Rookie Corner – 089 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 089

Merry Christmas by Silvanus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Silvanus has prepared a special Christmas treat – enjoy! 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.

Silvanus has produced a lovely Christmas treat.

Compliments of the season to everyone – have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.


9 Planned Government programme is broadcast on Christmas Day (3,6,6)
THE QUEEN’S SPEECH – Double definition of what Her Majesty delivers to Parliament at the State Opening each year and to the nation on Christmas Day.

10 Santa Claus, for example, involved later on (3,4)
NOT REAL – An anagram (involved) of LATER ON.  Vicars have been hung out to dry in the papers for suggesting this.  Perhaps your pseudonym needs to be changed to Scrooge!  Remember that definition have to be accurate and not misleading and suitable for a wide range of readers.

12 Controversy about lighter centrepiece of religious ceremony (7)
WORSHIP – Reverse (about) a word for a controversy or argument and follow this with another word for a lighter or type of boat.

13 Torchwood remake occupies prime Christmas TV slot (6,3)
DOCTOR WHO – An anagram (remake) of TORCHWOOD.  Torchwood was the original code word used by the BBC to mark tapes of the answer.

14 Detect painting going round church (5)
TRACE – Reverse a three letter word for a painting and follow it with the abbreviation for the Church of England.

15 Graduates are indeed degraded (7)
DEBASED – A three letter word for graduates (note the plural) in DEED (indeed).  Views differ on the acceptability of constructions such as indeed where you have to split the word into IN DEED.

18 Overlooked having been given permission to leave the Christmas dinner table? (7)
EXCUSED – A double definition.

21 Chose some Muscadet, possibly, on reflection (5)
OPTED – The answer is hidden (some) and reversed (on reflection) in MUSCADET POSSIBLY.

23 Male bird I’ve stuffed is covering area used in the kitchen (9)
MICROWAVE – The abbreviation for male followed by the I’ve from the clue inside which (stuffed) you include the name of a bird around (covering) the abbreviation for area.  Unless you read this in an extremely Yoda like fashion, to me this indicates that the IVE goes inside the bird.  Perhaps “for something used in the kitchen” would have been a better definition.

25 Biased, but not completely? (7)
PARTIAL – A double definition.  Completely would require a adverb as the second definition but the answer is an adjective.

26 In the morning regular tea avoids reversion to a more primitive type (7)
ATAVISM – Inside the abbreviation for the morning hours include the odd letters (regular) of tea avoidsI prefer regularly to regular when used for hidden words.  Here this could have been clued as “In the morning, oddly, tea…”to overcome the issue.

29 Pins could be inexpensive Christmas gifts? (8,7)
STOCKING FILLERS – A cryptic definition with pins being another word for legs.


1 Shock switch of Christmas nibbles (4)
STUN – Reverse (switch) a food on which you nibble at Christmas.

2 Judge established as object of laughter (4)
JEST – The abbreviation for judge followed by the abbreviation for established.

3 Told you will record opening to “Strictly”? Sounds a great Christmas tradition! (4,4)
YULE LOGS – A homophone (told) of YOU WILL in its abbreviated form followed by a word meaning to record and the first letter (opening to) of Strictly.  The “sounds” could be omitted from the clue.

4 Chap stumbled approaching town centre (6)
FELLOW – The word meaning stumbled followed by the middle letters (centre) of town.  As town centre means centre of the town I think that requiring town’s centre would be unduly pedantic.

5 Proverb bridges a gap in general (2,1,5)
AS A WHOLE – A three letter word for a proverb goes inside (bridges as in fill the gap between) the A from the clue and a four letter word for a gap.

6 Christmas present received by Scrooge? (6)
SPIRIT – A double definition of who visited Scrooge and something such as a bottle of brandy that you might get as a Christmas present.

7 Rash deed transformed those prone to freckles (8)
REDHEADS – An anagram (transformed) of RASH DEED.

8 Nativity character traditionally excited by a particular evening shade? (8)
SHEPHERD – A cryptic definition referring to the proverb “Red sky at night”.  One of the earliest recorded versions of the proverb is in Matthew’s gospel – Chapter 16 verse 2.

