Rookie Corner – 119 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 119

A Puzzle by Deuce

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a new setter who wanted his puzzle to be published as near to July 21st as possible in order to make it topical, and this is the best I could do.  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 by Prolixic follows:

Thirteen or fourteen (your count may vary) notable or (obscure) Belgians are solutions to the clues and the capital of Belgium make an appearance in this crossword.  Perhaps a greater balance of clues (13 anagrams, 4 hidden words and lots of repeated indicators) would improve the crossword.

With all crosswords where a degree of general knowledge is required, you will love or loath this type of crossword.  You definitely need access to the internet to check some of the answers.


1 B on two wheels, small car gets to King’s Cross quickly (6)
MERCKX – The short name (small) of a Mercedes Benz followed by the abbreviation for King and the Letter representing a cross.  I think that the quickly is padding that could have been omitted.

4 Smudged, rubs less for capital (8)
BRUSSELS – An anagram (smudged) of RUBS LESS.

10 What you might have if you’re happy with musical Mr Kelly? (3,4)
GAY GENE – An semi-all in one with a three letter word meaning happy and the first name of the star of musicals – Mr Kelly.  The difference between an all in one and semi all in one clue is that for an all in one (or &lit) clue, all of the words contribute to the wordplay and form the definition.  For a semi all in one clue, all of the words contribute to the definition but only some of the words contribute to the wordplay.

11 B who represented fall of Icarus – initially birdlike, regret attaching to sticky substance (7)
BRUEGEL – The first letter (initially) of birdlike followed by a word meaning regret and a word for a sticky substance.

12 He overdoes it in Rudge riots with novel’s end (8)
INDULGER – The IN from the clue followed by an anagram (riots) of RUDGE L (the L being the last letter – end – of novel).

13 B who pioneered new style in short architecture (5)
HORTA – The answer is hidden (in) in SHORT ARCHITECTURE.

15 Reset a reader by subtracting? (4)
TARE – The answer is hidden (by subtracting) in RESET A READER.  I can only assume that the whole clue is the definition but I cannot see that there is a direct meaning like that given.  Tare means the net weight of something after subtracting the weight of fuel and cargo, but this is a noun, not a verb as the whole of the clue would require.

16 B who had subjects polled freely about start of organisation (7)
LEOPOLD – An anagram (freely) of POLLED around the first letter (start of) organisation.

20 Creative B has starters of veal and yoghurt with cook on vacation (3,4)
VAN DYCK – The first letter (starters) of veal and yoghurt V AND Y followed by the outer letters (on vacation) of cook.

21 B who’s contributed to sombre lyrics? (4)
BREL – The answer is hidden in SOMBRE LYRICS.

25 Double refusal to reverse about one may lead to tears? (5)
ONION – Reverse two NOs around the letter representing one.

26 Blamed as work of extremist B (8)
ABDESLAM – An anagram (work) of BLAMED AS.  As a clue, this may be considered distasteful by some given the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium and France.  As a general rule when using relatively unknown names or words, using an anagram although perfectly legal, is possibly not the fairest clue for a solver.  Some editors would not allow wordplay of definition as a construction.

28 Turner – or art to blur (7)
ROTATOR – An anagram (blur) of OR ART TO.

29 The beginnings of renegotiation has EU backtrack – call off deal (7)
RENEGUE – The first five letters of renegotiation followed by a reversal (backtrack) of EU.  Not all editors would accept the beginnings of to indicate an unknown number of letters from the start of a word.

30 Is sent in confused, insubstantial state (8)
TININESS – An anagram (confused) of IS SENT IN.

31 Set table fit for King – B King (6)
ALBERT – An anagram (set) of TABLE around (fit for) the abbreviation for king.


1 Tobacco-holder initially seen in treacherous art images not as it seems according to this B (8)
MAGRITTE – An anagram (treacherous) of ART IMAGES after removing the AS.

2 B top diplomat gives up around capital of Yugoslavia (8)
REYNDERS – A word meaning gives up (as in doing this to Caesar what is due to Caesar) around the first letter (capital) of Yugoslavia.

3 Shows respect, smooth backing taking note (6)
KNEELS – A word meaning smooth reversed (backing) around (taking) the abbreviation for note.

5 Takes in for observation (4)
ROBS – The answer is hidden in FOR OBSERVATION.  Four hidden word clues in a puzzle is a tad too many.

