Rookie Corner – 261 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 261

“Echoes of the Towers.” by Gonzo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Gonzo is the latest of our new setters. 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.

A creditable start for Gonzo but perhaps a little too enthusiastic in places in an attempt to overcomplicate the wordplay. I cannot ignore the triple unches. They simply would not be allowed in the daily papers and to have a word that begins with three unchecked letters is beyond the pale. The Times and the Independent will not allow two unchecked letters at the start of a word.

There was a super-abundance of anagrams (12 is undoubtedly too many).

The commentometer reads at 5/29 or 17.2%. The title to the crossword suggests a theme but what that theme is remains elusive.


1 Fear gentleman has pinched, in other words, the household valuables (6)
SILVER – A synonym (in other words) of the solution is hidden in (has pinched) the first two words of the clue. The solver could with some justification have entered the hidden word as the solution, it being the synonym for the household valuables.

4 Treat as a 9 arriving at dubious gain (7)
ARRAIGN – The abbreviation for arriving followed by an anagram (dubious) of GAIN.

8 What’s missing in British letters is crime… (9)
BLACKMAIL – Another word meaning “what’s missing” inside the abbreviation for British and a four letter word for letters.

9 …the perpetrator, lone fellow, must be deranged (5)
FELON – An anagram (must be deranged) of LONE F (fellow).

11 Manservant resolves very tangled tale (5)
VALET – The abbreviation for very followed by an anagram (tangled) of TALE.

12 Having turned umber, nap in partial shade (8)
PENUMBRA – An anagram (having turned) of UMBER NAP.

13 Text oath back to hornless 17, perhaps (3)
GMO – Reverse (back) the abbreviation used when texting for Oh My God (oath). I think that the definition here is too unhelpful. There are breeds of cow without horns. Also, you should try not to have abbreviations for solutions unless they are used that way in everyday language (for example RAF or UFO.

14 It’s some job to find humour in an apartment block with one wing demolished (10)
ENGAGEMENT – A three letter word for a joke or humour inside another word for an apartment block with the first T removed (with one wind demolished).

16 A bloomer in Scotty’s language? (4-6)
DOG’S-TONGUE – Another way of saying canine’s (Scotty) language.

17 Subdue livestock (3)
COWDouble definition.

18 A mother, shortly lacking in melanin, worried about what keeps track of the hours in the sun (8)
ANALEMMA – The A from the clue followed by three letter word for a mother with the final letter removed (shortly) followed by an anagram (worried about) of MELANIN after removing the final two letters (lacking in). The “shortly” could have been omitted here. Also as verbal phrase “worried about“ requires a direct object to follow so that letters to be rearranged should follow the anagram indicator. Finally, as an obscure word, cluing it has a subtractive anagram (even if partial) is stretching the rules of fairness. It would be better to have a simpler clue for this type of word to give solvers a better chance of reaching the solution.

20 Father, say, discontented attractive young woman (5)
POPSY – A three letter word for a father followed by the SAY from the clue with the middle letter removed (discontented).

23 Disdain shameful conduct, on recovering notebook at first (5)
SCORN – The initial letters (at first) of the second to sixth words of the clue.

24 Unintentionally bait cur – no situation for a good egg? (9)
INCUBATOR – An anagram (unintentionally) of BAIT CUR NO.

25 Mediocre American suppresses replacement for milk (7)
CREAMER – The answer is hidden in (suppresses) the first two words of the clue.

26 Flammable gas in use? Then evacuate! (6)
ETHENE – The answer is hidden (in) in the final three words of the clue.


1 Schemers and lovers surprised, all being led a merry dance (5)
SALSA – The initial letters (being led) of the first five words of the clue.

2 Hankering after the 20s, see how close you can get to be around her (9)
LECHEROUS – An anagram (see how xxxx can get to be) of CLOSE U (you) around the HER from the clue. I am not convinced by the anagram indicator here as it is not an instruction to rearrange the letters. Also putting the anagram indicator around the letters to be rearranged does not work in this clue. Some editors will not allow the direct link of YOU = U without indicating that it the texting version.

