Rookie Corner – 109 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 109

A Puzzle by Silvanus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have another puzzle from Silvanus. 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.


1 Hear second-rate status of fashionable residences causes puzzlement (7)
BEMUSES – A homophone of B (second rate) MEWSES (fashionable residences).   According to Chambers mewses is the new plural form of mews which in the singular is one fashionable residence.

5 Sink measurement schoolboy is expected to know? (7)
CAPSIZE – The circumference of the schoolboy’s head would determine the type of hat he would need.

9 Indulge niece a little producing exotic spirit (5)
GENIE – The answer is hidden in (a little) INDULGE NIECE.

10 Seasonal entertainment broadcast of a young male at home, possibly around 9? (9)
PANTOMIME – A homophone (broadcast) of a lad in (a young male at home) gives an example (possibly) of the answer.  I am not sure that the around 9 necessarily adds anything and possibly detracts from the clue.

11 Following start of trip enquire after church mission group (4,5)
TASK FORCE – The first letter (start of) trip followed by a word meaning enquire, a word meaning after (in the sense of he’s going after a gold medal) and the abbreviation for Church of England.

12 Police trainee acted suspiciously (5)
CADET – An anagram (suspiciously) of ACTED.

13 Meaning surgeon provided alongside report’s conclusion (5)
DRIFT – The abbreviation for doctor or surgeon followed by a two letter word meaning provided and the final letter (conclusion) of report.

15 Learning publication is covering sport (9)
ERUDITION – Another word for a publication around (covering) the abbreviation for rugby union.

18 Makes progress in successful recruitment of school principal (4,5)
GETS AHEAD – Split 4,1,4 this would indicate the successful recruitment of a school head.

19 Excerpt from Carpenters’ record (5)
ENTER – The answer is hidden in (excerpt from) CARPENTERS.

21 Rough-built dwelling in France with which James corresponds reportedly (5)
SHACK – A homophone reportedly of JAQUES (The French for James).  Try as I might, I can’t quite agree that the two are homophones as I would pronounce the initial letter as you would pronounce Je as in Je suis.  I don’t think the in France indicator is in the right place.  Perhaps Rough-built dwelling built by drunken James in France would overcome these minor quibbles.

23 Left Foreign Office accompanied by smear over range of investments (9)
PORTFOLIO – The nautical term for left followed by the abbreviation for Foreign Office and a reversal (over) of a verb meaning to smear.

25 Horse, eager at jumping around building material (9)
AGGREGATE – An anagram (jumping) of EAGER AT goes around a childish description (which perhaps should have been indicated) of a horse.

26 Agree Easter to be chosen alternately for traditional Christmas fare (5)
GEESE – The even letters (to be chosen alternately) of AGREE EASTER.

27 Parliament backs German city in marking educational centres (7)
KNESSET – Reverse (backs) the name of a German city inside the middle letters (centres) of marKing and educaTional.

28 Medicine turned up initially in an English county (7)
LINCTUS – The first letters (initially) of turned up inside the abbreviation for Lincolnshire.


1 Twisted love fills the heart of former Play School regular (7)
BIGOTED – The letter representing love or nothing inside the name of one of the toys in Play School

2 Rim underneath car first became popular in the 1960s (9)
MINISKIRT – Another word for a rim underneath a make of small car.  Perhaps “one that first became popular…” would be a better definition as “first became popular in the 1960s is not quite a definition of the answer.

3 Frail structure for the most part overlooking fine terrace (5)
SHELF – Remove the last letter (for the most part) of a frail structure surrounding an egg and follow it with the abbreviation for fine.

4 Replace excellent highly-ranked tennis star, say (9)
SUPERSEDE – Another word for excellent followed by a homophone (say) of another word for a high-ranked tennis star.

5 Rod catches nothing but hollowed tree trunk? (5)
CANOE – The letter representing nothing inside another word for a rod.

6 Ostracise writer after brief support (9)
PROSCRIBE -Another word of saying briefly someone supports or is in favour of something followed by another word for writer.

7 Epic story of artist returning to capture island (5)
ILIAD – Reverse (returning) the name of the artist Salvador and put it around (capturing) the abbreviation for island.

