Rookie Corner 392 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 392

A Puzzle by Jeemz

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a debut puzzle from Jeemz. 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.

After reading many of the comments, I think that the setter needs to drop the M from his or her pseudonym.  This was tough, not helped by a grid where over a quarter of the solutions had less than 50 cross-checked letters and some misleading clues.  It took me four or five sittings over the course of the day to solve this, which is too long.  The commentometer reads as 8.5/27 or 31.5%

Across

7 Mistake her age, muscle in, have another row (9)
REPECHAGE – An anagram (mistake) of HER and the AGE from the clue includes a three-letter word for a type of muscle.

8 Report touches on courses (5)
POURS – A homophone (report) of paws touches.  On does not work as a link word and the clue breaks down cryptically to wordplay ON definition.

10 Is Ottawa in Scotland? It’s in the middle layer (8)
WAINSCOT – The answer is hidden (it’s in the middle) in the second to fourth words of the clue.  Try to avoid superfluous words in clues – here the “is” is not required.

11 Parrot made a meal of by one of these? (6)
RAPTOR – An anagram (made a meal of) of PARROT.

12/22 Back first French guillotine used for footing! (4,4)
FLIP FLOP – A four-letter word meaning back followed by the first letter of French and a three-letter word meaning to guillotine.  First X does not mean the first letter of X.  Perhaps origin of French would be better.  I don’t think that “footing” is a description of the solution.

13 Ways prepared fibre adheres to arteries (8)
TOWPATH – A three-letter word for a type of fibre followed by a five-letter word for arteries or main routes.

15 Hook Mac fished with in Thames village (7)
COOKHAM – An anagram (fished with) of HOOK MAC.

17 One hundred for resigning politician. Andy maybe? (7)
BURNHAM – Double definition of one of the Hundreds a post a sitting MP takes to trigger their resignation and the MP who is now mayor of Manchester.  Hundred here needs a capital letter as you are referring to a proper noun.  Perhaps too much general knowledge is required of the name of the Hundreds.

20 Star caught likely red-handed (8)
SUNBUNRT – A three-letter word for our star followed by a five-letter word meaning caught.

22 See 12

25 College issue complete agreement (6)
UNISON – A three-letter abbreviation for a collage followed by a three-letter word for a child or issue.

26 Alien embraces the Queen in the open (8)
EXOTERIC – A six-letter word for alien around (embraces) the abbreviation for the current queen.

27 Is 15 and 17 what Alfred did to them? (5)
CAKES – Cryptic definition for something that Alfred cooked and burnt.  Perhaps an indication of the homophone would be better here.

28 Heads of secret service guarded second and first names of disorderly women (9)
SLATTERNS – The initial letters (heads of) secret service go around (guarded) a six-letter word meaning the second and the first letter of names.  Apart from the acceptability of first X, this is a repetition of the wordplay first (see 12/12) that should have been avoided.  Some editors will now allow wordplay of definition.

Down

1 Secure: having no expertise (5)
BELAY – Split 2,3, this could mean having no expertise.

2 The meat for officer off the record (6)
KERNEL – A homophone (off the record) of colonel (officer).  As off the record means informally, it does not really work as a homophone indicator.  More importantly, you have the cryptic grammar definition for wordplay, which is back to front.  You can have wordplay for the definition but not the reverse.

3 Animal vegetable mineral rich vegetable (8)
CHICKPEA – A five-letter word for a young farmyard animal followed by a three-letter word for a small green vegetable.  Hyphens are important.  There is a lot of difference between a little-used car and a little used-car.  Here mineral-rich would be better in the clue.

4 Rock and roll: get a taxi after ten barred (7)
AGITATE – An anagram (roll) of GET A TAXI) after removing the Roman numeral for ten.

5 Brief contest gets the French in lament (8)
COMPLAIN – An abbreviation for competition (brief contest) and the IN from the clue include (gets) the French feminine singular form of the.  As the abbreviation comp is not given for competition in the dictionaries, the clue does not work.  The alternative requiring the solver to find a synonym, and remove a random number of letters is too indirect.

