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.”
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.
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.
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.
Hi all – sorry for the delay in posting a new puzzle; all of my metapuzzling efforts since Friday have been devoted to solving the MGWCC, which I very nearly didn’t. I will try to get this week’s puzzle up later today.
Last week’s grid (which I constructed quite a while ago when I was even worse at filling grids than I am now and consequently had some pretty bad stuff in it) had black squares in all four corners. Around the perimeter were the entries DRIVER, ICE-ICE, GRAND, NO OTHER, BYE BYE, BELUGA, SANTA, and GOT BACK, arranged so that adding “BABY” either before or after those entries, according to where they sat in relation to the black squares in the corners, made popular songs. So the movie line you had to defy was the iconic line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” spoken by a defiant Patrick Swayze to a paternalistic Jerry Orbach in Dirty Dancing, which was the meta answer. (The puzzle’s title, “Grey Areas,” referred to Jennifer Grey, the actress who played Baby.)
Last week I asked you to combine two grid entries to form a phrase that explained the theme entries’ clue numbers. So part of the challenge was to figure out what the theme entries were. But, not that difficult – the title was “History Repeats Itself” and the grid had several (ten, to be exact) four-letter entries consisting of repeated bigrams. Those bigrams were U.S. state postal abbreviations, and as many people figured out, they were placed in the grid such that their clue numbers corresponded with their place in the list of states by admission order, which was the meta answer. Like so:
That is, Pennsylvania (or PA) was the second state admitted to the union; Georgia (GA) was the fourth; and so on until Oklahoma (OK), the 46th.
Definitely on the easier side compared to some others of my puzzles, but many of you seemed to enjoy it. Up next is a puzzle called “Grey Areas.” (***Note: the clue for 62-across is written in the present tense but is not true anymore. This has nothing to do with anything other than that I wrote the puzzle a long time ago …)
The answer to the metapuzzle is a movie, a famous line from which you must defy several times to solve the meta. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, November 25 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.
Last week’s grid featured four long across answer, each featuring a two-letter word. The first thing to notice was that each two-letter word could be re-parsed into an initialism that’s shorthand for a certain position of authority:
LEONARDO DA VINCI – DA, short for District Attorney; IG NOBEL PRIZE – IG, short for Inspector General (a job much in the news of late); I DON’T THINK SO – SO, short for Superior Officer; and GUARDIAN AD LITEM – AD, short for … well, some kind of Director …
If some of those weren’t immediately obvious, you might have noticed that each word on its own can be a noun, and the grid is littered with examples of each – or rather, all but one – with the clue for each starting with the theme word:
1a. District of … = COLUMBIA 9a. Attorney whose … = ALLRED 32a. General at … = NAPOLEON 39a. Director of … = STONE 62a. Officer on … = ENSIGN 63a. Inspector played by … = CLOUSEAU 65a. Superior of … = OVERLORD
But what about the A in AD? Like we said – it has to be some kind of Director … Artistic Director? Assistant Director? Activities Director? No, it’s Athletic Director. How do we know? Well, for one thing, the prompt told you the meta answer was a retired ballplayer; but, more specifically, while there’s no corresponding clue/entry pair, the initial letters of the seven secondary-theme entries, in grid order, spell out CANSECO, which is the surname of a retired MLB player who began his career, and is best known, as an [Oakland] Athletic. (Also, bonus unintentional themery – he was an outfielder, or OF for short, which is the two-letter word in the puzzle title. The title also starts with “A,” and of course the Athletics are commonly called the A’s.) So Jose (or if you felt like it, his twin brother Ozzie, who also played outfield for the A’s for a bit) was your meta answer.
