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Out of Line by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 October 2016

Out of Line

Out of Line

It wouldn’t be kind of me to begin by saying what my reaction is when I download a Sabre crossword (would it!) This called for a stiff drink and shelving of any other Friday evening entertainment (and yes, I completed my grid at 0.45 on Saturday morning and still hadn’t sussed the endgame but had a stack of empty glasses).

Of course, I checked Sabre’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Drinkie Club and, despite the initially disconcerting news in 27d ‘Japanese therapy where I kick bottles (5)’ (REIKI hidden) didn’t really need to worry as, later on, the solutions to some of those rather more difficult clues gave us CORKED, ‘Stopped work, calling at the outset for Western education (6)’ (WORK with C(alling) for W + ED). No wonder he’s decided to ‘kick bottles’ if they were corked. Clearly he moved on to tropical happy-hour favourites as PIÑAS appeared, (hidden again but this time reversed) – presumably PIÑA COLADAS ‘Discarded fruit cropping up in salad (6)’. Cheers, Sabre.

Sabre gave us his usual range of clues from truly easy to astonishingly complex and difficult with some words I would never have invented in my wildest dreams – IBADAT, MANYATA, SPADASSIN, TAUTOG and what was I still attempting to find at half past midnight? ‘Australian marine fears flag binding our nation with Japan (10)’ We had attempted anagrams of IRIS UK (or GB) W(ith) J and had hunted for terms for an Australian marine but IRUKANDJIS? I ask you! (Yes, TEA finally suggested it to me when I fed in all the potential words after sorting out how we were entering the words we had into the grid). I think the definition was not-over generous; ‘Australian marine fears …’. That seemed to me a bit like defining ICE CREAM as ‘Little boy likes …’ but I suppose Sabre, with his brilliance, can get away with what might be called ‘defining by example’ for lesser setters. (I have to adjust what I said as I was muttering at dinner two days later about that clue and the lady sitting opposite me, who never solves crosswords, on hearing the three-word definition, instantly said “Well that could only be those box jelly fish, irukandjis, they are called, aren’t they?”)

‘Sorting out how we were entering the words’ – that was the rub. We solved steadily and soon had well over half of the clues solved but not a single one that fitted with intersecting letters and we had to see the ‘thematic modification’ that would resolve the issue. Usually we would expect to remove the tip or tail of a word, invert it or jumble it (hated words!) but none of those worked. We were becoming thoroughly frustrated and muttering murderous thoughts about how to spike Sabre’s corked drinks as we cold-solved, dreading that we were going to have to solve every single clue with no idea what to do with the solutions.

Fortunately a glimmer of light dawned. There could only be one way to make CORKED intersect with IBADAT and that was by using the single letter they shared, so supposing we simply raised that letter to the top of the word. With enormous relief we found that that worked and happily filled a new grid, finding that the words that now partially appeared, like PID?I with an extra N, suggested words to us (PIDGIN ‘Concern about anonymous advance going astray, paid again (6)’ giving PAID AGAIN losing three As for About, Anonymous and Advance).

There was just one hitch – well, two actually. OBJETS D’ART and NEPTUNE (Holst’s Mystic in the Planets Suite) produced a clashing E/J and even worse, SACQUE and IRUKANDJIS produced a triple clash Q/U/J since we had no way of knowing whether the Q or U of SACQUE should rise to the peak of the word.

It was a longshot, the following morning that led to feeding the relevant information into the invaluable Quinapalus Word Matcher We were looking for a 12-letter word that probably had RS as consecutive letters and had to have a Q and a J in it. I could have kicked myself when we were given QUEUE JUMPERS as we had attempted to think up so many words that indicated being ‘out of line’ (the lightning strike of TANISTRY, SUPERSESSION, DISLOCATIONS etc.) and the necessary one was so obvious.

Of course we performed what we were told to perform and replaced two Rs with S, an E with U, P with E and then the stroke of genius! However does he do it? We found that both J and Q had to become U, resolving those two clashes and telling us that it was the U of SACQUE that had to rise, leaving us the word that describes all those pushy French people who attempt to queue jump and walk all over my skis – DISCOURTEOUS!

