Rookie Corner – 076 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 076

Couplet by Cyborg

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Cyborg returns to Rookie Corner for the second time. 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.

Prolixic has updated his document entitled “A brief guide to the construction of cryptic crossword clues” which can be downloaded, in pdf format, from the Rookie Corner index page or by clicking below.

Download asa Word file

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

After Cyborg’s first crossword with pairs of links clues that included only with minor variations, Cyborg goes one better with this crossword with identical clues that each have two different solutions depending on the way in which the clue is read.  This is very difficult to achieve and they were, in terms of the construction of the clues, the only weak points in the crossword as the surface readings and some of the grammar suffered in the process.  However, it is perhaps inevitable that this will happen when setting linked clues of this nature.  The remaining cluing continued the high standard from the debut crossword.


1 Creature with odd stripes taking a number, first joining moderate (8)
CENTRIST – The odd letters (with odd stripes) includes the abbreviation for any number followed by the abbreviated form of first.  As this is one of the couplet clues, the surface reading here has been sacrificed to the need to have two sets of cryptic readings.  I think that odd stripes works as an instruction to take alternate letters though stripes usually indicates bands of colour.

7 Unravel crossword containing two-part coupling (6)
VELCRO – The answer is hidden in (containing) UNRAVEL CROSSWORD.

8 Cracked Easter egg for 26? (9)
SEGREGATE – … another word meaning the answer to 26a.  An anagram (cracked) of EASTER EGG.

9 Party with only draught and bottled beer? Impossible! (2,3,2)
NO CAN DO – A cryptic reference to a party at which beer in tins is not are available.

11 Botched raid right before operation to send down supplies (3-4)
AIR-DROP – An anagram (botched) of RAID followed by the abbreviations for right and operation.

12 Clumsy to write backwards in it (5)
INEPT – Reverse (backwards) a word meaning to write inside the it from the clue.

13 Wear casual clothes to lecture (5,4)
DRESS DOWN – A double definition, the second in as an admonition.

15 Drink and eat badly (3)
TEA – An anagram (badly) of EAT.

17 Tool bar will lose elements regularly (3)
AWL – The even letters (lose elements regularly) of bAr WiLl.

18 Broken in mule holds key light up (9)
LUMINECE – An anagram (broken) of IN MULE includes (holds) the name of one of the key on a computer keyboard.

19 Passageway is swamped by drink (5)
AISLE – The IS from the clue has the name of a drink around it (swamped by).

21 Coffee substitute trendy at first or trendy at last (7)
CHICORY – A four letter word meaning trendy followed by the OR from the clue and the final letter (at last) of trendy.

23 Short mystic offended with cultured food (7)
YOGHURT – Another word for a mystic with the final letter removed (short) followed by a word meaning offended, as in upset.

24 Adjust to surroundings, losing a little time in east gallery (9)
ORIENTATE – Another word for the east and the name of an art gallery has one of the Ts removed (losing a little time).

25 Not cricket if a run is disrupted (6)
UNFAIR – An anagram (disrupted) of IF A RUN.

26 Ready a needed border to hold store (3,5)
SET ASIDE – Another word meaning ready followed by the A from the clue and a word for a border or edge or something.  I am not sure that needed works as a charade indicator here.


1 Ready a needed border to hold store (4-3-5)
CASH-AND-CARRY – Another word for ready or money (although you can have ready money, on its own it is usually readies) followed by the A from the clue and the outer letters (border – for this to work, it should be borders) and another word meaning to hold.

2 Regain standing when skipping a country (5)
NIGER – Remove the A (skipping) from REGAIN and reverse (standing) the remaining letters.

3 Inaccurate sage sorry over lost fodder crop (8)
RYE GRASS – Remove the abbreviation for over from SAGE SORRY and make an anagram (inaccurate) of the letters that remain.  The more usual enumeration here is 3,5 not 8.

4 One saves postage returning rubbish instrument with cheap wrappers and coverings (5,9)
STAMP COLLECTOR – A three letter word for rubbish followed by the name of a musical instrument, the outer letters (wrappers) of cheap and another word for floor coverings and reverse the whole lot (returning).

5 Anthropomorphic lichen has wearied expression (6)
LICHEN – The answer is hidden in (has) ANTHROPOMORPHIC LICHEN.  Not the best of surface readings here.

6 Ten brutes rampaging – they’re 25? (9)
BRUNETTES – … someone whose hair is not fair.  An anagram (rampaging) of TEN BRUTES.

7 Snack seller, against closing mine, starts to ask contract help in (7,7)
VENDING MACHINE – A one letter word meaning against followed by a word meaning closing or finishing and the “mine” from the clue inside which you add the initial letters (starts to) of Ask Contract Help.

10 Foxy lace style one initially trimmed with gas cutting rig? (12)
OXYACETYLENE – Remove the initial letters (trimmed) from the first four words in the clue.  I am not sure that the word for the gas is used to describe the equipment that uses it unless followed by the word torch.

14 Growing grain is tricky in uprooted glen (9)
ENLARGING – An anagram (is tricky) of GRAIN inside an anagram (uprooted) of GLEN.

