Rookie Corner 389 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 389

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.  This was a distinct improvement on the two previous crosswords.  However, where problems arose, they were not (in the main) the nitpicking points that are highlighted to improve clues but more fundamental errors in the clues or definitions themselves.  The commentometer reads as 6/29 or 20.7%


1 Come to terms with contract once more (6)
RESIGN – Split 2-4, this solution would suggest appending your signature to a contract once again.

4 Be there at 10:50 (6)
ATTEND – The AT from the clue followed by the spelling of 10 and a Roman Numeral incorrectly thought to be 50 but which is 500.  An obvious error.

8 A limit I set for combatants (7)
MILITIA – An anagram (set) of A LIMIT I.

9 Nostalgic Mayfair thoroughfare’s almost chock-a-block (7)
WISTFUL – The postcode for Mayfair followed by the abbreviation for street (thoroughfare) and a four letter word meaning chock-a-block with the final letter removed (almost).

11 Nourish kids, perhaps, via steel pipe (6-4)
BOTTLE-FEED – A six-letter word meaning steel or courage followed by a four-letter word for a feed.

12 Record failure to identify drug? (4)
NOTE – Split 3,1 this could be a failure to identify a drug (by reference to something that the drug isn’t).

13 Rush back to enhance alluring image (3-2)
PIN-UP – A three-letter word meaning to rush reversed (back) followed by a two-letter word meaning to enhance.

14 One taking heed of capitalist energy provision (8)
LISTENER – The answer is hidden (provision) in the fifth and sixth words of the clue.

16 Deal with opening shortfall (5,3)
TRADE GAP – A five-letter word meaning deal with followed by a three-letter word for an opening.

18 Trolls outraged genial reporter’s every sinew from the beginning (5)
OGRES – The initial letters (from the beginning) of the second to sixth words of the clue.

20 Dog‘s bone trouble (4)
TAIL – A type of bone in the name of a steak followed by a three-letter word meaning trouble.  I think that you need type of bone rather than bone on its own.

21 Little bulb emerges from end of February just before daybreak (5,5)
FAIRY LIGHT – The last letter (end of) February with a four-letter word meaning just all followed by a five-letter word meaning daybreak.

23 Discuss best remedy for drink (7)
LIQUEUR – A homophone (discuss) of LICK (best or beat) CURE (remedy).

24 Incendiary poet initially ignored pound (7)
BOMBARD – A four-letter word for an incendiary device followed by a four-letter word for a poet without its initial letter (initially ignored).  Perhaps Pound with a capital letter would misleadingly suggest Ezra Pound.

25 Set out to harm Union member during welcome (6)
AVENGE – The three-letter abbreviation for England (Union member) inside a three-letter Latin word for greeting.

26 Ridicule south-facing gardens’ covering of elder (6)
SKEWER – The abbreviation for south-facing (southern) followed by a three-letter name for some important gardens and the outer letters (covering) of elder.  None of the main dictionaries give the solution as a synonym for ridicule.


1 Animal discovered in 5 countries – 1. Rwanda 2. Chad 3. Guinea 4. Uganda 5. Ethiopia (5)
RHINO – In each of the countries take the letter indicated by the number before it.  A little clunky and it does not really work for me.

2 Skiing’s leading character has glove taken (7)
SMITTEN – The initial letter (leading character) of skiing followed by a six-letter word for a glove.

3 Subject of trial? Apron at concert according to Spooner! (6,3)
GUINEA PIG – A Spoonerism of PINNY (Apron) GIG ) concert.  The presence of the “at” means that the Spoonerism does not work.  

5 Gang member from Iran fills up a little (5)
TRIAD – The IVR code for Iran reversed (up) inside (fills) a three-letter word meaning a little.  All the dictionaries give the solution as the gang itself, not one of its members.

6 Agreement that shelter stops half-wind (7)
ENTENTE – A four-letter word for a temporary shelter inside (stops) one of the points of the compass that is apparently called a half-wind.  Perhaps a little known word for the direction and something less obscure would be fairer.  The that does not work as you have definition that wordplay.

7 Undeniably strange duets with awful slob (9)
DOUBTLESS – An anagram of DUETS SLOB.  Having two anagram indicators here does not work as it implies that there is one anagram of duets followed by a second anagram of slob.

10 Note shuttle honoured free return (5-4)
REPLY PAID – A two-letter word for a musical note followed by a a three-letter word meaning shuttle and a four-letter word word meaning honoured (as in the cheque was honoured).

