Rookie Corner 381 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner 381

A Puzzle by Conto

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

I think, overall, Conto’s technical grasp of setting clues is steadily improving and there were very few errors to comment on.  The style of cluing is, like any form of the arts, going to have those who like the style and those who do not.  What I would say is that if you have longer, more elaborate clues, it is much harder to maintain a convincing surface reading.  5a is an example of where this failed but 19a is an example of where it worked.

Overall, the commentometer reads as 4/32 or 12.5%


1 Gunners behind revolutionary plan to kill priest (7)
ARSENAL – A four-letter word for your behind followed by a reversal (revolutionary) of the word plan from the clue after removing t(to kill) he abbreviation for priest.

5 Essentially, redundant e’s added to mis-spelt face…Joe Brand? (7)
NESCAFE – The central letter (essentially) of redundant and the ES from the clue followed by an anagram (mis-spelt) of FACE.  I think that requiring solvers to know Joe is an American term for coffee is asking too much of the solver.

9 Club and rod waved by son of Judah (5)
ORDER – An anagram (waved) of ROD followed by the name of the eldest son of Judah.  Rather like Joe, the need to know the name of a minor biblical character is requiring too much general knowledge.

10 The peculiar attraction of lifeless celebrities (3,6)
WAX MUSEUM – Cryptic definition of an attraction such as Madam Tussauds.

11/13 Chaotic cartwheels? If so, get straight (2,3,4,5)
AS THE CROW FLIES – An anagram (chaotic) of CARTWHEELS IF SO.  Cryptically, the clue breaks down to wordplay get definition, which should be wordplay gets definition.

14 Tables covered by blanket (11)
SPREADSHEET – A five-letter word meaning covered followed by a five-letter word for a blanket. 

17 The sound of one fat lady caused anxiety (3)
ATE – A homophone of eight (two fat ladies being 88 in bingo).

18 Granted, this is small and, in short, high-pitched (3)
SOP – Double definition of a small benefit that may be granted and the abbreviation form of the name of singing voice.

19 Holding the end of Sellotape, prepare to mend your old book (11)
DEUTERONOMY – The last letter (end) of Sellotape inside an anagram (prepare) of TO MEND YOUR.

21 Time after work for play? Yes, with music and singing too (5)
OPERA – A three-letter word for a period of time after the abbreviation for opus (work).

23 Elaborate start of myth – little brother eaten by duck (9)
EMBROIDER – The first letter (start) of myth and the abbreviation for brother all inside (eaten by) a five-letter word word for a duck.

25 Fasten our Flies, an old German film (9)
NOSFERATU – An anagram (flies) of FASTEN OUR.

27 Approval from French and German board set up to hear from those who are late (5)
OUIJA – The French and German words for yes.

28 Hot water dispensed by this energy administration (3,4)
RED TAPE – A phrase for the faucet with the colour indicating it dispenses hot water (3,3) followed by the abbreviation for energy.

29 Bone from bird found in half-eaten Chinese dumpling (7)
STERNUM – A four-letter word for a bird inside half of the name of a Chinese dumpling.


1 Coats of arms’ contents replaced with characters represented in Koran (7)
ANORAKS – The ARMS from the clue with the inner letters (contents) replaced by an anagram (represented) of IN KORAN,

2 Upset with former Egyptian leader (5)
SADAT – A phrase 3,2 meaning upset with.

3 Hold the tops of matches?! An incredibly dangerous issue taken care of by this professional (9)
NURSEMAID – A five-letter word meaning to hold followed by the initial letters (tops) of the fifth to eighth words of the clue.

4 Deep and sonorous bars of ‘Stormy Weather’? (3,8)
LOW PRESSURE – A cryptic definition of what the isobars on a map represent if they bring stormy weather.  I am not sure that this holds together as a clue – it is more impressionistic than I would like.

5 We hear the devil’s duck (3)
NIX – A homophone (we hear) of Nick’s.

6 Stud’s tail bitten off by very loud ram (5)
STUFF – The stud from the clue without the last letter (tail bitten of) by the musical abbreviation for very loud.

7 What the tax-man might get from Starbucks? Diddly-squat! (9)
AMERICANO – Starbucks, an American company, organises its tax affairs efficiently so that it pays little or no taxes.

8 Conto’s straddling a little horse after short dash together (2,5)
ENMASSE – A two-letter word for the setter (Conto) around (straddling) a three-letter word for a small horse all after a two-letter word for a printer’s dash.

12 Burne-Jones initially overwhelmed by Waterhouse’s desperate situation (11)
WHEREABOUTS – The first letter of Burne-Jones inside (overwhelmed by) an anagram (desperate) of WATERHOUSE.

15 Uptight about journalists, both collectively and singularly (9)
REPRESSED – A two-letter word meaning about followed by a five-letter word for the press and a a two-letter abbreviation for editor.

