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Posts Tagged ‘Sabre’

And now for something completely different…

Posted by Encota on 11 August 2017

OK.  We’ve done the sums.  The answer could be either 4 1/2 or 72.

Inspect the grid.  There are only five pairs of unambiguous letters B (hereafter known as Bs, or Bees) in the grid not separated by a Bar.  Convert these pairs of Bs from Bs to five Bees.  [And obviously 72 is way too big so can be ignored 🙂 ]

That leave minus Half A Bee to be found.  The Preamble talks about one ambiguity: clearly this is the possibility of the third letter of 25 across – is it an O or an E?

Use your favourite means for picking O(dd) or E(ven).  I keep a six foot insect-carved version of the 18th Century gambling game known as E-O in the billiard room for exactly this purpose.  The ball falls in Even, so E it is.  Row 7 now contains ERIC (the half a bee).  For those that need reminding, try

Finally subtract half a bee using the usual accounting convention of placing it in brackets. We now have five bees, less half a bee: 4 1/2 bees now found.  Simples.

2017-07-23 13.54.06

Tim / Encota

P.S. And the ‘Eric The Half A Bee’ Python song’s lyrics include, if I heard them right:

Half a bee, cruciverbally
Must either sail, or rival 3…

[Good grief!  Ed.]

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‘Four and a half…?’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 11 August 2017

The nine hidden words in this puzzle spell out, I think, the beginning of a well-known early problem in algebra, namely: “The square root of half a number of bees...”, perhaps made more famous in the Scheherazade series of puzzles.

In the original, it goes on to say that, ‘The square root of half a number of bees in a swarm leave a jasmine bush, as do two others (I paraphrase); 8/9ths of the swarm of bees have remained in the bush.  What is the total number of bees in the swarm?’

As many of us will have had drilled into us in maths at school when converting word-based questions into algebra, “First let the number of bees be ‘b’ ” (of course, what else would you choose?)

Then the above translates into:  8b/9 + sqrt(b/2) + 2 = b                      Equation (1)

Re-arrange with the square root by itself on one side, such that both sides can be squared without pain: sqrt(b/2)=b/9 – 2.  Whether it is that squaring process itself has introduced an additional solution is another matter!

So it leads to (b – 72)(2b – 9) = 0.  To make such a product of two numbers =0 then clearly either the left hand or right hand bracket must be zero, so b=72 (or b = 4 and a 1/2, hence Sabre’s Title with the QM, a somewhat strange number of bees in a swarm – especially as it requires minus 1.5 bees to leave the jasmine bush originally – apart from the obvious Monty Python reference – see below).

To check your answers, you might now have tried putting each answer back into equation (1): b = 72 slots in easily, as 64+6+2 does equal 72.  However, putting b = 9/2 back in only works when you recall that the square root of a number can be + or -, such that (1) becomes 8/9 * 9/2 – 3/2 + 2 = 4 1/2.

Other Monty Python fans might mention the new role for ‘Eric the Half A Bee’ in the alternative solution.  [Aside: how does anyone think to write a song called ‘Eric the Half A Bee’?]

But wait a minute.  Has Sabre been reading our site’s ‘About The Bloggers’ section to note that I am an avid Steven Wilson fan?  Coincidence that SW’s most recent release (at the time of writing: roll on 18th August!) is the mini-album 4 1/2 ?  Surely not…


[Steven Wilson: 4 1/2.]

So we’re after 72 bees in the final puzzle. Or, literally, should I say Bs.  I can find 21 definitive Bs and 51 cells where the clashing letters are two apart – and if one squints a bit then B=2 – so perhaps I should be changing each of those to a letter B, too – that would end up with 72 of them in place.  It feels like it must be the right thing to do, especially given the quantities of each, but I am sure I’m missing something subtle in the Preamble.  And is the ambiguous entry 6a’s BOBBLY /BLOBBY for L in BOBBY, or have I missed something else entirely (very likely).  Hmm.

My choice of clue for the week is 11 across, the superb all-in-one clue [with extra word bracketed out]:

  11.  Disease in parts of [the] garden, tips of each turnip affected (12)

…reveals the disease of turnips, FINGER-AND-TOE, that affects the taproot, combined with the wordplay including ‘parts’ as a Container-and-Contents indicator (as in ‘parting the Red Sea’), ‘tip’ as a first letter indicator and ‘affected’ as an anagram indicator.  In all,
putting IN inside {OF GARDEN E(ach) T(urnip)}*  Delightful.