11 Gas region supports ending of embargo (5)
OZONE – The final letter (ending of) embargo goes over (supported by) another word for a region.

15 Swapped around locations for street party, hiding poor substitute for jam, say (8)
DOORPOST – Swap the abbreviation for street and a two letter word for a party and include an anagram (substitute) of POOR.  This is a clue to a clue when you look at the definition as the definition itself is a homophone of a jam and it would be usual to give a direct definition.

16 Convenience to Americans of English city upsets Muslim (8)
BATHROOM – The name of a SW city in England followed by a reversal (upsets) of a Muslim.  Arguably the word to be reversed is a North African who may (but not necessarily) be a Muslim.

17 Get rid of Heather for a more rounded person? (8)
DUMPLING – A four letter word meaning to get rid of (as you might a boyfriend) followed by another word for heather.

19 House is enthralled by first Christmas gathering suitable for singers (8)
CHORALLY – The abbreviation for house goes inside (enthralled by) the first letter (first) of Christmas and another word for a gathering.  Again purists would not like first on its own to indicate the initial letter.  Here suitable for singers would indicate an adjective but the answer is an adjective.

20 King perhaps has a point replacing independent industrious Christmas workers (5)
ELVES – The first name of the King (Mr Presley) has the abbreviation for East (point) replacing the I (independent).

22 Christmas celebration maybe for daughter facing resistance over tattoos (6)
DRINKS – The abbreviations for daughter and resistance followed by another word for tattoos.

24 Teases Charles outside very loudly (6)
CHAFFS – A four letter contraction of the name Charles around (outside) the musical notation for very loudly.

27 Ivy’s Latin companion at Christmas immersed in email exchange (4)
ILEX – The Latin name of Holly is hidden in (immersed in) EMAIL EXCHANGE.

28 Donkey follows Mary’s introduction to Christmas service (4)
MASS – The first letter (introduction) of Mary followed by another word for a donkey.

59 comments on “Rookie Corner – 089

  1. Well done Silvanus. A very good puzzle I thought. Having the theme helped a lot and it was all going in very smoothly until a couple in the SE slowed progress down considerably. 23a and 19d being the culprits. Looks like I will have to hide this one from the grandkids or at least put xxxxxxx in for 10a – what sacrilege! Thoroughly enjoyed, many thanks Silvanus.

    1. Me too on 19D, because the clue wrapped to the next column on the printout and initially I was only reading half of it!

  2. Nice one Silvanus, with some very pleasing surfaces (6D was lovely, as was 25A!). I was momentarily led astray by putting the American term in for 29A, which worked just as well (‘cept it was singular). I confess to wondering what is cryptic about 9A. Still pondering the parsing of 8D. It was fun, though, and that’s a main criterion for me. Keep ’em coming!

    Merry Christmas to all the Rookie setters, and thanks for a most entertaining year! And thanks of course to BD who made this corner possible.

    1. Chris, where we live we look towards a Western seascape and the “evening shade’ referred to is a frequent occurrence. A big help with 8d.
      And I’ve just realised that we have a pangram too to add to the cleverness.

    2. Chris, is the saying “red sky at night 8d’s delight, red sky in the morning 8d’s warning” uniquely British?

        1. Thanks for that, Prolixic. I wasn’t aware of such a venerable provenance even if the biblical reference was somewhat more wordy:

          When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.”

          My further researches have uncovered that Shakespeare also used the “morning warning” in his (extremely wordy) poem Venus and Adonis:

          Like a red morn that ever yet betoken’d,
          Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field,
          Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds,
          Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.

  3. Thanks Silvanus – I enjoyed this one a lot (more than today’s back-pager, actually). Top clues for me were 29a and 17d.
    I did have a few minor niggles – in 25a ‘completely’ is an adverb but the answer is an adjective and I’m not keen on the use of a homophone as the definition in 15d. Also ‘first Christmas’ in 19d to clue the letter C is normally frowned upon.