6 Cunning to take rich one in, so as to tug at heartstrings (8)
SLUSHILY – A word meaning cunning around (to take) a word meaning rich or decadent and the letter representing one.

7 They cut outlying parts to change genders, not neuter (6)
EDGERS – An anagram (to change) of GENDERS after removing the abbreviation for neuter.

8 B has soap-making process – firstly scrub over yourself around flushed lav (6)
SOLVAY – The initial letters (firstly) of scrub over yourself around an anagram (flushed) of LAV.

9 Put to confused Dane, Scot or Brit with these? (9)
REFERENDA – A word meaning put to followed by an anagram (confused) of DANE.

14 Mars or Milky Way, maybe, use these after period (5,4)
SPACE BARS – A loose description of the chocolate and their universal nomenclature!

17 Against one no trump opener by East, North B who produced suits (3,5)
VAN NOTEN – The one letter word for versus or against followed by a word meaning one, the no from the clue, the first letter (opener) of trump and the abbreviations for east and north.  

18 After shot from pistol, Ovett leaps in front in false start (8)
PROLOGUE – The first letter (shot from) pistol followed by a word meaning false in which you add the initial letter (in front) of Ovett and leaps.

19 Let Miss splurge and take on small mass – she’s lost the most? (8)
SLIMMEST – An anagram (splurge) of LET MISS includes the abbreviation (small) for mass.

22 B detective – root out with private investigator involved (6)
POIROT – An anagram (out) of ROOT includes the abbreviations for private investigator.  I don’t think that this works as the anagram does not include both letters.  If you omit the involve, the clue would work better.

23 Colour in illustrated B (6)
TINTIN – A word meaning colour followed by the IN from the clue.

24 Go head over heels after knights enter King Charles’ home … (6)
KENNEL – Another word meaning to go or urinate is reversed (head over heels) and includes two abbreviations for knights.

27 … swift to remove King’s head, or to chop off other body part (4)
BRIS – A word meaning swift has the abbreviation for King removed.  The definition requires a verb for the answer but the solution is give only as a noun in Chambers.

56 comments on “Rookie Corner – 119

  1. BD, I can see a few blemishes on the PDF version of the puzzle. Is it a problem with the source file or is it just something I am seeing on my laptop for some reason?

    1. The software that produces the pdf doesn’t like some types of quotation marks / apostrophes – I’ll see if I can fix it.

  2. Thanks Deuce. Well done on getting so many themed answers (I counted 14 rather than 13) into the grid. Unfortunately for me it didn’t disprove the aphorism because I thought a few of them were pretty obscure and I’d never heard of five of them – although the wordplay is very fair in leading to the answers. There are rather a lot of anagrams (I counted 13).
    Co-favourites for me were 31a and 14d.

  3. Many thanks Deuce – and certainly topical in parts. I wonder how many mysterious-sounding comments you’ll get here from people aiming not to give the theme away! I suspect you knew already that it might test your ‘disprove’ statement to the limits, for me anyway! I loved your inclusion of 13 such clues to be solved in the preamble, along with 22d and 23d, to avoid/evade one of the usual debates. As Gazza says, your spread of clue types is different from what is perhaps more usual – but for a themed crossword, esp. where the definitions might escape some of us, that really helped. Enjoyable, thank you.

  4. Full marks to the setter for the concept, but the aphorism wasn’t disproved for me either. The inclusion of 26a within the puzzle really scraped the bottom of the barrel I felt. Too much time spent looking up or checking Google to verify or understand answers made this a fairly tedious slog at times.

    A surfeit certainly of full or partial anagrams, but I realise the theme contributed somewhat to that. It was a pity though that the same verbal indicator was used in three successive clues (3d, 4d and 6d) and other indicators such as “initially” and “around” were used more than once. I’ll refrain from commenting on the surfaces except to say that I dislike contrivance and unfortunately it was present in spades. The setter could have used “Yemen” in 2d to avoid a country that no longer exists and I thought 27d was a noun, although it’s clued as a verb.

    Not really my cup of tea, I’m afraid, but I admire anyone who has managed to assemble such as puzzle, so congratulations and thanks, Deuce.

