Rookie Corner – 148 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 148

A Puzzle by Clueso

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Another brave new setter puts his head above the parapet – this time it’s Clueso. 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.

This was a superb debut crossword from Clueso.  It was challenging unless you could get the long quotation but with the crossing I at 18a, the word could only really have been “into” and the remainder of the quote dropping into place giving sufficient checking letters to complete the crossword.

Some of the comments about double unches are a little unfair.  You will often see them, even in the Times Crossword.  Where there is at least 50% cross-checking, it is a fact of life that grids contain them. I didn’t find the surface readings too clunky. This is something that comes with practice. 

There was handful of clues where some editors would have raised an eyebrow at the constructions but these were gettable.  Apart from a few minor glitches, this was of high quality.


1 Frame conmen with illicit surveillance (8)
DOORCASE – Split con/men and provide a two letter word for con and an abbreviation for soldiers or men and then add a word meaning to carry out illicit surveillance.  I am not sure that “illicit surveillance” on its own gives the verb required.  Some editors would not be happy with the unindicated requirement to split conmen into two words before applying wordplay to each part.

5 Happy hurters accept host with oily charm (6)
SMARMY – The abbreviation for sadomasochism followed by a word meaning a host or crowd.  Chambers give the abbreviation for the act not the people who engage in it and Collins concurs with this.

8 Cash carrier drawn upon by Man With No Name (8,7)
NUMBERED ACCOUNT – An elliptical definition of a bank account to which there is no name attached.

10 Painter of note – half Venetian (6)
TITIAN – A two letter musical note followed by half of the letters in Venetian

12 Good man was trapped inside vast store, losing bearing, a mark of evil (8)
SWASTIKA – The “was” from the clue goes inside the abbreviation for a saint (good man) and this is followed by the name of a large furniture and home furnishing store with the E removed (losing bearing).

13 See 25

15 Rushed around quietly making…making a mess of ship (10)
TORPEDOING – A four letter word for rushed goes around the abbreviation for quietly and this is followed by a five letter word meaning making.

16 Former pronounced Nationalist no longer at home here (10)
EXPATRIATE – The two letter prefix meaning former followed by a homophone (pronounced) of another word for a nationalist.

18 See 1 Down

20 Initially dug holes to make ascent (8)
TOEHOLDS – An anagram (make) of D (initially dug) HOLES TO with the whole clue providing the definition.  As make as a verb is a transitive verb, it should ideally go before letters to be rearranged – make X rather than X make.

21 Head saw, in old medicine centre, Pandora’s box (6)
TREPAN – The answer is hidden in (box) CENTRE PANDORA.  The cryptic grammar here does not quite read correctly as to express the containment you would have to have boxes or boxing.

23 Heartbreaking, crushing, world ending… (15)
EARTHSHATTERING – An anagram (shattering) of HEART following by another word meaning crushing.

25/13 Unprecedented chances of Elvis being found alive, say (making album of bits and pieces) (6,4)
RECORD ODDS – Another word meaning an album followed by another word for bits and pieces.

26 I install sound and vision (8)
EYESIGHT – A homophone (sound) of I SITE (install).

Down 1/18/9 Advice from Thomas on phone-in about jousting tactics (2,3,2,6,4,4,4,5)
DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT – A homophone and pun on a line from a Dylan Thomas poem.

2 Monty storms off. Take too many drugs. I am alone. (2,2,3)
ON MY TOD – An anagram (storms off) of MONTY followed by the abbreviation for overdose (take too many drugs).

3 Revolutionary Russian spooks American draughtsman by the sound of it (5)
CHEKA – A homophone (by the sound of it) of checker (or chequer) (American draughtsman).  As we have had sound as a homophone indicator, ideally different indicator should be used.

4 The man sold you this article for last employer (3-4)
END USER – The last letters for the first seven words of the clue.  I am not sure that last on its own indicates the last letters of all the words (or for the same matter, even one word).

5 At home wedding reception, do bash balls – any one of them (6,5)
SOCIAL EVENTS, six definitions by example of the solution.

6 A strong defensive structure, an eleven containing trained men, stronger conclusion implied (1,8)
A FORTIORI – The A from the clue followed by the name of a strong defensive structure and the Roman numerals for 11 inside which you include an abbreviation for soldiers or trained men.  As the abbreviation here has already been used in 1a, a different indicator should have been used.

7 See 24

9 See 1

11 Saluted rain so transformed into Brit (11)
NATURALISED – An anagram (transformed) of SALUTED RAIN.  The transformed is doing double duty here as part of the wordplay and part of the definition.  Perhaps, as the answer could be becoming citizen of any country, a ? should have been added.