3 Girl, 18, is less obsessive (4)
EMMA – The answer to 18 across without a four letter word meaning obsessive.

5 Loss of recipe for ‘bracer’ concoction leaves one bitter (5)
ACERB – Remove the abbreviation for recipe from BRACER and make an anagram (concoction) of the letter that remain.

6 Unruffled, fine when newt sheds tail (4,2,3)
GOOD AS NEW – A four letter word meaning fine followed by a two letter word meaning when and the NEWT from the clue without its final letter (sheds tail).

7 Having embroiled gent (e.g. in dames), retreat (13)
DISENGAGEMENT – An anagram (having embroiled) of GENT EG IN DAMES. Unless essential to the theme, I would avoid having repetition where you already have 14 across as a solution that differs only by the DIS at the beginning.

10 Widely-audible huntswoman promoting her right to break in and steal (6)
BURGLE – Another word for someone who blows a loud horn (widely-audible huntswoman) has the R moved up (promoting her right).

13 For one fed up with romance from start to finish, he only has to join the dots to see what’s coming (9)
GEOMANCER – A reversal (fed-up) of EG (for one) followed by the ROMANCE from the clue with the R moved from the top to the bottom (from start to finish)

14 Pole, upset over a couple of points, runs away to avoid 7? (6)
ELOPES – An anagram (upset) of POLE followed by the abbreviations for East and South (points).

15 Falsely avow crime to take the heat off? Quite the reverse (9)
MICROWAVE – An anagram (falsely) of AVOW CRIME.

19 Abstainers involve threesome endlessly in matters of the heart (5)
ATRIA – The abbreviation for Alcoholics Anonymous (abstainers) holds a word for a threesome with the final letter removed (endlessly).  I am not convinced by the definition being correct.  It would suggest the adjectival form but the solution is a noun.

21 Despot, potentially taking time for old china (5)
SPODE – An anagram (potentially) of DESPOT after removing the T (taking time).

22 Don’t start to provoke one’s relative (4)
AUNT – A five letter word meaning to provoke with the first letter removed (don’t start).

37 comments on “Rookie Corner – 261

  1. Apologies in advance for the triple-unches. I didn’t notice until the puzzle was complete, at which point any changes would have brought the whole house of cards down. Still, it could be worse eh? It could be an alphabetical jigsaw…
    Have fun.

  2. OK Gonzo, we won’t mention the triple unches.
    We are totally mystified by the title. We have finished the puzzle apart for a couple of bits of parsing that we will come back to later (eg 1a) but it still means nothing to us.
    A few new words that we had to check on (16a, 18a) but overall everything was gettable with a bit of effort. Thought that some of the clues were rather on the long side.
    Thanks Gonzo.

  3. Darn, my posting just got mangled!

    Good puzzle. I’ll try and find time later today to re-post. 23a’s answer needed fixing at 7am BST.


  4. Hi Gonzo – thanks for the puzzle which admittedly I found a little odd in places, and some peculiar words to boot Thought I’d lost the plot with 23a, so pleased to see BD’s post.

    Setting CC to basic English grid-fills might give you some friendlier words to clue, unless I’m missing the point – I probably am.

    Absolutely no idea what the title is about. I look forward to Prolixic’s review.

    Thanks and well done for putting it together.

  5. A tricky crossword – I didn’t think the triple unches were a particular problem. I did think that in quite a few places, it was trying too hard to be cryptic, and those really long clues didn’t help, eg the wordplay in 13d is clear, I just wonder whether there is a way of providing the definition without using a further eleven words?
    I have marked a number of things which I’m sure Prolixic will cover in his review, not least the two clues where I have no idea how I get from the clue to the solution

    Thanks Gonzo – perhaps next time you could find a grid without extra unches and provide a few more user-friendly clues

      1. Oh dear. I thought I had posted that as a reply to Gazza but I agree with CS too (and Jane and Silvanus)!

  6. Thanks, Gonzo. I’ve got a full grid though I can’t parse 1a. The title is a mystery to me. I had to seek assistance on 18a and 16a (though I liked that one once I’d got the answer).
    I’m not too concerned about the triple unches (and I probably wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t seen your comment) because in both cases the wordplay is clear.
    Well done – I’m sure you’ll get a lot of good advice from Prolixic.

