Rookie Corner – 085 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 085

A Puzzle by Silvanus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Apologies for the late posting, but I’m sure that you will find this latest puzzle from Silvanus is worth the wait. 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.

I always enjoy blogging a Silvanus crossword. As it appeared late, this one had the added advantage of not being fiendishly difficult so I was able to rattle through it to prepare the blog in good time.


1 Evening pint is the source of regular tweets (8)
NIGHTJAR – … a bird whose name split 5,4 would suggest an evening pint.

5 Partially describe a very busy creature (6)
BEAVER – The answer is hidden (partially) in DESCRIBE A VERY.

10 Crazy fellow, magician at heart (5)
MANIC – A three letter word for a fellow followed by the central letters (at heart) of magician.

11 Put too great a strain on daughter following public expenditure cut (9)
OVERTAXED – A five letter word meaning public followed by a three letter word for a public expenditure cut and finally (following) the abbreviation for daughter.

12 An opera-glass means confusing lettering contains nothing I miss (9)
LORGENETTE – An anagram (confusing) of LETTERING without the I (I miss) and inserting the letter representing nothing. I am not convinced that definition means wordplay is that elegant. Also with I don’t think that I miss makes grammatical sense.

13 Cancel yearbook with article removed (5)
ANNUL – Another word for a yearbook with the inner A (article) removed.

14 Short type of American needle (6)
STYLUS – A word meaning type with the final letter removed (short) followed by a letter abbreviation for American.

15 Argument divides unconvincing way of restarting game (5-2)
THROW-IN – A three letter word meaning argument goes inside (divides) a four letter word meaning unconvincing.

18 Middle of the road backchat regarding pasta dish (7)
LASAGNE – Inside the middle of a word for a road include a reversal (back) of a word meaning chat. Depending on the editor, the following points might be raised. First, middle of the road does not grammatically indicate putting letters into the middle of a word. Secondly, lift an separate clues of the form backchat are not universally accepted, thirdly, the construction definition regarding wordplay may raise a few eyebrows and fourthly, the surface reading is not the best in the crossword!

20 Confined location is cooler (6)
PRISON – A semi-elliptical definition of a place where people are confined that is sometimes referred to as a cooler.

22 When party’s beginning I face cold jelly (5)
ASPIC – A two letter word meaning when followed by the first letter (beginning) of party and the I from the clue go before (face – stand before) the abbreviation for cold.

24 Battle artist returns to his work capturing tattered flag (9)
TRAFALGAR – Reverse a two letter abbreviation for an artist and the work that he produces and include (capturing) an anagram (tattered) of flag.

25 Disgusting misuse of superlative – disheartened aspirant withdraws (9)
REPULSIVE – An anagram (misuse of) SUPERLATIVE after removing the AT (disheartened a[spiran]t withdraws).

26 Merchant associated with illegally-traded commodity (5)
IVORY – Double definition for the film maker Merchant ***** and the material that comes from elephant tusks.

27 Outside parking by hospital – empty zone right after last bay’s a breeze! (6)
ZEPHYR – The abbreviations for parking and hospital have the following around (outside) – the outer letters (empty) of zone and the abbreviation for right after the last letter of bay. Not all editors would accept last bay as a valid final letter indicator.

28 Responsibility not taken for airport goods (4-4)
DUTY-FREE – A word meaning responsibility followed by a word meaning not taken.


1 Agile sportsman I’m blessed in accommodating (6)
NIMBLE – The answer is hidden in (accommodating) SPORTSMAN IM BLESSED. The “in” in the clue is a little wrinkle that should ideally be removed.

2 Produces great scene drunk, throwing out Conservative (9)
GENERATES – An anagram (drunk) of GREAT SCENE after removing the abbreviation for conservative.

3 Form of music reasonably making use of scientific application (15)
TECHNOLOGICALLY – A six letter word for electronic dance music followed by a word meaning reasonably.

4 Note disease outwardly infectious to rodents (7)
AGOUTIS – A one letter musical note followed by a painful disease allegedly brought on by too much port and the outer letters (outwardly) of infectious.

6 Remarkably rare taxi ride only surprises if no energy is utilised (15)
EXTRAORDINARILY – An anagram (surprises) of RARE TAXI RIDE ONLY after removing one of the letter Es (no energy is utilised). No energy is utilised implies that both letters E have to be removed and a way of phrasing this to say the only one E has to be removed would be better.

