Rookie Corner – 348 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 348

A Sestercentennial by Grecian

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

When a new setter sends in a puzzle they usually can’t wait to see it published.  Grecian asked for this one to be held back until December. How long will it take to realise why?  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.

17 December this year marks the 250th anniversary (sestercentennial) of the birth of the composed at 27a.

An enjoyable if tricky crossword from Grecian.  The core wordplay was there but, as might be expected, there were a few rough edges and areas where the setter perhaps expected a little too much of the solver.  The commentometer reads 3/28 or 10.7%.


7 Grills politician involved in unpleasant matter (5)
PUMPS – The abbreviation for member of parliament (politician) inside a three-letter word for unpleasant matter in a boil.

8 Oddly grey Brazil nuts not good (9)
BIZARRELY – An anagram (nuts) of GREY BRAZIL after removing the G (not good).

10 26 maybe hot in pink (6)
CHORAL – The abbreviation for hot inside a five-letter word for a shade of pink.

11 Twisted Sister could be in terrible need (8)
ENTWINED – A four-letter word describing a sister who has a sibling of the same age inside an anagram (terrible) of NEED.   The wordplay here for the sister is too tenuous as a link to the word required in the solution.

12 Disgustingly necrotic creations (8)
CONCERTI – An anagram (disgustingly) of NECROTIC.  Perhaps artistic creations or music would be a clearer definition,

13 Left-leaning retreat in Iranian capital (4)
RIAL – A reversal (left-leaning) of a four-letter word for a retreat or den.

15 Agent turned in revolutionary city is The Penguin (7)
EMPEROR – A reversal (turned) of a three-letter word for an agent inside a reversal (revolutionary) of the capital of Italy (city).

17 Instrument used in Call of Duty (7)
CLARION  A type of trumpet that is used to call people to duty giving rise to the phrase “A ???? Call”.

20 Possibly man is species lacking empathy originally (4)
ISLE – The initial letters (originally) of the third to sixth words of the clue.  As a general rule, setter can capitalise a common noun to mislead but must not change a proper noun to lower case to do so.  Here “man” as the definition is incorrect.

22 Dog on lead in Countryfile? (8)
LANDLINE – Split the final word of the clue into country and file and find four-letter word synonyms for both of them.  The solution is be reference to the cockney rhyming slang for a phone.  Some editors will not allow clue where you have an unindicated split in a word as part of the wordplay in the clue.

25 “4” caddy shouted out? (8)
BOUNDARY – A homophone (shouted out) of boundery – like a bounder (caddy).  I think that the steps required of getting from caddy meaning like a cad and substituting it with a made up word for like a bounder and then producing a homophone is requiring too much from the solver.

26 Oil rag massage for aureole (6)
GLORIA – An anagram (massage) of OIL RAG.

27 Top German scorer sent one over the bar woefully, on rarest failure to register (9)
BEETHOVEN – An anagram (woefully) of SENT ONE OVER THE BAR after removing (failure to register) the letters in rarest.   For subtractive anagrams, the general rule is that where the letters to be removed are not in the order given in the clue, a secondary anagram indicator should be given.

28 Component of diethyl ether caused memory loss when drunk (5)
LETHE – The solution is hidden (component of) in the third and fourth words of the clue.


1 Fun guy heard booms! (9)
MUSHROOMS – Another word for fungi (homophone – heard) of fun guy.

2 Lace rips around orifice (8)
SPIRACLE – An anagram (around) of LACE RIPS.

3 Poem about lubed up regular in Covent Garden? (7)
FIDELIO – A two-letter poem by Rudyard Kipling is reversed (about) followed by a reversal (up) of a five-letter word meaning lubed.

4 Clerical error in Lara’s top score (8)
PASTORAL – An anagram (error in) of LARAS TOP.

5 Heartless pornography piece dedicated to French 15 (6)
EROICA – Remove the central T (heartless) of a seven-letter word for pornography.

6 Skins up to REM? (5)
SLEEP – Reverse (up) a five-letter word meaning skins.

9 Slight stumble (4)
SLUR – Double definition of a verbal slight and to stumble over your words.

14 Spooner’s idiot may take on extra duty? (9)
MOONLIGHT – A Spoonerism of LOON (idiot) MIGHT (may).

16 3 perhaps over the hill at 100? (8)
OPERATOR – A five-letter word for the type of performance of which the answer to 5d is a example over a three-letter word for a hill.  Perhaps for someone at 100 would be better as s definition.

