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Jumping to Conclusions by Sabre (Almost a ‘fail blog’!)

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 June 2011

We enjoyed Sabre’s Pangrams a year or so ago but know of his reputation for setting really difficult puzzles, so it was with some trepidation that we started solving this one. Clues fell into place fairly quickly – around the edge of that 6 X 6 dotted square and we were soon lulled into false security, as a diagonal saying KNIGHT ERRANT seemed to be appearing. I blandly slotted in the other letters and we smiled smugly.

We argued pointlessly about what, exactly, a knight’s move meant. Were the letters going to all be slotted in moving two forward then one to the side or in the other L shape, or was it just the total move that we had to make with our letter landing four squares further on? Of course, the mathematical numpty was right and it was the more difficult option.

We had almost all of the surrounding clues in place (but sadly not ‘In short supply on the fourth of July’ (10). It later turned out to be what seems to me to be a rather obscure &Lit. clue with SHORT* on the fourth letter of JulY = HOSTRY, a Spenserian word for lodging – ouch!)

The Numpty method, a grid with little holes

There were a few more ‘Ouches’ to come with those words in the centre area. Sabre obviously knew what he was doing. Even the title, ‘Jumping to Conclusions‘ didn’t warn me soon enough, not to waste a couple of hours attempting to fit words round KNIGHT ERRANT. We still had no solution for what later turned out to be NIRLY, NUCHAE, MAN-MILLINER, IXTLE and RACINOS, but it seemed that the only way to proceed was to cut little squares in potential knight positions and to use that grid to trace his moves.

I understand that some solvers are able to use a spread sheet to trace such moves but I wish I knew how. Mine was more a trial and error system (and I calculate that I took between 18 and 20 hours on this. Friends think this is an obsession – I sadly concede that they must be right!)

Disaster Number One

I leapt out of bed early on Saturday with the sudden thought that maybe the Knight had to be ‘errant’ too, once he hit the centre square. That provoked another few hours of useless flailing.

A helpful nudge that I should be looking at an anagram in the clue ‘This gets woven into textile’ (5) produced IXTLE, and that X could go in only one slot, which meant my Knight couldn’t go into the centre space at all. I shelved that problem and continued Mark 1 which worked right up to the two last words – SOUTHERNWOOD and REWORDED wouldn’t fit!

Undaunted, I struggled for a few more hours and kept better track of the moves. We had worked out MAN-MILLINER (‘Feather-pate Frenchman, reprehensible one in style’ M + ILL in MANNER) and NUCHAE by now, and thus had a few more pointers.

Double disaster. SURREYN'D won't fit

It seemed the end was in sight and I was happily gloating until the very last word, SURREYND, stolidly refused to make Knight moves. That was it! I decided to abandon the Listener crossword forever and GET A LIFE!

The only friend who had already completed this fearsome crossword advised me to perhaps give it a rest (I think he meant ‘Throw in the towel’)  Talk about a red rag to a bull!

The third and fourth attempts were not so difficult, as those words that wandered around the sides of the dotted square were fixed (JANGLE, GREGOS, DINTED, CHAYA, CAPAS, ONCERS) as were

Success after just 20 hours!

IXTLE and OPTER. Effort No 3 produced the same problem with the Y of SURREYND and it was growing dark by the time that Y had found a place. Inspired by my howls of joy, Numpty No 2 emerged from the kitchen where he had decided to produce a meal since clearly none was appearing.

We double-checked, hardly believing that this had worked! (And with his BORD[er]EAUX Sabre takes his place among the Listener oenophiles! We raise our glass to him!)

BUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO THAT KNIGHT ERRANT? Oh Sabre, what astounding double bluff. Indeed I had wasted some of my twenty hours by being gullible. Numpty No 2 almost immediately spotted GAWAIN and MODRED fencing in direct lines in the centre of the lists – no Knight’s moves for them.

We had completed this without knowing the solution to ‘Reno’s first casino in resort: they allow varied bets’ (7) With a putative RA????S, we were suddenly made aware of our stupidity. It was, of course, an anagram of CASINO + R (RACINOS). We learned yet another new word.

With so much difficulty and complexity, we are almost certain to have made a mistake somewhere in this but does it matter? It was a moral victory for us just to complete it – far more difficult than those hated numericals. However, if the trend of becoming more and more difficult week by week continues, the numpties really will have to throw in that towel.

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2 Responses to “Jumping to Conclusions by Sabre (Almost a ‘fail blog’!)”

  1. erwinch said

    Gosh! I am glad that I never noticed KNI … … ANT on the main diagonal – it would have severely added to my frustration.

    Well done for completing it, correct or not, I doubt that the numpties will see a harder one this decade.

  2. gerrym said

    For HOSTRY, in is an obsolete spelling for inn.

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