Rookie Corner – 116 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 116

GoT by Sprocker

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have Sprocker’s latest puzzle. According to him “This one has a theme, but doesn’t require any specialist knowledge to solve”.  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

Sprocker has given us a crossword with a ghost theme based on the titles of the books in the Game of Thrones series.  As a ghost theme, you don’t need to know anything about the series of books or the TV series to solve the clues, which is just as well as I have heard of the series but have little knowledge of the plot or characters.


1 Hook up with ring? (6)
ENGAGE – A cryptic allusion to what a ring is used to signify.

4 When I wake up I briefly see Idris roll over getting friendly (8)
AMICABLE – The abbreviation for morning (when I wake up) followed by the I from the clue, the letter that sounds like see and a reversal (roll over) of the surname of the actor Idris.  I am not sure that briefly see necessarily means use the phonetic sound of see.  Perhaps as Idris is a definition by example, some indication of this could have been given but it is a minor issue.

9 Praise kinky latex (5)
EXALT – An anagram (kinky) of LATEX.

10 Merciless but generous (9)
UNSPARING – Double definition of someone who shows no mercy and can also mean generous.

11 Help maiden to escape suitors (3)
AID – Remove (to escape) a three letter word for the suitors of a maiden from maiden.  I am not sure that to escape xxx grammatically means to remove xxx.  Perhaps suitors escape from maiden with help might have been better.

12 After quietly slipping out of sight and of hearing (4)
OTIC – Remove the musical abbreviation for quietly from a word meaning of sight.  For the cryptic grammar to work you would need slipping out of of sight as the word optic does not mean sight but “of sight”.

13 Elgar receives “A Clash of Kings” (5)
REGAL – An anagram (receives a clash) of ELGAR.

15 Careful scout (7)
LOOKOUT – Double definition, the first in the sense of a cry or interjection.

16 Put down city’s papers (4)
LAID – The abbreviation for a West Coast city of America and an abbreviation for identity papers.

19 RU possibly up for it? (4)
GAME – Double definition of what RU is an example of and a word meaning up for it.

20 Treat that sells out fast? (7)
HOTCAKE – A cryptic definition of something that sells out fast.  The simile on which the clue relies has the word in the plural as 3,5.  I am not convinced that the clue therefore works as the singular is rarely used.

23 Fit Kit’s heart represented in High Definition (5)
HONED – The middle letter in KIT is expanded (represented) and put inside the definition for High Definition.

24 Woman AI assistant knocked over (4)
IRIS – Reverse (knocked over) the name of the voice recognition software in the iPad and iPhone.

25 “A Storm of Swords” back covers (3)
ROW – The answer is hidden (covers) and reversed (back) in SWORDS.  The cryptic grammar of “back covers” is slightly Yoda like.

27 Goes past services (9)
OVERHAULS – Another word for overtakes and a word meaning services.

28 Bald, completely naked Queen’s marched out (5)
STARK – Remove (marches out) the ERS (Queen’s) from a word meaning completely naked.

29 Used to be looked after for longer (8)
EXTENDED – A two letter prefix meaning used to be and a word meaning looked after.

30 Humiliate by injecting drug to perform castration? (6)
DEMEAN – A word 2-3 that could mean to castrate or with the insertion (injecting) the abbreviation for ecstasy.


1 Looks atA Feast for Crows“? (8)
EYEBALLS – Double definition, the second being what crows reportedly eat.

2 Fourth character encountered in “A Dance with Dragons” disturbed younger relative (8)
GRANDSON – An anagram (disturbed) of the fourth letter in “A DANCE” and DRAGONS.

3 Scandalous suffix? (4)
GATE – The suffix added to any scandal following the Watergate scandal.

5 “A Game of Thrones” follows High Society perhaps (7,6)
MUSICAL CHAIRS – The type of film represented (perhaps) by High Society followed by another word for thrones.

6 Church broadcast provides boosts for mountain climbers (10)
CHAIRLIFTS – A two letter abbreviation for church followed by a word meaning broadcast and a word meaning “provides boosts”.

