Rookie Corner 494 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 494

A Puzzle by Wombat

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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 rather long essay by Prolixic follows:

Welcome to Wombat.  I’ll start with the good news.  There were 9 clues where I did not have a comment.  After that, I am afraid to say, it all went downhill.  I would strongly recommend getting hold of a book such as Don Manley’s “Chambers Crossword Manual” to get a sense of the basic rules of creating a crossword.  Too many of the clues broke the rules to make solving the crossword either fair or enjoyable for the solver.  The commentometer has been working overtime and reads as 14.5/28 or 51.9%.


8a  Tell the French a puzzle (6)
WORDLE: A four-letter word meaning tell followed by the French masculine singular for the.  I am not convinced that the word required in solution, which is a noun, is the same as tell, a verb or an involuntary tic.

9a  Unlawful destruction of tailless fungi which are found in half a lowrider all broken. (8)
WRONGFUL: An anagram (destruction of) FUNGI without the final letter (tailless) inside (found in) an anagram (all broken) of the first half of LOWRIDER.  You need consider not only the grammatical reading of the clue in its own right but the grammatical instructions for the cryptic instructions.  Here cryptically the instructions resolve to “An anagram of A which are in an anagram B”.  Also, whilst I am tolerant of poor surface readings in crosswords created by Rookies (smoothness comes with practice), the clue must make some sort of sense.  Here it fails that test.

10a  Gun loaded with substance (HRT) (somewhat ineptly) for congregation. (8)
BRETHREN: A four-letter word for a gun includes (loaded with) an anagram (ineptly) of four of the letters (somewhat) of SUBSTANCE HRT.  In terms of selecting the letters to be made into an anagram , somewhat is too vague.  You should omit full stops at the end of the clues.

11a  Criminal trial about drug sales (6)
RETAIL: An anagram (criminal) of TRIAL around the abbreviation of ecstasy.

12a  A father goes with your disinterest (6)
APATHY: The A from the clue followed by a two-letter word for father and the old English way of saying your.

13a  Church company are caught by arm of critter catcher. (4,4)
LICE COMB: The abbreviations for Church of England and Company inside (caught by) a four-letter word for an appendage such as an arm.  Another clue where the cryptic reading does not work grammatically as it resolves to A are caught by B.  Some editors will not allow clues where the structure is wordplay of definition where of is the link word between the two.

15a  To cover an area with lots of food with no space left (7)
ASPREAD: The abbreviation for area with a six-letter word for lots of food.  I am not sure where the “with no space left” come in to the wordplay.  I did consider whether this was the definition but that would leave the “to cover” as not contributing to the wordplay.

17a  Baby Matrix Character born by junction in hospital department (7)
NEONATE: The three-letter name of a character in the film Matrix followed by an abbreviation for born and a type of road junction inside the name of a hospital department.  I cannot find any authority for N being used as an abbreviation for born.  The closest would be the abbreviation for new but you cannot ask the solver to get from born to new to N.

20a  I know there are two sides to this but, Di, he drones endlessly! (8)
DIHEDRON: The answer is hidden in the clue from the Di to part with through the drones.  There is no hidden word indicator in the clue and you cannot use endlessly to signify an arbitrary number of letters to be removed.  Endlessly means remove the last letter.  The I know should have been omitted as the words are padding and mean that the rule that the definition comes at the start or end of the clue is broken,

22a  Removes fruit (6)
PRUNES: Double definition.

23a  I attempt to drug master employed by academics (6)
IBIDEM: The I from the clue followed by a three-letter word meaning an attempt, the abbreviation for Ecstasy drug and the abbreviation for master.  Do not repeat wordplay indicators.  E for Ecstasy was used in 11a.  The definition in this clue is too imprecise to define the solution.

25a  Correct exam about famous writer’s match (4,4)
MARK TEST: The first name of Mr Twain (famous writer) followed by a four-letter word for a type of sporting match.  Solutions in the crossword should be words or phrases appearing in the dictionary or proper nouns.  A solution of the type required should not be used.  I don’t think that the about works in the clue as a link word cryptically, the clue resolve to definition about wordplay.

26a  Reduce Konyot troupe, oddly, by tying two parts together (4,4)
REEF KNOT: A four-letter nautical term meaning to reduce followed by some of the odd letters I the second and third words of the clue.  When using the odd letters of two words, you must use all of the odd letters, not some of them.  The definition, a verbal phrase, does not match the solution, a noun.

