Rookie Corner 426 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 426

A Puzzle by QuelFromage

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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.

The good news for QuelFromage is that this crossword marks a substantial improvement on the first crossword.  The commentometer is down to 12/27 or 42.9% and, save in a few cases, the definitions match the solutions.  The cluing was clearer and fairer to the solver.  However, there is still a lot of room for improvement particularly with the technical aspects of the cluing to achieve the level of precision required in setting a clue and avoiding repeating wordplay indicators.  


1 Lick scrubbed king in front of saloon that’s known to all (6)
PUBLIC – The lick from the clue without the K (scrubbed king) after (in front of) a three-letter word for a saloon or bar.  The in front of is wrong.  The front of the word is its beginning.  Behind saloon would be correct wordplay here.

4 Half-cut umpire, after eating some gazpacho,  cheats on price (6)
GAZUMP – The first three letters (half-cut) of umpire after the first three letters (some) of gazpacho.  The “eating” in this clue is padding and misleading as eating implies putting one set of letters in another word.  Some should not be used to indicate a random number of letters from a word.  Finally, the solution “cheats on price” implies that the solution is in the plural but it is in the singular.

9 Headhunter’s excitement reveals ordinary idol (4)
HERO – The initial letters (head) of hunter and the next three words of the clue.  To indicate the initial letters for more than one word, you would needs heads of…Even for a single letter, it should be head of (not head on its own).  The joining of head and hunters as a single word would not be accepted by all editors as it requires an un-indicated word break.

10 Engineers see Western inducements (10)
SWEETENERS – An anagram (engineers) of SEE WESTERN.  As an imperative instruction to rearrange the letters, engineers should be engineer.

11 Medium oddly delves after dim reflection (6)
MIDDLE – The odd letters of delves after a reversal (reflection) of the DIM from the clue.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  After as a positional indicator has already been used in 4a.

12 Elderly relative’s love at first touch excites cold heartless tiny robots (8)
NANOTECH – A three-letter word for an elderly relative followed by the initial letters (at first) of the sixth to ninth words of the clue.

13 Child makes double den with gym inside and vault at the back (9)
DEPENDENT – DEN twice (double) with the abbreviation for gym inside all followed by the final letter (at the back) of vault.  The makes as a link word does not work.  The wordplay can make (note the the singular) the definition but the definition cannot make the wordplay.

15 Heartless Amir with endless uses is a stubborn, foolish man (4)
ARSE – The outer letters (heartless) of AMIR followed by the inner letters (endless) of USES.

16 Odd cook pays for duplicate (4)
COPY – The odd letters of the second and third words of the clue.  You need oddly to indicate alternate letters (odd on its own does not work in the cryptic reading of the clue).  Also, as oddly has already been used in 11a.

17 Death rate starts multiplying – omnicron research takes advice from vacant lady who embodies sex appeal (9)
MORTALITY – The initial letters (starts) of the fourth to eighth words of the clue followed by the outer letters (vacant) of lady holding (who embodies) a two-letter word for sex appeal.  For the initial letters of more than one word, you need to use starts to…The from in the clue is misleading padding and should be omitted.  Also, I think that for the cryptic reading of the clue embodying would be better that “who embodies” as, in the cryptic reading, who cannot refer to the letters to be used.  This is a clue that as well as being technically flawed has run away with itself and become too cumbersome and nonsensical for its own good.  Finally, omnicron should be omicron.

21 Hip sounds follow loud row about new semi-cool drug (8)
ROHYPNOL – A homophone (sounds) of hip after (follow) a homophone (sound) of row followed by a reversal (about) the abbreviation for new and half (semi) of cool.  Before looking at the technical aspects of this clue, I think that to have a solution that is used as a date rape drug with the wordplay semi-cool as well as the derogatory solution to 2/23d shows a lack of taste and judgement in setting the crossword.  As to the clue itself, the follow in the clue should be following for the cryptic reading of the clue to work.  I would have preferred audible to sound for the second homophone indicator or perhaps brief row to indicate deleting the last letter.  As a reversal indicator “about” should follow the words to be reversed.

22 Pet prattle (6)
RABBIT – Double definition, the first a small pet and the second to talk.

24 Never go back for good; fuel bedlam to be vindictive (10)
REVENGEFUL – A reversal (go back) of the NEVER from the clue followed by the abbreviation for good and an anagram (bedlam) of fuel.  A couple of technical points.  “Go back” should be going back or goes back for the cryptic reading to read grammatically.  Secondly, the “for” in the clue does not make sense in the cryptic reading of the clue and should be omitted.

