Rookie Corner – 218 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 218

A Puzzle by Skinny

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have a new puzzle from Skinny. 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.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Skinny.  As with the first crossword, this was generally well clued, inventive and fun to solve.  The mini themes of toilets and engines nicely disguising the main theme where nine of the answers are the second halves of the names of football clubs.

In a few places, the cluing needs to be a little tighter with three of definitions that were a little loose and a couple of abbreviations for a noun clued by an adjective which do not work.  However, all the basics are there and with a little improvement, it will not be long before we see Skinny promoted.

The commentometer reads as 4/30 or 13.3%.


1 Toilet historically you found in a river (8)
OUTHOUSE – A four letter word used historically to indicate you in (found in) the name of an English river.

5 Friend, one giving luxurious house (6)
PALACE – A three letter word for a friend followed by a three letter word for one (as in a pack of cards).

10 Decreases number of clubs (5)
IRONS – Double definition, the first to be read as de-creases and the second in terms of golf.

11 Perhaps brigadier means to get on a plane (3,6)
AIR BRIDGE – An anagram (perhaps) of BRIGADIER.

12 Eccentric aunt joins meeting, as you might expect (9)
NATURALLY – An anagram (eccentric) of AUNT followed by a five letter word for a meeting.

13 Mexico’s last region producing gas (5)
OZONE – The final letter (last) of Mexico followed by a four letter word for a region.

14 Skinny accepts thanks for horticulture (6)
BOTANY – A four letter word meaning skinny or scrawny includes (accepts) a two letter word meaning thanks.  I am not sure that the two meaning are exactly the same as horticulture is the art of gardening and the solution is the science of plants or their properties.

15 The final stages of a play (7)
ENDGAME – A literal definition that could inadvertently be read cryptically.

18 Fashion accessories to attach and cut back (7)
TIEPINS – A three word meaning to attach followed by a reversal (back) of a four letter word meaning to cut.

20 Cover with seething resentment (6)
HATRED – A three letter word for a covering for the head followed by the colour you might be if you are seething.

22 He disappeared from toilet, we’re told, and another one. (5)
LUCAN – A homophone for a three letter word for a toilet followed by a three letter word for a toilet.

24 Stew next to nothing – that’s controversial (3,6)
HOT POTATO – A phrase (3,3) for a stew followed by a two letter word meaning next to (as is he is next to the bar) and the letter representing nothing.

25 Sailor at last in old boat, with nothing to support engine (9)
TURBOPROP – The final letter (at last) of sailor inside a three letter word for an old boat followed by the letter representing nothing and a four letter word for a support.  To have the same wordplay in separate parts of the crossword understandably happens but to have it in successive clues is unfortunate!

26 Peter follows popular style of music (5)
INDIE – A two letter word meaning popular followed by a three letter word meaning peter.  Chambers indicates that peter should be used with “out” to give the required meaning.

27 Company agreement to lose one department (6)
COUNTY – The abbreviation for company followed by a word meaning close agreement or harmony from which the letter I (one) has been removed.  I am not sure that the solution is a department.  Perhaps area of England? would have been better.

28 Finally unzip on the throne, expecting to produce something? (8)
PREGNANT – The last letter (finally) of unzip followed by a seven letter word meaning on the throne or ruling.


1 Eastern book with nothing French in it (6)
ORIENT – The abbreviation for Old Testament includes the French word meaning nothing.  The Old Testament is a collection of books so is usually referred to as books.  However, as you could go into a bookshop to buy a book that is the Old Testament, it may qualify as a book by its title but it would have been better to have tried to maintain the plural meaning.

2 Drag around worst variety of engine (3-6)
TWO-STROKE – A four letter word meaning to have drag on a cigarette around an anagram (variety) of WORST.

3 Riotous stopover in boat’s watchtower (11,4)

4 E.g Holloway street a Dutch observer detailed (7)
STANLEY – The abbreviation for street followed by the A from the clue and the IVR code for the Netherlands and a three letter word for an observer with the final letter removed (detailed).  Dutch gives an adjective for the people of the country rather than the country whose IVR code is required so that his does not work.

6 State interrupting broadcast – that’s chilling (3,12)
AIR CONDITIONING – A nine letter word for the state of something inside a six letter word meaning broadcasting.

7 Golden deity in Italy producing sound (5)
AUDIO – The chemical symbol for Gold followed by the Italian word for a deity.  As with Dutch previously, here you cannot use the adjective golden to get to the noun gold for the substation of its chemical symbol.