27a  Ones from Liverpool reject the home counties’ searches (6)
SCOURS: An eight-letter word for people from Liverpool without the abbreviation for south-east (home counties).


1d  Can be used to form 26 and, for women, to contrive prose (3,5)
TOW ROPES: A two-letter word meaning for followed by the abbreviation for women and an anagram (to contrive) of PROSE.

2d  One and two do this and, oddly enough, do the trade (3,2,5)
ADD TO THREE: An anagram (oddly enough) of DO THE TRADE.   Another solution that is not a phrase listed in the dictionary.

3d  Listener bound by strand of yarn describes gates (6)
PEARLY: The organ of hearing inside (bound by) a three-letter word for a strand of yarn.

4d  Thief’s first to find glint (7)
TWINKLE: The initial letter (first) of thief followed by a six-letter word meaning to find.  The word meaning to find is only used in this sense with “out”.

5d  Our farce played in a somewhat smaller wood than Winnie the Pooh’s (4,4)
FOUR ACRE: An anagram (played) of OUR FARCE.  Another clue where the solution is not a recognised phrase in the dictionary.

6d  Member will rise with grace at first of four awards. (4)
EGOT: A member of the body on end of the foot is reversed (will rise) and includes (with) the first letter of grace. With on its own is not a correct form of insertion indicator.

7d  Broken sub consumed by the sea, allegedly and I’m following in Picasso’s footsteps. (6)
CUBISM: An anagram (broken) of SUB inside (consumed by) a letter that is a homophone (allegedly) of sea the I from the clue and finally the M from I’m.  This clue does not work.  The anagram is not wholly inside the C and I.  Also, you cannot use I’m to split into separate parts of the solution without some indication that a split is required.

14d  Heat can pass by this criminal conduit in trouble (10)
CONDUCTION: A three-letter word for a criminal followed by an anagram (in trouble) of CONDUIT.

16d  Bad feeling created by a miscreant impounded in prison yesterday. (8)
ACRIMONY: The A from the clue followed by a four-letter abbreviation for a miscreant inside (impounded) in some of the letters of the final two words of the clue.  There is no indication that the insertion is in some of the letters of the final two word of the clue.

18d  X marks the spot, love (8)
TREASURE: Double definition.  This first part is not the solution but an indication of where it may be found.

19d  To enliven a musical I heard, was joined by friend (7)
ANIMATE: A homophone (I heard) of ANNIE (musical) followed (joined) by a four-letter word for a friend.

21d  It’s allegedly common in Norfolk to be a baker, I’ve heard. (6)
INBRED: A homophone (I’ve heard) of IN BREAD (to be a baker).  To match the definition, the solution would need to be inbreeding.  Avoid repeating homophone indicators (heard was used in the previous clue!).  If the solution refers to the people of the county of Norfolk, it may be considered by some to be pejorative.

22d  Sure to be uplifted in lesson review (6)
PERUSE: Reverse (to be uplifted) inside a two-letter word for a games lesson.

24d  Deceased character featured. That’s nonchalant! (4)
DEFT: The abbreviation for deceased followed by the letter E (character) and the abbreviation for featured.  I cannot find a reference in the main dictionaries for the abbreviation for featured.  Also to define a letter as simply “character” is too imprecise.

22 comments on “Rookie Corner 494
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  1. Welcome to Rookie Corner Wombat and thanks for your puzzle which I found a bit of a head scratcher and some e-searching and revealing was required.

    A few, fairly general comments:

    I am not certain that the first part of 8a equates to tell or that 10a equates accurately to congregation.

    The BRB indicates that 15a is an adverb but you appear to using it as a verb but my bare pass in English O-Level may not be helping me.

    Endlessly, in 20a, would normally indicate last letter deletion not last two letters.

    ‘grace at first’ in 6d probably needs an insertion or containment indicator. ‘With’ probably does not achieve that.

    As a former resident of Norfolk, I would be interested to know the basis of your allegation!

    I had smiles for 13a, 27a, 4d, and 19d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

      1. While I vaguely recall doing reasonably well in Geography O-Level, the only other Norfolk I know of is in Virginia, USA. So, not a good clue as far as I am concerned.

  2. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Wombat. I am afraid that I found much of this quite a struggle, and I have scribbles with comments and questions written by over half of the clues. I did however eventually manage to complete it and parse everything except 16d.

