Rookie Corner – 107 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 107

A Puzzle by Cyborg

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week we have another puzzle from Cyborg. 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.

If you are a current or prospective Rookie setter, now is the time to submit your latest puzzle – the queue is the shortest it has been in several months.

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:

Cyborg loves his paired clues, even where the surface reading sometime suffers.  This time has combined this with paired clues where either the word order is reversed or one word is a reversal of another.  These latter ones are termed semordnilaps (Palindromes reversed) which we have seen before in a NTSPP (link) and, if modesty allows, in a MPP (link).  It created a clever and entertaining crossword with a self referential “Crab Canon” to indicate the theme too.
The cluing was good but there was a lot of repetition of wordplay indicators (up, initially and without) that should have been avoided.
6 Spades in leaves forming courses (8)
DESSERTS – The abbreviation for spades inside a word for leaves (as in depart without good reason).
7 Thief can drop stern exterior (6)
LOOTER – Another word for a can or toilet followed by the inner letters (drop … exterior) of stern.  The cryptic reading jars a little as you simply have an instruction to drop the outer letters of stern with no indication of what to do with the remaining letters.
10 Shepherd‘s drug dealer quietly vanishes (5)
USHER – Another word for a drug dealer without the initial P (quietly vanishes).
11 A large bee appears unusually friendly (9)
AGREEABLE – An anagram (appears unusually) of A LARGE BEE.
12 Navigational aid still around with southern heading (7)
SEXTANT – The initial letter (heading) of southern followed by a word meaning still around.
13 Walk around first of knolls if considered a navigational obstruction (4,3)
PACK ICE – A four letter word meaning walk around the initial letters (first of) knoll if considered.
15 Clergyman initially around to outlaw shelled crustacean (4)
CRAB – The first letter (initially) of clergyman followed by a reversal (around) of a word meaning to outlaw.
16 Shell from crustacean an outlaw’s initially eaten with clergyman (5)
CANON – The outer letters (shell from) includes (eaten) the AN from the clue and the first letter (initially – again!) of outlaw.  I think that you really need outlaw initially, not outlaw’s initially.
17 Honk horn excessively at junction (4)
TOOT – A word meaning excessively followed by a letter that represents the shape of a road junction.
20 Oddly, kitchen stuff used to treat injury (3,4)
ICE PACK – The odd letters of kitchen followed by a word meaning to stuff or cram in. 
21 I wake up without energy and stiff (7)
ONEROUS – The word for 1 (I) followed by a word meaning to wake up without the final E (energy).
23 Assistant’s pointless changes to accommodate extravagant tenor (9)
PAVAROTTI – A two letter word for an assistant or secretary followed by a word meaning changes without the ES (pointless) including (to accommodate) an abbreviation meaning extravagant.
25 Travel abroad without registered assistant (5)
VALET – An anagram (abroad) of TRAVEL without the R (registered – this is given as an abbreviation in Collins).
26 Genuine article changed to also improve manufacturing method (6)
RETOOL – A word meaning genuine has the A (article) replaced (changed to) by a word meaning also.
27 Overly busy street crowded without parking (8)
STRESSED – The abbreviation for street followed by a word meaning crowded without the initial P.  Care has to be taken not to repeat wordplay indicators.  This is the third use of “without” to indicate deleting a letter.
1 Has exit pay cut to restrict air travel (10)
ASPHYXIATE – An anagram (cut) of HAS EXIT PAY.
2 Rip short story up – it makes you cry (4,3)
TEAR GAS – A word meaning rip followed by a reversal (up) another word for an elaborate story with the final letter removed (short).
3 Short feature covers means to prevent violence (13)
STRAITJACKETS – An abbreviation for short (not in Chambers or Collins) followed by another word for a feature or characteristic and another word for covers.
4 Crackpot encyclopaedia carries power (7)
POTENCY – The answer is hidden in (carries) CRACKPOT ENCYCLOPEDIA.
5 Remainder of ticket reservations returned (4)
STUB – A reversal (returned) of a word for reservations.
6 Barrels of drink confiscated by detective (5)
DRUMS – A type of drink inside (confiscated by) the abbreviation for Detective Sergeant.
8 After stumble, central directors return to office (2-5)
RE-ELECT – Another word meaning to stumble or stagger followed by the central letters of directors.  Central as “middle of or centre of” as in “Central Middlesex” works.
9 Script experts haphazardly rig goal posts across end of pitch (13)
GRAPHOLOGISTS – An anagram (haphazardly) of RIG GOAL POSTS H (the H being the final letter – end of – of pitch).
14 Picture company put up with latest anti-establishment figure (10)
ICONOCLAST – Another word for a religious picture followed by a reversal (put up) of the abbreviation for company and a word meaning the latest.  Again there is the repetition of a wordplay indicator, here “up” has already been used in 2d.
15 Dock for every ship (7)
CLIPPER – A word meaning to dock or cut followed by the Latin for “for every”.
18 Persist with hand luggage (5,2)
CARRY ON – A double definition.
19 Try over to compete in higher weight division (7)
HEAVIER – Another word meaning to try (as in a legal case) around (over – in a down clue I don’t really think that this works very well) a word meaning to compete.
22 Full time score’s close in sorry case (5)
SATED – The abbreviation for time and the final letter (close) of score inside (in…case) a word meaning sorry.
24 Refuse to check over (4)
VETO – A word meaning to check something followed by the abbreviation for over.

