Rookie Corner – 367 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 367

Machines by Islander

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Islander is our latest debutant. 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 Islander.  Technically, the cluing was fine with a few minor exceptions but I found the cryptic definitions with the exception of 17d very weak and possibly overused as a cluing device.  One or two good cryptic definitions would be much better than a larger number of weaker ones.  The commentometer reads as 2.5 / 29 or 8.6%.


6 Goes round, around winder (5)
SPOOL – A five-letter word meaning goes round is reversed (around).

7 Moderate rate adjustment retains casual worker (8)
ATTEMPER – An anagram (adjustment) of RATE includes a four-letter word for a casual worker.

10 Hair piece not initially on pate? Shine! (7)
FUBISH – A three-letter word for hair followed by a piece on a chess board without the initial letters (not initially) of on pate.

11 They help to cultivate posh schools (7)
HARROWS – The name of a public school in the plural.  As there is only one public school of that name perhaps “Public school’s farm equipment” would be better.

12 Illicit encounter embraced by Julia is ongoing (7)
LIAISON – The answer is hidden (embraced by) in the final three words of the clue.

13 Successfully used haymaker and saw (7)
CLOCKED – Double definition, the haymaker being a type of punch and saw used in the sense of sight.

14 It makes for a smooth mechanism, like a circus seal’s nose? (4,7)
BALL BEARING – Think of what a circus seal might balance on its nose.

19 What not to lose if on edge? (7)
BALANCE – Mildly cryptic definition.

21 One gets meagre leftovers, finally becoming less fat (7)
GLEANER – The last letter (finally) of becoming followed by a six-letter word meaning less fat.

23 Last over versus Australia, bowling loose, England openers winning (7)
LOVABLE – The initial letters (openers) of the first seven words of the clue.

25 A gap one negotiated near the peak (7)
APOGEAN – An anagram (negotiated) of A GAP ONE.

26 Energy storage device could be source of buzz – our greatest invention? (8)
FLYWHEEL – A three-letter word for an insect that buzzes followed by a five-letter word for the most important invention in human history.

27 Systems that allow one good turn to create more? (5)
GEARS – What transfers rotary movement in a car or other mechanical system.


1 Tricky situation encountered in raising large family – find fixed post to latch onto (8)
DOORJAMB – A three-letter word for a tricky situation in a reversal (raising) of a five-letter word for a large family.  As any number of children can be a brood in a family, the word large here is unfairly misleading.

2 Following illness, recognises what’s needed to maintain hydration (6)
FLUIDS – A three-letter word for an illness similar to a heavy cold followed by a three-letter word meaning recognises the identity of a person.

3 Okay for automation? Manufacturing nation wears the blame unfortunately (10)
MACHINABLE – A five-letter word word for a large oriental manufacturing nation inside (wears) an anagram (unfortunately) of BLAME.  Where you have letters to be rearranged, you should avoid including the article with the other letters as it suggests that the letters to be rearranged are THE BLAME.

4 Yell at dog – not the first scratch mark (4)
ETCH – A command given to a dog to receive something without the first letter (not the first).  I don’t think that “Yell at dog” works as a wordplay indication here.

5 Make changes to original piece of art that extends boundaries of repertoire (6)
REWORK – A four-letter word for a piece of art after (extends) the outer letters (boundaries) of repertoire.

6 Taking little risk, squash fleas with tip of brolly (6)
SAFELY – An anagram (squash) of FLEAS followed by the final letter (tip) of brolly.

8 Who managed to get the wireless working? (7)
MARCONI – The inventor of the radio.  Not really a cryptic clue more a general knowledge clue with minimal deception in the wording.

9 Single out of consideration (5)
ASIDE – Split 1,4, the solution would be a single record.

13 Could result in Bill coming with a USB cable possibly (10)
CHARGEABLE – Double definition, the second being how an electronic device has its power levels restored.

15 Weapon for sucking up to royalty? (7)
LONGBOW – Split 4,3, the answer would be a form of court etiquette that would impress royals.  For sucking up for royalty does not really convey for me the required wordplay – Perhaps “How to acknowledge king’s weapon”. Also, the structure of the clue definition for wordplay does not work.

16 Am gluten free and dark-grey (8)
GUNMETAL – An anagram (free) of AM GLUTEN.

17 Daggers drawn? (5)
OBLEI – The punctuation mark that is drawn like a dagger.

18 Eccentric types to wind up on first sign of solstice (6)
CRANKS – A five-letter word meaning to wind up followed by the first letter of solstice.  Try to avoid reusing wordplay indicators – first was also used in 4d to indicate an initial letter.

