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Sabre Making Trouble Again!

Posted by shirleycurran on 1 November 2013

Sabre Coordinates 001Oho! What have we here? We’ve been expecting this (or should I say ‘dreading’?) I believe Sabre promised almost 50% of solvers who went wrong with his last merry knights’ moves that his next one would not treat us to more of the same but can we trust the editors not to have slipped in another of his extremely difficult shifty knight things?

A short preamble: that’s promising! Last time we had coordinates, it took us a while to realize what was going on. This time, it is spelled out, and we learn, at once, that clashing letters are going to establish what the grid coordinates are for each cell with clashes. However, we have clues in alphabetical order according to word-length. That is going to lead to rather a lot of cold-solving before we begin to fill our grid – or so it seems.

I scan the surface readings to see whether Sabre is still a member of the Listener Setters’ Tipsy Gang and find that he is actually quietly leaving the pub (Brawlers on the way out, quietly leaving pub, hole torn in pants (13) – TROUBLE-HOUSES [p]UB + HOLE* in TROUSES) but there are fish, peas, game, potatoes and ‘fifty pounds drop in diet’ so I don’t need to worry too much about Sabre.

He gives us two lovely anagrams, ‘One privileged, strangely unassertive (13)’ (PIGEON-LIVERED) and ‘Informal yoga pose – Saul can make it with a bit of effort (13)’ (GO AS YOU PLEASE) and the fourth 13-letter clue yields easily; ‘Flies helicopters, carrying ambassador from London to Brussels, eg? (13)’ (CHOPPERS round HES + SE – what a lovely one!). Wonderful – we have the four longest clues. As soon as we have SCOUTHER and AIRBEDS,  I tentatively begin a grid-fill and luckily hit on the right orientation for those four clues.

We take the risk of fitting every new solution that we work out into this grid and it is enormously helpful. Lovely words like BUFF-JERKIN,  KORKIR and NIRLY are produced by Chambers. However, there is lots of typically Sabrian deceptive cluing here. STRAWS is spelled out by ‘Coke deliverers often lift old black sack in the van (6)’ (SWART + S[acks] rev.) but it was only moments ago that I realized that Coke is sucked up through straws. That has to be my favourite clue.

With an almost full grid, we are struggling. It is those three-letter clues that give us the most trouble but we have understood how the coordinates system works. All those Cs that have appeared in the first column are going to put that as the column coordinate, so we have T,R,O,U (given to us by CROUTE and TAPISTS) as the row coordinates. In fact, with a smile, we see that Sabre is TROUBLE MAKING again (down the left hand indexing column – Sabre is clearly claiming his position as the Listener Enfant Terrible! No discussion – he walks away with the gold medal for me!)

Sabre 001The grid was almost full at dinner time, yet I was struggling until almost midnight solving the last few words (OWL, XIS, SOU, UREDO) and, stupidly, I admit, scouring the grid for my missing column coordinate. I have CHVSWXDJZFP?Y along the top indexing row but can I find Q in the grid? No amount of shuffling can put a q in HERDERS, TOUCHY, SCOUTHER, THERE etc.

Put it down to lateness of the hour or sheer numptiness. This was of course Sabre’s final shifty lunge (‘a hit, a palpable hit!’) If you have placed 25 letters, and have a gap, there isn’t any doubt what will fill it is there? No need for a brain to see that, or for proof within the grid.

What an ungracious blog for a truly spectacular and undeniably challenging piece of grid construction and for the usual entertaining and scintillating clues. (But I’m still smarting about KOHb and will probably go to my grave muttering about it!) so many, many thanks, Sabre for a great solve.

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