    Some general considerations are that there are unnecessary words in several clues; three multiple word answers are not real phrases; some of your surface readings, particularly those for your longer clues, make no sense; and there are two unindicated Americanisms included.

    I think Prolixic will kept busy with his review, so I won’t go through all my detailed comments line by line. Senf has already covered several of my points, so I will only add a handful more:
    – I can’t see any definition for 23a nor for 26a, and for the latter clue you can’t use “oddly” to apply to only part of a word.
    – 21a points to a noun but the answer is an adjective.
    – In 24d, I think “ft” means “featuring” not “featured”,

    I liked your shorter clues better than your longer ones and 22a was my favourite.

    All credit to you for compiling a cryptic puzzle, Wombat, something I could never do. Well done and thank you. You clearly have a grasp of many of the basics. Please build on this by paying heed to Prolixic’s wise words and the various comments here from the blog contributors, and come back to us with another puzzle soon,

  3. Quite a shock to see so few comments to date, but I can understand why.

    Welcome to Rookie Corner, Wombat. I hope that you are no relation to the intensely annoying creature that now dominates the “Compare The Market” TV ads.

    I soon realised that, when the clueing is as loose as it is in today’s puzzle, the solving process becomes something of a slog, and a very unenjoyable one at that. When usual rules and conventions are not followed, one has to keep thinking “did the setter mean this?” and I found myself asking this question numerous times.

    I’m a little concerned that Prolixic’s commentometer might blow a fuse with the additional demands this puzzle has placed on it, but I hope that good lessons will be learnt for next time. Amongst the more obvious faux pas, it was never a good idea to have two successive homophones in the Down clues, and then use the same indicator each time. I did tick 11a, it was definitely your best clue in my opinion. I have written NBNQ (nearly, but not quite) against a few others, but the majority of the clues have an X against them. I was initially wondering if I should check whether fungi can actually have tails, but my curiosity soon dissipated.

    Not the best of starts, Wombat, but the plus side is that things can only improve, as I’m sure your next one will demonstrate. Thank you for the puzzle.

    1. S. I concur with your comments and I would say that 9a is somewhat lumbering, awkward and wordy. But, to be fair to the setter, the clue does work in essence and contains a simple anagram (destruction) of (the word) FUNGI without it’s final letter (tailless). I suspect you were just being tongue-in-cheek re this.

  4. Welcome to the Corner, Wombat, but I’m sorry to report that I didn’t get very far at all with solving your puzzle. Think I solved a scant few before resorting to the ‘reveal’ option in order to find out what your intentions had been and, even after doing that, I couldn’t discern your logic in many instances. I think you still have a great deal to learn about the process of compiling but applaud you for sticking your head above the parapet.

  5. Hi Everyone

    Thank you for welcoming me to Rookie Corner. I found it rather daunting sending in a puzzle so thank you for the welcomes and encouragement.

    I’m sorry that it hasn’t been a fun one to solve but I really appreciate everyone who has commented making the effort to plough through and then give me feedback. I hope you all enjoyed at least a few clues to help you all through.
    It has been a little disheartening reading the comments but it’s only the first puzzle I have submitted to such a rigourous group of solvers so I suppose it’s what I should have expected.
    I hope Proxilic doesn’t have too hard a time going through it and that the commentometer survives the onslaught!

    I have found your comments really helpful and I will go through my puzzle with a fine tooth comb to learn all I can from them.

    Finally, I apologise to all current and past residents of the estimable county of Norfolk. I put the clue passed a few friends from Norfolk who were fine with it and I definitely intended the inclusion of ‘allegedly’ to imply that it is little more than a scurrilous rumour. Nonetheless, I hope no offence was caused!

    Thank you all and in advance to Proxilic for his review! I hope my next attempt will be a more enjoyable solve :)

  6. I guess this is a debut puzzle. I’ll leave detailed comment to Prolixic but I found it a mixture of some very good ideas, some clues/answers that don’t work and a few impenetrable clues. Anyway, I liked 10ac, 20ac, and 27ac (although those clues could do with a little polishing) as well as 3dn, 4dn, 14dn, 19dn and 22dn. But those that didn’t work for me were 13ac, 25ac, 2dn and 5dn.
    But if you take note of Prolixic’s comments I’m sure your next puzle will be something to look forward to.

