Rookie Corner – 090

A Puzzle by Cyborg

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This is Cyborg’s third entry in Rookie Corner. 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.

In his first two crosswords, Cyborg has used the gimmick of paired clues with minor variations or the same clue with different cryptic readings where the clues have felt a little forced at times.  He has used the same device here but the clues felt a lot more natural and the clever idea of using repetitive phrases in different forms in the clue also works.  My main concern here is that 12 clues rely on anagrams for their solutions which is far too many.  It would be nice to see a crossword from Cyborg where he does not set himself the constraint of paired clues and repetitive elements to give him more freedom in the setting of the crossword.


1 Empty page containing itemized entries/column headings for article (6,4)
TABULA RASA – A seven letter word meaning containing itemized entries/column headings followed by a two letter word meaning for and the indefinite article.

6 Top 10 for special copies (4)
APEX – A word meaning copies has the S (special) replaced with an X (ten).  Some means of indicating that the letter to be replaced is in the word for copies would be helpful for the solver here. 

10 Judge enters hidden message for assassin (5)
NINJA – The abbreviation for judge goes inside (enters) the name used where a hidden message is hidden in a crossword.

11 Frantically ran denial in response to peril, perhaps (9)
ADRENALIN – An anagram (frantically) of RAN DENIAL.

12 Might ultimately form various clues (6)
MUSCLE – The final letter (ultimately) of form followed by an anagram (various) of CLUES.

13 Information containing itemized entries is flash (7)
GLISTEN – A three letter word for information contains a word meaning itemised entries.

15 Tail off around 1m short of ending race (4,5)
TIME TRIAL – An anagram (off) of tail goes around the full spelling of 1m (as a unit of length) with the final letter removed (short of ending).

17 She quits crowded team (5)
SQUAD – Remove the SHE from a word meaning crowded or pressed together.

19 Regular stutter, say, in Indian text (5)
SUTRA – The odd letters (regular) in STUTTER SAY.  Some editors may require “regularly” rather than regular to indicate alternate letters.  Here you could have “Regularly stutters with a text from India” to overcome this.

21 Incorrectly set broken piece of guttering (9)
KERBSTONE – An anagram (incorrectly) of SET BROKEN.

23 Cooked a lot with veg giving potential energy (7)
VOLTAGE – An anagram (cooked) of A LOT VEG.

24 Column headings for article recorded by tablet (6)
PILLAR – The first letters (headings for) of article and recorded go after a word for a tablet.

27 Empty page is stolen unexpectedly (9)
POINTLESS – An anagram (unexpectedly) of P (page) IS STOLEN.

28 Empty page containing itemized entries/column headings for article (5)
PIECE – The outer letters (empty) of page include the initial letters (headings) of itemized, entries and column.  As headings has already being used as an initial letter indicator in 24a, you would normally expect a differing indicator.  However, as part of the setter’s trick in this puzzle is the repetition of phrases used in different ways, it works here to have the same device used.

29 Study edition partly coloured (4)
DYED – The answer is hidden in (partly) STUDY EDITION.

30 Agree to accept trombone half dismantled, for variety (10)
ASSORTMENT – A word meaning to agree includes (to accept) an anagram (dismantled) of TROM (trombone half).


1 Metalworkers mould this with mints (9)
TINSMITHS – An anagram (mould) of THIS MINTS.

2 Extra responsibility supporting bachelor (5)
BONUS – A word meaning responsibility goes under (supporting) the abbreviation for bachelor.

3 Flier felt poorly after dodgy ale (7)
LEAFLET – An anagram (poorly) of FELT after an anagram (dodgy) of ALE.

4 To sum up, first of crops lost in harvest (4)
REAP – Remove the C (first of crops) from a word meaning to sum up.

5 Late arrivals use both hands separately to stop stumbles (10)
STRAGGLERS – Include an R and an L (both hands) but not consecutively (separately) inside (to stop) a word meaning stumbles.

7 Party’s planners briefly civil before office mentioned (9)
POLITBURO – A six letter word meaning civil with the final letter removed (briefly) followed by a homophone (mentioned) of bureau (office).

8 Cross nobody turned up gas (5)
XENON – The letter representing a cross followed by a reversal (turned up) of a word meaning nobody.

9 Opens trousers and extracts an attachment? (6)
UNZIPS – A double definition, the second being to extract a file from a compressed archive.

