Rookie Corner 383 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 383

Sport by Alf

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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 Alf.  In most places, this was technically sound.  Some of the constructions were ones that you would see only in the Guardian and FT reflecting the style of the editors of crosswords in those papers.  The grid was not one that would be accepted, particularly with the three-letter word solutions with only one checking letter and four other clues with less than 50% checking.  It would have been possible to make the two three-letter words four-letter one interesting with the across clues.

I thought that the theme did not get overly bogged down.  However, with the theme, there was a slight tendency to run away with clues and over-engineer them.  It meant that in places, it felt as though you were trying too hard to create a cryptic clue by over-elaborating the wordplay.

The commentometer reads 2/29 or 6.8%


1 Grandpa’s sportiness essentially only reading the papers (8)
PASSPORT – The answer is hidden (essentially) in the first two words of the clue.  Whilst needed for the surface reading, the “only reading” feel slightly redundant in the cryptic reading of the clue.

6 Pep Guardiola’s finale, leaving music with repetitive bass line? (5)
OOMPH – A type of brass band music without the final letter of Guardiola.

10 On the radio s-stuttering is rare (6)
SIERRA – An anagram (stuttering) of IS RARE.  Joining the definition to the wordplay, even with the use of punctuation (here using s-) is generally discouraged.  Most editors will no longer allow clues that allude to stammering as being disrespectful to those with speech impediments.

11 Jockeys under these orders for courses to begin with (8)
STARTERS – Double definition for the beginning of a are and the first course of a meal.

12 Scout intends to gather midfield flyers for observation (9)
SPYPLANES – A three-letter word for a scout followed by a five-letter word for intends around (gathers) the middle letter (mid) of field.

14 Rains Cats and Dogs, Wasps and Wolves, by the sound of it (5)
TEEMS – A homophone (by the sound of it) of TEAMS (Wasps and Wolves).

16 European Sport’s principal scraps fencing seeds again (6)
RESOWS – The abbreviation for European and the first letter (principal) of sport has a four-letter word for scraps or argues around it (fencing).

18 This clue doesn’t suffer relegation (2,4)
GO DOWN – Double definition, the first by reference to the direction of the clue.

19 Companion is in control, returning boats (6)
YACHTS – The abbreviation for companion inside a reversal (returning) of a four-letter word meaning control.

20 Turf accountant‘s novice mislaying the odds and receiving fine after bogus tip (6)
BOOKIE – The even letters (mislaying the odds) of novice includes (receiving) a two-letter word meaning fine all after the first letter (tip) of bogus.

22 Volleyball-shaped (5)
ROUND – Double definition, the first for a volley of shots and the second meaning ball-shaped.  Not all editors will allow un-indicated lift and separate clues where the solver had to split a word in the clue to solve it.

23 Gracious me! And you follow spot of tennis with conclusion to make love (9)
COURTEOUS – A two-letter word meaning me and you after (follow) the place where tennis is played, the last letter (conclusion) of make and the letter representing love.

26 Entertainment for sportspeople going downhill fast: squeeze in a short nap (5-3)
APRES-SKI – A five-letter word meaning squeeze inside the A from the clue and a three-letter word meaning nap with the last letter removed.

27 Jumps to extremes (6)
BOUNDS – Double definition.

29 “Cheers for the Hamburger, spoilsport!” (5)
PROST – An anagram (spoil) of SPORT.  Another lift and separate clue where some editors will not allow the un-indicated requirement to split the final word to give the anagram indicator and the letters to be rearranged.

30 Ultimate troubled hero left theatregoers aghast (8)
GREATEST – Remove the letters in hero from THEATREGOERS and make an anagram (aghast) of the letters that remain.  Troubled had been correctly used to indicate that the letters in Hero are not in the order removed.  Left in the past tense should be avoided.  I know leaving (same root word so there is some repetition in wordplay) has been used so leaving would not work.  


2 Fellow lost in Manila?  The reverse! (3)
ALI – Remove a three-letter word for a fellow from Manila and reverse the letters that remain.

3 Take off sports kit (5)
STRIP – Double definition,

4 Equal to a throw and a pin when wrestling (2,1,3,4)
ON A PAR WITH – An anagram (when wrestling) of A THROW A PIN.

5 Pitched to officials: “Soccer should eliminate damaging headers” (6)
TOSSED – The initial letters (headers) of the second to seventh words of the clue.

7 Hanging up so can be phoned? (2,3,4)
ON THE HOOK – Double definition, the second implying that the phone is not being used.

8 After rejecting every second sportsman’s tea, united for brunch, say (11)
PORTMANTEAU – Remove all the letters S (rejecting every second) from sportsman’s and follow with the TEA from the clue and the abbreviation for united.