This clue got me thinking: I wonder how often a clue has all the hallmarks of a serious convoluted (I’m hesitating in using the word cryptic) clue but is all a bluff and is actually a near-enough straight clue?  A simple example would be the above clue but with ‘each’ changed to ‘any’, for example.  We’d all be scrabbling around trying to make the wordplay work, when actually it was all definition.  Perhaps they should be encouraged just a little more by crossword editors? Or would that simply help those who favour the ‘bung in from definition’ approach, rather than savour every intricacy of each clue?  I may have answered my own question!

cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4460: Four and a Half… by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 August 2017

One of the advantages of looking after Listen With Others is that you get to see setter’s blogs before pretty much anyone else. This will possibly include background into how the idea came about, how difficult it was to set and what input the editors had to the preamble and/or some of the clues.

One of the disadvantages of running Listen With Others is that you get to read something in a setter’s blog that makes you discover sooner than otherwise that you’d buggered the whole thing up! Depression sets in, and you realise that another all-correct year has slid down the plug-hole.

To start with, Sabre’s clues are tricky enough. When it comes to the endgame, they can be fiendish. Last year’s had Tristram Shandy as its theme and the “As sure as I am I — and you are you” quotation. This week, we had to solve the puzzle, find a riddle in literature, solve the riddle, and then do something appropriate… like throttle Sabre!

In fact, the clashing technique, which I identified after only a few clues, helped with getting a lot of the grid filled. They were always two letters apart in the alphabet.

The riddle began The square root of half a number of bees… was from a long work by Longfellow. Including the words the, of and a as obvious extra words certainly needed a craftsman’s touch. 11ac in particular Disease in parts of [the] garden, tips of each turnip affected (12) took me ages to unravel — IN in (OF GARDEN ET)*. The riddle continued “…and also eight-ninths of the whole, alighted on the jasmines, and a female bee buzzed responsive to the hum of the male inclosed at night in a water-lily.

The riddle itself was easy to unravel, taking me only four attempts (the square root of 81/4 is not 9/4). Bizarrely one of the solutions I came up with was 4½, but surely Sabre wouldn’t be so helpful with the title. Eventually 72 won through.

I next tried to find the ambiguous entry, and luckily got there fairly quickly. 3dn Spot bachelor, look, one of two in bathtub (4).was either BLOT or BLOB. I had opted for BLOT.

It took me about half an hour to suss out what was required with the clashes. It wasn’t the letter between the two letters, but just the letter B, of which there were already a fair few in the grid. A quick tot up of the number of that I had gave me 70 because, in the euphoria of solving a couple of clues, I had forgotten to pencil in a clashing letter or two.

Checking the grid thoroughly, I needed BLOB at 3dn to make 72!! I remember thinking at the time “Wouldn’t it have been more cunning for BLOT to be required?” Apparently, it would have been… and was. I haven’t checked my grid to find where I went wrong, but I have read Sabre’s setter’s blog. Surely I hadn’t miscounted the number of Bs. I must have done that a fair few times as it was.

Oh well, c’est la guerre. It doesn’t stop me being full of admiration of Sabre’s puzzle. An excellent riddle, and so well implemented. Many thanks.

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Out of Line by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 October 2016

Out of Line

Out of Line

It wouldn’t be kind of me to begin by saying what my reaction is when I download a Sabre crossword (would it!) This called for a stiff drink and shelving of any other Friday evening entertainment (and yes, I completed my grid at 0.45 on Saturday morning and still hadn’t sussed the endgame but had a stack of empty glasses).

Of course, I checked Sabre’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Drinkie Club and, despite the initially disconcerting news in 27d ‘Japanese therapy where I kick bottles (5)’ (REIKI hidden) didn’t really need to worry as, later on, the solutions to some of those rather more difficult clues gave us CORKED, ‘Stopped work, calling at the outset for Western education (6)’ (WORK with C(alling) for W + ED). No wonder he’s decided to ‘kick bottles’ if they were corked. Clearly he moved on to tropical happy-hour favourites as PIÑAS appeared, (hidden again but this time reversed) – presumably PIÑA COLADAS ‘Discarded fruit cropping up in salad (6)’. Cheers, Sabre.

Sabre gave us his usual range of clues from truly easy to astonishingly complex and difficult with some words I would never have invented in my wildest dreams – IBADAT, MANYATA, SPADASSIN, TAUTOG and what was I still attempting to find at half past midnight? ‘Australian marine fears flag binding our nation with Japan (10)’ We had attempted anagrams of IRIS UK (or GB) W(ith) J and had hunted for terms for an Australian marine but IRUKANDJIS? I ask you! (Yes, TEA finally suggested it to me when I fed in all the potential words after sorting out how we were entering the words we had into the grid). I think the definition was not-over generous; ‘Australian marine fears …’. That seemed to me a bit like defining ICE CREAM as ‘Little boy likes …’ but I suppose Sabre, with his brilliance, can get away with what might be called ‘defining by example’ for lesser setters. (I have to adjust what I said as I was muttering at dinner two days later about that clue and the lady sitting opposite me, who never solves crosswords, on hearing the three-word definition, instantly said “Well that could only be those box jelly fish, irukandjis, they are called, aren’t they?”)