14 Warped sense underlies bizarre flick’s unreliable quality (10)
FICKLENESS – An anagram (warped) of SENSE goes under (underlies) an anagram (bizarre) of FLICK.

16 Apply silver, perhaps, in cast steel mail (9)
METALLISE – An anagram (cast) of STEEL MAIL.

18 Day that is, in back street, most boring (9)
DREARIEST  – The abbreviation for day followed by the abbreviation for that is inside a word meaning back and the abbreviation for street.

20 Looks forward to a set of workout equipment, apparently (6)
AWAITS – The A from the clue followed by a homophone (apparently) of weights (set of workout equipment).  Apparently as a homophone indicator in the sense of seems is not one of my favourite ones but may be justifiable if you think “it seems he said ‘We’re going to a dance, send three and fourpence.’”

22 Tacks up favourite clipping (7)
SNIPPET – A reversal (up) of a word meaning tacks followed by a word meaning favourite.

23 Suppressing resistance very fast becomes dull (5)
VAPID – Remove the R (suppressing resistance) from the abbreviation for very and a word meaning fast.

25 Regularly claimed geek to be lord (5)
LIEGE – The even letters (regularly) of CLAIMED GEEK.

26 Broken loose out of Eastern capital (4)
OSLO – An anagram (broken) of LOOSE after removing the E (out of Eastern).



  1. 2Kiwis

    We had to wait until our visitors had left before we could get on to this one and what a delightful PANGRAM it turned out to be. Really loved the 1a 28a combination. How clever to be able to use exactly the same clue for two totally different answers, and then another empty page in 27a. Next we come to column headings……………. Not too tricky but heaps to keep us smiling all the way through.
    Many thanks Cyborg.

  2. Maize

    Another brilliant puzzle – bravo!
    I loved the grid, the pangram and virtually all of the clues – especially 5d, 23d and 17a, the last of which was a simply perfect; the puzzlement and the penny drop moment couldn’t be bettered. I also liked 10a, 12a, 13a, 30a, 2d, 4d and 22d.

    I do though have a question about the couplet style clue 1a/28d.
    28d is fine, clearly, and what you’ve done is definitely very clever, but surely 1a is a straight definition clue, with no element of disguise? It’ll be interesting to see what Prolixic makes of it, but for me it looks out of place in a cryptic crossword.
    As I can’t give an example of my own couplet clue (they’re really hard to pull off and I’ve never even attempted one!), here’s one from Klingsor which might be instructive:
    He’s captivated by girl on high note in opera (9)
    which gives both ‘Lohengrin’ – He in (girl on)* + n, and also ‘Rheingold’ He in (girl on)* + d.

    Thank you Cyborg – that was a really enjoyable solve.

  3. Snape

    A very nice crossword with the Cyborg trick of using the same clue twice for two different and with the added bonus of extra pieces of clue 1 scattered around, used in many different ways, which is a really nice way of doing things. Last time it was mentioned that this was a really nice device, but you had to make sure it worked. I can’t really parse 1, so I will have to wait, but 28 works, so I am really hoping 1 does too. It’s a brilliant trick.
    Lots of other lovely clues, though (with a slightly sciencey feel). I particularly liked 2d, 3d, 4d, 6a, 10a (although I’m without Chambers, so don’t know if s=special, and whether the hidden message is legit, they’re not in Collins) 12a, 18d, 22d (so many!) but my favourite was 6d. There are a couple that are only half-parsed, so I will find out later what is going on.
    There was perhaps a slight over-reliance on anagrams (I think you were well into double figures) but it was a really enjoyable and doable solve. Many thanks Cyborg.

  4. silvanus

    I admire greatly the ingenuity utilised by Cyborg in his now trademark “couplet” style of identical clues, and his latest puzzle was a delight to solve as ever.

    Like Snape, I did feel that there were too many anagrams this time though (more than one third of all the answers) and a wider range of clue types would have been welcome.

    1a was a phrase I had never encountered before, but there were few if any other obscurities. I liked the slightly risqué 9d, but my two favourites were 17a and 8d.

    Many thanks indeed, Cyborg, that was great fun.