8 European woman’s piercing scream – a little too high for one’s ears? (3-5)
EYE-LEVEL – The abbreviation for European followed by a four letter word meaning scream in which is included (piercing) a three letter name of a woman.  I don’t think that the definition is at all helpful here.

9 Earl Grey’s extremely curious pattern (6)
ARGYLE – An anagram (curious) of EARL GY (GREY extremely).  The apostrophe s breaks the cryptic reading of clue as you have the instruction grey has/is extremely.

16 Jump back in and begin ruining a palace (9)
ALEXANDRA – A four letter word for a jump in ice-skating is reversed (back) in the AND from the clue and followed by the first letter (begin) of ruining and the A from the clue.

17 He’ll shortly be performing in ‘Room At The Top’ – powerful (8)
ATHLETIC – An anagram (performing) of HELL with the final letter removed (shortly) inside the name of the top room of the house.

19 It’s odds-on this place being The Globe (6)
SPHERE – The abbreviation for starting price (odds) followed by a four letter word meaning this place.

20 Drive after raging madman (7)
HOTSPUR – A three letter word meaning raging or annoyed followed by a four letter word meaning to drive.

21 Anticipate chopping all trees here (6)
FOREST – A nine letter word meaning anticipate with the ALL removed (chopping).

23 Island in the Atlantic or further afield (5)
CORFU – The answer is hidden in ATLANTIC OR FURTHER.  The afield is padding and ideally clue should be produced without padding words.

40 comments on “Rookie Corner – 218

  1. There were a few answers in the lower half that kept us guessing for a while, 25a, 20a and 20d but now we have got them sorted can’t understand our delay. A few bits of wordplay that did not feel quite right but we will leave those for others to identify. They did not get in the way of working out what Skinny was intending. We appreciated the toilet humour and enjoyed the solve.
    Thanks Skinny.

  2. A clever puzzle – thanks Skinny!

    One mini-theme involving at least two toilets and a throne? And three clues with a play mini-theme? And a couple of engines thrown in for good measure …

    Some very clever wordplay in here, plus high-quality surfaces made this very enjoyable to solve. Right hand side went in much faster than the left.

    Lots of contenders for best clue – I particularly liked 11a, 21d, 17d, 10a, 12a and 15a.

    More comments that I made as I went through are added below. As usual, feel free to do with them what you will.

    This was fun – I look forward to your next.


    PS And I think I make it (at least) 9 themed ones. You are setting the bar high for yourself if you are expecting to increase this number in every new puzzle – it was eight last time wasn’t it? :-) And, as usual, I didn’t spot it until finished.

    More Comments (in order of solving; feel free to ignore this bit!)
    5a ok
    6d Is use of ‘condition’ a bit same-both-sidesy? Not sure
    11a good clue
    13a ok
    20a ok
    7d last 3 letters ok
    26a are Peter and letters 3-5 really synonyms? Probably just!
    16 worth avoiding the use of other answers within clues in the same puzzle
    23d I think ‘afield’ works as a hidden indicator – haven’t seen this one before
    21d good clue
    19d to hyphenate or not to hyphenate, that is the question … Good call; might need a DBE indicator, though
    17d good clue
    28a !?
    25a that works
    18a Is use of ‘first 3 letters of answer’ a bit same-both-sidesy? Not sure
    4d not sure if the ‘Dutch’ bit quite works
    14a I think the definition’s close enough?
    2d I like the wordplay here
    1a good. Perhaps there is a better word than ‘found’ for the surface, e.g. Toilet- historically you went in a river (8), or something like that.
    1d ‘book’ or ‘books’? Prolixic will know.
    10a good clue
    3d a good spot!
    12a good clue
    16a clever. Not sure if ‘begin ruining’ would be liked by the less libertarian of clue setters – but it works ok for me.
    15a good clue. I remember seeing this in London over 30 years ago when s.o. in the audience was so ‘spooked’ by its pace and tone that they had to be led from the theatre, uncontrollably laughing – they simply couldn’t stop.
    9d I thought for a moment that the last word in the clue was meant to read ‘platter’ not ‘pattern’. D’oh!
    22a Last One In

    1. Encota, can you clarify your use of “same-both-sidesy”. I think I recognise the concept in the context of a dd, where the two defs have the same root, but not sure in your critique of 6d and 18a. In the former ‘state’ means the govt in the surface and condition cryptically. What exactly is the beef?

      1. My comment could have been written, “Are they derived from the same headword in Chambers?” I may be wrong. If they are, then some editors don’t like it.



