Rookie Corner 445 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 445

A Puzzle by Dharma

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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:

My laptop is undergoing major surgery so I am trying to write and post this review on an iPad.  Anything might happen to the review and probably will!

Thanks to Dharma for another enjoyable crossword.  A good sign in the review is when the only comments are minor ones.  The commentometer reads as 2.5/28 or 8.9%.


7a  Top-notch meal except for starter of pasta (5)
SUPER: The name of a late evening meal without one of the letters P (starter of pasta).  Perhaps an indication that only one of the letters P needs to be removed would be better.

8a  Doctor Bell, enthusiastic at first, taken in by tip for health (9)
WELLBEING: An anagram (doctor) of BELL and the first letter (starter) of enthusiastic inside (taking in by) a four-letter word for a wing.  

10a  Small meal is sad artistic creation (6)
WEEPIE: A three-letter word meaning small followed by a three-letter word for an item that might be eaten as a meal.  I would have preferred some indication that it is a food item, not a meal in itself.

11a  Remarkably, a tailless rodent is eaten by insect (8)
FAMOUSLY: The A from the clue and a five-letter word for a type of rodent without the final letter (tailless), all inside a three-letter name of a type of insect.

12a  Decline loveless dance, unconvincing by the sound of it (8)
DISCLAIM: A five-letter word for a type of dance without the final O (loveless) followed by a homophone (by the sound of it) of lame (unconvincing).

13a  Obsessively aware of pronoun? About right (4)
WOKE: A two-letter pronouns around (about) a two-letter word meaning right.  Perhaps obsessive is too pejorative.

15a  More chaotic when eggs, principally in M&S rise inordinately (7)
MESSIER: An anagram (inordinately) of E (eggs principally) MS RISE.

17a  Female at the 24d must be hoping she’s found him? (2,5)
MR RIGHT: Cryptic definition.  The first three things the bride needs to remember is that she walks down the aisle, stands in front of the altar and sings a hymn.  It is very easy to remember (I’ll alter him).

20a  Get back please, like ASAP! (4)
RSVP: The abbreviation (like ASAP) used in correspondence meaning get back to me please.

22a  Honestly working? It would seem not (2,3,3)
ON THE SLY: An anagram (working) of HONESTLY.

25a  Pick fruit clasping heads of each colourful tangerine rigorously (8)
PLECTRUM: A four-letter type of fruit around (clasping) the initial letters (heads) of the final four words of the clue.

26a  Call unknown number….it’s fake (6)
PHONEY: A five-letter word meaning to call followed by a letter representing an unknown number in algebra.

27a  Air a human circulated for plant (9)
MARIHUANA: An anagram (circulated) of AIR A HUMAN.

28a  Advertises seals (5)
PLUGS: Double definition.


1d  Youngsters from Italian football team they say, score perhaps, getting points (9)
JUVENILES: A four-letter contraction of how people might describe Juventus followed by a three-letter word for a score of no points and two points of the compass.

2d  Star of the party maybe, bites and  bullies (8)
HENPECKS: A three-letter word for the star of a party for the bride to be followed by a five-letter word meaning bites.

3d  Smell a storm (7)
PERFUME: A three-letter word meaning a followed by a four-letter word meaning storm or rage.

4d  Abusive exchange from last bit of tiff over fermented warm ale (8)
FLAMEWAR: The final letter (last bit) of tiff followed by an anagram (fermented) of WARM ALE.

5d  Disparage when Head occasionally turns up with moonshine (6)
DEBUNK: The even letters (occasionally) of head reversed (turns up) followed by a four-letter word meaning moonshine or rubbish.

6d  Relative pronoun clear? Somewhat (5)
UNCLE: The answer is hidden (somewhat) in the second and third words of the clue.

9d  Punt with a character (4)
BETA: A three-letter word for a punt or wager followed by the A from the clue.  Perhaps an indication that it is a Greek character would be appropriate.

14d  Dare to question (9)
CHALLENGE: Double definition.