6 Win the quarrel first and make a point (9)
ARROWHEAD – A four-letter word meaning to win with a five-letter word for a quarrel before it (first).  Perhaps to make a point would be better here.  There is too much overlap between quarrel and the solution.

9 Band in which girl power can make a come-back (4)
CREW – The answer is hidden and reversed (in which … can make a comeback) in the fifth and sixth words of the clue.  The most blatant misuse of padding words.  The girl is no only not needed, it is positively misleading the terms of the clue as a whole.

14 Line dance for the tall mixer? (6,3)
COLUMN TAP – A six-letter word for a line of people followed by a three-letter word for a form of dance.  The solution is not in the main dictionaries and is not, as far as I can tell, a propriety name or proper noun for something.  

16 Boy had whiff and she finished off (8)
KIBOSHED – A three-letter word for a small boy includes (had) a two-letter abbreviation for body odour (whiff) and the SHE from the clue.  Had as an instruction to include A in B is very weak and should be avoided.

18 Pays to tell the truth son (8)
UPFRONTS – A seven-letter word meaning the state of being honest or telling the truth followed by the abbreviation for son.  The dictionaries do not give upfront as a verb, only as an adjective or adverb.  

19 State beginning to rely on being treated well (7)
UTTERLY – The abbreviation for the state of Utah followed by the first letter (beginning) of to an an anagram (being treated) of RELY.

21 Soldiers paraded before Ulster Queen (4)
RANI – The abbreviation for Royal Artillery followed by the abbreviation for Northern Ireland.  As many have pointed out, Ulster is not the same as Northern Ireland.

23 First in with a crowbar? (6)
OPENER – Double definition of a batsman and a description of a crowbar.

24 Club has no ill effects with the return of some members (5)
LIONS – The answer is hidden and reversed (with the return of some members) in the second to fourth words of the clue.  Another clue with needless and misleading padding.  The word effects is not part of the wordplay or the solution so should have been omitted.


45 comments on “Rookie Corner 392
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  1. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Jeemz.

    My method when solving Rookie puzzles is to circle the clue numbers for clues which are ticked, have questions/issues, or need the judgement of Prolixic. Your puzzle wins the prize for the most circles!

    Overall this was a tough solve and there were some very specialised bits of GK needed, e.g. 15a & 17a may be somewhat puzzling for non-UK solvers. As is often the case for Rookie setters early in their careers, some of your surfaces were rather dodgy, although others were fine – don’t forget the “what would you think if you overheard this in the pub?” test!

    I’ll leave most of the details to Prolixic, and will just mention a few things.

    – You have tried to be creative with your anagram indicators, but there are a couple which I don’t think work. Let’s see what Mr P has to say about these.
    – Some of your definitions seem very stretched.
    – You have two lurkers with words added as padding to improve the surface read.
    – Ulster is not the same as Northern Ireland.
    – I think “hundred” in 17a needs to be capitalised.
    – I’m not sure if the ? in 27a is sufficient to indicate that homophones of 15a & 17a are needed.
    – I can’t find anything to support 14d as a valid phrase nor that 18d can be used as a verb.

    I awarded ticks to 11a, 17a, 25a, 2d, 6d & 23d.

    Well done, Jeemz. This was a promising first step, and I look forward to seeing you make progress. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Wow! Obviously the cluing was tougher and less precise than I meant it to be. Thanks for the feedback. I have just bought a 14d so felt it was ok. Clearly not!

  2. My practice with the Rookie crosswords is to print them off and solve them over breakfast. As I sat down at the kitchen table, I said to Mr CS ‘there’s definitely something about this one as no-one (overseas correspondent or otherwise) has commented yet’.

    Well, I’ve eaten a bowl of mini Shredded Wheat and drunk a cup of tea and I have solved seven clues (7a, 10a, 25a, 1d,4d, 21d and 23d), so I can tell you exactly what it is about this one – it is almost impossible to solve! Sorry Jeemz but in order to get any further with this crossword, I’d have to reveal lots of letters and this defeats the object of a crossword that solvers are supposed to be able to both get on with and enjoy.

