Rookie Corner 399 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 399

A Puzzle by Conto

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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.

Conto is improving but overall I felt that in places he was pushing the envelope too far with some of the cluing in this crossword.  The commentometer reads as 5/36 or 13.9%.  If you look at the eight cardinal points of the crossword, you will see that the compass directions appear.


2 Brash modern art in Gatsby’s chattering characters (9)
POPINJAYS – A three-letter word for a type of brash modern art followed by the IN from the clue and the first name of the main character in the Great Gatsby (maintaining the s from Gatsby’s).

8 Drive with one learner then another (4)
WILL – The abbreviation for with followed by the letter represented by one and the abbreviation for learner twice.

9 Medal-wearing duck gets reeds put in mouth (4)
OBOE – The letter representing a duck or zero has a three-letter abbreviation for a medal around it (medal-wearing).

10 This loser would be a winner with a change of heart (5)
CHUMP – A five-letter word (the shortened form of champion) has the middle letter changed (with a change of heart).

11 The endless surge of infection (6)
THRUSH – The first two letters (endless) of the the from the clue followed by a four-letter word meaning to rush.  Some editors will not accept the structure of wordplay of definition.

12 My uncle belts out number and rocks the concert hall (6)
LYCEUM – An anagram (rocks) of MY UNCLE after removing (belts out) the abbreviation for number.

14 Quickly commit to eastern religion following violent play? (4,4)
RUSH INTO – A five-letter word for an eastern religion after (following) the abbreviation for Rugby Union (violent play).  I suspect followers of rugby will disagree with your description.  Physical play would work as well and cause less offence.

16 Pressure in piston? It’s usually at the front (6)
STRESS – Another word for emphasis – as the emphasis is on the frontmost syllable in piston.

18/22 Old President’s golf-club line with sports brand (7,6)
WOODROW WILSON – A four-letter word for a type of golf club followed by a three-letter word for a line and (I presume) a five-letter word for a sport’s brand.  I think that the reference to an American sporting manufacturer (now part of another group) is too obscure for most solvers.  

19 Cheer as drunk makes a complaint (7)
EARACHE – An anagram (drunk) of CHEER A A (as).  I think that “as” to represent A A is to indirect.  If you are referring to the plural of letters you would normally refer to As with the capital A.

22 See 18

25 Cha-cha? (3,5)
TEA DANCE – A weak cryptic definition.

27 Go try a 7 mixture of this cultured dish (6)
YOGURT – An anagram (mixture) of GO TRY U (the U coming from 7d).  This clue does not work.  The A in “a 7” is not part of the anagram and the answer to 7d would imply the U is removed.  

29 Former dock suppplying an area south of the Bristol Channel (6)
EXMOOR – A two-letter prefix meaning old followed by a four-letter word meaning to dock at a quayside.  The spelling of supplying needs correcting.

31 Withdraw his toys, including card game (5)
WHIST – The answer is hidden (including) in the first three words of the clue.

32 Cover raw wound gently (4)
WRAP – An anagram (wound) of RAW followed by the musical abbreviation for quietly.

33 Refusal from aggrieved Spooner, having regularly suffered loss (4)
NOPE – An anagram (aggrieved) of the PO and NE from Spooner.  Whilst regularly is used to indicate every other letter, some editors but not all will allow it to indicate every second letter, third letter etc.

34 ‘Happy Day’ is the 1st of February, i.e. the end of Eid (9)
SATISFIED -The abbreviation for Saturday (day) followed by the IS from the clue, the first letter of February, the IE from the clue and the last letter (end) of Eid.


1 Shortly to return in gusseted halter tops (4)
NIGH – A reversal (to return) of the IN from the clue followed by the first letters (tops) of gusseted halter.

2 Turner’s heavenly picture? (6)
PLOUGH – Double definition of the agricultural tool that turns the earth and a shape of a constellation.

3 Post office containing a small space for Japanese pinball (8)
PACHINKO – The abbreviation for Post Office includes the A from the clue and five-letter word for a small space.

