Rookie Corner – 310 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 310

A Puzzle by Gonzo

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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.

Tough – Yes.  Nothing wrong with that.  Wordy clues.  Each setter has his or her own style.  My only comment, as previously stated, is that more verbose clues are often more easily broken down to spot the wordplay required.  Fair – largely yes.  There were one or two areas where I thought things were being stretched a little too far.  Overall the commentometer reads as 3/30 or 10%.


7 Struggles with buckets to keep dry (7)
BATTLES – A four letter word meaning buckets used in boats with the abbreviation for teetotal (dry) inside (keeps).

8 Warily, a criminal makes tracks (7)
RAILWAY – An anagram (criminal) of A WARILY.

9 Satisfactory whisky measure (4)
WELL – The letter represented by Whisky in the NATO phonetic alphabet followed by a measure of cloth.

10 Messages sent by early text badly spelt, yet exciting to begin with (9)
TELETYPES – An anagram (badly) of SPELT YET E (first letter – to begin with – of exciting).

12 Hope to prune a tree-top (5)
SPIRE – Remove the A (to prune) from a six letter word meaning hope.

13 Premier to increase backing after success with Dutch water engine (4,4)
WIND PUMP – The abbreviation for prime minister and a two letter word meaning increase all reversed (backing) after a three letter word meaning success and the abbreviation for Dutch.

15 Course which, on the box, reportedly makes you a mind-reader (4)
PATH – An eight letter word describing a mind-reader from which you remove a homophone (reportedly) of telly (on the box).  Whilst removing a homophone of the word from the wordplay is novel, it is a good idea and clearly clued.

16 Possible requirement for scramblers in Civil Service, claims newspaper (5)
CRAGS – The abbreviation for Civil Service includes (claims) a three letter word for a lowbrow newspaper.  Whilst the wordplay is fine, I think that the definition here is too indirect.

17 Commons smear gets MP involved in exchange (4)
PARK – A four letter word for smear has the M replaced by a P (MP involved in exchange).

18 Catch over sixteen ounces is worth half a score (3-5)
TEN-POUND – A three letter word meaning catch is reversed (over) and followed by the measure of weight equal to sixteen ounces.

20 Tie given hot scrub (5)
HEATH – A four letter word for a sporting tie followed by the abbreviation for hot.

21 Spooner’s unfriendly escorts are status symbols (4,5)
GOLD CARDS – A Spoonerism of cold (unfriendly) guards (escorts).

22 Maybe jigger about US uncle when getting tense (4)
MAST – A reversal (about) of the eponymous American Uncle followed by the abbreviation for tense.  I am not sure that about as a reversal indicator works particularly well when preceding the letters to be reversed.

24 Tower‘s perfect to hold expanse of land (7)
MINARET – A four letter word meaning perfect (as in perfect condition) includes a three letter word for a measure of land.

25 Warning lights even able to attach to 22 right away (7)
BEACONS – The even letters in able followed by another word for mast (as the nut produced by a tree) without the abbreviation for right.  For regular letters, you need evenly or oddly.  Even X does not grammatically mean the even letters of X.


1 Pool‘s kinglike wingers to take on City (4)
LAKE – The outer letters (wingers) of kinglike preceded by (to take on) the abbreviation for Los Angeles (city).

2 Husband at the bottom of pitch to get sister dressing like a leggy bird? (8)
STILTISH – The abbreviation for husband after (at the bottom of) a four letter word meaning pitch (as in lean over) inside (to get … dressing) a three letter abbreviation for sister.

3 Heart lifts in desert necropolis (6)
CENTRE – The answer is hidden (in) and reversed (lifts) in the final two words of the clue.

4 A spring tide’s flow could be modified if we drop these flooded fields (8)
SALTINGS – An anagram (could be modified) of A SPRING TIDES FLOW gives the IF WE DROP and the solution.

5 Knocking up students is a mistake (4-2)
SLIP-UP – Reversed (up) a six letter word for students.

6 What’s said to be covering a snooker table’s pockets? (4)
BAYS – A homophone (what’s said) of baize (covering of a snooker table).  I am not sure that pockets and the solution are quite synonymous.

11 One employing Scots to pull down housing estate (9)
LOWLANDER – A five letter word meaning to pull down includes (housing) a four letter word for an estate.

12 Frequently sick; asleep for graduation (5)
SCALE – The odd letters (frequently) of the second and third words of the clue.

14 Romeo admitted to crush in the bog (5)
MARSH – The letter represented by Romeo in the NATO phonetic alphabet inside a four letter word meaning crush.