9 Mohawk regularly sported to discourage visitors to Oxford? (3)
OAK – The even letters (regularly) in OAK.

13 Bash one doing business? Spoilsport! (5,6)
PARTY POOPER – A five-letter word for a bash or social occasion followed by a six-letter word describing someone on the toilet.

15 See 28

17 Temporarily transferred staff: it’s said Chelsea and Everton have them but Arsenal and Liverpool don’t (9)
SECONDEES – Look at the number of letters E in Chelsea and Everton and Arsenal and Liverpool.

21 Sound of a bell ringing: team sport (6)
BOXING – A four-letter word for the sound of bell around (ringing) the number of people in a football team in Roman numerals.

24 Break out, climbing sheer escarpment at the end (5)
ERUPT – A reversal (climbing) of a four-letter word meaning sheer followed by the last letter (at the end) of escarpment.

25 Added words onto one’s letter (3)
PSI – The abbreviation for added words at the end of a letter over (onto) the letter represented by one.

28/15 Certainly not, Sporting Lisbon had Euro upset (13)
DISHONOURABLE – An anagram (upset) of LISBON HAD EURO.  You sometime see solutions that are one word split across two solutions.  So long as the split leaves real words, some editors will allow this.

39 comments on “Rookie Corner 383

  1. Feel that quite a few of the rules have been ‘stretched’ but we did manage to get everything sorted and enjoyed the process.
    Special mention for 8d which we thought was especially clever.
    Thanks Alf

    1. Thanks. I’d be keen to hear which you thought were stretching things the most (ro too much!)

  2. A good second effort. However, in my comment on your first Rookie I wrote “thanks for an entertaining puzzle which didn’t get ‘bogged down’ by the theme” – this time I think it did (get ‘bogged down’ by the theme).

    But, I did like 27a and 17d.

    Can you try a non-themed puzzle next time?

    Thanks Alf.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. If there are any in particular which you thought contributed to the bogging down, do let me know.

  3. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Alf. This was a bit of a curate’s egg for me, but more on the good side. You have certainly made a significant improvement with your surface readings which is good to see, although it looks to me as if “only reading” in 1a is padding.

    I enjoyed the solve, which was very challenging in parts, but you have a tendency to wordiness. 17d, which is a clever clue apart from its length, could be described as a “War and Peace” clue. 8d is somewhat convoluted. Also I am a bit bemused by 20a, where you simply need to change the first letter of a word meaning “novice” from R to B to get the answer, and you have added 9 words to the clue to do this (which in any event I can’t unravel!)

    I don’t mind at all the “lift and separate” device requiring words in the clue to be split but I think using it three times in one puzzle is overdoing it. Talking of splitting, I am not keen on splitting a one word solution across two answers, although I seem to remember it is permissible if both are real words in their own right. 28d is a bit of a moot point as it is an abbreviation or prefix, or perhaps a proper name.

    I can’t see a definition in 9d and the less said about 13d the better.

    I had a lot of ticks: 6a, 10a, 18a, 26a, 3d, 4d, 24d & 25d.

    Well done and thank you, Alf. Please pay heed to Prolixic’s wise words and perhaps follow up on Senf’s request for a non-themed puzzle next time.

    1. SPOILER ALERT! I parsed 20a as the tip of ‘bogus’ followed by a synonym for ‘fine’ contained in the even letters of ‘novice’.

      1. Thanks, Conto. I couldn’t see beyond “novice” = “Rookie” (particularly in the context of this puzzle!)

        1. Thanks for the detailed comments Dave. A few specific responses:

          – Conto is right about the parsing of 20a.
          – I see your point about 17D being long; I guess I wanted to make sure there were enough examples to make it clear.
          – I’m quite used to seeing a solution split across two answers, only if both are words in their own right as you say – thanks for the feedback that this might not be usual elsewhere.
          – Fair point on three lift-and-separates – I’m trying to cut down but this has been in Big Dave’s pipeline for a bit so is older.
          – [SPOILER ALERT] In 9D the definition is all bar the first two words.

          Glad there are some ticks too! Thanks again, A.

          1. 9d. I had assumed the definition was everything but the first two words, but that still doesn’t help. I’ll wait for Prolixic’s explanation tomorrow.

  4. Welcome back, Alf.

    I do think you show some great potential as a setter, but sometimes I feel that your clues are overly wordy or that the constructions are over-engineered. 20a is a prime example, perhaps you feel that asking the solver to change just one letter is too simplistic? I’m not usually too critical of grids, but this one with 20% of the solutions having fewer than 50% checking letters, was far from ideal. I also disliked the 28/15d device of splitting a word into two parts. “Left” and “leaving” were both used as deletion indicators.