16 ‘Bog off!’ ‘F off!’ ‘It’s a deal!‘ (3-3-3)
TWO-FOR-ONE – Remove (off) the F from the first two words for the abbreviation for a shop deal.

18 This indicates tops have been changed – something Prince Philip used to do in bed! (7)
SPOONER – Split 5,2 this might indicate to make amorous advances towards the Queen.

20 Three feet on one limb – part of a Portuguese man-of-war? (4,3)
YARD ARM – The unit of measure equal to three feet followed by the name of a limb of the body.

22 Brand of seemingly benign robots destroy half of Classical library (5)
ALEXA – One half of the name of the city of the largest classical library.  I think that describing the solution as a brand of robots is inaccurate and Amazon’s lawyers would have a field day at the implication that the AI system is “seemingly benign”.

24 Stoop to hear Hamlet? (5)
DEIGN – A homophone (to hear) of DANE.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators where “hear” has already been used as a homophone indicator in 5d.

26 Delete start of side 1 (3)
ACE – A four-letter word word a side without the initial letter (delete start of).  Another repetition in wordplay with “start” having been used in 23a.

29 comments on “Rookie Corner 381

  1. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Conto. I thought this was an accomplished puzzle which provided a challenging but enjoyable solve. Although there was a fair amount of GK needed, this struck me as more solver friendly than your previous submission. My only parsing problem is with 7d which sort of makes sense but I don’t understand the relevance of the tax-man.

    Your cluing is generally accurate and your surfaces are mostly very smooth. My main concern is that you have several very wordy clues, which personally I am less keen on (although I have to say 18d made me LOL).

    I have only a very few specific comments:
    5d – Isn’t Joe just padding and, in any case, why not Jo?
    10a – Can’t you simply delete “peculiar”?
    14a – I think “table” would be better than “tables”.
    25a – The clue would read better with italics: Fasten Our Flies, an old German film.
    22d – The answer is not a robot.

    My top clues of an overall very good selection were: 11a/13a, 23a, 29a, 5d, 16d & 18d.

    Well done and thank you, Conto. You are making good progress. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I agree generally, except for 5d, where “Joe” is a synonym for the type of drink and the surface is based around the mis-spelling of Jo – I loved this clue!

    2. I would agree generally, except for 5d – see my explanation at #4, below. And 14a – one spreadsheet comprises multiple “tables”, I would have thought.

  2. I found this quite a challenging solve and possibly, had the weather been better and my breakfast cup of tea not quite so hot, I might have given up and got on with the day

    Unlike RD, I liked the inclusion of ‘peculiar’ in 10a as many of the items on display are a bit peculiar. My top favourite was 15d, and I also marked 18d. The first clue I actually solved was 21a so it might be worth working on making some of your Across clues at the top of the list a little more solver-friendly.

    Thanks Conto and in advance to Prolixic

  3. Welcome back, Conto.

    Once again, many clever constructions and devices on show, some perhaps too clever, like 5a. Can a face be “misspelt”? Much as I’d like to warm to your style, I’m afraid I don’t care for the self-indulgently wordy clues that peppered the puzzle, but each to his or her own. I felt 25a was a good opportunity missed, the anagram fodder could have been something like “A fortune’s wasted” (making old film) rather than the meaningless surface that resulted. “Hear” was repeated as a homophone indicator and overall I felt less than enthused by the overall package, unfortunately. My favourite clue was probably 17a.

    After two or three puzzles, a setter’s style normally becomes evident, I just feel that in many clues wrong choices were made and a simpler approach would have been of greater benefit than the complex one often chosen.

    Many thanks, Conto.

  4. Much as I liked 1a (great surface, neat wordplay), I disliked 5a (nonsense surface, contorted wordplay, and a strange definition – why Joe?) and that was the puzzle in a nutshell. There was much to like but interspersed with clues I simply found impenetrable. So I resorted to the reveal key a lot more than usual and even gave up trying to parse a few, for which Prolixic will no doubt provide enlightenment. Overall a bit beyond me.

    1. DD, 5a. It’s Joe because Joe is American slang for coffee. There is a company in the US called Joe Coffee, hence their “brand” is Joe.

        1. Thanks Jose. That makes sense now, but I’ve never heard that term or the company so the term passed me by completely. Not sure I’ll be alone though!

      1. I’m not sure it’s fair to expect UK solvers to know about that particular Joe.

        1. Yes, you have a good point there. It is an obscure American reference (RD will blow his top!). But don’t shoot the messenger … :-)

  5. Thanks, Conto. There’s lots of clever stuff on show in this. I tend to agree with others that if you reined in the embellishments a little, it might help to make the puzzle more approachable for the solver. I struggled to parse quite a few and had to resort to some reveals, but overall it was very enjoyable. My clue of the day was 18D – I was convinced that the clue referred to gardening activity, which made the penny-drop moment even better! Other ticks went to 21A, 23A, 29A, 8D and 15D.