18 Chuck’s advice to 27 that may pay dividends later? (8)
ROLLOVER – Double definition for a word in the title of the song by Chuck Berry and what would pay dividends later if the lottery has not been won.

19 Pressure put on writer that may prevent issue coming out? (7)
PLAYPEN – The abbreviation for pressure followed by a three-letter word meaning put on and a three-letter word for something that writes.

21 Work inside prison at Alcatraz (6)
SONATA – The answer is hidden (inside) in the final two words of the clue.

23 Nearly booze up time (4)
NIGH – Reverse (up) a three letter word for a drink and follow with the abbreviation for hour (time).  Take care not to repeat wordplay indicators – here this is the third use of “up” to indicate a reversal.

24 27 wrote them messages (5)
NOTES – Double definition of the comment parts of music and messages.

32 comments on “Rookie Corner – 348

  1. Well, I got the theme and understood the connection to December with the 6th clue I solved (27a). However, and apologies, this was not very enjoyable for me and I had to resort to electronic assistance and reveals to complete the puzzle. Including enough clues related to the theme seems to have impacted the overall quality of the puzzle.
    There are some parsings that I am scratching my head over, for example I don’t see how 100 fits into 16d, and I will await Prolixic’s review with interest.
    Thanks Grecian.

      1. Thanks RD – that’s a piece of GK that I must have forgotten on July 15, 1992 – the day I emigrated!

  2. Our experience much the same as Senf reports above. Twigged the theme early on but still struggled with many of the clues and ended up revealing letters to complete the SE quadrant.
    Thanks Grecian.

  3. A very tough crossword – I too got the theme very early on but parts of the puzzle took a while to solve. It did seem while solving that there were a lot of anagrams, and a fair bit of ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ going on, but I did like 18d (earworm time). After the comments on 5d in yesterday’s ST Puzzle, I can’t wait to read what Jane and RD think of 25a!

    Thanks to Grecian – very clever to fit all the themed words to celebrate the sestercentenary – perhaps next time you could set us a non-themed and solver-friendlier crossword. Thanks in advance to Prolixic for his review which will, I’m sure, explain my three ???s

    1. Although the definition for 25a was clear, I had a capital P written by it as I couldn’t fathom the parsing at all. Then I read your comment and the penny dropped.

      Given Gazza’s explanation yesterday, I think this construction is fine.

      1. Same here although I wouldn’t go so far as to say the construction was fine – it made me suck my teeth!

  4. A very accomplished puzzle – thanks to Grecian and well done on getting so many themed entries in.
    The clues I liked best were 22a, 25a, 18d and 19d.

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Grecian. This was a very accomplished puzzle (surely not your first?) but I did find it very tough. You’ve done well to fit in so many themed answers – including the relevant link to Chuck Berry, which had me reaching for my guitar.

    I’ve got three answers only partially parsed and a couple of minor comments, all of which can wait for Prolixic’s review. I learnt a new word in 2d & a new meaning in 26a.

    I had lots of ticks and 18d was my favourite.

    Many thanks and well done, Grecian, and thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. P.S. Your alias reminded me of the cringeworthy joke:
      “What’s a Grecian urn?”
      “Don’t know. I suppose it depends on what he does for a living.”
      Boom! Boom! as Basil Brush might say …

    2. Many thanks RD – I really do appreciate the positive feedback. 18d is my favourite too ;-). G

    3. Prolixic’s review, for which many thanks, covers my various parsing issues and comments except for:

      1d – no wonder I couldn’t parse my answer. This gets my vote for the worst homophone ever!👎
      4d – “score” is surface padding.

        1. Unless homophones are 100% clear cut, which is rare, you should consider qualifying them with something like “some say …” or “… heard by some”. Of course that is useless advice in this specific case as the “some” would ruin the surface reading of 1d.

          I can sense my Latin teacher turning in his grave at the thought of anyone getting fungi to rhyme with guy (unless Guy is a Belgian). :wink:

  6. Welcome, Grecian.

    I also thought it was a superb effort to fit in so many themed solutions, but I do feel that a number of clues were too ambitious and didn’t quite work (like 25a and 23d), or had rather vague definitions (like 12a, 3d and 16d). “Up” was used three times as a reversal indicator in the Down clues, and 24d was a very weak conclusion. 20a would work if it began “Man possibly…” but it is not permissible to remove the capitalisation of a proper name to mislead. My favourite clue has to be the Spoonerism in 14d because I used it myself in a puzzle a few years back!

