Rookie Corner – 256 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 256

A Puzzle by Brunel

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Brunel returns with his second puzzle. 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.

Welcome back to Brunel.  Another good crossword with come excellent clues.  In one or two places, the wordplay and length of clues got a little out of hand.  The commentometer reads at 2/28 or 7.14%


1 Competent bit of art, representing human form (11)
WORKMANLIKE – A four letter word for a bit of art followed by a phrase (3-4) meaning representing human form.

9 Adorn sculpture of stone (7)
FESTOON – An anagram (sculpture) of OF STONE.

10 Speed cycling in ace pullover (4,3)
TANK TOP – A four letter word meaning to speed or go quickly with the first letter moved to the end (cycling) inside a three letter word meaning ace.

11 Army’s a pet career for one who may be styled General (9)
PAYMASTER – An anagram (career) of ARMYS A PET.  Words to be rearranged “career” does not quite work grammatically as an anagram indicator.  It would have to be words to be rearranged careering/careers to work grammatically in the cryptic reading of the clue.

12 Mark II (5)
TWAIN – Double definition of an American author whose first name is Mark and another word for two.  Whilst Mark is being used as a definition by example for the solution, as there is only the one overlapping solution to the double definition and he is so well known, the lack of a definition by example is not a great issue.

13 Advertise beer without head (4)
TOUT – The name of a type of beer of which Guinness is an example without the first letter (head).

14 Orally testing origins of uniform ancient lettering, like the Rosetta Stone (10)
TRILINGUAL – A homophone (orally) of TRIALLING (testing) followed by the initial letters (origins of) uniform ancient lettering.

16 Girl and boy to pick up Mike in banger (6,4)
CHERRY BOMB – A six letter girl’s name (also a type of blossom or fruit) followed by a three letter shortened form of a boy’s name around (to pick up) the letter represented by Mike in the NATO phonetic alphabet.  Given that the solution is an American term that is not used in the UK, it would have been fairer to clue this as “in American banger”.  The use of names in clues can be contentious though it is not technically incorrect but, given the number of possible permutations of girl’s and boy’s names, to have two in a clue is over the top.

19 Space age turned on first of Apollos (4)
AREA – A three letter word meaning age reversed (turned) before (on) the first letter of Apollos.

22 Discharge of gas accumulated in Trump’s insides (5)
RHEUM – The chemical symbol for Helium (gas) inside (accumulated in) the inner letters of Trump.

23 Hidden spaces formerly used in digital recording (9)
ENSCONCED – The printer’s space in the plural (spaces) followed by a four letter word meaning formerly inside (used in) the abbreviation for Compact Disc (digital recording).

24 Dropped, and went down gradually (7)
SHELVED – Double definition, the first meaning abandoned or dropped and the second meaning gently sloping or went down gradually.

25 Character, wearing Spanish article, beside another (7)
EPSILON – A three letter Greek letter inside (wearing) the Spanish for “the” followed by a two letter word meaning beside.

26 Underground event that might give you heart (5,6)
EARTH TREMOR – A reverse anagram, the solution giving five letters followed by an anagram indicator that would result in “heart” as the solution.


1 Hi! Hurry – we see woe… (that’s tortuous – if only the solver was in my place!) (4,3,4,4)
WISH YOU WERE HERE – An anagram (that’s tortuous) of HI HURRY WE SEE WOE.  The less said about the surface reading the better.

2 Irishman gets the nod in inn (6)
RYOKAN – A two letter word meaning yes or gets the nod inside a four letter Irish name.  Given the unusual nature of the word, perhaps in “Japanese inn” might have been a fairer definition for the solver.  Where you have more obscure words, the cluing needs to be simpler to compensate.  The wordplay here is clear.

3 Lizard’s egg laid amid heath (7)
MONITOR – A three letter word for the egg of the head louse inside (laid amid) a four letter word for a heath.

4 Uncultivated province surrounding city, both old (7)
NATURAL – An old South African province (five letters) around an old Biblical city (two letters).

5 Great headless idiot in Force needing firing (8)
IGNITING – A three letter word meaning great without the first letter (headless – a little close to without head used in 13a) followed by a three letter word for an idiot, the IN from the clue and the abbreviation for the force of gravity.

6 More spicy food heard to replace part-Indian starter in item outside main courses (15)
EXTRACURRICULAR – A five letter word for more followed by a homophone (heard) of curry that replaced the PARTI (part Indian starter) in a ten letter word for an item.  Perhaps the wordplay is overly complicated.

7 Dad’s immersed in bad thriller, initially memorised fully! (3,3)
OFF PAT – A two letter word for dad inside (immersed in) a three letter word meaning bad or rancid and the first letter (initially) of thriller.

