Rookie Corner 412 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 412

A Puzzle by QuelFromage

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

QuelFromage makes his debut with a puzzle on a smaller-than-usual 13×13 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.

Welcome to QuelFromage.  Looking for the positives, 13d was a good clue and, as the grid was only 13×13, my task in reviewing this crossword took less time than it might have done.

Starting with the basics, apart from double definitions and cryptic definitions, each clue should have a definition and wordplay.  The solution should match the definition in terms of the part of speech used and not be too vague.  The wordplay should break down into a series of cryptic instructions that tell the solver how to arrive at the solution.  On top of this, the clue when read in its own right should read like a natural sentence that make some kind of sense.  These three basics are something that QuelFromage needs to concentrate on.

The commentometer reads as an eye-watering 19/26 or 73.1%


1 Reflects and copies (7)
MIRRORS – Double definition of a word meaning reflects and copies.  Where possible, for double definitions, try to ensure that there is a more separation between the two definitions.  Reflects and copies are synonyms in their own right.  Perhaps something along the lines of “Copies of sailing boats” would be better.

5 Help! The football association is stuck in these (5)
SOFAS – The international distress signal meaning help includes “has stuck in” the abbreviation for the Football Association.  The problem with this clue is that there is no definition of the solution.  These on its own does not work, though to be generous, you might argue that the whole clue might lead to the solution.  However, perhaps “stuck in seats” or “stuck in Chesterfield and Bridgewater?” Would be better.

8 Fruity German’s better half enjoys sun in England (9)
TANGERINE – The first three letters (better half) of Germany after a three-letter word meaning sun followed by the IN from the clue and the abbreviation for England.  A number of points on this clue.  The definition “fruity” is an adjective but is used to clue a noun.  There is no instruction in the cryptic reading of the clue that the three letters representing sun go at the beginning of the clue.  Finally, the “enjoy” seems to be padding.  Even if enjoys sun is the intended wordplay for the part of the solution, this wold lead to tans, not tan.

9 Many auctions? No just one (3)
LOT – The singular of the name given to the items sold at auction. As even a single auction will have more than one of the solution, I am not sure that the clue works effectively.

10 Quiet! I am the sun! (5)
SHONE – A two-letter word meaning be quiet followed by the word represented by I.  This clue breaks down to wordplay AM definition which does not work in the cryptic reading of the clue.  Also, the the solution is what the sun did, not the sun itself.

12 Three in the back of the North-East and South-East portals (7)
ENTRIES – A three-letter prefix meaning three in a reversal (backing of the) of the abbreviations of North-East and South-East.  “The back of the” as an instruction means the last letters rather than a reversal.  

13 Zeal sounds like any quasi-urge of a nervous pal (13)
ENERGETICALLY – Three letters that sound like “any” followed by the last three letters (quasi) of urge, a three letter word for a nervous reaction and a four-letter word for a pal.  I am not sure that quasi (as it were or in appearance only) means the removal of a letter.  Nervous, as an adjective, does not define the nervous reaction itself.  You would need “With zeal” to define the solution.

15 The sneaky saint is almost full health (7)
STEALTH – The two-letter abbreviation for saint followed by the last five letters of the “health” from the clue.  I am not sure what the “The” is doing at the beginning of the clue, and the definition of “sneaky” would lead to the solution “stealthy”

17 Later the Queen was removed from the horse (5)
RIDER – The regnal cypher for the queen after (later) a three-letter word meaning removed.  The structure of the clue here is wordplay from definition.  It is more usual to say that the definition comes from the wordplay.  More importantly, the definition “horse” is not synonymous with the person who sits on the horse.

19 Scoff at abnormal penalty (3)
EAT – The even letters (abnormal) of the last word of the clue.  I do not think that abnormally indicates cryptically the alternate letters of a word.

20 Remember Monsieur found fish that sounded like pilferage (9)
MNEMONICS – The abbreviation for monsieur followed by the name of the fish that was found in the Pixar film and a homophone (sounded like) nicks (pilferage).  I don’t think that pilferage, a noun, can be used to clue a verb nicks, even as part of a homophone.  The “that” in the clue does not work.  For an instruction to join two parts of the wordplay together, you would need “that’s” (in the sense of that has) to work.  The solution is a system for remembering, the definition of remember is therefore incorrect

22 Organs echo Valentine gift (5)
NOSES – A word that rhymes (echo) with roses.

23 Nuns tern almost captured by Gestapo following half a sigh (7)
SISTERS – The tern from the clue without the last letter (almost) after half of the word sigh all inside the abbreviation for Gestapo.  I think that Gestapo and the SS were separate Nazi organisations.  All the clue reads as if half the word “sigh” comes after the insertion of the letters into SS.  Try to avoid reusing wordplay indicators such as almost to remove one letter (used in 5a and in 6d).