25 Secretly grandma konks shark (4)
MAKO – The answer is hidden in (secretly) the middle two words of the clue.

26 Secretly cast rays to lead away from moral convention (6)
ASTRAY – The answer is hidden (secretly) in the second and third words of the clue.  Repetition of wordplay indicators should be avoided.  It is blatant here as the same hidden word indicator was used in the previous clue.  The definition to lead away from implies a verbal solution 

27 Swimming style is a genius feat (6)
STROKE – Double definition.


1 Childish peril breaks broken European Union (7)
PUERILE – An anagram (childish) of PERIL includes (breaks) an anagram (broken) of the abbreviation for European Union.  Breaks is not used correctly here.  It implies that the anagram is included in the rest of the wordplay.  Also, I would have used a reversal indicator instead of an anagram indicator for the EU component of the wordplay.

2/23 Love bomb blind, disfigured, pretty, stupid girl (5,5)
BLOND BIMBO – An anagram (disfigured) of O (love) BOMB BLIND.  See my comment on 21a.  Avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Love for O was used in 12a.

3 Alternatively, wrestle Saint Ed (7)
INSTEAD – An anagram (wrestle) of SAINT ED.

5 Giant Charlie playing (6)
ACTING – An anagram (playing) of GIANT C (Charlie).  As playing is used as the anagram indicator, it should not also double as the definition.  Four anagrams in a row, followed by three in the next four clues, should be avoided.  Try to vary the wordplay used in the clues.

6 Artificial freak (9)
UNNATURAL – Double definition.

7 Mangled corpse devours husband in car (7)
PORCHE – An anagram (mangled) of CORPSE includes (devours) the abbreviation for husband.

8 A feminine golf eccentric knows what it’s all about (7,2,4)
MEANING OF LIFE – An anagram (eccentric) of A FEMININE GOLF.  I don’t think that the definition here matches the solution.  The solution is a nounal phrase but the definition is a verbal phrase.

14 Careless men’s petty stage of life (5,4)
EMPTY NEST – An anagram (careless) of MENS PETTY.

16 Church and old student are coming back with disease (7)
CHOLERA – The abbreviation for church followed by the abbreviations for old and student and a reverse (coming back) of the ARE from the clue.  Back has also being used as a reversal indicator in 24a.

18 In triple time, Earl goes crazy about sweet little pie (7)
TARTLET – An anagram (goes crazy about) of TTT (triple time) EARL.  Perhaps “goes crazy for sweet little pie” would have been better.

19 With a glint in the eye, doppelganger gives back fifty grand with dread at heart (7)
TWINKLE – A four-letter word for a doppelgänger followed by a reversal (gives back) of the Roman numeral for fifty and another abbreviation for 1,000 (grant) and the middle letter (at heart) of dread.  Another repetition of back as a reversal indicator and the gives in the clue does not really work with back as a reversal indicator.  With  a glint in the eye would imply twinkling as the solution.

20 The last flipping gin mum is after creates riddle (6)
ENIGMA – The last letter of the the from the clue followed by a reversal (flipping) of the gin from the clue and a two-letter word for mother.

23 See 2

27 comments on “Rookie Corner 426

  1. Anyone else having the same problem as me, namely the grid not loading, or is it just at this end?

    1. Seems to be an issue on my mobile as it loads fine on the computer.
      So, belatedly QF, I found this very solver friendly. The most glaring issue from a solver’s point of view, which I am sure Prolixic will point to, was the lack of variety of clue types and repetition of indicators. There were a few other technical points (eg headhunter, dread at heart) that may get the Commentometer twitching and there were also some eyebrow-raising surfaces, but it was much more accessible and fun that your previous offering. So, well done, but keep working at it and learning from the best in this forum.

  2. Completed at a canter. The clues I scribbled notes by were 4a (why eating?) 9a (lacked any indication of first letters) 15a (not everyone will like that) 21a (took me while to realise loud being used as a homophone, had never heard of the drug) 25a&26a (repetition of lurker indicators) 1d (breaks broken didn’t really describe what is going on). Hope the feedback is helpful & many thanks for the late night entertainment.