8 Toffees from the North? Cannot reveal some are from the South (7)
EVERTON – The answer is hidden and reversed (some are from the South) in CANNOT REVEAL.

14 No gratitude shown by extremely tough  joints over Sunday opening (9)
THANKLESS – The outer letters (extremely) of tough followed by the joints at the bottom of the legs and the first letter (opening) of Sunday.

16 Vehicle’s treatment is short of a token of confirmation (9)
UNDERSEAL – Remove the the A from a phrase (5, 1, 4) indicating that a document has been formally executed as a deed.  In legal terms, simply splitting the answer 5,4 would have given the same result.

17 Mind cricket, for instance, neglecting society without order (9)
INTELLECT – A word describing the cricket (an animal) leaving behind the abbreviation for society around (without) a word meaning to order.

18 Ask how nuts suspended from end of string can supply a bird (7)
GOSHAWK – An anagram (nuts) of ASK HOW goes after last letter (end of) string.

20 Those running amok emerge from city with the press oddly (7)
RIOTERS – The name of a South American city followed by the odd letters of THE PRESS.

22 Point of view that might be obtuse? (5)
ANGLE – Double definition.

23 Hairstyle is pleasing to a Parisian (5)
PLAIT – From the French word meaning pleasing as in s’il vous plait. 

24 Dickensian character portrayed smoking? (5)
FAGIN – Split 3,2 this would indicate someone is smoking.

105 comments on “Rookie Corner – 109

  1. We needed a bit of investigoogling to work out what was going on with 8d and are still unsure of the parsing of 10a so the NE corner was where we had the most difficulty. The rest all went together smoothly for us with plenty of smiles along the way.
    Thanks Silvanus.

    1. Many thanks, 2Ks, glad to hear you had fun. I did think that 8d might be a little difficult, but certainly not impossible, for someone outside the UK.

      1. It’s a bit of a problem for someone who’s always lived in the UK . . . :sad:

    2. Over breakfast this morning KiwiCarol has just twigged the wordplay for 10a. It had been bugging us all night. :smile:

  2. smashing puzzle, Silvanus, many thanks. Chuckled at 1d which, with the idea at 5a and the answer at 16d gave the puzzle a pleasingly retro feel.
    12a is just one example of an extremely simple idea very well executed.
    I liked 21a (the word-play features my surname, and in 58 years the idea had never occured to me)
    I can’t parse 10a though.

    1. 10a is a brilliant clue – I gave it ** I’m not (and I hope no-one else will) giving away how the clue works as you will really enjoy the d’oh moment when it happens. The only hint I would give you is to think what ‘broadcast’ usually indicates in a crossword clue.

      1. I’ve written the word ‘interesting’ next to 10a; I liked it plenty, but I’m not sure how legal it is…

        1. I just liked the relevance of the rest of the clue to the seasonal entertainment – I expect because I like it so much, it probably isn’t allowed at all

  3. A lovely crossword, thank you Silvanus. As I’ve just said to Baerchen, the really clever wordplay of 10a is definitely my favourite. .

    If I were in quibbling mode, which is hard because I’m smiling having had such fun, would be that I don’t quite think the homophone works in 21a (well not how I’d say the two words anyway); and should the horse at 25a have a qualification such as ‘child’s’?

    Thanks for the early morning fun – I suppose I’d better start work now – and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Great to hear you liked it, CS. Based on previous “form”, I’m fairly sure that Gazza will concur with you about 21a, but I was determined to chance my arm with it anyway!

      1. The 21a homophone seems fine to me, certainly much better than many we’ve had recently, but I agree with dutch that the clue would be better if the ‘in France’ could be nearer the ‘James’.

  4. A definite emphasis on fun for the solver, Silvanus, for which many thanks.
    Particularly groan-worthy gags at 1a, 2a, 18a and the laugh out loud 24d.
    I also liked very much the nifty 12a, 25a, 27a, 28a, 7d, 8d, 17d and my overall favourite 18d.
    I have a couple of question marks which may or may not crop up in the review: 13a, is a surgeon a Dr or a Mr/Ms? 21a, stretched homophones; 10a I genuinely don’t know if this is allowed or not, but I liked it anyway!