4 Novel read aloud by 80s movie star? (7)
NEUTRON – A homophone (read aloud) of NEW (novel) followed by a four-letter name of a 1980’s American science fiction film.

5 No-one carries out fruit (6)
APPLES – Remove the letter representing one from a seven-letter word meaning carries out.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay.

6 The game in America sounds like a belter! (6)
SOCCER – A homophone (sounds like) of SOCKER (belter).

7 Nancy’s dismissal of you? (3-1)
NON-U – The French for no (dismissal) followed by how you would text the word you.  I think that you need more indication of a homophone or text speak to indicate the final letter of the solution.

11 Discard that which can be discarded (9)
THROWAWAY – Split 5,4 the solution means discard and together means that which can be discarded.  The wordplay and the solution are too closely related for my liking.

13 Masculine fragrance on T-shirt carried by the Queen’s gunman (9)
MUSKETEER – A four-letter word for a masculine fragrance followed by the abbreviation for the queen holding (carried by) a three-letter word for a T-shirt.

15 Hotel in Laos served up fish (5)
SHOAL – The abbreviation for hotel in a reversal (served up) of Laos. Rather like Fez’s last Rookie crossword, I don’t think that you can define the noun by reference to a collective noun for a group of them.

17 One’s finished porridge in Pyrex container (2-3)
EX-CON – The answer is hidden in the last two words of the clue.

20 A horse race near India that features 26 (8)
AMARETTI – The A from the clue followed by a four-letter word for a horse, the abbreviation for time trials (race) and the letter represented by India in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

21 Warehouses, including ‘Conto’s Fabrications’ (7)
STORIES – A six-letter word for warehouses includes the single letter representing the setter (Conto).

23 Confuses things on the cricket pitch (6)
STUMPS – Double definition.

24 Jerk or berk – it rhymes! (6)
NITWIT – The solution split 3,3 creates two words that rhyme.

26 Tree screening the northern edges of calm pond (6)
ALMOND – Remove the first letters (screening the northern edges) of the last two words of clue.

28 Paddles rise, moving front-to-back (4)
OARS – A four-letter word meaning rise with the first letter moved to the end.

30 O dear! O, O, I forgot something! (4)
OOPS – The two Os from the clue followed by the abbreviation for postscript.

30 comments on “Rookie Corner 399

  1. Well done, Conto, on producing another puzzle which is largely technically sound, although I’m sorry to say that I don’t think it maintained the improvement you showed with your last submission and I didn’t enjoy it as much. I also found it much tougher than your last one.

    There were two typos: a double enumeration for 11a and a triple p in 29a.

    Regarding the clues themselves my comments are minor:
    12a – I don’t think “belts out” is a valid removal indicator.
    19a – I assume you must be using “as” to indicate that the anagram fodder needs to include two “a”s, which for me is too much of a stretch.
    27a – the a is padding and should be omitted.
    2d – the second definition doesn’t work for me even with the question mark unless there happens to be a famous painting called Plough. As an aside, in keeping with his penchant for very long titles, Turner himself painted one called “Ploughing Up Turnips Near Slough (Windsor)”.
    4d – that’s a rather obscure film!
    7d – I can’t decide whether this “all-in-one” quite works even with the question mark. I’ll be interested to see what Prolixic thinks.

    My podium choice is 2a, 8a & 34a.

    Many thanks, Conto. You are only a whisker away from being a good setter if you can iron out the niggles. Many thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. I think the Plough works as a “heavenly picture” ie one of the imagined ‘pictures’ in the night sky?

      1. I rejected that idea as too abstruse, Fez. Perhaps spawning a new category of an “indirect definition”? :wink:

      2. F. I think 2d is OK too, as you describe. DDs often have one straightforward(ish) definition and another, more obscure, phrasal one.

  2. I said to Mr CS that there must be something about this crossword because, at the time of printing it off, no-one had commented. I will say that it did take a bit of perseverance to get going, the bottom half being friendlier than the majority of the clues at the top.

