Rookie Corner 040 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 040

A Puzzle by Silvanus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a debut puzzle from Silvanus.  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 of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Welcome to Silvanus with an interesting crossword that had good number of good clues and a handful that needed a bit more love and attention – but on the positive side, the number of good clues greatly outweighed those that were unconventional.  As others have commented, the grid is unorthodox.  The general rule is that all parts of the grid should be connected.  The greater the degree of connection, the easier it is for the solver to get cross-checking letters.  This grid contained four unconnected crosswords and would not be acceptable in any of the daily papers.


7 Make the horse-riding community unhappy (5)
UPSET – If those riding horses are up, a group of them (2,3) might make a word meaning unhappy.

8 Passed the necessary exams, but with reservations (9)
QUALIFIED – A double definition of your status having passed exams and a word meaning subject to conditions or reservations.

10 Small boy finally saw vessel overturned by legendary sea monster (6)
KRAKEN – A diminutive boy’s name goes after (finally) a reversal (overturned) of a vessel or rescue boat.  The “saw” here does not contribute to the wordplay.  It might have better been clued as “Vessel overturned by small boy and sea monster.”

11 Pass judgement on the form of words to be used (8)
SENTENCE – A double definition of what a judge does when passing judgement and a word describing a series of words.

12 Hints on tackling insect pests include an empty honey jar (6)
THRIPS – A word meaning hints goes around the first and last letters (empty) of honey jar.  It is usual to put the definition at the beginning or end of the clue, not in the middle.  Empty honey jar does not mean HJ.  You would need to add a – between honey-jar to make this work.  There also seem to be a plethora of containment indicators with tackling and include.  Perhaps “Hints about empty honey-jar used to get insects”

13 It was awfully rude to have island competition taking place along a grooved track (6)
RUTTED – An anagram (awfully) of RUDE about the abbreviation for the time trials that take place on the Isle of Man.  Where ever possible it is better to have clues in the present tense when describing the wordplay.  The anagram remains awfully rude, not in the past!  I don’t think that “to have” is the best insertion indicator.  It is more usually an indicator to add two words together.

15 From the outskirts of Southampton, a monarch is following a winding route (7)
SNAKING – The first and last letters (outskirts) of Southampton followed by the A from the clue and another word for a male monarch.

16 Underground plant stem I find in European capital between searches in Hamburg and Zagreb initially (7)
RHIZOME – The I from the clue goes between the first letters (initially) of Hamburg and Zagreb and the resulting three letters go inside the capital of Italy (European capital).  I am not sure what the “searches in” contributes to the clue or the surface reading.  Also, read literally, the cryptic grammar tells you to put the I in the European capital and for these letters to be put between the H and Z.  Some editors will not permit constructions such as I find as you would not say A (or any other letter) find in…  This could be corrected by “one found in…”

20 A Frenchman might ring concerning plant covering (6)
CLOCHE – The French word for bell gives its name (from the shape) to a type of protective structure used to cover young plants.

23 Grand girl played in London’s East End? (6)
JOANNA – This girl’s name is also an East End term for a piano or grand.

25 Brass instrument used to hold papers together in France (8)
TROMBONE – The French word for a paperclip is also the name for a musical instrument (the bent shapes bear a passing similarity).

26 It’s evident that a Bach or a Liszt composition would be the most suitable music for a singing group (6)
CHORAL – The answer is hidden in (it’s evident that) BACH OR A LISZT.

27 Enticed given idle speculation (9)
INVEIGLED – An anagram (speculation) of GIVEN IDLE.

28 Offspring of a pair it’s heard (5)
FRUIT – A homophone of PEAR (pair it’s heard).


1 Grasp the meaning of arrest (9)
APPREHEND – A double definition meaning to understand and to catch a criminal.

2 We recognise that a long twisted kink in the chain could be its Achilles’ heel (4,4)
WEAK LINK – The WE from the clue followed by an anagram (twisted) of A L (long) KINK.  In this clue putting the anagram indicator in the middle of the anagram letters does not work.  A twisted with B would work but not A twisted B.  I am not enamoured with “recognise that” in the clue as a word sum or charade indicator.