  7. Well done Wombat for having a go at compiling. Please don’t be discouraged by the responses to this your first effort. Many would be compilers have had a somewhat chastening experience with their first submission here. I certainly rank amongst them! I thought you did produce a number of clues that worked well 11, 22 and 27a and 22d stood out. As a Rookie it’s a privilege to find there are so many expert reviewers on this blog who are happy to provide advice.
    I certainly discovered that it is vital to observe the rules that compilers need to follow to reach moderate proficiency. Achieving the balance of accurate cluing with smooth surfaces that are fair and accessible to solvers is certainly a challenge and only comes with practice. I thoroughly recommend reading and taking to heart Prolixic’s own guide to compiling which you can access on this site. There are of course many other useful guides one can find on-line.

    I look forward to seeing your next one.

  8. Hi Wombat – firstly, thank you for the challenge, and well done for putting your head above the parapet: I’m always full of admiration for anyone who can put a full grid together and is willing to push it forward for criticism and comment. Don’t be disheartened, but take on the advice and bounce back with your next one.

    There was much to enjoy in the grid, and for a first effort, some good ideas and fresh references. Top three clues for me were 11a, 3d and 22d. I look forward to your next puzzle!

    Thank you again, and thanks also to Prolixic.

  9. Thank you Prolixic and those who have had a good a go today.

    I have certainly learned a lot from your helpful and detailed review. Don Manley’s guide is on its way and I’ve started looking through Prolixic’s guide as well. Key lessons for me have been making sure to use valid phrases from the dictionary, not repeating wordplay, checking both readings of a clue and ensuring that the wordplay is clear as on a few occaisions I failed to communicate the reading of the clue I intended. I will also from now on omit full stops (thank you Prolixic).

    I have one question about 8ac. I was thinking of the meaning of the word tell as in ‘heard tell of something’. I thought it could mean word as one can also say ‘I heard word of something’. Is this legitimate or too tangential/ old fashioned?

    Thanks again for the encouragement not to give up and to come back and for all of your advice as well as your positive comments for the clues you liked :) I will come back with another puzzle after digesting your comments and doing some more reading.

    1. What a lovely positive response Wombat! All the very best for your next puzzles. I did solve a few clues but simply could not get onto the right wavelength. I very much hope that this will not be the case with your future submissions and I look forward to them. Well done for all your effort.

    2. One other question if anyone is happy to answer. I used a lot of phrases in this puzzle which are not valid in crosswords. Are terms such as the plant kingdom or animal kingdom acceptable as they are scientific terms? Similarly are historical events acceptable say The Harrying of the North?

      1. Hi Wombat. Catnap’s comment also applied to me!

        With regards to your question, although you can use things like scientific or biology terms, be very very careful they are not too obscure. For example, if the only words that will fit in the final grid spaces are ‘protactinium’ or ‘borborygmus’, you probably want to have a fresh look at the grid! In general terms, if you have a good clue you want to use then the more obscure the answer, the fairer the clue needs to be. By fairer, I mean either easier or with straightforward wordplay that clearly leads to one correct answer. Prolixic has said before he’s not keen on anagrams for obscure words.

        I think I see where you are going with ‘The harrying of the north’ 🤣🤣 The term has probably been superceded by ‘the Meghaning of the South’ 🤣 In short, I’m not sure about such phrases but you’ll gradually get a feel for what will get you grumbled at. Others will be better placed to answer.

      2. Some setters are rather more likely to employ phrases than others, and to get a feel of what may be considered acceptable it’s probably worth looking back over a fair number of Elgar Toughies – pretty much alternate Fridays, and the search function on this site is excellent.

        If you don’t want to tackle the puzzles, look at Dutch’s reviews and reveal the answers to the phrases – it’s obvious which clues these are. And since Elgar has an impeccable pedigree as a setter, I think it’s fair to say that if something’s ok in one of his grids, it will be ok anywhere!

        1. Thank you both!

          I’ll have a look at some Elgar toughies and thank you AgentB that’s very good advice. In fact I just read it in Prolixic’s guide to setting! :)

          1. And another phrase in today’s backpager, Wombat. Indeed it’s probably worth just going back through backpagers & toughies for several months, just to get a feel for what is acceptable.

  10. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and well done Wombat for taking all the criticism so well. I hope you return with a puzzle that demonstrates how capable you can be.

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