Rookie Corner – 092

A Puzzle by Topdown

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It’s been a long time since Topdown’s last puzzle appeared here – I hope you find that it was 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.

Welcome back to Topdown with a gentle puzzle that was well clued and executed.  A few minor comments are to add further polish to an good crossword.


1 Turnout due in a church congregation (8)
AUDIENCE – An anagram turn out of DUE IN A followed by the abbreviation for Church of England.  Not all editors would accept having to split turnout into turn out to get the anagram indicator

5 Sponge toilet with fourth degree of scale (6)
LOOFAH – An informal word for a toilet followed by the fourth note of the musical sol-fa scale.

8 Isn’t disciple in Sweden’s cathedral? (5,5)
SAINT PAULS – An informal way of saying isn’t followed by the disciple who wrote several of the New Testament letters inside S’S (S being the abbreviation for Sweden).  An alternative answer with the author of one of the gospels would have been an acceptable alternative from the clue.  In the New Testament, neither of the two gentlemen were disciples of Jesus but are referred to as apostles.

9 Reverberation in treble chords (4)
ECHO – The answer is hidden inside TREBLE CHORDS

10 Present US city pushed endlessly to be free (2,5)
AT LARGE – Another word for present (as in attending or I was ** the meeting) followed by the abbreviation for Los Angeles and a word meaning pushed with the outer letters removed (endlessly)

11 Red wood supporter’s quite poorly (6)
BRASIL – A female’s supporting garment with the ‘s included from the clue followed by a word meaning poorly with the final letter removed (quite or almost)

12 Suitable attire for a brief snack? (6,9)
EDIBLE UNDERWEAR – Cryptic definition

15 Film Mum being away with small creatures (7,2,6)
ABSENCE OF MALICE – An expression 7,2,2 indicating mother is absent followed by small creatures that infest children’s hair on a regular basis.

21 All of us verge, alternately, to make French museum (6)
LOUVRE – The alternate letters in ALL OF US VERGE.

22 Cooked again replacing head of flatfish with tail of trout – had another go (7)
RETRIED – A phrase 2-5 indicating cooked again in oil with the F (head of flatfish) replaced by a T (tail of trout).

23 German at the French festival (4)
GALA – The single letter abbreviation for German followed by the French for “at the”.

24 Aphrodite maybe – headless prima donna rode bareback? (4,6)
LADY GODIVA – An expression for a female deity (Aphrodite maybe) followed by another word for a prima donna with the first letter removed (headless).  Perhaps “who rode bareback” would have cured the issue that the answer is a person who rode bare back (or more accurately who rode whilst bare) when the definition requires an answer that means riding bareback.

25 Seaman number 500 makes Belgian port (6)
OSTEND – The abbreviation for Ordinary Seaman followed by a cardinal number and the Roman numeral for 500.

26 Omens before wise men (8)
PRESAGES – A word meaning before followed by another word meaning wise men.


1 Satisfy chew sausage (7)
ASSUAGE – An anagram (chew) of SAUSAGE.

2 Train parts used to bore (5,4)
DRILL BITS – A word meaning to train or teach followed by a word for parts of the whole.

3 Absorb drug in entrails – one’s stoned (7)
ENTHRAL – The abbreviation for heroin inside (absorb in) the word entrails after removing (stoned) the I’S.

4 Country house conversation – exclamation of surprise overheard (7)
CHATEAU – Another word for conversation followed by an homophone (overhead) of OH (exclamation of surprise).

5 Smile following the Spanish Queen – a ray of light (5,4)
LASER BEAM – A three letter word for the in Spanish followed by the abbreviation for the Queen and another word for a smile.

6 Inspected finished hand tool (7)
OVERSAW – A letter word for finished followed by a hand tool used to cut wood.

7 Orbital points in graph Eli amended (7)
APHELIAAn anagram (amended) of GRAPH ELI.  Hidden in GRAPH ELI AMENDED.  Solving in the morning and then trying to review late in the evening is a recipe for disaster!

