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Posts Tagged ‘Sabre’

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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Listener No 4710: Surprised by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 May 2022

Here we had the annual Sabre outing following on from last year’s Greek foodfest and the previous year’s two old men eating soup from Goya. It doesn’t really need me to say this at the start of every Sabre blog, but I knew this was going to be a tad tricky.

For a start, we had a carte blanche with the clues in the normal order. The across answers would need an extra letter added which, in row order, would tell us (or at least confirm) how to complete the grid. Now I suspect that this puzzle sorted solvers into one of two groups: those for whom everything fell into place very quickly and those for whom it didn’t. I confess that I was in the second group.

My first pass through the clues was pretty woeful with only a handful solved, and none of them intersecting. It didn’t help that the second across clue eluded me for ages — ARSINES [IN in ARSES]. Plus One swims a mile at sea, possibly (10) wasn’t an anagram of swims a mile, but A+ M + POSSIBLY* for AMBLYOPSIS. It was only when those got slotted in, that KAROSHI and TREE ONION (for which I needed to cheat) enabled me to suss what was going on. Eventually the extra letters added to the acrosses confirmed it all — REVERSE DOWNS.

There were a lot of fine clues, these being my favourites, primarily because they were pretty devious:

  • Three miles to the old hospital, furlongs away from one more? (4): H + FOUR – F
  • The New Yorker’s admitting current themes (6): MY + THO + I
  • Detective needing uniform to become quite brave (6): BUSY with ALL for U
  • Badly off, with one third of Beaujolais being corked (7): AWAY with FULL for (second) (Be)A(ujolais)

I’ll also confess that A little shy, periodically showing ADHD? (5) eluded me for a ridiculously long time since I was treating periodically as a selection indicator. Of course, having AGAR, instead of MEER, for Title of Commander Queen’s given to setter (4) [AGA + R, although AGAR is actually a thickener rather than a setter] did me no favours in the bottom left of the grid.

As expected though, a tough but very satisfying solve. Thanks, Sabre.

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Listener No 4665: Nostimous by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 Jul 2021

Last year’s Sabre puzzle was based on Goya’s two old men eating soup and, unlike many of his puzzles, didn’t involve encoding or decoding or jumbling anything. This week, back to normal with jumbling and coding and I suspected that it was going to be a toughie. The six unclued across entries had been encoded using a simple one-to-one substitution cypher. (Obviously the editors and Sabre have a different definition of ‘simple’ than I do!)

CRIA and CONGERIES got slotted in quickly. 21ac Those with convictions are shortly in prison — too bad (12) OPINIONATORS came next and I confess that I cheated with the anagram here [(A + IN PRISON TOO)*], but heigh-ho! I was also happy to get the OED word out of the way at 33 The old defend eel dish concocted by bishop (8) with BESHIELD [B + (EEL DISH)*] (no cheating there).

One down entry in each column had a letter omitted and the other was to be entered jumbled. Nothing was straightforward here, and it wasn’t surprising that the downs were tough with only two quick puny entries going in with RUG* and ASH*.

As I said, progress was slow, not least because… well, you probably know if you’re reading this. For me, 18dn was the give-away with Discontinued pound coin originally etched with sort of barcode (8) giving BROAD[PI]ECE [(E(tched) + BARCODE)*] and telling us that the letter to be omitted was a Greek letter. Thanks, Sabre.

That reveal came over an hour into the solve for me since no amount of playing with the letters of EBARCODE• helped! Even knowing that, finishing off the grid took an age helped (?) of course by the jumbling of the other answers in each column. One of the last to be resolved was 1dn Group of advisers, half in a taxi (5) which I had in my mind was CABAL, entered as BACAL or LACAB but the wordplay didn’t really work. Checking the preamble, I realised I hadn’t got the abbreviation yet and I eventually squeezed out NACAB [(i)N + A + CAB], that well-known National Association of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux!

Favourite clue was 2dn Cowboy band of yesteryear — all seats sold before end of April (4) — [MU]SRO + (apri)L with its sneaky definition. Close second was 17dn Restoration produces proper silver jacket for Elvis (8) — PROP + AG + E(lvi)S.

So, time for the simple one-to-one cipher. The way in was ‘obviously’ 20 which encoded was C.Z..R.R.R.R with each unknown letter being one of several options. The fact that we had Greek letters in the down answers meant that we were dealing with something Greek. …..A.A.A.A or …..E.E.E.E looked more likely than Is, Os or Us. At first I tried old Greeks like Archimedes and Thessalonian but nothing ended with that pattern at the end.