49 comments on “Rookie Corner – 107

  1. Aha, what a neat idea – thanks Cyborg! I’m personally really interested if you came to it from a ‘JSB’ or ‘GEB’ angle, if that makes sense without spoiling. I read Hofstadter’s GEB book (that included this) over the past year, on and off, a tough read in places but generally very rewarding. I’d be keen to discuss at some later stage! I suspect I may have missed some elements but I like what I can see.

    Clues are generally very solid:13, 20 ( very odd ;-) ) and 23 perhaps could be improved on the WP – I’m keen to see what Prolixic thinks in his review – otherwise looks very good.
    I particularly liked those with smooth surfaces e.g. 27, 15d and 24. LOI 7a.



  2. Good Lord, I was about to comment but Encota made me go have another good stare at the grid (because I got nowhere googling Hofstadter GEB).

    Missed first time round but yes, very clever! adds a whole new perspective. I think I see it all but there may be more.

    So, congratulations, well done putting another crossword together cyborg with this brilliant grid! Parts of this are very good, with some good definitions – for example I really like 19d, 1d, 27a, 21a. I was fooled by the multiple first letter indicator in 13a and my last one in was 26a because it took me a while to spot the substitution (distracted by the split infinitive in the surface). I’m not in 7a that drop stern exterior automatically means keep the rest, but other may be fine with this. In 3 down I really like what your doing and the def, but I couldn’t find evidence for S as an abbreviation for short (but I did find registered!)

    The double clue (15/16) didn’t really do it for me. I’d already just come across navigation twice, but now I’m wondering if I should be more forgiving given the grid. I think for this device (15/16) to work you need two flawless surfaces and really tight wordplay. Here, the surfaces seem strange, the 15a definition is strange (all crustaceans are shelled!) and the wordplay suffers (with as link, not sure the ’s works, etc). In my mind (unless I’m missing something deep), it is mainly this pair of clues that is holding you back, the rest of the puzzle I found pretty competent – well done and keep it up!

  3. Enjoyable stuff – thanks Cyborg. I’d totally missed any significance in the grid until I read Encota’s cryptic comment and I’m sure that there are some things I’m still missing. I don’t think that “drop stern exterior” (7a) and “central directors” (8d) really work and “oddly” in 20a seems to be the wrong word. I couldn’t find the single-letter abbreviations for registered and short in Chambers.
    There were lots of clues I liked including 10a, 23a, 1d, 2d and 5d.

