Rookie Corner 391 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 391

A Puzzle by X-File

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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.

This was a much improved offering from X-Type.  There were some niggles but far fewer that in the first crossword and a lot of the unnecessary complexity was removed.  The commentometer reads as 4/29 or 13.9 %


1 Agree to wear eccentric watch (4,2)
LOOK ON – A two-letter word meaning to agree has a four-letter word for an eccentric person around it (to wear).

4 Having good prospects, being born with privilege (6)
BRIGHT – The abbreviation for born followed by five-letter word for a privilege.

8 Comes up with the cash, by any means necessary (7)
HATCHES – An anagram (by any means necessary) of THE CASH.  I think that the “necessary” takes the “by any mean” outside the realms of being an anagram indicator.  Even then by any means is more of a clue to the anagram indicator somehow.

9 Potentially 2 x 4 = 10 after booze and Tramadol kicking in (6)
BATTEN – The spelling of 10 after the initial letters (kicking in) of booze and Tramadol.

11 Hint of almond; a taste in your cookies (4)
DATA – The answer is hidden (hint of) in the third to fifth words of the clue.  As cookies represents a definition by example, this should be indicated.

12 I had to go in two directions, left or right (4)
SIDE – The shortened form of I had in the abbreviations for south and east (two directions).

13 Plan to get me in control (5)
PILOT – A four-letter word for a plan includes (to get) a single letter that represents the setter (me).

15 Round two, Gods given second chances (4)
ODDS – The letter that is round followed by two letter that are the abbreviation for Deus (God) and the abbreviation for second.

16 Touch up look book and unedited piece of film (8)
AIRBRUSH – A three-letter word meaning look followed by the abbreviation for book and a four-letter word for an unedited piece of film.

18 Understood female in depth (8)
FATHOMED – The abbreviation for female followed by a phrase (2,4) meaning in and the abbreviation for depth.

20 They contain seeds of plants or tomato sauce (4)
POTS – The initial letters (seeds) of the final four words of the clue.

23 Enthusiastic opium supplier loses love, drug fills the void (5)
PEPPY – The plant from which opium is extracted with the O (love) removed and replaced by the abbreviation for ecstasy (drug).

24 Dry, oddly flat and even fibre (4)
FAIR – The odd letters of flat followed by the even letters of fibre.  You need an indicator such as evenly rather than even.

25 Garden growing apples, not for eating! (4)
EDEN – Cryptic definition of the garden in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis.

27 Sordid affair behind some palm trees (6)
RAFFIA – An anagram (sordid) of affair.  I think that behind, as in responsible for, works in this clue as the link word.

28 Not on purpose, son commits crime (7)
OFFENDS – A three-letter word meaning not on followed by a three-letter word for a purpose and the abbreviation for son.

29 Mastery of chops; getting last piece of pork at a price (6)
KARATE – The last letter of pork followed by the A from the clue and a four-letter word meaning price.

30 Wood-burners subject to Government taxes (6)
GRATES – The abbreviation for Government followed by a four-letter word meaning taxes.  I am less enamoured by subject to as the link word.  Here , “Government taxes word burners” would be better.  Also having to clue rate and rates in successive clues is not ideal.


1 Plants dahlia with nasturtium after pruning? (6)
LIANAS – The answer is hidden (after pruning) in Dahlia Nasturtium.  It is acceptable to have the hidden word split across two words with a conjunction between the them.

2 Garden growing greengages or greens (7)
ORCHARD – The or from the clue followed by a five-letter word word for a green vegetable.

3 Writes in Old English: “Me too, let me in!” (4,6)
OPEN SESAME – A four-letter word meaning writes in the abbreviation for Old English followed by a four-letter word meaning me to.  I think that the “me too” would lead to “the ????”.

5 Work your initial into stone? (4)
RUBY – A three-letter word meaning work followed by the first letter (initial) of your.  I think that initial on its own does not work.  It needs to be initially for the cryptic reading.

