Rookie Corner 393 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner 393

A Puzzle by Median

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.

Median returns with an accessible crossword.  There were a number of errors in the cluing that could have been avoided.  There were some nice definitions such as “death sentences” in 11a and the whimsical cryptic definition in 27a.  Combining that touch with more precision in the wordplay would be the goal for his next crossword.  The commentometer reads 5/27 or 18.5%


7 Three ways a king tails creep (5)
SNEAK – Three cardinal points of the compass (ways) followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for king.

8 Entrancing expert to pity NHS doctor (9)
HYPNOTIST – An anagram (doctor) of TO PITY NHS.  As doctor as verb requires a direct object, it cannot come after the words to be rearranged.  You doctor something.

10 Pavement 17, bread producer, doing a swap for us (6)
BUSKER – A five-letter word for a bread producer with the A from the clue replaced by the US from the clue.  “Doing a swap for us” does not quite work as a substitution indicator.  Perhaps “(American) leaving for US” would be better.

11 Death sentences? There’s no information before the end of two months (8)
OBITUARY – A phrase (1,3) that might indicate no information followed by four letters that appear at the end of January and February.  I think that the phrase “end of two months” is too imprecise to indicate the final four letters of the solution.

12 Chief thug is unstable (3-5)
TOP HEAVY – A three-letter word meaning chief followed by a five-letter word for a thug.

13 See 2 Down

15 Comedians on Ulster time are 23s (7)
NITWITS – A four-letter word for comedians after (on) the abbreviation for the province of Ulster.  As pointed out, Ulster is not the same as Northern Ireland.

17 One of many here would give it a rest after work… (7)
ARTISTE – An anagram (after work) of IT A REST – In terms of construction, the wordplay can give the solution but the solution does not give the wordplay.

20 … with no work for this joker (4)
IDLE – Double definition, the second being one of the Monty Python team.

22 Open without cosier arrangement of surface tension (8)
UNFASTEN – An anagram (arrangement of) SURFACE TENSION after removing the letters (without) in cosier.  As a rule, where the letters to be removed are not in the order given in the clue, a secondary anagram indicator is required.

25 Audible horse protest precedes freeze in North American city (8)
WINNIPEG – A homophone (audible) off whiney (horse protest) followed by a three-letter word meaning to freeze.

26 Old Greek characters, one returning for a drug (6)
OPIATE – The abbreviation for old followed by two Greek letters, the second reversed (returning).

27 Chili at breakfast could be a warm-up for this 17 (4-5)
FIRE-EATER – A circus performer who swallows something hot who might find a breakfast of hot peppers a warm-up for their act.

28 Player works endlessly (5)
ACTOR – Remove the first and last letters from a seven-letter word for works.


1 Fresh complaint here is said to be a serious illness (9)
PNEUMONIA – A homophone (is said) of NEW (fresh) MOAN (complaint) HERE (from the clue).  I don’t the final here works as the pronunciation is not as it appears in the solution.

2/13 Hotshot walks clumsily into Ross, say (4-4,4)
TALK-SHOW HOST – An anagram (clumsily) of HOTSHOT WALKS.

3 Eg 16 and 28 go to Roget for it (7)
SYNONYM – A word that describes two or more words (of which 16 and 28 are examples) that are listed in Roget’s thesaurus.

4 Disguise prince and he’ll scramble (8)
ENCIPHER – An anagram (disguise) of PRINCE HE.  I think that the LL does not work in the clue. Even if the definition is disguise and the anagram indicator is scramble, the same problem arises.

5 Supports game in two-way streets (6)
STRUTS – The abbreviation for Rugby Union (game) in two abbreviations for street, the second reversed (two-way).

6 Anyone can see half the Treasury lending rapaciously (5)
USARY – The letter for the film classification for a film anyone can see followed by half the letters in treasury.

9 Animal visible from two coastal states? (4)
ORCA – The state abbreviations for Oregon and California.

14 Mental focus forces order (9)
ATTENTION – Double definition, the second being a command issued in the armed forces.  For the second part of the definition to work, it would need to be forces’ order.

16 With a job on the boards, he paints for recreation (8)
THESPIAN – An anagram (for re-creation) of HE PAINTS.  Perhaps “One whose job is on the boards” would be better. 

