Puzzle #44 Solution and Puzzle #45, "Good News, You're In The Right Place"

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Hey all – pretty easy puzzle for most of you last week, and I’m already late posting this thanks to a deadline for my actual job, so I’ll be brief. Here’s the picture:

The long answers contained, across word breaks, the common shorthand ways people often refer to five of America’s top national newspapers – the Los Angeles Times (LAT), USA Today (USAT), the New York Times (NYT), the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and the Washington Post (WaPo). The trick was then to see that the grid also contained scrambled (or “shuffled”) versions of these groups of letters, with one extra. The extra letters, taken in grid order, spelled out the meta answer, INKER.

Up next is puzzle #45, “Good News, You’re In the Right Place.”

045_goodnews.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a book of the Gospel. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, January 20 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday. (Unless, like this week, I don’t because I’m a liar!)

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #43 Solution and Puzzle #44, "Shuffling Papers"

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Last week’s title was fitting, though I thought it would be a bit of a giveaway. Turns out it was more complicated than I realized …

There were no obvious theme entries other than a 15-letter entry across the middle, STYLIZED LETTERS clued as “Feature of some personal or corporate branding.” Around the rest of the grid were some names of music performers, brands, and one other thing that might have been a touch harder to find. Some of these things feature stylized letters and some don’t, and it was up to you to find them. The image below shows them, in their stylized form:

Some of the clues referenced certain album covers, logos, etc., which if you looked them up, would reveal exactly one stylized letter in each bit of branding. (The “resist” bumper sticker was the trickiest to find – there are many such stickers without any strange letters, but an image search will turn up at least one with an upside-down T.) Here’s a picture of all six:

The I in P!NK is an exclamation point, and the A in SΛMSUNG looks like a capital lambda. The rest are just upside-down or backwards versions of the letters they’re standing in for. Anyhow, if you flip each one (in the direction in which each thing appeared in the grid, incidentally) and take them in grid order, you get something that looks like iNVERT, a fitting answer (and also, interestingly, inverted in terms of capitalization from a normal way you might type the word, Invert.)

Okay, so that was how it was supposed to go, and how it did go for many of you. But there were a few pitfalls:

First, many solvers had trouble finding RESIS. (A few had some trouble with the others, but not in significant numbers.) Second, my terrible clue for the already-terrible entry at 26-down caused problems. The entry is terrible because, well, just look at it. The clue was terrible because TESL is not, in fact, the stock symbol for Tesla (it’s TSLA) – the right clue would have been about Teaching English as a Second Language, which, I know, isn’t the best crossword fill. And it caused problems because the Tesla logo has some stylized letters. Anyway, moving on from that, the third problem was that a lot of solvers simply looked at the six stylized letters, INAERT, and when that wasn’t a word, anagrammed them. That set of letters has two valid anagrams, RETAIN and RETINA. That would be a pretty sloppy meta mechanism – why not put them in a reasonable order in the grid? – but many solvers were tripped up by the fact that RETINA is a thematically appropriate word, because what your eye’s lens projects onto the retina is an inverted image.

So, a nice idea but with some significant flaws, I think.

Up next is Puzzle #44, “Shuffling Papers.”

044_shufflingpapers.puz

Update – oops, I left the end off a clue! Nothing to do with the meta, but here’s the updated puzzle:

044_shufflingpapers-02.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a part in a printing press. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, January 13 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #42 Solution and Puzzle #43, "Flip the Script"

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Last week’s puzzle was called “Connect the Dots” and asked for a Greek mythology figure, which combined to suggest maybe we were dealing with a constellation. Et voila:

Five of the grid’s black squares were surrounded by four entries that could make a compound word or phrase with “star” added to the front or back. Connect those five dots as above and you get a pretty fair approximation (with a couple of the angles exaggerated a bit to fit the format) of the constellation Cassiopeia:

I would be remiss if I did not mention here that a similar theme has been done before, and not terribly long ago. In October 2018, the New York Times ran a puzzle from constructor Jennifer Nutt that similarly drew Cassiopeia, with Xs representing the stars. That grid was beautifully constructed, and crosswordfiend.com gave it the Orca for Best Easy Crossword.

I constructed this one before I’d seen Jennifer’s, but ran across hers before writing the clues; fortunately, she and Will Shortz both gave their blessing for me to publish this.

Up next is Puzzle #43, “Flip the Script.”

043_flipscript.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a six-letter word. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, January 6 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday. Happy New Year!

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #41 Solution and Puzzle #42, "Connect the Dots"

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Last week’s puzzle had four long entries in a pinwheel shape, but since you were looking for a five-letter answer, the central across entry (longer, at 7 letters, than anything else in the grid) was also part of it. I’ll let the picture do the talking:

As you can see above, the grid had entries that, with -er added to the end (sort of like in the puzzle’s title), were synonyms of the five theme entries: FRUSTRATION = ANG(ER), GREASY SPOON = DIN(ER), PITFALL = DANG(ER), HOLY FEAST = EAST(ER), MARIJUANA = REEF(ER). The initials of these five shorter entries, in grid order, spell the very thematically appropriate animal ADDER.