I kind of fell backwards into this unusual meta mechanism. I didn’t have a meta answer in mind at the outset – I just started brainstorming two-letter abbreviations that could be split up in this way and gathering a list of possible theme entries and corresponding grid entries. I knew I wanted to use Columbia as the district, Napoleon as the general, and Clouseau as the inspector; and Allred and Overlord were on my list; I wasn’t sure if I was even going to use AD (sure, you could have a clue that said “Athletic with a handlebar mustache” or whatever, but that’s pretty clunky) … but then I saw that I had just about everything I needed to spell out CANSECO, and he could be the Athletic, and I just needed a director and an officer starting with S and E. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I thought I had fortuitously stumbled into an interesting twist on an otherwise well-worn meta mechanism of extracting initial letters from secondary theme words hidden in the grid. Yay for me and my solvers, thought I …
Alas, the solving experience does not seem to have gone as planned for many of you. For one thing, I think some people didn’t realize that Ig is a standalone word in the name of the Ig Nobel Prize, so it took prompting, or some not-clearly-motivated research, to see the thing that all four long answers had in common. Many solvers also did not understand, and/or were frustrated by, the “twist” at the end. I got a number of submissions that said something like “not sure what happened to the A …” and at least one person, who did figure it out, felt it crossed the line into unfair territory. (Yes, that was a bad baseball pun.) Anyhow, for the second week in a row I seem to have misjudged how the solving experience would go.
Given the foregoing sentence perhaps it’s fitting that the next puzzle is called “History Repeats Itself.”
The answer to the metapuzzle is a phrase consisting of two grid entries which explains the theme entries’ clue numbers. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, November 18 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll try to post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday, though it’s gonna be a busy time so we’ll see …
Clunky, constrained grid with unusual dimensions last week, and six circled letters, three running down the left side and three on the right. Also, a few numerals sprinkled in the grid. Surely, with the meta prompt’s allusion to something “alphanumeric” and two of the clues also containing that word, that was no accident. Then there were the grid’s two longest entries, whose clues told you that to solve the meta you needed to fill the grid with UPPER CASE, SANS SERIF letters.
Beyond those musings the first real insight was that the six circled letters could be changed – in several cases, to make far less obscure entries in the across and/or down directions – to different letters or, in a couple of cases, numbers (resulting in entries that were, again, “alphanumeric”) so that they matched the clue for entries elsewhere in the grid. For example, the Z that began 1-across and 1-down, making some very bad fill (oscure local grocery chain ZUP’S and obscure Greek-island airport ZTH), could be changed to a 7, to make the far less obscure 7UPS (corresponding to the clue at 78-down, “Alphanumeric beverages,” originally given for V8S) and 7TH (corresponding to the clue at 25-across, “‘___ Heaven,'” originally given for MY BLUE.) The B at the 47-across/34-down crossing also changed to a number, turning bad-fill answers CBPO and MPB into C3PO (an alphanumeric “Star Wars” droid like at 4-across) and MP3 (an extension for many audio files like at 8-across.) The rest just changed to letters, but still in a few cases improved the fill noticeably. The image below shows a lot of this:
The full list of changes: Left side: ZTH/ZUP’S -> 7TH/7UPS CBPO/MPB -> C3PO/MP3 FEATS/CEE LO -> FLATS/CELLO Right side: MANTA/ALTAS -> MANIA/ALIAS ARBS/BRO -> ARPS/PRO DRU/HAD U -> DR. J/HADJ
Next thing to notice was that each letter (or letter-to-number) change, if you used sans serif, uppercase letters as prompted by the clues for 12- and 35-down, involved a change of deletion (or, per the puzzle’s title, “takeaway”) only; that is, e.g., the change from Z to 7 just requires erasing the horizontal line at the bottom of the Z; from B to 3, erasing the vertical line on the left; and so on. Here’s the full set, with new letters shown in red and portions of the old letter taken away in pink:
Next, taking a hint from the title, we gather together all the “takeaways” from each letter change, and – and this was the part that required the most creative thinking as there wasn’t really an explicit nudge – combine them to create new orthographic units. Specifically, the three on the left – a horizontal line at the bottom; a vertical line on the left; and two horizontal lines in the middle and on the top – can be combined to form a new capital E; and the three on the right – a horizontal line at the top; the half-oval that makes up the bottom curve of the B; and the vertical line at the top left of the U that you’d erase to get a J – can be put together to form the numeral 5.
Putting all that together we have an E on the left and a 5 on the right, so the metapuzzle’s answer was either the alphanumeric designation E-5, or the corresponding U.S. Army rank name, which is SERGEANT.
That was a lot – I’m tired just writing it up.
Several people entered Staff Sergeant, or E-6, instead. I don’t have time right now for a discussion of this – may update later …
Next up is a puzzled called “A Split of Authority.”
The answer to the metapuzzle is a retired Major League Baseball player. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, November 11 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.