13 Aim to get group surrounded (9)
ENCIRCLED – Another word for a group or ring inside a word meaning aim or objective.

14 Bringing about destruction of IT ceiling (9)
ELICITING – An anagram (destruction of) IT CEILING.

16 Songs make lawyer rise in courage (7)
BALLADS – The abbreviation for an American lawyer is reversed (make rise) inside another word for courage.

17 Imitate large bird (deceased) (7)
EMULATE – The name of a large flightless bird followed by a word meaning deceased.

18 Year for confused raider (7)
FORAYER – An anagram (confused) of YEAR FOR.

19 Gold Norse Gods are writers (7)
AUTHORS – The chemical symbol for gold followed by name of a Norse god in the plural.  As you cannot have Thors (as there is only one) some other way of indicating the S would be required. 

20 Attracts lobes? (7)
ENDEARS – Fancifully split 3,4 this would indicate the lobes of the ears.


  1. 2Kiwis
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    A few things we had to check up on, the spelling of 11a (not in BRB) and both the long clues 12a and 15a needed Google confirmation as they were new to us. All finally sorted and some real smile moments, 20d for example which we will nominate as our favourite.
    Thanks Topdown.

  2. Encota
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks Topdown for a fun and accurate ‘before breakfast’ puzzle with some very good surfaces. As 2Kiwis, I too needed to check on 11a spelling; and 15a, both being pretty certain from the precise wordplay. I struggled for longer than I should have on 10a, having selected the wrong synonym for part of the clue and been too stubborn to give up trying to make it fit! LOI 8a though looking back at it I am not quite sure why!
    As an area of improvement? Your wordplay feels near perfect to me and perhaps it is just looking for one or two tweaks to the clue surfaces that will make the most difference (as many of them are also very strong). E.g. perhaps 21a might read as a slightly better surface if you used ‘reach’ for ‘make’ to emphasise movement? Not sure.
    A great puzzle – hard to pick a favourite clue but 12a just edges it, I think. Thanks again!
    – Encota –

  3. dutch
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks Topdown, thoroughly enjoyed this. Not too easy, not stupidly hard, just right. 12a is brilliant! perfect. 16d is brilliant as well. My last one in was 11a, got caught out by “quite” (which is unusual, I think) more than by the spelling. Good surfaces and technically amazingly good, I could only find two clues with a possible issue (I didn’t think the definition had the same part of speech as the answer in 3d & 24a, unless I’m missing something). Very impressive. I was trying to think of when the Norse god would actually have a plural, but probably ok in wordplay. 12a the top clue for me by far, as good as it gets, and many more delightful clues.

    Many thanks and congratulations on a superb puzzle

  4. Sprocker
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Hi Topdown, I found this to be a quite gentle but nonetheless enjoyable solve. For the most part the surfaces were very good, and there were no issues I spotted with the wordplay. I thought 7d was a great example of how to clue a fairly obscure word. Lots to pick from but I’ll go with 12a as my favourite.


  5. silvanus
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Welcome back, Topdown.

    Although it is more than six months since your last puzzle, I do recall that the main issue previously was with the quality of your surfaces, but I think that these latest ones show a distinct improvement.

    I found the top half less straightforward than the bottom, but overall the level of difficulty was spot on, as Dutch says, with a nice balance of clue types and some fairly gentle anagrams.

    I have to agree with the consensus so far in nominating 12a as my favourite, closely followed by 4d.

    Congratulations and thanks for an enjoyable solve.

  6. crypticsue
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    A nice start to Monday morning – my only significant query was whether the Norse God could be plural.

    • Topdown
      Posted January 12, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Sue – and everyone else!

      Thanks for the comments. All noted and hopefully stored away for next time.

      I’m just wondering how ‘playful’ I can be with punctuation (as long as the clue is gettable) and would appreciate your thoughts The surface read well as Gold Norse Gods are writers. I thought I could get away with not including the apostrophe – God’s (but maybe I’m breaking rules…) which would have given AU, THOR’S.