Up next is puzzle #42, “Connect the Dots.”

Okay, technical difficulties maybe surmounted, here it is? –

042_connectdots.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a figure from Greek mythology. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, December 30 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday. Merry Christmas!

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #40 Solution and Puzzle #41, "Born to Bewilder"

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If you’ve been solving my puzzles for a while you might have noticed that when the grid looks weird, there’s a good chance it’s because I was straining to get the clue numbers to do something important. Puzzle #40, “Let Me Check My Calendar,” certainly had some weird chunks of black squares.

The prompt asked for “a three-word phrase that might be part of a date proposal.” The three longest across answers were all holidays: CHRISTMAS, INDEPENDENCE DAY and HALLOWEEN. The key insight was the two hints, in the puzzle title and the prompt, towards calendar dates. Notice that those holidays all have fixed dates. If you referred to the two entries representing each holiday’s date (using the American month/day convention), you got a clue yielding one word for each, spelling out our three-word phrase in order of the theme entries:

CHRISTMAS: 12/25 – FIRST VOWEL. The first vowel of “Christmas” is I.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: 7/4 – STAR SMITH. That film’s star was WILL Smith.
HALLOWEEN: 10/31 – TRICK OPTION. The other Halloween option is a TREAT.

So the answer to the meta was “I WILL TREAT,” which is a courteous, if a bit overly formal, thing to say when asking someone out on a date. Lots of solutions came in for this one, so I think you guys are on to my grid-numbers schtick.

Up next is puzzle #41, “Born to Bewilder.”

041_borntobewilder.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a five-letter animal. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, December 23 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #39 Solution and Puzzle #40, "Let Me Check My Calendar"

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Puzzle #39’s weird title, “A Résumé for Sue Ream,” pretty obviously anagrammed to a much more familiar title, “Measure for Measure.” And the grid had a bunch of anagrams, of (plural and singular) units of measure:

The key, as hinted at in the meta prompt, was conversion. Let’s look at an example: 12d was NICHES, which anagrams to INCHES – and there are 12 of those in a FOOT, which appears anagrammed in the grid as FOTO. Similarly:

60a MINUETS -> MINUTES, 60 of which make an HOUR -> ROHU
24d HORUS -> HOURS, 24 of which make a DAY -> ADY
16a UNESCO -> OUNCES, & 20d HILL’S SIGN -> SHILLINGS; either way you get a POUND -> UPNOD
3d FÊTE -> FEET, 3 of which make a YARD -> DRAY

The first letters of the grid entries that anagram to the singular, larger units (FOTO, ROHU, ADY, UPNOD, DRAY) spelled out the meta answer, FRAUD. Which is something that is sometimes (but not always) involved in tortious conversion (which means wrongfully possessing, and withholding, something that belongs to someone else – basically, it’s what you sue for if someone steals from you and – and it doesn’t always involve fraud but it sure might.)

The alternate conversions for pound had some solvers a bit confused, searching for some particular reason there were (as the clue indicated) two ways to get to UPNOD and not just one. There wasn’t anything special about it, I just really liked both of those anagrams so I kept them both. Sorry if that quirky choice tripped you up.

Up next is puzzle #40, “Let Me Check My Calendar.”

040_calendar.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a three-word phrase that might be part of a date proposal. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, December 16 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.

Puzzle #38 Solution and Puzzle #39, "A Résumé for Sue Ream"

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Puzzle #38 featured six theme answers, all of which closely related to a word that, in another sense, is an animal sound:

SLIPPERY ELM (used medicinally for its bark)
JOAN RIVERS (she was a hoot, as the clue alluded to)
GUANTANAMO (a bay)
JACK DORSEY (Twitter CEO)
MILES DAVIS (he played the trumpet)
LEO SPACEMAN (a quack)

The clues were chock full of animals, and six of them began with the names of animals that can make the above sounds: Hound (which can also bay), Owl, Wolf (which can probably also bark), Lark, Elephant, Duck. And whereas it would be typical for me to have you go back to the grid to spell something out, this time I didn’t – the animal names themselves spelled out howled, which was a fitting meta answer.

Up next is puzzle #39, “A Résumé for Sue Ream.”

039_aresume.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is something that may be involved in the tort of conversion. Don’t worry, the puzzle is not about obscure law stuff. Here‘s the Wikipedia article on conversion, in case you have never heard of the term. But you don’t need to know anything about law to solve the puzzle.

Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, December 9 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

To keep up with the puzzles: Twitter @pgwcc1; follow the blog for email reminders; rss feed if you’re set up for that.