Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Posts Tagged ‘Sabre’

Mental BLOCK? ‘Wiggles’ by SABRE

Posted by Encota on 22 Jun 2018

Trying to solve a Sabre?  Can’t make progress?  Mental block?

If so, then simply write, seemingly haphazardly, BLOCK in one of the Octagons.

Mental BLOCK

Inspiration will then suddenly follow – perhaps it’s a Caesar Cipher, you’ll think to yourself.  [Really??  Ed.]  To test your theory, count the number of dissected squares in the overall puzzle (there are 16) and ‘add’ it to the above letters in the usual way and write the result in the same Octagon:


SABRE immediately appears, again largely clockwise, proving your Caesar Cipher theory.  Apply the same approach to the rest of the empty shapes in this puzzle ‘Wiggles’ and you are sorted.

But I’m getting ahead of myself:

Have you ever re-watched episodes of Fawlty Towers, and early on been wondering if this is the one with the Germans in, or the one where Basil is trying to put up the moose head only to be interrupted by Sybil asking him if he’s going to put up the moose head, or the one with the fire drill and the fire, or the one where Basil gets a bump on the head or the one where he is running around like a mad thing and doing ’the funny walk’, or

… only to find that all of those happened in the same episode.  I’d go as far as suggesting that solvers may one day look back on this puzzle in a similar way: “Do you recall the Sabre that was that tessellation of the plane in octagons and overlaid squares”, or “the Sabre which intriguingly had clues called Wiggles”, or “the Sabre where the hidden creature’s name was given in both Latin (natrix natrix) and then English (grass snake)”, or “the Sabre where one of the answers had to be created by Caesar-shifting other answers to form a pair” or  …

… only to find that all of those happened in the same puzzle.

And, of course, with any work of art such as this, the artist should always sign their masterpiece, in this case using the 5 pieces required for the dissection of either the square or the octagon, naturally:


For the avoidance of doubt, I loved it!


Tim / Encota


Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

And now for something completely different…

Posted by Encota on 11 Aug 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.]

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

‘Four and a half…?’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 11 Aug 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

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Listener No 4460: Four and a Half… by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 Aug 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.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Out of Line by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 Oct 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!

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »