Listen With Others

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L4617 ‘Selfie’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 14 August 2020

Wow!!!   Thank you Sabre! See the report from other bloggers on more details of the puzzle itself. I’ll focus on a few of the clues and a mention of Excel as a helper.

My rather embarrassingly slow timetable for getting this finished summarises as follows:

–          Fri 4pm                                     Start

–          Sat 12 noon                               Only 30/50 solved + ‘extra words’ found

–          Sat 11pm                                  Only 38/50 solved

–          Sun 5pm                                    Nudged up to 42/50

–          Sun 10pm                                  Now 46/50

–          Mon 9.30am                             Full grid & messages

–          Mon 8pm                                  Grid updated with Goya columns

–          Mon 9.30pm                             Final grid ready to send!

Perhaps twice as long as any other in 2020.  OK, there was some ‘real life’ dovetailed with the above but bloomin’ ‘eck, that’s the toughest of the year by far for me!  I loved it!

The enumerations were, if you recall, always one out, so an indication of (6) meant that the answer had either 5 or 7 letters but you didn’t know which! As a slight aside, I always find not knowing the length of an answer slows me down considerably.

It took me two days(!) to derive any sense from what turned out to be ‘of root cylinder’ in 30a’s:
Only one (centimetre) length in crack of root cylinder (6)

Here the word in brackets (centimetre) was to be deleted before solving, then (A+L) fitted into STAR (‘crack’) to form STELAR, of a STELE, the cylindrical form a of a plant’s root.

Other ones I struggled with included:

27a Thoroughly beat (O’Flaherty’s) drunk (5)
which I eventually spotted was a triple definition of FULL.

38a (Britons) backward in language (6)
where I missed the now seemingly obvious definition of backward as HIND to form a simple charade HIND + I’ = HINDI. The clues – such as this – where one knew by this stage that a word beginning with B had to be deleted but not whether it was BRITONS or BACKWARD that had to go, really added to the challenge.

36d Picnic rolling (game) always making good day (5)
looked very likely to be DODDLE for ages (in the sense of easy, a picnic) but I couldn’t see why for a long time. It was only when all other entries made it certain to be DODDLE that I spotted it was GOGGLE (‘rolling’) with all Gs changed to Ds: sneaky! And I’d never thought of goggle-eyed as having that exact meaning but BRB is there to prop me up!

Once the grid was complete, two (connected) hidden instructions told us to ‘replace two columns in code add to them this puzzle’s heading’. Taking part recently in the recent fabulous Edric’s puzzle hunt had honed my Excel skills a little, so it was relatively straightforward to combine the CODE, CHAR and MOD functions. I know to many reading that’ll all be obvious! However, if not, then experiment with functions like =CODE(A1)-64 to find the ‘A=1 etc’ value of a character, =CHAR(A2+64) for the reverse, and something a bit like =MOD(B1,26) to make 1 and 27 the same, 2 and 28 the same etc. Where A1, A2, B1 is the cell that contains the value that you want to convert. Adding one set of letters (e.g SELFIEBYSABRE) to any other thus becomes simple to automate.

Oh, and I wonder how many people will have spotted the impact of converting all letters in the grid into pixels?*

Thanks again to Sabre!  Masterful!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

  • Well, made you wonder, for just a microsecond !? And yes, I did try it whilst solving, ‘just in case’!

One Response to “L4617 ‘Selfie’ by Sabre”

  1. Steve Tregidgo said

    This seems like an appropriate place to make my own comments as you’ve mentioned Excel. First though, the solving time: I was well into the following weekend before I had this one completed, so your timetable was not the slowest. Each day’s progress was agonising, punctuated every few days by semi-milestones (does the final phrase end in “ING –D”? Two days later: is it HEARING AID? And so on).

    I struggled for a long time on the endgame for no good reason. It was clear what needed to be done, and instead of doing it by hand I went clever and wrote a Python script. I must have messed up the indexes, being off by one (as is common in these things!) and not getting anything readable. Annoyingly I’d been thinking about it in my head and could see it started “GOY”, and didn’t spot that my script was producing “FNX”! Eventually I made the correction and got through it, but it goes to show that the effort-saving devices we use don’t always help.

    My final stumble came after I’d sealed the envelope for posting, and was emailing my friend to rave about the endgame. I looked up the painting title again to be accurate in my email, and realised I’d entered “COMBENDO” (which sounded Spanish enough to me at the time) instead of the real painting’s COMIENDO (caused by having LOLS instead of LOLZ). Luckily I was able to steam the envelope open, correct it and sellotape it shut — quite a close call after a week of effort!!

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