Puzzle #67, “Tree Rings”

A day late, here’s Puzzle #67:

067_treerings.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a type of tree. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, July 6. I’ll publish a new puzzle next Tuesday (or will I? I failed to do so this 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 #66 Solution

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Last week’s solution went like this:

The first letter of each theme entry anagrams to a fancy-schmancy animal adjective – in order, that’s URSINE, CANINE, LUPINE, AVIAN and FELINE. In the clues there are several more “low English” kind of words that, while not necessarily synonyms for the above, can be thought of as such – bearish, doggy, wolfish, birdy, and cat-like. The entries for those clues, highlighted above, acrostic to COLTS (in both grid and theme-entry order). And, returning to our nose-in-the-air words, what are colts? They’re EQUINES, of course, which is split in the grid between 74d. EQUI and 21a. NES.

I’m not ready with a new puzzle right now; I’ve got some grids filled but have not clued them yet. I will try to get something out late tonight but it might have to wait until tomorrow. We’ll see …

Puzzle #65 Solution and Puzzle #66, “Unpack Your Adjectives”

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Another quick solution post. Last week’s was pretty accessible; the six theme entries hid the names of the symbols on the keys 1 through 6 on a QWERTY keyboard:

BANG (another name for !), AT, POUND, DOLLAR, PER CENT, CARET … what comes next is AMPERSAND. So the phrase formed from two grid entries hiding the “seventh sign” was the (only theoretically sensical) DAMPER SANDBOX. (In retrospect there was an actual in-the-world thing I could have used.)

Up next is #66, “Unpack Your Adjectives.”

066_unpackadjectives.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is formed from two grid entries. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, June 29. I’ll publish 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 #64 Solution and Puzzle #65, “The Seventh Sign”

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Quick solution post today, though the puzzle had a lot going on. We had eight long entries that were titles of artistic works (mostly books) derived from Shakespeare quotes. We also had a handful Shakespeare quotes in the clues, with citations to Act X, Scene Y by just writing (X, Y). And we had a 5×5 square in the upper left, shaded.

The idea was to find the “inspiration point” for each title by thinking of the (act, scene) pair as (column, row) coordinates in the grid. The letters in those squares, in order of the theme entries (two of which mapped to the same point as they were both from Act V Scene 1 of their respective plays), spelled out Vladimir Nabokov’s novel PALE FIRE, itself a Shakespeare-inspired title. Like so:

From Shakespeare-inspired titles we move on to one from Revelation; up next is Puzzle #65, “The Seventh Sign.”

065_seventhsign.puz

What phrase, formed from two grid entries, could be a seventh theme entry?. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, June 22. I’ll publish 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 #63 Solution and Puzzle #64, “Inspiration Point”

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Last week’s grid didn’t have any obvious theme entries but there were a couple of pretty unusual words in the fill, most notably the barely-real word HIVING and the archaic, slightly off-color PIZZLE. Why not HAVING, which could have crossed with GAVE instead of GIVE, and PUZZLE, which could have crossed with SHRUNK instead of SHRINK?

Oh, so that’s why it was called “A Thing of the Past.” It turned out there were four other places where changing one letter changed a present-tense verb into past-tense, and all of the changes resulted in a perfectly good word at the crossing. All of them in order:

10d. GIVE -> GAVE making 17a. HAVING
30d. WAKE -> WOKE making 35a. SOME
36d. DRAW -> DREW making 46a. VERY
44d. BLOW -> BLEW making 53a. NICE
55d. SHRINK -> SHRUNK making 69a. PUZZLE
65d. MAKE -> MADE making 76a. IDEAS

So the six-word phrase, and what I somewhat conceitedly said I hoped I’ve been doing lately, was HAVING SOME VERY NICE PUZZLE IDEAS.