  5. Thanks Deuce – that was a lot of fun – well mainly it was – some lovely twists and turns in there – very original.

    I started out finding it to be well on the easy side and twigged the meaning of B from 21a, which was about my 4th B – from that, being somewhat familiar with B-related matters, I twigged what the preamble was about. that said, although I found those clues easy they were still packed with good entertainment value.

    Towards the end I found it much tougher – particular themesters I’d not heard of (2d and 26a (without whom I could cheerfully have lived)).

    That’s always the risk with themed puzzles – what is or isn’t known to the particular solver.

    I could think of other more obvious candidates who were omitted but I hate to quibble on that account aince I’ve been there myself – filling a grid for a themed puzzle can be a nightmare when you can’t squeeze in the answer you were hoping to.

    I enjoyed the style of cluing – particularly those B clues where there was a hint or allusion to the answer in addition to a straight wordplay. Of those my favourite was 1d.

    Aside from the chosen theme my guess is that you are, or have at some time been, a bridge player.

    Although it’s not (as I understand it) a site requirement I hope (as inticated by Encota (@)#3) nothing I’ve written there gives the theme away – but anyone needing a hint will find one here:

    A musical hint

    in fact one of the answers gets a mention.

    Only quibble on wordplay etc would be 15a – I’m happy with the answer meaning what the last word indicates – not sure how the clue tells me it’s hidden in what goes before.

    1. You are right – it’snot a site reqirement. Caveat emptor applies to those reading the comments on a puzzle. Having said that, not revealing too much on day 1 is probably good practice.

      1. @Cyborg

        Actually, on reflection, I think it’s OK – but I’d go the other way. To tare (sometimes “tare off”) something means to subtract the weight of the container (or truck or whatever) – then have the whole clue as wordplay, with “by subtraction” indicating that some of the letters need to be got rid of.

        Either way it turns out in the end to be rather good – often the case when you’ve got the answer but wonder quite how you got it.

        Quibble withdrawn.

  6. I rather think that Deuce has proved rather than disproved the aphorism.

    I am once again in total accord with my alter ego, Silvanus: “Not really my cup of tea, I’m afraid, but I admire anyone who has managed to assemble such as puzzle, so congratulations and thanks, Deuce”.

  7. Thanks Deuce – an enjoyable solve. As Gazza says, probably a few too many anagrams, and I think there’s an overreliance on ‘first letter’ devices – nine by my count, including two ‘initially’s, which is a little repetitive. It does seem to be 14 Bs rather than 13 – but then perhaps this is because one of them is infamous rather than famous…

    The bulk of them went in fairly quickly, helped along by the theme, but I more or less ground to a halt towards the end. Had to cheat on a couple – 15a I’ve never heard of, though if my subsequent Googling steers me right, it seems to be quite a clever &lit clue. Nice to see my favourite painter making an appearance.

    Couple of quibbles: 20a doesn’t seem to work (if ‘starters of’ refers to yogurt then surely it must also refer to and). Never seen 29a spelt like that, and the ‘beginnings of’ indicator is too vague for my liking. And I think 29d is defined as a verb when it’s actually a noun, which is a shame because I like the idea!

    My faves 11a, 21a, 6d, 9d (couldn’t decide at first whether the def passed muster, but I went with it in the end on the ‘it made me smile’ tiebreaker), 23d and the superb 14d.

    Thanks again for the fun, hope to see your work again soon!

    1. I’ll counter-quibble on 20a as well – if you answer “what are the starters of veal and yoghurt?” aloud, that’s exactly what goes in the grid.

  8. Just over half way through and haven’t got a clue what this is all about.
    Maybe I’ll take a break and come back later……….

    1. Umm – sorry, not for me. Finished up simply trawling through a long list of ‘Bs’ to find anything that would fit.
      Nevertheless, very clever to get so many themed answers into the grid, Deuce.

  9. I’m having a struggle with this one so just popped in to see who’s said what so far.
    If the themed answers are indicated by the B in the clue then, like Gazza, I’ve counted fourteen.
    Will have another go a bit later.

  10. Thanks to Deuce for the puzzle.

    Unfortunately, about half of the famous 13 were completely unknown to me!

    (Who first decided to serve chips with mayonnaise? He (or she) should be the most famous B.)

  11. Hi Deuce.

    I found this pretty tough – eventually sussed the significance of B when my little grey cells solved 22d for me, but several of the other Bs were totally unknown and inaccessible. I’m not familiar with any aphorism relating to the B so I’ve no idea if it’s proved or disproved.