16 Unionist and Roman Catholic Cardinal to open clubs and High School for multiple faiths (8)
CHURCHES – The abbreviations for unionist and Roman Catholic and His Eminence (Cardinal) inside (opens up) the abbreviations for clubs and high school.

17 Quick to bind injury here on the high street (8)
PHARMACY – A four letter word meaning quick around (to bind) a four letter word for injury.

19 Bored with everything, tear up post (6)
PILLAR – A three letter word meaning everything inside (bored with) a three letter word meaning tear all reversed (up).  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators.  Up has already been used.

20 The lost losing little time stumbling into an inn (6)
HOSTEL – An anagram (stumbling) of THE LOST without the abbreviation for time.

21 Network of drainage inspectors receives grant at first when set up (4)
GRID – The initial letters (at first) of the third to sixth words of the clue all reversed (when set up).  Set up and up are too similar in terms of the repetition of wordplay indicators.

23 Polish hospital department (4)
SAND – A three letter word for a hospital followed by the abbreviation for department.

26 comments on “Rookie Corner – 310

  1. Your last Rookie puzzle marked a good improvement over your previous offerings, Gonzo. I’m sorry to say however I thought that this one was a step backwards.

    I found it very tough indeed and needed some electronic assistance to complete it. Your clues are generally rather too wordy for my taste which need not be a problem, but, in this puzzle, many of the clues were over-complicated together with some iffy surfaces and dodgy synonyms.

    I can’t quite parse 10a. All the elements are there, but it reminded me of Eric Morecambe’s comment about his piano playing ability, “I’m playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order”. Or perhaps I’m missing something?

    I have a lot of hmms and question marks on my page, but I will leave Prolixic the Herculean task of commenting on the detail. I will just say that IMO 2d is an ugly word which Google doesn’t recognise and I was rather surprised to find it in my BRB.

    Thanks, Gonzo. I hope your next puzzle gets you back on track.

      1. Thanks very much, Gazza. It looks so obvious in the cold light of day.

        10a was almost my last one in and my brain was fried by that point. I’d played around with “badly” being an anagram indicator for “spelt” and “exciting” for “yet” which left me missing an E. Then I saw “exciting to begin with” to get the E but rejected it because that left “exciting” doing double duty.


  2. As I said to Mr CS as I sat down to breakfast, ‘it’s another of those Rookie puzzles where the foreign correspondents haven’t commented so you know there’s problems ahead’

    I had to reveal letters to finish off my final three and I still don’t understand with two of them (15a and 17a) (and many other clues) how I get from the wordplay to the solution. 14 words in a clue is far too many, especially when working out the solution from the clue is as complicated as in 16d. Similarly 2d is a very wordy clue and I still can’t quite decide whether the wordplay is quite right. I actually solved 22a by solving 25a from the definition, ‘seeing’ the even letters and then looking at the rest of the solution, adding an R, and then linking it to one of the definitions of 22a. The clues that work the best are the ‘old friends’ like 5d and 17d.

    Sorry Gonzo but as our teachers used to so ‘you have done better than this’. Thank you anyway and in advance to Prolixic

    1. For 15a if you prefix your answer with Tele- you get a mind-reader. For 17a smear is ‘mark’ then exchange the M for P.

    2. I struggled with 15a and 17a too. What I finally came up with was:
      15a – a homophone of telly (box) plus the answer is telepath (mind-reader)
      17a – smear = mark and change the M to a P (MP involved in exchange)

  3. This was pretty tough and I revealed two letters to get my final answer (17a) but I did enjoy the tussle. Thanks Gonzo.
    I awarded my ticks to 12a, 11d and 17d.

  4. Thanks Gonzo, that was pretty tough. Having short-changed some of your clues previously I was determined to puzzle all these out properly, which I think I have done. 4d was last and I confess to having cheated a little on that one to get the solution. Then it took me ages to work out the clue, even after I had written all the letters out and knew what I was looking for. Result: it’s a clever clue but it’s asking a lot, perhaps too much, of the solver, and that was a feeling that recurred throughout.
    I wondered if 10a is the key to the puzzle? I have googled a few solutions but not found as much as I expected, perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree.
    I think all the clues are fair (15 possibly the least, the sounds not working for me, plus needing the sound of something that’s not there) though in a few places I think your grammar’s a bit iffy. E.g. in 2d you have ‘husband at the bottom of X’. I’d say X has to be a thing, a nounal phrase (if that’s a word), whereas you have ‘pitch to get sister dressing’, which is not. ‘.. pitch with sister dressing..’ I think would be ok. The way you’ve worded it gives H under pitch, with the sister dressing the whole.
    My favourite clue by a distance was 19d; everything means two different things, no superfluous words, good surface.