7 Kiss precedes drug dissolved in wine for ill-tempered female (5)
VIXEN – The letter representing a kiss followed by the abbreviation for Ecstasy goes inside (dissolved in) the French word for wine. Dissolved in does not imply insertion in the sense that the letters remain intact. Dissolved in suggests spreading out but this is overly pedantic.

8 Evocative tear filled with grief (8)
REDOLENT – Another word for tear includes (filled with) a word meaning grief. Some editors will require archaic words such as the one used for grief to be indicated as such.

9 Failing to transfer allegiance (6)
DEFECT – A double definition.

16 Order gown fashioned for offender (9)
WRONGDOER – An anagram (fashioned) of ORDER GOWN.

17 20 Across gangster and extreme characters adopt animal behaviour finally (8)
ALCATRAZ – The name of a 20a from the diminutive name of Mr Capone and the first and last letters of the alphabet (extreme characters) include (adopt) the name of a domestic animal and the final letter or behaviour.

19 Curious elation an absent ring may involve (6)
ENTAIL – An anagram (curious) of ELATION after removing the O (an absent ring).

20 Level out with gold coating on top (7)
PLATEAU – Another word for a coating on top of the chemical symbol for gold.

21 Gory mess in front of Tyneside breakwater (6)
GROYNE – An anagram (mess) of GORY followed by the area of the country where you find Tyneside.

23 Appear unexpectedly from Towcester, say (3,2)
POP UP – You need to know that Towcester is pronounced Toaster and what bread does from this unexpectedly is the answer.

63 comments on “Rookie Corner – 085

  1. Very enjoyable with smooth surfaces and no obscurities – thanks Silvanus. I thought after my first couple of answers that it was going to be a pangram but that didn’t happen. I have question marks against 2 clues: 20a – where (assuming that it’s a double definition) I think that the two meanings are too close and 26a which is a great idea but the first bit doesn’t quite work for me. Top of the pile were 1a (excellent), 17d and 23d (producing a loud d’oh). You possibly could have exploited the fact that the 17d gangster spent time in the answer.

  2. I enjoyed this very much, but I have a couple of comments. Unless you know the unusual rodent in 4D from the checking letters (I didn’t) you’re left floundering among a million diseases to guess the right one. I ended up revealing a letter. Perhaps the area typically affected by that disease could have been included in the clue? Perhaps 26A would work a bit better if associate were used rather than associated. I learned a new word for grief, though I didn’t need to know it to solve the clue. Not sure how 5A is parsed. I have absolutely no idea what 23D is all about! 1A is definitely my favorite clue, though I very much liked 24A. Thanks, Silvanus!

    1. Thanks a lot, Chris. 23d is very UK-centric, so apologies to you, 2Kiwis and anyone else unfamiliar with the English town in question (and, more importantly, its pronunciation). I’m very pleased you enjoyed the puzzle overall.

      1. Oh my God! I’ve just twigged 23D!! I had completely forgotten about that pronunciation. It’s now on the winners podium.

      1. I have the answer, of course, and I know the phrase is a two word one, but I’m hung up on the first word of the phrase also being part of the clue. Unless I am way off track, and that’s always a possibility.

  3. I’ve only just understood the last clue, 23d, doh – this is now my favourite – brilliant.

    but, I don’t yet understand the 26a merchant, obviously gazza and expat chris do.

    Many thanks Silvanus, lots to like, I have ticks against 1a, 5a, 10a, 4d, 7d, and there are more good clues. I also have a few question marks, e.g. around some extra words like means in 12a, of in 14a, in in 1d, some grammar in 12a. I’ll wait to see Prolixic’s review before commenting further.

    Many thanks for sharing, good fun, and congratulations on this achievement

  4. Splendid stuff, Silvanus, thank you very much.
    I’m another one who didn’t know the rodent family but managed to get there after I’d finally dismissed ‘pox’ from the equation!
    Also struggled a bit to get the full parsing of 26a – faintly clanging bells tell me that I should have remembered it.
    1a made me smile – I used something rather similar in a quiz for one of the groups I help to run
    Quite a few stars on my list but I’ll put 3,20&23d up on the podium.

