Listener 4326: Coincidence by Sabre
Posted by Jaguar on 16 January 2015
OK, so, to resolve the dilemma of what went in the middle column I’ve cheated and waited until after the solution was posted to find out what was accepted (in the end, apparently anything!). I’ve not checked my various replacements, though… anyway, I suppose I should go back to the beginning.
At the end of a long year of solving (and sometime setting) it’s finally the last 2014 edition of the Listener. Of course, those of us who made it to 51/51 might be looking forward to a nice easy one to keep that all-correct chain going. And naturally the editors were only too happy to oblige. So they gave us a Sabre. Hmm… So far I’ve attempted two of his Listeners and correctly solved neither of them. The knight’s moves one was too tough for me (and my final solution had KOHB not KOHb anyway), and apparently one silly typo cost me his somewhat easier 2013 effort, so I can’t say I was looking forward to this one either.
At least there wasn’t anything gimmicky in the clues, and actually they’re not too hard a set (at least, not for Sabre). The massive amounts of clashes proved a pain, but gradually the answers came to me and I was after a few hours staring at a full-ish grid. That middle column looked like it would have something to do with MINUTE HAND, with something looking vaguely like HOUR HAND running in the same cells, so at least we also have the theme sorted — times on the clock when the hands coincide. Which two times, though?
And so began a long, painful process of sorting through the various options, teasing out a three here and an eight there, and this entire exercise probably took as long as the clue-solving before I was staring at a pair of notably precise times (down to elevenths of a minute, even!). Some devious trickery included hiding one or two of those letter swaps in unchecked cells, and on occasion you’d have to find a third letter to resolve a clash of two different letters. My goodness, this was difficult! The “NOON” highlighting helped things on the way a bit…
But, eventually, I was there, leaving only the middle column to sort out. That’s not too bad, just put two letters per cell for the first eight cells, and there are the two hands running side-by-side. Sorted.
But then, suddenly, drama! Don’t the two hands lie on top of each other rather than alongside? Indeed, the hour hand is underneath and might not be visible at all! All of which leaves three options to pick from, two of which are particularly convincing, one less so, and god knows which we should choose… thankfully, for me at least, this was only the difference between 50/52 at best and 49/52. I plumped for superposing the two letters, hoping to goodness that a note justifying it would count in my favour.
Luckily for us all, the editors were generous. I expect Sabre is shaking his head, sadly, that the solution he intended wasn’t regarded as unambiguous after all (I expect he preferred just MINUTE HAND in the middle column, since just because a letter was changed in PREACH (U/N)P before entry doesn’t mean you then still have to enter all the letters; my counterargument to that was that the hour hand is rarely perfectly hidden, as it’s usually fatter than the minute hand.)
At any rate, I breathed a sigh of relief that my choice was accepted. Barring the inevitable typo, of course. And so, 2014 comes to an end and, having had a couple of hiccups, I’ll have to try again next year. Roll on 2015…