7 Control room is stupidly big and red (6)
BRIDGE – An anagram (stupidly) of BIG RED.

8 Anxiously Gilly loses heart after Ned’s decapitation (6)
EDGILY – Remove the first letter from NED (decapitation) and follow it by the GILLY from the clue with the middle letter removed (loses heart).

10 Now I put the men out, being silly (2-2-3-6)
UP-TO-THE-MINUTE – An anagram (being silly) of I PUT THE MEN OUT.

14 Occasionally present with the North (
NOW AND THEN – A word meaning present (in the sense of time) followed by a word meaning with, the “the” from the clue and the abbreviation for North.

17 After a month, one gets in to see “Red Wedding“? (8)
MARRIAGE – The abbreviated form of March (a month) followed by an I inside (gets into) a word meaning “see red”.

18 Get back-up from a man after about a week (8)
REAWAKEN – A two letter word meaning about followed by the A from the clue and the abbreviation for week then another A from the clue and a man’s name.

21 3-1 outsiders to gain seat! (6)
THRONE – The outside six letters of THREE ONE.

22 Taboo activity in Church Street (6)
INCEST – The IN from the clue followed by the abbreviation for Church of England and the abbreviation for street.

26 Man perhaps kept by Israelis legitimately (4)
ISLE – The answer is hidden inside ISRAELIS LEGITIMATELY.

54 comments on “Rookie Corner – 116

  1. We worked out what the theme must be from the title and a few of the clues. We know nothing about it so it was a good thing that the knowledge was not needed to solve the puzzle. Imagine there are all sorts of delights in here for those in the know. For us it was a good fun puzzle with a few sticky ones that took a bit of working through such as 1d, 4a, 5d and 22d. Much appreciated.
    Thanks Sprocker.

    1. Hiya, thanks for the nice comments. I did wonder if there would be many here who follow the books / series, but I’m guessing the answer will be not a lot!

  2. This was good fun and proved to be much more of a challenge than today’s back-pager. Although as Sprocker says, you don’t need specialised knowledge of the theme to solve the puzzle, you do need specialised knowledge of Apple technology to solve 24a!

    Just one minor quibble. 20a is not a word; it is normally a plural expression comprising two words.

    I’m not sure about “careful” in 15a nor the “Queen’s marched out” part of 28a, so I’ll need to wait for tomorrow’s review for the parsing of these two.

    Lots to enjoy here: nice surfaces throughout, several linked cleverly to the theme; humour; use of many different clue types. It’s quite hard to pick a favourite but I’ll opt for the excellent 5d.

    Well done and many thanks, Sprocker.

    1. For 28a I think you need to remove the Queen’s cipher plus the ‘S from an informal adjective meaning completely naked.

    2. Thanks!

      Ref 20a then I’ve definitely seen it both as one word and as two words, and Collins online does it have it as one word (and in the singular). In hindsight though I think I should probably have enumerated it as 3,4 as I think that would be less controversial.

      1. Hi Sprocker. Many thanks for your reply. 20a is not in my BRB as one word (either singular or plural), and I see that Collins online cites the one word version as specifically a US term. I was interested to check the derivation of the expression “selling like hotcakes” and I hadn’t realised that it originated in the US. I had always wrongly assumed it simply meant that the smell of warm freshly baked cakes made them irresistible (which they are, aren’t they?).

        Interestingly, The Darkness made an album called “Hot Cakes” and Carly Simon made one called “Hotcakes” as befits their respective nationalities!

        1. Aha – didn’t spot that. Fair point then, it should have been 3,4. I also had no idea that the etymology was US based – thanks!

  3. The queue for Rookie Corner is at its shortest for a long time – more submissions are urgently needed. By the way Silvanus and Metman, I haven’t forgotten yours – they are next up.

  4. When I saw the theme (about which I know nothing) I wondered whether it was worth doing the puzzle but I was glad that I carried on because it was enjoyable – thanks Sprocker . I liked 27a, 30a and 21d but my favourite was 5d.
    I don’t think that 15a or 20a quite work (and shouldn’t 20a be 3,4 anyway?). I had no idea how to parse 24a so thanks to RD for pointing out that it relates to something else that I know nothing about.