14 One piece of pasta in poor quarter of Bath perhaps (9)
SPAGHETTO – Split 3, 6, the answer would indicate a poor area of a city such as Bath (given its notable feature).

17 Calm down with sausage roll (7)
ASSUAGE – An anagram (roll) of SAUSAGE.

19 Top tipping, cloth capping, quick kipping (7)
NAPPING – Triple definition.

22 Missing boy generates essential media for Thatcher (5)
REEDS – A word meaning generates without the abbreviation for boy.  The main edition of Chambers and Collins do not recognise the abbreviation for boy.

24/7 A lover of games played by Weissmuller (3,3)
APE MAN – Split 1, 2, 3 this would read as a lover of games otherwise it is a description of Tarzan (as played by Weissmuller.

39 comments on “Rookie Corner – 148

  1. This one took us a lot longer than we usually expect from a Rookie and then visitors arrived before we could get it finished. At this stage there is just one left to find 12a and suspect it is going to beat us. Luckily one of our team knew the long quote and once we had that it helped with checking letters. We find it hard to believe that this setter is new to setting cryptic puzzles as there is some very sophisticated cluing in places.
    Haven’t had a chance yet to sort out a favourite but there are plenty to choose from.
    Thanks Clueso.

    1. Now we have the last one worked out. We had one of the words in the quote wrong and that was giving us a wrong last letter for 12a.

  2. Cracking puzzle Clueso – right up my street.

    I like the way you’ve pushed the cluing grammar to the limit without actually breaking it.

    3d (one of my last in) – clever use of two overlapping revolutionaries – one the usual suspect – the other not.

    1a also one of my last – I failed initially to twig the split even though I correctly suspected what the first half of the answer must be.

    20a (a semi-&lit I suppose) and 2d (I read “I am” as “the answer is” – so nothing spare) I also particularly liked.

    Lots of humour and good crunchy wordplays – top stuff – hope to see more.

    I assume you’re the Clueso from the Guardian blog clue comp – you’ve had plenty of practice (and success) there. Is this really the first full puzzle you’ve put together? I bet it isn’t.

    Many thanks for the fun – which ran for somewhat longer than I originally thought it would.

  3. Add me to the ‘this took a longer time’ corner – I did wonder if I was going to have to put the piece of paper down and start work without completing the puzzle but after a slow start it all fell into place.

    I have only one ? and 6 *s, my top favourite with ** being 5d, not least for the amount of time I spent trying to find a word starting with “in” (at home) !!

    Like JS, I don’t think this can really be your first puzzle so I hope we see another one soon

  4. Wow! Extremely impressive (especially if its your first crossword) – thanks Clueso. I thought I was going to struggle with it but after getting a few 20a the long quote became apparent and the going became easier.
    I have a few queries (e.g. can the last 4 letters of 1a be used as a noun for the surveillance?, the abbreviation in 5a stands for the activity but I can’t find it being used for the participants).
    I’ll pick out 5d, 17d and 19d but my favourite has to be the excellent 20a.

    1. I’m sure Clueso won’t mind me quoting from his email.

      “I would like to offer one of my crosswords for potential publication on your site. I spent most of last year composing crosswords (15 of them in total so far) experimenting with different grids, themes, and degrees of difficulty. Later I went back to revise the earlier ones to reflect what I had learned from the whole process. Despite being a solver of cryptics since the 70’s, and at all levels of difficulty up to and including The Listener, this is the first time I have ever tried setting and I would be very interested to see how at least one of them stands up to public exposure. I think they are all of publishable standard, but it is very difficult to tell.”

  5. I’ve not managed to do many Rookies recently (must do better), but I’m glad I found the time today. After a slow start I picked up pace and got most of the way before using just a touch of gentle cheating to enable me to finish in the time I had available. So I’m feeling quite good that the clever people seem to have found it as hard as they did. The long quote did help there – getting that one generated a smile as well as lots of welcome checkers.

    Really interesting and lots of fun to solve – thanks Clueso. My favourites are 20a, 23a, and 2d.

    There are a few little bits I can’t quite see yet and as ever I look forward to the review – thanks in advance to Prolixic for that.

  6. I can normally guarantee that if Jolly Swagman says “it’s right up my street” that the opposite will apply to me, and today was no exception!

    If you didn’t know the long quotation (and I didn’t), this was always going to pose a struggle, and I thought the format of the grid with a number of double unches was not very solver-friendly either. Overall, I’m sorry to say, it became more of a slog than a pleasure to solve, and time constraints meant seeking electronic assistance to complete.