    1. Many thanks, Maize, fun was certainly the main aim, I’m really pleased you found it so :-)

  5. That was great fun, Silvanus and a welcome relief following the battles with this week’s NTSPP and the fiendish Radler MPP!
    5a made me smile, 21a was SO cringe-worthy and 24d had me laughing out loud.
    Top three, in no particular order, were 23a plus 8&18d.
    Don’t think I’ve nailed the correct parsing of 10a yet – still working on it.

    Many thanks for brightening my day.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Great to know you enjoyed it, many thanks :-)

      I had a feeling 18d might appeal to you when I was drafting the puzzle!

      1. I thought you’d think that! Must be amusing for a setter who knows his audience to think of the reactions of particular individuals to certain clues. Gazza’s take on 21a should prove interesting and I wonder what JL will make of it………

  6. Cheers, Silvanus,
    Lots of playfulness here, good ‘bad’ puns and much entertainment. 21a falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category (to me, anyway!). The PDM for 10a hasn’t happened yet.
    20d I found interesting, as I am always unsure about ‘oddly’ in fodder with two words when the first has an odd number of letters – should the words be treated separately or as one entity? I think it has been discussed before, but I can’t remember the conclusion. (It is actually the even letters in the second word, but every other letter in the phrase as a whole).
    For all 12a was really easy, it worked perfectly, 18d and 1d were my other favourites, generally my top clues were the same as Maize’s, plus 23a. I also had the same thought about 13a, but assumed it would be justified in Chambers somewhere.
    Many thanks Silvanus.

    1. Thanks a lot, Snape, I knew that you would appreciate the puns and homophones more than most :-)

    2. “I am always unsure about ‘oddly’ in fodder with two words when the first has an odd number of letters – should the words be treated separately or as one entity?”

      I think it can be either. I’ve definitely seen it done where the “fodder” can be regarded as an unbroken string of text as it is here.

  7. Very good and very enjoyable. All the clues worked well with no anomalies or great obscurity. Haven’t fully parsed 10a yet, but am working on it. Well done!

  8. Had to solve it when it came online but was too tired to post my comment last night.
    Such a good laugh.
    And still laughing at 18d (ask how nuts), 8d ( toffees) 24d ( Dickensian character) and I’m sorry to say, 21a ( rough build dwelling) as it’s supposed to sound like my middle name.
    A little mention to 23a as it’s not the easiest word to clue.
    Only needed to google the play school character to check if I was right.
    Nice to see a bit of French conjugaison in 23d.
    Thanks to Silvanus for the great fun.

    1. Hi J-L,

      Delighted to hear that you are still laughing :-) Many thanks for your kind comments as always.

  9. What a splendid puzzle to brighten a cold, wet morning.

    Too much good stuff to mention it all but fav was 8d with 18d and 24d on the podium. Agree with snape about 21a.

    Many thanks silvanus.

    1. Thanks a lot, Pommers. For once we can outdo you with the weather, but we’re living on borrowed time as the glorious spell (at least here in the South) is about to end sadly.

  10. Many thanks Silvanus, this was a lot fun. I had to look up a few references (Play School, Toffees, Parliament) but they were all accessible enough. Plenty of favourites and only very minor quibbles. I groaned at the homophones and I’m left wondering whether you have the grammar exactly right in 23d – maybe it’s close enough, or maybe I just haven’t found the right example – nice idea anyway. In 21a, I kinda wanted “in France” a bit further down the clue, closer to James – also nice idea.

    in 14, the answer is an adjective and I’m struggling a bit to see that in the clue, even in ‘shown’

    If you wanted to shorten your clues, there are occasional qualifiers that could be omitted, e.g. successful in 18a, first in 2d, etc. and perhaps a few more.

    My son doesn’t know his 5a – are they still in use anywhere? For 1a, I learned a new plural.

    CS has told me not to say anything about 10a!

    Well done, congratulations on putting together a very enjoyable puzzle

    1. Thank you very much, Dutch, I always appreciate and look forward to your thoughtful comments.

      I think the reference in 5a is probably more confined to private schools these days, but not exclusively.

  11. Very enjoyable – thanks Silvanus. The clues which I liked best were 12a (nicely succinct), 18d (loved the nuts) and 23d.

