Puzzle #57 Solution and Puzzle #58, “Double Header”

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Last week’s puzzle, “Preposition Cook,” asked for a word you might hear in a French restaurant. But while the theme was culinary, the foods involved were definitely not French. Here’s a picture, followed by the explanation:

What the puzzle depicts, through visual wordplay, are three dishes with prepositions in their names:

BEANS ON TOAST
CHICKEN UNDER A BRICK
TOAD IN THE HOLE

The path to the answer is then to take the first letters of those three prepositions (the only words involved that don’t actually appear in the grid), which spell out OUI – certainly a word you should expect to hear in a French restaurant.

Next up is puzzle #58, “Double Header.”

058_doubleheader.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a quantity. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, April 27. 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.

Puzzle #56 Solution and Puzzle #57, “Preposition Cook”

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Last week’s puzzle, “Foreign Cinema,” asked for a movie title and gave you six theme entries:

DANISH PASTRY
SPANISH RICE
ZULU RELIGION
IRISH GOODBYE
GREEK OLIVES
GERMAN EMPIRE

These don’t have anything to do with cinema (well, not cinema you’ve ever heard of – there’s this and this), but they do involve foreign things – specifically, foreign languages. Successful solvers had to literally translate each phrase – that is, find the Danish word for “pastry,” the Spanish word for “rice,” and so on. While translations can sometimes be ambiguous, I figured the typical solver’s approach would be to turn to Google translate, so that’s what I did when choosing the theme entries. According to the Oooooooracle:

Danish for “pastry” is BAGVÆRK
Spanish for “rice” is ARROZ
Zulu for “religion” is INKOLO
Irish for “goodbye” is SLÁN
Greek for “olives” is EΛIEΣ
German for “empire” is REICH

The first letters of these (reading the Greek epsilon as an E) spell out BAISER, which Google will again helpfully inform you is the French word for “kiss.” So, working the theme idea in reverse, the movie we were looking was the 1995 Meg Ryan/Kevin Kline rom-com FRENCH KISS.

Next up is puzzle #57, “Preposition Cook.”

057_prepositioncook.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a word you might hear in a French restaurant. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, April 27. 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.

Puzzle #55 Solution and Puzzle #56, “Foreign Cinema”


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Last week’s puzzle was called “That Sounds Different,” and it featured what Google tells me are called heteronyms – words that are spelled the same, but sound different. The first challenge was just to find the theme entries. As the answer was a five-letter word, it’s reasonable to guess that there would have been five, which there were, plus five more entries that intersected with these and whose clues (given *s in the puzzle’s easier version) could also yield their respective theme entries’ heteronymic partners. Like so:

[12a. Jazz trumpeter Alpert] HERB (in which the H is pronounced) intersected with 1d. CHARD, whose clue, [Garden green], also works for HERB (with a silent H, so long as you’re not British – if this one was tricky for you, sorry old chap);
[27a. Brighten] POLISH (rhymes with “abolish”) intersected with 11d. CZECH, whose clue, [West Slavic language], also works for POLISH (rhymes with “trollish”);
[40a. Situating] PUTTING (rhymes with “footing”) intersected with 14d. CHIPPING, whose clue, [Element of a golfer’s short game], also works for PUTTING (rhymes with “gutting”);
[51a. Ink a new deal] RESIGN (the S pronounced as in “loose”) intersected with 44d. QUIT, whose clue, [Leave one’s post], also works for RESIGN (the S pronounced as in “lose”);
[68a. Guitars, slangily] AXES (rhymes with “taxes”) intersected with 56d. NODES, whose clue, [Parts of a mathematical graph], also works for AXES (rhymes with “taxis”).

Okay, we’ve found thematic, intersecting pairs of entries – promising. Turning to common meta-extraction methods, neither the first letters of either set (HPPRA, CCCQN) nor the intersection letters (HHNIE) yields anything. So, recheck the title and the theme idea and notice that in each pair of heteronyms, the change in sound happens in exactly one letter, highlighted in the image below:

In order, those letters (the H in HERB, the O in POLISH, the U in PUTTING, the S in RESIGN, and the E in AXES) spell out the meta answer, HOUSE (which is also heteronymic – the noun rhymes with “Gauss,” the verb rhymes with “cows” – though it wouldn’t have worked very well as a theme entry here because its two meanings are basically the same thing, just different parts of speech).

Next up is puzzle #56, “Foreign Cinema.”

056_foreigncinema.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a movie title. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, April 20. 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.

Puzzle #54 Solution and Puzzle #55, “That Sounds Different”


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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 …

055_soundsdifferent_hard.puz

055_soundsdifferent_easier.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, April 13. 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.

Puzzle #53 Solution and Puzzle #54, “No Need to Fill Me In”

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Last week’s puzzle, “Where Does It End?”, featured state abbreviations – but not the typical two-letter postal codes. Instead all four theme entries ended in a three- or four-letter state abbreviation that can be found on either or both lists of abbreviations used by the Government Printing Office (GPO), or the Associated Press (AP). The four abbreviations combined to spell out a fifth that could also be found at the end of a grid entry:

So the answer was 7-across, FOXCONN.

Up next: Puzzle #54, “No Need to Fill Me In.”

054_noneed.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a six-letter plural. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, April 6. 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.

Puzzle #52 Solution and Puzzle #53, "Where Does It End?"

