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Posts Tagged ‘Sabre’

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

Posted by Encota on 21 Oct 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:

scan0157

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!!

cheers,

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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Identity Crisis by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 Oct 2015

Sabre TSThere have been mutterings on the ‘boards not to be mentioned’ that Listener crosswords were becoming too easy. I added a Numpty comment to one of them; “Be careful what you wish for; there is probably a Sabre in store or another Klein Bottle!” Prophetic words. We downloaded Sabre’s Identity Crisis and looked for our chessmen so that we could make a few realistic knights’ moves. But no, he did promise that the next one would be something different – and here it was.

Of course, eight solving hours later (yes, it beat my four-day record on the Mash Klein bottle!) I know that even with his theme, Tristram Shandy, Sabre qualifies for Listener Oenophile Elite membership, but I did, nevertheless, scan his clues for the usual sprinkling of alcohol.

What did I find? A gentle anagram including tea. ‘Odd notion, tea shifting moths (12) ODD NOTION TEA* giving NOTODONTIDAE. Then a smile as we find ourselves starring in a clue about PUNISHMENT (well, with Sabre, we knew we were in for that!) ‘Numpties finish in rush, and informally revised correction (10)’ (NUMPTIES [rus]H + ‘N*) (Finish in rush? You must be joking – it was 2 a.m. when I finished!).

Next we find ‘Old bar: left over bottles disappear in the end (6)’ (SPARE ‘bottling’ [disappea]R giving SPARRE) So now Sabre is drinking up the dregs. ‘Struggle makes Brit a barman (6)’ gave us EFFORT and we finished with ‘Intoxicant leads to teen having crisis (3)’. This was clearly the abbreviation that was mentioned in the preamble  giving us THC.

We knew that we were aiming at a 12X12 grid with 180-degree symmetry and we soon had most of the long solutions, as these clues were on the generous side for Sabre, but immense problems loomed. It became clear that WITHSTANDING, for example, could not begin in the same column as UNFATHOMABLE and NOTODONTIDAE, as its initial coordinate was N and they were obviously going to begin in the column we had already identified as A because of all the solutions that had to begin there.

It was thus clear that WITHSTANDING was to be shortened in some way, like, for example, QUARRYMASTER, which had, somehow, to fit in the same column, we assumed, as KAIM. Numpty head-scratching ensued.

We had started with a 13×13 grid but, as the six-letter coordinates revealed themselves (we eventually had a putative AS SURE/ AND WHO/, SAID HE/, AND YOU and were able to guess at ARE YOU and AS I AM I) we had to revert to a 12×12 grid so that the bars we entered prompted us about the places where our clashes would appear.

At this stage, the quotation sounded very much like a creation of Lewis Carroll, or of Edward Lear but it was not to be. It was only after a careful checking of the coordinates that I had enough clashing information to look up an anagram of (qua)RRYMAS(ter) and (w)ITHSTAND(ing) and with a hoot of joy was given TRISTRAM SHANDY by TEA.

Of course the others followed: (stor)MWINDOW and ADWA(re) giving WIDOW WADMAN; (nai)LROD and SP(arre) giving DR SLOP; (ha)YRICK and (ror)O producing YORICK; (dou)BLY and CENTO(ist) creating UNCLE TOBY and ROOTL(ike) and CRAMPIR(on) finally producing CORPORAL TRIM.

Of course, Google gave me the full quotation. This novel was the favourite work of my International School Head of Department and part of our curriculum but it is a dense, if hilarious, work and these words come in Chapter 14. “As sure as I am I and you are you. And who are you, said he. Don’t puzzle me, said I!”

There it was; ‘DONT PUZZLE ME SAID I’ and it was inserted symmetrically at the foot of the grid creating new words, RASPS, IDANTS, TED and SPINOZA. Oh but this was impressive setting. Real words at the end of a puzzle always produce a murmur of approval.

Two thing were left to do. We highlighted the cell that had contained the TRISTRAM SHANDY clash and checked with Chambers that we were inserting the letters of STERNE in cells where they made real words (STORE/ERES, QUARTER/WRING, NAIN/NARRE, TIKE/TON and HAE/RORE.

What a compilation. Many thanks to Sabre.