        1. So are you saying the fact that the two meanings of “state” (govt, condition) come under the same headword, that is a weak clue? I don’t think I can agree with that proposition, if so. Presumably it’s tie=attach/neckwear that’s the problem in 18a? I’m sure there’s enough semantic separation between the cryptic and surface meanings in both cases. It’s not like, say “It’s driven into part of train (3)” for CAR, which I would be happy to see criticised as “same-both-sidesy” or similar.

          I wonder if anyone else reading this has a view?

  3. I did spot the nine themed ‘second halves’

    Thee are a couple where I have queries but I think Encota’s covered them in his list so I won’t add them here

    Thanks to Skinny and in advance to Prolixic

  4. Enjoyable puzzle – thanks Skinny. I missed the theme until I read Encota’s comment when it leapt out at me – very clever. I wondered whether the word reversed at the bottom of column 8 was meant to contribute to the toilet humour.
    The clues I liked best were 11a and 21d.

  5. Thanks Skinny, excellent puzzle
    Good variety of ideas, neat wordplay, some quite complicated and well managed. What made it enjoyable was that it was all nicely cryptic and you’d put effort into disguising your intentions.
    I liked 8d & 11a best, also 28a, 4d, 6d, 21d, 23d

  6. Most enjoyable. Last one in was 26a as I’d forgotten the alternative definition of Peter apart from safe. Thank you Skinny & thank you Prolixic.

  7. Welcome back, Skinny.

    I thought this was an excellent effort, good surfaces for the most part, clever wordplay, a sprinkling of humour and I was glad to see that you have followed the advice to rein in the anagrams this time.

    My printed page had numerous ticks, particularly 10a, 11a, 12a, 13a, 25a, 6d and 19d, but my overall favourite was 8d.

    Just a couple of quibbles – the surface padding in 23d and the repetition of “nothing” to clue the fifteenth letter of the alphabet in successive Across clues. I still have a question mark beside 7d.

    Many thanks for a very enjoyable solve, Skinny. Please do keep up the good work.

    1. 10a: I saw a really clever clue for that word recently, but the crafty “decreases” was nice here, too.

  8. A pleasing solve with a good variety of ides, I enjoyed it. Can’t work out 16d, any other quibbles are minor.
    Needless to say, any theme was lost on me.

    Good fun Skinny, thanks.

  9. Hello again, Skinny.
    Certainly some clever wordplay on display here but, unlike others it would seem, I found quite a few of the surface reads to be ‘dodgy’ to say the least. I also thought that a couple of the synonyms were inaccurate – 1&14a spring to mind – and the abbreviation used in 4d doesn’t ring true.
    21d was my other problem – assuming that I have the root word correct, I cannot see the necessary instruction to remove the required letters. Taken individually there would need to be some reference to ‘first letters’ and put together they would form an abbreviation for ‘about’ rather than ‘all’. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

    My ticks went to 10a plus 6&23d.

    Thanks, Skinny – I look forward to reading what Prolixic has to say in his review and hope that you will bring us more puzzles in the future.

    1. 21d There is a word in the dictionary which, while also meaning to delay, can also mean to anticipate – all Skinny wants you to do is to remove the word ‘all’ from the end of it

      1. Thanks, CS – I knew there had to be a reasonable explanation! My apologies to Skinny for doubting him.

  10. Well done indeed, Skinny, that was an enjoyable challenge and a lot of fun. You have combined accurate wordplay for the most part, with some nice disguises and sprinkled with humour. Some of your surfaces could benefit from a bit of smoothing but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

    I had a lot of ticks on my page with double ticks being awarded to 10a, 11a, 12a, 13a (four goodies in succession!), 28a, 8d 19d & 21d.

    Many thanks, Skinny, and in advance to Prolixic for his review.

  11. Many thanks for the comments everyone, especially Encota for the detailed clue-by-clue analysis. I’m keen to take all lessons onboard and will incorporate all suggestions into future puzzles.

    Hearty thanks to Big Dave and Prolixic in advance. It’s a pleasure to set and hear comments, they’ve made my day after a long 300 mile drive.

  12. Late to the party today, so others may have made some of the same comments already…

    I liked this and thought there were some brilliant clues – 22 and 24 across, and 7 and 16 down, for example. On the other hand one or two clues could have done with a bit of tweaking – for instance 1 across could have done with a ‘definition by example’ indication – and there a few where I thought the definition was a bit iffy. In 14 across I don’t think plant science is really synonymous with horticulture, and in 27 across the definition appears to be the generic name for a French administrative area and I’m not sure that the English term in the answer is an exact equivalent – but maybe I’m nit-picking there.

