Rookie Corner 054 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 054

A Puzzle by Cyborg

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Although Cyborg has published a few puzzles on his own website, this is his first Rookie puzzle.   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.

Our thanks to Cyborg for a stunning debut crossword.  The idea of have pairs of linked clues with minor variations was a clever one.  In one or two cases, it caused the cryptic reading of the clues to suffer a little but this was, nevertheless, an accomplished first outing.  To have made the crossword a pangram too using all the letters of the alphabet in the solutions is an added bonus.

1 One absorbed in a change for birdhouse (6)
AVIARY – The A from the clue and another word for change or alter includes the letter representing one as Roman numeral.

4 Principle of justice imposed by fear’s stripped with awful sin (8)
FAIRNESS – An anagram (stripped / awful) of FEARS SIN.  Although necessary to maintain a degree of correspondence between the paired clues, the use of two anagram indicators is perhaps unfairly misleading as it indicates that you have an anagram of FEAR followed by an anagram of SIN.  I am not keen on the use of imposed as a link word in Definition imposed by Wordplay.

10 Hiker may contact Signal Corps for secure comms device (7)
RAMBLER – This word for a hiker when added to (contact) the abbreviation for Signal Corps gives the name of a secure comms device.

11 Road enters boundless saurian republic (7)
AUSTRIA – The abbreviation for street (road) goes inside (enters) the inner letters (boundless) of saurian.

12 Modern times require cunning exterior, unfortunately (5)
SADLY – The abbreviation for Anno Domini has a word for cunning around it (exterior).  The cryptic grammar does not quite work here as the clue deconstructed is “an abbreviation for modern times requires a word meaning sly around it.” so the requires needs to be in the plural.

13 Edited tapes show workplace with appalling conditions (9)
SWEATSHOP – An anagram (edited) of TAPES SHOW.

15 Turn pale and squeal upon expiring (8)
ELAPSING – An anagram (turning) of PALE followed by a word meaning to squeal or rat on.  The link word “upon” does not work particularly well as wordplay upon definition.

17 Nick stationery (4)
CLIP – A double definition giving a word meaning to cut or nick something and an item of stationery that holds things together.

20 Pore over “aimed item” to make it right afterwards (4)
EDIT – The answer is hidden (pore over) in AIMED ITEM.  Not too keen on pore over as a hidden word indicator here.

21 Broken gear after half yard produces anger from driver (4,4)
ROAD RAGE – An anagram (broken) of RAGE goes after the word that (as an abbreviation) is the final two letters (half) of yard.

23 El Salvador aircraft receives notice at waterfront (9)
ESPLANADE – The IVR code for El Salvador followed by another word for an aircraft containing (receives) an abbreviation for an advert (notice).  Wordplay at Definition does not work very well and a better link word would be helpful here.

27 Question length put down (5)
QUELL – The abbreviation for question followed by an old measurement for the length of cloth.

28 Pay compliment to green thus: it is better laid? (7)
FLATTER – A golfing green would be thus if it had been better laid?  I think that the wordplay is a little loose as the green on a golf course in not intended to be completely flat, only smooth.  The green may have a slight slope or camber to test the skill of the golfer when putting.

29 Quietly takes overdue gold to high level area (7)
PLATEAU – The musical notation for quietly followed by a word meaning overdue and the chemical symbol for gold.

30 Record collectors pasted on fragments (8)
NOTEPADS – An anagram (fragments – as a verb meaning breaks up) of PASTED ON.

31 Hard, in spiteful surroundings, to be talkative (6)
CHATTY – The abbreviation for hard (as used in pencils) goes inside (in … surroundings) a word meaning spiteful.


1 Nicked stationary (8)
ARRESTED – A double definition for being apprehended by the police and not moving.  I think that the two meaning are a little too similar for a true double definition.

