Last week’s 16×16 grid didn’t have obvious theme entries. It was titled “Connect Five” and asked for a phrase formed by connecting two grid entries, and astute solvers noticed that connecting five pairs of grid entries yielded five two-word cities:
Those ten entries were arranged asymmetrically and mostly toward the top of the grid; what was going on? It turned out that the entries making up the city names were placed such that their grid numbers formed the AREA CODES used to call (or, ahem, connect to) those cities:
2d NEW + 12d YORK = NEW YORK (212) 33d WINSTON + 6a SALEM = WINSTON-SALEM (336) 41d SAN + 5d FRANCISCO = SAN FRANCISCO (415) 6d SAINT + 51a PAUL = SAINT PAUL (651) 7d ANN + 34d ARBOR = ANN ARBOR (734)
For the second week in a row I ran out of time to tally results – this time because I needed all weekend to solve Matt Gaffney’s strange and fiendish week 5. Next up here is puzzle #13, “Look – Behind You.” This week I’m including easy and hard versions from the outset. (Protip for those who start with the hard version and decide to switch to the easy: the only changes are in the clues, so no need to re-solve the grid.) As always, you can either download the .pdf below, or click on the link for the .puz file which is shared from Google Drive.
In last week’s full-sized puzzle, “Do Like I Do,” I asked for a farm animal. The grid had six ten-letter entries, each an example of a thing that’s part of a familiar phrase of the form “[verb] like a [thing].” Hidden elsewhere in the grid were words that were one letter off from the verbs:
SALK -> WALK (like an Egyptian, such as OMAR SHARIF) QAT -> EAT (like a bird, such as a KINGFISHER) WOUK -> WORK (like a dog, such as a BLOODHOUND) DEINK -> DRINK (like a fish, such as a RED SNAPPER) LAVE -> LIVE (like a king, such as RICHARD III) SLAKE -> SHAKE (like a leaf, such as a PINE NEEDLE)
The letters you need to change to make the phrases, in bold above, spell out (in grid order) SQUEAL, suggesting the phrase “squeal like a pig” – so the answer was PIG.
Puzzle #11a was simpler. It featured six entries with starred clues:
*Fish found in Louisiana bayous = GAR *Cat found in India = TIGER *King who founded a West African dynasty = KAYA *City that’s the seat of Ecuador’s Napo Province = TENA *Stone used to make arrowheads = FLINT *Horn with a reed = SAX
The key here is that each thing can form a compound word or phrase if you add the kind of thing it is (which was also the first word of each clue), and as the puzzle’s title suggests, the compound word is not the same thing as the original word (nor does the newly formed compound word/phrase fit the clue). So, a garfish, while it is still a fish, is not the same thing as a gar and is not found in Louisiana bayous; a Tigercat is not a tiger at all but a fighter jet (or: a tiger cat is a much smaller cat than a tiger, not found in India); kayaking is a totally different thing from the obscure Ghanaian dynast Kaya Magan Cissé; tenacity is a totally different thing from Tena, Ecuador; a Flintstone is a cartoon character, not a kind of stone; and a saxhorn is still a brass instrument, but it’s not the same thing as a sax, and it’s played with a trumpet-style mouthpiece, not a reed.
So to what fruit can you add “fruit” and get a new and different thing? That would be the GRAPE, which is of course much smaller than a baseball – but a grapefruit sure isn’t.
I had a lot going on for the holiday weekend and haven’t run the numbers yet, but puzzle #11 in its original form was quite hard. The mid-week hint unlocked it for a lot of folks. #11a, meanwhile, vexed a lot more solvers than I would have predicted. Of those who clearly saw the first theme idea (make a new word with [thing] + [category]), quite a few apparently didn’t see the theme’s defining feature (new word ≠ original word); probably the most popular incorrect entry was KIWI. This surprised me a little, not least because while I’m no stranger to kiwis (I live in the heart of the main region for growing kiwis in the U.S.), and I’ve heard them called “kiwifruits,” it’s not (in my experience) a very common term vs. just kiwi itself; I’d have thought the first “[fruit]fruit” thing that would come to anyone’s mind would be grape anyhow. Another common pitfall was that solvers interpreted the prompt backwards, submitting e.g. grapefruit instead of grape (or kiwifruit, breadfruit, etc.) I’m not sure where my instructions went wrong but clearly this one was not presented in as straightforward a manner as I’d intended.