16 Gain is in awkward patch (8)
INSIGNIA – An anagram (awkward) of GAIN IS IN.

20 Cry as short storm absorbs energy (6)
SQUEAL – Another word for a windy storm with the final letter removed (short) inside which you add (absorbs) the abbreviation for energy.

22 Creature with odd stripes taking a number, first joining moderate (5)
OKAPI – Another word meaning moderate goes first followed by (joining) the A from the clue and the number representing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

33 comments on “Rookie Corner – 076

  1. That was a lot of fun. Sorting out the parsing for 1a was the last bit for us to get. We assume that the couplet theme only applies to the two clues that are repeated. That was all we could find anyway after a cursory glance through the rest of the clues and answers. Favourites of course have to be the repeated clues, but there was plenty to keep us smiling.
    Thanks Cyborg, well done.

  2. All done, but still wrestling with a couple of parsings.
    Some goodies in there – 9a was my run away winner!
    Good stuff, Cyborg.

  3. Entertaining puzzle. I saw what you did with those two pairs – although I only twigged the correct (I hope) parsing of 1a after trying a couple of fudges. Clever stuff. In fact 1a was my LOI.

    Lots of light-hearted and nifty clues, amongst which my favourite was 4d.

    Thanks for the fun.

  4. Brilliant stuff once again, Cyborg. Many congratulations on such a clever, well-constructed and above all fun puzzle which was pitched at just the right level of difficulty. I’m hoping very much that the pairing of clues will become a trademark of a Cyborg crossword, now that it is evident here for a second time.

    I have so many ticked clues that I liked (9a, 13a, 21a, 23a, 6d, 7d, 10d to name but six), but joint favourites were 7a – excellent summary of what lay ahead – and 4d.

    I suppose that the constraints of the identically-clued couplets were always likely to mean that these ones would not have the strongest surfaces, but their ingenuity and neat positioning (first across and last down, last across and first down) make that easy to overlook.

    Huge thanks for a superbly entertaining solve. More please!

  5. Brilliant clues, nearly all of which moved me to give them a tick and five – 7ac, 9a, 23a, 4d and 10d – got double ticks, which is really rare for me as I don’t ever give a third!
    I’ve only met the couplet idea once before – Alberich did it with his Klingsor hat on using ‘Lohengrin’ and ‘Rheingold’ – and I can remember Anax commenting on what an incredibly hard a trick it is to pull off. It seems that for some they were the best clues, but for me you lowered your own bar slightly to allow the them through. Was it still worth being that ambitious? Definitely!
    Congratulations, I loved it.

  6. Rookie Corner has turned Mondays from a pretty mundane crossword day into possibly the most interesting. Congratulations to Cyborg on producing a very entertaining puzzle – the coupled clues are a superb achievement, although as others have noted their surfaces are not great and I thought the wordplay had to be forced a bit (“needed border” in 1d doesn’t quite work for me). My favourite clue was the LOL 9a.

  7. Great crossword indeed.
    Very clever to have the similar clues in first and last position. Just as the definition of a clue should be.
    Loved the connection between 6d and 25a too.
    Favourite is 21a.
    Thanks to Cyborg for the super fun.

  8. 4d – I’m sure I have seen this recently. Is Cyborg involved in the conspiracy or is it just another crossword coincidence?

    As others have said … 9a …. LOL …

  9. Thank cyborg, I enjoyed this a lot. The clues I particularly liked were 7a (unravel crossword), 9a (party with only draught and bottled beer), 12a (clumsy to write backwards), 25a and the associated 6d (not cricket), 5d(anthropomorphic lichen) and 10d (foxy lace style – quite a clever construct, i thought, but “rig” didn’t work for me since the answer is the gas).

    Minor point my brb has 3d as 2 words.

    thought we might have a pangram but J & Z missing.

    As other have pointed out, very clever to have identical clues with different answers, but it comes at a cost and these weren’t my favourite clues. I thought “stripes” seemed forced in both, not convinced it really works as an odd letter indicator in 1a, and don’t know why they are odd in 22 – the poor animal probably doesn’t think so. The 26/1d combination is much smoother in terms of dual interpretation – but the surface reading doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in either couplet.

    But a lot of fun overal, and I enjoyed 7a most, it is beautiful as a clue in its own right but the double meaning as an instruction for this puzzle is super smooth, making it the star of the puzzle for me, well done!

    Many thanks

  10. Well done, Cyborg. This was a lot of fun, and not too difficult. Incorporating two pairs of identical clues was so clever that I am sure we can let you off the slightly contrived surface readings!

    The wordplays for 4d and 22d were a bit convoluted for my taste, but I’m sure that others will like them.

    My favourite was the excellent 9a.

  11. A great way to spend a wet Monday afternoon.
    It took me a while to get onto the right wave-length so progress was pretty slow to begin with.
    I missed both the hidden answers – 7a and 5d – for ages.
    I loved 9a and the connecting 25a/6d.
    I’m now stuck with 1a and 3d – if I could get one of them I’d stand a better chance of getting the other but . . .
    With thanks, congratulations and to Cyborg.