Up next is Puzzle #64, “Inspiration Point.” Note that I’m only posting the PDF version below. This is because .puz files won’t support shaded squares, which this puzzle features. If you want a .puz file, leave a note on the comment page and I’ll email it to you – just make sure you give the PDF a glance so you know about the shading. (Also, please forgive the somewhat lo-res shading on the PDF; it seems like this should have been easy to do, but I spent hours trying to get it right and this was the least bad version I was able to make without springing for some expensive software …)

Update: a few clues in the original puzzle had errors. Some eagle-eyed solvers spotted them and I have corrected them, I think. New puzzle file below:

The answer to the metapuzzle is a 20th-century novel. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, June 15. I’ll publish 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 #62 Solution and Puzzle #63, “A Thing of the Past”

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Two-step solution last week; many solvers saw the first step pretty readily, but the second was trickier. Here’s how it went:

Step one: each long across entry could be paired with another grid entry if you added “half-” to the beginning, like so:

SEMICIRCULAR = [HALF-]MOON
SIMPLETON = [HALF-]WIT
PREVARICATION = [HALF-]TRUTH
PHONE IT IN = [HALF-]ASS
ILL-CONCEIVED = [HALF-]BAKED

Step two was to take the clue numbers of MOON, WIT, etc., cut them in half, and find the letter at that point in the grid:

2d. MOON -> 1. S
36a. WIT -> 18. P
46a. TRUTH -> 23. L
52d. ASS -> 26. I
76a. BAKED -> 38. T

So the answer was SPLIT.

Next up, Puzzle #63, “A Thing of the Past.” ***Update***: the original puzzle had a mistake in a clue; nothing to do with the meta. (13-down is a surname for which I gave two options, but they’re spelled differently …) I’ve fixed the error in the updated puzzle files below:

063_thingofpast

The answer to the metapuzzle is a six-word phrase, and what I hope I have been doing in the recent past. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, June 8. I’ll publish 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 #61 Solution and Puzzle #62, “Down the Middle”

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Here’s a succinct recap of last week’s solution, thanks to a solver:

8 of the Down answers are the names of mountains, if you TAKE [the first letter] FROM THE TOP, as indicated by the title.
(B)RAINIER
(I)KEA
(G)LASSEN
(M)ADAMS
(A)ETNA
(M)K2
(A)ROSE
(S)EVEREST
The removed letter, in order, spell BIG MAMAS.

Next up, Puzzle #62, “Down the Middle.”

062_downmiddle.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a five-letter word. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, June 1. I’ll publish 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 #60 Solution and Puzzle #61, “Take It from the Top”

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Last week’s puzzle, “Little Things?”, featured seven starred clues – which some said was unnecessary, but while the pattern was pretty recognizable, two of the themers were short and two of the non-themers were long, so I didn’t want anyone to be hung up on that. Also, it turned out those two non-themers contained, totally unintentionally, a bit of a red herring that was theme-adjacent, so I’m glad I went with the better-safe-than-sorry approach. Anyway here’s the solution:

Those seven theme acrosses all end in -ET. With a bit of a nudge from the title and prompt (a word that can mean “small”), successful solvers noticed that the final word of each theme entry is also a word if you tack on the letters -TE to make an -ETTE word. What’s more, each theme entry is crossed by a down entry whose clue also works for the new -ETTE word. Like so:

24a. STRIP CROQUET -> CROQUETTE, which is a {Snack on a cocktail party tray}, like a TAPA
33a. MAMA CASSET -> CASSETTE, which is a {Retro music medium}, like a RECORD
39a. WWI VET -> VETTE, which is a {Classic Chevy}, like an IMPALA
63a. LOW FLOW TOILET -> TOILETTE, which fills in {Eau de ___}, like VIE
94a. I’LL BET -> BETTE, which is a female screen legend’s first name, like INGRID
96a. TONY GILLET -> GILLETTE, which is a {Brand name seen in the razor aisle}, like ATRA
112a. STATE BANQUET -> BANQUETTE, which is a {Window seat, maybe}, like a LEDGE

Take the first letters of those bolded entries and it spells out TRIVIAL, which can mean “small” and was the meta answer.

Some solvers noticed that you can do a somewhat similar thing to the final words in those other two long across entries, DROP THE BALL and FRAGGLE ROCK – both BALL and ROCK make new words if you add -ET. (Also, ROCKET can turn into ROCKETTE, which I really wish I’d found as a possible theme pair – it’s better than at least half of the ones I used. Oh well, live and learn.) Anyway, this was totally unintentional and coincidental but if it tripped you up, I apologize. I could not find a way to structure this grid that didn’t require either long entries there, or two-letter entries somewhere, which is why I decided to mark the theme entries with *s to leave no doubt. But I know I as a solver have missed asterisks before …

Moving on, I did manage to work an old idea that I wasn’t satisfied with into what I hope is a good puzzle over the weekend. We’ll see. It’s called “Take It from the Top.”