    1. Thank you, Gazza, I’m sure that today’s Rufus puzzle can’t be that bad!! (I’ll tackle it later).

  4. Very well done and many thanks, Silvanus. I really enjoyed this festive pangram. I agree with Gazza that it was more fun than today’s Rufus offering, which was certainly not bad but definitely not up to his normal high standard.

    Most of your surfaces were nice and smooth, although I wasn’t keen on the wordplay for 15d. I still can’t quite work out the parsing of 23a although all the elements are there.

    There were lots of clues to enjoy here and I finally chose 8d as my favourite from quite a long short list.

    1. RD, 23a. The parsing IS quite complex, with a double-usage of a letter. This is how I read it: The I from I’ve is firstly “stuffed” into the male bird thus M(I)CROW. Simultaneously, the I’ve is “covering” the a from area thus: I(A)VE. But the I in each case is the same I and if you join them together using the I only once you get the answer M(I)CROW(A)VE. And, of course, “used in the kitchen” is the definition bit. Does that help or make it worse?

  5. Thanks Silvanus. A most enjoyable puzzle. I found East harder than West, but gentle 5d, though I did take a couple of letter hints in the SW because time is scarce on Mondays.

    Ah, the 10a Santa. Fun for children, who can then (if nobody spoils it) enjoy the delight of figuring out he’s 10a. A valuable lesson in not believing everything that people – even the most trusted figures – tell you. A way to learn the joy of critical thinking and empirical research – with presents.

    But be careful with your spelling, kids…

    It’s hard to pick a favourite, but will choose 22d. They will be very helpful in the coming days.

    Thanks again, Silvanus, and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. I now anxiously triple-check all the links I post for swears – and, sure enough, there are a couple of things in the above that could conceivably offend the easily-offended. What is becoming my standard disclaimer applies.

    2. Hi Kitty,

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I loved the link you posted, I suppose that Satan would enjoy an Antichristmas?!

  6. Thanks Silvanus – a fun & festive treat this morning :)
    Favourites for me included 21a, 23a, 26a, 29a, 4d 11d, 16d and 20d. about half way through I thought ‘Ooh, Z, Q & J… I must remember to check for a pangram at the end, then I forgot to do so, so thank you RD for pinting it out!
    The word ‘cheeky’ is often used – or possibly misused – on these pages to indicate a breaking of crossowrd rules, but I would definitely say13a was cheeky – I mean that’s why Torchwood is called Torchwood, isn’t it!
    Anyhow Happy Christmas and thanks again for a fun puzzle.

  7. Hi Maize,

    Thanks a lot for your comments and pleased that you enjoyed the solve!

    Re 13a, “Whovians” and those familiar with how the spin-off series got it’s name will undoubtedly find it one of the easier clues, I know that Beet did when she test-solved it!

  8. Gazza has already said most of what I was going to say including about the C in 19d. I’ve seen a similar clue to 13a before, but don’t ask me where or when. My favourite was 8d.

    I think it is very naughty to include 10a – who says he isn’t??

    Sort out the few niggling bits in your puzzles and I think we could see SIlvanus on a Saturday afternoon in 2016.

    Thank you to SIlvanus and a Happy Christmas to you and the other Rookies too.

    1. Having spent the afternoon being Santa Claus at Heligan Gardens, I must agree with Crypticsue that Santa most certainly does exist, in the minds, hearts and hopes of millions of children, fueled by the complicity of millions of parents who ensure that he is, and I suspect always will be, very real indeed. Happy Christmas

  9. That was fun – I agree with Gazza and enjoyed it more than today’s back page crossword.
    As soon as I looked at it I thought of Nina but then I forgot all about ‘her’ and ‘she’ isn’t there anyway.
    When I got 9a I thought it was going to be a pangram but by the time I’d finished I’d forgotten all about that too.
    I needed the earlier comments to understand my 8d.
    23a and 19d took me quite a long time to get an answer and then as long again to understand my answers.
    I liked 6 and 28d. My favourite was either 29a or 17d.
    With thanks, a big and Happy Christmas to Silvanus.