    1. Many thanks, Gazza. Slightly surprised (but very pleased) that you approved of the homophone in 21a!

  12. Before I comment on the puzzle a bit later on, can I just ask the Big Dave team to confirm my debut puzzle in the queue?! If there’s any issues with it (format etc), please let me know.

    I’m certainly glad to Silvanus’ puzzle though – it’s fabulous so far.

    And I’m now using my cryptics moniker….

    The Setter Formerly Known As Riggles

      1. Excellent BD – didn’t receive an email but thanks for confirming now!

  13. Pretty good puzzle, I felt – many thanks Silvanus. My biggest comment is re. the wide range / mix of surfaces. Some are perfect: e.g. 12a and 18d are fabulous; some less so e.g. 14d,16d. A few other comments I made on the way through are also attached below.

    As one other wider piece of feedback, perhaps most of us here would benefit from trying to write more of the shorter clues (whilst maintaining the general high level of clue accuracy that RC puzzle typically achieve)? I have almost certainly been slightly biased by Rufus’s creation in the G. this Monday morning. He managed fourteen clues of four words or less. How can anyone do that? I am honestly in awe!

    Thanks again for a good quality and enjoyable puzzle.


    5d nothing’ doing double duty? I may be parsing incorrectly.
    21a homophone? Some may be less happy with ‘j’ pronounced ‘sh’? Not sure, though definitely close enough between friends! Many others on this blog better placed to answer than me.
    23a ‘over’ ok for reversal in Across clues (but better in Down clues)?
    3d? Frail structure? Possibly? I had it more as ‘Lightweight but strong’.
    18d Very nice! great surface
    23d I like it, though some editors may think the ‘Parisian bit’ is stretching slightly beyond common knowledge?
    5a very nice. Not sure my teenager son would pass the test though…
    Oh, and 1d: fun character reference

    1. Many thanks, Encota, your input is always of interest.

      Some time ago, I did have a go at producing a RayT-type puzzle (every clue was eight words long or fewer) but, to be honest, I did find it constraining, and sometimes the single word definitions to fit such a format are not always the best. I’ve come to the conclusion that, provided there are not too many of them, longer clues are fine, although I now always operate to a self-imposed maximum number of words (12).

      1. There are plenty of setters I really admire in the broadsheets who regularly have word counts going into the teens and sometimes their puzzles have averages coming in at 8 or more. Awful if it’s clunky Crosswordese, but I can’t really see the virtue in brevity per se and I don’t think it’s possilble to generalise.
        Personally I like variety. :)

        As regards 3d, don’t those ‘frail structures’ sometimes come on the back of giant turtles? Maybe a ‘perhaps’ was called for.

      2. Silvanus & Maize,

        I agree with you both re. liking the variety too. A self-imposed limit of 12 is interesting and sounds sensible: I suspect I am in practice doing similar – but through estimation rather than careful measurement! Though I may have a go at the ‘eight words or fewer’ constraint on a future puzzle – just to see if I can, as I’ve never explicitly tried that before. Thanks for the idea!

      3. Regarding clue length, or any other facet of clueing, I agree with Maize.

        For example, I love RayT’s style, and his self-imposed restraints work for him, but would not like others to try too hard to be as succinct. There are many brilliant longer clues.

        It was interesting to hear about your experiment with the eight words restriction. It’s great that you try out new things, but in the end it’s about finding out what works best for you. Don’t you go throwing out that gem of a 13 word clue that you come up with!

      4. Not sure where Alchemi is these days but I know he strongly believes that clues should not be longer than 9 words

  14. My first go at one of your puzzles and I really enjoyed it.

    Plenty of smiles including 5a (really funny), 4d, the toffee in 8d, 24d and 18d. I didn’t know the latter so had to look it up but great clue. 27a had to be dragged from the memory bank, reluctantly.

    21a had me confused for the longest time and I’m still not sure I have parsed 10a yet.

    Obviously I am going to name 25a as my favourite.

    Looking forward to the next puzzle of yours!

    1. Thanks very much, Hanni, and thanks also to Jane for recommending that you have a go. I do have another currently waiting in the Rookie queue, but I can’t promise an equine clue next time unfortunately!