16d  Nothing accepted by fashionable premium store (8)
EMPORIUM: The letter representing nothing inside (accepted by) an anagram (fashionable) of PREMIUM.  I think fashionable does not quite work as an anagram indicator.  The fact that something might be fashioned does not tell the solver to fashion it!

18d  Cello I played with lady shunning publicity, a Summer treat? (3,5)
ICE LOLLY: A anagram (played) of CELLO I followed by outer letters of lady (lady shunning publicity meaning remove the AD)

19d  Harry Hill expected on the radio (7)
TORMENT: A three-letter word for a hill followed by a homophone (on the radio) of meant (expected).

21d  Disappointed over idea, regularly ignored for career break? (6)
SICKIE: A four-letter words meaning disappointed followed by the odd letters (regularly ignored) of idea.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Over has been used in 4d.

23d  Sensuality perfectly describes model (4)
TYPE:  The answer is hidden (describes) in the first two words of the clue. 

24d  Key on stripped bark table (5)
ALTAR: A three-letter word for a key on a keyboard followed by the inner letters (stripped) of bark.

30 comments on “Rookie Corner 445
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  1. Lots of clever wordplay, such as our favourite 22a, kept us chuckling all the way through.
    A most enjoyable, well put together puzzle.
    Thanks Dharma.

  2. Thanks Dharma, I enjoyed this much more than your first Rookie – no obscure rock bands perhaps.

    Biggest smiles for 22a, 25a, and 2d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Welcome back to RC, Dharma, with a good follow-up to your encouraging debut.

    Some of your more wordy clues (e.g.: 8a, 1d, 4d, 18d) come across as slightly contrived even though the wordplay is accurate.

    4d is a strange word, although I did find it in the BRB enumerated as (5,3), and the answer to 27a uses a new spelling for me.

    I am not convinced by “fashionable” as an anagram indicator in 16d, and I wonder if 1a needs to specify “… one starter of pasta”. I’ll be interested to learn Prolixic’s opinion of those points.

    My top picks are 13a, 5d 19d & 23d.

    Well done and many thanks for an enjoyable solve, SL. Please keep them coming, Thanks in advance too to Prolixic.

  4. An enjoyable challenge, pitched at just the right level – thanks to Dharma.
    I completed most of the puzzle reasonably quickly then slowed down in the NW corner.
    The clues I liked most were 10a, 22a and 3d.
    More puzzles like this would be very welcome.

  5. Some fun ideas here, Dharma. I particularly liked 11a for the amusing surface image that ties in nicely with the definition. Interestingly, Phi had a very similar clue to 22a in Friday’s Independent – but I actually prefer your version (his was more concise but less precise). Great minds, as they say. I liked 7a too, again a nice surface reading, and unlike RD I think the instruction in the clue is precise enough.

    Overall, quite a few places where it needs polishing to lift it from ‘competent’ to ‘good’ – eg 25a reads rather unnaturally, but I still liked it for the neatly disguised definition. A strict test solver might be beneficial to help highlight where your clues need refining.

    Being one of those 13a types, I might point out that in 2022 the person at the 24d could be male (or something else entirely). Whether or not that matters depends on your audience – you’d be on safe ground in the Telegraph, but expect to get picked up on it in the Guardian.

    1. Does your last paragraph confirm that “obsessively aware” could be a germane synonym for the 13a answer (contrary to Dr Diva’s comment, below)? I was just wondering – I’m genuinely not sure.

      1. Merriam-Webster defines it as “actively aware”. I’d say this is more objective than “obsessively aware”, which has a slightly pejorative sense that I feel is generally best avoided in crosswords.

        1. Collins has it as someone who is “very” aware of social unfairness so I don’t think the definition is entirely inaccurate (though I do take your point) and in my opinion it helps the surface read. I guess it’s one of the words that means different things to different people.
          Pleased to be in the company of Phi re 22a though, and am very pleased you added the comment re 19d as it was my favourite too Widdersbell 😊

        2. I’d say that if any Guardian setters/readers/types (or anyone else) were troubled by the 24d clue/answer it would be stretching active awareness into obsessive awareness or, from my point of view, “inexplicable awareness”.