  10. Hi Sylvanus

    Well done, congratulations on a themed pangram! Quite an achievement and an enjoyable solve. I have my minor quibbles (would be odd if i didn’t!). I was shocked at 10a, I thought he was. I agree with the comments on 13a, the word is a recognised devised anagram for the spin-off, so there is little deception or originality there. I appreciated 26a for the accurate definition, I understood 8d only after reading the comments, and like expat chris, I am not sure I understand why 9a is cryptic. I agree with Gazza re 15a.

    In 23a, “bird i’ve stuffed” to me suggests the containment is the other way around, and I think the definition needs “something” used in the kitchen to indicate a noun.

    The perhaps in 20a looks like a definition by example indicator, which of course it isn’t. I don’t think you need it.

    Hope that helps, and let me add I’m in the “enjoyed this more than the back-pager” camp

    once again, well done and congratulations

    1. 9a is a double definition. The Queen’s Speech is what details the government’s programme at the start of each parliamentary session.

  11. Nicely done as ever, Silvanus. Quite tricky for me, particularly the bottom half, but that was where my favourite clues were: 16d, 17d and 22d.
    I didn’t understand 15d but bunged in an answer and checked (which showed two letters wrong in 4d and 12a that had to be right). A couple more I didn’t parse.

    Gazza’s comment on ‘completely’ reminded me of a question I have regarding adverbs that I hope someone with better English than I could help with:

    How do you describe an adverb without using another adverb? So for an adjective (furry, to pick a simple), you could say ‘like a cat’ or ‘as a cat can be’
    but how could you do this for an adverb?
    I was trying to describe ‘horizontally’ but I was sure everthing I was coming up with was actually decribing ‘horizontal’. It will probably be really obvious when it’s pointed out.

    Sorry for the question only being slightly related to your puzzle Silvanus, which was excellent, many thanks.

    1. Hi Snape,

      Many thanks as ever for your comments which are always valued.

      In answer to your question about adverbs, my immediate answer would be “in a xxxx manner” if the adverb ends in “ly” as the majority tend to. The difficulty comes with adverbs such as “often”, “almost”, “even” etc where there are seldom commonalities, so I don’t think that there is a standard form of description, especially since some adverbs will act as verbal modifiers, but others will qualify adjectives or perhaps nouns and so on. In short, I’m trying to say that there is no “one size (description) that fits all”.

      1. Cheers, that’ll certainly do for starters, I’m sure I’ll be nicking that phrase in due course.

  12. Sorry to be late reporting in, Sylvanus – the infernal machine kept insisting that ‘page cannot be found’!
    Many thanks for the Christmas pangram, with a couple that took a while to fully parse – 15&19d – and one that I needed to check on the definition – 26a.
    Rosettes go to 29a plus 17&20d, but I really have to haul you over the coals about 10a. Next thing, you’ll be trying to tell me that reindeer can’t fly.
    Have a wonderful Christmas and hope to meet you in January.

    1. Of course reindeer can fly, Jane!

      You’d have to make special arrangements with the airline though.

    2. Hi Jane,

      No need to apologise, I knew you’d be “on parade” eventually, and Rookie Corner would not feel quite the same without your loyal support and valued input.

      I’m sorry to shatter your illusions, but due to “elf and safety” regulations, Rudolf and team have now been grounded. I think it was something to do with the risk of stray reindeer dung being sucked into the engines of low-flying aircraft that was the deciding factor!

      Many thanks for your kind comments as ever, and have a great Christmas yourself.

      The Cluesmiths are in the “Only Connect” Quarter-Final at 8.30 on BBC2 if you are interested to follow their fortunes.

  13. As an aside, apart from Vixen, Santa’s flying reindeer have long suffered from being assumed to be male because of that infernal song. They are, of course, female. Male reindeer lose their antlers at the beginning of Winter, while females retain theirs until Spring. And every last reindeer sports a fine rack. It makes sense. Who else but a team of females could pull off such a monumental task yet never take a wrong turn or miss a single house, and still be home before daylight!

    1. Wonderful, Chris – like your style! I was a little worried about Rudolph being a suitable name for a girl, but maybe he’s just a baby and his glowing red nose keeps him so warm that his antlers don’t get cold and drop off? Then I thought about Cupid – always put across as being male, but then ‘he’ does look very pretty in all the depictions and the nether regions are invariably well covered.
      Must dash off now to check on those pesky elves and iron the fancy dress outfit ready for my Christmas Eve appearance as St. Nick.