Brilliant indeed. Many thanks, Sabre!

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Top! the Puzzle (aka Jonathan Edwards can now stand down)

Posted by Encota on 21 October 2016

It appears that there’s hard … there’s really hard… then there’s Sabre’s “Out of Line”.  Perhaps apart from one or two in the depths of winter that sleep deprivation on the overnight Eurostar ski train has almost entirely successfully blotted from my memory, this feels like the toughest of 2016 so far.

After solving a few clues, the only clear way to ensure the clues successfully ‘check’ appears to be to assume they all have to be entered as jumbles of the answers.  But won’t that require cold-solving of (almost) all 40 clues?  That sounds a really tough slog!  Is there something else (easier?)?  Surely there is.

One of my earliest spots was noting the preponderance of Js (in fact, now I stop to look harder, of Japan).  I wondered if that was relevant.

I’d luckily solved most of the SE corner early on – CLOCHE, REIKI, PINAS, DUMPLING, SACQUE &, by a stroke of good fortune, IRUKANDJIS.  Given some of these crossing words had only one letter in common, I felt I was probably on safe ground putting those common letters in. With a couple more added it was beginning to look like the first letter was moving to second place – ECLOCH for CLOCHE for example.  Perhaps it was Biblical, Buddhist, StarWars-ian (or even Hessian?)… with the last becoming first?  Perhaps that might be called BASE-JUMPING, at a stretch?  Only 11 letters though.  What about one or two answers where it seemed the fourth letter was jumping to the front.  Did it involve a TRIPLE JUMPER, perhaps?  But at 33d DOG has become ODG.  So no appearance fees for Jonathan Edwards (even though at least eight clues did prove to be treated (by chance) with the method of the TRIPLE-JUMPER.  There proved to be at least 12 cases of BASE-JUMPING too).  Maybe just any random letter goes to the front?  Hmm.

Horrendously slow!  After 24 hours had passed I had cold-solved only about a third of the clues and had only eight (yes 8!) out of 144 characters firmly in the grid.

So I solved some more, focusing where I could on the leading diagonal, given the Preamble’s comments.  After a long while I had a word beginning with D, second letter I,S or T (presumably I), with lots of options for each letter.  I re-filled the grid with only the early unambiguous letters following one pass through and with a hint at that Diagonal:


However, it did look as if it could well end in -ous.  So how many 12-letter words are there in Chambers that begin di- & end -ous (seven, I hear you cry in unison!).  Of these, only DISANALOGOUS, DISCOURTEOUS, DISINGENUOUS & DISPUTATIOUS look as if they could have even the slightest connection with the Title.  Looking at the other letters I had as options, and knowing that some were due to change, it still looked much more like DISCOURTEOUS than any of the others.  So if it was, then what letter changes would be needed?  12a’s R in the third letter-slot would need to change to an S (R->S) for example.  If it was a random letter moving to the front then I also had likely changes of J->U, E->R and P->E.  not many words fit that requirement – but JUMPERS does!  Only seven letters though.  The only 12-letter relevant word I could quickly come up with was QUEUE-JUMPERS (which, surprisingly, doesn’t appear to be in my BRB version – it’s in the ODE though), which certainly ties in with DISCOURTEOUS and with LINE in the Title.  [Returning to an earlier theme it also ties in with French ski lift ‘queues’ too ;-)]  Let’s assume those are true for now and see how it progresses.

Once I’d assumed that there was always one letter that pushed its way to the front of the queue/line/word, then fitting the words together could, by comparison with half an hour before at least, now have featured on #GBBO.  This still left the SW corner looking distinctly snow-covered, with a lot of white to be seen.

It had now got past 8 a.m. on the Monday and I still had seven unsolved.  Swallowing my pride, I sealed up the envelope which had been waiting optimistically with Hedge-sparrow’s excellent puzzle from the previous week in it and, instead of sending in two at once, felt duty bound to send in L4417 alone.  In Listener terms that pretty much defines for me what Sherlock Holmes would have called ‘a three pipe problem’- this, for me at least, is hard!