  5. dutch

    Many thanks Cyborg, a very enjoyable solve – my last one in was 9d (great clue and clinching the pangram, congratulations!). I think the same clue device is very clever though I found the repeated elements of the clue elsewhere, well, repetitive – though clever that they were always used differently. I hadn’t come across 1a before, so thanks for that new phrase. I have ticks against the clues for which everything including the surface worked very nicely for me – 12a (very nice I thought), 15a, 17a, 21a, 24a (I liked the 2 meanings of tablet), and especially 9a. Not bad!
    I did struggle a little with “apparently” as a homophone indicator in 20d (if i interpreted it right).

    Well done, a clever, technically very good and very entertaining puzzle – many thanks for sharing and looking forward to the next one

    • silvanus

      Hi Dutch,

      Thanks for reminding me about 20d, I had forgotten to mention it earlier, but I share your reservation about the suitability of “apparently”.

  6. Jane

    Most enjoyable, Cyborg, although I have to admit to being none too keen on the couplet – probably not helped by the fact that I didn’t know the 1a phrase. Finding the pangram certainly helped with 9d – I’m blind to most IT references!

    My own long list of ‘ticks’ includes 17,21&23a plus 4,5,18,22&23d. Special mentions for the misdirection in 21a and the great surface read of 23a. Not quite sure that I’ve nailed the parsing of 6a – ‘special’ is causing me a problem, but doubtless Prolixic will let me know in due course.

    Thank you for an excellent puzzle, Cyborg – will look forward to the next one.

  7. Hilary

    My beloved BRB helped with unknown in 1a and I struggled valiantly with the rest. My first attempt at a Cyborg so had nothing to go on. Off go try cryptic crossword but at least I have MPs to help me.

  8. Rabbit Dave

    Very well done, Cyborg. I really enjoyed this pangram including your trademark doublet and nice surface readings. Like Jane I am struggling to parse 6a fully, and look forward to the explanation when the review appears.

    • Snape

      You need to take a word that means copies, and replace the abbreviation for special with a letter that represents 10.

      I’ll be interested to find out whether the cryptic grammar would require an ‘in’ or something similar between the special and copies (which would ruin the surface, of course) or whether it is fine as it is.

      • Jane

        Yes, I can see that, Snape – but doesn’t that leave the wordplay ‘arse about face’ as it were?

        • Rabbit Dave

          Yes, I thought of that but rejected it as a possibility as the wordplay didn’t make sense to me. It will be interesting to see the review tomorrow.

        • Snape

          There’s something not quite right about it, yes – maybe ‘elbow about face’, I find it difficult to tell sometimes.

          • Jane

            Oh dear, Snape – elbows and backsides are decidedly different and one does need to be able to distinguish between the two. I’m sure that either Mr. Google or your local GP will be able to help you.

        • Cyborg

          My intention there was to use ’10 for special’ as an adjectival phrase. I’ll also wait for the review with interest!

  9. Kath

    That was fun and not too difficult.
    When I first read 1a and 28a I thought it was a mistake.
    I decided early on that it might be a pangram and then when I’d almost finished had a look round – no H – there was but it looked like A – oh dear!
    Now that the number of anagrams has been pointed out I suppose there were but I didn’t notice at the time.
    23d took me ages to sort out.
    I liked 23a and 9 and 22d. My favourite was 17a.
    With thanks and well done to Cyborg.

  10. jean-luc cheval

    Last one to fall was 1a.
    Only came to me with the checkers and because we use that expression regularly in France. D’oh.
    Very clever crossword and a real joy to solve.
    Had to use the Thesaurus only once for “shamble” in 5d and it gave me stagger and straggle next to each other. That was very lucky as I didn’t know that word at all.
    Loved so many clues but 9d and 17a are favourites.
    Thank to Cyborg.

  11. Cyborg

    Thanks everyone! Big Dave has fitted me in very promptly with this one, which is nice because I can still remember what on earth I was thinking while setting it.

    I’m glad to see words like ‘solvable’ and ‘enjoyable’, and I hope I’ve passed the minimum requirements there. I’m happily wandering off into increasingly weird crossword territory, so it’s also great to have some criticism when I wander into the weeds.

    The answer to 1a was my starting point, having emerged from my notebook of phrases that I like the sound of. I’ve badly misjudged its obscurity level though; I rated it ‘medium’ and figured it would be OK as long as the intersecting answers were not too hard. For unsuspecting solvers meeting it here for the first time, 1a is a beast of a clue though. My humble apologies, Jane, I wouldn’t enjoy that much either.

    Snape and others, I entirely agree that I’ve got too many anagrams today. While I was working my way through the down clues I could see them mounting up, but I ran out of talent and eventually threw my hands up in despair and used them anyway.