3 South African in luxury vehicle has the means around him to purchase scholarship grant (7)
BURSARY – The abbreviation for South African goes inside the abbreviation for Rolls Royce (luxury vehicle) and this goes inside a word meaning to purchase.  Again, the words the “means around him” do not add to the wordplay and are potentially confusing.

4 Map used by alien to reach Earth, for example (6)
PLANET – Another word for a plan followed by the abbreviation for extra-terrestrial or alien.

5 Notes on garden party revealed it was self-indulgent (6)
EFFETE – Two notes of the musical scale followed by a gala or party that may be held in the garden.

6 Sure sounds also like an impressive feature of the forest (5)
BEECH – A homophone of sure is shore, which is another word for a beach, which is a homophone of this forest tree.  This is a clue to a clue so is unfair on the solver.  28a came perilously close to this.  6d steps over the line and runs far from it.

9 Socialist leader within workers’ organisation achieves complete agreement (6)
UNISON – The first letter (leader) of socialist goes inside the name of a worker’s organisation.

14 I coin a mad and original description of an organic compound (5,4)
AMINO ACID – An anagram (original descriptioni of I COIN A MAD.

17 Greet sailor despite his criminal activity (6)
HIJACK – A two letter word for a greeting followed by a colloquial term for a sailor.  Greet is a verb and is being use to indicate a noun.  Also, the definition his criminal activity would give hijacking not hijack.  The despite in the clue  is not a good link word and does not contribute to the wordplay.

18 Wrote lazy, rambling account about how the West lacked fanaticism (8)
ZEALOTRY – An anagram (rambling account) of WROTE LAZY without the W (west lacking).  About how the west lacked, as a phrase does not really tell you to remove the W.

19 Allow young animal always to enter (7)
LEVERET – A word meaning always goes inside (to enter) a word meaning allow.  Again the rule that the definition does at the start or end of the clue has not been followed.

21 Aquatic creature on the rocks is mine (6)
LIMPET – A double definition of a sea creature that lives on the rocks and is difficult to remove that gives its name to a type of explosive mine that clings to the side of something.

22 Bird is inclined to puff noisily (6)
CHOUGH – A homophone (noisily) of cough (to puff?)

24 Cross under a Swedish bridge in a district of New York (5)
BRONX – The letter representing a cross underneath the Swedish name for a bridge.  Despite the recent series on BBC 4, expecting solvers to know Swedish words is a bit much.

51 comments on “Rookie Corner 040

  1. Rather an unfriendly grid with nothing at all to connect the four corners. There seem to be several ‘grammar’ rules broken in places, but we will leave the reviewer to point these out. However all the clues were gettable with a bit of effort and we did notice that it is a pangram too. Our vote for best clue goes to 22d. Good fun to solve.
    Thanks Silvanus. Hope you come by and tell us a little about yourself.

  2. Welcome, Silvanus! I have two left, 12A and 28A. Some, like 1D and 8A were very straightforward, but I found it very difficult to unravel the wordplay for a good number of the clues (and there seemed to be extraneous words in some) and I have several question marks on my page where I do not understand how the answer is derived from the clue. It may well be that I’m being dense! I did like 7A and 21D in particular. Looking forward to the review where all will be revealed.

    1. Hi Chris – try tackling 28a in the same way that you did 6d – as I’ve commented, we’re not used (at least I’m not!) to seeing homophones written in that way. As for 12a – the thing to be emptied incorporates two words, I’m not sure how well that will go down with the reviewer! As for justifying some of them – foreign language dictionaries is the only way I got there

      1. Thanks. I have 12A now. That’s a word I haven’t heard in donkey’s years! I will ponder 28A a bit more.

        1. We think, for 28a, the homophone should probably have a ‘perhaps’ or a ‘?’ to make it more grammatically correct.

  3. One or two ‘bung-ins’ that had to be justified courtesy of foreign language dictionaries but I really enjoyed the couple of homophones – not used to seeing them used in that way. Today I have learnt that 27a is not the easiest word to spell and that there are more sea monsters than I ever imagined!

