Rookie Corner 430 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 430

A Puzzle by Dharma

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today Dharma makes makes their debut in the Rookie Corner.  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.

Dharma has made an impressive debut with his crossword.  Welcome on board and we look to further crosswords from you.  Most of the points raised are minor ones so the commentometer is a respectable 3 / 29 or 10.3%


1 Wet after last bit of job, that’s clever! (6)
BRAINY – A five-letter word meaning wet after the final letter (last bit) of job.

4 Heartless ginger parrots eat these? (6)
GRAPES – The outer letters (heartless) of ginger followed by a four-letter word meaning parrots or copies.

9 Wanting current journalist, carefully considered boss (4)
STUD – A six-letter word meaning carefully considered without (wanting) the final three letters (being the abbreviations for current and editor).

10 Old lover escaping from deportations in customary ways (10)
TRADITIONS – The two-letter word for an old lover removed (escaping0 from a twelve-letter word for deportations.

11 Picked up homespun starter say (6)
COURSE – A homophone (picked up) of coarse (homespun).

12 Look around, chill and hold your nerve (4,4)
KEEP COOL – A reversal (around) of a four-letter word meaning look followed by a four-letter word meaning chill.

13 Article on crazy Southern rock band (3,6)
THE MANICS – The definite article followed by a five-letter word meaning crazy and the abbreviation for southern.  Whilst I knew of the band by their full name, I was not aware of that they were referred to be the shortened name.  With bands that are less well known, it may be a step too far for people to know the shorter name of a band.

15 Pops back for a ride (4)
SPIN – A reversal (back) of a four-letter word meaning pops as in pops back somewhere.

16 Best tool (4)
PICK – Double definition meaning the best or cream of items and a labourers tool

17 City LA, once disrupted following boycott (9)
BARCELONA – An anagram (disrupted) of LA ONCE after (following) a three-letter word meaning boycott or ban.

21 Seat repairer possibly with fancy chic name (8)
MECHANIC – An anagram (fancy) of CHIC NAME.

22 Shunning doctor, finally deteriorate and slip away (6)
ELPASE – A seven-letter word meaning deteriorate without (shunning) the final letter of doctor.

24 City supporters? (10)
FINANCIERS – Cryptic definition of bankers, stockbrokers, et al, whose work supports the City of London.

25 Awful deli unoccupied (4)
IDLE – An anagram (awful) of DELI.  Whilst sometime seen, anagrams of only four letters are best avoided as they do not offer much of a challenge to the solver.

26 Selection of Lego is too easy for braggart (6)
EGOIST – The answer is hidden (selection of) in the third to fifth words of the clue.  Try to avoid padding words in a clue.  Here “easy” has been added to fit the surface reading but plays no part in the wordplay.

27 Improvises when aide occasionally is on the left of party (2-4)
AD-LIBS – The odd letters (occasionally) of aide before (one the left of) the abbreviated name of an old political party.


1 Gamble leads to Remainer offering trivial half-baked promise (7)
BETROTH – A three-letter word meaning to gamble followed by the initial letters of the fourth to seventh words of the clue.

2 Snake not interested in takeaways? (5)
ADDER – Cryptic definition of Britains only venomous snake.

3 Teens on loose out of sight? (3,4)
NOT SEEN – An anagram (loose) of TEENS ON.

5 Old lady drinks gin and gets this! (6)
RUINED – An elliptically cryptic definition based on on a common term for gin.  Perhaps slightly too elliptical as you have to mentally switch from the noun in the name to the past tense of the verb.

6 First rule read out (9)
PRINCIPAL – A homophone (read out) of principle (rule).

7 Evening light not working (7)
SUNDOWN – A three-letter word for something that gives us light followed by a four-letter word meaning not working.

8 Toady supports slip fielder grabbing rear of bowler! (13)
BACKSCRATCHER – A five-letter word meaning supports or seconds followed by another term for a slip fielder holding (grabbing) the last letter (rear) of bowler.

