Rookie Corner 408 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 408

A Puzzle by Plumbwizard

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Plumbwizard made his debut in May last year – here is his second. 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.

Notice.  Following a problem with my hard drive, I have lost a number of puzzle submissions.  I have recovered those by Coot, Fez, Meles, and Twmbarlwm; if you have submitted a puzzle for the Rookie Corner series and you are not in this list please resubmit your puzzle.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Plumbwizard.  Overall this was enjoyable but I felt that some of the cluing was clumsier or required too many steps to be taken by the solver compared to the first crossword.  There were, in addition, technical errors that I have highlighted – though on the positive side there were fewer of these compared to the first crossword.  Unhelpfully, the grid contained two words with triple unchecked letters (13a an 19a).  These are never seen in published crosswords.  In both cases, the only 1/3 of the letters are cross-checked.  The average should be 50%

The commentometer reads as 5.5/28 or 19.6%.


1 Inflatetoo much perhaps? (4,2)
BLOW UP – A phrase that means to inflate could also mean to destroy explosively.

5 Quality shown by stubborn old boy during first half of a calendar year (8)
OBDURACY – The abbreviation for old boy followed by the first half of the during from the clue, the A from the clue and an abbreviation for calendar year. “Quality of stubborn” might be better as “Stubborn quality of” or “Stubbornness of”.  On the subject of abbreviations, the general rule is that you should only use abbreviations used in the one of the main printed dictionaries.  Whilst the abbreviation is not in Chamber or Collins it is found in the Oxford Dictionary of English without any reference to American usage, so this passes muster.  The construction “during first half of” is slightly back to front but just about works to indicate half the word.

9 Battle against time keeps Nancy busy (8)
CONFLICT – A three-letter word meaning against and the abbreviation for time includes a slang word for a French policemen (Nancy busy).  Whilst not incorrect, perhaps having to get from the slang busy to policeman and then get the French equivalent is too many steps to be wholly fair to the solver.

10 Distressed velour used by the French to display pictures (6)
LOUVRE – An anagram (distressed) of VELOUR.

11 Husband’s bearing down (4)
HAIR – The abbreviation for husband followed by a three-letter word meaning bearing or mien.

12 Appropriate point accepted by leader (10)
COMMANDEER – The abbreviation for East (point) inside (accepted by) a nine-letter word for a military leader.

13 User put on computer equipment (6)
ADDICT – A three-letter word meaning put on or include followed by the abbreviation for information and communication technology.  Strictly, computer equipment is a definition by example of any product that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit, or receive information electronically in a digital form so this should be indicated.

14 Doctor made lout move to another state (8)
MODULATE – An anagram (doctor) of MADE LOUT.

16 Ends race in strange backstreet (8)
ODDMENTS – A three-letter word for people (race) inside a three-letter word meaning strange and a reversal (back) of the abbreviation for street.  Some editors will not allow an un-indicated life and separate where the solver is required mentally to split backstreet into back and street and then use this as the wordplay.

19 Introduce trendy Charlie, dressed in black (6)
INJECT – A two-letter word meaning trendy followed by the letter represented by Charlie in the NATO phonetic alphabet inside (dressed in) a three-letter word meaning black.

20 Spiteful Benjamin Button did look after journalist! (4-6)
EVIL MINDED – This is complex (perhaps too complex).  You need to remember the story of Benjamin Button and how he grew younger rather than older and convert this to live backwards and use this as the wordplay.  Then followed this with a four-letter word meaning look after and the abbreviation for a journalist.  My feeling is that to get from a description of a fictional character and then to use this as wordplay is asking too many steps for the solver.

22 Labour legend? (4)
FOOT – Split legend to leg end a four-letter word describing this is the solution.  Again an un-indicated lift and separate would not be acceptable to all editors – all the more so where there is no verbal split in the pronunciation of the word (compare with backstreet where there is a natural break in the pronunciation).

23 Attack condemned on the radio (6)
INVADE – A homophone of inveighed  (condemned).

24 Rodent caught in prayer reportedly (8)
CHIPMUNK – The abbreviation for caught followed by a three-letter word meaning in or trendy and a homophone of monk (prayer – someone who prays).

25 He permits one to move in closer (8)
LICENSOR – An anagram (move) of IN CLOSER.  Perhaps “One who gives permission to move in closer” would give a slightly smoother definition.

26 Tasteless, yet fishy? (6)
GARISH – A pun on being like a gar (fish).


2 He may have been a genius but Colin drove Diana nuts (8,2,5)
LEONARDO DA VINCI – An anagram (nuts) of COLIN DROVE DIANA.  A very nice spot for the anagram but I do not like the construction definition BUT wordplay.  

3 Serious confrontation about metallic element. Silicon possibly (5)
WAFER – A three-letter word for a serious confrontation around the abbreviation for iron (metallic element).

4 American university not, retrospectively, supporting royalty (9)
PRINCETON – A reversal (retrospectively) of the NOT from the clue after (supporting) a six-letter word for a royal male.

5 The best drug includes, oddly, traces of Temazepam and mescalin (7)
OPTIMUM – A five-letter word for a drug extracted from poppies include the first letters (traces) of Temazepam and mescalin.  The oddly tells you to insert the letters in the odd numbered positions of the first word.  I might have been tempted to use “included separate traces of” rather than oddly and the letters are inserted after the second and third letter of the original word.  They are only inserted oddly if you begin counting again after the insertion of the first letter.

6 Rising support inspires the Spanish cook (5)
DELIA – A reversal (rising) of a three-letter word meaning support or help includes (inspires) the Spanish word for the.

7 Circular line found on shield perhaps (7)
ROUNDEL – A five-letter word meaning circular followed by a two-letter word for the Chicago elevated railway (line).

8 Tales of power and money (7,8)
CURRENT ACCOUNTS – Cryptic definition.  I am not sure that money is the same as the solution.

15 Daughter rambling about student getting weaker (9)
DWINDLING – The abbreviation for daughter followed by a seven-letter word meaning rambling around the abbreviation for learner (student).  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators such as about as a containment indicator.

17 Trojan horse is characteristic of dismal war effort (7)
MALWARE -The answer is hidden (characteristic of) in the final three words of the clue.

18 Cocktail spoiled initially by chopped coriander Ron somehow omitted (7)
SIDECAR – The first letter (initially) of spoiled followed by an anagram (chopped) of CORIANDER after removing an anagram (somehow) of RON.

21 Seeing things? (5)
ITEMS – A slight awkward construction where the first definition is simply things but the solution can also be a description of couples dating (seeing).  The awkwardness comes from implying people dating are things.

22 Piece of skeleton concealed by wife murderer (5)
FEMUR – The answer is hidden (concealed by) in the final two words of the clue.

26 comments on “Rookie Corner 408

  1. Have a filled grid but a couple (1a and 23a) where we can’t yet get a workable wordplay. We got the wordplay for 9a but think it might be stretching things a bit far and did not know the allusion needed for 20a . That said, there were plenty of good clues here that kept us amused.
    Thanks Plumbwizard.

    1. Thanks 2Kiwis. I won’t divulge any spoilers (such as they are) and thank you for your kind feedback

  2. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, Plumbwizard. I think this was a big step in the right direction following your debut puzzle, and I enjoyed the solve which was nicely challenging. Your surfaces were mostly good and there was some inventive cluing on show.

    However, 21d seems very strange and I can’t see anything cryptic about 7d. I also had a few concerns:
    – Some liberties with abbreviations, i.e.: CY in 5a is not in the BRB and is American according to Collins; and, ICT in 13a is computer technology not equipment.
    – 5a would need “stubborn” to be a noun for it to work.
    – Is “oddly” OK In 5d? Let’s see what Prolixic’s view is on this. I would have preferred “separate”.

    It needs to be a very good anagram to make it onto my podium, but 2d is exactly that, and it is joined there by 12a, 24a & 22d.

    Well done and thank you for the fun, Plumbwizard. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. If you split 7d into ‘circular’ and ‘line’ (although you won’t like the latter as its in America) you’ll see the cryptic element.

    2. Thanks Rabbit Dave. Re some of your concerns:

      – CY is in my Dictionary of Abbreviations (Chambers) but I agree it’s quite an uncommon usage
      – ‘quality of the stubborn’ is the noun phrase I was working with here and I think it’s ok?
      – I was struggling to find the right way to show that initial letters appeared in positions 3 and 5 of a 7 letter word and though that ‘oddly’ would do the trick. It’s a bit of a stretch admittedly
      – 21d – yeah, well it’s not the best clue in the world now I see it in the cold light of Rookie Corner (although it looked ok to me when I was setting it)/
      – 7d perhaps the Americanism doesn’t help :-( and in retrospect I could certainly have clued that one better

    3. Just reading through your comments RD and am a bit puzzled by your reference to 5a (not the abbreviations). I’m presuming the definition is the first four words so why does stubborn “need to be an noun for it to work”?

      1. Stephen, yes, the first four words are the definition. The answer is indisputably a noun and the definition is more than one word, so this definition is actually a noun clause as it contains a past participle (shown), which is a verb form. (By contrast, a phrase is a group of words which does does not contain a verb).

        I can see Plumbwizard’s idea, but I don’t think it quite works grammatically. “Quality shown by stubborn” is a clause, but one which I don’t think makes grammatical sense because “stubborn” is an adjective. As such, “stubborn” needs to be describing a noun as part of a noun phrase such as “stubborn person”. So, “quality shown by stubborn person” would be OK, followed by a comma to keep the surface smooth (even though the whole thing then becomes rather wordy).

        But, hey ho, what the heck. It’s only a crossword.

        Sorry if this is bit OTT, but you did ask!

        1. Thanks for taking the time to explain your thoughts RD. I read the definition as “Quality shown by (the) stubborn, as in stubborn people in general, and in that way it works for me or is as near as dammit! …and as you say, it’s only a crossword (and a good one!)

          1. Indeed, SL! That’s exactly how I parsed/justified it. Since these clues are mere word puzzles, it’s at best perfectly fine or, at worst, it may contain a modicum of “legitimate jiggery-pokery”.