1 Quiet back there! This is mummy’s time for her studying! (5)
MATHS – A two-letter word meaning be quiet reversed (back there) after a two-letter word for a mother and the abbreviation for time.  There is a a repetition of the wordplay quiet for SH (see 10a) and there is no indication in the clue that the wordplay for mummy’s and time goes before the first part of the wordplay.  The definition is another loose one and might be better as field of study to clue a subject not the process of studying.

2 Bolt in rune (3)
RUN – The answer is hidden (in) the last word of the clue!  I don’t think that a hidden word clue works where all you do is remove the last letter of a word.

3 Not under not chicken not skewed (7)
OVEREGG – The opposites (not) of under and chicken.  I fail to see how “not skewed” leads to the solution unless the not is redundant and even the “skewed” would lead to a solution ending in ED.

4 Decreasing its tenancy leads to hellbound, hot, fishy feet (8,5)
STILETTO HEELS – A reversal (decreasing) of the ITS from the clue followed by a three-letter word for a tenancy before (leads to) a reversal (hellbound) of the HOT from the clue and a 4 letter word for fish.  A lot of points on this clue (it is a good job that I do go above a score of 1 in terms of comments on clues otherwise the commentometer might read at more than 100%).  I do not think that either decreasing or hellbound indicate reversing letters, fishy (an adjective) cannot clue the noun fish and the definition inaccurate – they are not feet.

5 Liquid iron whiffed (5)
SMELT – Double definition.  I think that the first part of the definition is not the liquid iron itself but the process meaning to melt.

6 Almost full but totally satisfied (9)
FULFILLED – The first three letters (almost) of full followed by a six-letter word meaning totally.  As well as the repetition of almost as a wordplay indicator, I am not convinced that totally is a synonym for the word used in the solution. 

7 Quench with part dosa part tissue yet awkwardly funny (7)
SATISFY – The last two letters (part) of the dosa from the clue and the first here letters (part) of the tissue from the clue and the outer letters (awkward) of funny.  Part should not be used to clue an indeterminate number of letter from the words in the clue.  There is no way that awkwardly can mean the outer letters of a word.

11 Hug yours truly and allow shortened test for breakfast (9)
OMELETTES – The letter representing an embrace (circling) and a two-letter for the the setter folded by a a three-letter word meaning allow and the first three letters (shortened) of the test fro the clue.  Hug to represent 0 is a bit of a stretch.  More importantly, the solution is part of the definition not the definition itself.

13 Disrupt nearest orientation (7)
EASTERN – An anagram (disrupt) of NEAREST.  

14 Edible vehicle decays (7)
CARROTS – A three-letter word for a motor vehicle followed by a four-letter word meaning decays.  The definition “edible” is too imprecise.

16 Babies‘ balms are broken (5)
LAMBS – An anagram (are broken) of BALMS.  For the anagram to work, the cryptic grammar needs A is broken not A are broken.  Broken balms would work.

18 Lies about alternative sites (5)
RESTS – The two-letter word meaning about followed by the odd letters (alternative) of the last word of the clue.  Alternative is not the same as alternate so does not work as an every other letter indicator.

21 Angrily fired and chopped (3)
IRE – The inner letters (chopped) of the second word of the clue.  The definition is an adverb but is being used to clue a noun.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner 412

  1. Thanks QuelFromage – certainly a challenge but I have a full grid and at least approaching an understanding of the majority of them! I do hope Prolixic has the benefit of some parsing notes though, as I suspect there’s a lot of untangling to be done! Many thanks in advance for review, will make for an interesting read.
    There are numerous issues which I’m sure Prolixic will address, but for me the main problem in many cases was a mismatch between definition and solution – the required word was alluded to rather than defined (sometimes using a different part of speech, sometimes just a vague suggestion). In future please do try to make definitions precise .
    A few nice touches – 13d showing how it’s often best to ‘keep it simple’, the hug in 11d (a nice clue but needing a more precise definition). And despite the ‘errors’ I did enjoy some of the bizarrely amusing surfaces – it was good fun to try to get on the right wavelength to disentangle them.
    Thanks again – hope you will pay close attention to Prolixic’s advice and I look forward to seeing your next puzzle!

  2. Quel dommage, QuelFromage. I am sorry to report that I was utterly defeated by this. After a long struggle I gave up with only six answers entered, five of which had technical problems. 13d was the exception and so became the only possibility to choose as my favourite. The 13×13 grid was unusual but not an issue.

    Some of your surface readings, including many of the clues I didn’t solve, were bizarre and will certainly need some attention. However, this aspect will need to take second place to the correction of the technical issues, which I fear will keep Prolixic busy while completing his review.

    It is a real challenge to compile a cryptic crossword, and well done on dipping your toe in the water. Please pay heed to Prolixic’s comments and come back again soon.