    1. There is a theme, but 10 isn’t involved. ‘Key’ is apposite though.
      The puzzles I solve have compound anagrams like 4d, so I don’t find them difficult per se.

      1. I see it now, thanks, much more obvious than what I was looking at. 13 has been a running joke in my family since we found the horsey one hilarious as kids.
        I’m sorry to have picked on 4d, as it’s a good clue that you are probably rightly pleased with. I am not particularly used to solving them (I’m getting used to Prolixic’s though), and you’re not allowed them in the Independent so I don’t write many.

        1. If you’re still following, how does one go about submitting to the Indy?
          Re 2d, how does ‘…to get [] dressing’ compare with ‘to be followed by’ in your view? I did struggle for a wording that maintained the surface.

          1. I’m not sure I understand the question. Are you asking about the effectiveness of ‘to get …dressing’ as an instruction to put something around something else?

            Indy: the way I did it was to find some contact details on their website, I think it was just customer services, and ask for the crossword editor’s email. That was refused, but they agreed to forward an email to him, so I just attached a word puzzle file to my email.

            1. Thanks :)
              I was just trying to better understand your objection to ‘A at the bottom of B to get C dressing’ so positing a comparable ‘A at the bottom of B to be followed by C’. They’re both ambiguous in the same way I think, needing virtual brackets inserting. Don’t let me take up your time unduly though :)
              Anyway, I came up with ‘…pitch to get dressed by sister…’ which is a slightly different story…

              1. Cheese after main course to be followed by dessert = main course, then cheese, then dessert
                Man carrying dog to get muddy coat = man gets his coat muddy by carrying dog
                Man carrying dog with muddy coat = man carries a muddy dog or possibly man uses muddy coat to carry dog
                I’m trying to come up with examples that make my point; you may be able to think of others that are more ambiguous.
                Brackets are a useful way of breaking things down. If you say ‘cheese after (main course to be followed by dessert)’ then of course you get main course, dessert, cheese. But, I’m not sure you’re free to choose where your brackets go if the brackets contradict a natural meaning of the words. The particular wording we choose for complicated sentences is what provides the brackets. Sometimes there is ambiguity in where the brackets are but sometimes not. You need to use wording that doesn’t take away the ambiguity.
                In ‘rider lying under horse to get broken leg’ the broken leg can only be the rider’s
                In ‘rider lying under horse with broken leg’ the broken leg could be the horse’s or the rider’s.

  5. A puzzle that’s very heavy on wordplay and consequently not too smooth – a wrestle rather than a laugh
    Well done all the same and thanks for the challenge Gonzo

  6. Welcome back, Gonzo.

    Add me to the list of those who required electronic assistance to complete the grid.

    I have to agree with some of the earlier comments that several of the clues asked too much of the solver and/or were over-complicated. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that your better clues are those like 7a, 12a and 19d which are more succinct and less ambitious. “Up” was used three times as a reversal indicator in the Down clues, something to watch out for.

    Like RD and CS, I didn’t feel that this puzzle represented a step forward from your last one, but I do hope you’ll return with something more solver-friendly before too long.

    Many thanks, Gonzo.

  7. I’ll have a go but when you see comments from Gazza & CS about how difficult the puzzle is then I don’t hold much hope out. See you on the other side if we’re spared.

    1. Me too about comments like that from Gazza and CS – back to the garden for now and will have a go later – not holding out much hope.

  8. Following on from your last couple of puzzles, I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed by this one. Having unashamedly cribbed the answers given by RD & Gazza in earlier comments, I still had to reveal several letters to fill the grid – whether that was just down to lack of ability on my part or non-solver friendly setting will doubtless be revealed by Prolixic in his review.
    Apologies, Gonzo, I had hoped that I was finding your wavelength!

  9. Thanks Gonzo. I failed with the MP exchange one. Otherwise I liked some of the well-disguised Container and Contents indications plus some heavily disguised definitions. I gave ticks to 4d, 17d and 18d. I am fairly upbeat about it all, unlike some other solvers though all the comments above re. specific clues seem fair comment!

    1. Thanks Encota – last time someone commented that I was telegraphing my definitions, so…be careful what you wish for folks :)

  10. Sorry, Gonzo, I’m with RD and CS on this, so I’ll leave further comment to Prolixic.

  11. Thanks to Big Dave for publishing and to Prolixic for the review – we agree on where I was stretching, but then I like a good stretch of a morning.
    Thanks to all commenters for playing: I did choose the harder (and more interesting imo) clues when I was presented with a choice here, and sometimes I saw no choice.
    STILTISH is a pig of a word isn’t it? But all the crossers were theme words…

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. The commentometer was obviously in a benign mood today!

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