  7. Thanks Gonzo
    Quite an interesting mix. Plenty of good clues, some quite easy and some not at all. I liked 8a and 26a best.
    I think I understand them all except for 1a, but a few took quite a bit of unscrambling.
    It’s nice to make your cryptic definitions sound colloquial, as in eg. 14a, 24a, 1d, 13d, 19d, but I felt the definitions occasionally suffered by being squeezed to fit the idiom.
    I didn’t like 13a; the wordplay is clear enough, but I found the definition too random. Having checked, I see there is such a thing as an example of the solution, but while solving it just seemed like something you’d invented.
    In 18a I’m not sure quite how you’re constructing your solution. Is it a whole anagram (in which case, indirect, using the short mother), or is the anagram contained in ‘a mother’ (in which case, I can’t see how it is).
    2d, I think the wording for the wordplay is quite elegant in retrospect, but there’s no way to understand it before getting the solution – it’s really too smooth, impossible to identify instructions and fodder.

    1. Thanks Mucky,
      In 18a, I am indeed using an abbreviation as part of the fodder.
      In 2d I was certainly seduced by the smoothness of the surface.
      I take your criticism of 13a – though another definition that isn’t wildly scientific doesn’t spring to mind.

  8. Welcome Gonzo.

    I think you showed that you have an eye for a good clue, but I felt the constructions weren’t as good as they could have been. Prolixic will provide you with an invaluable clue-by-clue critique later on, but my principal suggestions for future progress would be:

    1. Try to reduce the number of anagrams. When four out of the first six clues are anagrams and their contribution overall amounts to more than one third of the total clues, that’s far from ideal.

    2. Look to shorten some of the long-winded clues to a manageable length, i.e. to a dozen words or fewer, preferably. When a clue consists of 21 words (like 13d), however much one might be attached to it, it is really crying out for a pair of secateurs to be applied.

    3. With the previous point in mind, try to eliminate unnecessary words (padding) from clues. For example, “one’s” in 22d and several unnecessary instances of definite and indefinite articles only served to compound the wordiness in certain cases.

    My favourite clue was 26a. I don’t understand 1a either.

    Thanks for a promising debut, Gonzo, I’m sure that you have the capacity to produce a more polished product next time.

  9. Hi Gonzo and welcome to the den!
    To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of this one and would be interested to know what you had in mind when you set about creating it – the title doesn’t seem to give much away.

    I was very aware of an apparent over-dependence on anagrams – something to watch out for in the future?

    Like others, I haven’t managed to satisfactorily parse 1a.

    Looking forward to the review from Prolixic and am sure you’ll pick up a lot of good advice from his comments.

    1. It looks like 1a has defeated everyone – it’s an interesting concept, but is it legitimate? Hidden in the clue is a synonym of the answer!

      1. Thanks, BD – it will be interesting to read what Prolixic has to say about that one!

      2. I saw that first thing and wrote it in only to find that it didn’t work with all crossing Down solutions

      3. The idea is ok but ‘has pinched in other words’ is too wordy for me, and I *think* the definition ought to have -ware on the end, as it’s plural?

        Be interesting to see what P makes of it.

  10. Thanks for all the feedback. I hadn’t noticed the preponderance of anagrams.
    This is a themed crossword, and some of the ‘wordiness’ is due to working in theme references. Some is due to my preference for clues that don’t read like telegrams though :)
    The device in 1ac was recently used in a Guardian crossword – a bigger boy made me do it. The ‘in other words’ is there to help.
    The title is a clue to the (literary) theme in two ways.

