Rookie Corner 403 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner 403

A Christmas crossword (oh, no it isn’t!) by Khatru

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today’s puzzle has a seasonal theme. 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 Abanazar follows.  Writing this review, I feel a little like a pantomime villain.  To get so much thematic material in the solutions was impressive but, I fear, having done so, any attention to the details in the clues themselves suffered by trying to get them to match the theme.  The balance of the clues also suffered with far too many anagrams, subtractive anagrams and use of initial letters which gave the puzzle an unbalanced feel and also led to too many repetitions of wordplay indicators.  The use of an indirect anagram in 16d was the icing on the cake. 

There were some sprinklings of stardust in the clues and the opening ones in both the across and down clues showed promise.  I feel as though Khatru began with some good ideas but then laboured on with the clues that followed and became bogged down.  Sometimes, when setting a crossword, if you begin to get bogged down, it is a good idea to stop for a while and come back to the grid later with a fresh mind and new ideas.

The commentometer reads as 8/30 or 26.7%


1 Horrors! In the beginning, Abanazer loses Aladdin, recaptures monkey sidekick (6)
ALARMS – The initial letters (in the beginning} of the last six words of the clue.

4 Thespians in cast dancing, bearing gold (6)
ACTORS – An anagram (dancing) of CAST includes (bearing) the heraldic word of gold.

9 Sailor could be lead character in 17 (4)
JACK – Double definition for a sailor and a pantomime character.

10 Put-upon kitchen maid used lid cleaner in 17 (10)
CINDERELLA – An anagram (used) of LID CLEANER.

11 Stand by among characters where Dame had her entrance (6)
ADHERE – The answer is hidden (among characters) in the final three words of the clue.  Try to avoid adding padding words that do not contribute to the wordplay.

12 Dreadful actor starts in the Yuletide abomination (8)
ATROCITY – An anagram (dancing) of ACTOR followed by the initial letters (starts in) of the last three words of the clue.

13 Romeo missing from adaptation of winter show for 17 (4,5)
SNOW WHITE – An anagram (adaptation) of WINTER SHOW without (missing) the letter represented by Romeo in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

15 Primarily, lantern Aladdin must polish (4)
LAMP – The initial letters (primarily) of the final four words of the clue.  Try to avoid repeating solutions (such as 1d) in other clues.

16 Echoing Dandini’s introduction produces unconventional art (4)
DADA – A repetition (echoing) of the first two letters (introduction) in Dandini.  Initial letter indicators such as introduction should be used to refer only to the first letter, not an indeterminate number of letters.

17 Criticise return of record company test for production (9)
PANTOMIME – A three-letter word meaning to criticise followed by a reversal (return of) a three-letter record company and a three-letter abbreviation for an annual test required for cars.

22 17 in safe vessel (5,3)
PETER PAN – A five-letter word for a safe followed by a three-letter word for a cooking vessel.

23 US thespian acted Hook unusually, losing to a rewrite (2,4)
ED KOCH – An anagram (unusually) of ACTED HOOK after removing (losing) an anagram (rewrite) of TOA.

25 Riches setter secures in 17 (10)
GOLDILOCKS – A four-letter word for riches followed by a single letter representing the setter and a five-letter word meaning secures.

26 Three characters from the opening of ‘Puss in Boots’ pursue an Oscar for production (4)
OPUS – The first three letter from “Puss” after (pursue) the letter represented by Oscar in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

27 Most clever stepsister evilly indiscriminate after departure of perverted, vile priest (6)
SLYEST – An anagram (indiscriminate) of STEPSISTER EVILLY after removing (departure of) an anagram (perverted) of VILE PRIEST.

28 Production of ‘Peter Pan’ uses some of its characters to get bums on seats (6)
ANUSES – The answer is hidden (some of its characters) in the fourth and fifth words of the clue.  At the risk of writing an essay on the clue (i) it had too many padding words “Production of Peter” do not contribute to the wordplay (ii) try to avoid repeating solutions (such as 22a) verbatim in clues (iii) try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators (such as characters to indicate hidden words as in 11a) (iv) the definition “bums on seats” does not really define the solution (v) the use of this word as the solution jars given the theme and the nature of the crossword.


1 Uproar follows a youth in 17 (7)
ALADDIN – A three-letter word for an uproar follows the A from the clue and a three-letter word for a youth.

2 Joint where Lord Edward starts to go after Twankey’s heart (5)
ANKLE – The initial letters (starts) of Lord Edward after the middle three letters (heart) of Twanky.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as starts (see 12a).  The heart of a word is its middle letter.