13 Each person totally backs a suggestion to land quietly (3,6)
PER CAPITA – A reversal (totally backs) of the A from the clue, a three-letter word for a suggestion, a four-letter word for acre and the abbreviation for quietly.  The dictionaries give only acres in the plural as the synonym required for the solution.

15 Idyllic infant courier accepts nub of royal disapproval (9)
STORYBOOK – The bird that reportedly delivers babies around (accepts) the central letter (nub) of royal and a three-letter word for a sound of disapproval.

17 Remove key flower to treat for pests (7)
DELOUSE – The key on a keyboard to remove a letter followed by a four-letter name of a river (flower).

19 Colourful display by East London artist? (7)
RAINBOW – Split 2,2,3, this would suggest an artist in an easter district of London.

21 Loud organ is thrown away (5)
FLUNG – The abbreviation for loud followed by a four-letter word for the organ used for breathing.

22 Employer‘s anger admitted by personnel department (5)
HIRER – A three-letter word for anger inside (admitted by) the abbreviation for human resources (personnel department).

60 comments on “Rookie Corner 389

  1. Couple of parsing head-scratchers which may divide the commentariat, but mostly intact
    Thanks for the entertainment Dr Diva
    I will await Prolixic’s review with interest

  2. A top quality puzzle with a good level of difficulty.
    A very long list of candidates for favourite so we won’t try to single out just one.
    Still scratching our heads about the last letter of 4a, but maybe that is just us.
    Many thanks and well done Dr Diva.

      1. We can’t find a D for 50 in BRB,
        With Roman numerals D = 500, L = 50.
        Maybe there is a context we do not know.

        1. Oops! A howler from me 2kiwis. A case of being too focused on the micro detail to spot the glaringly obvious. Sorry everyone!!

  3. Sorry Dr Diva, this one is not for me. Most of the E complete but very few in the W.

    Of what I solved, I did like 4a, 26a,and 19d – although I suspect that 26a is an oldie but goodie.

    I don’t think I have seen a clue like 1d before and it took a while for the penny to drop.

    For 6d, I have three letters that must be ‘half-wind’ and if I have arrived at the complete word I have some difficulty equating it to wind so that is one I will have to wait for Prolixic’s explanation on.


      1. That’s ingenious, Dr D. I took ENE to be half of energy, in the context “after a short rest he got his wind/energy back”.

      2. Definitely GK that I had not come across before, but I wonder how obscure it would be considered.

        I was of the same mind as RD and I had a ? on how good a synonym it was.

        1. I can only say that as a child I had a Scout Master who was big on maps, compasses and orienteering. So it is a term that has sat comfortably in my receptacle of useless information for many a year! Agree on the ?, but wanted to see what you and others thought on a try-before-you-deny basis!

  4. Good puzzle with pretty consistently fair clues and, moreover, meaningful surfaces. I too don’t understand “half-wind” and to be honest i didn’t notice the D=50 thing. I wonder about what I think is a homophone at 23a — is it “le cure”?

    1. Hi Ilan, re 23a, if you look at a synonym for ‘best’ (as a verb) you’ll find the explanation’s on the tip of your tongue! Happy you liked the rest.

  5. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Dr D. I think this represents considerable progress. It was tricky in parts but more accessible than your previous offerings, and I enjoyed it more. You have also made some headway with your surfaces although there are still several which are rather surreal.

    A few specific comments:
    4a – oh dear!
    20a – is bone = T OK? One for the judgement of Prolixic.
    1d – very inventive but it comes across as rather clunky and doesn’t really work for me.
    13d – although “acres” in the plural equals “land” or “lands”, I don’t think the singular is acceptable (vide BRB).

    My podium choice is 23a, 26a & 19d.

    Well done and thanks, Dr D. Keep going; you are moving in the right direction. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Thanks RabbitDave!
      In response:
      4a – 😳
      20a – Prolixic rules!
      1d – I was hoping “inventive” might justify a little clunkiness
      13d – yes, I fear you are right

      Thanks for your positive feedback

      1. DD, 1d. I took this as an OK double-definition (both verbal), the first 4 words being straight and the last 3 words being more obscure (and relating to the answer hyphenated 2-4) – as in: You can contract with us to deliver our cargo. Or: You can (re-)sign with us as a player for the next 2 years. I’ve done my best to justify it – not sure if P will agree?