  11. :phew: my head hurts and my brain is reduced to a mixture of mashed potato and porridge.
    On that happy note I’ll continue and write about the crossword.
    Needless to say from my first sentence I found this very difficult – when I first looked I almost gave up without starting.
    Then I got a few answers – then I went off and did stuff I should have been doing – then I came back and did a few more – every time I walked past it (it was on the kitchen table) I got another answer or two.
    Anyway, having done most, but not all, of the other things I should have been doing I finally have a grid which is missing only five answers.
    I think I probably give up at this point but well done to Gonzo and I look forward to the review.
    My favourite by a very long way is 16a.
    With thanks to Gonzo for the crossword and, in advance, to Prolixic for the review (and a few answers).

    1. Thanks for persevering Kath. I do wonder how professional compilers adjust their level of difficulty – I suppose having a back collection of clues helps, so they are not too fresh in the mind when it comes to using them. Then they can judge them more objectively. That and editorial input, or reviewers as here.

  12. Thanks Prolixic for the review.
    In 1ac I moved the ‘in other words’ from the end of the clue to dissociate it from the definition. Clearly that wasn’t clear.
    I don’t understand your objection to my use of ‘worried about’ in 18ac.
    I picture an item being shaken in the jaws of an animal.

  13. In case anyone is coming late to the puzzle, I won’t reveal all just yet.
    If you’ve read the book or seen the TV adaptation then
    1ac 17 25
    should jog your memory.

    1. Ah now I see it. If it hadn’t had a title, I don’t think anyone would have noticed the possibility of a very ghostly ghost theme

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, trust that Gonzo takes your comments on board.

    Sorry, Gonzo – I’ve looked again at the clues you mentioned and am still none the wiser as to the theme. Hopefully, you’ll elucidate at some point.

      1. OK, you’ll have to spell it out to this luddite who has never read fiction or owned a TV, too busy looking up words like ‘redonculously’. Is it a TV show or something?

        1. If you put the solutions if the three clues into a search engine then results show references to a work of fiction and then if you look at some of the other solutions there are links with that book as you don’t watch television, it won’t help if I tell you that it was also made into a drama production

          1. After quite a lot of bandwidth usage, I’ve got it now. Crikey that’s extremely ghostly, very Graunesque. Thanks CS.

            1. Gonzo asked me to reformat the title because an anagram of “Echoes of the Towers dot” was intended as an additional clue. Feeding this into Tea, my anagram solver of choice, did come up with a title, but I would never have got there on my own.

              1. Good grief – if that item had turned up in a ‘true or false’ quiz, I’d definitely have lost a point!

  15. … and somebody’s dark secret is exposed in the completed grid.
    I think anyone who enjoys the playful use of language should enjoy Wodehouse – the greatest comic writer in the English language. The Code of the Woosters shows him on top form.

  16. Quite a tricky one this. Like others, I was a bit baffled by 1a, though I think I more or less see it now. I wasn’t keen on having two such similar answers (ENGAGEMENT and DISENGAGEMENT), even though this may have been an intentional device. One or two of the anagrinds were a bit inaccurate – ‘unintentionally ‘ (24a) in particular seemed very loose to me. I had a slight niggle with the grid – at NE and SW there are 7-letters answers with only 2 intersections, which could make things tricky if you get stuck on them. Some interesting and quite wacky stuff, though – my favourite was 26a – a very apposite and amusing substring.

    1. Thanks Brunel,
      If Hamlet can be summed up as ‘a ghost and a prince meet, and everyone ends in mincemeat’ then TCOTW can fairly be summed up as ‘engagements and disengagements’ – I did avoid the obvious definitions.
      For ‘unintentionally’ I originally had ‘foolishly’, but changed it to better describe the incident in the book. ‘Not in the intended order’ was my self-justification.
      I’ve already taken my lumps for the grid :)

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