Next up is Puzzle #12, “Connect Five.” As always, you can either download the .pdf below, or click on the link for the .puz file which is shared from Google Drive.
The answer to the metapuzzle is a phrase formed by connecting two entries in the grid. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, June 3 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.
Last week we had a series of eight mini-puzzles, the answer to which was a heading you might see on an artist’s portfolio. And indeed there was a heavy art theme; with two exceptions (well, one if you solved the original version – more on that below), the grids represented famous paintings:
The original version of the puzzle had a grid depicting Norman Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With here. It, like the painting, contained a highly offensive term (I censored it, Rockwell did not). You can read more about that here; mid-week I replaced it with something different – a very famous photo, also featuring an icon of the Civil Rights era:
Once you found all those artworks, the series title was your clue to focus on the first names of the artists (Claude, Andy, René, Vincent, Ieoh, Neil/Norman, Grant, and [keeping it casual] Sandro); in order, their first letters spell out the artistic form CARVINGS.
Once again, I stretched the limits of reasonable crossword fill in a few places to make these little bits of grid art – I hope you’ll forgive me for weird entries like ILASH, KOLOA, and MIVI. But be thankful that I took another shot at the Van Gogh, my first draft for that grid was just hideous.
One regret, once I got to the end, is that I managed to choose eight – no, make that nine – works of art all by men, only one of whom isn’t a white guy.
43 solvers submitted the right answer. Next up is Puzzle #11, a 15×15 called “Do Like I Do,” and also Puzzle #11a, a little 9×9 called “The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Change.” puz and pdf options below.
The answer to metapuzzle #11a is a fruit smaller than a baseball that could have been a seventh theme entry.
Update, Friday 5/24/19: having received very few solutions to #11, and some incorrect solutions to #11a, I’m providing updated versions of the puzzles below. The new #11 is meant to be a bit easier, with the help of some new clues (they’ll stand out if you get the pdf version); the new #11a is the same, but the meta prompt has been rewritten as follows: The answer to the metapuzzle is a word that could have been in this grid with the clue “*Fruit smaller than a baseball.” (This doesn’t change the prompt’s meaning but might help you avoid a trap a few people have fallen into.)
Last week’s grid had the look of a themeless, but there was a theme if you could figure out what to look for. The key was in the clues; the puzzle’s title was “Place Your Order,” and there were five across clues that contained words indicating an order:
18. First words of Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” = YOU’RE AS 19. Unit of distance over 176 million times shorter than a light-second = SMOOT 40. Common third-person singular conjugation = HAS 48. A great tragedy happened there on April fourth, 1968 = TENNESSEE 62. It might come in a pint, a fifth, or a handle = WHISKEY
Put these all in order, and make one small tweak to the parsing, and you get “You’re as smooth as Tennessee whiskey,” which is the first line of the chorus of a Country music standard. The prompt asked for a sweet (not smooth!) drink you might like to order after completing the puzzle, and the song’s next line provides the answer: “You’re as sweet as strawberry wine.”
As a little thematic bonus, and to make things more symmetrical, the grid also contained the names of the performers of the song’s two most popular versions (though clued differently): Chris STAPLETON, who recorded it for a 2015 album but also did it as a duet with, somehow, Justin Timberlake at that year’s Country Music Awards in a version that caused a sensation and made the previously-released single shoot to number one on the country chart within a couple of days; and George JONES, whose 1983 version hit number two without the need for any pop-star coattails or online virality. (Sadly I did not manage to work in the song’s original performer, David Allan Coe.)