So, what was I initially missing?  In 18d’s
“With intimate embraces beginning to offend Muslim prince (8)”
it took me what seems like forever to double-check in the BRB that there wasn’t an obscure meaning of ‘with’.  And there it was – BOOM-IRON!  I was off again!  My lack of recall about Holst’s the Planets meant I spent ages identifying NEPTUNE as the Mystic in question in 22d.  And I spent too long in a rut automatically translating the word ‘online’ in 23d into ‘e…’.  At the time of writing I still have one not fully parsed at 26a (whose definition I love) but it must be right and it’ll hopefully come to me.  Can it really be Spanish-speaking on Peru’s Mount Veronica?  I may well be missing something!

12 noon on Monday – finished!

The puzzle featured some great Wordplay and Definitions – I’ll highlight just three:

“Styles of calypso, American soul being introduced (5)” – what a superb clue (SOCAS).

“Silly billy taking penny from deposit! (8)” – for DUM(p) PLING – again fabulous, I think!  I have seen ‘!’ as the Definition before (in that case the enumeration was (11,4) ) but not in wordplay as ‘pling’. As another aside, as a logical extension, I haven’t seen the clue:
   x3 !!! (7)
yet (for TRIPLING) but if/when you do, then perhaps you, like me, will have seen it here first.  I must remember to use it one day!  [See also blog’s title.]

“For one of rats you need 100 cats, say (8)”, another brilliant disguise of both definition and wordplay, just the sort of clue I enjoy, along with its clever TRA(i)TORS with C for I wordplay.  I’d double checked Macavity et al, and the Pied Piper, just in case there was a quote I’d forgotten, before I got this one.

And finally, the finale.  Just to keep the solver on his/her toes, Sabre has included two clashing cells on that leading diagonal.  In the first (the first letter of 22d), J or E need to turn into a U.  In the second (the fifth letter of 24d), J and (either Q or U) need to turn into a U.  The last line of the Preamble reads ‘must be replaced by a letter that immediately follows it…’ so, even though the second needs to be a U by the end, it gets there by firstly being a Q. This means the first letter of 24d has to be a U.  And if that doesn’t catch at least one poor soul out – who has relaxed after seemingly getting over all the difficult hurdles only to trip on the final straight – then frankly I’d be amazed.  And the whole of the assumed QUEUE-JUMPERS from earlier (including Q->U and E->U) is now justified.

Great puzzle, but definitely not for the faint-hearted: I’m now off to watch Only Connect for a bit of light relief.  Loved it: thanks Sabre!!


Tim / Encota

P.S. If you’d like to try one of my 15×15 cryptics, I had another published today (at the time of writing) on Big Dave’s Rookie Corner.  All feedback on that welcomed.

Rookie Corner – 130

PPS Two days in, when still not complete and with the Listener puzzle buzzing around my head,  I needed some light relief so thought I might have a go at DIY Clue Of the Week.  This week’s word just happened to be SWORDFISH.  I got so close to sending:
“‘Sabre meets tautog’ perhaps summarises this jaw-breaking beast (9)”.
Whether this is best as a clue for SWORDFISH, or should have been enumerated as (9, three words) for this puzzle ‘OUT OF LINE’, I’ll let you the reader decide.

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Listener No 4418: Out of Line by Sabre

Posted by Listen With Others on 21 October 2016

When I sent my solution to Wan’s recent puzzle, I included a note to JEG that I was going on holiday the following Tuesday and, if the next puzzle was by say Sabre or Schadenfreude, I might overrun the deadline. As it turns out, Hedge-sparrow came to my rescue. However, it was a close call… Sabre was waiting for me on my return from Portugal. This was almost exactly a year after his last puzzle with its Tristram Shandy theme.

listener-4418Here, every answer needed a thematic modification before entry. The endgame would need the replacement of some letters that followed them in a theme word which needed to be discovered. My first guess for the modifications was that a letter needed adding, removing or replacing.

