Puzzle #62 Solution and Puzzle #63, “A Thing of the Past”

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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”

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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”

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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?”

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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”

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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.

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

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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”

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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”


S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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”


S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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”

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

P

A

C

E

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.