  4. Hi Cyborg,

    I was interested to see that you are persevering with your trademark clue pairing, and all credit to you for doing so, even if it does possibly compromise the relevant surfaces, as Dutch has mentioned. I counted three sets of paired solutions, plus the obvious paired clues of 15a and 16a, have I missed any others?

    I thought this was very enjoyable, my chief reservations are with your choice of indicators. To use “without” as a letter deletion indicator for three across clues out of five (21a, 25a and 27a) was extremely disappointing to me as it’s one of my pet hates. “Up” was also repeated in the down clues (2d and 14d).

    I didn’t have an overall favourite clue, but I’ve ticked several clues that I thought were excellent, namely 7a, 10a, 12a, 23a, 25a, 1d, 6d and 22d.

    Congratulations for sticking with your personal style and thanks for an enjoyable solve.

    P.S. Am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue what Encota is on about in his first paragraph?!

      1. Hi Dutch,

        Possibly, although the pattern seems to be for the pairs to be either reverse anagrams of each other or to have the first and second parts of the answer reversed, so I’m not 100% sure in these cases.

    1. “P.S. Am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue what Encota is on about in his first paragraph?!”

      No, I haven’t a clue what he’s on about either. I’ve no doubt it’s extremely clever if you are on the right wavelength, but it’s definitely way over my head.

      I found this took quite a while to get into, and the east side tougher than the west. Can’t parse 7a or 14d. The only quibble I noted was that I don’t much like “confiscated” as a container. I know it has a meaning including “taken possession of” but something confiscated is not then in full view, on the contrary it’s taken away.

      There are a lot of clever clues with PDMs when you finally get them, so although I found it quite tricky nothing struck me as unfair. Favourite clue for me had to be 23 as I have sung with him (as part of a chorus, not a duet!). The ones I double ticked from a crossword excellence point of view though were 5d, 15d, 26a, 22d and the nicely spotted 4d.

      1. Hi Starhorse,

        Glad I’m not alone!

        I do remember at junior school the teacher would on occasion confiscate certain items from pupils that shouldn’t have been brought into class and then keep them on her desk (in full view) as a deterrent to others. I think therefore in the sense of it being a synonym for seize, it’s probably ok.

  5. Had such a busy weekend with the Fashion Festival. I only managed to finish Sunday’s Virgilius and yours Cyborg.
    Really enjoyed it.
    Must admit that the symmetry helped me get 26a and 24d was last in.
    Liked the surface in 27a ( overly busy street) and 15d (dock for every ship) a lot.
    Just the right level of difficulty for me and a pleasure to solve.
    Thanks to Cyborg.

  6. I cheated on 3D and was stuck on 7A until I read the comments. The ‘characteristic cluing’ bit had completely passed me by. I never remember that stuff. I also had E as the last letter of 16A ( with ‘dugout’ in mind and some rather creative parsing). I did enjoy the puzzle, and checked 12A, 17A, 21A, 1D and 15D, with 1D being my pick of the bunch. Thanks Cyborg.

  7. I quite enjoyed this even without knowing anything about “Hofstadter” – but without Encota’s comment I would have completely missed the pairings.

    I know who the tenor is but have absolutely no idea why.

    Thanks to Cyborg!

  8. “JSB” – “GEB” – “WP” – “PDM”

    You must live in Rookie Corner to understand these acronyms (?)

    I certainly don’t understand them – Off to attempt today’s Rufus – far less convoluted – I hope!

    1. Can’t help with JSB (thought they made diggers….) or GEB.

      WP is wordplay, PDM is penny dropped moment. To be fair BD (Big Dave ) has asked us to avoid jargon/abbreviations but it becomes a bit of a habit, especially if you’re in a hurry. Not everyone here “lives” in Rookie Corner but many of us visitors who don’t probably look at other similar blogs quite a lot.

