After I finished last week’s grid I struggled with a few things: what to call the puzzle, how to prompt for the meta answer, and whether to include any “extra” clues with one part of the theme idea in them, to better hide the ones that were thematic. In the end I chose a combination of answers to these questions that kind of ruined the puzzle, because it made it too easy to find the solution (and be sure of it) without actually figuring out the puzzle’s key idea. This led to some confusing conversation over at xword-muggles, where some folks said there was “something extra” to the puzzle, others never saw it, and still others who had seen it all along didn’t think of it as “extra” at all.
Here’s how the puzzle was supposed to work. There were six clues with blanks in them:
3d. “Lady ___” = BIRD
19a. “See ya ___!” = LATER
29d. Puts on ___ = AIRS
48a. Brand ___ = NAME
64d. Major ___ = KEY
72a. Crack ___ = SHOT
In grid order, the first letters of these entries spell out the meta answer, BLANKS.
What you were supposed to have to notice here – some did, some didn’t – was that in each of these clues, the blank was superfluous: “Lady” could be a clue for BIRD on its own, etc … That the blanks were in some sense impotent was supposed to be a bit of wordplay (think blank ammunition, empty calories, or something like that.) The title was supposed to be a nudge: you didn’t have to “fill in the blanks” to solve those clues, you could just pretend the blanks weren’t even there.
In retrospect what I should have done was either pepper the puzzle with other fill-in-the-blank clues (but that seems a little mean), or used a prompt that didn’t refer to the six-letter length of the answer.
This week I’m giving you two versions of the puzzle (which is called “That Sounds Different”) – “hard” and “easier.” We’ll see how they play …
The answer to the metapuzzle is a five-letter word. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, April 13. The puzzle gods willing, I will publish a new puzzle next Tuesday. Uncertain times …