8 Reflective eyepiece captures short fastening of gemstone (6)
SPINEL –A reversal (reflective) of a four letter word for eyepiece around (captures) a three letter word for a fastening with the final letter removed (short).  As this is a more unusual word, perhaps the wordplay could have been simplified a bit.

15 Bouncing initially against vessel’s edge, some balls spill down its sides (4,4)
BRIM OVER – The first letter (initially) of bouncing followed by a three letter word for the edge of a cup or other vessel and the term for six ball in a game of cricket.  We have already had initially as a first letter indicator in 7d.

16 Anxieties leading to second stroke (6)
CARESS – A five letter word for anxieties followed by the abbreviation for second.

17 Trim sides of rhomb – read the distance across (7)
BREADTH – An anagram (trim) of RB (sides of rhomb) READ.

18 Don’t catch correctly when talking – don’t catch at this point (7)
MISHEAR – A homophone (when talking) of MISS (don’t catch) HERE (at this point).

20 Burning to read steamy books (6)
ARDENT – An anagram (steamy) of READ followed by the abbreviation for New Testament (books).  I don’t like the structure definition to wordplay.  It should be wordplay to definition.

21 One isn’t really late to be playing this (6)
POSSUM – Cryptic definition of the phrase playing ?????? where someone pretends to be dead (late).

29 comments on “Rookie Corner – 256

  1. Excellent crossword, in my opinion, apart from the obscure (to me) 2d. Lots of inventive constructions, but not too difficult and fun to solve. Thanks, Brunel.

  2. Thanks, Brunel, for an engaging and entertaining crossword. Most of the answers went in smoothly, although I was defeated by 2d because I hadn’t heard of the answer and I got hung up on the wrong Irishman. Lots to like. I’m favouriting 16a, because it brought to mind a great song, and I have 21d in second place. There are several clever wordplay constructions sprinkled among the clues, although some of the surfaces could do with a polish. I thought I detected a few grammar issues (a couple of questionable anagram indicators, a missing definition by example indicator, homophone issues, an iffy definition, and a word inserted as padding), but I will leave those to Prolixic. I’ll also need the review to explain one clue that I haven’t fully parsed.

    Brunel, I missed your first puzzle, but I will definitely look out for your next one. Well done.

  3. Brunel, I enjoyed your first puzzle very much and I thought this one was even better although, in one 9 word clue, you have managed the remarkable feat of including three of my particular bugbears but I’ll pass quickly over that as I found the whole thing very entertaining.

    Mr K has pretty much summed up what I was going to say, apart from choice of favourite and the fact that I have two clues rather than one not fully parsed. My podium comprises 1a (a great hook to get the solver started), 12a (beautifully concise), 23a (excellent surface) & 21d (elegantly disguised).

    Very well done again, Brunel, and please keep them coming.

  4. A good crossword – lots to enjoy, although I’m still not a fan of really long clues. I particularly liked 12a and 18d. Special mention should go to the well hidden (especially because of the way it appears on the print out) 17a I have a couple of parsing queries which I’m sure Prolixic will explain in the morning

    Thanks to Brunel and, in advance, to Prolixic

      1. It’s called ‘trying not to look like you are commenting on a crossword blog while you should be working’!

  5. Very enjoyable puzzle pitched at just the right level of difficulty I thought. Both 2d and 8d were new words for me.
    I spent a long time deciphering the wordplay for 6d and 10a (where I was thinking initially of the wrong sort of speed!).
    Lots to like but my ticks went to 12a, 24a and 18d.
    Thanks Brunel – I’m looking forward to your next puzzle.

  6. Thanks Brunel
    All pretty good, skilful and careful.
    I much preferred the conciser clues, some of the longer ones I found a bit laboured. Eg 6d, nice def but didn’t get much joy from the complications of the wordplay. A hard word, though, and good not to resort to an anagram.
    Liked 1a, 10, 12, 16, 21d, 3d, and 2d (though I revealed the solution at the end).

  7. Welcome back, Brunel.

    Another very enjoyable solve but, unlike RD, I didn’t think the puzzle quite matched your first effort. My repetition radar bleeped on more than one occasion and, like Mr K, I felt that there were instances were either the surface (e.g. 1d) or the cryptic grammar (e.g. 11a) left something to be desired. 2d and 8d were both new to me and I suspect were included only because no other words would fit. I couldn’t find 16a in Chambers, but apparently it is in Collins.

    My ticks went to 13a, 19a, 4d, 16d and 18d.

    Overall a very professional and well-constructed puzzle but more niggles appear to have crept in this time, so that’s definitely something to watch for the future.

    Many thanks, Brunel.