  7. Gazza
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable – thanks Topdown. I had three queries marked – the pluralised Norse God, 10a where I can’t think of a sentence where ‘present’ can be replaced in the required way and 24a where the definition doesn’t match the answer (unless it’s meant to be an all-in-one, but I don’t think that works either).
    My joint favourites were the excellent 12a (where I was held up by thinking that brief was a barrister) and 15a.

  8. Beet
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Well done Topdown I have very few queries or niggles about the wordplay which all seemed to work well. I would have perhaps changed “rode bareback” to “who rode bareback” so that the definition more clearly matched the answer – and it wouldn’t have spoiled the slightly semi&littish surface you had going on. But as you can see I have had to be EXTREMELY picky to find anything wrong in your wordplay.

    I did find this one on the easy side. I’m just one solver, but if you get that response from a lot of people and if you want to dial up the difficulty (nothing wrong with easy puzzles I hasten to add) then I think the area to look at is your definitions. You are very very kind to your solvers by using clear synonyms and not doing an awful lot to disguise them. If you crossed out the wordplay and just left the definition, the definitions are so straight-forward that you would almost have a quick crossword. You have a nice cryptic def at 12a (and 20d my favourite) and I would encourage you to get a bit more fiendish with your definitions generally. Most of the time, the definition word has the same meaning within the surface reading as it does as a synonym for the answer, you could play about more with the meanings. You could disguise the definition word within a longer phrase. You even tell us “French museum” and “Belgian port” instead of just museum or port – I would save that sort of generosity to when the answer is really obscure.

    I hadn’t heard of the film at 15a and I am specifically NOT complaining about that as I know I use film references that not everyone gets!

    My vote on the norse god is that this sort of thing is ok and indeed fun in the wordplay (emphasis on play), but I’m of Libertarian inclination so I would say that.

    My favourite was 20d, and sorry for the long comment and I would reiterate that I did enjoy this and thought it very accomplished.

  9. spindrift
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    No problems with this but no stand out moments either. As a smutty 12 yr old (going on 60) then 12a was my favourite if only for how the clue read.
    More soon please Topman.

  10. Jane
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t find this one quite the ‘walk in the park’ that some others apparently did, but it was most enjoyable.
    Needed to look up the film and the orbital points – I can see now that the latter was a lurker but that didn’t help much at the time!
    Ashamed to say that I also had to check on the spelling of the red wood.

    I’ll leave it to the ‘experts’ to do the nit-picking – not much I would think – but thank you, Topdown, for a really good Rookie puzzle.
    Top spots for me go to 5,16&17d.

  11. Maize
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    I would echo Beet’s words on the difficulty and possibly ratcheting it up a bit in the way Beet suggests – but then again others will say you hit the ‘Goldilocks zone’, and of course the joy of Rookie Corner is that we have variety, and we never know what we’re going to get…
    Agree with everyone else really – very good surfaces, fair clueing, nice injection of humour here and there – especially 12a and 20d which would have to make them my two favourites.
    Apart from those very minor quibbles mentioned already, I’m still not completely sure about 8a. Whilst I’ve written in the cathedral in the City of London, there are other cathedrals which fit – like the one in Venice for instance – and I can’t be 100% sure without knowing the names of all 14 disciples (if it is 14)… Oh, I admit it, I’m being deliberately obtuse!
    Very, very good and thoroughly enjoyable. Thanks!

  12. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I went for the cathedral in Venice myself as the second word appeared as a synonym of disciple in my thesaurus.
    But I agree with Maize that both can be considered.
    Had a few laughs in 12a, 16d and 20d.
    Liked the Aphrodite maybe in 24a, the Mum being away in 15a and the Train parts in 2d.
    In every crossword there must be a bung in: I can’t parse 3d.
    I think this rookie was near perfect and as Dutch said , just the right level of difficulty.
    Thanks to Topdown for a relaxing solve.

    • Maize
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      The drug is quite a bit stronger than the usual E – try another letter – and I think ‘stoned’ is a deletion indicator.

      • Gordon
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        That is interesting. I took the the drug to be the usual E being absorbed, and then deleting 1’s ( both the I and S) being stoned i.e. either taken out as in pitted olives, or stoned as in “out of it” on drugs maybe? The whole being semi&lit.
        Brilliantly done Topdown – a really good balance of easy, difficult, humour and good surfaces.