    I agree with RD about 19a, 27a also doesn’t seem quite right to me (you do seem to be having trouble with your ‘a’s’) and I revealed letters to get 4d so will await clarification on that one. I am grateful to Mr CS who, when I said ‘we’re supposed to know the name of Japanese pinball’, went off to consult Mrs Bradford and returned with the answer, which if you know it, makes the wordplay easy to follow/ I did like 30d which I felt went nicely at the end of the crossword

    Thanks Conto – you have some good clues in here, keeping working on the others, and take note of Prolixic’s review, for which many thanks in advance

  3. An enjoyable puzzle – thanks Conto.
    Even though I live on the edge of 29a it took me longer than it should to get it because I always think of Bristol Channel in a crossword clue as cleavage.
    I had to check the 4d movie.
    I think that 7d is excellent and that’s my favourite clue. I also ticked 2a, 34a and 17d.
    Looking forward to your next puzzle.

  4. Thanks Conto. I expect a challenge with a Conto puzzle and this didn’t disappoint – very enjoyable.

    Agree with RD re 12a, although it did make a nice surface and was understandable; sort of agree with RD too on 19a but maybe context/expectation is important here – I fully expected such trickery in a Conto puzzle, so thought it was clever, and I think would work in a Toughie but not a back-pager. In 27a though I think the “a”, whilst perhaps not strcty necessary, improves both the surface reading and the cryptic instruction (ie “go try” is indeed “a 7 mixture of this”). 7d I agree probably needs a definition adding, it doesn’t quite have sufficient for an all-in-one: “Nancy’s dismissal of you as [definition]” would have worked well I think.

    I may have parsed 9a incorrectly but think the reed should be singular? 14a I wasn’t sure about “violent play” (but again may be parsing incorrectly?) And I’m also struggling with parsing 33a – I thought I’d got it but my parsing doesn’t quite work.

    I knew 3d from an old Frank Black song (‘Calistan’ – “Went in from the weather when I got wheezy; I play some ********, I play pachisi”) so that was a favourite for me – and the film in 4d was also a familiar blast from the past, I guess I was lucky to be on same wavelength there!

    Overall I found this a lot of fun – certainly tough but rewarding! Favourites perhaps the 20/26d pair, with many other ticks too.

    Many thanks again Conto, and in advance to Prolixic.

      1. Thanks again RD! I was fixated on the ‘regular’ use of ‘regular’ (ie evey other letter), should’ve known Conto would take it that step further!

    1. F, 14a. I’m assuming (not totally sure) that “violent play” is a somewhat obscure description/synonym for RU, hence the ? I may have missed something…..

      1. Yes that was my assumption, not sure it’s quite right though …. looking forward to Prolixic’s view on a few of these!

    1. Thanks RD! I am a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to anything orchestral (amongst many other things). I’m still not sure the definition quite works, though – the thing itself is still surely referred to as a “reed” singular, if defining using the plural shouldn’t it require eg “… gets something with reeds put in mouth”?

  5. Well done, Conto – a very ingenious puzzle (I would have expected nothing less)! It was a bit too tricky for me given my limitations as a solver and lack of some requisite GK (particularly in the top half) and a few remain unparsed – but still lots to appreciate. I think it’s a judgement call as to whether the ‘tricksiness’ spills over into unfairness – will look forward to Prolixic’s assessment. For me,19a is maybe taking it too far. Favourites: 10a, 12a (I’m ok with ‘belts out’ – haven’t seen it before but I think it’s clear what’s needed), 5d (knew precisely what had to be done but struggled to think of it), 20d and 21d. And now I’ve seen Fez’s explanation of 27a, I think that’s brilliant.

  6. That was quite a struggle and we had to reveal a few letters to complete the puzzle. We ticked 11d and 30a. We shall need to see Prolixic’s review tomorrow to understand some of our answers. Thank you to Conto for the challenge and in advance to Prolixic for some explanations.