14 Playfully macho cat lapping single drink (9)
MACCHIATO – An anagram (playfully) of MACHO CAT includes (lapping) a letter representing single or one.  I think single can represent one as in “That’s the one / single reason for…”.

16 Immature anger following exertions around university (7)
PUERILE – A three-letter word meaning anger after (following) a two-letter abbreviation for games or exertions around the abbreviation for university.  It’s often at the end of the down clues that the setter’s attention begins to wander.  Here we have a repetition of the word following as a positional indicator that was also used in 17a.

18 Wrinkled but lessened after care evens out (7)
CREASED – A five-letter word meaning lessened after the odd letters (evens out) of care.  A second repetition, this time using after as a positional indicator that was also used in 1a.

19 Not good for a retailer or certain boats we’re told! (2,5)
NO SALES – A homophone (we’re told) of no sails (certain boats).  Possibly one of the weaker clues both in using a phrase not in the dictionary but also the wordplay “certain boats” does not lead to the words from which the homophone is made.

20 Criticises strikes (6)
KNOCKS – Double definition.

23 Boxer with mostly great defence (5)
ALIBI – The name of the usual heavyweight boxer used in crossword clues followed by a three-letter word meaning great with the final letter (mostly).

37 comments on “Rookie Corner 430
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  1. A competently put together puzzle that we enjoyed solving.
    Ticks beside 2d, 5d and 8d but several others could easily have made the cut.
    Thanks Dharma.

  2. A pleasant end to my Sunday evening of cruciverbalism but there are one or two parsings I will need to wait for Prolixic to explain.

    13a was gettable from the word play but, based on the results of an e-search, I would consider the answer to be extreme GK as the band would appear to be an ‘acquired taste’ but, no doubt, there will be one or two of our company who are fanatical about them.

    Smiles for 4a, 5d, 8d, and 16d.

    Thanks Dharma and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Unlike Senf I’d say 13a are certainly well-known (more than one No.1 single I think), but the solution is a nickname, so a step too far for most solvers probably.
    There were hardly any technical faults – the only obvious one was a superfluous word in the hidden – in a very entertaining and impressive debut. Nice one, Dharma.

      1. They weren’t really a singles band though – they started as a minority interest indie-style rock band and then became massive as an album-oriented band. Most of their records went gold at least. The fact that they had No 1 singles as well makes them publicly high-profile enough for a crossword, I reckon.
        I’ll stick up for anyone Welsh! :good:

        1. Including a no 1 album last year (weirdly, ending up with new releases from them and Steps at positions 1 and 2 for the 2nd time, but with a 23-year gap).

          In the 90s I was a teenager into guitar music, and this clue would be fine in the NME crossword. But for those who weren’t, I agree with Twmbarlwm that using their nickname makes this too obscure for a general audience.

          I also wasn’t keen on 13a using “article” to clue the word ‘the’, because that’s just a straight definition. Using “article” to clue the letters THE is fine — for instance in the middle of ‘sweetheart’ — but when you’re actually using it as an article in the solution, there isn’t really anything cryptic about it.

          And in 14d abbreviating “single” as ‘i’ seems like a step too far (requiring the intermediate stage of single → 1 → i), especially in anagram fodder.

          But these are minor grumbles about things I’ve also encountered (and grumbled about!) in professionally published crosswords. So congratulations, Dharma, on a splendid debut.

            1. Maybe. I can’t quite get it to work: “She ran a single” = “She ran one”, not “She ran a one”.

              I think it would bother me less in a Lego clue for inserting I, but it seemed too indirect for anagram fodder.

              1. I (sort of) get what you mean Smyler, but I think it’s OK. But the more simple “lapping a drink” would resolve it anyway – no?

  4. It has been a while since I finished a Rookie crossword before I’d finished the cereal, but this enjoyable and accomplished crossword from Dharma didn’t take long to solve at all

    Thanks to Dharma – I’d wager my usual 50p that this isn’t your first crossword – and, in advance, to Prolixic

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Dharma.

