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Identity Crisis by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 October 2015

Sabre TSThere have been mutterings on the ‘boards not to be mentioned’ that Listener crosswords were becoming too easy. I added a Numpty comment to one of them; “Be careful what you wish for; there is probably a Sabre in store or another Klein Bottle!” Prophetic words. We downloaded Sabre’s Identity Crisis and looked for our chessmen so that we could make a few realistic knights’ moves. But no, he did promise that the next one would be something different – and here it was.

Of course, eight solving hours later (yes, it beat my four-day record on the Mash Klein bottle!) I know that even with his theme, Tristram Shandy, Sabre qualifies for Listener Oenophile Elite membership, but I did, nevertheless, scan his clues for the usual sprinkling of alcohol.

What did I find? A gentle anagram including tea. ‘Odd notion, tea shifting moths (12) ODD NOTION TEA* giving NOTODONTIDAE. Then a smile as we find ourselves starring in a clue about PUNISHMENT (well, with Sabre, we knew we were in for that!) ‘Numpties finish in rush, and informally revised correction (10)’ (NUMPTIES [rus]H + ‘N*) (Finish in rush? You must be joking – it was 2 a.m. when I finished!).

Next we find ‘Old bar: left over bottles disappear in the end (6)’ (SPARE ‘bottling’ [disappea]R giving SPARRE) So now Sabre is drinking up the dregs. ‘Struggle makes Brit a barman (6)’ gave us EFFORT and we finished with ‘Intoxicant leads to teen having crisis (3)’. This was clearly the abbreviation that was mentioned in the preamble  giving us THC.

We knew that we were aiming at a 12X12 grid with 180-degree symmetry and we soon had most of the long solutions, as these clues were on the generous side for Sabre, but immense problems loomed. It became clear that WITHSTANDING, for example, could not begin in the same column as UNFATHOMABLE and NOTODONTIDAE, as its initial coordinate was N and they were obviously going to begin in the column we had already identified as A because of all the solutions that had to begin there.

It was thus clear that WITHSTANDING was to be shortened in some way, like, for example, QUARRYMASTER, which had, somehow, to fit in the same column, we assumed, as KAIM. Numpty head-scratching ensued.

We had started with a 13×13 grid but, as the six-letter coordinates revealed themselves (we eventually had a putative AS SURE/ AND WHO/, SAID HE/, AND YOU and were able to guess at ARE YOU and AS I AM I) we had to revert to a 12×12 grid so that the bars we entered prompted us about the places where our clashes would appear.

At this stage, the quotation sounded very much like a creation of Lewis Carroll, or of Edward Lear but it was not to be. It was only after a careful checking of the coordinates that I had enough clashing information to look up an anagram of (qua)RRYMAS(ter) and (w)ITHSTAND(ing) and with a hoot of joy was given TRISTRAM SHANDY by TEA.

Of course the others followed: (stor)MWINDOW and ADWA(re) giving WIDOW WADMAN; (nai)LROD and SP(arre) giving DR SLOP; (ha)YRICK and (ror)O producing YORICK; (dou)BLY and CENTO(ist) creating UNCLE TOBY and ROOTL(ike) and CRAMPIR(on) finally producing CORPORAL TRIM.

Of course, Google gave me the full quotation. This novel was the favourite work of my International School Head of Department and part of our curriculum but it is a dense, if hilarious, work and these words come in Chapter 14. “As sure as I am I and you are you. And who are you, said he. Don’t puzzle me, said I!”

There it was; ‘DONT PUZZLE ME SAID I’ and it was inserted symmetrically at the foot of the grid creating new words, RASPS, IDANTS, TED and SPINOZA. Oh but this was impressive setting. Real words at the end of a puzzle always produce a murmur of approval.

Two thing were left to do. We highlighted the cell that had contained the TRISTRAM SHANDY clash and checked with Chambers that we were inserting the letters of STERNE in cells where they made real words (STORE/ERES, QUARTER/WRING, NAIN/NARRE, TIKE/TON and HAE/RORE.

What a compilation. Many thanks to Sabre.

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