  15. Silvanus, as you know I love brevity in cluing and to try to emulate Ray T in this respect is an admirable, but perhaps foolhardy, aim at such an early stage in your setting career. Ray T, I suspect, has been at it for quite some time! Quite often longer clues can be clunky or contain padding to improve the surface reading, but well done on making so many of your surfaces in this offering smooth with generally precise wordplay.

    My schoolboy humour clicked in with 20d after I worked out what the last four letters must be and I was hoping that the first three might be “loo” which would have required those running amok to be emerging from the toilet.

    Mrs RD asked me to shut after repeatedly saying the homophones 21a out loud, and I still can’t quite decide if it works or not. It made me smile and I’ve certainly come across many far worse!

    I’m still in the can’t parse 10a camp, but I’m not going to give up …

    Very well done, and many thanks for such an enjoyable puzzle. Keep them coming please.

      1. Hehe..The question is did you listen to Mrs RD? Hope you have recovered after your first wicket keeping duties of he season.

        1. Yes (of course !) and yes, thank you, Hanni – this morning I felt a lot less stiff following my second game yesterday.

    1. Thanks for the advice, RD, it was really just an experiment of mine to see if I could compile a puzzle of that type, but although I wasn’t displeased with the outcome, I’m not sure it was one of my best efforts, so possibly not one to unleash on the public quite yet!

      Glad to hear you enjoyed today’s puzzle, I did consciously go for perhaps a little more humour than normal, but that’s probably no bad thing judging from the reaction thus far.

      Good to know too that, should Messrs. Buttler or Bairstow get injured before Thursday week’s First Test against Sri Lanka, you are now fully fit to be considered for selection behind the stumps :-)

  16. Thanks, Silvanus. Very witty and entertaining.

    10a – I seem to be one of many who still cannot parse it – CS’s hint above hasn’t helped at all – was that her intention?

    21a – A perfectly acceptable homophone (on ‘Allo ‘Allo)

    Unfortunately I’ve now got to get back to the NW corner of the Radler MPP – It’s beginning to annoy me.

    1. Hi Stan,

      Thanks a lot for your comment. I believe CS was doing her very best to give a helpful hint, but without being too helpful! If you try to think of examples of the answer, you should eventually get it I hope.

      1. D’oh!

        Silvanus, it’s brilliant! I’m glad I didn’t choose a favourite earlier, because 10d is clearly the best of a supremely good selection.

      2. Rabbit Dave’s reaction is the very reason why I didn’t want to give too much help first thing this morning

        1. CS. 11.45, Tues. am – I’ve just twigged 10a. Excellent clue! I’m not really bothered if it’s legal or not.

      3. Ah, very good :-).
        RD, I have stolen your pain, 2 days of cricket including keeping, then keeping in goal at hockey this evening, there is a lot of aching going on!

  17. Really good fun – thanks and well done to Silvanus.
    I have a couple of complaints – I hate it when nearly everyone likes clues that I can’t do. :sad:
    I don’t have a single idea about 5a – not sure that I want to know what schoolboys are expected to know anyway!
    Can’t do 8d either.
    I don’t understand my answer for 10a but at least it seems I’m in good company there.
    Maize asked, “Is a surgeon a doctor?” Strictly speaking a surgeon’s title is Mr or, if a woman, Miss (regardless of whether she’s married or not) but I suppose it’s just a bit of setter’s licence – anyhow they’re all medically qualified.
    I had to look up the 28a parliament and then it took me ages to work out why.
    I liked 21 and 23a and 1 and 18d. My favourite was 24a which really made me laugh.
    Thanks again to Silvanus and in advance to Prolixic.

        1. You’re not supposed to give times away, Kath. Now we know 5a took you at least 12 minutes and 8d another 4. :wink:

    1. Much appreciated, Kath, really glad you liked it.

      As well as “doctor”, the Chambers Crossword Dictionary surprisingly lists the following other synonyms for “surgeon”:

      Extern(e), Orthopod, Sawbones(!), Trephiner, Lithotomist, Lithotritist, and Lithontripist, Phew!