  3. Sorry QuelFromage but Rabbit Dave has summed up this crossword exactly as I would have done, although I managed to solve seven and a half clues to his six. Of these, for me the only ones that ‘make sense’ and ‘work properly’ are 1a and 13d

    I couldn’t even begin to write a clue, never mind a whole crosswords-worth, so well done for having a go. Take note of what Prolixic says in his review and hopefully you can return with another puzzle in due course

  4. I’ve got a full grid but there are a few I don’t understand. I think the main problem, as mentioned above, is that the definitions very often don’t match the answers grammatically (as an example, one of many, the answer to 21d means anger, not angrily).
    Well done, Quelfromage, on being brave enough to put your head above the parapet. Do take note of the good advice you’ll get from Prolixic.

  5. Oh dear. In my seven years of solving Rookie Corner puzzles I can’t recall one that contained so many flaws, unfortunately. Even in a smaller grid, there was still room for “quiet” to be used twice for SH, and “almost” used three times as a last letter deletion device. Fez may have found the surfaces “bizarrely amusing”, I just found myself shaking my head in disbelief. I think the worst aspect of the puzzle has to be the mismatch between the definitions in many clues and the solutions actually in the grid, it happened far too often. Positives? Well, the grid was symmetrical and there were no obscurities in it, even if there were quite a lot of plurals in evidence.

    Anyone submitting a puzzle to BD should be rightly applauded, it’s never easy for a beginner to do that, but equally there are basic crossword rules and conventions that a solver must expect and these were all too frequently absent. Thank you for the puzzle, QuelFromage.

    1. I thought e.g. 8a and 10a amongst others read nicely, and might have potential … but, yes, there were too many that just made no sense (e.g. 23a, 3d) and whilst, err, ‘reflecting’ on 1a I did think we could do with more “Possibly good examples of highly-polished surfaces (7)”

  6. After judicious use of the check tab I did manage to fill in the grid. I thought there were some kernels of good ideas but clueing nouns with adverbs etc as Gazza referred to in 21d is something that shouldn’t get past a test solver or a second read through. Overall it was fun so thanks QuelFromage.

  7. I can only agree with what others have said, I am afraid QuelFromage. I found my notes almost exclusively using the ≠ symbol because simply indicating, pointing to, being the almost the same ball bark as the answer is not OK – wordplay and definition have to be precise, both in meaning and grammar. I would recommend spending some time really studying some of the puzzles on the many very helpful sites like this, fifteensquared etc to really get to grips with the anatomy of cryptic clues and the different clue types. (I’m only “could do better” category myself)

    Having said that, I could see elements of fun, a lightness of touch, a joy of words in your effort that suggest you could eventually produce some entertaining work once you have mastered the basics. Keep at it!

  8. I managed to complete this puzzle but I found that I was inserting solutions that I didn’t believe were correct and using check button each time. It was 80% complete before check found an error. I was amazed! I thought the check button wasn’t working!

  9. Welcome to Rookie Corner QuelFromage
    Quite a few errors made this a hard one to follow and I didn’t quite complete it, particularly the inaccurate definitions which had to be guessed
    The definition must precisely match the synonym as a stand-alone word – eg look up ‘sun’ and it doesn’t mean ‘shone’, maybe ‘shiner’ because that at least describes ‘sun’
    Setting a cryptic is not easy so well done for having a go and thanks for sharing

  10. Agreeing with most people above – I have 12 and 2 halves entered (and with the use of the check button, definitely correct) but I began to lose the will to live after 2 sessions, so I’m waiting with everyone else for Prolixic’s review. I don’t envy him!

  11. Gave it my best shot, QuelFromage but I’m afraid you left me somewhat flummoxed. The ideas are obviously there but I do think you have a great deal to learn about setting crosswords. There is plenty of help available out there, please take full advantage of it and come back to show us how good you really can be.

  12. Re Prolixic’s comment on 11d, ‘O’ is a common way to indicate a hug at the end of a message, equivalent to using ‘X’ to indicate a kiss (though obviously not as common). I’ve seen it in emails, text messages, and birthday cards. Our 7-year-old is a big fan of using them. And if the word of a 7-year-old isn’t enough authority, it’s also in The OED as such, with the first citation from 1948.

    So I think QuelFromage’s use of ‘Hug’ to clue ‘O’ is both acceptable and fun!

  13. Many thanks, Prolixic. Very well done on compiling such a comprehensive review, understanding what QuelFromage was trying to achieve, and explaining it to the rest of us who were struggling.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and the comprehensive explanations you have given QuelFromage as to the reasons why many of his clues simply don’t work. Our Rookies are lucky to get such patient tutoring, I do hope they use it to the best advantage.

    1. I can’t say further than that, so thanks for the review Prolixic, I thought you struck just the right tone and your explanations were clear and informative.

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