3 Principal Boy and me chat about theatrical production (7)
MACBETH – An anagram (about) of B ME CHAT, the B being the first letter (principal) of boy.

5 Applause from the audiencelet’s drink to that! (6)
CHEERS – Double definition.

6 Ask too much of opening duo in overture before miracle play (9)
OVERCLAIM – The first two letter (opening duo) in overture before an anagram (play) of MIRACLE.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as opening (see 26a).

7 Break up naughty pupils overshadowing Tinkerbell’s introduction (5,2)
SPLIT UP – An anagram (naughty) of PUPILS before (overshadowing) the first letter (introduction) of Tinkerbell.  The second word of the solution is given verbatim in the clue.  Perhaps using “Separate” instead of “break up” would have been better.

8 Acting? Not completely! (2,4)
IN PART -Double definition.

14 Magic wands eyed on midweek date – possibly in Sheffield? (9)
WEDNESDAY – An anagram (magic) of WANDS EYED.  A date is not a day.  More importantly, the clue breaks down to wordplay ON definition, which does not work.

16 Hunky Eastender gets mixed up with evil spirits (7)
DAEMONS – An anagram (gets mixed up) of ‘ANDSOME (how an Eastender might say handsome (hunky).  The dreaded indirect anagram makes a return.  The rule is that for anagrams, the words to be rearranged must be given directly in the clue.  Expecting the solver to get from hunky to handsome, drop the H and make an anagram of the letters that remain is too many steps too far.

18 Jack & Giant, out of bounds, meet resistance: confounded plant! (6)
ARNICA – An anagram (confounded) of the inner letters (out of bounds) of jACk and gIANt and the abbreviation for resistance (ANIANR).

19 Mutiny as foolish actress, not having succeeded, loses top of costume before opening night starts (7)
TREASON – An anagram (foolish) of ACTRESS without (not having) the abbreviation for succeeded and without the first letter (top) of costume all followed by the initial letters (starts) of opening night.  Another repetition of starts for indicating an initial letter.  I think with this clue and the preceding one, the setter has run away with trying to maintain the theme and produced clues that become overelaborate.

20 Farces with Cinderella’s opening replaced with the start of ‘Medea’? Dummies! (4-3)
MOCK-UPS – A seven letter word for farces with the initial C (Cinderella’s opening) replaced by the initial letter (start) of Medea.  Another clue where a solution to another clue appears verbatim in this clue.  We also have a repetition of opening and starts as initial letter indicators.  As start was also used in the previous clue, this is even more noticeable.

21 Seasons Fairy Godmother’s cast (6)
SPELLS – Double definition.

24 Buttons initially knows nothing of Baron’s schemes (5)
KNOBS – The initial letters (initially) of the final five words of the clue.

19 comments on “Rookie Corner 403

  1. A delightful romp that was very appropriate for the season. Think that 23a might be stretching GK a bit far, it was for us.
    Thanks Khatru.

  2. Thanks Khatru, better than your first Rookie, but it is likely that Prolixic will highlight areas where some extra polish is required. I noted three items:

    1. In 28a, the first three words and last two words, other than contributing to the surface, are probably superfluous.

    2. In 2d, you are using heart to indicate three letters. I am not sure that works.

    3. In 7d, ‘up’ appears in the definition and the answer.

    I really liked 20d.

    Thanks again.

  3. An enjoyable crossword – the bottom third being a lot harder than the top

    Like the 2Ks, I thought 23a was stretching GK a bit too far. There are other words that would have fitted into 28a too.

    Thanks to Khatru and, in advance, to the isolating Prolixic

  4. Hi Khatru
    Well done on working so much seasonality into a single puzzle! It was fun, but, in keeping with the theme, produced in some clues that had to labour hard to keep the fun going. In addition to what Senf said:
    * 16a struggles with a made up name ( best avoided) and “introduction” only indicates D (why not, say, “Dali partly echoes unconventional art”?)
    * 28a really doesn’t belong in a festive theme!!
    * The grid is really 2 barely connected grids

    But I suspect you know much of this and decided to sacrifice some technicalities to fun of the theme, which for the most part worked pretty well. Well done.

    1. I think you need to revisit your pantomimes, Dr Diva, Dandini would be very disappointed to be told he doesn’t exist!

  5. Welcome back, Khatru.

    I certainly admire how you cleverly included so many 17a references into the clues and solutions, but I think that meant liberties were taken with many of the constructions and there was a distinct over-reliance on anagrams and initial letter devices (both went into double figures). Lurkers like 11a and 28a contained more padding than a pantomime dame’s costume, unfortunately, and 28a wasn’t really fit for a family audience. With so many first letter indicators being used, it was inevitable that some would be repeated and, like Senf, to me the heart of “Twankey” is “n” not “ank”. My favourite clue was 8d.