    But overall this was good and made for a satisfying solve. Thanks, Skinny, and hope to see you back sometime.

  13. Really enjoyed that. Thanks, Skinny. Like others, I did not spot the theme until it was pointed out by Encota – very impressive!

  14. Thanks Skinny – I thought this was really good. Not easy.

    Thanks especially for the namecheck (4d), though I am ashamed to say that was the one clue i did not get. I printed out the puzzle, but i had to return to my computer to reveal it. I wasn’t familiar with the person. And I agree with Jane, the abbreviation is for the country, perhaps not really equivalent, hm.

    Being late, much has already been said. I don’t know what i can add to help you, but I’ll try.

    1a i thought “you historically” might be more interesting
    10a not sure i understood “number of”
    11a maybe my ignorance, but i’ve always thought of an air bridge as an air transport solution between two places (e.g. during the war the air bridge between London and Paris supplied medical needs). I don’t think it means the tube you walk through to get on a plane (am i wrong?). So the advice would be loose definitions are ok if the answer is nailed by word play, but inaccurate definitions are a no-no. Always go for accuracy.

    9a i don’t think the combination of the ‘s works with extremely. Either “grey extremely” or “grey’s extremities”

    My italian does not extend to DIO – unfair?

    19d hyphen creates more problems than it solves.

    I agree with comments about the padding in 23d (the)

    My favourite clue was 6d. A high quality puzzle. keep it up.

  15. Hi there “Skinny” – good to see you in action once more and that Boatman’s class really reaped benefits!

    Much to like about your latest offering: I think the ones that stand out for me are:
    4d (nice bit of misdirection – there I was trying to remember all the slang words for ‘prison’….)
    22a (perhaps “with another” rather than “and another one” makes for a better surface?)
    21d (I’m a fan of this sort of wordplay).

    8d, 14a and 1d would also get a ‘plus’ except that for each of these the definition doesn’t quite work. Possibly Prolixic will pick up on these – and others! I like the misleading use of your ‘handle’ in 14a!

    For 16d it’s a pity maybe, that you didn’t cross-refer back to 5a. But I know that there are some people who are not fond of cross-references – I for one!*

    Theme? Well I think others have pointed out the ‘throne’ connection running through some of the clues, though I’ll keep quiet about that one! Also the connection between 2d, 25a, and possibly 11a and 4d? For 2d I needed a look-up of one word – somewhat outside my scene!

    In case anyone wonders why I’m not in my ‘slot’ between “Exit” and “Skinny”, I’ll say, I’ve got one in the pipeline! It’s just that I asked BD to put it on hold for a while. He says it should be out some time end of July, unless first-timers push it down the line.

    *talking of cross-references, for those few stalwarts who really do want to see my ill-favoured offerings, I have one up on 1across (the forum, not the mag.) Yes it looks like it has a cross-reference …. errrmmm….. ;-)

      1. ….and of course – now I see it :-( ! I’m (almost literally) kicking myself at having missed so clear-cut a ‘ghost ‘-theme – although I plead this excuse: I was highly amused to read someone’s remark elsewhere on the ‘web (not mine – honest!) bemoaning the forthcoming much-publicised spectacle of twenty-two millionaires chasing an inflated pigs’ bladder around a grassy area. I’m afraid I’m of a rather similar view!

        Ah well!

        Perhaps – knowing as you do roughly whereabouts I live – including the word ALBION somewhere in the puzzle, would have ‘clicked’, for me. But I mustn’t ask for miracles!

  16. Excellent and enjoyable puzzle, Skinny – many thanks :)

    I have 12 clues with single ticks by them – 1a, 5a, 22a, 25a, 26a, 27a, 2d, 4d, 9d, 16d, 17d and 19d.
    Then there are 5 I liked even better than that, all contenders for the Best in Puzzle award: 12a, 14a, 28a, 8d and 21d – really enjoyed that lot.

    My only two quibbles were the definition in 20d – I played Harry Hotspur once and a hothead isn’t the same as a madman, I’d say. Then, also on a theatrical theme, I thought 15a was a case of the dreaded ‘etymological crossover’ or something – well, anyhow, those were the only two where I thought there was room for improvement. Didn’t spoil the enjoyment though, I really like your style!

    1. Thanks Maize, I really appreciate your comments, and thanks for the words of encouragement!

  17. Did this on paper in two bursts and got stuck with three to go: 25a, 20a and 20d. Took Chambers Word Wizard to 25a and bingo! TURBOPROP — but I didn’t get the wp till P explained it. Seeing a phrase like “old boat” gives me brainfreeze because I think I’ll need to know some obscure name for a craft. “Tub” popped that bubble when I saw it!