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Listener 4326: Coincidence by Sabre

Posted by Jaguar on 16 Jan 2015

OK, so, to resolve the dilemma of what went in the middle column I’ve cheated and waited until after the solution was posted to find out what was accepted (in the end, apparently anything!). I’ve not checked my various replacements, though… anyway, I suppose I should go back to the beginning.

At the end of a long year of solving (and sometime setting) it’s finally the last 2014 edition of the Listener. Of course, those of us who made it to 51/51 might be looking forward to a nice easy one to keep that all-correct chain going. And naturally the editors were only too happy to oblige. So they gave us a Sabre. Hmm… So far I’ve attempted two of his Listeners and correctly solved neither of them. The knight’s moves one was too tough for me (and my final solution had KOHB not KOHb anyway), and apparently one silly typo cost me his somewhat easier 2013 effort, so I can’t say I was looking forward to this one either.

At least there wasn’t anything gimmicky in the clues, and actually they’re not too hard a set (at least, not for Sabre). The massive amounts of clashes proved a pain, but gradually the answers came to me and I was after a few hours staring at a full-ish grid. That middle column looked like it would have something to do with MINUTE HAND, with something looking vaguely like HOUR HAND running in the same cells, so at least we also have the theme sorted — times on the clock when the hands coincide. Which two times, though?

And so began a long, painful process of sorting through the various options, teasing out a three here and an eight there, and this entire exercise probably took as long as the clue-solving before I was staring at a pair of notably precise times (down to elevenths of a minute, even!). Some devious trickery included hiding one or two of those letter swaps in unchecked cells, and on occasion you’d have to find a third letter to resolve a clash of two different letters. My goodness, this was difficult! The “NOON” highlighting helped things on the way a bit…

But, eventually, I was there, leaving only the middle column to sort out. That’s not too bad, just put two letters per cell for the first eight cells, and there are the two hands running side-by-side. Sorted.

But then, suddenly, drama! Don’t the two hands lie on top of each other rather than alongside? Indeed, the hour hand is underneath and might not be visible at all! All of which leaves three options to pick from, two of which are particularly convincing, one less so, and god knows which we should choose… thankfully, for me at least, this was only the difference between 50/52 at best and 49/52. I plumped for superposing the two letters, hoping to goodness that a note justifying it would count in my favour.

Luckily for us all, the editors were generous. I expect Sabre is shaking his head, sadly, that the solution he intended wasn’t regarded as unambiguous after all (I expect he preferred just MINUTE HAND in the middle column, since just because a letter was changed in PREACH (U/N)P before entry doesn’t mean you then still have to enter all the letters; my counterargument to that was that the hour hand is rarely perfectly hidden, as it’s usually fatter than the minute hand.)

At any rate, I breathed a sigh of relief that my choice was accepted. Barring the inevitable typo, of course. And so, 2014 comes to an end and, having had a couple of hiccups, I’ll have to try again next year. Roll on 2015…

My crossword programme doesn't do writing letters atop one another...

My crossword programme doesn’t do writing letters atop one another…

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Coincidence by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 Jan 2015

Sabre coincidences 001Now why would the editors give us a cutting stroke from Sabre as the last crossword of the year? Are there too many ‘all corrects’ out there somewhere? I have to say, though, that we were expecting to see Sabre’s name as we downloaded this one, as he hasn’t appeared yet this year but with all those Christmas guests and the heap of leftover turkey, stuffing and what not, this was not the most welcome solve for me – and I was still saying that twenty-four hours later – I believe that this, for us, came second to Mash’s Klein bottle in duration of solve, which I calculate to have been about fifteen hours, of which something like ten went into alphanumeric calculations of letters, turning the grid upside down, inside out etc. and considerable cursing of it.

Of course, though I knew in advance that Sabre has long since earned his season ticket for the Listener Setters’ Imbibers Club, I did a speedy check to confirm his membership, and, after a few false starts with a ‘gallon of tea’ and ‘fermented sterol’, he produced his tipple ‘prime quality aged rum’. Cheers, Sabre!

Ironically, the initial solve went fairly quickly and we were remarking, with astonishment, that this might be like the Tibea solve of earlier in the year, when setters of difficult ones produced something relatively gentle. Yes, OK, it knocked very close to half of us out of the competition. I was a TAPU/TABU offender, as were most of the solvers I know! We were to be disillusioned by the last few clues which left us scratching our heads.