    Most of the clues were excellent, particularly the shortest ones, but I was a little disappointed by the solutions to 13a (a nickname) plus 3d and 19d which are phrases unlikely to be found in a dictionary. There were one or two surfaces (like 1a and 26a) that raised my eyebrows a tad. Plenty of ticks on my printed page, I’ll choose 16a, 6d and the topical 20d for my podium.

    Overall. a very encouraging and satisfying debut. More please!

    Many thanks, Dharma.

  6. Many thanks Dharma, a fun solve and impressive debut.

    I think the only real ‘mistake’ is the superfluous word in 26a as Twmbarlwm points out. 13a certainly should be sufficiently well known to be fair – but again agree with Twmbarlwm, some indication is needed that you’ve referred to them by a shortened ‘niickname’. I’m not sure the solutions to 3d and 19d are really stand-alone phrases (eg that you might find in a dictionary) though both well clued.

    Whilst mostly straightforward (in a good way!) there were some nice trickier touches too. For 16a I orginally had PLUM (“tool” = “a fool (slang)” in Chambers, I thought “plum” had same meaning but that’s not supported by BRB … anyway the 14a crosser soon put me right). I’m undecided on 5d – it is a good idea and helps provide further variety overall, and the allusion is clear (or rather, eventually became clear – was one of my last ones in) but I’m not convinced it quite works. l liked the use of “Seat” in 21a. 24a and 20d both held me up for a while, and both earn a place on the podium, alongside 22a for what I thought was some very sneaky misdirection.

    Thanks again Dharma, looking forward to your next – and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  7. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Dharma, with what was an accomplished and enjoyable debut. Although this was your first submission here, I think CS’s 50p is safe.

    Your surfaces were generally good apart from a couple, and “easy” in 26a was padding. I’m not sure that 19d quite floats my boat. :wink:

    I had a lot of ticks: 16a, 21a, 5d, 6d, 8d & 18d.

    Well done, Dharma, and thank you. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

  8. Well done, Dharma, a strong debut. As cryptic sue says, not the most difficult, but that’s fine – I think some rookies try too hard to make their puzzles difficult instead of focusing on making the clues sound. You seem to have your priorities straight. Favourites for me were 10a, 16a, 8d, 14d, 18d.

    One thing I try to avoid when writing clues (admittedly not always successfully) is creating surfaces that make sense in “crosswordese” but either don’t mean anything in plain English or create bizarre images – “heartless ginger parrots” is a good example. There are a few other examples here, but nothing too egregious.

  9. A warm welcome to the Corner, Dharma, with a creditable debut puzzle.
    There were a few surface reads that could have benefitted from some extra work and I thought the inclusion of 13a was somewhat random – perhaps you’re a huge fan?
    Top clues for me were 12&21a plus 8d.

    Thank you for the puzzle, looking forward to the next one.

  10. Hi everyone, thanks for all the informative and constructive comments, pleased that you enjoyed it….Yes, it’s mine!

    To reply to some specific points
    The opening sentence in Wikipedia on the rock band is thus….
    ‘Manic Street Preachers, also known simply as the Manics, are a Welsh rock band formed in Blackwood in 1986″
    To Smylers, I think “article” used in the context of the clue is cryptic as it implies a written piece.
    Yes Jane I’m a big admirer of the band. I’d originally intended to do a rock themed puzzle but abandoned the idea but that one survived!

    I knew that the phrases referred to by Silvanus were pushing the boundaries a little but I’d backed myself into a bit of a corner and they were my only way out without major re editing (of which I’d done enough!)
    I was particularly pleased by Fez’s comment as the clues he chose to highlight were perhaps the ones that I was most pleased with.

    I did tone down the difficulty a little after feedback from my excellent test solver, to whom many thanks for his sage advice and guidance.

    To CS and RD…definitely my first puzzle, though I’ve written several stand alone clues in the old clue writing competition in The Telegraph. I’ll collect the 50p at the next bash!

    Finally thanks to Prolixic who puts in so much work here in The Corner.

    1. Thank you for owning up, Stephen. Must admit that when I spotted 13a my first thought was ‘bet they’re on Stephen’s play list’!
      May I ask – how did you arrive at your pseudonym?