  6. One of those crosswords where I liked some bits, didn’t like others and have some question marks waiting for Prolixic’s review tomorrow

    Thanks Dr Diva and, in advance, to Prolixic

  7. I enjoyed this – thanks Dr Diva.
    Most of my queries have been answered above. I can’t find the 26a answer meaning to ridicule in Chambers or Collins but it is in Merriam-Webster so perhaps it’s North American.
    I liked the 15d ‘infant courier’ and the 17d ‘remove key’.
    The top clues for me were 13a, 16a and 2d.

  8. Many thanks Gazza. I’ve always understood 26a to be a function of satire in particular. I guess it suggests the pricking of pomposity. Surprised it doesn’t make Collins which is strong on British American.

  9. Thanks Dr Diva, good fun with some head-scratching involved.

    I think most of the ‘issues’ have already been raised; there are a few where I’ll be interested to see Prolixic’s take (thanks in advance!) I didn’t know the “half-wind” but like it (makes a nice change from just “directions”) although the “that” in the clue doesn’t seem quite right. 24a was nice but I wonder if you could have done something with the ‘shared’ letter? A few of the surfaces did seem a little odd, but in an interesting rather than off-putting way, if that makes sense! My favourites were 9a, 14a, 23a, 3d, 19d & 21d.

    Thanks again!

    1. Many thanks Fez. I never quite know if head-scratching is a good thing. If it remains unresolved, I guess not, but otherwise it seems to be part of the deal!
      I was on your wavelength for 24a and considered an alternative along the lines of “Incendiary poet sharing a neighbouring pound”. Preferable, do you think?

      1. I use “head-scratching” in a very positive way – I agree it is absolutely ‘part of the deal’ – so the head-scratching contributes to the fun!

      2. Trouble is that neither alternative results in a convincing surface read, perhaps one of the areas you need to work on?

        1. You’re right – I must and do (try at least) Jane!
          If pound is used in the send of enclosure, ie “Incendiary poet sharing a neighbouring pound”, do you still find it unconvincing? That’s what I had in mind anyway!

          1. Dr D. I think it is very important not to make surface readings themselves cryptic. I have had some (friendly, I hope) dialogue on this subject with a nationally published setter whose surface readings can be more cryptic than his wordplay.

            Make the wordplay as cryptic as you like in relation to the standard of toughness you are aiming for, but please make your surfaces crystal clear so they don’t need explanation or translation!

              1. DD. There’s an interesting article about smooth and unconvincing/nonsensical surfaces in the latest DT Puzzles Newsletter, out via email now.

                  1. I was just about to c/p the article straight onto here, but wasn’t sure if that would be the right thing to do. But you now have a link via LBR, I see.

          2. I’d registered the type of pound you were referring to but to be honest it still doesn’t make much sense to me!

  10. Overall this was good fun.
    Others have said all that needs to be said about 4a – there but for the grace of God go all of us.
    Having had it explained, I think the homophone in 23a, while perfectly sound, works for the setter perhaps rather better than for the solver. Likewise, perhaps, T=bone in 20a; and I didn’t know what a half-wind was. That clue passes muster, though, firstly because as RabbitDave suggests, ENE can be ENErgy, and secondly because we acquire some useful GK when the explanation is forthcoming.
    I don’t have any problem with acre=land in 13d (a traditional name for a churchyard is “God’s Acre”), but totally seems redundant.
    24a has defeated me, and I’d have appreciated more help from the wordplay in 10d. And surely a Triad is the gang, not one of its members?
    Having said all of which, there are some lovely clues here, particular favourites being 9a, 3d, 17d, 19d; and the surface of 7d is entertaining, too.
    1d is a bit wordy, but also a bit different. Good for you.

    1. Thanks for your kind feedback Gollum. Happy that your experience was positive overall.
      On the specific points not mentioned above:
      13a: I felt totally was needed to show all the wordplay is reversed, not just part of it.
      20a: if U=bend, which I’ve seen often, why not T=bone?
      24a: Hopefully Prolixic will light the bulb!
      5d: is triad not both? I am sure it is used (at least colloquially) to refer to members.
      10d: I been trying hard for brevity throughout! Did I overdo it?

  11. Welcome back, Dr Diva.

    My thoughts almost exactly mirror those of RD, so I won’t bother repeating what he has expressed so well.

    Definitely a significant step forward, I suspect Prolixic’s guide has helped to eliminate many of the previous niggles. Well done!

