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.”
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.