27 solvers submitted the right answer. But a number of folks just seemed to solve it with brute force, noticing Tennessee and Whiskey and scouring the grid to find the rest of the theme material, and the result was a bit of uncertainty about the answer. I think the intended mechanism (with the ordinal words in the clues) was a little too well hidden, and/or the stuff that appeared in the grid, including the two artist names, was not well hidden enough. Maybe the lyric should have been in random order, and the artist names left out, forcing you to find those “ordering” words in the clues.
Next up is something a little different – metapuzzle #10, entitled “First Name Basis,” which is not a single puzzle but a series of eight small crosswords. You can download one of two .pdf files below – “small” for the three-page version that eliminates white space, saves paper, but requires pretty good eyesight to read the resultant small-print clues; “large” for one puzzle per page – or click on the link below it, which is not for a single .puz file as usual but instead will get you a .zip folder containing eight individual .puz files.
Update, Thursday morning, in the wee hours: the original version of this puzzle contained a highly offensive entry. I knew about that, did it for a reason and warned solvers in the clue, but many found it unacceptable. You can read my thoughts in defense of the puzzle as originally conceived here, though doing so will spoil the puzzle – but after several discussions I’ve decided to take down the puzzle. It will be replaced Thursday in the less-wee hours with an alternative version.
Further update, Thursday morning, hours still kinda wee: here are the links to the new version. The only changes are a completely new minipuzzle six, correction of a couple minor errors in the clues of minipuzzle eight, and the font on the .pdfs is different for technical reasons that aren’t at all interesting.
The answer to the metapuzzle is a heading you might see on an artist’s portfolio. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, May 20 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.
Meta Master Matt talked a while back about one of his favorite kinds of metapuzzle: “what I’m calling the SAD style of meta: ‘Simple And Difficult.'” I also like the SAD style, but if I had to pick a favorite I think it might be the sort we had last week, the “non-linear solve.” The NLS (not nearly as good an acronym) requires the solver to explore potential avenues toward the solution without necessarily seeing how what he or she is trying is going to help, and sometimes to work backward after discovering something that starts to solidify what’s going on. I think we had a little bit of that in puzzle #8, whose title (“Try Another”) nudged in that direction:
The highlighted long entries were clued by giving examples: – GETTING ON A TRAIN was clued with “Buying a ticket is one way of doing it …” – COMPUTER COMPANY with “Toshiba is one …” – SNACK WITH CHEESE with “An olive is one …” – AUSSIE MARSUPIAL with “A koala is one …” – COLLECTOR’S SWORD with “A cavalry sabre is one …”
The title told you to “try another,” so the first step was to think of other examples of the theme ideas. With some, there were obvious choices: the classic snack with cheese is a CRACKER; the most iconic Aussie marsupial is a KANGAROO; and one of the world’s leading computer companies is also a common word with a lot of potential to lead in other directions – APPLE. If you got that far and paused to put these things in order, you’d see that the first letters spelled out _ACK_, and you might also notice that all three of those words makes a common two-word phrase, title/character, or compound word if followed by JACK. And you might realize that JACKS is (often) a solo pastime and think you must be on to something, and then confirm it by filling in the blanks, realizing that another way of getting on a train is JUMPING it, and another kind of collector’s sword is a SAMURAI sword, and both of those things also makes something that is a thing when followed by JACK, and now you’ve fully spelled out the metapuzzle’s answer. Maybe there’s not so much an “aha moment” as a slow reveal, but once you get it all it holds together, I think, even if it didn’t exactly “click” into place.