  7. Welcome back, Conto.

    I was pleased to see that you had reined back the wordiness this time and I think the surface readings were much improved as a result, save for the “medal-wearing duck” perhaps! I agree with others who found the bottom half of the puzzle friendlier than the top, but for the second week running a home-made grid containing double unches wasn’t ideal. Initially, I too was sceptical about “belt out” as a deletion indicator, but the BRB does define it as “send out vigorously”, so I suppose it passes muster. 25a may have worked better as “Cha-cha-cha?” and 19a and 7d didn’t quite work for me. I thought 11d was very weak, and “one” for I was repeated in 8a and 5d. My favourite clue was 17d.

    I felt that the niggles are becoming fewer, which is good to see, and I think if you can nail those clues that possibly edge into the too ambitious/unfair to the solver category (not always an easy task), then you can become a really good setter, as your puzzles are already pretty sound technically.

    Many thanks, Conto, I look forward to your next one.

  8. Enjoyable puzzle Conto, thanks for the challenge
    One or two small niggles which I must admit surprises me in an otherwise very good puzzle
    The grid was an odd choice but happens
    Thanks again for the entertainment, well done

  9. Like Silvanus, I was very pleased to see that you’d cut back on the verbosity, Conto, the puzzle was immensely better as a result.
    There were certainly instances where I felt you’d pushed too far against the accepted conventions, these have already been mentioned by others so we await the words of wisdom from Prolixic on that score.
    Rather liked the linked 20a & 26d.

    Thank you, Conto, please continue to keep that word count down!

  10. Thanks so much to everyone who’s taken the time to attempt the puzzle and to feedback. It is greatly appreciated and is incredibly helpful.

    Regarding the grid design, there is a reason it ended up that way, and this reason is clearly too subtle to be picked up on. I think in future I’ll go for more traditional designs!

    1. So there is. In my defence, I did the crossword, made my comment and then had to go and meet a friend for a morning in Canterbury

    2. Ah, nice :-)
      Although you could have added e.g. ROE, TAR, IDO, RIO to avoid double unches – maybe this would be too much though?

        1. I’m not keen on double-unches, but they didn’t seem to impact the solve – and you’d need one obscurity in Ido (Ibo, iso also in BRB) or clue it as “I DO” ( but I don’t think Prolixic would like that rather than “I WILL”! Personally I don’t think 36 entries, with 4 3-letter entries, would have been too much but others may well disagree. Either way, the ‘theme’ appearing both centrally and around the edges was a very clever touch :-)

  11. Thanks Conto – I got most of it, and then was stuck in the SE corner – if I’d seen your direction first I would have had help there! All now clear!

  12. Thanks for your valuable time, Prolixic – much appreciated. The only thing I’d add is to draw attention to Fez’s comment regarding 27a – thanks to Fez for seeing my intended cryptic reading of this one.

    Thanks again to everyone who provided valuable feedback. And thank for Dave for all he does too.

    1. Many thanks for review Prolixic – much appreciated as always, though I thought perhaps a little harsh in places? Conto, I agree 27a was deceptive but perfectly accurate wordplay. I also found 25a not weak but rather cha-cha-charming, and fish=shoal seems fine (to me it’s a little odd that defining a singular noun by reference to a plural of its components, “reeds”, is OK – but not a plural noun by reference to its collective name? Of course I admit to ignorance here!) And the ubiquitous Wilson brand is familiar from tennis and golf, and probably more so if you’re into US-centric sports too (also Tom Hanks’ volleyball chum in Cast Away) – well, perhaps it’s less obscure than Japanese pinball and cult 80s sci-fi anyway; I guess obscurity is a very subjective thing! Thanks again Conto, I thought it was a treat :-)

      1. Thanks Fez! I missed his description of 25a as ‘weak’. Perhaps that’s how Prolixic likes his tea! Anyway, it’s less a cryptic definition and more a sort of reverse double definition clue.

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and have to say that I thought the description of RU was remarkably accurate! I suppose it would technically be referred to as a ‘contact sport’………..

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