    1. 3d – I think you have to have over = o, which is then removed from the anagram. (it’s not in online Collins, but I haven’t checked Chambers.) Collins has the answer as (3-5). Not fully parsed 1a yet
      There are plenty I haven’t got yet, hopefully will get finished this evening. 9a is brilliant.

  12. Thanks Cyborg – I really enjoyed this. Too many great clues to make picking out a favourite seem fair, but I’ll choose 9a as the one that made me laugh the most. Hats off also for pulling off the dual clue trick twice – as others have said they ended up not being your strongest, but that is more than forgiveable for the cleverness of the achievement.

  13. A terrific puzzle.I liked 1d, 4d, both hidden clues 7a and 5d, 13d, 9a and most of all 10d. If in 10d, the gas referred to C2H4, it is spelled “ethene”
    I have some difficulty in several parsings, particularly 21a , but I am sure that is my fault.
    Thanks Cyborg for an entertaining puzzle.

      1. Thanks, actually I did understand that one , it was some other one (several actually ) I couldn’t quite get , but I can’t see the puzzle anymore so I can’t say which ones.

  14. I now have a completed grid, and really enjoyed getting there. I still have 9a as my favourite, and my other choices tally with everyone else – 4d, 3d, 13a, 25a plus the two lurkers, particularly 7a. The couplets are a very nifty and clever trick, if you could nail the surfaces it would be stunning.
    I did also struggle to make any sense of 18a, and 7d I had to force a meaning to the surface, but these are minor points. I think in 17a ‘will’ might be doing double duty? Otherwise the cryptic grammar is slightly wrong as it would be ‘loses’? I may be wrong. A couple of times the linkword is ‘with’ but I think this should be allowed anyway!
    Thinking about 17 further, I might well be wrong – ‘lose elements’ can possibly be seen as an instruction? I will wait and see if it is covered in the review.
    Thanks Cyborg, and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review, which I will read avidly as usual.

    1. No comment about 17 so I guess it’s fine. Thanks for the review – it’s a nuisance that the crosswords in RC are now so good, it makes it difficult to learn from the mistakes.
      I’ll defend the anthropomorphic lichen, though – it’s absurd, but sort of makes sense, and amusing for it.

      1. I like it too, and it’s a clever hide with just 1 letter in the long word and and 5 in the 6-letter word.

  15. I will repeat my comment from his debut here, which was – Cyborg you are a clever sausage. 7, 9, 23 across and 6 d were my favourites

  16. I agree with Beet – he or she is a ‘clever sausage’ – love the expression.
    Thanks to everyone who pointed me in the right direction enough for me to get 3d – I was, just for a change, being dim.
    I still can’t do 1a even though silvanus pushed me towards what dutch had said so I’ll wait for tomorrow’s review.
    Still don’t quite get 22d either, even though I have an answer.
    Oh well – it was good fun – thanks again to Cyborg and, in advance, to Prolixic.

  17. Great stuff. I don’t often have time to have a go at RC offerings but I began this on my phone last night after surrendering to insomnia and carried on today on the tube. Struggled with “Easter egg” as I misread the clue as referring to 25a not 26a – and I confess that unless the anagram is screamingly obvious I generally resort to writing it out, which is not so easy on a phone, so a technical DNF, but still. “Foxy lace” was brilliant but I’ve always thought the answer was hyphenated. Many thanks to Cyborg, looking forward to the review.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As others have said, the couplets don’t quite seem to hit the mark, but there were plenty of other great clues – I stick with 9a as my favourite.
    Other things I was a little unsure about – ‘insignia’ for patch and ‘segregate’ for set aside (set apart would be OK, but ‘aside’ doesn’t really fill the bill).
    Just a couple of points on the review – 1a needs to say ‘the odd letters of creature’ and the answer to 18a should have an ‘S’ in it.

    Sorry – finished complaining now! It was still a great RC – many thanks to Cyborg.

    1. Oh dear – just thought of another ‘moan’! I can’t find any reference to the feasibility of spelling the 20d storm with just one ‘L’ – is it in the BRB?

        1. I thought about that one again over night. You’re right (needless to say!) – I was thinking in terms of a squall being a short storm whereas I see now that it’s more of a sudden storm.

  19. Thanks prolixic for the review, and thanks again Cyborg. You’re puzzle has generated plenty of interest!

  20. Hi all,

    Thanks to Big Dave for hosting once more, Prolixic for yet another helpful review, and all commenters for your detailed feedback. It’s nice to be back!

    Thanks are particularly needed for everyone’s continued tolerance of my dodgy duplicate clues. I’ve been experimenting with other gimmicks, but that one remains my favourite. I’ll persevere until I get a pair which parses cleanly for the next one.

    I was undecided whether the overall standard of this crossword was good enough for public consumption, and in the end it was 7a which swung it for me. After a pig of a grid fill, it fell out as a complete fluke, and I was so delighted with my luck that I thought I’d better show it off while the going was good!

    Lastly, my apologies for the mis-enumeration at 3d. Entirely my own fault, and I never even thought to check it.

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