20 Ordinary ones ceased in the 80s; only the advanced went on (6)
LEVELS – The type of exams of which Ordinary and Advanced were examples.

22 Point above zero, temperature gone up to required level (6)
ENOUGH – A point of the compass followed by a six-letter word for zero without the abbreviation for temperature.

24 Forerunner to EU containing ten – one running things (4)
EXEC – The abbreviation for European Economic Community around (containing) the Roman numeral for 10.

34 comments on “Rookie Corner – 367

  1. BD – at 1:20am, I got the dreaded ‘Requested page could not be found’ after clicking on the grid.

  2. Welcome to Rookie Corner Islander – not for the first time, I’d say this wasn’t your first crossword. Your crossword is an example of that rare thing, a Rookie puzzle with no queries by any of the clues, although I will admit towards the end of the solving process to thinking about parts of machines and seeing if they fitted.

    I’ll leave it for Prolixic to comment on the puzzle as a whole, but I’ll just say that 8d is more of a quiz question than a cryptic clue. I also think 11a would work better if there was more than one posh school with that name. My favourite Across clue is 14a and my Down favourite is 4d

    Thank you to Islander – I look forward to seeing another crossword from you in due course. Thanks in advance to Prolixic

    1. 8d worked as a cryptic definition for me — in that it tricked me into thinking about BT Openreach (who took about 6 weeks to get our wireless working when we moved house, only for it to break again a fortnight later when they connected a neighbour on the same line), IT helpdesks, and the like.

      I think this is just an innate risk with cryptic definitions in general. There have certainly been others where I’ve failed to spot what was cryptic because my mind accidentally jumped straight to the answer, somehow completely missing the more ‘obvious’ meaning.

      1. Agree cryptic defintions can be ‘risky’ and will often divide opinion. Personally I thought this one needed somethng more to push/misdirect the solver away from the intended defintion of ‘wireless’ (especially as the puzzle theme was already leading to thoughts of pysical ‘machines’). Could use your experience with Openreach to construct something along lines of: “He got the wireless working – stuff’s back on internet, but only very briefly”

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Islander.
    I thought that this was an enjoyable though quite tricky puzzle. I ended up revealing a couple of letters in the NE corner after my answer of ‘cropped’ for 13a caused problems.
    Some of the cryptic definitions (8d, 20d) didn’t work terribly well in my opinion and, as CS says, there’s only one 11a posh school.
    My ticks went to 10a, 12a, 14a and 21a.

  4. Thanks Islander, I found this tricky in parts but made steady progress – an enjoyable solve.

    Lots of ticks, also a few very minor quibbles…
    – 11a (as noted by others) can the school reasonably be pluralised?
    – the “the” in 3d seems superfluous
    – 4d not sure, should be “what’s yelled at dog” or similar? (but this was a favourite of crypticsue who knows far more than I do!)
    14a – another marked out as a favourite by others, and good, so perhaps I’m overly nit-picking… but I can’t help feeling surface was a bit disconnected… perhaps might have been improved as eg “It makes operation smooth as a circus seal’s nose” to connect the two bits a little better?
    – Some cryptic definitions didn’t quite work for me (27a, 8d, 20d) although 17d did earn a nice tick

    But overall really enjoyable, with plebty of good clues eg 23a 2d, 5d 6d, 9d, 15d, 22d… and my favourite 26a.

    Look forward to more Islanders! Thanks again

      1. Thanks Dr Diva, yes I “get” the clue but just wasn’t sure “yell at dog” alone is equivalent to [the required word] … but reading “yell” as a noun does resolve this, mea culpa! Thanks again Islander, and in advance to Prolixic for review

  5. My heart sank a little when I read the title of this one but it proved not to be as daunting as I’d feared.
    Issues that I picked up on have already been mentioned by others so I’ll wait for Prolixic’s comments on those. Meantime, I’m still trying to figure out the full parsing of 10a.
    Favourites here were 14&21a.
    Thanks for braving the den, Islander!

  6. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Islander.

    I am sorry to say that I found most of this a real slog and I just could not get on to the right wavelength, but I’m pleased to see that others have enjoyed it. I finished it off in desperation by revealing quite a lot of letters and it’s clear with hindsight that much of it is very good, just not my cup of tea.