  3. Just me then? I didn’t find this as much fun as the previous two (three!) commenters. On working my way down the Across clues, I only solved 1a; things did get better with the Downs although the LH side was filled in long before a lot of the right. A grid with triple unches isn’t very helpful to the solver either

    I did like the two ‘French’ clues and the lovely 2d anagram, but I have a number of ? by clues so I look forward to Prolixic’s review in the morning.

    Thank you Plumbwizard and, in advance, to Prolixic

  4. Enjoyable puzzle with some inventive clueing – thanks Plumbwizard.
    I very rarely take any notice of the grid but even I spotted the triple unches – luckily their positioning didn’t cause any great problems.
    I don’t understand 21d.
    I ticked 9a, 12a, 24a and 17d but my favourite was the clever 20a.

    1. One of the definitions in the BRB of the singular version of the solution to 21d should prove helpful

    2. Thanks Gazza. I’m kind of annoyed by the unches thing and will definitely ensure that has ore prominence on the checklist in future puzzles. Thanks for your feedback

  5. Thanks Plumbwizard – good fun overall but a bit of a mixed bag for me, with a few niggles.
    13a and 19a were my last two in – although relatively sympathetically clued, the triple unches really did impact on the solve for me. (I’m not even a great fan of double unches but can see they have their place, particularly if there’s a theme or something going on .. but triple unches I think are a no-no.)
    5a I think the implied “quality shown by [those who are] stubborn…” is probably just about OK, and RD has explained the abbreviation as OK by Collins (though perhaps needing US indicator) – but I still think that leaves the grammar a little awry, unless “during first half of” is a very stretched Yoda-ism?
    2d is a really good anagram, but unfortunately the “but” in the clue seems wrong.
    5d needs something other than “oddly” I think – RD’s “separate” would be a good replacement.
    And I agree with others, 21d doesn’t really work.
    But I really enjoyed lots of other inventive clues – e.g. 9a, 16a, 20a, 22a, 26a, 3d – even though some of these may be stretching things a little, I do think they all work.
    My biggest ticks went to 22a, 6d, 15d, and overall favourite 24a.
    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Fez – good Yoda spot. I may have a little experiment with Yoda to see if he can join the good Reverend Spooner in the future canon. But Yodaism is what it is/was.

      But thank you for your feedback. It all goes to help me improve in future

  6. Welcome back, Plumbwizard.

    It’s been a while since your last appearance but I’m pleased you’re back, as I mostly like your style of clueing and the polish you give to your surface readings. That said, the “but” in 2d jarred – it’s a great anagram but probably better to make the clue something like “Colin drove Diana nuts becoming a genius” and “North American native” rather than “rodent” would have made 24a realistic. I agree with others that a couple of the other clues are in the “nearly but not quite” category.

    It was disappointing to see the triple unches, particularly when small tweaks to the grid could have comfortably avoided them. “About” was repeated as a containment indicator, again easily corrected with a little more care. My printed page contains lots of ticks however, with 9a being my overall favourite for the double disguise in the wordplay.

    Congratulations on another excellent puzzle, Plumbwizard, I think you have great potential as a setter, but I’m hoping to see fewer little niggles with each successive submission. Many thanks.

    1. Thanks Silvanus. Point taken re the unches which was a poor miss on my part and will be addressed rigorously in future. I hate making basic mistakes like that but I guess it’s a good way to learn the craft. Same with ‘about’. I’ve been trying to ensure variety so again I’m a bit disappointed those slipped through.

      I’m putting real effort into surface reading and sometimes that means bits of grammar become loose. Until I started setting last May I had never appreciated the skill (and effort) required to compile a crossword puzzle. But we plough on…

  7. Welcome back, Plumbwizard. There were certainly some ‘not quite there’ clues as others have already mentioned but overall I found it an enjoyable solve and have plenty of ticks on my sheet.
    Top three here were 12,23&24a.

    Thank you for bringing this one to the Corner and I look forward to seeing more of your compilations.

  8. I really enjoyed this ..I was intending to just get a start and put it aside for later but got hooked and felt I had to finish!
    One or two that I can’t 100% “get” but that may be just me so I’ll keenly await the verdict of Prolixic.
    I liked several including 9,11,12&20a along with 2&15d but I think my favourite was the cracking lurker at 17d.
    Many thanks Plumbwizard.

  9. Thank you, Plumbwizard, we enjoyed your puzzle but we still haven’t been able to parse the first part of 20a plus 23a and 21d. Favourites are 1a, 9a, 2d and 8d. More, please and thanks in advance to Prolixic for explanations

    1. Benjamin Button shares a characteristic with TH White’s Merlin, if that helps. Not quite the same thing as Dorian Gray, though with some similar effects…

  10. Thanks Plumbwizard. I enjoyed the solve & am always pleased to finish without a letter reveal even if I’m not sure how to parse a couple. 22a was my favourite & I liked the surface read at 5d. Ticks also from me for 1&12a plus 8d.

  11. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and particularly for the parsing of 21d which had defeated me. I can see it know but don’t think it really works.
    Thanks again to Plumbwizard, hope we see more from you in the future.

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