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Whirly-Birly by Sabre – stiff drinks!

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 Nov 2009

The Junior 8X8 team was gaining confidence but when we downloaded this one and read the word ‘jumbled’ followed by the word ‘encoded’ we were nonplussed. Then we noticed that ten of the answers were ‘thematic’. Despair! We wondered aloud whether Listener crosswords should come with letters A to F according to difficulty – just to warn off the beginners. A stiff drink was called for!

I got out my colours and coloured in the sets of four (two normal, one jumbled, one encoded) – but that just turned into a confused and useless tartan hotchpotch that masked even the clues we solved – abandon that!

Whirly-BirlyWe set to and were surprised when, by the end of the evening we had solved two-thirds of the clues. Great, straight-forward clueing gave us EMPRESS, PODEX, NEODYMIUM, WIT, MARYBUD, PLAIDMAN, EIGNE, ANNATES, STRESSING OUT and most of the down clues: FERNYTICKLES, AMEER, IPSO, URI, KENYA, PSAMMOPHILES, STUDDINGSAIL, REALTOR, BREEDINGS, V-SHAPES, REIGN, CRIES, SOMA and GED.

It was easy enough to identify most of those that had to go in normally, because of useful intersecting words, and it was obvious that GED and SOMA had to be jumbles. We could even work out how MARYBUD had to be jumbled to fit with existing words but this is where inexperience brought us to a standstill.

Problem no. 1 – half a dozen words to be entered normally that we couldn’t even find because of our lack of skill. For an entire day, we laboured towards INDISPUTABLE. Of course, it came up as one of the few possible words in a number of word-finding programmes but who would have thought it could mean ‘liquid’? EPAULET, RAISE CAIN and INHIBIT are obvious solutions (once you have them) but they evaded us until we had the help of a superior solver. And HECHS? Yes, it is obvious that HES have to go round CH(ina) but we wasted lots of time hunting for the obvious.

Problem no. 2 – CRIES and ANNATES clearly had to be coded but what about the Es of the two words that intersected with each other? The preamble stated very clearly that no letter was encoded to itself (later on that condemned to the bin a putative ‘FIRST AUSLESE’ which, in a nasty linguistic jumble, looked like fitting in at 1ac – of course the F of FERNYTICKLES couldn’t be the code for the F of First – it was the K of KIRSCHWASSER).

Sweden Oct 2009 036We shelved that problem for later. Time for a strong drink – and RESINATA had appeared, entered normally, as one of the thematic words. 9d could even be CHAMPAGNE (of course, it wasn’t) but our local drink, KIR, was tempting us at 31ac. Suddenly this looked like being a very boozy evening (It was Saturday by now!)

We were able to sort out roughly which of the remaining solutions were to be jumbles and which to be encoded but we created out own problem no. 3. BRANDY PAWNEE seemed to go into 23ac and give us some of the remaining code letters that we needed, (especially that elusive W) but I was convinced that 21d was going to be a jumble of BURGUNDY – that clashed! And so did SLIVOVITZ at 9d.  Oh, clever Sabre! It’s the alternative spelling of SLIVOWITZ – and stupid me! Of course, 10d is jumbled BURGUNDY and 21d produces an encoded SAUTERNE.

We were still hunting for that elusive letter that W encoded to! It appeared in KIRSCHWASSER and in the intersecting SLIVOWITZ and BRANDY PAWNEE (now who would drink that?) but we had to complete our boozy evening with PORT, POMBE and QUETSCH before we could fill in the final letters of our jumbles and slot the N of STUDDINGSAIL into all those W gaps. (Can anyone explain Whirly-Birly to me? NPAIXO-TAIXO?)

Time for a celebration cup which we raised to all you solvers who manage mental gymnastics like this in a couple of hours and to the remarkable mind of a genius who can set something like this. Cheers, Sabre!

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