  8. I thought this was mostly pretty good, but there were one or two potholes which interrupted my enjoyment. Wasn’t keen on the longer, rather strained surfaces nor the inclusion of some unusual words which I feel should have been edited out when constructing the grid. Crossword Compiler rarely provides what I would call a friendly grid fill. I do have a couple of queries, but I also have ticks against several clues.

    A real shame about the niggles, otherwise not far short of a really good puzzle, so I look forward to Prolixic’s review which will be invaluable.

    Thanks Brunel, look forward to your next.

  9. Hi Brunel,
    My faves were 16a 18 & 26.
    Bit of a top-and-bottom grid, and I was labouring to slot it all together until I finally got 6d (still not fully parsed the last bit – I await Prolixic’s enlightenment on that and a couple of other clues), and then I managed to just about finish it off. I had to reveal a couple of letters in top left corner: I struggled with 7d as I’m more used to a slight variant of the answer which I couldn’t shake. I *really* should’ve got it from the clue though! I didn’t know 2d (even though I’ve probably been to one!).
    Nice puzzle, and 16a has left me with an earworm for the day. 😃

  10. Hi Brunel,
    To use the oft repeated phrase, this was something of a curate’s egg for me. I thought that, in general, the shorter clues worked best – the likes of 6d seemed to be far too convoluted.
    I didn’t know 16a (although accept that others obviously did) or 2&8d.

    Of the ones I liked – and there were several – I picked out 12, 24&26a as my top three.

    Thank you for braving the ‘den’ once more and hope that you’ll continue to compile.

  11. Thanks for an entertaining puzzle, Brunel. Like many commenters, 2d and 8d were new words to me, and I wasn’t familiar with 16a either. Favourites were 12a, 22a, 26a, 18d and 21d. 6d was a bit frightening, especially as I didn’t have all the crossers, and although I have the solution, I cannot parse the whole answer.

    I thought that this was pitched at just the right level of difficulty for me – enough in there to make me scratch my head, a few ‘write-ins’ and a nice grid. Congratulations, Brunel.

    Thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  12. Hi Brunel

    A lot of this is very good. Clues I really liked were 9a 3D, 16d

    I’d recommend avoiding the obscurities,though I get that different things are obscure for different people. 2d pretty much impossible, you need a dictionary.

    I thought 12a needed a dbe indicator, a Qm might have worked

    6d is too long, people will enter the answer without bothering to parse it.

    I wasn’t keen on the girl in 16a or the “to” in def to wordplay in 20d.

    But loads of promise here, keep it up

    1. I’m thinking roo-bar as an alternative to 2d, something around drinking establishment down under, sure there are many ways to clue it

  13. Hi Brunel,

    Some excellent clues here – I’ll single out 1, 12 & 19 but there were several more to choose from!

    Re. 2d’s answer, I’m used to using Chambers for some of the tougher barred crosswords, but only very rarely here! Some won’t like this.
    Dutch has covered everything else I’d have said.

    Some very clever stuff here – keep ’em coming!


  14. Many thanks for your review, Prolixic, in particular for the parsing of 6d. I am delighted to see that you expressed what I thought of 16a much more politely than I could!

    I think 17d is actually a lurker and I was wondering if “trim sides” is considered as an acceptable lurker indicator? I think it’s quite inventive.

  15. Thanks for the fair and insightful review as ever, Prolixic, and well done on achieving a pretty good review/score Brunel.

    Agree with RD re 17d and yes, I would say it is perfectly acceptable. Not so sure about ‘spot’ for G though!

  16. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As RD commented, it was good to read how the parsing of 6d should have been achieved and also your polite way of suggesting that the clue for 16a was somewhat lacking in information from a solver’s point of view!

    1. As Dutch correctly said, I just bunged 6d in without bothering with the parsing.

  17. Thanks Brunel, i solved your puzzle last night and didn’t have time to comment.
    I found it enjoyable but quite difficult and thought that it lay somewhere between the back page and a toughie.
    I have read the blog comments and agree that your concise clues worked best with some longer ones over elaborated-6d for example.
    Look forward to your next offering and well done.

    1. It is Prolixic’s measure of the number of outright errors divided by the total number of clues, given as a percentage. It is not an exact science as far as I can tell, just an indication.

  18. Many thanks, BruneI. I enjoyed most of this puzzle. My fave was 14a. I didn’t particularly like what I thought were somewhat convoluted clues.

    Very many thanks to Prolixic. I didn’t get 2d or 8d. I guessed the answer to 16a but have never come across it before. I really appreciative the insightful review.

  19. Thanks to everyone for a most useful lot of comments and criticisms! I’m a bit concerned that people clearly don’t appreciate obscure words, as my next crossword, that I’d already posted when this one came out, has several rather unusual words as answers. Never mind! I’ve sought to correct this in my latest puzzle, which I’m now halfway through.

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