061_takefromtop.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is an eight-letter phrase. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, May 25. I’ll publish 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 #59 Solution and Puzzle #60, “Little Things?”

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Last week’s puzzle, “Keep Your Head Above Water,” had a seven letter answer. Did it have something to do with the seven seas? No – there were just five bodies of water in the grid. What you had to notice was that each body of water had at least one square where a down entry began such that, with a letter added on to the beginning (or, placed in the black square above the body of water), it would spell out the name of an island situated in that body of water:

There’s I(RELAND) and (the somewhat obscure island) A(CHILL) in the North Atlantic; D(ELOS) and S(AMOS) in the Aegean Sea, L(ANAI) in the Pacific, N(EVIS) in the Caribbean (which your idiot clue-writer misidentified as where the Amazon discharges … sorry about that), and S(ICILY) in the Mediterranean (this one was the entry point for many solvers.) Those added letters anagram to the meta answer, ISLANDS. I tried to get them to appear in grid order, or perhaps left to right, but it just wouldn’t work. There weren’t a ton of options to choose from – as you can see some of the resultant down entries were already very shaky crossword fill.

Also, I mentioned last week that the previous week’s puzzle had something extra. I knew it was fairly well hidden but apparently even moreso than I’d realized. Here’s what was going on: [20a.] EXTRA was clued as “Bonus feature.” As it turned out, nine other clues had the word “bonus” better-hidden in them. Some of those clues were very weird. Anyway here they are, in order of where in the grid their first letters fall:

20a. Bonus feature = EXTRA
22a. President of Gabon (usurper, according to opponents) = ALI BONGO
29a. Bourbon user = SOT
32d. Job onusTASK
56d. Non-bimbo Nussbaum = EMILY
67a. Verb on Usher’s first #1 single of 2001 = REMIND
87a. Hydrocarbon used to make plastic = ETHYLENE
92d. Verb on Usher’s second #1 single of 2001 = GOT
95a. Swab, on U.S. Navy ships = GOB
99a. Hub on U.S. airline maps = SFO

Take the first letters of those ten entries and it spells out EASTER EGGS, another term for bonus features in a video game or online content – or in a puzzle that I was a few weeks late running (truth be told I didn’t have the idea until after Easter itself.)

Next up is puzzle #60, “Little Things?”

060_littlethings.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a word that can mean “small.” Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, May 18. Will there be a puzzle next week? I have not had a new idea in a while … I’ll see if I can dust off an old one.

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

Puzzle #58 Solution and Puzzle #59, “Keep Your Head Above Water”

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Last week’s puzzle, “Double Header,” had five theme entries and asked for “a quantity.” What was going on was that each theme entry paired with a grid entry that, with its first letter (or “header”) doubled, could also satisfy its clue. So:

24a. “I meant to do something else” = THAT WAS A MISTAKE or OOPS, from 5a. OPS
41a. Normandy event, 1944 = BEACH LANDING or D-DAY, from 76a. DAY
51a. Camels’ kin = EVEN-TOED UNGULATES LLAMAS, from 81d. LAMAS
69a. Spooky = OTHERWORLDLY or EERIE, from 93a. ERIE
82a. Useful information on a coffee shop display = WIFI NETWORK NAME or SSID, from 98a. SID

Those five doubled first letters spell out ODLES, which isn’t a quantity – but it is when you double its first letter, which gives you the meta answer, OODLES.

A healthy number of entries came in for this one, almost all correct … but it seems you all missed something. Didn’t I say it was a double header? Anyway, if you feel like it, give it another look. If not, I’ll tell you what this was about next week.

Meanwhile, on to Puzzle #59, “Keep Your Head Above Water”:

059_headabovewater.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a seven letters long. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, May 11. The puzzle gods willing, I will publish a new puzzle next Tuesday. Uncertain times …

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