Rookie Corner 449 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 449

A Puzzle by Widdersbel

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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.

Rookie crosswords on which there is little or nothing to comment on are as rare as hen’s teeth.  Widdersbel has produced a masterpiece where the only comment is so minor that I have to award that rarest of accolades, a commentometer reading of 0% and a promotion to the NTSPP slot.

The grid was not the friendliest of grids for the solver.  Having a number of solutions with the initial letter unchecked is not a problem.  However, in this grid, 12 of the solutions without an initial cross-checked letter also had less than 50% of the letters cross-checked.  Some editors may not allow such a large number of solutions of this type.


7a  Dye from black rock covering ravine (9)
COCHINEAL: A four-letter word for a black sedimentary form of rock (used as a fuel) around a five-letter word for a ravine.

8a  Italian village’s housing block (5)
ANVIL: The answer is hidden (housing) in the first two words of the clue.

9a  Work after hours weaving thing with loom (9)
MOONLIGHT: An anagram (weaving) of THING LOOM.

10a  Scottish minister’s residence cut domestic help by 50% (5)
MANSE: A ten-letter word for a domestic help with the last five letters removed (cut…by 50%).

12a  Tried hard to lose weight at your desk? (6)
SEATED: A seven-letter word meaning tried hard without (to lose) the abbreviation for weight.

13a  Alert: head of robbers captured and handed to police (6,2)
TURNED IN: A phrase (5,2) meaning alert includes (captured) the first letter (head) of robbers.

14a  Label bridge player leading heart (7)
STICKER: The abbreviation for one of the players in a game of bridge before (leading) a six-letter word for the heart.

17a  Husband fills ditch to get across (7)
THROUGH: The abbreviation for husband inside (fills) a six-letter word for a ditch.

20a  Care for wounded tree by grave (5,3)
FIRST AID: A three-letter word for a type of tree followed by a five-letter word meaning grave.

22a  Lean towards pressure point (6)
PREFER: The abbreviation for pressure followed by a five-letter word meaning point or indicate.

24a  Carriage full of gremlins? (5)
BUGGY: Double definition of a pram and someone who has a viral or bacterial infection.

25a  1 tsp lemon stirred in mug (9)
SIMPLETON: An anagram (stirred) of I TSP LEMON.

26a  Clay fireplace less hot at first (5)
EARTH: A six-letter word for a fireplace without the initial H (less hot at first).

27a  Well-groomed former patient, according to doctor? (9)
MANICURED: Split (3, 1, 5), this could be a doctor’s description of a former male patient who has been healed.


1d  Mosquito’s wings moved up and down (6)
MOROSE: The outer letters (wings) of mosquito followed by a four letter word meaning moved up.

2d  Alien stops playing Chopin as it sounds (8)
PHONETIC: Our favourite two-letter film alien inside (stops) an anagram (playing) of CHOPIN.

3d  In Paris, a breeze produces chill (6)
UNWIND: The French masculine singular for A followed by a four-letter word for a breeze.

4d  Ecstasy for Kurt’s leading character in new version of Mack The Knife (7)
MACHETE: An anagram new version of MACK THE after replacing the K (Kurt’s leading character) with an E (ecstasy).

5d  Home study for new pupils (6)
INTAKE: A two-letter word meaning home followed by a four-letter word meaning study.

6d  Priest’s content with fish and wine (8)
RIESLING: The inner letters (content) of priest followed by a four-letter word for a fish.

11d  Most important substance in potatoes? No way! (4)
ARCH: A type of carbohydrate found in potatoes without the abbreviation for street (no way).

15d  Criminal in brutal court hearing (8)
TRIBUNAL: An anagram (criminal) of IN BRUTAL.

16d  Style of cycling path (4)
ELAN: A four-letter word for a path with the letters cycled around.

18d  Was Frank prepared to trade? (6,2)
OPENED UP: Double definition.

19d  Briefly, rather like a large butterfly (7)
ADMIRAL: A six-letter word meaning rather like with the final letter removed followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for large.