‘Sorting out how we were entering the words’ – that was the rub. We solved steadily and soon had well over half of the clues solved but not a single one that fitted with intersecting letters and we had to see the ‘thematic modification’ that would resolve the issue. Usually we would expect to remove the tip or tail of a word, invert it or jumble it (hated words!) but none of those worked. We were becoming thoroughly frustrated and muttering murderous thoughts about how to spike Sabre’s corked drinks as we cold-solved, dreading that we were going to have to solve every single clue with no idea what to do with the solutions.

Fortunately a glimmer of light dawned. There could only be one way to make CORKED intersect with IBADAT and that was by using the single letter they shared, so supposing we simply raised that letter to the top of the word. With enormous relief we found that that worked and happily filled a new grid, finding that the words that now partially appeared, like PID?I with an extra N, suggested words to us (PIDGIN ‘Concern about anonymous advance going astray, paid again (6)’ giving PAID AGAIN losing three As for About, Anonymous and Advance).

There was just one hitch – well, two actually. OBJETS D’ART and NEPTUNE (Holst’s Mystic in the Planets Suite) produced a clashing E/J and even worse, SACQUE and IRUKANDJIS produced a triple clash Q/U/J since we had no way of knowing whether the Q or U of SACQUE should rise to the peak of the word.

It was a longshot, the following morning that led to feeding the relevant information into the invaluable Quinapalus Word Matcher We were looking for a 12-letter word that probably had RS as consecutive letters and had to have a Q and a J in it. I could have kicked myself when we were given QUEUE JUMPERS as we had attempted to think up so many words that indicated being ‘out of line’ (the lightning strike of TANISTRY, SUPERSESSION, DISLOCATIONS etc.) and the necessary one was so obvious.

Of course we performed what we were told to perform and replaced two Rs with S, an E with U, P with E and then the stroke of genius! However does he do it? We found that both J and Q had to become U, resolving those two clashes and telling us that it was the U of SACQUE that had to rise, leaving us the word that describes all those pushy French people who attempt to queue jump and walk all over my skis – DISCOURTEOUS!

Brilliant indeed. Many thanks, Sabre!

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Top! the Puzzle (aka Jonathan Edwards can now stand down)

Posted by Encota on 21 October 2016

It appears that there’s hard … there’s really hard… then there’s Sabre’s “Out of Line”.  Perhaps apart from one or two in the depths of winter that sleep deprivation on the overnight Eurostar ski train has almost entirely successfully blotted from my memory, this feels like the toughest of 2016 so far.

After solving a few clues, the only clear way to ensure the clues successfully ‘check’ appears to be to assume they all have to be entered as jumbles of the answers.  But won’t that require cold-solving of (almost) all 40 clues?  That sounds a really tough slog!  Is there something else (easier?)?  Surely there is.

One of my earliest spots was noting the preponderance of Js (in fact, now I stop to look harder, of Japan).  I wondered if that was relevant.

I’d luckily solved most of the SE corner early on – CLOCHE, REIKI, PINAS, DUMPLING, SACQUE &, by a stroke of good fortune, IRUKANDJIS.  Given some of these crossing words had only one letter in common, I felt I was probably on safe ground putting those common letters in. With a couple more added it was beginning to look like the first letter was moving to second place – ECLOCH for CLOCHE for example.  Perhaps it was Biblical, Buddhist, StarWars-ian (or even Hessian?)… with the last becoming first?  Perhaps that might be called BASE-JUMPING, at a stretch?  Only 11 letters though.  What about one or two answers where it seemed the fourth letter was jumping to the front.  Did it involve a TRIPLE JUMPER, perhaps?  But at 33d DOG has become ODG.  So no appearance fees for Jonathan Edwards (even though at least eight clues did prove to be treated (by chance) with the method of the TRIPLE-JUMPER.  There proved to be at least 12 cases of BASE-JUMPING too).  Maybe just any random letter goes to the front?  Hmm.

Horrendously slow!  After 24 hours had passed I had cold-solved only about a third of the clues and had only eight (yes 8!) out of 144 characters firmly in the grid.