As I made my first pass through the clues, I was beginning to think that Sabre was being fairly lenient with us. 1ac CORKED and 6ac HOSIER came fairly quickly, and the obvious anagram at 11ac INTERNISTS encouraged me to continue with the acrosses rather than switch to the downs. Sadly, only another half dozen were forthcoming, but they included ULTRONEOUS and OBJETS D’ARTS, so I felt I was on a roll.

The downs were woeful, and just four were capable of helping me, with only UTTERMOST being of any significant length.

I slowly teased out a few more answers, including the fine &lit at 14ac Styles of calypso, American soul being introduced (5) for SOCAS. Even so, after about two hours the grid was looking a bit sporadic and my only guess for the thematic modification was jumbling. But a whole gridful of them?! With a lot of across answers in the top left, I had a hunch that 4dn For one of rats you need 100 cats, say (8) would help me suss the theme. I could see what the wordplay was trying to tell me, but I couldn’t get it. I decided to put the puzzle to one side for 24 hours.

The following day, and I got TRACTORS almost at once… another great clue (TRAITORS with C for the I). I also finally got 1dn Services black Lada with no momentum when turning in it (6) where I could see that B + LADA – L needed to be reversed, but I thought just ‘momentum’ for L was a bit inaccurate. And indeed it was; how could I think that Sabre would be so sloppy. L was supplied by ‘momentum when turning’ and the BADA didn’t need a reversal but was just in IT to give IBADAT.

All this just made things more confusing, and it was time to take stock. It seemed that every letter in IDABAT clashed with its crossing entries, but that just seemed too extreme, even for a Listener. Even for a Listener by Sabre! A bit of doodling, and finally it became clear. I managed to see that one letter could move to the front with the remainder just being entered in order. In a way they were jumbled, but in a very simple way.

I was on the home straight, except that those of you who come here regularly will know that I’ve said that before, only to be faced with a home straight on a steep hill.

And so it was. A few more hours down the line, and the grid was finally complete. However there were a lot of clues that still needed justifying. I had noticed early on that Sabre had a tendency to put things back to front! For example, 3dn Number without jacket, more than in Perth (3) had me stumped for far longer than I think it should have. I initially guessed it was PIU, being OPIUM missing its first and last letters. Except that would have been ‘in Rome’ not Perth, and ‘more’ rather than ‘more than’. It turned out to be the ‘more’ that was without jacket — N + [M]OR[E] with the definition being ‘than in Perth’.

Some others that had me scratching my head:

26ac RESOLE Veronica’s possible win after reserve is put to last once more? (6)
OLE (veronica being a movement in bullfighting) after RES (reserve)
I’m still not sure how ‘possible win’ leads to OLE
28ac TRAMPER Take time off work, following lead of Tongariro trekker (7)
R (take) + TAMPER (work) – T (time) after T (lead of Tongariro)
31ac FEME Money due keeps woman in court (4)
FEE (due, noun) keeping M (money); another clue with the wordplay back to front!

And finally, the two really devious clues:

18dn BOOM-IRON With intimate embraces beginning to offend Muslim prince (8)
BOON (intimate) around O (start of Offend) MIR (Muslim prince)
WITH is the definition — see Chambers!
20dn DUMPLING Silly billy taking penny from deposit! (8)
DUMP (deposit) – P (penny) + PLING (exclamation mark, yes the one at the end)
now I’ve worked in IT all my life, and I’ve never used the word pling before, yet C says its (comput sl).
And the one that made me laugh out loud: 2dn Notedly at certain intervals, priest for example drops goon on his head (6) for ECCLESIASTIC – ECCLES!

