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Puzzle 60 - Themeless #46

Swapped puzzles out for today - the original grid I had intended looks absolutely gorgeous as a blank grid, but I made a few too many sacrifices in the fill. So will probably end up adding in another block :'( - but the finished product will definitely be better.

I do feel that grid aesthetics is one thing I care more about than many other people. To me, a pretty looking grid just adds a nice little extra bit to a puzzle - even though it's not necessary whatsoever. But, that can get me into some trouble too, like with the puzzle I was planning to run today.

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Puzzle 58 - Themeless #44

I haven't felt like constructing puzzles for a few weeks now. It's normal. Still don't really feel it and I never truly know why. Once or twice a year - for a couple weeks, or a month or two, or whatever, constructing crosswords just doesn't seem like fun. So I don't do it. Just feel like it's easy, especially when you're just starting out and the "ooh shiny new thing to learn" feeling fades away, to fall into a trap that you have to be making puzzles or else...but that's definitely not the case. Puzzles are supposed to be fun! If they're not fun go do something else!

So at some point, I'll wholeheartedly dive back in and make like four grids in a week, but tonight is not that night. Kids are in bed, the dishes are (mostly) done, and my Football Manager manager just got hired at Shrewsbury FC from Eastleigh...that 3 million pound transfer budget isn't going to spend itself...


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Puzzle 57 - Themeless #43

IMO Kameron Austin Collins's comments on his Saturday NYT are required reading, especially if you are a constructor, editor, blogger, or anyone else that may have any effect on what ends up in a crossword puzzle. I personally don't feel like I have anything substantial to add to the conversation - imo KAC absolutely nailed the issue. I hope that Jeff's commentary changes and am choosing to be optimistic that it will (thanks to Ricky Cruz of the fantastic Cruzzles for his thoughts here).

Would also like to give a shoutout to Quiara Vasquez for testing & cleaning up a few clues, and you should absolutely head on over to QVXwords to solve her latest (especially #12, "Boomers, Zoomers, Qoomers")!

Now...there's a chance that my 3.5/5 difficulty level was ah...slightly understating the difficulty of the whole Meta Shed. But, 2 people still managed to solve it correctly - congrats to Russ Kale and DJB on winning a year of Aries Puzzles!

Now, if you're reading this and don't want to be spoiled, go here to give the suite a shot before scrolling down. Otherwise, scroll past today's puzzle to see the meta solution.

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Meta Shed answers & spoilers below!

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Scroooolllll down

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Keep going!

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Almost there!

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META SHED SOLUTION

We'll go puzzle by puzzle, then tie them all together.

Puzzle 1 - Tiller

To be honest, I couldn't decide beforehand if this was the dumbest mechanism, or pretty nifty. But I had a couple people email me to say they thought this was pretty, so I'm going to lean toward the nifty side. Anyways, the key to this one was thinking about "what does a tiller do"? Well, a tiller digs into dirt, breaks it up, shuffles it around, and puts the dirt back in roughly the same spot as it was before. You could say that a tiller rearranges dirt. There are six different entries that can be rearranged/anagrammed to spell (more or less) a synonym of dirt:

  1. MUSHU -> HUMUS
  2. LMAO -> LOAM
  3. OILS -> SOIL
  4. SOLES -> LOESS
  5. LACY -> CLAY
  6. HEART -> EARTH

In addition to there being six anagrams, those six entries were placed just so in the grid (note: I do not recommend trying to fill grids with a giant shape in the middle of your grid, especially not if you have other constraints. There's a reason this puzzle is 80 words).

 

So, the three-letter answer to the first puzzle is SIX.

Puzzle 2 - Lawn Mower

This is another puzzle that you'd do well to ask yourself "well what does a lawnmower do?" - well, lawnmowers cut the grass. I can't quite remember who said it, but someone not too long ago posted about constructors not being able to resist pot references in clues. Fear not commentator-who-I-forgot-who-you-are, for I made an entire puzzle around that premise.

We're looking for a four-letter word, and taking a look at the four long acrosses something may pop out:

  • LOWER FORTY-EIGHT
  • WE'D LOVE TO
  • REFER BACK
  • PO BOY SANDWICHES

You can add a letter to each of the first words to get a synonym (more or less, FLOWER is a bit of a stretch I believe) for marijuana (aka grass) (again all hypothetical) (would anyone believe me if I told them I've never smoked pot in my life? don't have any moral qualms against it, just...haven't and don't feel the urge to start at 30). Anyways...