    1. It has belatedly dawned on me that for 9a, the idea is to separate “head/hunters” and take “head” as the indicator. Even if you allow the runningwordstogether trick, the clue doesn’t provide a clear, grammatically sound instruction to solvers. But I solved it so…

  3. A distinct improvement over your first Rookie QuelFromage – I solved this one whereas I couldn’t even get started on your first one.

    I was going to give you a Gold Star for the lurker indicator in 25a but then you spoiled it completely by using the same indicator in the very next clue!

    I did like 22a (sorry RD) and 19d.

    Without being specific, I have the feeling that there are some improvements that can be made so I would advise that you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the comments of the likes of Silvanus and Prolixic.

    Thanks for the entertainment at the end of my Sunday evening of cruciverbalism.

  4. Well done QuelFromage. I agree with Senf that this is broadly an improvement on your last outing, and I picked the same favourites.

    I’ll leave it to the expert to review in detail but as a general principle, I think you need to read over your clues very carefully to be sure they say what you think they say.

    Eg in 1a, “in front of” should be “behind”. In 4a “eating” is redundant and very misleading… I could still work out the solutions despite the misleading instruction, but it took me a lot longer than was necessary. And unfortunately there are quite a lot of problems of this nature throughout. I don’t mind puzzles being hard, but when they’re hard because the clues are confusing in this way, it becomes an exercise in frustration, and less enjoyable.

    But keep working at it – you have some fun ideas here that could make for an entertaining crossword with a bit of polish.

  5. Welcome back to Rookie Corner, QF. This was certainly an improvement on your original submission as I was able to solve and parse this one in its entirety. Nevertheless I have ended up with question marks, crosses and comments by all but five clues.

    I will leave the details to Prolixic but I have to mention 17d as a “War and Peace” clue (one which goes on forever) with a bizarre surface which also contains a spelling mistake.

    On the positive side, the five clues which ended up with me writing nothing by them were 11a, 16a, 22d, 3d & 8d.

    It is crucial to concentrate on getting the details right by following Prolixic’s advice, and you will also need to work on your surface readings to produce a satisfying crossword.

    Thank you and good luck with your future forays into the crosswording world, and many thanks in advance to Prolixic.

      1. RD: given our exchanges both here and elsewhere, is it hubris to observe that the stars appear to be aligned???

  6. I suspect Prolixic will find more to like with this one, QuelFromage. Though he will also have advice to give. This is certainly an improvement on the first and clues like 16a, 22a, 3d, 7d (though a rather odd surface) and 16d are evidence of that. Insofar as I completed 90% of this, either I’m getting used to your style 🤔 or you are getting closer to where you want to be but there is still a lot to confuse the solver. Do keep at it.

  7. The early commenters have said everything I was going to say so I’ll just say thank you to QuelFromage and, in advance, to Prolixic

  8. When I saw the author of this I thought “Mon dieu” but “ouf” this was a distinct improvement on your first one in that most of the solutions at least resembled the definitions.
    Leaving the detailed analysis to Prolixic my main observation would be some of the surfaces were a little manufactured meaning the definitions jumped out but overall it was good fun and I enjoyed solving it. Although an example of the above, 20d was my favourite.
    Well done QuelFromage and thanks.

  9. I can’t remember Quelfromage’s previous puzzle(s) so I can’t say whether this was an improvement or not. I thought there were some good ideas here – thanks to Quelfromage.
    I agree with most of the above comments and I thought a few of the surfaces were weird (e.g. 7d) and having 7 of the first 8 down clues as anagrams makes the puzzle somewhat unbalanced.
    My favourite clue was 20d.

  10. Welcome back, QuelFromage.

    I agree that this second puzzle was not quite the car crash that your debut represented but, like RD, I still have a plethora of inked annotations and comments on my printed page. The anagram count was on the high side and my repetition radar was kept busy with “secretly”, “back” as a reversal indicator, “love” for O and “”oddly”/”odd” all appearing more than once. (The “odd” in 16a should really be “oddly”). There were a few instances of incorrect cryptic grammar too, as Prolixic will tell you in his review and 13a is “definition makes wordplay”. Like last time, there were certain mismatches between the solution and the supposed definition from the clue, 8d and 19d stood out particularly. The surface readings struck me as being very “crosswordy” and contrived, only one or two felt either natural or smooth.

    I’m sure that the Commentometer score will be lower on this occasion, but it would be difficult not to beat 73%, to be honest! Well done on coming back after the mauling you took last time.

    Thank you for the puzzle, QuelFromage.