2 Pour over “aimed item” to make it right afterwards (9)
IMMEDIATE – An anagram (pour over) of AIMED ITEM.  Again although require to maintain parity between the paired clues, the “it” in this clue is out of place and needs to be ignored completely.  Also would right afterwards mean immediately rather than the answer?

3 Pass on place again (5)
RELAY – A double definition of pass on as you might a message and put back in place.

5 Stagger in a complicated path (5)
AMAZE – The A from the clue and a complicated path of the sort you might find at Hampton Court.

6 Restore default temperature before lighting component is relocated (9)
RESETTLED – A word meaning restore default (as you might do so software settings) followed by an abbreviation for temperature and a type of lighting component that emits light from a diode.

7 Near the core in the planet (5)
EARTH – The answer is hidden in (core in) NEAR THE.  The “The” in this clue could have been omitted.

8 Rapid as paparazzi? (6)
SNAPPY – … on the basis that the paparazzi take lots of photographs.

9 Boats communal areas not opened (4)
ARKS – Remove the initial P from a word for communal areas found in towns and cities.  The surface reading (but not the cryptic reading) requires an apostrophe but this could have been avoided as an issue by “Communal areas not opened for boats”.

14 Pay complement to green thus: it is better-laid? (7)
WAGERED – A word for pay or salary followed by a complementary colour to green.  I don’t think that the definition here means the same as the solution.

16 Turn key before father rises for medical procedure (6,3)
SPINAL TAP – A four letter word meaning turn followed by a type of key on a computer keyboard and a reversal (rises) of a two letter word for father.

18 Temporary job site gets workers on time (9)
PLACEMENT – A word for a site or location followed by a word for workers and the abbreviation for time.

19 Principal of justice imposed by fear stripped with awful sin (8)
JEALOUSY – The first letter (principal of) justice followed by the inner letters (stripped) of fear and a word meaning awful.

22 Make a racket and feel briefly bad (6)
DEAFEN – An anagram (bad) of AND FEE (briefly indicates removing the last letter from feel).

24 Hairstyle where it’s under part loops across at first (5)
PLAIT – The IT from the clue goes underneath the first letters (at first) of Part Loops Across.

25 Having sharp smell removed by air conditioning (5)
ACRID – A word meaning removed after the abbreviation for air-conditioning.  As by (alongside) works best in an across clue, this could have been saved by a “?” to give AC-RID as a fanciful way of saying removed by air-conditioning.

26 Sexy spot delimited for large exhibition (4)
EXPO – The inner letters (delimited) of SEXY and SPOT.

27 Half of Quaker’s initially have to overrule (5)
QUASH – The first three letters half of “Quaker” followed by the S (from the ‘s in the clue) and the first letter (initially) of have.  The apostrophe in the surface reading is out of place and although it is required in the cryptic grammar, I am not keen on an instruction that tells you to take half a word ignoring the “‘s” and then add the s back on to what remains.

33 comments on “Rookie Corner 054

  1. Thanks Cyborg – there are some clever clues giving a sense of ‘deja vu’. The clues I liked best were 21a and 31a.

  2. Well done Cyborg, that was extremely entertaining.

    I thought that the “pairing” of eight clues into four groupings of two, with subtle spelling/cluing changes was a very clever touch indeed.

    My favourites overall were 27a and 16d, but I’ve been unable to parse parts of 21a and 6d, so I assume I’m missing something with regard to those two. I was convinced that the answer to 26d was different to the solution allowed by the Crossword Solver version, so perhaps there was a late change to that particular clue?

    Putting on my pedant’s hat now, I think the apostrophe in “Quaker’s” requires a following word to make grammatical sense, whereas an apostrophe is needed in 9d, either after the “s” in boats or more likely before it. I wasn’t totally convinced by the use of “briefly” in 22d, as I haven’t seen it used quite in that context before.

    Congratulations and look forward to your next effort, Cyborg.

    P.S. I’ve never been this high up the chain with a blog comment before, I’m worried I might get a nosebleed!

    1. Mea culpa re 26 down – I set up the ccw file in a bit of a hurry and must have clicked on the wrong entry. I’ll change it now.