6 Nervously tries on German uniform, becoming braver (7)
GUTSIER – An anagram (nervously) of TRIES after (on) the abbreviations for German and Uniform.  In a down clue A on B means that A comes first.

7 See 14

10 British period of rain, waded in deep water (9)
EDWARDIAN – An anagram (in deep water) of RAIN WADED.  I don’t think that in deep water works as an anagram indicator.  It operates as a clue to the anagram indicator “in trouble”.

14/7 9 down the 8 and anticipate sausages, we’re told (7,3,3,5)
PREPAR FOR THE WORST – The clue relies on a homophone of Wurst (sausages) and a phase that might mean to anticipate that homophone.

17 Scam with fake elastic in protective equipment (4,4)
FACE MASK – An anagram (elastic) of SCAM FAKE.

19/21 1 the 4 12 as per both of these, when experiencing difficulties (4,3,3,4)
HOPE FOR THE BEST – An anagram, (when experiencing difficulties) of AS PER BOTH OF THESE.

22 Earth Goddess’ poems revealed in crystal balls? (6)
GEODES – A two-letter word for the Earth goddess followed by a four-letter word for poems.

26 It’s designed to be tempting and a bit naughty (4)
BAIT – An anagram (naughty) of A BIT.

25 comments on “Rookie Corner 391

  1. Thanks X-File. I think this has to be an improvement on your first Rookie but, dare I say and as I recall, that would not have been too difficult.

    Some what I thought were ‘stretched’ anagram indicators – 8a, 27a, and 10d. In 27a, I am not sure that the ‘description’ of the source of the answer works very well.

    The ‘pruning’ required in 1d probably needs better definition.

    I did like the 14d/7d and 19d/21d combos with their references to other clues (and I don’t normally like cross-referencing).

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  2. Thanks X-file and congratulations on an enjoyable puzzle. I do agree with Senf’s point about anagrinds and I have a few other niggles, but I’ll leave that side of things to Prolixic. Unusually, I thought the x-references made the puzzle easier (a good thing) as I was able to work out the answers to the clues with the x-references and the x-referred clues themselves at the same time. Lots of ingenuity on display. I particularly liked 9A, 18A, 23A, 28A and 3D.

  3. Good morning X-File. I agree with Senf that this was an improvement on your debut Rookie Corner puzzle, which is good to see. However I did struggle with the solve and I needed some electronic help to finish it. Perhaps think about the ideal situation that a cryptic crossword should be an enjoyable tussle between setter and solver, which the solver eventually wins.

    You have an original style and some ingenious ideas. Although your surface readings are generally better this time, there are still some which are rather iffy, notably 16a.

    The definition in 9a may be a bit obscure for some and “behind” in 27a is surface padding. The two linked long phrases are clever, but they inevitably read strangely due to the cross-references. Also, I don’t think “as per both of these” brings anything to the party in 19/21.

    I learned two new things in the unedited film in 16a, and that Ge is an alternative to the more familiar Gaea in 22d.

    The top clues for me were18a, 3d & 5d.

    Thanks X-File and in advance to Prolixic.

      1. Thanks, CS. It’s too clever for me, and obscured by the cross-referencing. I thought is was just an attempt at a cryptic definition.

    1. RD – ‘behind’ in 27a may not be surface padding. Apparently the answer is from the ‘back side’ (the ‘behind’?) of the leaf of a type of palm tree. I just thought it was a not very good surface.

  4. An enjoyable puzzle – thanks X-File.
    Some of the anagram indicators are novel and I don’t think they all work (e.g. 10d).
    The ‘on’ in 6d doesn’t really work in a down clue.
    The clues I really liked were 18a, 28a, 3d and 26d.

  5. I never look back at Rookies’ previous puzzles so have no idea what the difference is between this one and the last X-File puzzle. It was quite a battle in places, but I think that has quite a bit to do with getting on the right wavelength.

    I did like quite a few clues 25a, 3d, and, although I’m not usually keen on clues referencing others, 14/7 and 19/21

    Thanks X-File and in advance to Prolixic

  6. Thanks X-File, this was tough but enjoyable, and definitiely a big improvement on your debut.

    I thought the surfaces were excellent for the most part, 16a perhaps being the main exception. As others have noted, a couple of anagram indicators seem a bit of a stretch (8a, 10d); the “on” in 6d isn’t right for a down clue; and, the definition in 27a doesn’t quite work for me. Some other devices perhaps might raise eyebrows – e.g. the distracting comma in 14a, “seeds” perhaps doing double duty in 20a (which I liked a lot!), the split lurker in 1d – but I do think all these were fair, and made for good clues once on the right wavelength.

    Very cleverly put together with the two ‘linked’ answers and the parts of their definitions – the cross-references were very helpful. Plenty of very good clues – e.g. 12a, 23a,14/7d, 26d. I thought 28a, 3d, 17d, 19/21d were brilliant but for me top spot goes to 18a.

    So overall, impressive – challenging and fun. Thanks again!

  7. Welcome back, X-File.

    As others have said, this puzzle was significantly better than your previous one, so congratulations on that. After the mauling you received last time, I wondered if 19/21 and 14/7 was now your philosophy? If so, it was a nice self-deprecatory touch.

    The surfaces were much improved, 15a and 16a excepted, but I share Fez’s reservations about the use of “on” in 6d and beware of repeating constructions with the same indicator in successive clues, like 12a and 13a. I liked the double use of “garden growing” to start both 25a and 2d. I had a few other quibbles which no doubt Prolixic will also mention. My favourite clue was 28a.

    Thank you for an enjoyable solve and well done again on the progress you’ve made.

  8. Hi X-File
    There was a lot of very clever wordplay and originality on display here which really impressed me and makes me feel that you will one day produce some great puzzles. I liked 1a, 9a, 28a, 5d, 28d a lot. But, like others, I feel there are some issues also. – for example, while I like the thinking behind them, I am not sure that MASTERY OF CHOPS or OPIUM SUPPLIER properly define the intended words grammatically. And while I agree some anagrinds were at best stretch, I actually like 8a and think it is almost fair, as ‘necessary’ is redundant and, though it makes a better surface, it IMO makes the anagrind less valid. In 19/21d, the anagrind also seems to be crucial to the definition, but Prolixic will offer clarity on that I am sure. I also felt a couple of other clues needed example indicators – 11a, where cookies are an example of the definition, and 2d (which otherwise I liked). For those reasons I found this tough and RD’s advice is pertinent here. The key is putting yourself in the solvers’ shoes and imagine how you’d feel if you encountered your puzzle!
    But keep on doing what you are doing, because the good easily outweighs the dubious and will undoubtedly improve with experience.

    1. Agree 8a is potentially very good, just the anagram indicator seems to be tryng too hard – something more straightforward like “Comes up with the cash, somehow” would maintain a nice surface.

  9. Exactly so Fez. SOMEHOW is excellent, but my point is that BY ANY MEANS on its own is OK too (you may prefer yours, but both result in good surfaces) whereas adding NECESSARY actually diminishes the anagrind somewhat, as it is IMO superfluous, purely to improve the surface a little. Would you agree?

    1. Yes I’d agree – “necessary” is superfluous, but even then I’m not sure “by any means” (on its own) really indicates an anagram. I guess an editor would make the decision, though – the core of the clue is great, so only a little tweak required.

      1. Yes! Editorial decision absolutely final. FWIW I’m thinking BY ANY MEANS = IN ANY WAY = SOMEHOW but then I’m not Prolixic so who cares? ☺

  10. Welcome back, X-File. I’m forming the opinion that your style of setting leaves solvers to employ a fair amount of guesswork so I almost threw in the towel when I spotted the inter-connected clues. I did see an improvement in most surface reads from your debut puzzle but I find many of your definitions very loose. Please bear in mind that, unlike you, the solver doesn’t already know the answer when reading through one of your clues!
    I look forward to reading the review from Prolixic and hope that I find more to enjoy in your next offering. Thank you for your efforts in putting this one together and my apologies for not being very receptive.

