Meta Master Matt talked a while back about one of his favorite kinds of metapuzzle: “what I’m calling the SAD style of meta: ‘Simple And Difficult.'” I also like the SAD style, but if I had to pick a favorite I think it might be the sort we had last week, the “non-linear solve.” The NLS (not nearly as good an acronym) requires the solver to explore potential avenues toward the solution without necessarily seeing how what he or she is trying is going to help, and sometimes to work backward after discovering something that starts to solidify what’s going on. I think we had a little bit of that in puzzle #8, whose title (“Try Another”) nudged in that direction:
The highlighted long entries were clued by giving examples:
– GETTING ON A TRAIN was clued with “Buying a ticket is one way of doing it …”
– COMPUTER COMPANY with “Toshiba is one …”
– SNACK WITH CHEESE with “An olive is one …”
– AUSSIE MARSUPIAL with “A koala is one …”
– COLLECTOR’S SWORD with “A cavalry sabre is one …”
The title told you to “try another,” so the first step was to think of other examples of the theme ideas. With some, there were obvious choices: the classic snack with cheese is a CRACKER; the most iconic Aussie marsupial is a KANGAROO; and one of the world’s leading computer companies is also a common word with a lot of potential to lead in other directions – APPLE. If you got that far and paused to put these things in order, you’d see that the first letters spelled out _ACK_, and you might also notice that all three of those words makes a common two-word phrase, title/character, or compound word if followed by JACK. And you might realize that JACKS is (often) a solo pastime and think you must be on to something, and then confirm it by filling in the blanks, realizing that another way of getting on a train is JUMPING it, and another kind of collector’s sword is a SAMURAI sword, and both of those things also makes something that is a thing when followed by JACK, and now you’ve fully spelled out the metapuzzle’s answer. Maybe there’s not so much an “aha moment” as a slow reveal, but once you get it all it holds together, I think, even if it didn’t exactly “click” into place.
In retrospect, I don’t know why I went with “collector’s sword” to clue SAMURAI; while it’s very common to call the sword a “samurai sword,” the sword itself is called a katana while the Samurai is the warrior wielding it. A few successful solvers reported being unsure about this piece of it (though I don’t think that had much effect on their confidence level in the meta answer itself.) But I could definitely have done better – also 15 letters is the far superior “Japanese warrior,” which could have been clued as “A ninja is one …” I also could have gone with a different theme entry for JUMPING – “athletic ability,” clued as “Running is one …” comes to mind. In other words – I should have seen that the first and fifth theme entries were a tad inelegant, and tried another.
20 solvers submitted the right answer. Next up is puzzle #9, “Place Your Order.” As always, you can either download the .pdf below, or click on the link for the .puz file which is shared from Google Drive.
The answer to the metapuzzle is a sweet drink you might want to order after completing this puzzle. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, May 13 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.