Rookie Corner 386 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 386

A Puzzle by Twmbarlwm

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today’s new setter uses the name of a Welsh hill as his alias. 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.

Twmbarlwm makes a highly impressive debut.  There are only a few minor comments with the commentometer reading .15 / 32 or 4.9%.


1 Reserve team where you’ll see a forward dive? (8)
POOLSIDE – A four-letter word for a reserve or kitty followed by a four-letter word for a team.

5 Close to farm, put out trough (6)
MANGER – The last letter (close to) of farm followed by a five-letter word meaning to put out or annoy.

9 I’ll show you where you are in Reading (8)
BOOKMARK – A cryptic definition of something a reader uses to mark the place they have read to.

10 Indicate case of Garnacha for wine store (6)
BODEGA – A four-letter word meaning to indicate or foretell followed by the outer letters (case) of Garnacha.

12 Issue with rent upfront: leaks (4,2)
LETS ON – A three-letter word for a child or issue preceded by (upfront) a three-letter word meaning to rent.

13 In a line behind smoker… great! (8)
LUMINARY – The IN A from the clue and the abbreviation for railway (line) after (behind) a three-letter word for a chimney (smoker).

15 Steal away and leave the ground (4,3)
LIFT OFF – A four-letter word meaning steal followed by a three-letter word meaning away.  Unfortunately, the clue could also give take off as a valid solution.

16 Food shop‘s batch not perfect (4)
DELI – An eight-letter word for a batch or consignment of goods without a four-letter word meaning perfect.

20 No oil painting of fruit picked up (4)
UGLY – A homophone (picked up) of UGLI (fruit).

21 Vehicle overturning is rubbish wagon (7)
TRACTOR – A reversal (overturning) of  three-letter word for rubbish and a four-letter word for a wagon.  I think that the “is” does not work in the clue.  It is not part of the wordplay and does work as “is rubbish”.  Vehicle overturned rubbish wagon would have worked equally well.

25 What digger did to tie the knot on donkey (8)
BURROWED – A three-letter word meaning to tie the knot or marry after (on). five-letter word for a donkey.

26 Failing to start, as it were, old record player (6)
STEREO – The fourth to sixth words of the clue without the initial letters (failing to start) followed by the abbreviation for old.

28 Hang about – new toilet not quite right (6)
LOITER – An anagram (new) of TOILET without the final letter (not quite) followed by the abbreviation for right.

29 Old woman now far off in old ship (3-2-3)
MAN-OF-WAR – A two-letter word for a mother followed by an anagram (off) of NOW FAR.

30 Common cleaner in Wellington, perhaps (6)
WOMBLE – Cryptic definition of the furry creatures who cleaned Wimbledon Common, one of whose number was called Wellington.

31 Guide to the Cotswolds? (8)
SHEPHERD – Cryptic definition of a person who looks after animals such as Cotswolds.


1 Go out in suit, having lost a stone (6)
PEBBLE – A three-letter word meaning to go out or recede in a four-letter word for a suit without the letter A.

2 Presumably telling the truth about obscenity (2,4)
ON OATH – A two-letter word meaning about followed by a four-letter word for an obscenity.

3 In panic I lob my shot the wrong way – typical! (8)
SYMBOLIC – The answer is hidden (in) and reversed (the wrong way) in the second to sixth words of the clue.

4 Ruddy patch (4)
DARN – Double definition of ruddy as a swear word and patch as in to mend a sock.

6 Fellow housed by wonderful son: youth certainly not 20 (6)
ADONIS – A three-letter word for.a university fellow inside (housed by) a two-letter word meaning excellent all followed by the abbreviation for son.

7 They go off elevated chair and work unit (8)
GRENADES – A reversal (elevated) of a five-letter word for a chair and a three-letter word used to describe a unit of work.

8 Awfully dry exam about one type of concrete (5-3)
READY-MIX – An anagram (awfully) of DRY EXAM around the letter representing one.

11 Fiancé regularly wearing fine top (7)
SURFACE – The odd letters (regularly) of fiancé have a four letter word meaning fine around them (wearing).

14 Promising actress Wilder rattles (7)
STARLET An anagram (wilder) of RATTLES.  I am happy with wilder as an anagram indicator.

17 Flounce in expensive coat downstairs? (8)
FURBELOW – A three-letter word for an expensive coat followed by a five-letter word meaning downstairs.