    There were many excellent ideas and constructions, but too often, somewhat like last week’s puzzle, the surfaces were either unconvincing (like 5a, 2d or 6d), or made little sense (like 11d). My repetition radar bleeped with “sound” being used twice as a homophone indicator in 26a and 3d.

    My ticks went to 10a, 26a and 14d. I can’t quite decide if I like 20a or not, it’s certainly clever.

    Well done on what you’ve achieved, Clueso, I think that if you can make the surfaces much smoother then I might be more of a fan, but I do appreciate that’s often the hardest element to nail.

  7. Just popped in to see what others are thinking because I’m really struggling – in fact I seem to have ground to a complete halt.
    Now that I know some of the really clever people found it difficult I’ve cheered up a bit so will ‘perservate’, to quote Mary, for a while longer.
    Thanks to Clueso – I like the name.

  8. Like Kath, I haven’t completed this one and doubt that I will unless I can magic up the long quote.
    My thoughts thus far very much mirror those of Silvanus.
    Back later, if I ever crack it!

    1. OK – with a bit of judicious googling and a friendly nudge, I’ve conquered the final hurdle but I certainly didn’t find it easy and am still unsure about several bits of parsing.
      Not really my cup of tea but I accept that I get very ‘hung up’ about good surface reads.
      Best clues for me were 10,23&26a.
      Thank you, Clueso and I look forward to the review from Prolixic tomorrow.

  9. I have 1A and 3D to go, so I got a lot further than I thought I would when I first looked at it last night. This morning, the long quote jumped out at me, so that helped a bit. Overall I found it quite a struggle although I have to say I rather like 16A. Hopefully next time I pop in it will be to report a full grid, but I’m not counting on it.

  10. :phew: I think this is probably the most difficult crossword that I’ve ever finished – well, almost finished – I still have a few answers to untangle.
    The combination of very cold weather (so I’m on strike about doing stuff outside) and bloody-mindedness kept me going and I really enjoyed it.
    Only three anagrams, I think, but all very good ones.
    I liked 15 and 23a and 5, 17 and 24/7d. My favourite was 1a.
    With thanks and well done to Clueso and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  11. I agree mostly with Silvanus. I just felt that overall the puzzle is trying too hard; as ProXimal advised me, “…sometimes the more convoluted clues are the worst.” Not enough smoothies in the mix to be really engaging/fun.

    A good deal of cleverness and ingenious mechanisms, but almost too much. I was not at all fond of the all-over-the-place 1d etc (who on earth said that, anyway?), and all the other cross-references – made it slightly irritating for me, particularly doing it online.

    That aside, there are some great clues in there, so congratulations an impressive first offering, Clueso, and I look forward to your next.

  12. Very good puzzle.
    I was rather short of time doing this. I got about half done, and liked most of the ones I solved. I then got a bit stuck and started revealing letters. Usually one extra crosser got me to the answer, and I think with more time I would have managed OK without. No major quibbles about construction/parsing.
    I generally really like your Guardian blog clues, and these were more of the same, inventive and clever. My only qualification would be to echo others’ comments about difficulty/convolution. So many difficult clues all in one puzzle was a bit rich for me.
    Favourites, 15a and 11d.

  13. Ah ah!
    Got the quote with a little bit of help from Mr Google as I guessed the first two words and the last two.
    Before that I was looking at quotes from Thomas Edison. You know. The guy with the phone.
    The game is afoot. Still so many to get though but quite enjoying it.
    See you later inspector.

    1. Hmmm – the only Thomas I could think of for far too long was Thomas the Tank Engine which was not helpful! :roll:

  14. Finally finished. I had most of the bottom left diagonal, but wasn’t making further progress. I looked at the comments and realised i needed a quote. that bootstrapped quite a lot, and a little electronic cheating got me through the rest.

    In other words, I thought this was quite hard, probably too hard, but also enjoyable. Plenty of originality, and some high-level clueing, perhaps showing the Listener influence.

    I still have some question marks so I look forward to the review. 20a is clever and solvable but I’m not clear where the anagram indicator is – it should be “make ascent” but I’m not sure that works. 11d is wonderful, but to me “transformed into” is doing double duty as the anagram indicator and part of the definition.The “so” is really interesting as it attempts to mitigate that, but there is still double duty I think. I didn’t manage to parse 22d. Apart from those quibbles i thought the puzzle was excellent.

    16a – homophones, argh – for me the -OT and -ATE are very different, the latter I pronounce like having dined, but perfectly solvable – although I wasn’t sure about the part of speech, but Collins says the answer can also be adjectival (you don’t want Nationalist doing double duty to make it a noun)

    Not sure I fully grasp the elvis story

    I particularly enjoyed 15a, 12a, 14d

    many thanks Clueso – I really hope you are enjoying the feedback – by all means keep throwing your puzzles at us – and I shall try and rise to the challenge again.