The final bit of work was to identify the theme word. If a letter now on the NW–SE diagonal also appeared in the theme word, it was replaced by the letter after it. So far that diagonal read DIRCO J/E ETPO J/Q R. The clue here was the Q which obviously had to be replaced by U, which meant that the J did as well. Unless there were two Js in the word, the J/E became U as well. So a word with JU, QU and UE in it. As I doodled those three pairings, QUEUE seemed a likely outcome and I didn’t need to cheat to see that JUMPING would follow it. Except that would mess up the I on the diagonal, so it had to be JUMPERS.

listener-4418-my-entryDISCOURTEOUS was the word that described QUEUE-JUMPERS. In my view that’s far too polite a word for them. A quick check of the whole grid followed, and I made sure that I had the correct letter placed in the unchecked square of 24dn SACQUE.

And so another Sabre marathon came to an end. Thanks to him for a tough challenge. It was a simple idea, but perfectly implemented.

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Listener No 4417, HMS Arcady: A Setter’s Blog by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Listen With Others on 16 October 2016

Like many people, I learned and enjoyed John Masefield’s poem Cargoes at school (it doesn’t seem to be taught much these days, so perhaps you need to be of a certain age to be familiar with it). I generally set puzzles on subjects which are of personal interest, and when I was considering ideas for a new puzzle a few years ago, this poem came to mind.

My original attempts to set a puzzle with Cargoes as the theme were nothing like the final result: I remember playing with a grid which had the phrase “smoke stack” entered vertically and the word “salt” going around it in some fashion – I think at first I’d decided to set a puzzle based just on the third verse of the poem – but none of these early attempts were at all satisfactory. At some point, I had the idea of using the various bits of cargo as thematic entries in the grid, and it was as I began considering these more carefully that I noticed that the letter lengths of the various bits of cargo mentioned in verse 2 exactly matched those of the cargo mentioned in verse 3 (ignoring the adjectives “gold” and “cheap” attached to the final bits of cargo in each case). I thought this was quite a coincidence, and it immediately led to the idea of somehow pairing the respective cargoes from verses 2 and 3 symmetrically in the grid, with those from verse 1 being derived in some manner from the clues to make the full set.

I began to play about with this idea, placing the cargoes in different positions in the grid to see how the thing looked. What I certainly never expected was that it would be possible to form symmetrical, interlocking groups of the respective cargoes, but I remember one day experimenting with such a pattern, and being absolutely amazed when it worked. Even more remarkably, there was also an ideal symmetrical position for the respective vessels – “galleon” and “coaster” – to fit in amongst their cargoes. I still think that it is an amazing coincidence that the thematic terms in the second and third verses of the poem can form a symmetrical, interlocking pattern in the way that they do (and still enable the rest of the crossword to be completed with real words, albeit with a somewhat inelegant bar pattern).

With the thematic items in place, I managed to complete the rest of the grid in a way which enabled the poet and poem to be identified from additional letters included in each of the non-thematic across clues. I decided to include the items of cargo from verse 1 as letter mixtures in six of the down clues (I quite enjoy this type of clue myself, though I’m aware that they’re not everyone’s favourite). Finally, the remaining ship could be identified by solvers and written below the grid (with potential confusion over the spelling – “quinquereme” in Chambers, but “quinquireme” as used by Masefield – resolved by specifying the Chambers spelling).

I think HMS Arcady was generally enjoyed by solvers, but there were a few points which (justifiably, I think) attracted some criticism. One was the fact that the wordplay of 23 dn was not justified by Chambers. This is quite true, and was an error on my part: when the error was pointed out, I thought it might have been because I’d used an older edition of Chambers when compiling HMS Arcady, but I’ve checked back and that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I think I simply made a mistake. Another issue raised was the fact that, once the theme and therefore the thematic entries had been identified, filling the rest of the grid was very straightforward. Again, this is true, and I was aware beforehand that this would be the case, but I was so pleased with the symmetrical nature of the grid, with all the thematic items in place, that I didn’t want to change it (sorry!).

The main point of contention, however, was the inclusion of the wordplay-only clues for the thematic entries, which several solvers indicated were not necessary for solving the puzzle. HMS Arcady was compiled a few years ago, and I felt at that time that there was a desire amongst solvers – perhaps more than there is now – to be able to solve puzzles completely using only Chambers, their own general knowledge, and the information contained within the puzzle, without having to resort to the internet or even a trip to the local library. Since there were likely to be solvers who didn’t know Cargoes, or at least not well enough to be able to list all the items of cargo, I felt that the inclusion of thematic clues (which would at least enable confirmation of thematic entries, even if the clues were difficult to solve “cold”) might be necessary.