Now whether Sabre and the editors expected me to get the theme from that without cheating, I don’t know, but after half an hour of searching various references for Greek things/people/places, I was none the wiser. Rather than reach for Tea (which I had used for OPINIONATORS above) I thought I’d try Chambers and started thumbing through looking for Greek things. Well, I could have done, but instead used my Chambers app to do the donkey work looking for entries containing ‘Greek’, and was losing hope when TARAMASALATA cropped up: “a Greek dish, a pink creamy paste made of grey mullet or smoked cod’s roe with olive oil and garlic.” Not much different from using Tea I guess by trying ‘*1.1.1.1’.

So Greek dishes they were, and a great relief then to finish with KEFTEDES, AVGOLEMONO, SPANAKOPITA (always reminds me of Wan‘s Up to Ten Items? from 2016), TARAMASALATA, SOUVLAKIA and MEZE (only three of which I’d heard of). I have to say that this puzzle would have been impossible for me without a great deal of help. Of course, if I’d only keyed the title Nostimous into Google Translate, Greek→English, I’d have found it was ‘delicious’ in Greek, well ‘νόστιμο’ anyway.

Got there in the end. Thanks, Sabre.

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L4617 ‘Selfie’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 14 Aug 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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Listener No 4617: Selfie by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 Aug 2020

It’s always nice to celebrate an anniversary, and here we were told that this puzzle marked 50 years since Sabre’s first Listener. According to the Sabre’s page at the Listener Crossword web site , this would be his 71st solo outing, with two other collaborations, one with Salamanca back in 1989 and one with Phi last year. That’s some feat.

(I find it somewhat depressing on such occasions to recall what I was doing back then. In this case, I was working as a Cobol programmer for Barclays Bank just off Tottenham Court Road.)

Anyway, here we were in 2020 and a nice self-portrait of Sabre appeared to be coming our way. But first, the clues, and you just knew they were going to be tricky, some more than others. Every one had an extra word, half lost a letter on entry, and half gained a letter. The first letters of the extra words would give features of the selfie, and the extra/missing letters would spell out a two-part instruction requiring changes to the grid and “leading to a different portrait”.

Oh. My. God. (That’s Twitter-speak for “Oh my god!”.) So onwards and upwards.

Needless to say, this puzzle was pretty much as tough as I was expecting it to be, starting with 1ac A summons involving New Zealand chief in stopping cause of oppression (10). Now when I say “starting with…”, I mean getting myself in a box after some time by thinking it was RIOTOUSNESS. After that, it was an age before ONEROUSNESS came to the rescue, with Zealand being the extra word.

I won’t go into all the trials and tribulations I went through with this puzzle, but will just highlight some of the clues that gave me pleasure:

30ac STELAR Only one [centimetre] length in crack of root cylinder (7)
STELLAR with only one L
36ac OVERREV Against following through on [shooting] gun too much (8)
V after (OVER + RE) with an extra word/definition to totally mislead
46ac YESTEREVE The aged give boxes antique sixpence [each] (not the first time), even recently (10)
YEVE around TESTER – the first T and not YE + something
4dn SAREE Bollywood [titans] covering tracks are evading shows (4)
(track)S ARE E(vading)
a simple (?) hidden
36dn (D)ODDLE Picnic rolling game always making good day (5)
GOGGLE with every G becoming D
a nicely misleading definition
39dn MANET Artist playing piece [in] E flat in conclusion (4)
MAN + E (fla)T
 

There were an awful lot of geographical references in the clues, including New Zealand, Quebec, Paris, Malham, Cadiz, Cambridge, Newcastle, Monte Cristo and Japan. Were these all places that Sabre has been to over the years?

I could see where Sabre was going with the initial letters of the extra words as Zimmer was emerging from the early acrosses. Eventually, we had Zimmer frame, bifocals, bald pate, toothless grin and hearing aid.

As for the instruction given by added and omitted letters, that was a bit more tricky. Replace two c.l… had me initially guessing that two cells needed to change. Oh no! Replace two columns in code and Add to them this puzzle’s heading. “Selfie by Sabre” was this puzzle’s heading, and two columns were completely unchecked. Just add one to the other.

(Note to self: the seventh letter of the alphabet is not F.)

Having sorted out my alphabet counting error, it didn’t take long to see the “different portrait” required by the preamble: GOYA’S DOS VIEJOS COMIENDO SOPA, Two Old Men Eating Soup. Painted in the early 1820’s, originally onto a wall of the Quinta del Sordo, a house in the outskirts of Madrid. It was transferred to canvas fifty years later. It was not a work that was unknown to me and is housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

What a fantastic ending. No self-portrait of Sabre (at least I hope not), but a portrait by Goya. Thanks a million for a fine puzzle.
 

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