    2. Apologies for my use of some of these! I wanted to show my interest to Cyborg without spoiling for others with the first comment. For those that aren’t aware but are interested, Johann Sebastian Bach (JSB) made famous (invented?) the so-called 15A/16A, where one string of notes is played in one direction e.g. EADGFFEC whilst at the same time the same string is played in reverse, here being CEFFGDAE. There’s a book that references this idea from multiple different angles, called Godel, Escher, Bach (GEB), or something very similar, which tries to pull together ideas from philosophy, art, music and computer science, and where the same 15/16 idea is applied in each. By fluke I’d only recently finished it so almost fell off my chair in surprise when I found it staring at me in this morning’s grid!
      For WP I should have written wordplay – sorry. Unnecessary abbreviations niggle me and I’ve been guilty here. I’ll get my coat…

      1. Ah, that JSB, thanks. Not a big fan of Bach to be honest, so I’ve never spent any more time on him than I can avoid. I know the principle from student days but don’t think I ever knew that’s what it’s called, or if I did have long forgotten. I don’t know the Hofstadter stuff at all.

        Didn’t save the final grid so can’t go back now and see what I missed, but it was obviously a lot as nothing struck me as unusual at the time apart from the use of navigational in successive clues and the two similar clues in the middle.

        Apologies Cyborg, clearly haven’t been appreciative enough how good this is and difficult to construct.

          1. LOL, yes I know, was being tongue in cheek, but not sure how to add such icons on here. A company I used to work for had the dubious pleasure of dealing with them. Hard to say more with getting done for libel.

  9. I don’t understand any of the technical stuff but I enjoyed this.
    I completely missed all the pairings although now that it’s been pointed out I can see them – at least it means that my 7a is right although I still don’t get why.
    I also don’t understand my 8d but I think it has to be right – I’m obviously missing something.
    My favourite was 1d – restrict air travel – great!
    With thanks to Cyborg and in advance to Prolixic.

  10. Thank you Cyborg and also to Encota for pointing out Crab canon, of which I had never heard. Somewhere on this site – probably an NTSPP and probably within the last year, a puzzle had all the across clues paired up like 6/27 and 7/26, but today we had some subtle variations on the theme, which was all very playful… Not that I realised what was going on until my LOI, 7a with which the ‘theme’ helped a great deal.
    I had picked out exactly the same 5 clues for special praise as Starhorse, so would love to say we’re on the same wavelength – except that I had all bar one of the East side done before even making a start on the West!

  11. I enjoyed this, and found it a good level of difficulty. I liked the Easter eggs.

    I’ll leave “picky bits” about individual clues until after the review – mainly because it’s likely that I won’t need to say anything else because Prolixic will have done it for me! It’s not laziness, it’s efficiency. :yes:

    All I will say is that I liked it a lot, I have no serious quibbles, and I found it a satisfying solve. It was nice to see 15a/16a, because I’m in the middle (that is, the bit of the middle which is quite near the beginning) of GEB, though it has been put aside for a little while in favour of Owen Meany.

    My favourite clue is 21a, and I also particularly liked 25a (for the smoothness), 26a (nicely constructed and reads beautifully), the first handful of down clues and 15d.

    Many thanks, Cyborg – I look forward to your next one.

  12. Cyborg – can you guess what I’m going to say?

    All of the stuff Encota has spotted is way over my head, but I still thought it was a very nice puzzle without appreciating any of the special significance (I will read the review with interest). I will pick 15d as my favourite.

  13. This is why I am not a top level solver and could never be a setter or blogger. I don’t care much about the finer details. Is it an all-in-one or &lit? I don’t know and it doesn’t bother me. I am just happy to have a full grid that turns out to be correct, and to have managed to parse the clues…well most of them. Therein lies my enjoyment. It hurts my head to even think about analyzing every clue for nuances. That’s not why I do crosswords. Each to his or her own.