  11. Well, I started off finding this a real struggle, then cracked the two long ones at 14/7 and 19/21 and it all started to come together pleasantly.
    Add me to the ranks of those who disliked 8a and thought the surface of 16a was rather contrived – but the actual wordplay in 16a was very neat. And there really are some first rate clues in this puzzle – 9a is ingenious (though I’ll be interested to see what Prolixic has to say about “kicking in” as an indicator of initial letters), 12a (the cleverness of which has only just dawned on me), 18a, 28a, 29a (I like the misdirection, getting the solver to think of pork chops), 2d, 5d (neat clues for short words are always attractive), 26d.
    Is the requirement to know Wurst=sausages fair, with no indication that we have “foreign words coming over here cluing our crosswords…”?
    Yes, some of the definitions were a bit loose, though Senf @3 helpfully explains that the definition in 27a wasn’t as loose as I thought; and PEPPY is a word I’d happily never encounter again. Personally I rather liked some of the slightly off-the-wall anagram indicators such as 10d, and I thought 19/21 was a very clever anagram indeed
    Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable puzzle and a tough, but not too tough, challenge. As Dr D @8 says, one day you will produce some great puzzles; and this one’s already pretty good. Thank you

  12. Thanks X-File, I thought this was a great crossword and I thoroughly enjoyed solving it–all but two of the clues, that is, as 13a and 22d defeated me. Terrific effort! Well done.

  13. By a comfortable margin the most difficult of 6 puzzles I’ve tackled today. Managed the left hand side ok but there’s only so much head scratching that’s advisable for the scalp & I resorted to 5 strategic letter reveals to finish. I thought the inter connected clues very neat & would have twigged them earlier had I worked out BATTEN before revealing the first letter (still can’t parse it). Agree that some of the anagrinds were a bit of a stretch though probably within the bounds of acceptability. On reflection my appreciation of the puzzle increased reading back through it after completion & I’d have been chuffed to have been able to finish it unaided as I tend to agree with Jane’s comment.
    Thanks X-File

  14. Difficult puzzle — I needed help to be honest. I really liked 18a — surprisingly concise and clever.
    BATTEN still has me puzzled as well — I understand the definition (had to look up BATTEN which I suspect is more of a Britishism) but I don’t quite see how “kicking in” indicates initial letters of the previous fodder?

  15. I enjoyed your puzzle a lot, X-File. I solved most of it correctly, but fell short on three. For understanding the wordplay of these, I am most grateful to Prolixic for his excellent and most helpful review.
    Many thanks X-file for an interesting and absorbing challenge. Well done!

  16. While no-one’s looking, I’ll just point out that 4″ x 2″ is a beam, batten is 2″ x 1″ (metric roofing batten is approx. 50mm x 30mm)
    I think relay racers might struggle to run around with a 4″ x 2″ rafter
    Enjoyed the puzzle despite a few hmms – thanks X-File

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which I needed to sort out a couple of bits of parsing. Every day’s a school day!

  18. Dear all,

    Apologies for my late response, I’ve just returned from a week on a remote and very wet Welsh hillside. I did find a little phone signal on Tuesday so was able to read a few comments, but thought I’d save my reply until I was home and dry.

    Many thanks for all your kind words, feedback, and criticism. I’m a little annoyed with myself for making mistakes such as the ‘on’ in 6d, but generally really pleased with how this has been received.
    My aim was to clean up my act and write shorter, simpler clues, but I still wanted to try a few risky things so I was expecting a few failures.

    Thanks again for taking the time to solve and comment, and of course, a big thank you to Prolixic for the review.

    See you again soon!

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