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for coming to the rescue.
        It makes sense now.

      • dutch
        Posted January 12, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        Ah! I had ENTERAL, perhaps misled/seduced by the surface, hence my previous WRONG comment about not matching part of speech. I was thinking enteral could mean absorbed (through stomach & intestines)

  13. Snape
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Very well done, Topdown. I notice you were missing in the last cycle, I guess you’ve been spending the time polishing this one, and it showed. I thought the bottom half was more straightforward than the top, for quite a while I had the bottom complete, but only the lurkers and 2d in the top.

    I chuckled at the Aphrodite part of 24a, even if as mentioned the clue doesn’t quite work, and the definition gave it away so it was a post-answer parse. As was 25a, which I also liked – Beet makes some excellent points about the generosity of the definition – don’t make them too hard, though! The more people can do the crosswords, the more comments you’ll get! 20d and 12a also worthy of mention for the smiles they brought.

    If I could suggest a couple of ‘cheats’ that might help 1d and 19d. For 19d others have questioned whether there can be more one Thor (I thought it was probably OK but don’t really know). There is also the consideration that wordplay is seen as singular, so the ‘are’ link is awkward. If you use apostrophe s, you have no need for the linkword, or for multiple Thors. The surface changes meaning, but unless I’m missing something I don’t think that is a disaster.
    As far as I can gather, you can play fast and loose with the word ‘to’ when it comes to verbs, so you can use ‘to satisfy’ to define ‘assuage’ even though I would have thought that ‘to satisfy’ = ‘to assuage’. This could be used in a slightly more meaningful surface, such as ‘Chew sausage to satisfy’.

    Congratulations on a fine and enjoyable crossword.

  14. Una
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Very nice , Topdown, right in the Goldilocks zone.
    12a is not my favourite.I never heard of 7a , but it was guessable from the checkers. 1a and 8a are among my best liked. And “endeared” (I can’t see the puzzle).Thanks.

  15. Jane
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Many thanks, as always, for the review, Prolixic. Yes, I did opt for the wrong saint, but I don’t feel too badly about it in light of your comment.
    Just one thing – surely 7d is a lurker, not an anagram?

  16. JollySwagman
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks Topdown – nice solve – easy (presumably intentionally so) but plenty to enjoy.

    Some people complain about chestnuts but personally I always get a bit of a smile from old friends like BRA and EMU popping in; and if they didn’t reappear occasionally new solvers would never get to meet them.

    I have no trouble with Norse gods giving THORS – Barnard (one of the listed references in Prolixic’s guide) would not either. If Norse god gives THOR then either;

    Norse god s gives THOR S
    or just go straight to it *cryptically*.

    BTW the convention is (for the surface) that the word “god” and equivalent pronouns etc should not normally be capitalised when referring to gods from classical mythology etc.

    Best smile I got was from 16d – so that’s my favourite.

    Thanks again for the fun.

  17. dutch
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Many thanks for the excellent comments as always Prolixic, especially for pointing me to the right drug in 3d (see comment 12)

  18. Beet
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I always thought disciples and apostles were the same thing.

    I’m teaching my boyfriend cryptics and he already finds “sailor” incredibly annoying as it can mean so many things (AB, Tar, Jack, salt) that he’s never heard of outside of crosswords. I’d forgotten about OS and I might not break the news that there’s another to add to the list until I have to.

    Thanks again to Topdown and to Prolixic for helping all of us Rookies so much with each review.

    • Maize
      Posted January 12, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      My copy of Brewers describes ‘apostle’ as referring to “the Twelve Disciples of Christ [whilst] Matthias and Paul were subsequent additions.” It then goes on to list the ‘symbols of the fourteen apostles’. All of which was news to me!

  19. Beet
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Regarding Norse gods and their pluralisation – I noticed this is today’s Toughie review

    18a More than one soap seen in basins (7)

    The setter here has done more to draw your attention to the fact that he’s pluralising something “more than one…” but essentially it’s the same trick, no?