21d  Spies gathered names (6)
SIGHTS: A homophone (gathered) of CITES.  Ideally the homophone indicator should not sit between the definition and the solution as it can lead to ambiguity, is the first word or the last word of the clue the one you use as the definition.  However, where, as here, the solution is not the same length as the word from which the homophone is made, it is less of an issue.

22d  Visit bearing scrap of lacy cloth (6)
POPLIN: A phrase (3,2) meaning to visit includes (bearing) the first letter (scrap) of lacy.

23d  Look up trousers boy wears (6)
ERODES: A three-letter word meaning look is reversed (up) and includes (trousers) a three-letter name of a boy.  Technically, there is nothing wrong with including names in the solution, though some solvers do not like this.

35 comments on “Rookie Corner 449
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  1. A very definite thumbs up from us.
    Well put together clues from start to finish.
    Lots of ticks to choose from but we’ll settle for 7a and 27a for special mention.
    Thanks and well done Widdersbel.

  2. Thanks Widdersbel, probably a little more challenging than your first two Rookies but very enjoyable.

    Smiles for 7a, 10a, 1d, and 22d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. Great stuff, Widdersbel. This was nicely challenging and very enjoyable. Your clueing is brief and accurate with smooth surfaces and a good mixture of clue types, There’s not much else that a solver could ask for – except in my case I would have preferred not to have had to “guess a boy” in your very last clue. :wink:

    Many thanks, Widdersbel. You can be very proud of this submission. Thanks too to Prolixic, who I don’t think will be overtaxed today.

    1. Thank you, RD. Point noted about the random boy – I know it’s something of a bugbear for many solvers so will put it on the list of things to avoid in future.

  4. Nice puzzle, Widdersbel. I’d agree with Senf that it’s a bit harder than before; the clues are solidly constructed but seem more tersely worded. As one who has enjoyed your poetic surfaces in the past, my only comment would be if you can combine the two, you’ll be in the Goldilocks zone for this particular solver. 2d, 4d and one of your shorter ones, 24a, were amongst my favourites.

    Thanks and well done. PM

  5. Thank you to Widdersbel for an enjoyable accompaniment to breakfast -I’d agree with others that this is trickier than your previous crosswords

    Thanks in advance to Prolixic

  6. A good challenge and plenty of neat clues – the ones that stood out were 20a, 25a, 1d, 3d, 4d, 15d and 16d, with others not far behind. Loved 25a – might steal it and change it to melon :wink:

    I agree that it was quite tough in places, which could on balance have been due to too many clues having less than 50% checking – i.e. there were a few spots where the inventive synonyms that weren’t write-ins (a good thing in itself, in my opinion) left me wishing there’d been an extra crosser available.
    The soundness of the clues is the main thing though, and there’s definitely no shortage of quality with your puzzles here and elsewhere.
    Thanks, Widdersbel.

  7. Very enjoyable with accurate clueing and smooth surfaces throughout – many thanks to Widdersbel.
    I ticked 20a, 27a and 1d but my favourite has to be the excellent 4d.

  8. Thanks widdersbel, top stuff. Excellent troughout but particular favourites include 10a, 12a, 22a, 25a, 27a, 18d and 23d (I think the “guess a name” was justified here for the funny surface!) with podium 8a, 1d and 19d … too tough to single out a winner though. Tricky in places mainly due to the very cunning definitions well hidden in extremely smooth surfaces. I wondered if there might be a theme or nina, given the grid was a little unfriendly with so many ‘under-checked’ entries (all fair though), but not spotted anything. Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic (can’t imagine there’ll be much to trouble the commentometer)

  9. Welcome back, Widdersbel.

    Rookie Corner has been graced with some exceptionally good puzzles during 2022, and this one was certainly up there with the best. I have ticked lots of clues, probably 27a,1d and 3d just edged out the other clues to make my personal podium. There was a good range of clue types and constructions and technically the crossword was first rate. My only slight quibble was that a couple of the surfaces were a little unconvincing (24a and 2d) but I’m fairly hard to satisfy on such matters! I would have preferred 25a to read “Lemon, 1 tsp…” and 21a to read “Gathered names for spies” (to avoid the ambiguity as to which word the homophone indicator applied), but these are minor points.

    All in all, this was a superb puzzle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another well-earned promotion to the NTSPP ranks.

