Listen With Others

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Selfie by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 August 2020

What an achievement! 50 years of Listener puzzles! There are pages and pages of Sabre puzzles on Dave’s Crossword Database and,  of course, Sabre was part of Phibre and set with Salamanca too. In our early solving years we were daunted by those Sabre knights’ moves so I am relieved (initially) to read nothing of them in the preamble. Yes, ‘initially’, as we then see that there is to be an extra word in each clue, and a second gimmick, we are to enter half the clues with a letter added somewhere along the word, and the other half with a letter omitted. This suggests to us that our grid is going to contain non words. Consternation!

Clearly Sabre has to be an honorary member of the Listener Oenophile Elite but I check anyway. ‘Thoroughly beat. [O’Flaherty’s] drunk (5)’ has to produce a 4 or 6-letter word and Chambers obligingly tells me that FULL can mean BEAT and DRUNK. Well, that’s a rather tipsy start! The drinking continues: ‘Present drunk by [Otto] and others like spirits (7)’ We put HERE into ET AL and get a different kind of ‘like spirits’ ETHEREAL. The drinking continues. ‘Defect of US Rep [ends] in hostile remarks (5)’ gives us SHORTS. Not surprising then to find ‘Shaving the middle of [inebriated] Cambridge blue (5)’ We have a bit of a problem here, as both ‘inebriated’ and ‘Cambridge’ give us a
central R to go with AZURE to produce RAZURE, but by the time we get to this clue, we have found the features of our rather decrepit ‘selfie’ and know that we need an I to give a TOOTHLESS GRIN.

ZIMMER FRAME, BI-FOCALS, BALD PATE, TOOTHLESS GRIN, HEARING AID. Poor old Sabre! I have to speed up my solving to be sure I complete it before he conks out completely but can raise that glass anyway, as he’s clearly still able to put all those shorts away. Cheers!

These are tough clues and, for many, until we have cold-solved the crossing ones, we are entering, for example, CH HA AI, for CHAI – a more sober drink, ‘Tea [leaves] Chinese ones (3)’, but it is well after midnight that we work out the message produced by the missing or added letters and can work backwards to complete our grid.

REPLACE TWO COLUMNS IN CODE. ADD TO THEM THIS PUZZLE’S HEADING.

It doesn’t take a genius to guess that columns 2 and 12 are the anomalous ones that are going to produce a startling revelation when we add to them (numerically) SELFIE BY SABRE. Are we balding, half-blind, deaf and doddery oldies going to receive a dazzling Sabre elixir that will restore our faculties and send us dashing into a second youth.

Oh dear, it’s maths again. With trepidation we do the sums and – oh, the disappointment! It’s a lovely endgame with no silly gimmick or grid-staring, but what do we find? GOYA’S DOS VIEJOS COMIENDO SOPA – two old wrecks relishing their soup in a Goya painting. Many years ago I was in a superb post-graduate language course at the Escuela Diplomatica in Madrid and the lectures included hours in the Prado, though we focussed on Goya’s happier, youthful paintings, not this very sad portrait.

We have to smile, though. This was a superb compilation and we suspect that Sabre hasn’t quite reached the skeletal state of those two old cronies, and still has a few crosswords up his sleeve. Lovely stuff, thanks.

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