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Listener No 4665: Nostimous by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 Jul 2021

Last year’s Sabre puzzle was based on Goya’s two old men eating soup and, unlike many of his puzzles, didn’t involve encoding or decoding or jumbling anything. This week, back to normal with jumbling and coding and I suspected that it was going to be a toughie. The six unclued across entries had been encoded using a simple one-to-one substitution cypher. (Obviously the editors and Sabre have a different definition of ‘simple’ than I do!)

CRIA and CONGERIES got slotted in quickly. 21ac Those with convictions are shortly in prison — too bad (12) OPINIONATORS came next and I confess that I cheated with the anagram here [(A + IN PRISON TOO)*], but heigh-ho! I was also happy to get the OED word out of the way at 33 The old defend eel dish concocted by bishop (8) with BESHIELD [B + (EEL DISH)*] (no cheating there).

One down entry in each column had a letter omitted and the other was to be entered jumbled. Nothing was straightforward here, and it wasn’t surprising that the downs were tough with only two quick puny entries going in with RUG* and ASH*.

As I said, progress was slow, not least because… well, you probably know if you’re reading this. For me, 18dn was the give-away with Discontinued pound coin originally etched with sort of barcode (8) giving BROAD[PI]ECE [(E(tched) + BARCODE)*] and telling us that the letter to be omitted was a Greek letter. Thanks, Sabre.

That reveal came over an hour into the solve for me since no amount of playing with the letters of EBARCODE• helped! Even knowing that, finishing off the grid took an age helped (?) of course by the jumbling of the other answers in each column. One of the last to be resolved was 1dn Group of advisers, half in a taxi (5) which I had in my mind was CABAL, entered as BACAL or LACAB but the wordplay didn’t really work. Checking the preamble, I realised I hadn’t got the abbreviation yet and I eventually squeezed out NACAB [(i)N + A + CAB], that well-known National Association of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux!

Favourite clue was 2dn Cowboy band of yesteryear — all seats sold before end of April (4) — [MU]SRO + (apri)L with its sneaky definition. Close second was 17dn Restoration produces proper silver jacket for Elvis (8) — PROP + AG + E(lvi)S.

So, time for the simple one-to-one cipher. The way in was ‘obviously’ 20 which encoded was C.Z..R.R.R.R with each unknown letter being one of several options. The fact that we had Greek letters in the down answers meant that we were dealing with something Greek. …..A.A.A.A or …..E.E.E.E looked more likely than Is, Os or Us. At first I tried old Greeks like Archimedes and Thessalonian but nothing ended with that pattern at the end.

Now whether Sabre and the editors expected me to get the theme from that without cheating, I don’t know, but after half an hour of searching various references for Greek things/people/places, I was none the wiser. Rather than reach for Tea (which I had used for OPINIONATORS above) I thought I’d try Chambers and started thumbing through looking for Greek things. Well, I could have done, but instead used my Chambers app to do the donkey work looking for entries containing ‘Greek’, and was losing hope when TARAMASALATA cropped up: “a Greek dish, a pink creamy paste made of grey mullet or smoked cod’s roe with olive oil and garlic.” Not much different from using Tea I guess by trying ‘*’.

So Greek dishes they were, and a great relief then to finish with KEFTEDES, AVGOLEMONO, SPANAKOPITA (always reminds me of Wan‘s Up to Ten Items? from 2016), TARAMASALATA, SOUVLAKIA and MEZE (only three of which I’d heard of). I have to say that this puzzle would have been impossible for me without a great deal of help. Of course, if I’d only keyed the title Nostimous into Google Translate, Greek→English, I’d have found it was ‘delicious’ in Greek, well ‘νόστιμο’ anyway.

Got there in the end. Thanks, Sabre.


4 Responses to “Listener No 4665: Nostimous by Sabre”

  1. used my Chambers app to do the donkey work looking for entries containing ‘Greek’

    This sentence makes me feel pin-headed as this is (a) a feature I have wished my (iPhone) Chambers app had for at least a decade and (b) something I still cannot see how to make it do.

    Please help!

  2. Alan, when I wrote that, I wondered if ‘app’ was the right word. It’s the PC software program that helped me out. Like you, I can’t see how the Apple app can help — it’s a completely different design. Sorry to disappoint.

  3. poat said

    I thought 1a might be TZATZIKI at first. Shame to forego that along with KLEFTIKO in our Greek feast

  4. John Nick said

    I don’t think I would have got there either without using a pattern finder online, though my in was SOUVLAKIA. I knew all the dishes too, and in fact made avgolemono twice last year – twice because the first ended up more like chicken and lemon risotto than soup due to a poor guess at the amount of rice needed 🙂

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