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!