18 What comes naturally in cold spell outside (8)
INSTINCT – The IN from the clue followed by the abbreviation for cold with a five-letter word for a spell of time around it.

19 One keeping balls up and under vessel, finally spilling all the water (7)
JUGGLER – A three-letter word for a vessel followed by (under) the final letters of the last four words of the clue.

21 Doctor covering bad acne is one of Santa’s team (6)
DANCER – The abbreviation for doctor around an anagram (bad) of ACNE.  In a down clue if A covers B it implies that A goes before B.

23 Play with dessert (4)
FOOL – Double definition.

24 Copy three notes (5)
MIMIC – Two notes (the same on repeated) of the sol-fa scale followed by a single letter for a musical note.

30 comments on “Rookie Corner 393

  1. A real delight to solve.
    Plenty of ticks and chuckles along the way. We will nominate 11a as our favourite but there were plenty of others we could have chosen.
    Thanks and well done Median.

  2. I’ll second the 2Kiwis comment. Good fun & what a contrast to last week’s impenetrable puzzle. Had a quick look back at the reception your last offering (which I missed) got & see that it was mixed. I hope the experts look more favourably on this one as there were ticks aplenty in my view.
    Thanks & well done from me too.

  3. Thanks Median, I enjoyed this much more than your previous two puzzles.

    Two comments, I am sure that Prolixic and others will have more:

    Firstly, a problem we also had in last week’s Rookie, in 15a, Ulster and NI are not synonymous – the 6 Counties of NI are a subset of the 9 Counties of Ulster.

    Secondly, I am not sure what the purpose of the ‘ll, of he’ll, in 4d is. In fact it doesn’t seem to contribute anything to the clue at all.

    I really liked 11a, 26a, 5d, and 6d, and I suppose I should include 25a, but I am still not overly keen on cross-referencing.

    Thanks again and an overall well done.

  4. Fair puzzle with sensible and helpful cross-references. I agree that the “‘ll” in 4d feels unnecessary though I see how it serves the surface — not sure whether “… he scrambled” would have worked equally well?

  5. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Median. It’s good to see that you have made a steady improvement across your three submissions so far. I enjoyed most of this one which I found challenging but not impenetrable (although I can’t parse 20a), and your surfaces are getting better although one or two still read strangely.

    The theme was unobtrusive but 17a might represent what could be termed a circularity in that you need the answer to solve 10a and 27a which are examples of 17a.

    Others have mentioned the ‘ll in 4d and Ulster in 15a, and I have very few other comments:
    – 11a I think that “end” might not be considered acceptable for more than one letter. Let’s see what Prolixic says about that.
    – 1d doesn’t work for me as a homophone. The last two letters are two distinct syllables.
    – The second definition in 14d needs an apostrophe, which would ruin the surface reading. You can ignore punctuation for wordplay but not for surfaces or definitions.

    Well done and thank you, Median, you are definitely on the right path. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. 14d I think “forces” can perhaps be interpreted as an adjective? 1d – I guess you don’t watch (or rather, listen to) EastEnders! Maybe a Cockney indicator would’ve been appropriate. There were a couple of others where a little extra help like this might have made for a gentler solve but I still think they were fair (20a “joker Eric, say”, 9d – a nice &lit – “West Coast states”?)

  6. Good fun – thanks Median.
    I had to ask Google what 20a has to do with joker.
    My podium consists of 11a, 12a and 18d.

  7. I enjoyed solving this – thank you Median! Generally a pretty sound puzzle. A few comments that may help:
    – 14d: where an apostrophe is needed in the surface but not in the wordplay: one to avoid. There may be a way to read this that I am missing!
    – 8a: Using the form: needs an indicator that actually instructs the solver to carry out the anagram, or adds an adjective to say that the fodder has gone ‘squiffy’ or whatever. Of course this spoils your neat idea of abutting NHS and doctor, which is a shame.
    – 11a: brilliant definition!
    – 21d: the definition here could be changed to improve the clue’s surface reading
    – 27a: though I must have seen this before, I do like this wordplay!
    Do look out for Prolixic’s comments – I remember receiving these when first being published here & how valuable they were!