      1. Yes, quite right Chris. Furthermore, I’m sure that Mrs Claus packs the sack and sends hubby out on the sleigh mainly to get him out of the house. I doubt the man himself makes it down the chimneys so my money’s on the elves doing that bit too. The big guy just sits back, enjoys the ride and the treats left out for him and takes all the credit.

        I must add at this point quite seriously that this is utterly unlike our own big guy who does huge amounts of sterling work and deserves every bit of credit he gets, and more. I should also apologise to all the other non-useless men out there, because plenty do exist – I know, I’ve met some.

        Girls are still best though

  14. Silvanus, totally professional now.Great stuff, seemingly effortless, great surface readings.
    27d was my favourite , and I also liked , more then the other great clues, 9a, because it puts me in mind of one of my favourite films, “The Kings Speech”.
    Well done.

  15. Finally got 15d. That took a while but was very rewarding.
    I liked the construction of 5d and it’s surface.
    Same with 26a.
    Saw some animated movie once with the Easter Rabbit, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Father Xmas, Jack Frost and the Bogey Man where they were to disappear if children stopped believing that they were real. Not going to let that happen are we?
    The “prone to freckles” made me smile and think of Catherine Tate and Kitty’s friend Tim Minchin. I’m getting a bit lateral here. Sorry.
    All that to say that I really enjoyed your crossword Silvanus.
    Thank and hope to see you in London too if you intend to be there.

    1. Many thanks indeed, Jean-Luc.

      I do hope to be there next month, especially if more of your delicious macaroons make another appearance!

      Joyeux Noel!

  16. On the drag again – just back from (a mediocre showing at) the local Christmas-themed pub quiz – where the ‘design a christmas scene in plasticine as you go’ feature went down well. Great puzzle Silvanus – many thanks! There’s a couple where I’ll wait for the review to be sure elf [spellcheck really did just come up with that – I can’t delete it!] the parsing. And I only found out the Torchwood ‘feature’ in the past year – couldn’t believe I’d missed it for so long!

    – ENCOTA –

  17. Never heard of Torchwood, and having googled it I can say without a doubt that it’s not something I would ever watch.

  18. Many thanks to Prolixic for his customary thorough review and to all those who attempted the puzzle. I realise that at this time of year, there is a temptation to think “oh no, not another Christmas-themed crossword”, but I’m very pleased that it was generally well received!

    My gratitude also to those who kindly left comments, most of whom I’ve tried to thank individually already, and a special mention as ever to Beet and Sprocker, whose test-solving input and thoughtful suggestions are always invaluable.

    Last, but certainly not least, a huge thank you to Big Dave for setting everything up and for creating this unique opportunity for aspiring setters. Little did I think that twelve months ago I would have seven of my creations published in Rookie Corner during 2015, it’s quite amazing really. Each one I like to feel is slightly more polished than the one before, but I’m also trying to establish a level of consistency in the standard of difficulty that will not vary too much from puzzle to puzzle. Only time will tell if that is successful of course.

    Merry Christmas everyone and thanks again for all your encouragement and generous comments.

    1. As always, it was an absolute pleasure to help out with the test-solving, and I’m really glad to see this get the good reception it deserved.

      Merry Xmas!

  19. Many thanks to Prolixic for the useful review, as always. I echo everything you say about the site – little did I think 12 months ago I’d actually be doing crosswords regularly, let alone writing more of them and submitting them online (I’d just tried writing one for work for Christmas, and I don’t want to go back and look at all the things I did wrong!)

    Merry Christmas to everyone.

  20. Thanks Silvanus – an entertaining solve.

    Sorry to be late on parade. I did it when it first appeared but then got sidetracked with other things.

    I didn’t have any quibbles.

    23a was my favourite – the verb-phrase hides the definition very effectively.

    I can’t remember whether or not I got Mrs Bradford to help – we’ve been seeing quite a lot of each other recently.

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