    2. I think the first five letters of 6d are ‘restore default’, then T for temperature and the last bit is a light-emitting diode.
      I don’t see where the first word of 21a comes from.

        1. Thanks Beet and andy – yes – I’m sure you’re both right about the first bit of of 21a. Just me being dumb, yet again!

      1. I’m probably wrong but I took it be the rd from yard, expanded to its non -abbreviated form.

      2. Many thanks, Kath – I think you’ve parsed 6d 100% correctly. I got stuck by thinking that the first part of the clue was “restore default temperature” rather than just “restore default”, so I then had “TL” as the abbreviation for a chemical element which can be used in lighting, and couldn’t work out how to fit in the final “ED” !

        I’m sure Beet and Andy are right with their interpretation of the first part of 21a – thanks both :-)

        P.S. Not sure why I originally thought otherwise, but I now the realise the use of “briefly” is absolutely fine in 22d, so my earlier quibble is gladly deleted.

        1. Oh good! I’m glad you agree with my unravelling of 6d. It might just be the first thing that I’ve done right today.
          I agree that Beet and andy are right about the first word of 21a – just didn’t get it.

  3. We have been out this evening but it was totally impossible for me to go to bed on a Monday without having done the Rookie. Amazed at the cleverness of those paired clues and on top of that to have made it a pangram too. The last two to go in were the 4a and 19d pair and knowing that I was a letter short for the pangram helped there. Really appreciated and enjoyed it. Now I must go to bed.
    Many thanks Cyborg.

  4. I was slightly thrown by the “deja vu” to start with but a very enjoyable time was had, thank you Cyborg.

  5. Interesting.I don’t think I’ve come across a puzzle with pairs of similarly worded clues before, or if I have I don’t remember it. I’m still working on the parsing for some, and there are one or two I will probably need to haul out the BRB to understand. A good debut, I thought. 19D is my current favorite. Thanks, Cyborg.

  6. Cyborg you are a clever sausage. This was a really enjoyable crossword and it felt like I was in the hands of a professional setter. Favourite clues were 13 a, 30 a and the 28 a / 14 d combo.

    (I have seen a similar idea in a puzzle in the Independent. I don’t know whether they have their back catalogue available online, but it was 9 January 2014 according to my tweet raving about it. Worth a look if anyone can find it. )

  7. I enjoyed this a lot.
    I didn’t think I was going to get anywhere at all to begin with – the paired clues threw me completely.
    I liked 15 and 31a and 19d. My favourite was 8d.
    Thanks and congratulations to Cyborg.

  8. Hi Cyborg,

    As per the other commenters I thought this was very clever with the paired clues, my favourites of which where the 28a / 14d combo. On top of that I thought it was very entertaining, and I’d say 15a was my favourite of your ‘normal’ clues! Thanks

  9. Thanks to Cyborg for the rookie.
    Had to make sure 16d was correct as I could only think of the film of the same name due to the checking letters. Such a great comedy but that’s beside the point.
    I also liked the similar clues and my favourite is the 14/28 boublé.
    Loved the surface of 15a.
    Thanks again.

  10. Wasn’t sure what to make of this one at the outset – only realised the ‘deja vu’ element when I came across the second almost repeated clue – a very clever idea, Cyborg.
    Aware during the solve of finding the second part of some clues rather extraneous and sometimes confusing but with a completed grid in front of me I don’t really understand why I felt that way. There are certainly a few that I haven’t fully parsed but, equally, several that I’d put a question mark at the side of that have subsequently become clear.

    Well done, Cyborg, I now see that this was a far more clever puzzle than I initially thought it to be – my apologies for doubting.
    Also thanks to ColinK – I was too busy with the unravelling to notice the pangram until I read your comment!