      Mr. or Miss is definitely easier :-)

  18. I found this a struggle, but having been travelling round Manchester on the trams in the heat much of the day being hot and bothered was the main reason, it’s not a reflection on an excellent puzzle.

    Whilst I get 10a, I’m guessing it might be thought of as similar to an indirect anagram i.e. a step too far to be regarded as fair. I guessed it from the definition, which is very easy. I would be interested to know if anyone worked it out from the wordplay.

    Despite the homophonic hints I have no idea how 21a works. I’m also baffled by 3d – which end is the definition? Can’t get the wordplay at all.

    Re. 11a I hate the American use of “named for” instead of “named after” but at least it’s useful in clueing!

    8d is particularly clever, 24d my favourite

  19. It was 10 months ago that I test solved this so I had forgotten all the answers and could enjoy it again. Well done Silvanus – I thought this one was a toughie but o enjoyable that you haven’t had any complaints about the difficulty.

      1. I’d also managed to forget most of it from test solving (and yes, it really was 10 months ago), so got to enjoy it all again. Glad to see all the positive comments, and in particular that 10a has got a good reception.

        Time flies like an arrow…

        …fruit flies like a banana.

  20. Most enjoyable – thanks Silvanus. :good:

    I didn’t understand 21a until I read the comments. I disagree with Gazza so reliably when it comes to homophones that it is a wonder we can understand each other in conversation. :)

    I didn’t know the 27a parliament. I could follow the Kiwis’ lead and investigoogle to sort out 8d or I could wait for the review. Might just do the latter.

    Either I haven’t quite understood 10a or I’m just not quite as enamoured of it as others. We shall see. As things stand it vies for the position of runner-up with 23d (had no idea if it quite worked, but since Jean-Luc has not protested, I’m happy). My favourite is 18d.

    Thanks again for a fun puzzle, Silvanus – I look forward to your next one.

    Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. “I didn’t understand 21a until I read the comments. ”

      I have read the comments and still don’t! I can not think of anything the answer can be a homophone of.

        1. OK, thank you Kitty, eventually got there with the hint and some Googling; it had never occurred to me that the French name wasn’t the equivalent of something much closer in English. Having had “wholly” and “holy” criticised as not sounding alike in one of my puzzles I’m definitely not feeling very charitable re. this one.

        2. I was astounded when Gazza said: “The 21a homophone seems fine to me”

          Mon Dieu!

    2. Hi Kitty,

      Thanks for the kind comments, really pleased you enjoyed it.

  21. Got there….. And fully parsed! 10a last to parse – brilliant.
    Silvanus that was a most enjoyable tussle, neatly pitched between the back pager and the toughie. Many thanks.

  22. I haven’t read the comments yet, I wanted to give the grid a good go first:

    Failed to get 16D (I got tricked by ‘short of’…oh dear!) and 28A (I parsed it ok but don’t know many medicines and got hung up on Hants, my home county). I’m annoying lost when it comes to parsing 10A and 21A – I’m hoping I’ll read the comments and discover that the joke is on me and they are exceptional clues.

    My favourites were 13A for simplicity combined with a nice synonym in the solution, 8D for a football reference and a nice North / South surface, 5A has nice wordplay and a feeling of ‘the old days’ in the clue (I mean that in a nice way!), 1D for a similar reason and finally 17D for the misdirection, which really appealed to me.

    Great stuff Silvanus.

    1. 19a – record is a verb, too. You can record something in a diary, for example. The rule is right, though.

      1. Thanks Snape, I removed the ‘speech’ query from my comment as I’d finally twigged where I was going wrong with this rule. I’m glad too, as it frees up some clue possibilities in my fuzzy little brain.

    2. Thanks a lot, Wolfgang, I appreciate your comments. Good luck with your puzzle next Monday, I look forward to it with great interest.

  23. Late to the party. I’ve been resting up after an unfortunate mishap involving a trip up the stairs laden with dishes and glassware, rapidly followed by a near horizontal forward projection culminating in slamming my face into some under-counter kitchen shelving. A great deal of colorful language and a lot of broken china was also involved. I am battered but not broken.