    1. Reminder to self: don’t use triangular brackets in a posting if you want them to appear!
      The second bullet should have read:
      – Using the form Definition-anagramFodder-anagramIndicator needs an indicator that actually instructs the solver to carry out the anagram, or adds an adjective to say that the fodder has gone ‘squiffy’ or whatever. Of course this spoils your neat idea of abutting NHS and doctor, which is a shame.

  8. Hello again, Median.

    I can’t be quite as enthusiastic as many of the previous commenters unfortunately, but I did detect improvement from your previous submissions.

    As Encota says, imperative verbal anagram indicators like “doctor” (8a) don’t work if they follow the letters to be rearranged, they have to precede them. “Scramble” in 4d is potentially another example. I don’t think it’s legitimate to use “end” in 11a to mean the second half of a word and I felt that “Eric” and “Jonathan” needed adding to 20a and 2d/13a respectively to be fair to the solver. A few of the surfaces were a little disappointing and rather unconvincing (10a, 19d and 21d especially) and I thought 24d to be a weak construction. Other quibbles have already been raised by others.

    That said, the puzzle was still enjoyable to solve and I ticked 12a and 18d as my joint favourite clues.

    Many thanks, Median, I look forward to your next puzzle.

  9. Thanks Median, very “entertaining”.

    As with others, I thought 11a outstanding (and have no problem with the use of “end” here, it’s pretty unambiguous). I also particularly liked 12a, 26a, 28a, 5d, 9d, 14d, 18d. I thought there were some very good surfaces, although a few still seemed a little odd (eg 22a, 25a, 19d).

    Some minor quibbles, mostly very pedantic grammatical stuff:
    – 8a nice surface but I don’t think the anagram indicator works grammatically
    – 10a again I’m not sure about the grammar here, will look forward to Prolixic’s view on this
    – 15a as others have noted Ulster & NI not the same thing (and in last week’s Rookie puzzle too!)
    – 22a perhaps needs a secondary anagram indicator
    – 2/13d I’m not sure if “into” works as a link word (rather than as part of an anagram indicator eg “turning into”) – I think it probably does but another one where I’ll be interested to see Prolixic’s view
    – 4d – another where the grammar might not be quite right (maybe “…he’ll be scrambled” / “…he’s scrambled” would be better? Although, given the definition, I think an alternative anagram indicator might have been found to improve the surface)
    – 16d – I think the definition’s not quite right (would prefer something like “His job’s on the boards….”)

    Overall I found it great fun with a well-worked theme and effective cross-referencing, and quite challenging in parts – as I mentioned in reply to RD above, there were a few where I think you could have provided a little extra help for solvers – but I don’t think that would be necessary.

    Thanks again Median – and in advance to Prolixic.

  10. Hi Median.
    Without commenting on any possible technical flaws (there are others more qualified than me to do that) clues that I liked or stood out for me were 10,12 and 27a plus 1d (with a little artistic license thrown in) along with the cleverly constructed 18d.
    Thanks for the entertainment Median, look forward to your next one.

  11. Welcome back, Median.
    I’m definitely in agreement with Silvanus where this puzzle is concerned and it would also have been nice to see you cutting back more on the cross-references.
    Whilst the BRB does accept it as an alternative spelling, it seemed odd to have chilli spelt with only one ‘l’ – I thought you’d used it for a specific reason but apparently not!
    Favourite here was 12a.

    Thank you, Median, I hope your improvement continues.

  12. The apostrophe and position of ‘doctor’ jarred but otherwise I thought his was much better than previous offerings
    Well done on the improvements and thanks for the entertainment Median

  13. Enjoyed this puzzle very much, for which my thanks, Median. Thought it was going to be longer work than it turned out to be in the end. Particularly good I though were 20a, 26a, 28a, 1d, 3d, 14d and 18d. I was cussid enough to solve 15a (agree with above points re NI) before 23d, 27a before 17a, and 3d before 16d & 28a … but maybe that’s because interlinked clues and themed puzzles are not to my taste and where possible I don’t play ball!

    Still cannot parse the first letter of 6d, nor the last four of 19d, so I look forward to Prolixic’s review. Felt the surfaces of 10a, 2/13, 19d and 21d rather odd / disjointed. For me 10a doesn’t quite work, and I’m one of those who felt the end in 11a would be better as a plural.