In retrospect, I don’t know why I went with “collector’s sword” to clue SAMURAI; while it’s very common to call the sword a “samurai sword,” the sword itself is called a katana while the Samurai is the warrior wielding it. A few successful solvers reported being unsure about this piece of it (though I don’t think that had much effect on their confidence level in the meta answer itself.) But I could definitely have done better – also 15 letters is the far superior “Japanese warrior,” which could have been clued as “A ninja is one …” I also could have gone with a different theme entry for JUMPING – “athletic ability,” clued as “Running is one …” comes to mind. In other words – I should have seen that the first and fifth theme entries were a tad inelegant, and tried another.
20 solvers submitted the right answer. Next up is puzzle #9, “Place Your Order.” As always, you can either download the .pdf below, or click on the link for the .puz file which is shared from Google Drive.
The answer to the metapuzzle is a sweet drink you might want to order after completing this puzzle. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, May 13 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.
The main event last week featured kind of a weird grid – a central 15-letter entry, and highly contained areas in the NW and SE with triple-stacked tens. What was going on? It turns out, a whole lot of theme was going on.
TRANSLITERATION across the middle had the clue “Process that’s a bit like something you’ll do in solving the meta,” which is vague enough that maybe you were best off just ignoring it until you worked out the meta and saw what I meant, which was this: those triple-stacked tens all clue a word ending in -X which is not itself in the grid, but which has a homonym ending in -CKS elsewhere in the grid. For example, 11-across WOODCUTTER would be a fine clue for AX, and there’s ACKS at 22-across. So you’re kind of transliterating X into CKS – that’s not what transliterate means precisely, but it’s pretty close. (I couldn’t find a good word that describes what we’re doing here, whereas transliteration fit perfectly in the grid, which basically had to have that central 15-letter entry given all the rest of the constraints – and once I realized that I thought it would be weird if that entry weren’t somehow thematic.) The rest of the word pairs are highlighted in matching colors below:
Next, in grid order, take the first letters of the -CKS words (STICKS, TACKS, ACKS, COCKS, KICKS, SACKS) to spell out another such word, STACKS, which is of course how our main theme entries are arranged. But we’re not done, because we haven’t found a record label. To finish, we do the kinda-sorta-transliteration move again, but in reverse, to get the meta answer, the gospel/soul/funk/blues label STAX.
Looking at how much of the grid above is highlighted I’m still kind of shocked this puzzle worked. (The stats: 105 theme squares, 46 black blocks, 74 other.) What’s odd is it just kind of fell into place – the biggest struggle I had in the whole process was getting the six main theme entries to be the same length, which I only tried to do after choosing the meta answer almost by accident, and then thinking it would be kind of cool if I could make the themers appear in actual stacks. I don’t think I’d have ever tried this if I’d started with the “stack the themers” idea – it would have sounded too difficult to attempt.
Unfortunately, I think the puzzle may have been a little too solvable with partial information, so that people may not have noticed everything that was going on. Oh well – this one, I think, was always going to be more interesting from the point of view of the constructor. (A few solvers also pointed out that 21-across SKATS, backwards, also “transliterates” to the meta answer, which was not intended; I wish I’d noticed, because I would have redone it if I had.)
Meanwhile last week’s smaller puzzle contained a simple set of three grid-spanning entries:
There wasn’t really anything complicated going on with this one, though a basic knowledge of blues music helped. The instructions asked for a song, and these three people, in order, make up a song title because Louis XV was a member of the house of Bourbon; Sean Connery is (if you don’t mind using an adjective that’s not usually applied to people) Scotch; and Samuel Adams is, in addition to an American founding father, a brand of Beer. Thus the answer:
Apparently this has been “cool old music” week on PGWCC. Each of the two puzzles was solved by 38 people, though not precisely the same set of 38. And now on to puzzle #8, “Try Another.” As always, you can either download the .pdf below, or click on the link for the .puz file which is shared from Google Drive.
The answer to the metapuzzle is a solo pastime other than solving crossword puzzles. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, May 6 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.