    Maize, I like your point about repetitive repetition. Three uses of a phrase is perhaps more fun to set than to solve; I don’t think I’ll use that trick again.

    I’ve got one more dual purpose clue in there: 23a is returning a name check from another setter here. The wordplay leads to a second answer with enumeration (4,4,4). Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with much of a definition for it.

    I really appreciate all the comments, especially while everyone is on holiday. I’ll check back in once the review goes up.

    • Jane

      No need to apologise, Cyborg, others don’t seem to share my woeful lack of knowledge! The answer was so obviously that for 28a that I couldn’t see beyond it.
      Now then – about that name check in 23a. I’m guessing that Beet may have something to do with it, but perhaps you’ll enlighten us when you pop back in?
      It really was a great puzzle, please don’t get too ‘weird’ – we like you just the way you are.

      • Jane

        Maybe we could get BD to commission a puzzle as a ‘welcome home’ present for you after your world tour – comprised entirely of anagrams and Spoonerisms.

    • Cyborg

      Oops – sorry Maize and dutch, just realised that I’ve misattributed the repetition comment. I’ll blame mobile for that one.

  12. Kim

    Thanks a bunch Cyborg. I’m a rookie solver but I found this to be the perfect level of difficulty. I managed all but 3. The few that I couldn’t parse are unlikely to be as a result of imprecise cluing. Those can wait for Prolixic’s blog.
    I wonder if Pangrams are by design or just a coincidence.

    *I have been having difficulty in accessing this site of late. I prefer doing it from my phone but it demands I download WordPress to continue reading. I’m not the one to download an app because my phone says so. To access the page, I have to switch off my data before the page completely loads. Is this particular to me?

  13. Encota

    9d made me laugh – perhaps Benny Hill lives on!? Nice gentle yet accurate and high-quality puzzle – many thanks. Some nice deception too, e.g. the article in one of your column/table clues, two of your ’empty page’ clues, amongst others. The surface in one or two – e.g. 16d – are perhaps a little ‘crosswordy’, otherwise very good overall – thanks again.

  14. Jane

    Many thanks for the review, Prolixic – I certainly share your view that it would be nice to see a puzzle from Cyborg free from his self-imposed restrictions. I think I’d possibly also appreciate it if he ditched the ominous sounding ‘notebook of phrases’ which he mentioned!
    Thanks again, Cyborg – sorry my Latin isn’t up to scratch!

  15. dutch

    Many thanks for the review Prolixic – i thought “regularly stutters with a text from India” was a good tip and a smooth rewrite.

  16. Beet

    Another excellent puzzle from Cyborg. My favourite was 9d because I’m easily amused. Unlike some I had heard of 1a, because it is the name of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. Buffy is very educational.

  17. Sprocker

    Hiya – sorry to be a bit late to the party on this one.

    I thought this was terrific – excellent surfaces throughout, plenty of smiles to be had, and the very clever trick with the paired clues (I did need Prolixic’s help to parse 1a though). My only (very minor) quibbles would be the slight overuse of anagrams, and I’m also in the camp of not particularly liking ‘apparently’ as a homophone indicator.

    Loads of great clues to pick a favourite from, but I’m going to go with 9d as my favourite.

    Thanks Cyborg!

  18. Cyborg

    Thanks, Prolixic. If the crossword currently in progress goes to plan, it’s going to be a hideously complicated affair for submission number four, but I’ll throw in a vanilla one after that.

    For 23a, Jane is quite right that the vegetable is a Beet. ‘Cooked a lot’ is the remainder: WELL DONE.

    Thanks again all, with a particular mention to Kim: I’m delighted that you’ve broken cover to comment here, and that the crossword itself didn’t scare you off. I’m sorry that I’ve got no IT advice to offer. The mobile site has been well behaved for me.

  19. Beet

    Thanks very much for my “shout out”! Completely over my head so thanks for spelling it out. Looking forward to the hideously complicated one.

  20. JollySwagman

    Thanks Cyborg.

    I did this when it first came out but once again I got distracted when I was about to comment and then never got round to it – so sorry about that.

    As I recall I didn’t have any quibbles. I found it on the easy side of medium – presumably the intentions it was well loaded with anagrams.

    Making puzzles that aren’t too hard interesting for solvers generally is not something everyone finds easy – I think you achieved that here.

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