Listen With Others

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Listener No. 4710: Surprised by Sabre

Posted by vaganslistener on 27 May 2022

Uh-oh! Sabre – and a carte blanche too. What else did I have on this weekend? Leading a county service for St John Ambulance on Sunday, so let’s see if I can crack it before then. Thinking cap on.

The title and preamble gave nothing away, but after a few solved clues it became apparent that more was going on than had been declared (“Surprise”). I decided it might help to try and map out the horizontal bars. The verticals would have to come later because of the intrusive letters. A bit of fiddling produced a grid that worked and that I hoped might be unique (I was wrong, but it was a simple tweak to fix it – see below), and that certainly made the grid-fill easier.

So on I went, getting about a third of the answers before I started on the fill. A good number of them were downs, so REDACT, TREE ONION, ISSUE, LATERS, IGUANA (oh dear – it was really AGAMID – our favourite lizard will now sulk), TEMSED, SNARL, YABBY and UNLIT went in in their right places. But the acrosses I had were clashing all over the place, so it was a case of pressing on with the cold solving, getting as many downs in as possible, and praying for inspiration.

The clergyman in the second down had to be a REV and “mostly cream” turned out to be IVOR(y) so the unusual REVIVOR went in. A bit of searching on wordlists produced TIBET as a fabric made there from fur, and the sudden death clue proved to be a simple anagram of A RISK O(scar) and H(enry).

By this point I was shifting my focus to the acrosses and pencilling them into the corners of the squares. The clueing standard was very high but difficult (unusual words and unusual senses etc). “One swims a mile at sea, possibly” stood out as a very classy clue indeed for the impossible AMBLYOPSIS (A M POSSIBLY* = but oh those wordplay red herrings, and putting the least likely word as the definition: Sabre at his best. I’d have struggled to clue it and probably come up with one with seventeen words not seven.)

Things started to work out better when the clergyman REVIVOR was turned upside down (perish the thought), and a few moments’ work with rubber and pencil showed that this applied to the whole grid – and we were motoring. Vertical bars could start to go in, and the grid was soon full. A larger number of answers than usual had wordplay that still didn’t make sense (ARSINES, MYTHOI, BALLSY) even after the extra letters were identified, but I’ll have to live with that for now, and the RABBITS (R + BIT in ABS) are clearly right but why are they pipe-cleaners? (A lovely image of furry things going down holes, but I haven’t found it in a dictionary yet).

More worrying was that the two eight-letter answers were pure gobbledy-gook. It took a gin for my eyes to de-focus and see that LOCALITY and our old friend SANTOORS were there all the time. I’d just assumed that the first 8 descended and the second ascended, when the reverse fitted the grid just as well.

All done and dusted just as Saturday supper was being served! No surprises (qv) that this was another fine puzzle from Sabre, though unless I have missed something the surprise was a fairly straightforward one in the end. Is the master getting kinder as the years go by? Now that’s a dangerous thing to say… Thanks then to Mr Bremner for his 73rdListener (good gracious) and a welcome return to the lists after nearly a year.

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