  • (F)LOWER
  • WE(E)D
  • RE(E)FER
  • PO(T)

And the missing letters, or the letters cut from the grass, spell out FEET, which is our second answer.

Puzzle 3 - Chainsaw

This one was a pain and a half to make. Oh my goodness. I apologize for the gobs of glue fill scattered about, holding this together. There's a lot packed into this grid, although the ultimate mechanism bears some similarities to #2 (what can I say, lots of yardwork involves trimming, cutting, etc.)

To solve this, the question of "what does a chainsaw do" is not very helpful - instead parsing "chainsaw" literally as "chain saw" is the key. There are five different lines running across the grid which have a fast food chain "sawed" by a black square:

 

  • S(U)BWAY
  • WE(N)DYS
  • Q(D)OBA
  • POP(E)YES
  • HA(R)DEES

Aaaand just as in puzzle 2, the missing letters spell out UNDER, which is our final meta puzzle answer.

 

I'm going to pause here and put some more scroll space, in case you got stuck before here and want to take a shot at putting it all together. Go to town.

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Putting it all together

Okay, so we have the phrase "six feet under". What to do with it? It's late and I'm running out of things to say so let's just dive in. There are six Down entries (two in each puzzle) that can have the word FOOT appended to them, which would make six feet under the grids:

 

So we've got six words, and there's a very nice (imho) little progression of 3/4/5 letters, but the final solution is 7 letters long. These six words are an intermediate step, which points to a 6 letter word, which will ultimately point to our final solution. But what to do with those six words?

Well, we will go back to the "six feet under" phrase and look at the feet (last letters) of each word:

  1. SQUARE
  2. LEAD
  3. BIG
  4. BARE
  5. TENDER
  6. ATHLETES

Fortunately, those spell out the word EDGERS, which has two nice things going for it: it's an actual word, and edgers fit the whole "things found in a shed" deal. Woohoo! One last step, and all we've got to go off of is the word EDGERS.

Well, EDGERS can be reparsed as EDGE RS (sorry, there's not really a hint at this reparsing step, just had to hope you saw it). Amongst the three grids, there happens to be 14 edge R's, and every single one of them comes in a pair with another R from a different grid in the same spot. Probably time for another one of those snazzy MS Paint visuals:

 

So for each of these seven locations, two of the puzzles have an "R", while the third has some other letter. We can take those other letters, and go clockwise around the grid starting at the T of TIMON/TENDER (in puzzle #3). If you're wondering "why clockwise? why does it start randomly on the side instead of the top?" the answer is, as it often is with puzzles, because that's what had to happen to make this work. I was genuinely surprised at how hard it was to find an apt 7 letter word that could fit all my half-filled grid skeletons. And while TOOL SET sounded a little green paint-y to me, I ran it past my wife, who is much more handy/crafty/constructiony than I am, and she was like "100% a thing". So TOOL SET it is and that's the final meta answer. Woohoo!


Absolutely delighted to bring my first ever meta to you, and I hope you enjoyed, whether you solved it correctly, got stuck somewhere, or are just reading this curious how things worked. I've had this general idea floating around for about a year (the six feet under that spell EDGERS) but struggled for a while putting together the mechanisms for the puzzles. Lawn Mower has been around for quite some time, but Tiller and Chainsaw were put together within the past couple of months.

I was hoping it wouldn't be quite so tough. I don't think any steps are unfair or anything, but there are a lot of steps that aren't obvious (I don't know if any of them are obvious, to be honest). Did figure that if you got 2/3 of the individual puzzles, you'd have a pretty good shot at inferring what the third was (even if you didn't get the mechanism). Curious if anyone had that experience. But all things considered, not quite sure what I could have done to ease up on it (besides y'know redoing the whole suite, which no. Puzz 3 was one of the hardest to construct puzzles I've ever worked on).

Anyways, hope you enjoyed! I certainly enjoyed making it, and will at some point make another meta puzzle or suite. It'll be a while though - they're tough to come up with! Don't know how Gaffney does it week in and week out.