    23a was my smiley and 3d definitely the favourite. Didn’t see the pangram until well down the grid!

    Well done, Silvanus – hope you’ll be encouraged to give us another puzzle.

  4. Well. That’s a bit of a hard one to crack. A few words to add to my dictionary like 5d and 13a.
    I also have a couple of unfinished clues but I shall give up. I want to have a go at the back pager. And read what MP and everybody have to say.
    See you tomorrow Silvanus. You may sound Latin but I’m sure your origins are more Scandinavian or something like that.

    1. Thought you would have been on a roll with this one – it was your native dictionary that I had to refer to most often!

      1. Yes. 25a was quite fun actually.
        Weren’t you supposed to go to the dentist today? If so, I am happy to see that the anesthetic didn’t reach your brain.

        1. Dentist has given me a stay of execution, but I’m on borrowed time. Must make the most of the steaks whilst I can! Thanks for asking, Jean-luc – maybe I’ll be on minced food only by the time I get to Le Jardin!

          1. Yes – just posted a comment about today’s dentist appt in “the other place”. Re steak I’ll have to email you . . . a good story about my Dad!

  5. I started off thinking that this one was going to be a doddle which just serves me right as I’m now well and truly stuck on my last few.
    I had absolutely no idea what the French word for paper clip was but it’s something I’ll remember.
    24d has to be what it is but that’s a real bung in.
    I agree with Jane that 27a is tricky to spell – I tried about three different ways until I hit on the right one.
    Right – now on to my problems. I don’t understand why, or even if, my 20a is right; I had an answer to 2d which I couldn’t explain – that’s rubbed out now – and I can’t do 10, 12 or 20a. Grateful thanks will go to any kind person who will put me out of my misery with those.
    Thanks and congratulations to Silvanus.

    1. Here goes:- 20a – look up the French word for something that rings (maybe on a church). 2d – I’m going for an anagram plus a few add-ons from the clue. 10a – look up your sea monsters, you need a reversal of a 3-letter word for a vessel followed by a short form of a boy’s name. 12a – have a look at the hint I gave Chris.

      Hope that helps a bit.

      1. For 12a, the definition is not where you would expect to see it in a cryptic clue. It threw us for a while too.

      2. We also keep cheese under 20a. Just imagine all the different scents mixed together when you lift it up.

          1. I always bring back lovely cheeses from Neal’s Yard. Caulston and Basset Stilton, Montgomery Cheddar, Lanark Blue and Irish Gubbeen to name a few. All that in hand baggage. It stank in the plane.

            1. For some reason I grin like a Cheshire cat at the thought of French folk taking home British cheeses.

              1. Husband’s brother and his French wife live in Paris. Whenever they come to stay they don’t bring any cheese with them as they really love our English ones and quite often take some home with them.

    2. Thanks so much to all of you for trying to help me out of the deep hole that I seem to have dug for myself.
      Really need supper now so will try to make sense of everything later but thanks again.
      See – I said that I was heading for a dim week . . . at least I’m right about something today!

  6. I think the problems some of us are having lies in that we are accustomed to certain rules for cryptics and the clueing here is rather unconventional in places.

    1. Think you’re right, Chris, but as Rick said in the comments on the back-pager – we need to be able to move on with this generation ‘thing’. Maybe we could put in a request for memory lane puzzles for the rest of us.

    2. I think it is a brave setter who attempts to throw out the rule book on his first outing! To break the rules you have to first understand them and I am not sure that is the case here. For example 19a has the definition in between parts one and two of the wordplay. 12a is similar. I wasn’t wild about the 6/28 homophones either but liked the puffing bird in 22.
      Pommers has said it all on the grid really. There is a DT grid that pops up from time to time which has only a single letter connecting the corners. That is bad, but this doesn’t work at all.
      As a former editor I longed to get my blue pencil into several of the very wordy clues. Remember that Ray T rarely, if ever, exceeds eight words per clue then compare with several here. I didn’t count them all but I noted 2×14, 2×15 and one of 19 words. All needed a severe prune.
      Sorry if that sounds harsh – it isn’t meant to be – and I hope it is constructive. On the plus side there were several nicely worked clues, nothing too difficult or obscure and I am sure a revised Mark II version could be a very nice puzzle.