    That aside, it was good fun while it lasted, and I do look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. I’m not sure how one gets the first letter of 6d either, but the last 4 letters of 19d are the last letters of the last 4 words of the clue.

      1. Hi Mustafa and Ruth,

        For the first letter of 6d, I’m assuming the setter was referring to film classifications (i.e. “U” = “anyone can see” (the film)). Edit: I see Gazza has just said the same thing, but he can type quicker than me!

    2. Thank you Ruth, Gazza & Silvanus – much appreciated, and kicking myself now for not seeing either of those.

  14. Thanks, everyone, for the comments so far. I’m glad that most of you enjoyed it.

    I find it interesting that many of the clues have drawn differing responses. It’s another illustration of something I learned years ago whilst still at work (as a lecturer) that it simply isn’t possible to please everyone in the audience. People will often have diametrically opposed opinions of the same item.

    In addition to the various particular points raised, you’ve given me some general issues to think about. One is how much help to give solvers. I’m well aware that several clues could have been made easier by containing more information or a clearer indication of the solution. My problem as a setter is ‘Who is my target audience?’ Here I’m not sure. I’ve assumed you’re all experienced solvers and some of you are probably more experienced setters than I am. So I’ve opted to be rather parsimonious with the help in a few instances. Another general issue is the number of cross-references in a puzzle: I’m coming to realise that a noticeable proportion of solvers don’t like them and they object strongly to having lots.

    Like everyone else, I’m keen to know what our resident expert, Prolixic, made of it.

  15. Thank you for the challenge, Median. We did struggle with a few answers but once we found a theme we moved on more quickly. We couldn’t understand the u in 6d until we read comments above and agree that an apostrophe is needed in 14d. Also couldn’t work out initially when peg = freeze in 25a. Favourites are 16d, 11a and 1d. Thanks to Prolixic and we look forward to your next puzzle Median.

  16. An accessible puzzlw that didn’t take too long to solve. I’ve nothing to add, really, to Prolixic’s comments. Thanks, Median (and Prolixic).

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Must admit, I sometimes struggle myself with the convention governing the likes of 21d!

  18. Thanks to Prolixic and, again, to everyone else who has commented. The feedback is really useful.

    Having answered in general terms before Prolixic posted his remarks, I’ll now respond to some of the specific points from various quarters. I’m minded to edit some of the clues, as follows:

    8a HYPNOTIST. I’ll amend the clue to: Doctor to pity NHS entrancing expert
    10a BUSKER. I like Prolixic’s suggestion (thanks): Pavement 17, bread producer (American) leaving for US
    11a OBITUARY. Clue to become: Death sentences? There’s no information before the latter part of two months
    15a NITWITS. Changed to: Back in time, comedians are 23s (But does ‘are’ now need to be ‘were’? If so, the revision doesn’t work.)
    4d ENCIPHER. New version: Scramble from prince he disguised (But this seems clunky.)
    14d ATTENTION. Let’s try again: Mental focus is an order in the forces
    16d THESPIAN. I fancy a minor variation to: Having a job on the boards, he paints for recreation

    Any further comments, anyone?

    1. Hi Median,

      I think these are all improvements technically – I preferred the original 11a, and would defend its original form, 15a I’d say “are” works well, 14d perhaps “is in order” (with “is in” acting as a link phrase between the two definitions), 16d still seems a little awkward (I’m not sure if you are trying to define thespian as noun or adjective) but could simplify with eg “28 – he paints for recreation” if you don’t mind a further x-reference (personally I like them!)

      4d I think “conceal” might work better as definition, to blend into the surface? “Conceal prince – he’s disguised”?

      8a the original surface was nice, it’s less successful this way round I think. Maybe you could find another definition – would “alternative anaesthetist” be pushing things too far?

      10a still seems a bit odd, as there’s nothing really linking pavements and bakers. But if the baker was “maybe Hollywood”, with two Americans (A, US) and a ‘performer’ to work with I’m sure there’s a good clue in there somewhere.

      Thanks again for the enjoyable crossword, looking forward to the next Median!

      1. Hi, Fez.

        Thanks very much for taking the trouble to respond in such an extensive and helpful way. I like your ideas and will mull them over.

Comments are closed.