    The clues I solved show that you have promise as a setter but you are ‘trying far too hard to be cryptic’ in many of the rest. Please take note of Prolixic’s review and comments from other solvers and return with something more solver-friendly in future

    1. I threw in the towel after a good Ray T time plus some Giovanni time with only 10 or so clues solved and a big Harumph on Ulster/NI – the 6 Counties of NI are a subset of the 9 Counties of Ulster. Hence no early morning comment.

      7a did get a big smile.

      Even with reveals, I do not understand 14d as the last three letters are shown as TAS. Is there a typo in there somewhere?

      Thanks Jeemz, but not for me, and thanks in advance to Prolixic who, no doubt, will draw on his saintly patience.

  3. Welcome, Jeemz.

    Anyone solving the puzzle without revealing at least some of the letters or whole solutions earns my great respect, as I found it impossible to complete this unaided. Even when discovering the answers, I still can’t understand the wordplay in several cases, which suggests that the clueing was too complex, vague or inaccurate, or possibly a combination of all three elements. Certainly the grid wasn’t particularly solver-friendly either, with eight out of twenty-eight solutions having fewer than 50% checking letters. I don’t envy Prolixic’s task when reviewing the puzzle.

    Apart from making future compilations a fairer contest between setter and solver, I would also strongly suggest deleting extraneous words and definite/indefinite articles which have no part in the wordplay. For example, I spent ages in 9d trying to think of the reversal of a girl’s name followed by the abbreviation for “power” only to discover that “girl” plays no part in the solution whatsoever! I share many of RD’s concerns and several of the surface readings seemed to be in “crosswordese”, almost as though a computer rather than a person had constructed them.

    Well done on your first submission, Jeemz, but I can’t say that I enjoyed solving the puzzle unfortunately, as there were too many question marks on my printed page. Please pay heed of Prolixic’s invaluable comments before your next one.

  4. What a difference compared to Saturday’s NTSPP! I found this almost impenetrable & concur with the comments above. Sorry Jeemz.

  5. Thanks Jeemz – a very tough solve, not helped by quite a few ‘errors’, but also some interesting ideas – I think Prolixic will have his work cut out.

    I needed considerable electronic assistance to fill the grid, and even after ‘revealing’ 14d the answer doesn’t make sense (got the first word via crossers, but the second eludes me and I can’t get anything from the wordplay). I’m not sure if this is an error in the grid entry – 16d (on checking) gave an S rather than a D as final letter, which is surely a mistake, so perhaps another mistake also crept in here?

    The 15a/17a pair of answers was a nice touch (though both UK-centric), but the reference to them in 27a really needs a homophone indicator (agree with RD the question mark is insufficient)

    “First xxx” was used twice for intial letter of a word (12/22a, 28a), I think this needs to be “xxx’s first” or “first of xxx”. In 12/22a the definition seems a bit of a stretch to me.

    I don’t ‘get’ the clues for 17a or 6d (can see parts of them, but the whole eludes me – RD has ticked both so I am sure this is a failing on my part not yours, Jeemz). 14d is a complete mystery, 18d I’m not sure is a word – both defintions lead to a phrase 6/2 that’s a rearrangement of the two parts of the actual entry. 19d also has all the right bits but I can’t see how they’re supposed to be put together (a synonym for “state” + half of “rely”?). Finally, in 21d as RD mentions, Ulster and Northern Ireland are not the same thing.

    Several clues were, for me, “nearly but not quite”: 13a I’m assuming the first three letters = “rope” = “prepared fibre” but I think this ‘double step’ process is a bit too much. Anagram indicator in 15a also seems a bit of a stretch, as is the homophone indicator in 2d and the cryptic definition in 20a. 1d’s definition as a split 2/3 doesn’t quite work for me grammatically. 3d I think works but seems a bit awkward (with “mineral-rich” perhaps needing hyphenating to make sense?). 9d has too much padding for a lurker, and 23d should maybe be “first on” rather than “in”, or could omit “in with a” completely.