18 Muralist working for charity (8)
ALTRUISM – An anagram (working) of MURALIST.

19 Flatter area in marshy, very quiet setting (4-4)
SOFT SOAP – The abbreviation for area inside a four-letter word meaning marshy, a two-letter word meaning very and the abbreviation for quiet.

22 Leave cold American lake in the north (6)
BOREAL – A four-letter word meaning leave cold followed by the single letter abbreviation for American and the abbreviation for lake.

23 Glance at wife trapped by dreadful bores (6)
BROWSE – The abbreviation for wife inside (trapped by) an anagram (dreadful) of BORES.

24 Note a scarlet rose … (6)
SOARED – A two-letter musical note followed by the A from clue and a three-letter word meaning red.  Unfortunately, reared would also be a valid solution.  I don’t think you can justify having two separate solutions and rely on the cross-checking letters.  Each clue should lead to a unique solution without dependence on cross-checking letters.

27 … about to appear on top of tree – ready? (4)
CASH – The single letter abbreviation meaning about followed by a three-letter word for a type of tree.

42 comments on “Rookie Corner 386

  1. Lots to like but our stand-out favourite has to be 30a. We both laughed out loud when we got that.
    A thoroughly enjoyable solve with a good level of difficulty.
    Thanks Twmbarlwm.

    1. Thank you, both.
      Re 30a, I remember you were there recently so it’s nice to hear that one raised a smile. I hope the restrictions can be eased soon.

  2. A pleasant end to my Sunday evening solving but a few Hmms towards the end that needed some Reveals for confirmation. And, I did have to seek an electronic reminder of the Wellington connection in 30a – it’s a very long time since I have had any ‘connection’ with those residents of SW19.

    I did like 15a, 2a. and 7d.

    Thanks Twmbarlwm, a good first effort. Take note of the expert’s comments and I am sure any future puzzles will be even more enjoyable.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Senf. I was trying to keep the puzzle moderately easy for the most part, with clues that weren’t too convoluted. Judging the level of difficulty obviously takes practice.

  3. Congratulations on your Rookie Corner debut Twmbarlwm. I was very impressed by the surfaces in this puzzle; generally concise and meaningful with nicely disguised definitions. As a mediocre solver, I found this very tricky and needed quite a few reveals, but you will get a better sense of difficulty from the comments of other far superior solvers. As you have commented, judging the difficulty of you own puzzle is very hard to do. I would strongly recommend that you find a test solver to help you with this. I almost always underestimate the difficulty of my own efforts. A small point but I think there are valid alternatives for 15A and 24D – something to watch out for. Well done and thanks.

  4. Welcome to Rookie Corner Twmbarlwm.

    A very impressive crossword indeed which I didn’t find difficult – solved over breakfast and finished at the same time as my cereal but with tea left in the cup. As Senf says, I had a valid alternative for 15a until 3d and 14d wouldn’t work. Your ‘reversal indicating’ in 21a isn’t quite right as you need to show that both the vehicle and the rubbish are reversed.

    Thanks very much – hope to see more of your crosswords in the future – and, in advance, to Prolixic

  5. A very impressive debut, although I venture to suggest that this isn’t your first crossword – thanks Twmbarlwm.
    I liked 13a, 15a and 3d but my LOL favourite was 30a.
    I think that you’ve got the difficulty level just right and more like this would be very welcome.

  6. Hi Twmbarlwm, this is a very accomplished effort overall. There may been a few minor issues as others have indicated but overall the surfaces a great, the clues succinct and the syntax tight. It has the feel of a puzzle complied by an experienced and confident setter, though, while you may feel it is at the easy end of the scale, I think the consensus will mark it as moderately tricky. It may be your first Rookie Corner, but I’d be surprised if it is your first effort. Very well done!

  7. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Twmbarlwm. This was an accomplished debut which I found quite tricky in parts but fun to solve. Most of your surfaces made for sensible reading which is nice to see, although 7d was a bit suspect in this respect.

    I entered “reared” initially for 24d which, without the checkers, seems to me to be a valid answer. My only other minor comment is that I don’t think 21a quite works. “Vehicle is overturning rubbish wagon” would be fine but that would make the surface iffy. Finally a question, is “Wilder” a valid anagram indicator in 14d?

    Well done and many thanks, Twmbarlwm. Please keep them coming. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic

  8. Thanks Twmbarlwm, very enjoyable with some excellent (and concise) surfaces. I didn’t find it too difficult but there were a few headscratchers – a good balance, I thought.