Last week’s asymmetric grid had a familiar look once you realized what was scattered around the grid:
That’s the completed grid overlaying a Clue board. And around the grid we had:
Mr. GREEN up there in the STUDY; Mrs. WHITE in the HALL, with the the WRENCH either also in there or lying in an adjacent corridor; Split between two entries, the LEAD PIPE in the LOUNGE; Col. MUSTARD and Miss SCARLET, somehow simultaneously occupying both the LIBRARY and the BILLIARD ROOM; The CANDLESTICK, lying across both the BALLROOM and the KITCHEN; The ROPE in the CONSERVATORY; The KNIFE in, again, the ballroom; Prof. PLUM, also in the kitchen; and The BODY of Mr. Boddy, dead and hidden in the CELLAR, as usual.
Missing from the above list is Mrs. PEACOCK (a person), the empty DINING ROOM (a place), and the REVOLVER (a thing). Because, of course, endings A and C are wrong; it is always Mrs. Peacock.
This one seems to have gotten mixed reactions. A few things going on. First, some people had never played Clue, or it had been a long time or just wasn’t their cup of tea, so the people and weapons all over the grid maybe just weren’t going to ring any bells.
Second, over the years Clue has been tinkered with a bunch. The KNIFE, which to me is “standard” because that’s what it was called in my set as a kid, is apparently only present in “some North American versions” and is more typically called the DAGGER, which a few solvers submitted because they overlooked the absence of any kind of handgun and didn’t have KNIFE embedded in their minds as part of the set of Clue weapons. As I told one solver who made this misstep: “Luckily there are no prizes riding on it so I judge this as ‘you grokked it but overlooked something, and that’s understandable because you’re used to the knife having a different name.'” Also, the board orientation is arbitrary; the rooms are always in the same place relative to one another, but sometimes the board is shown as the grid had it, and other times (like on the Wikipedia page) it’s rotated 180 degrees. Image searching yields mixed results, but for me the orientation as I constructed it seems to predominate. Your google-algorithmic mileage may vary, and some people had to rotate the board in their head to make sense of the board in this puzzle’s grid.
Finally, and more troubling from my point of view, quite a few solvers did not feel a strong “click” with respect to how to choose the “place” part of the meta answer. A few submitted CELLAR, which is not in keeping with the game at all – the cellar is always where the body is stashed, never the scene of the actual murder. A knowledge of the game’s workings was definitely an advantage here – the puzzle’s title “Elimination Game” refers both to the fact that Clue is a game about murder (i.e. eliminating someone), and also that the way you play Clue is that you eliminate all the suspects, weapons and rooms not involved in the murder and what’s left solves the case. Most solvers had no trouble figuring out that Peacock and Revolver, the only suspect and weapon not present in the grid, must be in the answer; but a fair number of folks either didn’t see, or weren’t sure about, the somewhat different way of “eliminating” the rooms – the one room that’s different from all the rest is the Dining Room, because it’s the only room that doesn’t have at least one of the innocent people or unused weapons in it.
On the other hand, this experience wasn’t universal – one solver commented “very clever way to get the room elimination,” and there were clearly others who had no uncertainty. So while I regret giving you a puzzle that didn’t fully click for everyone – another solver called this part of the solve “infuriating and opaque” – there were definitely some folks on my wavelength.
42 solvers submitted the right answer, though several of those people expressed uncertainty about the room choice. 13 more clearly got the main idea but submitted a different room. And 2 made the knife/dagger mistake.
As penance for a puzzle that didn’t sit well with everyone, this week I’m giving you one normal-sized puzzle and one smaller one. Puzzle #7 is a 15×15 puzzle called “Piling Up the Hits.” Puzzle #7a is an 11×11 called “What Do You Want?” Totally coincidentally, one of the puzzles has a record label as its answer, and the other one a song.
As always, you can either download the .pdf files below, or click on the links for the .puz files shared from Google Drive.
Submit your answers using the contact form by Monday, April 29 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. Please specify which answer goes with which puzzle, and feel free to submit separately if you’ve solved one but not the other. I’ll post the solutions, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.