  11. Thanks QuelFromage, and welcome back. I did take a look back at your debut and this is certainly an improvement – for the most part, the definitions and solutions matched, so even though some of the wordplay wasn’t quite right it was still possible to get to the answer. As others have noted, there are technical ‘errors’ in most clues – please do pay heed to Prolixic’s wise words (for which, thanks in advance). In terms of surfaces I thought your most successful clues were generally the shorter ones – I do like long clues but I found several of these rather ‘disjointed’.
    [As a side note, and at the risk of being a bit snowflakey, I’m not sure this was the best grid to go forwards with. Not everyone will appreciate 15a (although fine for Private Eye, say) but there were plenty of other choices that would fit the crossers and not risk offending anyone. It’s not a major thing, but then with 2/23d also arguably offensive/outdated (and arguably not a ‘real’ phrase?) and 21a most associated (whether fairly or not) with date rape, I did find myself wishing you’d made other choices there too.]
    Thanks again QuelFromage, I’ll look forward to further improvement in your next puzzle.

  12. Hello again, QuelFromage. As others have said, at least it was easier to figure out in this one what your intentions had been but sadly that’s about all I can find to say on a positive note, so I’ll leave it to those more expert to give you chapter and verse.
    Please take on board the advice you’re offered, be a little more selective about the words you choose for the grid and concentrate on constructing clues that make reasonable sense.

  13. Thanks QuelFromage for providing us with a much more accessible crossword. Solving it was fairly straightforward, despite a number of the clues being somewhat awkward, as others have pointed out.
    I do agree with Fez about the appropriateness of 15, 21 and 2/23. Each made me flinch as I determined the solution. I wouldn’t think any crossword editor would approve them for publication. I would also suggest that blonde with an e is the more conventional spelling to use when referring to a female.

    The clue I enjoyed most was the amusing 20 across. I hope your next attempt continues the improvement you have made with this one.

  14. Completed all but for 21a the answer for which is not in Chamber’s crossword dictionary nor in my Seiko solver so it’s time for a reveal. Thanks QuelFromage and Prolixic in advance.

    1. Though, TBF, it is in Collins, Spindrift, and I am sure you are familiar with it, though hopefully not from personal experience!

      1. Doh! For some reason I wrote the first letter as a C! All is well now. Thank you Dr Diva.

    2. OK – I’ve revealed & still I can’t parse the answer! Also the drug is not in my BRB (12th edition.

      1. 21a…two homophones (sounds&loud) N for new and semi coOL…..that’s how I saw it anyway.

  15. Thank you for a generally enjoyable challenge, QF – a good steady solve which I tackled from the S to the N. Most of my annotations were for the first half of both the across and down clues, and other commentators have made the same notes as me. In particular 4a and 1d don’t work for me, 9a and 5d combine wordplay and definition; 1a and 11a appear to be contradictory: is lic in front or behind pub? Is dle before or after mid? In my view they can’t both be right.

    I thought the 2d/23d clue and answer combo outdated/sexist and rather misogynous, even if balanced by 15a which was also sexist (why just men?) and mildly offensive; 21a was inappropriate even if fairly clued – the surface read is unfortunate to say the least given how the drug is used to abuse and kill people.

    Having said all that most of the clues had ticks alongside, and in my view were absolutley fine, even if in some cases rather verbose. I had a full and parsed grid, and it had been an enjoyable solve. I have no recall of your earlier puzzle(s) and would certainly look forward to your next puzzle – I respect enormously all who put their heads above the parapet to expose their creations to public criticism!

    Many thanks, QF, and in advance to Prolixic, too.

  16. Something of a curate’s egg – some clues that really work and others that just don’t. 3, 5, 6, 7 and 16 down were fine for me but 1 (across and down), 4 and 9 were, as others have pointed out, not quite there. And even after Jonners (comment 2) explained 21 I’ve no idea about it.
    Some good ideas were spoiled by the surface grammar not matching the cryptic grammar – for example 10ac where the anagram indicator should be ‘engineer’ (as a verb); you could possibly rewrite the clue as ‘Engineer sees Western (not Southern) inducements’ where ‘not Southern’ is an instruction to remove one of the S’s.
    I won’t anticipate any more of Prolixic’s review as he will do a much better job than I can – so do take note of his comments. I’ll look forward to your next puzzle.

  17. Many thanks for the comprehensive review, Prolixic, which I hope QuelFromage studies carefully before setting his next puzzle.

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