So I solved some more, focusing where I could on the leading diagonal, given the Preamble’s comments.  After a long while I had a word beginning with D, second letter I,S or T (presumably I), with lots of options for each letter.  I re-filled the grid with only the early unambiguous letters following one pass through and with a hint at that Diagonal:


However, it did look as if it could well end in -ous.  So how many 12-letter words are there in Chambers that begin di- & end -ous (seven, I hear you cry in unison!).  Of these, only DISANALOGOUS, DISCOURTEOUS, DISINGENUOUS & DISPUTATIOUS look as if they could have even the slightest connection with the Title.  Looking at the other letters I had as options, and knowing that some were due to change, it still looked much more like DISCOURTEOUS than any of the others.  So if it was, then what letter changes would be needed?  12a’s R in the third letter-slot would need to change to an S (R->S) for example.  If it was a random letter moving to the front then I also had likely changes of J->U, E->R and P->E.  not many words fit that requirement – but JUMPERS does!  Only seven letters though.  The only 12-letter relevant word I could quickly come up with was QUEUE-JUMPERS (which, surprisingly, doesn’t appear to be in my BRB version – it’s in the ODE though), which certainly ties in with DISCOURTEOUS and with LINE in the Title.  [Returning to an earlier theme it also ties in with French ski lift ‘queues’ too ;-)]  Let’s assume those are true for now and see how it progresses.

Once I’d assumed that there was always one letter that pushed its way to the front of the queue/line/word, then fitting the words together could, by comparison with half an hour before at least, now have featured on #GBBO.  This still left the SW corner looking distinctly snow-covered, with a lot of white to be seen.

It had now got past 8 a.m. on the Monday and I still had seven unsolved.  Swallowing my pride, I sealed up the envelope which had been waiting optimistically with Hedge-sparrow’s excellent puzzle from the previous week in it and, instead of sending in two at once, felt duty bound to send in L4417 alone.  In Listener terms that pretty much defines for me what Sherlock Holmes would have called ‘a three pipe problem’- this, for me at least, is hard!

So, what was I initially missing?  In 18d’s
“With intimate embraces beginning to offend Muslim prince (8)”
it took me what seems like forever to double-check in the BRB that there wasn’t an obscure meaning of ‘with’.  And there it was – BOOM-IRON!  I was off again!  My lack of recall about Holst’s the Planets meant I spent ages identifying NEPTUNE as the Mystic in question in 22d.  And I spent too long in a rut automatically translating the word ‘online’ in 23d into ‘e…’.  At the time of writing I still have one not fully parsed at 26a (whose definition I love) but it must be right and it’ll hopefully come to me.  Can it really be Spanish-speaking on Peru’s Mount Veronica?  I may well be missing something!

12 noon on Monday – finished!

The puzzle featured some great Wordplay and Definitions – I’ll highlight just three:

“Styles of calypso, American soul being introduced (5)” – what a superb clue (SOCAS).

“Silly billy taking penny from deposit! (8)” – for DUM(p) PLING – again fabulous, I think!  I have seen ‘!’ as the Definition before (in that case the enumeration was (11,4) ) but not in wordplay as ‘pling’. As another aside, as a logical extension, I haven’t seen the clue:
   x3 !!! (7)
yet (for TRIPLING) but if/when you do, then perhaps you, like me, will have seen it here first.  I must remember to use it one day!  [See also blog’s title.]

“For one of rats you need 100 cats, say (8)”, another brilliant disguise of both definition and wordplay, just the sort of clue I enjoy, along with its clever TRA(i)TORS with C for I wordplay.  I’d double checked Macavity et al, and the Pied Piper, just in case there was a quote I’d forgotten, before I got this one.

And finally, the finale.  Just to keep the solver on his/her toes, Sabre has included two clashing cells on that leading diagonal.  In the first (the first letter of 22d), J or E need to turn into a U.  In the second (the fifth letter of 24d), J and (either Q or U) need to turn into a U.  The last line of the Preamble reads ‘must be replaced by a letter that immediately follows it…’ so, even though the second needs to be a U by the end, it gets there by firstly being a Q. This means the first letter of 24d has to be a U.  And if that doesn’t catch at least one poor soul out – who has relaxed after seemingly getting over all the difficult hurdles only to trip on the final straight – then frankly I’d be amazed.  And the whole of the assumed QUEUE-JUMPERS from earlier (including Q->U and E->U) is now justified.

Great puzzle, but definitely not for the faint-hearted: I’m now off to watch Only Connect for a bit of light relief.  Loved it: thanks Sabre!!


Tim / Encota

P.S. If you’d like to try one of my 15×15 cryptics, I had another published today (at the time of writing) on Big Dave’s Rookie Corner.  All feedback on that welcomed.

Rookie Corner – 130

PPS Two days in, when still not complete and with the Listener puzzle buzzing around my head,  I needed some light relief so thought I might have a go at DIY Clue Of the Week.  This week’s word just happened to be SWORDFISH.  I got so close to sending:
“‘Sabre meets tautog’ perhaps summarises this jaw-breaking beast (9)”.
Whether this is best as a clue for SWORDFISH, or should have been enumerated as (9, three words) for this puzzle ‘OUT OF LINE’, I’ll let you the reader decide.

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