    1. Yep, we get that. For those of us aspiring to be on the creative side, the technicalities are very important for the writing of clues, so let us have our discussion. Actually, once you are familiar with some the technicalities, your appreciation of what the compiler is doing increases a million-fold, and you will like your crossword a lot more. I think you probably are more aware than you realise.

      all-in-one = &lit, these are simply those beautiful clues where the whole clue is both the definition and the wordplay – considered a special triumph for the setter. Pay extra attention to them when they arise, and enjoy.

      1. As an example for an all-in-one (also known as &lit):

        I’m one involved with cost (9). Answer= ECONOMIST

        I wish I was better at writing these!



      2. Oh dear. I was in no way trying to shut down your discussion! I’m just a simple soul saying how I ( happily) see things.

  14. Slightly late to the party today. I enjoyed much of this, though I would never have spotted 15/16 being meaningful without being told, and it was a neat grid construction. I still think the double clueing devices, though very clever, put a bit too much strain on the surfaces, and a couple of others (6a, 8d, say) also suffer a bit from odd surfaces, but there are many really nice clues. My favourites were 21a, 10a, 5d, and 24d.
    Many thanks, Cyborg

  15. I’d agree with some of the previous commenters that some of the surfaces were a little strained, mostly due to the symmetrical clueing / answers, but I don’t think that detracted from a very enjoyable puzzle. I’ll go with 1D as my favourite for the excellent definition, but there were plenty of other great candidates.

    Thanks Cyborg!

  16. Apologies folks for the lack of a review. I was out last night until late evening so did not have time to type it up. It will be added this evening.

    1. In future, remember.

  17. Excellent review, thank you again Prolixic.
    I’m interested in what Gazza disliked about the use of ‘central’ in 8d – was it because diectors don’t really have a centre in the way that Middlesex does, I wonder? Is this something that matters?

    1. Thanks to Prolixic for the review.
      I’m not keen on central to mean ‘centre of’ – I concede that it works in ‘central Middlesex’ but I don’t think it works for ‘central directors’ or ‘central government’ where central doesn’t mean ‘centre of’.
      In 20a it’s the even not the odd letters of kitchen that are needed so I don’t like ‘oddly’.

  18. Thanks very much for the review, Prolixic. I can second the above comments that we’d happily wait for it.

    I thought that oddly to mean evenly in 20d might generate comments, as it has before. I’m of the school that has no problem with this, but I know others do think it’s wrong. I didn’t notice the repeated indicators because I’m just not that observant.

    Anyway, all questions have now been addressed. Thanks again to all.

  19. Hi all! I’ve been away from keyboards for the last few days, so I’m rather late to my own party, which is a pity. Thanks for all the comments though, and particularly to Encota for picking up on the theme early on. My crossword compiler file was named GEB.ccw for a while, but I decided to send it in untitled, mainly so that it wouldn’t frustrate those who haven’t heard of it. The intentional pairings were all symmetrically placed in the across clues, so VALET/USHER was by design, but 5/24 wasn’t.

    My proof reading seems to have been poor, with the repeated indicators and oddly described evens creeping in. I thought “drop stern exterior” was fine, but it’s caused plenty of people trouble so the results show I’m wrong there. I’ll do an extra check on those next time.

    As promised, I made a vanilla crossword for the next one, but it came out both dull and difficult so I haven’t sent it in. Back to the drawing board, but I’ll keep it pairless for an interlude. Final thanks to Big Dave and Prolixic, and I hope I’ll be more punctual next time.

    1. Thanks to Prolixic for the review, as enlightening and useful as ever. I would actually disagree slightly with the comment on 7a, as there is no indication of what to do with the remaining letters because nothing gets done to them, so it looks fine to me.

  20. Sorry – late on deck again.

    Nice puzzle Cyborg – somewhere betwwen 3.5 to 4 on the BD difficultyometer for me.

    Favourites were 11a, 21a, 23a.

    I didn’t mind “oddly” in 20a – logically it works (meaning occasionally) – but I thought you’d cop at least a comment on it – and you did.

    No quibbles from me.

    Many thanks.

