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Surprised by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 May 2022

Were we surprised to see Sabre at the head of this crossword! We had just flown to Athens, without our copies of Chambers and Bradford, for a sunny week by a brother’s pool, and we knew we were in for a challenge. Even the preamble suggested that, with the original device that ‘in each row, one answer must be entered with an extra letter (provided by a crossing entry) anywhere along its length’ … We were told that ‘clues and answer lengths are normal’ – which, reassuringly, suggested that solutions would not be anagrammed or jumbled, but it wasn’t long before we realised that ‘something was up’.

Long ago Sabre confirmed his comfortable place in the Listener Setters Oenophile Outfit so I didn’t really need to check that, but, of course I did and “Oh dear!” A dry set of clues until I got to ‘Badly off, with one third of Beaujolais being corked (7)’ Our local vigneron delivered the Beaujolais only last week and the corks are now that modern plasticky stuff but ‘corked’? That must have been awful for Sabre. Aaaah! AWFULLY – we used AWAY with FULL for the ‘third’ of Beaujolais (= A) FULL being ‘lit’, ‘tiddled’, ‘tipsy’ or ‘corked’. The other Numpty has pointed out that ‘drink’ occurs twice in the clues – one just above that corked Beaujolais, ‘Whinge to some people: drink harbours taste of radishes (4)’ Things are getting worse! But we put just the first taste (R) of those radishes into the GIN and got our Yorkshire word GIRN. I would girn if my gin tasted of radishes.

The other drink ‘Tears are caught in drink containers (4)’ was totally understandable now. Who wouldn’t be distressed! We put R into DOPS, giving DROPS. Thankfully there was the usual RED in the down clues, ‘Refuse deal to get in shape (6)’. I wonder how many other solvers had DENIAL there (shaping or anagramming DEAL getting IN) before the penny-drop-moment of RED + ACT = REDACT + get in shape. Well, it’s a rather muted “Cheers, Sabre!”

We had more than two-thirds of the clues solved and were truly flummoxed when, despite having created a plausible grid with potential places fo extra letters in every row, our across and down clues simply would not intersect, then, in one of the best p.d.m.s of the year, REDACT had those last two letters C and T that would gel with TROT and COMBER. From then on, it was sheer joy as I inverted all those down clues, even guessing that the extra letters would tell me to REVERSE DOWNS (as they did).

It wasn’t a direct run to the tape as Sabre had tested us with his usual clue complexity. For example, even after we guessed that ‘One swims a mile at sea, possibly (10)’ was an anagram of some swimmer, everything we attempted to anagram failed – until we used A M and POSSIBLY and AMBLYOPSIS swam into view. ‘ Ambylopsis, the blind fish of the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, is not the regular subject of our dinner-table chat. However, it was a pretty BALLSY (gutsy, tough and courageous) crossword. Many thanks to Sabre.

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