    Fortunately I had completed this splendid puzzle earlier in the day when I could still smile without my teeth hurting. I’m in the “not a fan of the 21A homophone” camp and I, too, have no idea what’s going on with 10A but look forward to being enlightened. Took a while to work out the “why” for the first and last letters of 27A and I did have to google to find out the toffee bit of 8D.

    By the way, over here, surgeons are doctors, not misters.

    Of all the great clues, I think my favorite is 24D. Thanks Silvanus!

      1. Bruised, yes, and a swollen knee, but the side of my face and my mouth took the brunt of the impact. Shut me up for a while! Some might say that’s a good thing. I think the damage to my dignity hurt just as much…and that almost 3/4 of a pound of premium steamed jumbo shrimp left from our Mother’s Day dinner ended up on the kitchen floor amidst broken glass and china.

        1. Goodness Chris – you certainly come a cropper with style! I reckon you’ll be somewhat sore all over for a while, but the picture you painted of all those lovely shrimp flying through the air amidst the glass and china really did make me smile – sorry……….

    1. Oh dear, hope you are OK. Stairs are apparently one of the biggest killers going, apart from disease – more dangerous than cars, planes, sharks, coconuts etc.

    2. Oh dear, very sorry to hear about your accident, Chris. I hope that you are fully recovered soon.

      Thanks a lot for your comments, my puzzle is far less important than your good health.

  24. Ok, having read the comments I THINK I now get 10A and 21D – are these what some call libertarian clues?! Certainly ingenious, but surely a stretch for being publishable from a ‘fairness to the solver’ point of view….? Either way I shall learn something here…

  25. Many thanks for your review, Prolixic. I was interested in your remark about 1a, because for me the plural of mews is mews. I was going to mention this is my earlier comment, but, when I checked it after I had solved the clue, my BRB does indeed include the (to me) irritating and ugly “mewses”. In Silvanus’ defence, it is a good homophone!

    P.S. Not that it is the final arbiter on these things, but my spellchecker has placed a squiggly red line under “mewses”.

  26. Many thanks as ever Prolixic for your insightful analysis, and thanks again to Silvanus.

  27. Many thanks to Prolixic for his review and to everyone who took the time to tackle the puzzle and especially to those who commented. I hope I’ve managed to thank everyone individually, but apologies to anyone I’ve omitted.

    I wasn’t sure myself as to the correct plural of “mews”, but when I discovered that “mewses” was acceptable I did think it would work well in a clue. The reaction to the attempted homophone in 21a did cause some surprise – the one person whom I was convinced would not like it thought it ok, and others, whom I thought would not mind it, questioned it! Just goes to prove that you can never second guess others’ opinions. I didn’t imagine that 10a would generate as much head scratching as it did, but I was pleased that it led to quite a few “d’oh” moments.

    A big thank you, as always, to Beet and Sprocker for their invaluable input at the test-solving stage, I hadn’t realised that it was as long ago as last summer when I compiled this one. Immense thanks too to Big Dave for setting everything up and for not complaining when I make the odd late alteration to clues!

    1. Homophones are a minefield as you’ll almost always find someone who doesn’t speak that way. I quite liked shack/Jacques (if you pronounce Jacques as a French person would in a name such as Jean Jacques Rousseau) – I’d like to hear Jean-Luc’s take on this. It’s certainly a lot better than many we’ve had recently (Shia/shear still makes me shudder).

      1. Spot on, Gazza. As I commented a few days ago, one man’s homophone is another man’s heterophone.

  28. Many thanks Prolixic for the review. I may have oversimplified 16d – I just took it as short of = under + a token of confirmation = seal (which i think is in brb)

    I’m always surprised at different reactions to a homophone. My objection was not with the first letter but with the vowel. The rough-built dwelling rhymes with Jack; making it rhyme with the French name makes it sound incongruously posh to me.

    Thanks again Silvanus

  29. Sorry – late again. I was all set to post and the power went off. There had been quite a storm and the power, unusually, remained on. Then – as it abated – off it went.

    A fun solve – really enjoyable.

    I wondered about mewses – so it’s in Chambers – the others haven’t caught on yet. Unusual now that Collins has the Scrabble gig. Didn’t have a Chambers to hand – but the online Chambers Word Wizard confirms that it’s an allowable Scrabble word.