      1. Hi Jane…my pseudonym comes from the great Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser of Blue Oyster Cult one of my favourite musicians.

        1. You’ve got great taste in music, Stephen! I love Blue Oyster Cult, but have never known why Donald Roeser chose the stage name Buck Dharma. Can you enlighten me please?

          1. I read once that BOC’s manager around the time of formation came up with weird sounding stage names for all five members of the band, which they all rejected except Roeser who quite liked his and stuck with it. I’ve loved BOC since hearing Reaper when I was young, just a pity that they are only largely known for that song when they have such a great discography.

    2. Gosh :-O
      Well done SL, and thanks again! Hope you will be looking to re-appear in the Corner.
      (Not sure if *major* surgery was needed to address some of the issues, eg to lose the nicknamed band and the two ‘dodgy’ phrases: 1a Brahms, 13a thematics, 3d MOT test, 19d nestles)

    3. I wasn’t expecting that denouement, Stephen, and I am glad I’m not a betting man. Superb stuff, particularly for a first ever puzzle! I’m really looking forward to the next one!

      1. Thanks RD, really pleased with your generous comment. I have to give a lot of credit to my excellent test solver Gazza, who helped me iron out any particularly rough spots.

    4. Most people call the MSPs by their nickname the Manics as far as I know. Similar to using the Stones, really. So, not a problem.

  11. Hi Dharma, as others have said this was a veery nice, well-compiled puzzle. I am sure Prolixic will only have minor points to make. But , like Fez, without suggesting the clues were problematic in any way, I just wasn’t keen on 3d & 19d as answers and don’t really like 5d, though I get it. I also thought that a 4 letter anagram in 25a was a bit weak. But “not interested in takeaways” in 2d certainly made me smile (albeit the surface is a bit weird) as did “Seat repairer”, so you clearly have great ideas. More of that kind of thing will give future offerings more of your own persona. Hope that makes sense!

  12. As usual I haven’t read anyone else’s comments (although I did pick up a reference elsewhere to 13ac) so there might be some duplication.
    An enjoyable puzzle with the enjoyment enhanced by being able to sit outside in the sunshine while solving. Mostly smooth with just one or two hiccups. Is the band at 13ac well enough known to be general knowledge? I can’t comment on that as my knowledge of rock bands is minimal anyway. 24ac held me up for a while till I’d unscrambled the anagram for 14dn. Last one in was 5dn where I was looking for an insertion until I suddenly remembered the slang name for gin. A good debut with just a few bits that could have done with polishing up. A bonus point, though for 23dn, for clueing it in a way that includes its correct definition – ‘defence’ rather than ‘excuse’.

      1. Just to clarify things I posted the above with my fifteensquared moniker by mistake – should have been as exit!

        Jose – I am aware of the BRB’s secondary definition. It’s one of those words like ‘ilk’ and ‘hopefully’ that have taken on new meanings and we pedants have had to accept them; after all, language is continually evolving. It’s just that it’s pleasant sometimes to find these words used in their original sense.

  13. Nice one Stephen. Took an embarrassingly long time to twig the MSPs & I’m a fan (also of BOC) to the extent I even considered it may be some obscure geological name. That one aside a very enjoyable brisk solve. Well done indeed.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, much appreciated as always. Well done again to Stephen – a very respectable score!

  15. Many thanks Prolixic for your helpful and informative review. Also a special thanks to Gazza along with everyone who took the trouble to comment, much appreciated.

  16. Coming to this rather late, but wanted to note how much I enjoyed this early morning solve – thank you Stephen, a very good and accomplished puzzle indeed.

    My only ‘X’ was at 13a – the unindicated abbreviation and for me the only flaw in the diamond. I may have been in my 20s during much of the 90s, but know absolutely nothing about the band other than their full name. I was surprised to read upthread that they’d been (so) successful!

    Thank you also to Prolixic.

  17. Been away so late to comment but enjoyed this puzzle. Thank you, Dharma. We hadn’t heard of The Manics but Google confirmed our answer. Favourites were 21a, 17a and 8d. We look forward to more. Now for today’s Rookie.

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