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Archive for August, 2020

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.


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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L4616: ‘Disco Lovers’ by The Ace of Hearts

Posted by Encota on 7 August 2020

I found this puzzle a slightly strange one, in that I had pretty much all the endgame sorted with only a third of the clues solved.

The five perimeter clues were generous in their wordplay, resulting in five synonyms for the word ‘friend’:

  • COMRADE, and
  • MATE

The spacing given in Ring 3 was very helpful, where I think I had .OGAN fairly early on as the character’s surname, and a message that looked much like BLESS ME FATHER FOR I HAVE SINNED. A quick bit of help from Google and this gave me MAEVE BINCHY for the central Author and BENNY HOGAN the Character. I liked the longer version of the quote, which was hiding a letter at a time in the Clues and which, according to, reads:

Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan:
Have… have you ever gone all the way with a girl?
Jack Foley:
No. Not quite.
Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan:
Would you like to?
Jack Foley:
Bernadette ‘Benny’ Hogan:
No. It wasn’t an invitation – just a request for information.

Having got these thematic bits sorted this early (to be honest it took until near the end to confirm where the last pair of consonants from the Author’s name fitted in the asterisked cells), it still took until late Friday evening to polish it off!

And the Title? Are we to read that as Disc O’ Lovers? That’d seem a reasonable interpretation given the Dublin setting. Maybe?

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Disco Lovers by The Ace of Hearts

Posted by shirleycurran on 7 August 2020

Another circular crossword from the Ace of Hearts. Last time it was the circle of wagons: the preamble sems to tell us that there are similar devices here so we expect something circular to go around the perimeter and, of course, find a Circle of Friends – that was our first penny-drop moment when those five clues yielded ASSOCIATE, CATER-COUSIN, BELAMY, COMRADE and MATE.

Circular crosswords can be difficult to compile when the last cells produce no possible words, but The Ace of Hearts has solved that problem by off-setting the two centre rings and by his device of having 27 clues heading inwards with 15 of them ‘starting in a non-perimeter ring to be determined and continuing from the outer edge when they reach the inner edge’. We groan! That is going to add a difficulty to the solve with that additional twist that we need to extract an extra letter from each solution wherever it occurs.

Does The Ace of Hearts renew his access to the Listener setter’s Oenophile Elite? – well, barely. There’s just one hope for him, ‘Pigment that is added to rose madder (8)’ I suppose that coud be the rosė that the locals here drink when the weather is hot. We add i.e. to the rosé, and since, by the time we get to that clue, we have our second quotation and know tha L has to come out, we give a ‘madder’ version of ROSE IE LL and get ORSEILLE. Well, cheers, anyway, Ace of Hearts.

BLESS ME FATHER I HAVE SINNED was our second p.d.m. but we still needed the Internet to tell us that Circle of Friends is a novel by MAEVE BINCHY that has been made into a film, and that BENNY HOGAN spoke the words. The Internet. gave me the second quotation, too, and filled our gaps, making the rest of the solve easier: HAVE – HAVE YOU EVER GONE ALL THE WAY WITH A GIRL?

‘Easier’, I said but there were a couple of unusual words that left us head-scratching. ‘Square on right hand X axis (7)’ finally led us to RH + CHI + S with an extra A coming out. RHACHIS! I wonder how friends will react when I produce that during dinnertime conversation – or, if we are enjoying the delicious local dish ‘Filets de perche’, I talk about SAUGERS. We have to change the A(afternoon) of AUGERS to S (spades) and enter SUGERS.

An impressive compilation. Thank you The Ace of Hearts.


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