    Like others though I’m impressed by the number of theme words included, many of which have pretty unfriendly crossers to create the rest of the grid from. It’s certainly a brave and ambitious attempt at a first puzzle (assuming it is a first one).

    There are four clues in the middle with less than half the letters crossing, which I don’t much like, but I appreciate it is accepted in some published puzzles; but if the puzzle is already quite tough, as this is, I think that potentially makes it even tougher.

    I cannot see what the definition in 15a is meant to be. And that in 27d is a noun not a verb. Neither are particularly common words and as they are not themed I think it would have been better to slot in much more familiar terms given the difficulty of the puzzle – in both cases the crossers offer plenty of options.

    I particularly liked 9d,14d, 24d (nice definition) and 25a.

    Well done on getting this up, look forward to seeing another one.

  12. Well, I manged to complete the grid without revealing any letters (which I consider an achievement) but far too much time was spent on the internet to see if some of the answers I conjured up actually existed. I sussed what the B stood for early on from 16A and 22D, and then went looking for where 1D would fit since he’s the only other B I knew well. I can’t parse that one fully though. I’d heard of 11A but spelled differently. I don’t get 15A at all. And I have no idea about the aphorism. I did tick 14D, though.

    Very clever to get all the Bs in the grid, but I’m afraid this kind of puzzle is not my cup of tea either. I think being a few thousand miles away was probably a disadvantage to some extent, but those are the breaks. Thanks Deuce.

  13. Sorry Deuce but not for me either. 5 clues solved on the high speed train this mirning, two more over lunch in Covent Garden, and 3 on the way home. So I did give it my 3 goes but that’s it. I think having to check so many b’s is probably asking too much of the solver, especially one without access to reference books or the net

  14. When set this challenge in years gone by, we always found Stella Artois helped the process greatly! Hazarding a guess, my son would always call on his knowledge of international football teams ;-)
    [pun mode off]

  15. Hi Deuce

    well any attempt to disprove the aphorism was always going to be a tough call, but what a sterling effort! – well done!

    I count 13, since (predictably) I think one of them comes from elsewhere :-)

    A challenging puzzle – respect to anyone who did this unaided.

    I’m not sure I have all the parsing nailed so I look forward to the review.

    Many thanks Deuce

    1. There are 14 Bs in the clues, Dutch – which one do you think comes from elsewhere?

        1. If it’s 11a then I think it depends on whether you pick The Elder or The Younger. According to Wikipedia dad was born near Breda but son was born in Brussels.

          1. I’ve always seen both as Dutch, but you are probably right – wasn’t it dad who did Icarus?

            not a big deal, great puzzle – just trying to throw in a personal take on the preamble 13 :-)

            1. I’d forgotten that the clue mentioned Icarus. That means you’re probably right about the nationality.

  16. I’ve got 6 of the Bs so far – and have heard of 5 of them, so I suspect there are more difficult ones to follow, but I have to go out. The exception is 17d, and I really liked the wordplay here, perhaps a tweak to the surface overall (suits is promising, but I can’t think of anything) and it would be a wonderful clue.

  17. Thanks, Deuce. I enjoyed this, but needed access to Google. One clue which irked me was 10a, because I can’t find any satisfactory definition in it. I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to assume that all solvers are male, or accept a stereotype of people who enjoy musicals. My favourite clue was the simplest – 5d is wonderful.

    1. I took the def in 10a to be simply ‘What you [ie anybody] might have – that leaves the rest as a straightforward alternative indication: happy = gay; gene = musical Mr Kelly.

      On that basis the possibilities extended by considering the whole surface are amusing (possibly a different Mr Kelly would make it work) but just a bonus layer – but I missed that at the time.

  18. Many thanks for your review, Prolixic.

    For 1d, your wordplay is one letter short. I think the construction should be: insert a T (Tobacco-holder initially) into an anagram of ART IMAGES after removing AS. However that begs the question why did Deuce choose “tobacco-holder” as the word beginning with T? It seems to be a strange choice unless it Is connected in some way with the B in the answer.