Later, however, when HMS Arcady came up for publishing, I’d changed my mind, and actually suggested to the Editors that the thematic clues could be removed. Quite understandably, they were reluctant to do this at such a late stage (they had already vetted the puzzle), so the thematic clues remained. Although a number of solvers found this a bit of an irritant, I still hope there may be some who did find them useful for confirming the thematic entries.

One final point of interest about HMS Arcady, which I don’t think anyone noticed (not surprisingly, as it’s a bit obscure), is the title. The title “HMS Arcady” is intended to suggest the “ship” theme of the puzzle, particularly the quinquereme and the Hellenistic era evoked in the first verse of Cargoes. But “HMS Arcady” is also an anagram of “March days”, as used in the phrase “mad March days” in the third verse of the poem.

As ever, I would like to express my thanks to the Editors for their help and encouragement in getting HMS Arcady ready for publication, and also to John Green for the amazing job he does in checking Listener entries, compiling statistics, and not least passing on to setters comments he has received from solvers. These are always welcome, either as sources of encouragement, or as the means by which errors and flaws can be identified and (hopefully!) avoided in future Listener submissions.


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Hardy’s Cam?

Posted by Encota on 14 October 2016

So Shirley and Dave will have explained the real business – but what else might we have hiding in this content-packed puzzle entitled ‘HMS Arcady by Hedge-sparrow’?  With the eighteen thematic entries spread in groups of six across the three ships this grid and its clues pack in a serious amount of thematic info.

Perhaps the anagram of ‘HMS Arcady by Hedge-sparrow’ is placed there secretly to start the discussion: ‘Why Chambers pay Roger’s dad’?  Or perhaps not (only kidding!) – it won’t be true and it makes no sense…

Or perhaps the Trinity mathematician G.H. Hardy has famously re-enacted ‘Cargoes’ on the river behind the College, including a scale-model quinquereme with its five banks of oars glistening in the morning sunlight and Nineveh nestled by the Wren library?  No, “Hardy’s Cam” doesn’t seem the most likely of anagrams of ‘HMS Arcady’.

[(c) David Gruar: Wren Library.  Walter Battiss: Quinquereme]

Ah, how about the poem’s third stanza:

“Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,…”

…so it’s ‘March days’ gone mad.  And with a ship and an Arcadia feel to it too – pretty neat.


[(c) Rachel Markwick.  What a clever stamp collage – worth Googling for more]

Seeing those lines above gets me wondering if Hedge-sparrow also considered ‘dirty’ as a potential alternative anagram indicator?  If ‘British coaster’ was now the anagram fodder then perhaps ‘His Basic Retort’ might have described Masefield’s third verse after the opulence of the first two?  There must be better.

Returning to quinqueremes, many of you will know that Chambers features bi-remes, tri-remes and quadri-remes as well but quinque- is as far as it goes.  It also seems to be confident in its definitions about the numbers of banks of oars in most of them but seems to lose its nerve slightly with quadriremes – have a look for yourself and see if you agree.  [‘Perhaps with it being the only non-prime amongst them then there are likely to be more design options’, no doubt you are thinking…]

There were at least a couple of words where I paused this week to double-check I had the appropriate definition that matched the wordplay – 5d’s SPIAL vs SPYAL and 23d’s AMEER vs EMEER.  Easy to check but especially 5d with its unchecked middle letter looks like a possible cell where one might slip up.

Enough of my nonsense.  Superbly constructed grid and a really enjoyable puzzle overall – thanks Hedge-sparrow!

Tim / Encota

P.S. I also came up with the alternative nautical Title: “Salty jib and binnacle?” which might have applied to the galleon at least, based on an anagram of all 58 unchecked letters less “CARGOES”, JOHN MASEFIELD OM, POET LAUREATE.  Good grief!

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