and for his patience as I submitted revisions!), to my anonymous test-solver for their invaluable comments and advice, and of course in advance to Prolixic. And also thanks to all the Rookie Corner setters and solvers, it’s a fabulous community and I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) a massive amount. I’ll try to cut down the word-count next time!

    PS… there is a subtle, perhaps slightly self-indulgent, ‘mini-theme’ here (arguably not one I’ve fully realised) – mainly used just to get me started on a grid. Not something I’d expect many (if any) to spot – a prize to anyone who does!*

    (*Note: May not actually be a prize)

    1. No chance for me where the mini-theme is concerned but I’d dearly like to know more about your choice of avatar.

      1. Well, with your comments below (re being “kinder to solvers”, and also picking out the non-Spoonerism) I think you’ve got closer than anyone to the self-indulgent theme … and also its imperfect realisation.

        The avatar is the cover of my favourite album, with colouring adjusted appropriately for a Fez. The Fiery Furnaces are someting of an acquired taste – many, like me, absolutely love them; many more, unfortunately, and quite wrongly, regard their work as pretentious unlistenable nonsense.

        1. I have now tried it, Fez, courtesy of YouTube but regret to say that I fall into the latter group. Maybe it’s an ‘age thing’?!!

          1. Perhaps, I don’t expect to win over any converts, but they do have their more ‘accessible’ moments too (Benton Harbor Blues, Lost at Sea, Evergreen… and also much of Eleanor Friedberger’s solo stuff) … OK I think that’s enough wandering off-topic, sorry!

  10. Wonderful puzzle with lots to like. I will leave the feedback to other, more experienced, members of the blog but I did want to say how much I enjoyed it.

    Many thanks, Fez.

  11. Welcome back, Fez, I was wondering what had become of you. No electronic assistance required this time which would suggest that you’ve been a little kinder to solvers as I doubt that my solving expertise has improved since March! I would dearly love you to cut down on the wordiness next time, perhaps that’s something that your anonymous test solver could help you to achieve?
    Not inclined to play favourites, so many good clues, but I have to give you a round of applause for producing a Spoonerism that wasn’t!
    Well done, Fez, you’re definitely heading in the right direction.

    1. Thanks Jane, I knew wordiness would be an issue … I will try to rein back on this in future (though won’t avoid completely!) so hopefully you’ll enjoy the next one more

  12. Add me to the throng of appreciative comments. Enjoyed it a lot. Like others 2d was my pick of many fine clues for the terrific surface read. Plenty of big ticks – 10,12,20,29&32a plus 5,6,7,13,22&24d.
    Well done & roll on the next one.
    Thanks Fez

    1. Many thanks Huntsman, pleased you found so many to tick! Hopefully the next one won’t disappoint, I will try my best.

  13. I’ve not read anyone else’s comments so I may well repeat what’s already been said. Anyway, I enjoyed solving this and thought there were some very neat touches. I particularly liked 9, 29 and 31 across, 23 down and the linked 17 & 19 down. On the other hand there were a few clues which didn’t quite gel for me although the answers were fairly plain – 11 across and 24 down for example. I’ll leave detailed comment to Prolixic, though.
    Thanks, Fez, and in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks Exit, glad you found a few to like … I’ll look to improve next time round!

  14. Great puzzle, many thanks, Fez, We still need Prolixic’s help to parse a couple but we really enjoyed the challenge. Favourites were 32a, 6d and 31a. We look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. Thanks Hilton, glad you enjoyed it – hopefully Prolixic’s wise words will raise a ‘d’oh’ rather than a ‘hmm’!

  15. I’m guessing no-one has spotted the mini-theme; in case anyone is interested, a nudge: when BD mentioned 12th July as probable publication date, I had high hopes for the puzzle as it seemed a good omen – I’m not usually at all superstitious, but purely by chance, today would have been the thematic person’s 204th birthday.

    1. (Actually, having just typed that … perhaps BD deliberately scheduled it that way, I did think it was a couple of weeks early looking at the usual newbies/returners cycle – in which case, many thanks!)

  16. Review will be posted later today. We had a belated church staff team Christmas party last night though I think we should have invited Noah along as well given the rain.

  17. A challenging grid and satisfying to complete, with some excellent clues. I admire anyone who can compile a full grid with a healthy mixture of clue types and who then dares to put their head above the parapet!

    There were some very enjoyable clues, but some where I just had to accept the answer I’d bunged in and where the parsing only followed later (9a, 2d), partially (1d, 22d) or not at all (11a, 15a). Howver if I had to summarise the grid in one word I’m afraid it would be: verbose.