    I didn’t get HOTSPUR even with WW. Don’t think it was in there. Maybe if I’d spotted the theme I’d have got it, but no.

    Without the H, wordsearch was hopeless for HATRED, but I kicked myself when it was revealed: so clearly clued! I have to put it down to lack of stamina, not any fault of yours.

    I thought you’d get told off for cryptic grammar in “he’ll be” in 17d, but clearly that is a subjunctive “be”, isnt it?

    In 15a, I think ENDGAME is the final stages ‘of A game’, and also ‘of play’, but not ‘of A play’, so I wasn’t mad about it even though no one else mentions this. No idea what Encota meant about that clue, so am I missing something?

    8d made me think of Alfred E. Neuman(n?), of Mad fame.

    Loads of ticks: 1a, 5a, 12a, 18a, 25a (now I get it), 2d, 4d (not a prison? Doh!), 6d (star surface!), 21d.

    Thanks, Skinny

    1. Just realized: Endgame is a play, innit? Der! Add a big tick and pass me those shades and the low-brimmed hat, please!

      1. Re ENDGAME, you’re not the only one! Though I should have called to mind the work by Samuel Beckett – albeit it’s nowhere near so well known as Waiting for Godot – and rather less often performed!

        I believe that it’s a term often used in chess (a game in which I have no skill :-( ) to refer to the final stages of a game when one player has the other on the ropes and is trying to induce them to resign (or be checkmated). Perhaps any accomplished chess-player here can confirm this? So as a literal definition the clue seems to work.

        1. That is correct Laccaria – the endgame in chess refers to the stage of the game when many of the major pieces have been exchanged and are off the board, leaving, for example, just Kings and Pawns or minor pieces.

          Some (generally boring) players will positively aim to exchange as many pieces as possible as soon as they see they have a superior pawn structure (or passed pawn – one not obstructed by an opponent’s counterpart) and/or King position likely to yield a pawn promotion to a Queen on the 8th rank.

          Resigning comes about when you have no useful moves left, and your opponent is free to carry out his inevitable intention.

          Woe betide any player who has not done their endgame studies – it’s an art in it’s own right, and Magnus Carlsen is a Master of the technique.

  18. Missed the word play of 2d as had never heard of “toke” and had “hotbed” for 20a.
    Not sure about the toilet humour and apart from 16d and 5a cannot make out any other connection. Football perhaps?
    Good to have a new setter. I know it’s something I couldn’t do so feel diffident about questioning 27a, 14a and 20d.
    Good Luck!

  19. Think I’ve sussed the football. I was expecting both parts so, after 16d and 5a was looking for “Leyton” and “Accrington” and so on.

  20. With all of the football references, it was also good to see a nod to the proper game with a French rugby team in 22a. Two loos?

    OK, you’re right, I’ll get my coat!

  21. Re “peter” – I’m inclined to agree with Prolixic: it has to be followed by “out” in this sense.

    Wearing my bridge-player’s hat for a moment, I can state that “peter” is a common expression in bridge for the practice of playing a high card followed by a low card in the same suit, often to indicate that they have no more cards in that suit and hope to ruff the next round! It certainly doesn’t mean that the bridge-player in question is about to drop dead at the table, I hope! But I think the sense is the same as intended in the clue: to show your partner that your holding in the suit is “petering out”. Still needs the word “out” to make sense, I’m afraid!

  22. Yes, I had heard of Beckett’s Endgame — just didn’t come to mind until I’d already made a fool of myself.

    Endgame in chess does not necessarily see one player on the ropes, but is where there are few pieces left on the board, even if they are evenly matched. In Go, the ancient oriental strategy game, it’s where the groups of both players are settled (no longer vulnerable to capture) but points can still be gained where the borders between opposing groups remain negotiable. In both cases this is correctly described as “The final stages of play/a game”, although in both there can be a resignation (or, in chess, also a checkmate) in the “middle game” or even (unusually) during the “opening”.

  23. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, very fair as always although I still feel that 1a should have contained something to indicate a definition by example.
    Good marks for Skinny on the commentometer!

    1. Jane, in the 2-bedroomed house where I spent my first three years there was a not-toilet outhouse, although I remember nothing about it. When we moved to s 3-bedroom, there was no outhouse, but there was a windowless backroom we used for the same purposes, so of course we called it the “outhouse” even though it was in the house. No toilet there either.

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