    1. Thanks JS, I just got here, so you’re right on time! Everyone else was early for some reason.

  21. For my money, the repetition of “initially” was acceptable as this was part of a intentionally repetitive clue using many of the same components to give a different answer. No such excuse for up and without though. I keep a running list of indicator words I’ve used in a work in progress puzzle – anag indicators, reversal indicators, first and last letters etc. Let’s me check I’m not using the same indicator word more than once, and also if any list gets too long I can see that I’m using one particular device too much even if with different indicator words. First and last letters is my particular weakness, I always use up my quota of those pretty quickly.

    Can you tell us a bit more about your theme – it sounded interesting and Encota was obviously limited in what he could say so as not to let the cat out of the bag. How did it manifest itself in your clues?

    1. Hi Beet, that sounds like a very sensible system, I’ll have to give it a try.

      Now for a short essay about the book: Godel Escher Bach is a big sprawling book about how consciousness arises. It tends to be popular with programmers, because parts of it seem obviously and profoundly true to people who have spent a lot of time watching code they’ve written do utterly unexpected things. The author, Douglas Hofstadter, seems to be rather dismayed about that. Having more or less resolved an entire field of philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, he gets a bit upset that only computer geeks seem interested, and they keep badgering him with questions about Artificial Intelligence.

      The book contains lots of little Carroll-esque dialogues to illustrate various points. One of these is the Crab Canon, an analogy to a musical crab canon, where the dialogue forms a mirror image. The first line is the same as the last line, and the second line the same as the second to last line, and so forth. It’s beautifully done, so that the identical lines mean different things in their different contexts.

      This puzzle was a comparatively feeble attempt at a crab canon in crossword form. The first two across clues have answers which mirror at the letter level, VALET/USHER mirror in their meanings, ICE PACK/PACK ICE mirror at the word level, and 15/16 mirror in their clues. It’s rather lamer than the dialogue which inspired it, sadly.

  22. The surfaces for 15 and 16 made me laugh (after a double take – hang on, didn’t I already solve you…?) Then I noticed 13/20 which made me laugh again, then when 6/27 came to the surface I literally clapped – what a feat! Then another guffaw when I looked back at 15/16 and saw the name of the conceit staring me in the face. Just the same feeling as reading that bit of GEB, frowning, re-reading, realising what he’s done and gasping out loud at the exquisite construction.

    For me, it’s just a shame the c.c. wasn’t quite perfect – the premise was tantalising but a couple of unmatched clues made it seem a flawed masterpiece, if that’s a valid phrase. No one else seemed to mind this so it’s probably just a foible of mine, but there’s nothing I like more than a flawlessly executed concept, and this was only 90% flawless.

    Still, a really enjoyable solve. Lots of fun in the cluing, and in spite of others’ comments it’s worth pointing out there were some really smooth surfaces in here – 5, 6d, 15d and 17 for example.

    Thanks Cyborg! I’ll be sure to have a look at the rest of your stuff.

    1. I did actually start out more ambitious, but found I was having to force things a little too far. AGREEABLE and PAVAROTTI needed mirrored clues, which could kind of coincide at “tenor”, but the strain was showing and I was worried about ruining everything for those who weren’t interested in the theme. I settled on allowing some free voices.

      I agree though, it would have been nicer if I could have carried the whole thing through.

  23. Very, very late to the party and can’t now begin to pick up on all the apparent nuances in this puzzle, but wanted to say ‘thank you’ to Cyborg for a most enjoyable solve carried out on the first leg of a long train journey to my daughter’s wedding. I know we’re discouraged from mentioning solving times but, suffice to say that my first ‘leg’ was from Bangor (N. Wales) to Newport!
    For once, I had absolutely no recourse to electronic aids but my determination to complete the grid apparently attracted a great deal of attention from my fellow passengers and subsequently gained at least two new followers for our excellent BD site!

    Well done indeed Cyborg – despite my being on a totally different ‘planet’ at the time, I found a great deal to enjoy here.

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