Listen With Others

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Listener No 4617: Selfie by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 August 2020

It’s always nice to celebrate an anniversary, and here we were told that this puzzle marked 50 years since Sabre’s first Listener. According to the Sabre’s page at the Listener Crossword web site , this would be his 71st solo outing, with two other collaborations, one with Salamanca back in 1989 and one with Phi last year. That’s some feat.

(I find it somewhat depressing on such occasions to recall what I was doing back then. In this case, I was working as a Cobol programmer for Barclays Bank just off Tottenham Court Road.)

Anyway, here we were in 2020 and a nice self-portrait of Sabre appeared to be coming our way. But first, the clues, and you just knew they were going to be tricky, some more than others. Every one had an extra word, half lost a letter on entry, and half gained a letter. The first letters of the extra words would give features of the selfie, and the extra/missing letters would spell out a two-part instruction requiring changes to the grid and “leading to a different portrait”.

Oh. My. God. (That’s Twitter-speak for “Oh my god!”.) So onwards and upwards.

Needless to say, this puzzle was pretty much as tough as I was expecting it to be, starting with 1ac A summons involving New Zealand chief in stopping cause of oppression (10). Now when I say “starting with…”, I mean getting myself in a box after some time by thinking it was RIOTOUSNESS. After that, it was an age before ONEROUSNESS came to the rescue, with Zealand being the extra word.

I won’t go into all the trials and tribulations I went through with this puzzle, but will just highlight some of the clues that gave me pleasure:

30ac STELAR Only one [centimetre] length in crack of root cylinder (7)
STELLAR with only one L
36ac OVERREV Against following through on [shooting] gun too much (8)
V after (OVER + RE) with an extra word/definition to totally mislead
46ac YESTEREVE The aged give boxes antique sixpence [each] (not the first time), even recently (10)
YEVE around TESTER – the first T and not YE + something
4dn SAREE Bollywood [titans] covering tracks are evading shows (4)
(track)S ARE E(vading)
a simple (?) hidden
36dn (D)ODDLE Picnic rolling game always making good day (5)
GOGGLE with every G becoming D
a nicely misleading definition
39dn MANET Artist playing piece [in] E flat in conclusion (4)
MAN + E (fla)T
 

There were an awful lot of geographical references in the clues, including New Zealand, Quebec, Paris, Malham, Cadiz, Cambridge, Newcastle, Monte Cristo and Japan. Were these all places that Sabre has been to over the years?

I could see where Sabre was going with the initial letters of the extra words as Zimmer was emerging from the early acrosses. Eventually, we had Zimmer frame, bifocals, bald pate, toothless grin and hearing aid.

As for the instruction given by added and omitted letters, that was a bit more tricky. Replace two c.l… had me initially guessing that two cells needed to change. Oh no! Replace two columns in code and Add to them this puzzle’s heading. “Selfie by Sabre” was this puzzle’s heading, and two columns were completely unchecked. Just add one to the other.

(Note to self: the seventh letter of the alphabet is not F.)

Having sorted out my alphabet counting error, it didn’t take long to see the “different portrait” required by the preamble: GOYA’S DOS VIEJOS COMIENDO SOPA, Two Old Men Eating Soup. Painted in the early 1820’s, originally onto a wall of the Quinta del Sordo, a house in the outskirts of Madrid. It was transferred to canvas fifty years later. It was not a work that was unknown to me and is housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

What a fantastic ending. No self-portrait of Sabre (at least I hope not), but a portrait by Goya. Thanks a million for a fine puzzle.
 

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