We were alerted by that remark in the preamble that ‘Lengths in brackets refer to grid entries’ to the fact that there were going to be some longer entries to fit in and when a helpful anagram produced BROMHIDROSIS – Monsieur’s horrid BO is compounded by this (MS HORRID BO IS*) we made the logical assumption that the unclued centre column was where the extra letter would go. With the IO of EXPIRATION added there and the TH at the end of ACANTH, ‘A slang term for spinach plant that’s dead (5)’ (A + CANT + (spinac)H giving us an obsolete or ‘dead’ plant name) plus ND appearing at the end of the column, one Numpty saw that HOUR HAND and MINUTE HAND were likely candidates and that they, of course, produce a number of ‘coincidences’ in the course of their twelve hour rotations around the clock.

NOON was clearly a four-letter candidate for the word to be highlighted and we could see that appearing as clashes in PENNON with UPSHOT, LIMO and RAZMATAZ gave us PE N/H  N/O O N/M. Those clashes were intriguing, as they evidently established where clues were going to have one letter replaced by another BUT (big BUT) there weren’t enough of them for us to adjust every solution in the grid.

Those ‘head-scratchers’? I believe the last clue to be solved is often the same one for a whole range of solvers and the Answerbank has confirmed that 17ac ‘Rounded, narrowing bodies seen in all of Dior dresses’ (7 two words) (URNS in TOUT = TURNS OUT) and 9d ‘This ancient knew following close to mobsters would get you mugged (6)’ (WOTTED which with (mobster)S would give SWOTTED or ‘mugged’) were the last for other people. They were ours: but, after a cold turkey break, we had a full grid and that grid staring began.

We fed those clashing letters into TEA (oh, yes, I will use any solving aid – Quinapalus’ wonderful resources, Crossword Compiler’s provisions or any on-line Playfair solver and cock a snook at the purists who stick to brain and pencil!) and intriguing words appeared if we ignored the centre column. We got TEN TO TWO and MINUTES TO EIGHT, as well as MINUTES PAST THREE. Those were clearly part of coincidences but that is when my despair almost set in. Truly, after seven years of weekly Listener solving (and yes, I have never been the winner out of JEG’s bag – how does that tally with statistical probability?) I had finally decided to write a ‘fail blog’ and return to the Sun Numpty Coffee Break Easy Solve and never look at another Listener.

No messages giving ‘two examples of coincidence’ would appear from the clashing pairs of letters, and, even more disconcerting, we had words like SATRAP and SPACE CADETS where we had no clashes at all, and intersecting words like CRAIC and LASHES where there was only one available clash, so we couldn’t replace a letter in both.

The other Numpty created a table of times when clashes occur as the two hands go round the clock and all of them contained fractions with 11 as the denominator, (yes, I realize it was available on the Internet, too) so I had something to work on, but it was finding those expressions in the list of clashing letters that was the downer.

Sabres most unkindest cut of all 001Enough! I am sure I am not the only solver to have spent an inordinate amount of time struggling before realizing that the solution had to be in the unches and (oh the deviousness of it!) using the replacement letter and/or the original letter to create the two separate messages. This was typical Sabre advanced thinking and way out of my league. So we take the X of EXPIRATION to give us ‘SIXTEEN AND FOUR ELEVENTH MINUTES PAST THREE’ and we convert it to an E, thus producing a replaced letter in E[E]PIRATION and permitting us to find TWENTY-ONE AND FOUR ELEVENTH MINUTES TO EIGHT (and so on, for the E of TERPINEOLS, that becomes TERPIN[T]OLS etc.)

What about (in two cases the letter and its replacement are identical)? Is that a contradiction in terms? Apparently not. I have to use the E of LASHES and the E of SPACE CADETS for both of the messages.

What can I say. I am supposed to have enjoyed this solve, but, in fact, was plunged into the slough of despond by it. But that is what the Listener is all about isn’t it? We bemused and dim-witted lower level setters and solvers have to simply gasp in amazement at the productions of the Mashes, Quinapali, Keas and Sabres of the upper echelons so many thanks again, Sabre!