    On the plus side, your surfaces were (mostly) good, and I thought all of 7a, 10a, 11a, 25a, 4d, and 16d (assuming the last letter should be D) were good clues; my favourites were 8a, 26a, 5d, with top spot going to 24d.

    So, plenty of promise, but plenty of things to think about too – I’ll look forward to another Jeemz puzzle. Thanks again … and thanks in advance to Prolixic, I’ll look forward to the review!

      1. OK, got 6d parsing too now … not convinced, though, on synonym for “win”, and “the” seems to be padding. And thanks to RD’s capitalistion tip, got 17a too (though it was unknown GK for me) – here, “resigning” also feels like padding. And also 19d – I got the wrong sort of “state” originally – quite liking this overall, but probably needs “what’s beginning to” or similar.

        1. Ahhh, 14d should end in P! Not sure it’s a ‘thing’, can’t find it as a phrase on Google let alone in dictionary – but if it IS a real thing (“pillar xxx” does have a successful Google search, so maybe), then the clue is very good!

        2. Realise this maybe too UK centric and too obscure historical GK but resigning is essential to the clue. MPs were not allowed to resign – so taking the Chiltern Hundreds was a device used to enable this. The answer is of course one of these three hundreds.

          Thanks for the detailed review. I’m taking everything on board!

          1. Thanks Jeemz, I understand 17a now but it was way beyond my general knowledge. Nothing wrong with that of course, it’s good to learn!

      1. I can only find it via wiktionary as a verb “to bring to the fore; to place up front for consideration”. In Chambers, OED and via ‘open’ online sources, I can only find it (without the “s”) as adjective or adverb. (For me, Collins reports “Sorry, no results for “xxxxxxxx” in the English Dictionary.” It does sound feasible though – perhaps there’s a more extensive paid-for version of Collins?)

        1. Sorry, I overlooked the S on the end. Maybe they’re not the right parts of speech to allow S to be added. Let’s let the reviewer decide.

  6. I agree with all that has been already said
    No problem with a tough puzzle, but want an Aha! when I twig rather than ‘How on earth does that work?’
    There are also one or two Graun-style liberties taken with the grammar
    Good challenge, but sorry, not much fun to solve (not that I did)
    Thanks for the challenge Jeemz

  7. Welcome to the Corner, Jeemz. I’m another who had to do some ‘reveals’ to fill the grid and in several instances I was left none the wiser with regard to the wordplay.
    I did find a few goodies – 11&25a worked well as did 1d, but overall I think you need to take careful note of the review from Prolixic and comments from other experienced solvers to gain a better understanding of the relationship that has to exist between setter and solver.

    Many thanks for bringing us your debut puzzle.

  8. Agree that the final letters of 14d and 16 down should be P and D respectively, not both S, which is what showed in each case when I did a reveal (having put the other letters in that were then crossed through when I checked). I don’t understand 8a at all, so waiting for Prolix to enlighten me, as it’s one that Fez liked. I wanted to put Chiltern in 17a and was quite put out that it didn’t fit1 But the answer with Beeches is one of them so I guess that works OK. Thanks Jeemz, but agree with others that too many reveals needed to finish it off, and at least 2 errors I think.

    1. hi Ruth, re 8a: think of how perhaps a bear “touches” (reportedly), and how maybe water “courses” down the drain? Certainly a very tough clue, but I think pefectly fair / accurate.

    1. When I was solving, I tried Googling “column taps” and it told me about “pillar taps”. I suspect that pillar taps in the more usual name in the plumbing trade for these, even if one manufacturer has opted for a different description. I did actually find “pillar tap” in an on-line dictionary (Lexico), but I couldn’t find any dictionaries which mentioned “column tap”.

      Whoever would have thought that doing crosswords would teach you about taps. :wink:

  9. Thank you so much to everybody for taking the time to comment. It’s very much appreciated. It certainly seems I have made some of the cluing too abstruse for my own (and solvers) good, particularly with an unfriendly grid.
    For instance, I had originally clued 1d as “Have no expertise to secure a boat,” 13a as “Ways flax fibre adheres to arteries” and 22a with “on foot” as the last two words. Clearly I should have stayed with my initial thoughts.