  6. Welcome back, Dharma/SL.

    I thought this was excellent, a good balance of different clue types, some very clever constructions and superbly entertaining to solve. I had a similar experience to Gazza in that the NW corner took me much longer to crack than the rest of the puzzle combined. I also agree with RD about the use of “fashionable” as an anagram indicator but, technically, there was very little, if anything, to fault even if “over” was repeated as a positional indicator in separate Down clues. Perhaps “character” in 9d ought to be qualified by “foreign” or “Greek”, although it is one of the easier clues.

    My podium consists of 22a (excellent), 18d and 19d. I wish more Rookie puzzles were like this. Congratulations and many thanks, Dharma.

  7. Well done Dharma. This was very accessible and competent with some good surfaces and fun ideas. I don’t think there will be too much for Prolixic to correct. Other than the points mentioned above, my quibbles were with 13a where OBSESSIVE is redundant (unless we are now taking definitions from the Daily Mail rather than Chambers or Collins!), 4a is a new term for me, but I think should be (5,3), and 25a could have been better disguised, the last 4 words not really conveying much. But these are very minor and the rest was great – 7a & 11a being favourites for their lovely surfaces.

  8. Thanks to everyone who has commented so far, all very much appreciated and all feedback taken on board.
    I thought I was on safe grounds with “fashionable” (able to be fashioned) as an anagram indicator (I’m sure I’ve seen it in the Indy) but maybe not.
    I’ve had a busy morning as have been sea swimming and bought a new car so pleased I haven’t needed to defend too many clues and that I seem to have produced a few smiles!

    1. For what it’s worth Dharma, I did interpret fashionable as you suggest – but being able to be fashioned is not the same as actually being fashioned.

      22a did ring a bell but it’s a great spot (and exactly the same thing happened to me with my first RC puzzle; it was the Guardian what done me in). I was advised to do exactly as you have done and relish being in good company! 11a made me smile, 26a is very succinctly done, 1d is a bit long but conjures up a lovely surface, 6d was nicely done and, as widders has said, it’s nice to get Harry Hill so naturally into 19d.

      Many thanks. PM

  9. Welcome back, Dharma. I do have problems with some of the words you choose – 4&21d being cases in point today – but that’s doubtless an age ‘thing’! Also, I felt that a few of your clues were overly wordy – the shorter ones worked much better. Top two for me were 22a & 3d.
    Thank you for bringing us another puzzle – hope you enjoy your new car!

  10. We really enjoyed this puzzle, thank you, Dharma. Too many favourites to mention. More of these, please. Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  11. Really enjoyed this one Stephen. Reckon if you get the ‘I wish more RC puzzles were like this’ from none other than Silvanus then you’ve as good as cracked it. 4d was new to me & didn’t know Mary Jane could also be spelt with an h instead of a j. 10,22&25a my top 3 but plenty of ticks elsewhere.

  12. Many thanks Dharma, a super puzzle – found parts of it very tough indeed but most enjoyably so! A bit late to this so I think all has been said already – so thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic.

  13. I probably won’t get many more comments so I’ll take the opportunity to thank everyone who has given their time to air their views and offer advice, each post read with appreciation.
    Also thanks in advance to Prolixic, whose wise words I’m looking forward to reading.

  14. Many thanks Prolixic as ever for your review and guidance.
    Incidentally I do every bit of my blogs on a Google Pixel phone as I have an aversion to working on laptops!

  15. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thanks to Dharma Stephen and prolixic, of course. Can someone explain what the commentometer is and how it works?

    1. The commentometer is a rough guide for Rookie setters to the standard of their puzzles. Where there are comments on a clue I will add 1/2 to the commentometer reading (or 1 if there is a serious error or multiple minor comments). The overall “score” is expressed as a percentage of the total number of clues. Where the comment is one that reflects different editor’s views, I will not add to the score.

      Ideally, as Rookie setters improve the commentometer reading on their crosswords should drop. If it consistently stays low (below 4%ish), then the Rookie setter is promoted to the NTSPP slot.

      It is not an exact science but is intended to give a sense of how well the Rookie setters are doing.

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