  5. I thought 26a was brilliant, and my favourite.I also liked 11a,1a, 14a, 3d.
    I never heard of 4d and 23d was a bit mysterious too.
    Thank you, Silvanus.

  6. It certainly didn’t feel like a Rookie to me More like a proper crossword worth publishing.
    I found it very “aboutit”.
    Only had to check Google for 4d and 21d but the clueing was very fair.
    No problems with 26a either. Remembered those flannel coloured films as I called them.
    The homophone in 23d is brilliant. Expat Chris reminded me of how Americans used to pronounce Leicester Square Liessester Square.
    Don’t want to upset you EC. It’s just my lateral thinking.
    Rather fond of 9d.
    Thanks to Silvanus for the great fun.

      1. You should come and visit my restaurant. We use it in Steak Tartare and most French people try to pronounce it, give up and ask for English sauce instead.

  7. Lovely puzzle, very accomplished.

    Especially liked 1a, 18a, 24a, 26a (brilliant), 23d (likewise), and quite a few others. Lots of super surfaces and the wordplay was clear throughout (one possible exception, not sure). Quite a few deductive anagrams, which as a solver I quite like.

    I knew the rodents – they often come up on Countdown, though the opera-glass and the breakwater were new to me. Guessed the latter from the wordplay, but the former I needed all the crossers and then had to fiddle around with the remaining letters (again the wordplay was clear) to find something that actually looked like a word.

    In 6d I think “no energy” could imply both of the Es should be removed, if I am reading it correctly. “Less energy” would be fairer.

    27a must be a bugger to clue. Wasn’t sure that the order of the wordplay quite works, or is possibly ambiguous. It seemed to me to say that ZE and R go around PH, after Y, but regardless of that with all those letters clearly clued there was only one possible answer. Will be interested to see the expert view.

    Thanks for the puzzle, not a doddle, not for me anyway, but not too tough either.

    1. Many thanks indeed, Starhorse.

      As well as Countdown, I thought from memory that the rodents often appeared in crosswords too, especially in the singular form, but perhaps from others’ comments their appearance is more infrequent than I had assumed.

  8. Well this has been a Tuesday morning puzzle instead of a Monday afternoon one for me, but as BD says in his intro, “worth waiting for”. I got 23d without working out why. Obviously I need to do a bit of Googling now to understand the cleverness. While I’m doing that I will also try and find out why 26a is a merchant. Really good fun. Just the level of difficulty that we appreciate in Rookie puzzles.
    Many thanks Silvanus.

    Ps. Have just sorted out the Merchant Ivory clue, new to me, but Wikipedia did not help much with 23d. Will wait for the review.

    1. I can relax now. Kept saying the name of the town in as many ways as I could think of and all of a sudden the penny dropped. Brilliant!

    2. I’m so pleased that the unexpected wait didn’t detract from your enjoyment, Colin.

      Thank you for your comments.

  9. A really enjoyable, high quality puzzle with accurate clueing – thanks Silvanus! The wordplay is particularly strong & accurate, I feel. A few of the surfaces could perhaps be improved – e.g. 12a and 18a – though most are strong. 27a made me smile – I was visualising trying to find a space in our local hospital car park at the time (definitely not a breeze!) With 23d, a really good clue: I thought perhaps ‘in’ might be better than ‘from’ for the surface – but now not so sure? [Depends how strong the ‘device’ is, I guess!]

    Finally, I liked the Merchant and Towcester clues. And several clues would of course be entirely suited to any of the top daily cryptics.

    Very good and thanks again!

    – ACTEON –

    1. Many thanks, Encota, glad to hear that you liked it.

      I’m always particularly pleased when clues conjure up visual images, it suggests that the surface can’t be that bad!

  10. First rate puzzle, thank you Silvanus! I think the only reason I found this such a quick solve was that it was easy to get on your wavelength; there were no real obscurities ( always assuming you knew the rodent and the Midlands town) and the clues were virtually flawless, as far as I could tell. I have ticks by many! The only possible problem I could see was with the definition in 26, which is hinted at but not really there perhaps.
    Favourites, and with double ticks, were 11a, 24a, 9d and 23d. Splendid!