    A few minor quibbles/questions:
    21a I’m not sure the “is” works (will see what Prolixic says – thanks in advance) but a dash or colon instead would have worked.
    30a is really a cryptic rather than double definition, I think, so the link word “in” seems out of place to me.
    1d I may well be wrong but the synonym for suit might need either a Scots or ‘archaic’ indicator? (so eg “old suit”)
    16a I’m not sure I’ve parsed correctly … in my interpretation the synonym for “perfect” seems a bit of a stretch, though I suspect this may be me being dim.

    My favourites amongst many good clues included 13a, 4d, 19d and 22d, with 28a taking top spot

    Thanks again, look forward to more Twmbarlwms!

  9. Welcome from me too.

    One of the best debut puzzles this year, in my opinion. I was very impressed by the overall standard, the range of clue types, lack of obscurities and the generally smooth 11 downs. I totally agree with Gazza that the level of difficulty was exactly right, too many Rookie setters often make the mistake of making their clues too convoluted. 21a could have been tweaked to read “Vehicle, rubbish wagon, overturned” or something similar. Like RD, I also entered “reared” originally for 24d. My podium consisted of 20a, 30a and 18d, but I ticked several other clues.

    Tremendous stuff, Twmbarlwm, I’m glad that I don’t have to pronounce your name! Congratulations and many thanks, I look forward to your next puzzle very much.

  10. Very good. I enjoyed this throughout. The experts will have their say but they will need very fine tooth combs to tease out the weaknesses. I look forward to reading Prolixic’s comments and to your next puzzle. Thanks to all

  11. Thanks Twmbarlwm. My experience was similar to others in that to me this felt very assured. I wonder whether the style is similar to the Telegraph’s, which may explain why some solvers clicked with it more readily than others – just a thought – personally I’m not especially familiar with the Telegraph style so cannot state this theory with much conviction. The two clues that took me the longest were 26a and 19d – both of these got ticks. Ticks also for 9a, 31a and 23d. The smoker and the work unit were unfamiliar to me. I can’t parse 16a. No quibbles though. Well done!

  12. This would have graced any Tuesday or Wednesday Toughie spot I thought, with a nice mix of clues and some very clever misdirection. I did find it tricky overall and needed a letter reveal or two.
    Unfortunately I’ve inadvertently wiped the puzzle but I remember liking 9,13,25&20a/6d plus 3d (great surface)4d&4d with top spot going to the excellent 30a.
    Many thanks Twmbarlwm, good stuff.

  13. I fell into the REARED trap as well, making 26a difficult to solve. I didn’t mind Wilder as the anagrind – I suppose it was to misdirect towards Gene (I had initially thought that INGENUE would work). I never know what the capitalization rules are these days in modern cryptics.

    I thought this was moderately challenging.


    1. I immediately thought of Billy Wilder rather than Gene Wilder, but I suppose both would fit the bill for the misdirection.

    2. I believe it is accepted as fair game to use capitals as misdirection but not to use lower case as misdirection if capitals are really necessary. In the case of Wilder, I have no problem with the capital; I’m not entirely sure about the word itself as an anagrind, though. Either wild or wildly would of course be fine.

  14. Welcome to the Corner, Twmbarlwm, with what struck me as a very confident puzzle – I’m guessing that this isn’t your first foray into the dark art of setting?
    Thought you used a couple of ‘stretchy’ synonyms and as others have commented, 21a doesn’t quite work in its present form, but I doubt that Prolixic will have many nits to pick.
    Top two for me were 13a & 18d.
    Thank you, I shall look forward to seeing your next compilation.

  15. Thank you to everyone who has commented so far. Like a lot of people here I’ve been practising clue-writing for fun and entering clue-writing competitions for a while, but decided to try setting puzzles after buying Crossword Compiler last year.
    This is the first puzzle I’ve submitted for publication and was, I think, the fourth one I set.

    Coot @3: I don’t have anyone who can test-solve for me, which is why I thought feedback from the BD community would be helpful.

    Conto @11: You’re right, I did hone this one with the Telegraph in mind as BD is a Telegraph blog.

    I was aware of the other possibility at 24d, although it wasn’t a deliberate trap, which is why I tried to make the crossing 26a relatively straightforward with a plain non-deceptive definition. As long as an alternative can’t fit the finished grid I think it’s all part of tussling with the puzzle even if it’s not ideal to some.

    21a seems to have raised the most questions. I agree the reversal could have been tweaked, but I think ‘is’ is okay if you treat {rubbish wagon} as one component phrase of the clue. Obviously the crossword editor / Prolixic would have the last word on that! (A rubbish wagon is a vehicle used on quarry railways.)