    1. Me too with the pangram – I always miss them, and Ninas too until someone points them out.

  11. A terrific puzzle, I loved the double entries. Not too hard and not too easy, a real treat !Please give more !

  12. Brilliant, well done Cyborg! I soon saw a pangram coming with x,y,z,q – very impressive. The near identical clues are amazing – I particularly like the principle of justice ones. I did struggle with some of the parsing in them – perhaps not surprising since it must be a challenge to write these – e.g. in 28a/14d it took me a while to fully parse/understand 28a, but I still don’t see what the “thus” is doing in 14d, or the “it” in 2d, and I may be missing something with “pore” in 20a, assuming I have the right answer! I’ll wait for the review.. I did wonder whether 28a/14d might read better as “is it better laid?” since you already have the question mark. not important, just a thought.

    My last ones in were 30a (record collectors) and 22d (and feel briefly bad), just because it took me a while to spot the anagrams.

    Like others I took half yard = rd = road, though I did wonder if the expansion needed indicating.

    I liked the rufus-like 3d (pass on place again), 5d (stagger in a complicated path) and 7d (near the core in the planet)

    Congratulations, wonderful stuff! Looking forward to your next puzzle!

  13. Many thanks to everyone for your kind comments. It’s been great to have such friendly feedback!

    I can’t claim originality – I came across a link to the 225 review of Donk’s puzzle in the discussion following his Guardian debut as Screw. I thought I’d try for a minor variation where the down clues gain some grammatical errors which alter the construction. The apostrophes in 9, 24 and 27 are also mangled in the surface reading but correct in their cryptic sense (I hope).

    If anyone has run out of crosswords and is looking for spares, I’ve got a small back catalogue of variable quality available at

    Thanks again to all for taking the time both to solve and comment, the encouragement was much needed!

    1. Lots more encouragement from me – it was good fun – not easy but not impossible either. More please –

  14. Solid review Prolixic as always, many thanks. The review reminded me how much I liked some of the clues, 16d, 6d, 13a, 10a, and more, as well as those previously mentioned. Congratulations again Cyborg on a wonderful and entertaining crossword. I hope the review and comments have been useful feedback and that we will see your next effort soon.

  15. Damned clever coves, these Rookie chappies! I enjoyed that from start to finish. Sterling work that man/woman.

  16. Special thanks to Prolixic for the detailed review – after being up close to the clues for an extended period, it’s all too easy to lose sight of places where they wander into unfair territory. The paired clues in particular took a lot of bending in order to make the two answers meet in the middle and they have suffered some strain.

    There are only two places where my internal parsing differed slightly from the review. In 15a, I intended “squeal upon” rather than just “squeal” for the second half of the answer. It’s still a stretch, just in a slightly different direction. In 28a, I eventually justified to myself that flatter is better if it’s a bowling green rather than a putting green.

    Thanks again for all comments, it’s been a very positive experience and I’ll certainly submit a second attempt soon.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – cleared up most of my parsing issues. A few questions remain, if anyone can help me out.

    10a – Rambler is a straightforward definition of Hiker – I don’t understand the necessity for the remaining words of the clue.
    21a – I’m obviously missing something here, even with the review – how do you get from ‘half a yard’ to ‘road’?
    14d – Why is red the complementary colour to green?
    25d – Acrid is a definition of a sharp smell – why is the remainder of the clue necessary?

    Sorry to ask – just trying to understand a little more about this amazing crosswordland.

  18. Hi Jane,

    Happy to help.

    10a wouldn’t be a genuinely cryptic clue without the remaining words for potential misdirection!

    21a foxed me too initially, but half a yard = RD, which is of course the abbreviation for a road.

    14d – think traffic lights for example?

    25d – the same answer as for 10a effectively, it wouldn’t be cryptic if it merely referred to sharp smell.

    I hope this helps a little.

    1. Many thanks for taking the time, Silvanus. I’m ‘sorted’ now on 21a & 14d but can’t help but feel that the clues at 10a&25d were somewhat wasted when the answers were so obvious – unlike many of the others that Cyborg so cunningly treated us to!

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