    I’ve never heard of 7a, which appears to be an archaic word. I don’t think the plural works in 11a. Doesn’t 25a refer to “at the top” rather than “near” it? “The” is surplus to requirements in 3d. I can’t parse any of 5d, 9d & 13d.

    I gave ticks to 10a, 14a, 21a, 23a, 2d & 17d.

    Many thanks and well done, Islander. I can see you have put a lot of effort into this. Thanks too in advance to Prolixic.

    1. 5d Take the “boundaries of repertoire” then “extend” them by adding a “piece of art”
      9d Split the answer 1-4 for first of a double definition
      13d Another double def (4 words / 6 words)

      Looks like 7a is indeed archaic, so probably should’ve been indicated but I thought clue was fair

      1. Thanks, Fez. I’d long forgotten about the 1-4 version of 9d and I think I was brain dead by the time I solved 5d. I had the wrong answer for 13d :oops:.

  7. Mostly very good but one or two minor niggles; eg16d starting with ‘Am’ is rather grammatically uncomfortable
    First thought on seeing ‘Islander’ was that it was an Ian Hislop confession
    Thanks for the entertainment Islander

  8. We found the left hand side easier to complete. 7a, 25a and 17d were new to us but Google helped. We were concerned about the s on 11a and we had the incorrect starting vowel for 4d until we read Dr Diva above. We thought female dog losing first letter! Favourites were 14a, 23a and 15d. Many thanks for the challenge and enjoyment, Islander. We look forward to your next puzzle. Thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  9. Thanks Islander. I’ve not yet finished this puzzle and may not get to complete it before tomorrow. As others have said, this is an impressive debut, although I think I have enjoyed more puzzles by you I have seen elsewhere. I have ticks by 13a and 20d. I have question marks beside others so will await Prolixic’s notes. For me personally some of the cryptic definitions didn’t work so well, particularly 19a (not cryptic enough, unless I’m missing something) and 15d (second bit). Overall impressive though.

  10. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Islander.

    I regret to say that my solving experience was very similar to RD’s, I found the puzzle more of a slog than a pleasure to complete unfortunately. Technically, there is very little to fault, but I also found it hard to hit the right wavelength.. As well as appearing too frequently, the cryptic definitions were very disappointing, I felt, and certain surfaces like 14a and 1d failed to convince. “The” in 3d is merely padding for the surface of the clue.

    My favourite clue was the succinct 17d.

    Thank you, Islander, I hope I’ll warm to your next one more.

  11. Holy moly is this difficult or is it just me? A couple shy of completing the top half but it’s been a slog & think I’ll leave the depths of the south for this evening & give the brain a rest. In the meantime how is fu a synonym for hair – only know it as an acronym for something extremely impolite.

    1. The hair is fur, Huntsman – then a chess piece that moves diagonally, missing the first letters of ‘on pate’ from the end
      As for Fu, a top snooker player is Marco

    2. Hi Huntsman,
      The synonym for ‘hair’ is the first three letters of the answer. As for the piece – have a look at the replies I received from Fez & Gazza @5 when I ran into difficulties.
      Sorry, LbR, you beat me to it!

      1. Thanks both – as I said on Sat I really am a plank sometime. Got the chess piece bit ok & somehow forgot about the r

  12. Second sitting managed to yield a couple more answers but still short of two in 17d and 13a.
    Quite a challenge really but I like a good brain teaser every now and then.
    Thanks to Islander and to Prolixic for the upcoming review.

  13. Very late getting on to this and did find it quite a slog. Eventually revealed a few letters to finish the grid. Think we prefer clues to be more precise and concise than Islander has given us here. Some nice original thinking though.
    Thanks Islander.

  14. Late to the party as I didn’t get round to this till today. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Islander.
    I found this quite tough in places and resorted to anagram solver and word finder for a few entries and eventually to revealing 11ac and 13ac. On the other hand the SW corner was relatively easy and I really liked 17dn!
    If I may venture a criticism of the review I note the comment on 15dn that the structure of the clue definition for wordplay does not work, and I remember a similar comment on my first Rookie Corner appearance. It is something I try to avoid, but I notice, however, that it does occur from time to time in puzzles by well-established setters in the Indy, FT and Guardian, without attracting adverse comment from solvers. But perhaps it’s a case of ‘once you know the rules it is possible to bend them a little.’
    Thanks to Islander for the challenge and to Prolixic for the review.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I do hope Islander takes on board your comments about his cryptic definitions.

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