  6. Welcome back, Conto. Solved this one in the wee small hours, it took quite some time and I came away having not enjoyed it very much at all. Revisited it at a more sensible time of day and did find a few clues to appreciate – 10&29a plus 2&24d – but by and large I thought you were perhaps guilty of ‘over-egging’ wordplay to the detriment of the finished puzzle.
    Sorry, Conto, I still think you have some good ideas but too often don’t come up with the best way of expressing them.

  7. We had to reveal some starter letters and we need to read Prolixic’s parsing tomorrow to understand some answers. Favourites were 11/13a, 19a, 23a, 27a and 24d. Thank you for the challenge, Conto, and thank you in advance to Prolixic.

  8. Not the smoothest of puzzles but not a great deal to pick holes in either
    A fair few clues would benefit a bit more working to be ideal – improvements though, not necessarily errors
    Several of the clues could have been better phrased or condensed, as Jane notes above
    I would be looking to simplify wordplay in favour of a better surface
    That said, I did enjoy the tussle so thank you for the effort Conto

  9. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to attempt this puzzle – it’s greatly appreciated. As it’s the school holidays at the moment, unfortunately I won’t have the time to respond to individual comments – but it’s only time I lack, not appreciation…

    As many of you will know, it is not easy to hand over a puzzle for dissection. However, I hope to learn from all the constructive criticism. I have a tremendous amount of respect for this forum and those that make it what it is. Hopefully in the future I’ll provide puzzles you enjoy more.

  10. Really enjoyed this puzzle, Conto … although I was flummoxed by the last few clues in the SW. I thought it a great challenge, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. As a Gooner, 1a leapt off the page straightaway, while 5a – if a little wordy – was quite wonderful, one of my podium contenders: ‘Joe’ as a synonym for coffee has appeared in puzzles sufficiently regularly I think to have been quite acceptable, and the answer is an instantly recognisable UK brand, afterall!

    I felt the required level of GK was fine, or easily deduced from the clues/checking letters, and many of the clues had good smooth surface reads. A nice variety of clue types, some great red herrings, and little for me to grouse about. I look forward to reading the review from Prolixic to better understand the parsing of a few clues, was quite stumped by 18d, do not think of 22d as being robots (like all of their ilk the spawn of Satan, maybe, but not robots), could not see the relevance of the tax-man in 7d, and was stymied by 28a – with none of our domestic hot taps bearing that colour it took a long while for that reference to dawn.

    Ticks afterwards to 5a, 19, 23a (big smile!), 29a, 8d, 15d and 20d.

    Thank you for a very enjoyable challenge!

    1. “Instantly” – very amusing :-) May I just explain 18d? Spooner would normally indicate (in a down clue) that the “tops” (i.e. the top letter/letters of each word) have been changed. And Spooner could also mean – now how can I phrase this – how the Prince used to indulge in amorous activities with ER (in bed, or anywhere else). I think that covers it. Probably a bit controversial …

  11. Thanks Conto, late to this but enjoyed it a lot. I do agree things may have been just a tad too solver-unfriendly in places, and there are a few I’m struggling to parse. Personally I am more than happy with long clues provided they give a good surface reading (rather than just a list of bits’n’pieces) and I think some of yours did achieve that very well.
    The pre-Raphaelites were beyond my GK for initially appreciating the surface, but a very fair clue. 27a jarred a little, as the wordplay is the exact derivation of the word itself (so far as I know!)
    Favourites for me were 5a (I’m surprised ‘Joe’ seems to be unfamiliar with many!), 11/13a, 19a & 23a
    Thanks again!

  12. By and large some clever clues but I struggled with what dare I say it (perhaps redundantly) some extra unnecessary verbiage in several.

    5a, while I recognize how cleverly it all hangs together, still has me wondering what the surface might mean.
    OTOH, 24d was simple and elegant
    In 14a, “tables” for spreadsheet made sense to me (given that a single sheet often has multiple tabs).

    Very happy to hear people complain about American GK (“Joe”) not being accessible to British solvers :)

  13. Far more accessible for the average ability solver like me than your previous one so thanks for that. Completed with only 2 letter reveals though I’m struggling to satisfactorily parse one or two. Agree with most of the comments already made but have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle. Top 2 for me were the witty 1a&18d but also particularly liked 4,25&29a plus 4d.
    Thanks Conto.

  14. Am sure I’m being particularly thick but I still don’t understand the parsing of 16d even after reading the explanation.
    Thanks for the review Prolixic.

      1. Thanks Sue, I was being thick too. Feels a little indirect to me, you have to piece Bog and Off together, take off an F and then translate that into the answer… Can’t fault the cunning though!

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, it cleared up a couple of queries for me and has doubtless given Conto plenty of food for thought.

Comments are closed.