    Were the total number of words used reduced by at least 25% I felt the clues would have been more smoothly and precisely constructed, and less off-putting to read. While some clues had reasonable surfaces, too many were so contrived (eg to lose specific letters) and/or the punctuation so offputting, as to detract from what was nonetheless a good challenge.

    I still can’t make head nor tail of 15a, and really do dislike ‘up’ in 18a as an anagram indicator – I’m in the Chris Lancaster camp on that one! 8d only makes sense when a puzzle is published alongside your name – it couldn’t feature in a Times or DT backpager.

    My favourite clues were 14d (excellent deception), 26a and 31a (doubly so because it *wasn’t* a Spoonerism!)

    Very well done, and I look forward to your next grid.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Mustafa, glad you found some to like!

      I agree overall I need to be a little less wordy, but I do like a long clue every now and then – it gives an opportunity to tell a little story. I guess I need to cut down on these (but I’m sure I can’t be the only one who likes long clues!) Hopefully that would indeed improve the smoothness, and feel less contrived – I would argue, though, that they are all very “precisely constructed” (possible exception 7d, where the structure ‘[some words] clothing [definition]’ works but the actual form of the definition doesn’t fit neatly into a ‘literal’ reading of the clue … but I liked the surface so thought this was forgivable)

      Hopefully Prolixic’s review will clear up any parsing issues. 15a is perhaps a slightly unusual definition, but is taken verbatim from Chambers; I don’t think the wordplay is too tricky – an example, with a substitution of one letter for another, and an abbreviation – especially given there were no unches. I also quite enjoy an occasional ‘bung-in’ that then requires working out the parsing ‘backwards’ from solution to clue … but perhaps that is just me!

      Thanks again!

      1. I’m very much looking forward to Prolixic’s review in order to understand that parsing which so far eludes me – re 15a the answer was one of the first I pencilled in, being as you say the dictionary definition. However I do want to understand the roles played by the first 7 (or maybe even 8 if I’m wrong) words in the clue.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree about long clues – they’re one of my pet gripes about too many Times setters and occasionally of a particular DT Toughie setter. Silence may be golden, but for me the crossword equivalent is brevity!

        I do look forward to your next challenge, though, and my thanks once again.

        1. Thanks Mustafa – at least I’m in good company with Times and Toughie setters!

          I’ll cut down on the verbosity next time, though – your feedback is very much appreciated!

          Re 15a the detailed parsing is:
          SCO(T) (‘perhaps Nicola Sturgeon’ ie an example of a Scot)
          …with T (‘principally Thought’) replaced by (‘to be’) F (‘strong’, musically ‘with force’)
          Then add F (‘female’)
          Ellipsis intended to improve surface (or distract!)
          Linkword is ‘or’ ie [wordplay] ‘or’ [definition]
          Definition: object of derision (Chambers first sense, 3rd def)

          1. I found this an excellent puzzle and I parsed 15a exactly as you’ve explained – a cracking clue! The only thing I had to check was the answer as a noun, as I’ve only known it as a verb. But that’s my problem, not yours. Also, using up as an anagram indicator is fine in my book. Well done!

            1. Thanks Jose, glad you enjoyed it. I guess we’ll see Prolixic’s take soon enough!

          2. Thanks for that, Fez – I usually have no difficulty whatever with letter substitution clues but could not see this one for the life of me when trying to parse the first four letters of my answer, even knowing why I had the two Fs.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I should think that Fez will be very happy with that analysis.

  19. Many thanks for the review Prolixic, really pleased you liked it. Pressure is on now for next time!

    I thought the other dbl def (REASON) might have been the one picked up for being too similar – I guess I got away with one there. But
    for PENAL, the “of” is part of the definition, not a link word … so maybe that balances out :-)

    I thought “When considering order, chaos” would work as a def in a non-cryptic, but yes I was a bit unsure on this one. But anyway the repeated “some” was an unforgivable, err, rookie error so probably deserved a couple of commentometer points on its own.

    By now I may well be talking to myself, but anyway… the self-indulgent mini-theme was a response to my debut puzzle (Ladykillers) – I tried to take the advice of birthday boy H. D. THOREAU (start with THOR and keep reading down), b. 12th July 1807 – “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify!” – see SW to NE diagonal. So… no obscurities, and a less pervasive theme – but with a good few long clues, this was imperfectly realised – as acknowledged by my “still getting mixed up”. Another clue alluded to a crossword having too many clues of the same type, and I’d previously commented that I didn’t do Spoonerisms (that may well change).

    Big thanks again to BD, Prolixic, a wonderful test solver, and all at Rookie Corner – hope to be back before too long!

  20. Thanks for the review and to Fez – I’ve come late to this, but very enjoyable it was.

Comments are closed.