    10a I didn’t twig (apart from the definition) at the time. I still don’t understand the “about 9” part.
    21a – yeah – OK.

    Sorry – I forgot to tick the good’uns. There were certainly plenty. What I remember mainly is that I never came to a complete standstill but equally never had a run of write-ins. Not exactly a slow-burner but it just unfolded at a nice pace and with plenty of smiles. It must take some sort of sixth sense to plan for that but however you did it it certainly worked this time – for me at least.

    Re short clues – not just today. There have been other comments here in past weeks pushing the line that short clues are inherently good. No they’re not. The dullest type of cryptic clue (for me at least) and the type I dislike most when they won’t fall – is the double definition – inherently short. Rufus puzzles are packed full of them – enough said.

    There have a been a spate of puzzles recently (quite a few in The Times – elsewhere too) which, when you print them in the form where Across clues appear in one column – Down clues adjacent, have the noticable feature that no clues whatsoever run onto a second line. A dull solve is usually assured.

    Ximenes’s view was that clues should not *normally* consist of more than 90 characters (including spaces) – that amounted to two lines. And of course he stated specifically that he broke his own rules from time to time. Obviously the greatest setters of the past (eg Araucaria and Bunthorne) wrote enormously long clues at different times – they also wrote very short clues. Good clues are good clues – long or short. As long as all the words get used up they’re valid.

    Here endeth this evening’s rant.

    Anyway – thanks for the fun Silvanus – top marks for entertainment.

    1. Hi Jolly Swagman,

      I wondered if you’d comment! I had, as immediate counter-examples of the shorter clue, some of your fabulous submissions here and elsewhere, which I almost cited in my original comment on clue length! I guess from my pov I’d simply like to have more short clue writing capability in the kitbag, so to speak – and it may just be me this applies to.

      Hope all is sorted now with the power BTW, and that you are now firmly back on the Grid!

      So, in appeasement*, I offer the finished (and corrected) clue discussed elsewhere on the Guardian crossword blog:

      Enigmatically, in one of the Bard’s best-thought-of tragedies
      our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts
      about how life turns rotten (2,2,2,3,2,2,4,2,3,8,7,3,6,2,3,4,2,6,3,6,3,6,2,10,7)

      * I’ll put my tin hat on now, in case there are some who dislike longer anagrams out there ;-)

      1. Very Bunthornian – but apparently not by him.

        Of course it’s the enumeration , rather than the letters, that gives it to you. Some people don’t like that – I rather do.

        That and the fact that the surface alludes to the answer for a change.

  30. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic and the parsing for the two outer letters in 27a.
    I was with Dutch on my workings for 16d and did wonder about the ‘A’. Obviously I don’t read a sufficient number of legal documents!
    As for 10a – must admit that it was only by taking the reference to 9a that I lighted on the correct pantomime. I rather liked that one.

    Looking forward to the next one, Silvanus.

  31. lovely write-up Prolixic although I don’t think there’s room for any homophobes round here (or is that an in-joke to which I’m not privy?)
    I still didn’t get 10a even after reading your explainer, but I see it now and very good it is.

  32. What a lovely puzzle! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Very well done, Silvanus.

    My fave was 10a. Brilliant! And, as Crypticsue said it would be, the d’oh moment (when it eventually came) was most enjoyable.

    Like others, I don’t feel that the homophone in 21a works. Oherwise I don’t have any quibbles.

    My thanks to Prolixic for the excellent write-up. Most belatedly, may I say how very delighted I was to see your splendid opus. Warmest congratulations on A Brief Guide to the Construction of Cryptic Crossword Clues. Judging by the quality of the Rookie puzzles and the comments made by solvers, it is proving invaluable to many.

  33. Very enjoyable! I have nothing much to add, it’s all been said already, except that I do enjoy learning a thing or two from a crossword and this delivered on that front. The Everton nickname was new to me (sport being an Achilles heel) and so was the medicine – I actually went googling ‘lanctus’ first and was briefly disappointed before I remembered there’s another county that goes L_NCS… The Israeli parliament is definitely one I’ve stumbled across before in a crossword but still felt the need to double check. So, thanks Silvanus for the edutainment!

    ( Favourite 11a – I love a good, well executed charade me.)

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