    1. Mrs BD has an iPhone, and the AI assistant is an irritating thing that pops up and displays “What can I help you with? if you hold the Home button down for too long. When you swear at it a voice says “I’m not sure what you said there”.

      It’s even more irritating because the question ends with a preposition.

      1. Mrs RD has an iPad, which uses the same AI assistant as the iPhone. Your choice of the adjective “irritating” is spot on! If I had any say in the matter I would switch “him” off.

    2. Hi Gazza, Thanks – glad you enjoyed it despite the theme!

      I did wonder if 24a would be seen as fair – as the assistant in question has been the subject of several TV ads I decided it probably was.

  5. Never saw the series either but it didn’t hinder the solving process.
    Found some construction interesting such as 11a (help maiden) and 23a (fit kit’s heart).
    Liked the double defs in 10a (merciless) and 15a (careful).
    Good laugh at 1a (hook up) and 30a (humiliate).
    Thanks to Sprocker for the great fun.

    1. Merci Bien!

      Assuming England manage to avoid the Banana skin of Iceland tonight, then I’ll look forward to watching France beat England on penalties in the Quarter finals! :0)

        1. Indeed. Fair play to Iceland, great achievement to make the quarter finals for a nation of their size. The less said about England’s performance the better.

  6. All done apart from not being able to justify any of the words that will fit into 24a – but then I know little about Apple!
    I took 15a as being a 4,3 exhortation to be careful.

    Haven’t a clue as to what the theme is but I still enjoyed the puzzle.
    Top slots go to 29a&5d.

    Many thanks, Sprocker.

    1. Thanks very much, Jane. You are right about 15a.

      For 24a, think of a female name which fits the checking letters and Google that name spelt backwards.

    2. Thanks Jane (and yep, that’s exactly what I was going for with the first bit of 15a).

      Suggest you google ‘Game of Thrones’ if you want enlightenment on the theme (though if I were to hazard a guess then I’d say it isn’t going to be your cup of tea!)

  7. I think I know what the theme is from one of the clues, a couple of answers and the title. As I’ve never seen it I have no clue which, if any, of the other answers are themed. However an enjoyable puzzle with some nice clues. Favs are 27a and 5d.

    Thanks Sprocker, I enjoyed the tussle.

  8. I had no clue as to the theme until I read the 2Kiwis’ comment earlier and paid attention to the title of the puzzle. It was no help, though, since I’ve never seen the program. Finished now, but a couple of answers are not fully parsed…the middle of 4A and the last four letters of 23A. 1D and 30A made me shudder, not at the clues but at the visual images they conjured up. 16A made me laugh because it’s a sort of contradiction in terms here. The city is what’s known as a sanctuary city so if questioned by the authorities you can’t be asked to show proof of legal status. I enjoyed the puzzle overall, though didn’t pick out any clues for special mention today. Thanks, Sprocker.

    1. Thanks Chris.

      That’s exactly the reaction I was hoping for with 1d, so sorry about that!

  9. Hi Sprocker

    Like others I guessed the theme from the title and 5d – a brilliant clue in it’s own right anyway. Was that the starting point for theming the puzzle? I’m only vaguely aware of the series though so have no idea of which answers fit the theme.

    I needed to get this done fairly quickly as I have to be out soon, and struggled to complete without quite a bit of help. NW corner looked particularly empty. There are several I cannot parse, particularly 4a (get the first 3 letters but not the rest – is it theme related?).

    Re. 24a personally the ads don’t help because what little I watch on TV is generally recorded first, so if it happens to be on a commercial station I whizz through them at x16. I definitely think that’s quite a tough clue if your not into Apple products, but I guess more obvious options relating to flowers and flags, or parts of the eye, or the Iris(h) have been done to death, so fair enough for trying something new.

    11a feels the wrong way round to me i.e take a word for maiden away from one for suitors. “Help maiden’s suitors to escape” would work for me though.