      1. I’m with you on the wordiness, Rick but, as for the rest – is there not room for differences? I actually rather enjoyed the 4-in one and the ‘different’ use of homophones.

        Comparison with Ray T seems a little unfair at this stage in a setter’s journey.

          1. With you on that one, Rick. Right now, I’m aiming to achieve MP’s rule of ‘no pencils allowed’!

  7. The intro says constructive criticism only, so here goes . . .

    Never, ever, subject your solvers to four completely seperate crosswords in the same grid. I solved the top left and then lost interest as it mean’t starting all over again in a different corner.

    But thanks for the bits I’ve done.

    1. Seemed that way to me as well, Pommers but, at the end of the day, does it really matter that much? Four puzzles for the price of one would be a different way of looking at it – maybe?

    2. The Grid – it shows that Silvanus has done everything by himself/herself – without any computer generated stuff. So good luck to him/her! Very brave to put one’s head above the parapet!

      7a brought a smile to my face!

  8. I thought it was fabulous and I hope the Telegraph signs you, Silvanus, up right away for Tuesdays or Thursdays.I liked 7a the most.

  9. An excellent review and analysis, as usual, Prolixic. I would just like to say this to the setter. Putting your work out to public comment for the first time is daunting. I l know. I’ve been there, though not in crossword-land. It’s even harder to accept being reviewed by people who do not do what you do; we are for the most part solvers, not setters. Whether Chambers does or not, I differentiate between criticism and critique. What you have here is critique that will hopefully impel you forward and we shall see more of you in the future.

  10. Hi, Silvanus here. An enormous thank you firstly to those who took the trouble to tackle my inaugural effort but also secondly, and more importantly, to those who provided feedback. It was a great thrill when Dave messaged me on Sunday evening to say that my puzzle would be in Rookie Corner the next day, and to actually see it on screen in polished form was more exciting than I had expected !

    I hope that you will excuse the length of this post but I wanted to try to cover as many points as possible in one go……

    To introduce myself briefly, I have been a loyal disciple of the DailyTelegraph Cryptic Crossword for over 35 years, but it is only recently, since taking early retirement, that I have decided to start compiling my own puzzles. I’m a male Londoner, born and bred, and the origin of my “nom de plume” (to answer Jean-Luc) derives from a family name dating back at least to the 18th Century which I discovered from genealogical research a few years back. I’m actually a lover of woodland and forests too – it must be in the genes !

    Franco is correct that I produced the grid myself and I regret that my effort to achieve a pangram distracted me from genuinely not noticing that the four corners were isolated – mea culpa.

    The excessive length of a few clues as mentioned by Rick is fully accepted and I shall avoid this as best I can in the future. The dubious homophones and unconventional word order/clueing I also completely concur with, and will take due cognisance.

    To Kath, Jane, Una and others who posted such kind and encouraging words, I’m extremely grateful and didn’t expect you to be such a nice bunch if I’m completely honest !

    Prolixic’s excellent review was exactly what I was seeking, and I agree fully with the advice from Expat Chris, in fact I am already finalising my second puzzle taking on board all of the above comments, so you will definitely hear from me again before too long.

    P.S. I’m writing this having just undergone dental surgery this morning (yes, another one Kath !), so my mouth is still very numb and sore but your encouragement and support has cheered me up no end.

    1. So pleased to see that you’ve taken all the criticism in good part, Silvanus. As others have said, you couldn’t ask for a fairer or better reasoned critique than the one Prolixic has provided.

      Well done to both of you – I shall await puzzle no. 2 with great interest.

  11. I have awarded Silvanus **** for a first outing on the Rookie Corner. Obviously a lot of effort went into compiling this crossword and there were some very amusing clues. My fave was 23a.