    I do agree that Hundred should have been capitalised in 17a. That was a silly error on my part. Thanks to all who have pointed out that Ulster is not the same as Northern Ireland. I live and learn.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand why the reveal showed an s as the last letter in both 14d and 16d. It shouldn’t have!

    I await Prolixic’s review with some trepidation!

    1. I’m going to presume to disagree with Prolixic about 17a. While “Burnham Hundred” is a proper name, it is a hundred. Thus the Wikipedia entry for Burnham Hundred includes the sentence “Burnham hundred is one of three hundreds which became collectively known as the Chiltern hundreds around the 13th century, the others being Desborough hundred and Stoke hundred.” So I think the clue as written is fine. I also think that in the age of Google being asked to check which the “Chiltern Hundreds” actually are is not unreasonable.
      Generally, I think you need to remember that the object of the exercise is to offer the solver a puzzle which s/he can solve, preferably with an “Aha!” moment as the penny drops. Boatman of the Guardian has a good line, contrasting the “Aha!” moment with the “Grr!” moment as you wrestle into submission a clue that seems gratuitously obscure. (LetterboxRoy @6 makes this point, I see).
      Don’t be discouraged. There was good stuff in here. Your next one will get a much kinder reception.

      1. Thank you Gollum. I now realise that a tough grid requires some gimme clues to enable solving when there are so few checkers. That might have provided a few more Ahas and less Grrs! Perhaps the GK required for 17a needed more sympathetic cluing too. Still think the tap was ok though! There are lots of them about!

        I’ll try again!

  10. I finished this, but only by drawing assistance from some of the comments above. I was tempted to throw in the towel when I read the first few comments but stuck it out. My favourite clue was 7a, very good. Living in Bray helped with 15a and 17a (and then 27a) although I think 17a was too cryptic to work well (double GK). I think 3d and 6d need the most tidying up, and also probably 8a; 14d is too obscure for me and my electrons. Many of the other clues worked although I did find it quite tough going not helped by the grid. Well done however, I admire anyone who gives it a bash.

  11. Tough! Please make the next one more solver friendly. We managed about 7 or 8 answers and then had to reveal letters to help further. We then needed even more letters to finish the puzzle. Favourites were 7,11 and 25 across and 5 down. Thank you Jeemz and in advance to Prolixic.

  12. Many thanks for the thorough review Prolixic – I’m sure Jeemz #2 will benefit from this!
    I’d just defend 24d though, where I think “effects” is, well, effective.
    “Club” (definition), that the phrase “has no ill” produces (“effects”) if some of the letters are reversed (“with the return of some members”) Arguably the “some” is superfluous, but I think the clue is very good, and needs “effects” for surface reading.

    1. Thanks Fez for your very helpful contributions. You are right. I’m much the wiser for Prolixic’s review and for your and others’ comments.

    2. Thank you for the review, Prolixic (somehow I forgot to check it yesterday). It’s really informative to read this kind of detailed feedback.

      A small quibble with 5d, where you state “the abbreviation comp is not given for competition in the dictionaries”: that abbreviation is in The OED, and on Oxford’s free Lexico site it’s even the first definition for ‘comp’. So it’s definitely in at least one major dictionary, though I appreciate it isn’t the one usually used by newspapers for their crosswords.

      [This wasn’t supposed to be a reply to Fez, but it’s here now, so I’m not going to try moving it. Sorry.]

      1. “Comp” is defined as “a competition” (informal, rather than abbreviation) in Chambers – so I think that’s another where Jeemz should get credit.

  13. Many thanks Prolixic for the thorough review. Many lessons have been learnt, not least the need to check more than one dictionary to validate use of words like upfronts and column taps!

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I’m sure you’ve given our newest Rookie plenty to think about and I bet he wishes that he’d never included that tap!

  15. Excellent review, P. I nearly always learn something new from reading these RC analyses. Just a small point, 26a – ER is a regnal cipher, not an “abbreviation”. As I was reminded about in NTSPP 609 :-)

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