    A nice seasonal theme for the last Rookie puzzle of 2021, I’d like to see your next puzzle being a non-themed one though. Thank you, Khatru.

  6. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Khatru. I agree with most of the foregoing comments particularly those from Silvanus.

    There were a few dodgy definitions and, although I haven’t counted, there seemed to be an overdose of subtractive anagrams. There were several clues rivalling War and Peace for length.

    Please pay heed to Prolixic’s line-by-line comments and come back with a puzzle with the wrinkles ironed out.

    Many thanks, Khatru, and in advance to Prolixic.

  7. There were certainly a few issues as already raised by others but I enjoyed the seasonal theme, just a shame about the inclusion of 28a where, as CS mentioned, you did have other options available.
    Like Silvanus, I thought 8d was the star of the show.

    Thank you for the puzzle, Khatru, I shall be very interested to read what Prolixic has to say about it.

  8. From a (relatively) rookie solver to a rookie compiler, I enjoyed this crossword very much.
    A lovely seasonal romp.
    (And I didn’t mind the inclusion of 28a at all).

  9. Welcome back to the ‘Lion’s Den’ Khatu. Overall very enjoyable but I think some of your surfaces suffered from trying to adhere to the theme even when the solution had nothing to do with it, 27&18d being prime examples. 23a seemed a bit incongruous, I only ever knew him as a politician and 28 across was mildly offensive and at odds with the rest of the puzzle, which was quite charming.
    “Separate” in my opinion would have been better than “break up” in 7d to avoid “up” being in the definition and solution.
    I thought 25a was excellent, 10a made me smile but my favourite was 20d. Well done.
    Many thanks for the fun Khatu and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  10. Thanks Khatru, that was a lot of fun with all the 17a references. As others have noted, quite a few technical issues that Prolixic will no doubt address. I didn’t really mind 28a, even crossing with 24d, but with plenty of alternatives perhaps something else might have fitted better. Favourite clue was 8d. Thanks again!

  11. Hello Khatru
    Just to pick up on 28a – It’s a word, so fair game to use, but should have been avoided as inappropriate, particularly in a festive puzzle in my opinion
    I am more concerned that the clue is better wrapped than a pass the parcel prize and still doesn’t make much sense
    Also, it is not really a lurker as the answer should be fully contained
    Finally, ‘uses’ is flirting with double duty
    Many thanks for the entertainment and well done

  12. Thanks, Khatru, for the entertainment!

    Thought it a bit strange that Peter Pan & Cinderella appeared in the clues as well as in the solutions.

  13. Thanks, Khatru, for the Christmas crossword. We agree with most comments above. Favourites were 17a, 25a and 8d. We look forward to your next one. Thanks to Prolixic in advance.

  14. There’s nothing actually unfair in Abanazar’s review, and an attempt to be positive (“some sprinklings of stardust in the clues”) but having read it I was almost put off doing the puzzle. Which would have been a shame, because although there are indeed a few clangers, overall this was an enjoyable puzzle which came close to sustaining the theme all the way through.
    My favourites were 4a, 12a, 27a (though I have a slight reservation about whether sly=clever), 3d, 6d, 7d (though, as others have observed, the repetition of “up” is unfortunate), 18d, 19d, 24d.
    Yes, 11a is “padded”. 16a would work fine if the introductions were plural. There are an awful lot of “productions”, in 17a, 26a, 3d (why not “play”, for goodness’ sake?).
    I don’t have a problem with 2d. According to Prolixic’s Guide, “if you are using an indicator for the centre of a word, you must make sure that you are using the central letters. Centre of gravity is the letter V. You could not use this to indicate AV, though AVI would be acceptable”. So using “Twankey’s heart” to indicate ANK is, IMHO, entirely acceptable.
    The exclamation mark in 8d is unnecessary – it seems to be what Ximenes described as “Look – isn’t this clever?”
    14d fails to adhere to an arbitrary rule about word order, and I suppose a day of the week isn’t a date, but my main complaint about it is that with the additional reference to Sheffield it is too easy.
    I’m glad it wasn’t just me about 16d. Indirect anagrams are one of those devices which are great fun for the setter, but the setter needs to put himself in the solver’s shoes. And do something else.
    And the less said about 28a (which Abanazar has deservedly eviscerated in his “essay”) the better. But overall, this was good fun and I really look forward to your next effort.

Comments are closed.