    Thank you for an enjoyable puzzle.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. Prolixic’s guide has definitely helped, but I should also acknowledge Letterbox Roy’s patient therapy which has helped to resolve the worst of my early “Frankenstein clue” tendencies!! So on that level, at least, I take Gollum’s plea for more help in the wordplay of 10d as an indication of improvement!

  12. Thought this was a huge improvement on your previous offerings, Dr Diva, although there were still a few niggles and the least said about 4a the better!
    Keep up the good work.

  13. Overall, I found this an enjoyable challenge. I thought some of the surfaces needed refinement. Eg I can’t conjure up any meaningful use of ‘nostalgic thoroughfare,’ ‘infant courier,’ or ‘outraged sinew.’

    I’m not sure the Spoonerism works because of the ‘at’ in the clue.

    However, these quibbles did not spoil the enjoyment.

    1. That’s good to hear Hubble and thanks for your feedback
      I would say (well, I would, wouldn’t I?) that a road reminding you of your youth could be described as nostalgic, a courier could conceivably specialise in transporting infants and that sinews (as in every fibre of your body) could be impacted by emotional trauma – at least these were the senses I was endeavouring to convey.
      But you are right to direct me to the ever-present need to refine surfaces and I will work at it, I promise!

  14. Thanks Dr Diva, and well done! Compared to your previous puzzles I think the surfaces are much smoother here. It’s a shame about 4a – if 50=D that would have been a lovely clue – oh well! My favourites are 2d, 15d, 19d (though I’d say ‘from’ would work better than ‘by’), and 21d.

    1. Thanks Conto. I thought it was a belter too, until……. (sigh).
      You are, of course, right on 19d. It does read better.
      Thanks for your feedback!

  15. Thanks Dr Diva. We did need to reveal some first letters but we enjoyed the challenge. Favourites were 1d and (once we’d managed to parse it!) 15d. We still need Prolixic’s help to understand one or two of the rest. Look forward to your next one and to Prolixic’s review.

    1. Thanks for that Hilton. I take on board your struggle (and head-scratching comments by others above) and recognise that I still need to improve solver-friendliness.

  16. Thanks Dr Diva – I had to make more reveals than I like, but 15d was not one where that was necessary. I got the infant courier straight away, and the other parts slotted nicely in. I didn’t get the half wind, but knew that word had to be the answer for 6d. You had me doubting myself in 4a as its such a neat clue otherwise! I don’t think even adding ‘No, by 10!’ at the end would sort it, would it?

    1. Yes, I liked the idea a lot Ruth. Such a shame I blew it by not questioning myself! Love your idea. Would need to be sure “by 10” applies to just the 50. “Be there by 10.50? By 10.00!”
      Does that seem right?

  17. I thought this was enjoyable with some clever ideas and a nice variety of clues.
    I don’t think it’s been suggested yet, but ‘pound’ in 24a could have been capitalized to indicate the poet Ezra Pound (I originally thought that was the intention and it was a typo), which would have tallied with the other poet in the clue.
    One other point that may be worth noting: some people think it’s not ideal where a part of the solution is indicated by a synonym that’s too close to what it means in the solution. Eg In 16a, trade and gap, and in 24a bomb (where the primary meaning of the solution is to attack with bombs). It probably doesn’t matter to most solvers, but I’m aware that professional setters who judge clue-writing competitions don’t like it!
    Like others I enjoyed infant courier and the homophone at 23, and the blubbing Iranian gang member! ‘Remove key’ had me fooled for a bit – nice misdirection.

  18. Thanks Dr.D
    I solved about half. I cannot dissagree with the review but I did like 3d. 4a however could get you suspended from the altar servers list.

    Regards D.D.

  19. Imanaged to work most of this out but it wasn’t a very satisfying solve. I think Prolixic’s comments have explained why.
    But some nice clues, nevertheless. I rather liked the last five down clues.

  20. Thanks for the review Prolixic.
    I take on board everything you say. Just one query though re T=Bone. I have seen several times U=bend, S=bends, A(or H)=bomb, A=frame etc. How do these differ (or do they? Should they also be qualified with “type of”?

    1. Personally, I’m fine with ‘bone’ being used to clue ‘T’, though I’d say a question mark is preferable, as you need ‘bone’ to turn it into a definition by example, as with H bomb and also something like ‘saw’ to clue ‘jig’. ‘Bend’ for ‘U’ is firmer, in that the ‘U’ symbol is itself the shape of that bend and is thus in the realm of concrete poetry.

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