Post script: I posted my entry a couple of days ago, as did most of my friends, I believe, but one of them has just alerted me to the fact that ‘the numbers in brackets refer to the grid entries’ and, of course, since I have entered both my hour and my minute hand in the grid, I have twelve letters, for example, in clue 4ac, where I have BROMHIDROSWS and the number in brackets says (11). The minute hands in some clocks lies over the hour hand (not in the one I am looking at where the hour hand has pretty little rings on it and I can clearly see both, right now, as they coincide!) No, surely Sabre and the editors wouldn’t eliminate entries for that, after all the hard work that went into solving. Such a dilemma makes me almost relieved to have been out of the ‘all corrects’ for quite a while!

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Invisible Ink II, by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 Dec 2010

Comments from the family included, “They’ve forgotten to print the clues!”  “Perhaps Sabre is not paid enough – he must be doing a go-slow to improve the pay of compilers.” “Well, can you send an invisible solution?  Oh-o no, they’re a clever lot – it says, ‘Solutions in invisible ink will not be accepted’- darn it!”

So we set to work. We highlighted the lights that were going to be filled by clues and saw that that was most of the crossword. Obviously, we had to cold-solve all that we could and fill the solutions in normally, before even considering attempting to encode them.  There were only 21, so that task should have been easier than usual but, of course, the numpties were rather daunted by the task.

In 22ac, for example, once we had solved VACATE at 13d (‘The old annul caveat, being out of order’) we had ?????T?? for ‘Small number in narrow-minded Aussie crew’. Seven unchecked lights – is that cricket? Perhaps the clue was fairly transparent. N was going to be number, and we had to fit it into ‘limited’ or ‘bigoted’ but BIGNOTED doesn’t appear in an alphabetical position in Chambers, so we were left wondering for a while. ‘Crew’ in its biblical ‘cock crew’ sense was obscure enough to trick us. Am I grumbling again? I suppose it was a very subtle and ingenious clue.

Obviously there must be cricket going on somewhere in the world – we had a few references – that word BOILOVER (‘Bowled well, carrying half of Oval – a surprise down under’) ARILS (‘Covers for seeds, half of each bear snails’), ABATE (‘Allow a cricketer what’s left of éclair’). I suspected our white spaces, when exposed to a bit of Aussie sun, were going to yield names of Test cricketers. But it was not to be.

Soon we had a complete grid, with the exception of 31d, (Skein of geese are a very approximate ell?) and that seemed to be a fair starting point for decoding – or encoding. ‘A simple substitution type …’ That sounds promising – A BC D E, can become M N O P Q, for example. Don’t be so naïve! There’s that word ‘permutation’.

So we print a new grid. The starting point is obvious, as we have BEBOPBOP at 5d. There can’t be many words in the English language that fit that pattern. Eureka! There is only NONSENSE. We’re on our way. Our second word, 6d, OTLTOIO produces four possibilities but we opt for SIZISTS or SIZISMS and hit 8d. I don’t know how anybody could work out this code without the help of Chambers on-line or an equivalent word-finder. Sadly, though, the on-line version gives no solution for O?B?PO?R?I?P.

I slept on it, and, in the morning, realized that SYNAESTHETE would fit the pattern – it was a simple matter of putting the word in the plural. It took two of us to complete the task, carefully checking that we were not skipping a row or column or confusing the original letter with its encoded version.

The new grid filled but we still had to work backwards to find 31d. We had two letters of the unencoded word and were looking for ?AR?  We started with the conviction that we were looking for a measure; thus the skein of geese had to be part of the wordplay. (They fly in Vs, not Ells don’t they) Chambers confirmed that V can be anything in a V shape. Still we struggled, as VARA seemed to be a measurement, but we needed VARE, to produce BOTANISE (and not BCTANISE). Sure enough, there it was, hiding inconspicuously at the head of the Chambers VARE head word. Sneaky!

We had to rethink our putative ELK/KRONAS/ZONAL – which was causing us trouble anyway, since clearly a unique solution had to exist – we were not going to be faced with a choice of ZONAE or ZONAL. I flailed for a good hour before finally opting for E-LA, AROBAS and ZYBAN. I am not happy with my solution but all the words are in Chambers, even if one of them is a trademark. I wonder if there is a more satisfactory, alternative solution!

This was tough.Thank you Sabre for filling most of my weekend. I recognise the brilliance of the construction and imagine the experts will have done it on the train home, as usual but please, Mr Listener, have pity on the numpty solvers. Can we have a bit more ‘Stripey horse (5)’?

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