    1. Very happy to know that you were on my wavelength, Maize :-)

      23d was certainly one of my own favourites when compiling the puzzle, and I do love homophones almost as much as anagrams!

  11. The usual excellent Crossword from Silvanus with fine surfaces. I found it nice and gentle, a perfect Monday crossword. The Towcester clue is excellent (and I’ve not been sure before that a homophone to a clue is acceptable, so glad to see it is), and I too liked really liked the subtractive clues, which were clearly clued. Lots of others were great too, 1a and 21d tickled me.
    20a might get noted for using with as a link word. I think I said last time that the first listing in Collins is ‘by means of’, so surely it should be fine for ‘definition with wordplay’ but people don’t seem to like it.
    1a ‘in’ doesn’t read quite right to me in the cryptic grammar, but my knowledge of acceptable sentence forms is shocking, and 27a is non-Xim (last bay), so you wouldn’t make it into the Times (well done for clueing it, as Starhorse said, it looks horrible) but I think it was a superb crossword, many thanks.

    1. Many thanks for the generous comments, Snape.

      I think you meant 1d for the “in” reference? (Dutch made a similar observation).

      When test-solving, Beet said that 21d made her think of a scene from the Michael Caine film “Get Carter” (great allusion), but perhaps you had a risqué homophone in mind instead?!

      1. No, it was just an image of a large splat of gore that came to mind, with no apparent reason for it – and in my head people were wandering past paying no attention to it. It was just the phrasing I enjoyed.

        Yes, I did mean 1d, and I’d missed Dutch’s comment – sorry.

    2. I agree with you 100% on ‘with’ Snape. If you can make a rarebit with toast and cheese on top, then why not make a ******* with gold and coating on top?

  12. Well done Silvanus – a great crossword.

    It was gentle enough to be a perfect post-blogday wind down, and with lots to smile at. I raised a couple of eyebrows during the solve at teeny little bits that I wasn’t sure quite worked, but forgot to note them down. Since we have expert reviewers to unpick the details, I won’t go there, but I remember Starhorse’s point about 6d to be one of them.

    I had no problems in filling the grid, enjoyed the journey and just needed clarification on 26a at the end.

    There was lots that I really liked, but will just mention 5a, the extreme characters in 17d, and 23d. That particular homophone pops up a recent theme in the comments!

    Many thanks Silvanus, and thanks in advance for the review.

  13. A thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. Just the right degree of difficulty for me, a lunch hour solve.
    Favourites were 1a, 3 & 6d. Like others, I hadn’t heard of the rodent, so had to google that, but all in all a very nice solve. Thanks Silvanus.

  14. Thanks Silvanus – nice solve – maybe intended to be on the easy side of medium – which doesn’t mean that I found it so – at least not to finish the last few – but enjoyable throughout.

    In a rush now so I’ll try to add more detail from my scribbles later – but someone – anyone – please – put me out of my misery. You’ve obviously all twigged it – and I still haven’t.

    How does 23d work – I’ve read all about Towcester now on wikipedia and still none the wiser – do I have to pronounce something in a particular accent?

    When I bunged it in from the definition I thought it must have been the setting for Darling Buds of May – obviously not.

    Thanks again S.

      1. What Jane said. Another of those odd British pronunciations.

        ( Kitty’s being a naughty kitty again.)

  15. I’m enjoying this one very much.
    Done most of the right side but the left side isn’t looking so good.
    I’ve deliberately not read any of the comments yet because I want to carry on with it tomorrow.
    When/if I fail to finish it I might change my mind but I’d say that, for me at least, it’s a good level of difficulty.
    With thanks to Silvanus and back tomorrow . . .

    1. . . . there I was just on my way to bed and 23d came into my head! “Towcester”!! Oh dear!! Loved it.

      1. Wonder how long it took you to arrive at ‘come’ in that sentence when the compulsion to use the obvious word must have been almost overwhelming.

  16. Many thanks, Prolixic – pleased to learn that I’d got all my parsing correct this time – even though I did have to consult Mr. Google about the veracity of my answer for 26a!
    Interesting to see that you tried to squeeze an extra ‘e’ into 12a – that was my first thought as well!
    I really did think this was a good Rookie puzzle – hope Sylvanus is going to be there for the next birthday party.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Too early as yet to know my plans for late January, but I will certainly do my best to make another appearance. I’d be very keen to finally meet you in person :-)

  17. I think just about everything’s been said about your delightful puzzle Silvanus – so I have no other comment other than well done, I thoroughly enjoyed it

    Hopefully we’ll see you on the DT back page some time in the future. Keep up the good work.

  18. Well done Silvanus on an excellent puzzle, the interval between test solving and appearance here meant I had the pleasure of solving it twice.

  19. The gremlins seem to be doing their best to prevent access to the site today, but I’m not going to be deterred….

    Grateful thanks as ever to Prolixic for his review – I’m really delighted that he enjoys blogging my puzzles :-)

    I’m indebted too to Beet and Sprocker once again for their invaluable help, suggestions and encouragement at the test-solving stage. Without their input, my crosswords would definitely be the poorer.

    Sincerest appreciation to everyone who took the trouble to tackle my latest effort, and a special mention to all the Rookie Regulars (as Sprocker would call them!) who always give such important feedback.

    Last, but certainly not least, a huge thanks to Big Dave for setting everything in motion and for the fantastic opportunities his brainchild of Rookie Corner provide.

  20. Many thanks Prolixic for the informative review. It’s taken me all day to be able to logon to the web site to read it.

    Silvanus, Prolixic has been thorough as always, and I have little to add. I already mentioned I thought that means (12a) and in (1d) can be omitted. I also think “of” is out of place in 14a since american=US, but this requires more of a fix. I wasn’t sure about having “may” in 19a, since entail=involve, not “may involve”, and I don’t think may is a good link.

    Wasn’t sure I liked “surprises” and “misuse of” as anagram indicators, but they’re probably ok

    1a is great but I think I like it even more with “a” instead of the.

    To expand on the grammar in 12a, it is very tempting to use “I” in the first person, but cryptically it isn’t, it’s just a letter – it could equally be “QXR” or whatever, or “one”, so the cryptic grammar has to be third person. This is tricky, you have to find something like “I was missing” that is the same for 1st and third person. Then, it’s nicer if all the cryptic grammar is as consistent as possible, so you might have “confused lettering contained nothing I missed”, for example, though better still if you can keep everything in present tense – some people really don’t like past tense in the cryptic reading.

    that’s all really, hope it’s useful, many thanks again, great stuff

    1. That “I am” thing is just a ximeneanism. Surely (by Afrit) you can look at “I” as either a meaningful word or a single letter as needed.

      I can recall (but not well enough to give you the exact example) a fairly tough Indy Prizer by Radian which included a very short clue which used “I am in” (or similar) to insert I – I assumed (Radian being a scrupulously accurate setter) he was intentionally cocking a snook at Ximenes.

    2. In 12a, the issue is not the Ximenes debate about the grammatical sense in which I is being used. The same issues would have arisen if the clue said “a miss” – it is the “miss” here that feels out of place.

      1. Hi Prolixic

        I was really responding to Dutch’s broader point (para starting “To expand…) rather than your original blog comment.

        OTOH I think to make “I miss” work one has to think of “miss” as meaning eg “fail to attend”, which puts one in similar territory.


        I [the letter] fails to attend (needing misses)
        I [first person singular] fail to attend (needing miss)

        the latter having the same solecism for ximeneans (but not for conventional solvers) as the famous “I’m in the plan” for PLAIN

        BTW – thanks so much for all these write-ups – it must be a huge task even when setters provide clear annotations.

  21. Thanks to those who helped me with the pronunciation of Towcester – (mega-doh) I should have twigged that just from the name – the suffix -cester somehow gives rise to a large number of non-standard pronunciations – if not from the answer.

    I didn’t have any major quibbles and those points I did have have already been covered.

    This more an observation than a quibble, but in 17a, substituting the answer from 20d doesn’t give (for me) a meaningful surface. I don’t think that’s necessarily a fault – in fact I think (not sure without checking) Araucaria did that quite a bit; he of course frequently wrote heavily cross-linked puzzles.

    One reads the clue in isolation with the cross-reference meaning “something or other” and then it all makes sense cryptic reading.

    OTOH it’s nicer when the substitution does fit exactly – it frequently helps you solve the referenced clue when you get the dependent one first.

    In this instance the commonality of subject matter still did that for me.

    Once again many thanks Silvanus.

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