    Fez @8: Re 1d Collins and Lexico have that synonym for suit without any caveat (despite Chambers) so I thought it would be okay.

    At 14d Wilder was meant to invoke the director Billy rather than Gene. I haven’t seen it used before as an anagram indicator, but I think it conveys a sense of movement and a different arrangement of the letters, along the lines of amok and anarchic (and bewildered!).

    Thank you again to everyone who tried the puzzle and for your generous and helpful comments so far.

    1. Hopefully our test solvers will be offering their assistance. They will see things that you cannot because you are too close to the source material

      1. Thank you, Miffypops. I know it’s easy for a novice setter to fall in love with a clue when he or she has spent a long time on it. Always good to have another perspective.

  16. Welcome Twmbarlwm and thank you for an enjoyable puzzle.
    Yes, as Coot observes, 24d has another solution which fits the wordplay (and which I’d confidently written in before the solution to 26a showed me that it couldn’t be correct).
    But there were some lovely ones here; and I think the ones which yielded on a second or third visit were the most enjoyable. 10a, 13a and 22d were favourites for me.
    What I found most impressive (and I say this slightly ruefully having myself been gently told off for nonsensical surfaces) was that almost without exception your surfaces were very good. I think that you succeeded pretty well in your aim of “not too convoluted” (but just convoluted enough).

    1. Thank you, Gollum. I think sometimes convoluted can be fine if there’s an amusing story in the surface reading. I reluctantly changed what I thought was a funny clue at 12a because it was too long and complicated, and I didn’t want to risk it for my first Rookie. I’ve still kept it for possible future use though.

  17. Fully agree with Silvanus that this was one of the best & for me perhaps the best debut in the Corner this year. Also concur with Stephen’s comment that it could easily have graced a Toughie slot. I certainly found it pretty tough & had I not enjoyed it so much would ordinarily have used a letter reveal or two but am glad I knuckled down & finished at the 3rd go. Both the chimney & 17d were new to me & required confirmation & as usual there are a couple where I’m uncertain I’ve parsed them correctly. Nobody else has commented so assume I’m missing something but wouldn’t It’ll read better than I’ll at 9a.
    Top clue for me was the wonderful 30a but ticks also for 5,25,28&30a along with 2,3,14&18d. With 14d I certainly thought Billy & the hard time he gave Marilyn on Some Like it Hot – am sure she was more than a little rattled by take 40 & counting at her inability to get “It’s me, Sugar” correct. Worth it mind – one of the all time greats.
    Thanks Twmbarlwm – am trusting the hill is easier to climb than to pronounce..

    1. Cheers!
      With 9a I did consider ‘It’ll’ or ‘This will’ and similar, but I decided that pointed too easily to an object.
      By using the I will/I’ll device, there’s at least a misdirection to it possibly being a person as the answer. It’s a similar device to the riddles where an object is speaking to you: “My first is in lemon, but not in orange…”
      As for the hill: Toom-barloom – with the double-o sounds similar to the standard pronunciation of took and look.

      1. Yes, I agree about your own take on 9a. I read it as “I (the answer) will show you…”

    2. I really enjoyed this.
      Needed a little help.
      Liked the wordplay.
      Am not clever enough to criticise – I managed 21 without a raised eyebrow.
      I look forward to your next one.

  18. I enjoyed this and it nicely made up for the lack of a toughie on Mondays (it would fit such a slot very nicely). 30a is my favourite, bit of a head scratch followed by a big smile. Thanks to Twmbarlwm for a very entertaining bank holiday diversion.

  19. A classy puzzle – thank you! I particularly liked your deceptive use of some words – clues 19 and 30 as a couple of examples.

  20. Thank you Prolixic for your thorough review and assessment. I appreciate the time and effort you devote to new setters.

    I must admit that, having seen it happen occasionally in professional puzzles, I thought it was allowable to have a possible alternative solution, as long as crosser(s) made it eventually clear which solution was the right one. I’ll definitely watch out for that in future.

    I’m glad that you and others found a fair bit to enjoy in the puzzle – the feedback from experienced solvers and setters here has been very helpful and encouraging. Thanks to all.

  21. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, doesn’t look as though Twmbarlwm has many lessons to learn, he must be delighted to have earned your approval.

  22. I don’t think that I have ever seen less italics in Prolixic’s reviews. That says such a lot in favour of this puzzle.

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