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Posts Tagged ‘Goya’

L4617 ‘Selfie’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 14 August 2020

Wow!!!   Thank you Sabre! See the report from other bloggers on more details of the puzzle itself. I’ll focus on a few of the clues and a mention of Excel as a helper.

My rather embarrassingly slow timetable for getting this finished summarises as follows:

–          Fri 4pm                                     Start

–          Sat 12 noon                               Only 30/50 solved + ‘extra words’ found

–          Sat 11pm                                  Only 38/50 solved

–          Sun 5pm                                    Nudged up to 42/50

–          Sun 10pm                                  Now 46/50

–          Mon 9.30am                             Full grid & messages

–          Mon 8pm                                  Grid updated with Goya columns

–          Mon 9.30pm                             Final grid ready to send!

Perhaps twice as long as any other in 2020.  OK, there was some ‘real life’ dovetailed with the above but bloomin’ ‘eck, that’s the toughest of the year by far for me!  I loved it!

The enumerations were, if you recall, always one out, so an indication of (6) meant that the answer had either 5 or 7 letters but you didn’t know which! As a slight aside, I always find not knowing the length of an answer slows me down considerably.

It took me two days(!) to derive any sense from what turned out to be ‘of root cylinder’ in 30a’s:
Only one (centimetre) length in crack of root cylinder (6)

Here the word in brackets (centimetre) was to be deleted before solving, then (A+L) fitted into STAR (‘crack’) to form STELAR, of a STELE, the cylindrical form a of a plant’s root.

Other ones I struggled with included:

27a Thoroughly beat (O’Flaherty’s) drunk (5)
which I eventually spotted was a triple definition of FULL.

38a (Britons) backward in language (6)
where I missed the now seemingly obvious definition of backward as HIND to form a simple charade HIND + I’ = HINDI. The clues – such as this – where one knew by this stage that a word beginning with B had to be deleted but not whether it was BRITONS or BACKWARD that had to go, really added to the challenge.

36d Picnic rolling (game) always making good day (5)
looked very likely to be DODDLE for ages (in the sense of easy, a picnic) but I couldn’t see why for a long time. It was only when all other entries made it certain to be DODDLE that I spotted it was GOGGLE (‘rolling’) with all Gs changed to Ds: sneaky! And I’d never thought of goggle-eyed as having that exact meaning but BRB is there to prop me up!

Once the grid was complete, two (connected) hidden instructions told us to ‘replace two columns in code add to them this puzzle’s heading’. Taking part recently in the recent fabulous Edric’s puzzle hunt had honed my Excel skills a little, so it was relatively straightforward to combine the CODE, CHAR and MOD functions. I know to many reading that’ll all be obvious! However, if not, then experiment with functions like =CODE(A1)-64 to find the ‘A=1 etc’ value of a character, =CHAR(A2+64) for the reverse, and something a bit like =MOD(B1,26) to make 1 and 27 the same, 2 and 28 the same etc. Where A1, A2, B1 is the cell that contains the value that you want to convert. Adding one set of letters (e.g SELFIEBYSABRE) to any other thus becomes simple to automate.

Oh, and I wonder how many people will have spotted the impact of converting all letters in the grid into pixels?*

Thanks again to Sabre!  Masterful!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

  • Well, made you wonder, for just a microsecond !? And yes, I did try it whilst solving, ‘just in case’!

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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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