  15. Well, since my betters here have done a little cheating, I don’t feel bad about finally deciding to reveal some letters for my last two standing. I would not have solved them from the clues had I not done that. I can’t even begin to parse 1A, and I will await with interest the revealing as to what 3D (another baffler) has to do with an American draughtsman. Shouldn’t 22D be medium rather than media? Too many partially parsed or unparsed clues to say I enjoyed the solve, though there were bits I thought rather clever. I look forward to your next contribution, Clueso, with the hope that the clues are just a bit more user-friendly.

    1. You need to split draughtsman into “draughts man” and then think of what the game of draughts is called where you live.

        1. Although, having looked at it again, it doesn’t really work, does it? The game name is plural. A person who plays the American game is not called a *******. He or she’s not called anything. It’s like calling someone who plays Snap a snapper.

          1. It’s cryptic.

            A chessman is a chess piece – not a person who plays chess – likewise the draughtsman here.

            The answer is a homophone of the piece – not of a person who plays the game – nor the game itself.

            1. Not convinced. A piece in Checkers is a man, as in chess. I don’t see checker as a homophone for man.

              1. Dictionaries (eg Collins and Oxford – visible free online) have checker/chequer as a piece in the eponymous game.

                    1. You know, there are things in life I take very seriously, and things I don’t. Proving a point about a crossword clue falls into the latter category. Let’s just enjoy the forum and everything it offers. Tomorrow is another day, and another crossword beckons. Onward and upward!

              2. I’m happy that chequer is a man or piece in draughts. As usual I find the homophone unsatisfactory because it doesn’t sound like the answer to my ear.

          2. “Snapper” would be good cryptically for “a person who plays snap” – along the same lines as banker and flower which we frequently see for river.

            “Proving a point about a crossword clue” may well indeed be not something you take seriously (even though you came back twice to argue about it) but it’s only manners to withdraw a quibble when one finds it to have been ill-founded. I’m sure I’ve done that plenty of times.

            Easy trick – pose a potential quibble as a question – ie a real one – not just rhetorical.

  16. Very enjoyable & if I hadn’t convinced myself that 12a was STIGMATA then I might have completed the puzzle. Thank to Clueso & to Prollixic.

  17. Welcome to Rookie Corner Clueso. I found that to be a toughie. I got the long quote in straight away – figured out the last word must be night and then a flash of inspiration was confirmed by the enumeration. Even that didn’t help me too much though – I gave up with only two thirds completed. My favourite was the singular pasta. I think you have a very nice, slightly eccentric style if you don’t mind my saying so – I mean it as a compliment. I look forward to your next puzzle – very enjoyable.

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic and for the parsing of 4&19d which had eluded me.
    Think I was a little surprised that you weren’t more critical of some of the surfaces e.g. 12a, 2&6d but I can readily accept that prowess in that sphere takes a lot of practice.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Regarding your second sentence, I was also a little surprised, it’s interesting how we all view things in different ways though! Thanks as ever to Prolixic.

      My reservation about the double unches was not to suggest they are unfair per se, but in a puzzle that was generally considered to be extremely tough, when only one letter in every four, or two in every five in certain words have crossers, I didn’t feel that the setter was being very generous to us poor solvers!

  19. Many thanks for all your instructive comments and particularly to Prolixic for his detailed and very useful critique. This was the second crossword I put together and, although I went back to it months later, I didn’t change much (one clue completely and a few adjustments). I should have changed more I think, particularly using the same devices twice in one puzzle, reducing the number of homophones and addressing some surface awkwardnesses, particularly words doing double duty. The two aspects which I find hardest are judging the degree of difficulty (and in retrospect this needed some easier starters) and seeing the puzzle as a whole from the solver’s point of view. Anyway, thanks again for the generosity of your praise and the fairness of your criticisms. I hope to be allowed back with a rather more solver-friendly puzzle at some point soon.

  20. I was aware that this was a goodie, so came to it as soon as I had the time – ten days late! Never mind, it was a real joy. Very challenging, yes, but also perfectly solvable without aids – and that’s just as it should be in my opinion.
    I’ve seen Prolixic’s excellent review and haven’t much to add, really. I too was perfectly happy with the double unches (why not?) and I’ve never minded long clues. Some really cracking ones in there. The long quote was great, as were the straight cryptic at 8a and my Clue of the puzzle, like Beet, which was 14d.
    I’m sure we all look forward very much to your next one Clueso, and I’ll try to be a little more prompt with my congratulations!

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