    On to the good – I thought 17d was very clever, the vast majority of the surfaces passed muster and my favourite clue was probably 5d. There was so much to like, but my overall feeling is that you’d benefit from reining back the complexity and making many clues more straightforward.

    Many thanks, Alf.

    1. Thnks silvanus. Some good points – I’ll look to mix in more simple/short clues with the longer ones. Is there a particular issue with left/leaving for deletion, or just that it’s pretty much using the same indicator twice?

      1. Hello Alf,

        The almost identical deletion devices triggered my repetition radar, that’s all. I think “leaving” would have worked better in 30a (the present tense is always preferable wherever possible) and so “abandoning” or something similar could have been used in 6a.

  5. hi Alf, thanks for this, good fun.

    Whilst overall a very enjoyable solve, I do have a few little quibbles/comments:

    6a and 8d I thought were really excellent wordplay … probably just clever enough to forgive the somewhat odd surfaces!

    10a and 22a both had the definition ‘running into’ the wordplay (or secondary definition) – again, clever, and I don’t mind this sort of thing in the wordplay – but not sure it’s quite right to join definiton/wordplay in this way? Similarly, the ‘distracting’ punctuation in 28/15d broke up the definition rather than wordplay, which I’m not sure is fair. Will be interested to see Prolixic’s review (thanks in advance!)

    14a and 29a both fine, but the (necessary) capitalisation in both clues did rather give the game away

    16a and 7d – are these ‘real’ words/phrases? They seem like they should be, but also seem a bit jarring

    9d and 25d – 3-letter entries with only one crossing letter should be avoided, I think. (That said, both were fairly clued, 25d very nicely although I don’t get the definition of 9d – but that’s entirely my own lack of general knowledge I suspect!)

    Plenty of good stuff to enjoy too – I particularly liked 19a, 26a, 30a, 4d, 5d, 17d, 24d, and my favourite was 13d

    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for these detailed comments.
      Agree that 10a / 22a are more iffdly to solve becuase of the lift-and-separate, I’m trying to cut down on these…
      Re 16d and 7d, they were in the dictionary (I guess 7d poss more frequently used as “responsible for”
      Yes, 25d is perhaps les well-known, and not helped by the grid.
      Thanks or sharing your favourites – that’s always good to see which people like the best. (And also glad to see some liking 13d, even if others not so keen!)

  6. I liked this a lot and I don’t think the theme was intrusive.
    I was held up in the East by writing in the wrong last word for 7d (I was thinking of washing being hung up) but once I’d got that sorted it all fell into place.
    There are some very cunning misdirections here (some of which will probably get a “Some editors won’t accept …” comment from Prolixic) but they all worked for me.
    13d made me laugh and I gave my ticks to 10a, 20a, 8d and 17d.
    Thanks a lot, Alf. I look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. Thanks Gazza for that. I see what you mean about 7d – doesn’t quite fit the second half, but close enough to seem reasonable. Looking forward to the official verdict, as you say. Thanks for sharing your top clues too.

  7. I enjoyed this and thought that you managed to sustain the theme very well and with an interesting variety of clues. Certainly more Grauniad than DT with the lift and separates, and Paul-like 13D, but that all adds to the fun from my perspective. Particularly liked 10A, 14A (albeit mildly disappointed not to see Foxes mentioned as a Leicester fan!), 29A, 30A, 5D, 17D, 28/15D. I tend to agree with Silvanus that 6 clues where more than half the letters are unchecked is pushing it (needed a reveal to get 6A). Thanks Alf.

  8. Welcome back, Alf.
    Not entirely sure what to say about this one except that I appreciated it more in hindsight than at the time of solving. To borrow the wording used by Silvanus, I thought a lot of the clues were over-engineered and found myself losing patience with it on several occasions.
    There were several highlights, most of which have already been mentioned by others, but I’m definitely in the camp of naysayers when it comes to the likes of 13d – horses for courses I suppose and I would have bet money on Gazza finding it amusing!
    Perhaps you could think about constructing something that isn’t trying so hard to be clever next time – I think it would have broader appeal.

  9. Hi Alf,
    I enjoyed solving this. There’s plenty of individual clue comments already so I’ll largely leave it to Prolixic on that score. Though Brendan’s clever Guardian today was an interesting comparison re. wordiness/terseness of clues, somewhere between your puzzle and his feels right to me. Getting a grid that all solvers are happy with is definitely worth sorting in your future puzzles – I’ve been guilty of this in years gone by! As an example, a 3-letter entry with only one checking letter always rings alarm bells for me – it has to have two in UK blocked puzzles such as these.
    Thanks again & I look forward to the next!