    1. Was it him who did the “Ceci n’est pas un pipe” picture of a tobacco-pipe painting, or something similar?

      1. A bit of Googling confirms you are spot on, Encota!

        “The Treachery of Images is a painting by the B surrealist painter René M*******. The picture shows a pipe. Below it, he painted, Ceci n’est pas une pipe. His statement is taken to mean that the painting itself is not a pipe; it is merely an image of a pipe.”

      1. The owner and head brewer of what became the Stella Artois brewery (presumably Messrs Stella and Artois) were always good value. Also Eden Hazard, Fellaini and co. if you follow footie. I don’t think I ever got more than eight, even including the two fictitious ones of Tintin and Poirot.

    1. …or the ‘misere’ version of “I bet you can’t name ten famous Belgians”

  19. I think this was a tremendous effort for a debut puzzle – really impressive. I found it a toughie and threw in the towel with about half a dozen remaining. Favourite clues included 1a (I read the “quickly” as meaning “a quick way of writing” Kings Cross, so I thought that clue was OK) and 1d, because of the clever reference in the surface to the answer. Also 5d – beautiful in its simplicity. “King Charles’ home” was also very clever.

    Please come and take a bow Deuce

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Although I tend towards the ‘loath’ faction when it comes to such a huge amount of GK being included in a puzzle, it was actually two of the unrelated clues that took the longest time to unravel – 15a&27d.

    Some of the clues – 5&14d for instance – were very good. I’d like to see an un-themed puzzle from Deuce.

  21. Enjoyed the theme as I knew everyone except 2d (top diplomat).
    1a won the Tour so often and 17d came to the Jardin in 2010 and so did 31a.
    26a was an unfortunate coincidence after what happened again a few days ago and although I respected the National Mourning over the weekend, this person is now part of our history unfortunately.
    I liked 15a for the simple reason that I saw it as an all in one.
    Thought that both painters were Dutch.
    Wasn’t keen on 10a.
    Thanks to Deuce and to Prolixic for the review.

  22. Hi all,

    Thanks for your great comments on my puzzle. It’s very welcoming to have such helpful and positive feedback and hope you have enjoyed.

    – As Prolixic says you either love or loathe such general knowledge topics but I hope it provided some entertainment. (I originally prepared it for a slightly particular audience but yes, some are obscure)
    – I realise both 15a and 27d are incorrectly defined as verbs when they should be nouns – thanks for spotting. (15a is sometimes a verb, but more rarely than I thought).
    – Point taken on overuse of anagrams and inclusion.
    – On 24d, I intended the reading given by Cyborg (not that by Prolixic)

    1. Welcome Deuce.

      Hope we see you back in the Corner soon, possibly with something requiring a little less GK.

    2. I’d like to add my own Welcome to crypticsue’s.

      Re. overuse of anagrams etc, you may find Prolixic’s “A brief guide to the construction of crossword clues” useful, especially the table near the back that helps you double check how balanced a set of clues you have. I use such a table every time now (thanks Prolixic!)

    3. No – don’t take the point on overuse of anything. Do what you did here; start with an idea and see where it takes you – that (from observation) is what Araucaria did – that’s what made him head and sholders above all the others – and always fresh – even when he was (in his heyday) doing somewhere between a quarter and a third of all Guardian puzzles – and lots of other stuff besides.

      The painting-by-numbers “rules” about what proportion of what clue-types should be used and silly quibbles about what does or does not “grammatically” indicate a first letter or an anagram or whatever only serve to detracct from originality and entertainment value. Even The Times seems to be slowly drifting away from that sort of nonsense – bearing in mind that before the Greerian Terror the puzzles in TheTImes had the wildest cluing of all the broadsheets.

      Obviously a vast amount of embeds (hidden words) becomes a bit obvious – but I’ve seen plenty of puzzles which intentionally have eg a huge amount of charades – and overloading with well-signalled anagrams makes a good balance to thematic answers which some solvers may not know – also helps if you want to make a puzzle an easy solve.

      Stick to your guns.

      Actually I was going to add more plaudits to my original comment but as I was editing it I ran out of time.

      One I thought would have been amusing to include would have been Herman Van Rompuy – ie on account of NIgel Farage’s famous “who are you” rant.

      I really enjoyed this immensely – mind you I have to admit that I was in a sense on home turf, having spent a fair amount of time working in nearby Luxembourg (l’El Dorado des informaticiens) with many Bs.

      Once again – thanks for the fun.

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