Listen With Others

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Wiggles by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 Jun 2018


My computer had just given me the dreaded blue screen of death for the third time in 24 hours so wasn’t going to be much help with the Listener and ‘Yes’ I do need it to work out Caesar cyphers, even, and complex anagrams. However, we pressed a few Esc and F11 keys and it limped into life and downloaded …. Sabre! ‘Wiggles’? Is that going to be bees in a hive wiggling their tails to guide us to the honey? It is certainly a beautiful grid (like Kea’s delightful chrysanthemum last year). I printed four copies to be sure (and we needed them!) and while the other Numpty gleefully slotted in the first solutions, did a quick check of Sabre’s right to a place at the Listener bar if ever he manages to make it across the Atlantic for the big dinner.

Of course he earned it with ‘A white rum each, if Bill’s about (13)’ It wasn’t rum at all, it turned out to be an anagram of LIEBFRAUMILCH – but no complaints. Cheers, Sabre!

The early clues went in quickly, with Sabre’s usual impeccable cluing and TRASH, PECAN, PRANG, AERIE, SHADE were solved in clue order but it was at once evident that we were not going to be able to enter anything in the grid until we had done an almost 100% cold solve. RUMPS (with a lovely nudge at a president who is launching a trade war today) ‘President’s denied front seats (5)’, knocking the front off TRUMPS to give us bums – (sorry for the indelicacy), DEFER, NUGAE, RICER, AGATE, BARRE, METIF, XHOSA, RETCH, BOILS, STAGE, APISH and CLEAN followed, but there were yawning gaps that had us worried.

We focused on the wiggles and were delighted when almost all of them appeared at once – though, even when we solved SNAKE FENCE and TAIPAN no penny dropped or wiggled. I had never encountered SPREAGHS but the anagram was generous and we groaned when finally we understood that ‘Search vile tent’ was telling us to FERRET BAD GER – that earns my ‘thumbs down rubbish clue of the week’ accolade. Of course, all those wiggles did was guide us in our ultimate grid fill, when there was ambiguity, so that we had the more or less accurate set of letters in the unclued octagons and squares. I have coloured their snaky tracks in my grid above. What a relief it was when they finally slotted into place.

Natrix natrix

It was the NATR?X ????IX that after about 8 hours of solving finally swam into view. (Yes, mine swim: they inhabit the ponds in the garden every summer, devour the newts and tadpoles and swim most beautifully). So the theme was evident: GRASS SNAKE. However, even with the help NATRIX NATRIX gave, there were still gaps and ambiguities in the grid and we had to find those three words CAE?A???I?? PAIRS to resolve them.

Oh no! It couldn’t be – this was pure Sabre: CAESAR SHIFT PAIRS. So that was the meaning of ‘the nature of the match is spelt out, (spelt?) in order, in the central cells of the 16 Squares (three words)’ No problem performing a Caesar shift when it is a one-letter move and ADDER quickly became BEEFS but there were a few EFS and BEEFS about the rest. COBRA was clearly lurking down at the bottom of the pond but it took my sick computer to tell me that he paired up with FREUD.

I expected two more snakes but it was not to be! TERRA and KERNE were the two words that those remaining squares suggested and we had to do a 13-place Caesar shift to produce GREEN, which, of course, is grass, and almost the entire alphabet, 22 moves, to produce our final grass GANJA, (giving us two grasses and two snakes) hmmm! Well, I suppose we can turn a blind eye to the ‘Pouches containing drug, heroin from Miami’, the ‘Bantu term for sex, also broad sex appeal’ – X + HO + SA (that word HO for ‘broad’ gets a thumbs down in some of the broadsheets!) and the ‘Narcotic in can … It really was a fabulous compilation. Many thanks to Sabre.



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