    12a feels as though it needs an extra “of” because optic means “of sight” not just “sight”.

    I think you could lose “provides” in 6d, nice clue though.

    3d I hate the answer (not your clue though). It has long annoyed me the way lazy journalists have hijacked the back end of this place and re-used it so inappropriately. The way it is used now if you’re too young to know of Nixon you might assume the original scandal was about Water….

    Someone commented re. “careful” in 15a – I think it works as a shouted instruction, so perhaps could have an exclamation mark

    5d the pick of the bunch for me; but amongst others I also like 27a, two totally different definitions making a third phrase that’s different again, and 17d – nicely constructed.

    Thanks Sprocker, look forward to Prolixic’s review and your next one.

    1. Hi Starhorse,

      Yep, 5d was my starting point, and from there I tried to work out what else I could clue using the other titles (a job that would have been made much easier without the As up front!).

      4a isn’t theme related, but you might want to google Luther and Long Walk to Freedom.

      11a this is more an instruction to remove something from the hold of, than to take away, in which case I think it does work.

      12a I was hoping the ‘After’ at the front would resolve that, it’s sightly yoda like in the formation to preserve the surface, but it could be read as “Of Sight, after quietly slipping out”


      1. Ah thanks re. 4a, had never heard of the fellow I’m afraid. I see where you’re going with 12, but less convinced by 11. Will see what Prolixic has to say.

      2. Re 12a – that’s how I read it.

        Re 11a maiden shakes off men [ie the ones who are pestering her – her suitors]

        Obviously you can view either differently but (by Afrit) you have to go with the way that works.

  10. That was really good fun – still don’t have any idea what the theme is though. :scratch:
    I have a few answers that I don’t quite ‘get’ but I’m sure all will become clear from the review tomorrow.
    My main problem was thinking (or maybe not!) that the anagram indicator in 10d was ‘out’ with the definition being ‘being silly’. Oh dear!
    Lots of these made me laugh.
    I liked 15 and 30a and 1d (until I thought about it a bit more) and 5 and 22d. My favourite was 28a.
    With thanks and a big :good: to Sprocker and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

    1. Hi Kath,
      I was with you all the way over 10d and tried for quite a while to get ‘up in the clouds’ to fit!

    2. Thanks Kath!

      The theme is based around the books / tv series “A Game of Thrones”. The 5 titles that appear in the clues are the 5 books in the series so far. Interestingly you’ve picked 28a as your favourite which is arguably the clue that references the series the most, as the answer is the name of one of the families in it, and the surface alludes to one of the more famous scenes.

      1. Oh – now I’m ashamed – 28a was my favourite just because the thought of our ninety year old Queen being bald and starkers and marching around made me laugh. :oops:
        Our younger Lamb is obsessed with GoT as is our younger nephew. They even have GoT weekends together which is a bit of a mission as she lives in London and he lives in Sheffield!

  11. Being a GoT fan I immediately got the theme (excuse the pun).
    Thoroughly enjoyed this. I reckon there are twelve direct references to GoT and a few others with a nod to it; that is quite an achievement. Favourite clues were 23a and17d.
    Well done Sprocker

    1. Thanks Gordon, I’m very glad to hear that this hit a note with a fellow fan!

  12. Thanks to everyone for the comments. I need to also give a special shout out to Beet, Silvanus and Snape for their fantastic assistance with test solving this one – as always it would have been far less polished without their invaluable help.

    It seems there aren’t many Game of Thrones fans here, but I hope that the theme didn’t detract too much from the enjoyment for those who weren’t readers / watchers.

    1. A pleasure to help as always, Sprocker. I’m pleased it has achieved a good reception.

  13. Thank you Sprocker

    I was hoping to get around to this earlier, but this morning I had printed out the wrong puzzle to take with me today.

    I got the theme from the title and some clues, but I haven’t read or watched any of this so I suspect fans would have had even more fun. I also winced at 1d (the imagery), though strangely I didn’t wince at 30a (the imagery) – now I’m worried why not.

