Derek Harrison's Crossword Message Board

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Re(1): Listener No. 4367: Identity Crisis by Sabre

I wasn’t quite as bowled over by the puzzle as John, though it had many outstanding features. I agree it had all the usual Sabre ingredients of some brilliantly devious clues (luckily there were enough easy ones as well), and an original and complex theme superbly woven into the grid without the use of clue gimmicks.

One weakness for me was the difficulty of tracking down an obscure quotation, which was disordered in the grid. Even after I had all the components of the first part of the quotation, and guessing the sequence of some of them, I had great difficulty finding the quotation via an internet search. ODQ was of no use because only the last part of the quotation is given there, and to find it via the index one needed ‘puzzle’ as a keyword, which isn’t known until the whole quotation is discovered by other means. Perhaps if I'd sorted out one or two of the clashes first I'd have found the quotation more easily, but in most cases it was difficult to sort out the jumbles even if one could be sure of having the right letters. However, that weakness is also a strength in a way, because the quotation becomes the puzzle, rather than being a means to an end. I’m not sure how a solver without the internet would go about solving it (and we all know one such person), but perhaps it was possible via some other dictionary of quotations.

At one point my solving was held up by my mistaken assumption that there would be no double unches. This is the second time in three weeks that we’ve had double unches in a grid, and here they seemed more serious in a way because they were invisible. I think a solver has a right to expect a carte blanche grid to be broadly Ximenean (perhaps with the occasional appearance of two unches in a five-letter word). Having said that, given the complexity of the grid, I think the double unches were unavoidable, unlike the last time they occurred.

I rather liked the irony of the endgame. Those three words might well be the response of a solver after an exhausting bout of puzzling.


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