    I did not like the grid, but did not let it put me off. I managed to work out almost all of the parsing, and had a real chuckle when the penny dropped for 28a. The only clue which truly perplexed me was 6d. Beach … beech …? I thought it was the latter but … Oh, and I didn’t know the French for paperclip. Lazy me! We have a French dictionary.

    Well done, Silvanus, and thank you.

    I fully agree with what Expat Chris has said above re Prolixic’s excellent review and analysis. His criticism is always fair and very constructive. I really do look forward to the appearance of his completed opus when it is ready. I have been solving the Rookie Corner puzzles each week, but haven’t always been able to comment. It is most interesting to look back at the earlier Rookies and see how remarkably their setting has improved. It was indeed a brilliant move on Big Dave’s part to have a Rookie Corner and for Prolixic to do the reviews and analysis. Big congratulations to all and a huge thank you.

    Here is a bouquet of roses :

    1. Many thanks indeed, Catnap :-)

      I’m very glad, that despite its obvious technical flaws, many like you seemed to enjoy my first puzzle and could solve most if not all of the clues.

      Apologies for the slip in my previous message, I meant Jane in the dental reference not Kath ! Oops.

  12. “It is most interesting to look back at the earlier Rookies and see how remarkably their setting has improved.”

    My first effort was so littered with errors that Prolixic had to issue an apology for going all “Craig Revel-Horwood” before starting his review!

    Hello to Silvanus – I have not yet tackled your puzzle, but I will do so this evening and let you know any points that occur to me – I know how much I appreciate others’ comments on my attempts.

    1. Thank you Beet and look forward to any comments or feedback you might provide.

      I have enjoyed solving a couple of your previous puzzles and would be happy to offer any observations on your future efforts, even at the proof-reading stage should you require that.

      I’m sure that your initial crossword was far from being a “disarster”, as C R-H might say !!

      1. Personally, I do not mind, nor would I have even noticed, that the four corners of the grid are separate. But from others’ comments it is obviously a faux pas, so thanks for making the mistake so all of us Rookies can learn from it.

        My favourite is 11a – the clue is like a description of what Prolixic does. Very witty! Also liked 22a. And kudos for attempting the pangram – you obviously like to set yourself a challenge.

        Overall, I got most answers with a little head scratching and had to cheat on about 3 or 4. That’s about average for me in terms of tackling “proper” crosswords so in terms of overall difficulty it seems about right to me. Other commenters have a much better understanding of the “rules” of what’s fair and not, my own interpretation usually depends on whether I got the answer, which is rather unscientific!

        Hugely hypocritical for me to say it, but a lot of the clues were very wordy. This is something I’m struggling with myself and I think it is just a case of trying to edit oneself and going back to the clues after one’s written them to try to pare them back and leave only the key elements of the wordplay in as few words as possible.

        Minor point that nobody above seems to have mentioned is 21d – there’s a double definition of A is B, but I don’t like that construction where B is named directly after A in any case. It just doesn’t seem cryptic enough to me somehow. You can see I’m being very fussy now.

        1. Thanks a lot, Beet.

          As I’ve previously acknowledged, the over-wordiness of some of the clues is one of the principal things I intend to address. Even if, as Rick says, Ray T rarely uses clues using more than eight words, I have noticed that other setters (Giovanni ?) often include ten or eleven word clues, and perhaps that target is more achievable for us more modest operators than to pare everything down to eight or nine straight off.

          You are probably several stations further down the line than me having submitted more puzzles and received more feedback, but I’m sure that both of us will show steady improvement thanks to the invaluable advice which this site provides.

          1. I would not get too worried about the number of words in a clue. Each setter had their own style so you need to find what is comfortable for you. The main thing to concentrate on is ensuring that each word in the clue contributes to the definition, the wordplay or linking the two together. Words that are padding and that have been added simply to make the clue read more smoothly are the ones to try and avoid.

  13. Congratulations Silvanus on your first crossword. The only thing I really disliked was the grid. Yes, at times, too wordy, but your double definitions were great.
    PS. Loved 24d. 1st swedish clue I’ve ever come across!

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