    As CS says, it would be great to see a non-themed puzzle from you next time, as it’s never easy to see whether corners were cut because of the theme or whether the setter would have used similar devices in a regular cryptic.

    Many thanks, Grecian.

  7. Welcome to the corner, Grecian. I had worked out my comment but Silvanus has already said everything I intended to so best I just say ‘ditto’ to his remarks. Never thought the day would come when a Spoonerism turned out to be my favourite!
    I did think you stretched crossword conventions to their limits in places so it will be very interesting to read what Prolixic has to say.

    Certainly like to see another one from you but preferably one without a theme.

  8. We struggled! Ended up revealing letters to assist even though we thought we had the theme. An easier one next time, please, Grecian. Very clever but too clever for us, sadly.

  9. Thought the puzzle was good in places; though I’m not really a fan of slightly forced themed puzzles and I still don’t get the relevance of December or the title. Oh well
    I have a balance of hmms and ticks on my page so it’s a fair 50/50 from me
    Thanks for the entertainment, Grecian

    1. If you Google the subject of the theme and look for his date of birth, the December, and the sestercentennial, connection should be obvious.

      1. I see, thanks Senf – there’s me thinking ‘Twisted Sister aren’t that old are they?’
        Always amused me that their biggest hit reads “Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It” – I read that and immediately thought ‘Resist?’
        As Jane noted, perhaps these cryptics are getting the better of me :smile:

        1. Hopefully you haven’t yet got as bad as our Puzzles Editor who reported in one of the Puzzles Newsletters that he’d taken time off from the ‘day’ job to treat his wife to a restaurant meal on her birthday. As she was choosing her food, he was busy making anagrams out of the menu items – I don’t think she was best pleased!

  10. Thanks Grecian (should we call you Ernie?) for an entertaining puzzle with lots of ideas. Comments absent reading others’:
    Ticks against 10,17 and particularly 3 and 6.
    1 appropriately, a chestnut.
    4 two definitions?
    16 tricky, does the definition still apply or does it need ‘once’ or suchlike?
    9 not sure the second definition works as the dictionary entry mentions ‘gliding’ repeatedly.
    18 definition sent me down a false track of financial products.
    22 one of a few where your cryptic definition has gone too far in my opinion. At the risk of being patronising, remember that the solver is not in your head. If they fail to solve the clue, when they are given the answer will they blame themselves or blame you?
    Good work, I look forward to your next.

  11. Thank you all so much for your helpful comments. To be honest, it feels great to have people just trying my crossword and taking the time to give me honest feedback. It is much appreciated for a beginner at this game. I knew that this was a tough solve, but in my defence, I guess you are inclined to try and pitch it at the level of the crosswords you like to solve most. For me, that’s Vlad and Paul in the Guardian. If you will indulge me, I would love to post another (non-themed) effort in the near future. Big thanks to Big Dave for publishing the crossword- I really do appreciate it. I will await Prolixic’s feedback with interest and no little trepidation! Thanks again to you all. G

  12. Many thanks to Prolixic for the helpful review. All the points made are absolutely valid and duly noted. Hopefully, I can share a better quality puzzle with you soon. G

  13. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and thanks to Grecian for accepting with good grace all the comments that have been made. I don’t think you’ll go short of assistance from the site’s ‘experts’ with such a good attitude.

  14. Well done, Grecian – a few niggles but on the whole an excellent start.

    To be precise, 27a was believed to have been born on the 16th December, and baptised on the 17th. Only baptisms were recorded at that time.

    Loved the theme, of course, but then I confess to being a bit biased here, having at some time in my life had a bash (that’s probably the correct word :) ) at all 32 of 27a’s 21d’s. I could give a fair rendering of the 14d, but would invariably stumble over the third movement. Never mind – I’m only an amateur (like with crosswords)…

    If you think you can manage it, do stay with the theme idea (my view – others have said don’t)! You should try a true ‘ghost’ theme if you can – one where no knowledge of the subject is needed. Like your clue to 14d, which is very good in that it makes no reference to 27a. Probably the best in the puzzle.

    Keep at it!

    1. Many thanks Laccaria – I’m really glad you enjoyed it. The positive comments are very much appreciated. G

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