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Nostimous by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 Jul 2021

We see ‘Sabre’ and take a deep breath – this looks like being a long evening. The preamble almost has us gasping for air; not just six unclued solutions, five of which almost cross the grid, but one answer in each column with a letter missing and the other jumbled – that hated word. What will Sabre have in store for us next? Encoded knights’ moves?

We pour a stiff drink and I scan the clues to check that Sabre is still among the Listener Setter Oenophile Elite. He begins with just a ‘small drop’, ‘Made out type of blood in small drop (3)’. We put O into the medical abbreviation GT. and get GOT.

Soon he’s with ‘Group of advisers, half in a taxi (5)’. We wonder what sort of ‘half’ they are drinking and we initially guess at CABAL but have to rethink later when our decoding to SPINAKOPITA doesn’t work and we realize that that is the abbreviation N = half ‘in’ + A CAB, to give NICAB, jumbled to BACAN (since, like the ARDAS, symmetrically opposite, the two As have to go into the unchecked cells).

We colour-coded the jumbled answers blue and the encoded ones copper.

Ah, it’s some kind of spirit; ‘Regal ruling king used to stop monkey spirit (9)’. When we got to the spirit, we had realized that the omitted letters were Greek and we put CHI into the monkey MONA and spirit ZING ‘stopped’ by R, the king, to produce MONARCHIZING.

‘Tent made from skin of gnu, right? (3)’. Tent is, of course rich red Spanish wine – we used the G(n)U of the gnu, and R = right to give us GUR but it had to be jumbled since ACROSS THE TABLE at 16d in the same column, had THETA in it. No wonder Sabre was becoming rather fuddled or jumbled by this stage – we certainly were and the drinking went on even AFTER HOURS (we took RHO from that one) ‘A paper introduces European section following office closure (7, two words)‘. We added together A + FT + EUR + S.

There was one last jar, ‘Lead jar(5)’. By the time we reached that we had only one more Greek letter to find and it had to be Phi – after all, Phi and Sabre set together as Phibre. We opted for GRA[PHI]TE and entered GRATE for the jar. What can I say? Cheers, Sabre!

We had just a few gaps in our grid and it was time to face the decoding. We suspected that all those R’s were going to decode to Es and came up with PAPAVERACEAE, but couldn’t see much poppy thematic material – is Nostimus some exotic flower? No TARAMASALATA made more sense in view of those twelve Greek letters and we went for that and slowly teased out KEFTEDES, SPINAKOPITA, AVGOLEMONO, SOUVLAKIA and last of all MEZE.

Covid has cancelled our last two visits to our Greek family in Athens and trips to their local eatery where most of these are provided so we have to thank Sabre for a mental feast (and maybe raise a glass of Assyrtiko).

Ah, the title? I claim to speak some Greek but must slap my own hand as I tried to decode and encode then redecode and re-encode Nostimous before thinking Greek. “νοστιμό” – delicious!


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