  10. Think I’d have got on with this better if it was my first rather than sixth puzzle of the day. Found it pretty tricky, needed a couple of letter reveals to finish it & can’t parse a couple.
    Didn’t feel you got bogged down by the theme at all. 13d (very Graun) made me smile & 17d was my clear favourite & a very clever clue – you could really have made it War & Peace by adding Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton & Hove Albion & Crystal Palace not than the penny would have dropped any quicker in my case. 6,14,20&27a plus 4&8d were my other ticks. I would have added the Sporting Lisbon clue but splitting it is very irritating indeed.
    Thanks Alf & am sure that you’ll take on board the advice of those who know what they’re talking about.

    1. Thanks a lot. Apologies if the split clue is annoying – I hadn’t realised it wasn’t totally standard, having seen it plenty in newspaper puzzles.

  11. Thanks very much Prolixic for the review comments, I’ll keep them in mind for future puzzles.

      1. At Oxford and Cambridge colleges the phrase “sport one’s oak” means to shut one’s door as a sign that one doesn’t want to be disturbed.

        1. Thanks, Gazza, but even 35 years ago that wasn’t a phrase I ever heard at Oxford … and the various sets of rooms I enjoyed had good solid doors both internally and to the outside world!

  12. Finished this last evening, but no time for comment until now. Must say I apprecated Prolixic’s parsing of a couple of the clues. I enjoyed about half the puzzle, but did not really enjoy about a third. Quite wordy, with some odd surface readings, and I tend to prefer a more concise style. Particularly good were 14a, 23a, 30a, 8d and 17d (despite the verbosity).

    On the other hand I found 6a good but rather loose given how much music has a repetitive bass line, 10a somewhat “off”, and the less said about 13d the better. At first I thought there was a misprint in 22a, omitting the space between volley and ball: too many of this type of clue in the puzzle; 26a felt long-winded; could the repetition of spoilsport in 29a and 13d have been avoided? Still have no idea why Oak has anything to do with discouraging visitors to Oxford, whether the City, University, or shoe style.

    Disliked the 28/15 split so much that it took the clue from being a potential COTD to being a cross & a “quack quack oops” in my book. Happily, not a clue style I’m accustomed to seeing in the Times, I believe, or DT.

    Thank you, though, for a good stiff mental workout last evening, and for the pleasure that was gained! I look forward to tackling your next puzzle.

    1. Thanks for the comments. On Oak, the phrase is to Sport one’s oak, closing your door to visitors, particularly in Oxbridge colleges. Apologies if not we’ll enough known – so often the way that one person’s ‘general’ knowledge is another’s ‘distressingly niche’. And the repetition of spoilsport was deliberate, as the usage is different (once as definition, once as fodder.) Many thanks for taking the time to give feedback.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I wonder whether our setter is a student/graduate from either Oxford or Cambridge?

  14. Very late to the fray, which is no bad thing as I had Prolixic to help me out on more than one occasion, but that, as ever, is in part down to me being a rubbish solver!! On the other hand I thought that some clues offered definitions that were to say the least challenging – 9d, for example, seems to me to be as obscure as a definition gets and 25d is as vague as it gets, when “old letter” would have been more helpful. Admittedly both are for 3 letter answers and the wordplay wasn’t over taxing, but still! Also 2d doesn’t seem to offer a definition as MAN appears to be the deletion fodder – would BOY FELLOW LOST… not work? Was surprised that Prolixic let that pass.

    On the plus side, I liked the theme (for once – not normally a fan) and some clues were seriously clever, even if above my level – 10a and 17d to name but two. But I can’t make my mind up whether 6a is good or too clever for its own good!

    Overall, Alf, I admire much of what you have done here, but, of course, you won’t please all people all of the time. The wordiness that didn’t appeal to some was IMO merited by the cleverness behind the clues in the vast majority of cases and the technical accuracy. So on average a thumbs up from me..

    1. Hey DD, agree 9d too obscure, and 25d perhaps needed a bit more (though Greek, rather than old … “letter for Homer” maybe?) But 2d does have a definition – the whole clue ie it’s an ‘&lit’ for Ali the boxer (and winner of the famous ‘Thriller in Manila’ fight) not just Ali as a boy’s name.

  15. (late to the party — hopefully not as a pooper though).
    Ignoring the possible slur subtext, I thought 10a was an outstanding and misleading clue!
    I was unpleasantly surprised by 13d but in the most pleasant way, cryptically speaking that is.
    I realized that 21d needed bong to be the sound of a bell but I couldn’t get nargilas, hookahs and other marijuana-related paraphernalia out of my head. As it were.

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