    Many thanks, Widdersbel.

    1. Thanks, Silvanus. Good point about 21a and I like your suggested rewording – terseness is good, but not when it’s at the expense of clarity. For 2d, I toyed with “playing … by ear” but couldn’t convince myself “by ear” worked as a definition so stuck with the less elegant option.

  10. A pleasure to solve, Widdersbel, I think the NTSPP slot beckons.
    Like RD, I would have preferred it if you’d steered clear of the random boy, but that was my only grumble.
    Top two here were 20a & 6d.

    Thank you for a most enjoyable puzzle.

  11. Super puzzle, Widdersbel, thanks – and congratulations. I can only echo the many positive comments provided by others – it’s great to see this receive such a positive reception. Very hard to pick favourites when the high quality of clueing is so consistent but I’ll nominate 17A, 27A and 4D for the podium.

  12. Well done indeed, Widdersbel!!
    1, 2 , 3, and 4 down got me off to a great start and nothing thereafter disappointed. I’d say promotion beckons!
    My only query was the ravine in 7a which, it seems to me, should have been ridge. But no doubt someone will enlighten me!

    1. Enlightenment re. 7a! A chine is a coastal ravine – there are several examples on IOW where my younger daughter lives, possibly the best known being Blackgang Chine which is now home to an amusement park.

      1. Thanks Jane. Living in Yorkshire, the word is new to me, so all I had to go on were the dictionary definitions which have it as a ridge rather than ravine. It appears to be a term specific to Hampshire, Dorset and the IoW, which makes it tricky for us Northerners, who as you know are challenged enough already!

        1. Interesting – I didn’t realise it was so geographically specific. I knew the term growing up in Kent. And I’m familiar with Blackgang Chine too.

  13. Many thanks, everyone, for the very generous comments.

    Interesting that people found this trickier than my previous efforts. I didn’t set out to make it tougher (in fact, I tried to make it slightly easier in a few places, eg adding the word “Scottish” to 10a, as suggested by a test solver). But I generally try to focus on making the clues sound and let the difficulty level take care of itself.

    I think Twmbarlwm has hit on one of the reasons – the number of clues with more than half unchecked letters (10 of the across clues, in fact). Also the four corners of the grid are not well linked. This is a stock Guardian grid so I took it for granted that it would be OK without looking at it too closely, and this issue only became obvious later. On reflection, I will avoid using this grid again!

  14. Thanks Widdersbel, I think this puzzle confirmed what most on here already knew….. that you are a very accomplished setter.
    My ticks have gone to 12,13&25a plus 1,3,4&6d. Most enjoyable.
    Thanks also to Prolixic in advance of his review.

  15. Excellent puzzle, Widdersbel – well done and thank you! And very pleased to see it going down well with others. My personal highlights were 12a, 17a, 24a, 27a (took AGES for me to see this one!), 1d, 3d, 4d (wow!), 6d, and 15d.

  16. That was a delightful solve, Widdersbel – thanks for the puzzle! I particularly liked 8a, 10a, 17a, 25a, 1d, 3d, 4d and 6d, but I could easily add most of the rest if I was commenting as if this was on MyC :D

  17. Tricky in places but an enjoyable solve. I was held up in the SW corner until I realised the definition in 16dn was the first word of the clue, not the last – my mistake, the clue is clear enough. And a passing comment on 10ac – the term isn’t exclusively Scottish though that’s not important in this context. Thanks, Widdersbel.

    1. Congrats on your promotion Widdersbel. Thoroughly deserved. Have only just tackled the puzzle & needless to say enjoyed it.

  18. Many thanks, Prolixic, a very easy task for you this week! Has the commentometer ever stayed silent before?
    Well done indeed to Widdersbel and congratulations on a thoroughly deserved promotion.

      1. Thank you, Twmbarlwm, I certainly remember Acnestis as being an excellent setter but I think he’s probably concentrating on his university studies at the moment.

  19. Been away so late to complete this really enjoyable puzzle. Thank you, Widdersbel. More like this please and congratulations on your promotion to NTSPP. Favourites were 25a, 27a, 6d and 13a. Thanks also to Prolixic.

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