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Howdy folks – I hope you’re adjusting to whatever your new reality is. Last week’s puzzle, “Character Set,” was pretty straightforward – I thought a more modest challenge might be welcome in such stressful times, and many of you agreed. There were five obvious themers and the prompt asked for a five-letter answer. Here’s the rundown:

The five long entries start with the first names of some familiar (and at least one probably-not-familiar!) fictional animal characters:

The above “character set” features SMOKEY BEAR, PETER RABBIT, WOODSY OWL, OSSIE OSTRICH, AND DEPUTY DAWG. (No, I had never heard of Ossie either.) Put together the first letters of each animal (Bear – Rabbit – Owl – Ostrich – Dawg) and you get the meta answer, BROOD, one meaning of which is a set of animals (though to be fair, usually the same kind of animal …)

Up next is Puzzle #53, “Where Does It End?”

053_wheredoesitend.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a grid entry that could make a fifth theme entry – one the other four combine to hint at. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, March 30. 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.

Puzzle #52, “Character Set”

Quick post with a new puzzle – sorry for the delay.

052_characterset.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, March 23. 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.

Puzzle #51 Solution

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Hey everyone –

Quick post to share last week’s solution, and I’m again copying and pasting from a solver:

Scarlet letter: A (add one letter) =
TV commercial: AD (add one letter) =
Hyperactivity: ADD (add one letter) =
Elephant Park: ADDO (add one letter) =
Building annex: ADDON (add one letter) =
ADD ONE

“Elephant Park” was the giveaway for many – because “Addo” is not a well-known thing, I had to clue this one in a way that would lead you to it (the elephant park near Port Elizabeth, SA is called Addo.)

I have a new grid constructed and partially clued, but the age of social distancing has not added to my free time – kids are at home, and my job has so far been more, not less, busy. I hope to get it out to you soon. It should be on the easy side as my puzzles go.

I hope everyone is staying safe and sane – and thankfully there are a lot of great puzzles out there if you’re stuck at home with little to do.

Puzzle #50 Solution and Puzzle #51, “Please Reiterate”

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Hi folks, I’m back. Got my big work thing done last week, and dusted off an old grid I hadn’t clued yet for this week.

Puzzle #50 was a hit – lots of solvers, and lots of you liked it. Here’s a quick solution rundown, courtesy of a solver who tends to show their work very clearly and succinctly:

Answer: FORREST GUMP (or PHILADELPHIA)
============================
LITTLE ODESSA – film – one of its Independent Spirit Award nominees was TIM ROTH
ENAK’S TEARS – sculpture – created by HANS ARP
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – film – one of its Oscars was for director ANG LEE
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY – film – its BAFTA Award was for screenwriter NORA EPHRON
THE GAMBLER – song – won a Grammy for singer KENNY ROGERS
ONCE AND AGAIN – TV show – won an Emmy for actress SELA WARD
The initial and last name of each person is found in the grid:
T. ROTH = TROTH (65D)
H. ARP = HARP (83A)
A. LEE = ALEE (26D)
N. EPHRON = NEPHRON (15A)
K. ROGERS = KROGERS (82A)
S. WARD = SWARD (24A)
The initials spell out THANKS (which is what an award winner might say), but in keeping with the puzzle theme, they also spell T. HANKS = TOM HANKS, who has won Academy Awards for FORREST GUMP and PHILADELPHIA.
Nice!

Puzzle #51 is called “Please Reiterate.”

051_pleasereiterate.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is a six-letter phrase that does not end in S. Submit your answer using the contact form by 11 pm Pacific Time on Monday, March 16. The puzzle gods willing, I will 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 #49 Solution and Puzzle #50, “The Winner Is …”

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Last week’s instructions turned out to be a little too vague at first – I asked for “a large number,” which led to a surprising number of incorrect answers based on a simplistic mechanism, so I later clarified that it was “a ten-digit number.” There were still a few tricky spots, though.

The thing that just about everyone noticed was that the grid contained quite a few Os, arranged in a very peculiar way. Before the prompt change, some folks decided to count those Os, think of them as zeroes, and give the number that’s a one followed by that many zeroes. This grid had 28 Os, though a lot of people missed one, and submitted “octillion,” which is a 1 followed by 27 zeroes. (A couple people found all 28 and submitted “ten octillion.”)

If you will allow me a brief aside – I generally try to avoid looking like I’m complaining about solvers, and clearly this puzzle was tricky enough, and the instructions vague enough, that I can understand landing on the above idea … but I have to say, the fact that so many of you submitted it as an answer took me aback a little bit. A puzzle with a vague hint to count all the Os, think of them as zeroes, and then translate that into a big-number word would be pretty boring to begin with, but this execution of it, with a nonstandard grid and an extremely forced arrangement of Os – two stacks of four and three stacks of three! alternating columns! all clustered around rows 4-9! – would be, well, garbage. I’m not the world’s best puzzle constructor, but I like to think you can count on me not to feed you complete drivel.

Anyway, sorry for griping. Here’s the actual solution mechanism:

The first image above is from an online suànpán (Chinese abacus) simulator. The way the abacus works – and maybe this is less well-known than I had realized? – is that beads are slid toward the dividing bar in the middle to represent each digit; beads below the bar are worth 1, and a bead above is worth 5. So the Os were the operative beads of the abacus (inclusion of the extra beads at top and bottom would, I thought, have made for a grid far more hideous than what we got), with the fifth row of the grid acting as the bar dividing the two sections of the abacus. The number, shown at bottom, was 1,339,724,852.

Why that particular number? If you plug it into google, you’ll find that it was the official population of China according to the 2010 census (the most recent official count.)

As a totally unintended bonus, I sort of thought the grid ended up looking vaguely like a Panda.

Okay, onward. Next is puzzle #50 (!), called “The Winner Is …”

050_thewinneris.puz

The answer to the metapuzzle is either of two Academy Award-winning films.

I will once again not be able to publish a puzzle next week, so again you have plenty of time with this one. When you’re ready, submit your answer using the contact form. I hope to be back in two weeks.

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