    Seemed to me you did have enough ‘of’s in 12a, and to BD’s annoyance I’m a apple user so I knew the lady in 24a (though the AI wasn’t obvious)

    A few I haven’t bothered to parse fully (4a) – oh, that’s the only one.

    Lots of nice clues, funnily enough 7d really appealed, I think it’s just a good anagram – two simple words make a third simple word, but it didn’t come straight away.

    I also wondered about maiden, it’s hard to draw a clean line between fodder and wordplay.

    Loads of fun anyway, thanks again and congratulations, I look forward to the review which will hopefully reveal whatever i missed in the theme.


  14. Good fun this. Impressive the way the book titles – which don’t obviously lend themselves to straightforward cluing – were all incorporated. I’m only vaguely aware of the theme but I recognised the titles and noticed a couple of thematic solutions – no doubt I missed a couple too.

    12a I wasn’t sure ‘after’ was necessary, but I see you’ve accounted for it in a comment – yes, no problem there, and a very lovely clue it is too. If I’m being harsh I’m not sure the hyphen in 18d is entirely fair. Still awaiting enlightenment for the parsing of 23a.

    My picks are 12a, 15a, 30a and of course all of the “A _____ of ____” clues, which were brilliant.

    Thanks Sprocker (and in advance Prolixic)!

    1. Hi Arepo,

      Thanks! I always take the view that any shenanigans with punctuation is fair game, so I’m going to stick by 18d.

      23a is slightly sneaky and one of the clues for which I’m wondering if it will be judged as ok as it needs two steps to get the middle 3 letters. Both those steps are very common crosswordland devices though so I think it does pass the eminently solvable test.

  15. Nice to see you again, Sprocker. :)

    I very much enjoyed this, even though I don’t know much about the theme. I did identify it quickly but was glad I didn’t need any specialist knowledge!

    My last bit in was the extreme NW. No idea why. I liked a lot of clues and noted 11a (for its surface), as well as 23a, 29a, 30a, 1d (made me laugh) and 5d. (Dutch’s comment about 30a reminded me of when we were deciding on a name for our double act. I wondered if being a girl – half a girl, even – might be emasculating, but he had no worries on that front.)

    Thanks to Sprocker for the puzzle, and well done. I look forward to your next one. Thanks also in advance to Prolixic for the review.

    1. P.S. I also followed the same red herring in 10d as Kath and Jane. As for 24a, my problem was reading the upper-case I as a lower-case L and wondering who Al was! :roll:

  16. Nice puzzle Sprocker – about medium difficulty level for me; that’s with no help from the theme – I had no idea what it was and only twigged afterwards after a long stare at the title. I’ve heard of it – but like TOWIE – I know what it stands for but have never seen even two minutes of content – so a completely closed book to me – but that didn’t detract in any way from my enjoyment of the puzzle. No doubt there was a bonus there for any who knew it well.

    I ticked 1a, 4a, 11a but there were many other good clues – I think I forgot to tick as time went on.

    Being completely i-challenged I had no idea how to justify my guessed girl’s name in 24a – although it did conjure up amusing possibilities along the lines of Carry On Cowshed.

    No quibbles.

    Thanks for the fun.

  17. Thanks again to everyone for the comments, and as always thanks to Prolixic for the insightful review.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I never did untangle the middle letters of 23a and now I feel SO stupid!
    Sprocker must be laughing delightedly………..

  19. Well I’m not exactly a fan of Game of Thrones, but it can hardly be ignored if you’ve got teenage kids like me! Undoubtedly the biggest film/ tv thing around over the last couple of years, I’d say, so good to bring it to the attention of those who (amazingly to me) didn’t know about it.
    I loved the way you’ve worked episode titles (I presume) in to the clues with 13a, 23a, 1d, 2d, 5d and 17d.
    Amongst my favourites were 11a, 2d, 3d and 4d.
    With 4a, I wondered how I was supposed to know your sleeping patterns – habits of night workers (and my 19-yr-old) may very!

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