Listen With Others

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Listener No 4460: Four and a Half… by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 Aug 2017

One of the advantages of looking after Listen With Others is that you get to see setter’s blogs before pretty much anyone else. This will possibly include background into how the idea came about, how difficult it was to set and what input the editors had to the preamble and/or some of the clues.

One of the disadvantages of running Listen With Others is that you get to read something in a setter’s blog that makes you discover sooner than otherwise that you’d buggered the whole thing up! Depression sets in, and you realise that another all-correct year has slid down the plug-hole.

To start with, Sabre’s clues are tricky enough. When it comes to the endgame, they can be fiendish. Last year’s had Tristram Shandy as its theme and the “As sure as I am I — and you are you” quotation. This week, we had to solve the puzzle, find a riddle in literature, solve the riddle, and then do something appropriate… like throttle Sabre!

In fact, the clashing technique, which I identified after only a few clues, helped with getting a lot of the grid filled. They were always two letters apart in the alphabet.

The riddle began The square root of half a number of bees… was from a long work by Longfellow. Including the words the, of and a as obvious extra words certainly needed a craftsman’s touch. 11ac in particular Disease in parts of [the] garden, tips of each turnip affected (12) took me ages to unravel — IN in (OF GARDEN ET)*. The riddle continued “…and also eight-ninths of the whole, alighted on the jasmines, and a female bee buzzed responsive to the hum of the male inclosed at night in a water-lily.

The riddle itself was easy to unravel, taking me only four attempts (the square root of 81/4 is not 9/4). Bizarrely one of the solutions I came up with was 4½, but surely Sabre wouldn’t be so helpful with the title. Eventually 72 won through.

I next tried to find the ambiguous entry, and luckily got there fairly quickly. 3dn Spot bachelor, look, one of two in bathtub (4).was either BLOT or BLOB. I had opted for BLOT.

It took me about half an hour to suss out what was required with the clashes. It wasn’t the letter between the two letters, but just the letter B, of which there were already a fair few in the grid. A quick tot up of the number of that I had gave me 70 because, in the euphoria of solving a couple of clues, I had forgotten to pencil in a clashing letter or two.

Checking the grid thoroughly, I needed BLOB at 3dn to make 72!! I remember thinking at the time “Wouldn’t it have been more cunning for BLOT to be required?” Apparently, it would have been… and was. I haven’t checked my grid to find where I went wrong, but I have read Sabre’s setter’s blog. Surely I hadn’t miscounted the number of Bs. I must have done that a fair few times as it was.

Oh well, c’est la guerre. It doesn’t stop me being full of admiration of Sabre’s puzzle. An excellent riddle, and so well implemented. Many thanks.

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