P&A Issue 69 will be released in less than an hour, and Issue 68 answers have now been posted. For that previous issue, I took the time after solving to write up a detailed recap of our solving process. It might be more detailed than some care about, but if you’re curious how our team of two approaches an issue, here’s some insight! (WARNING: This post definitely contains Issue 68 spoilers, including one for the metapuzzle.)
Today’s yet another day in which a puzzle event coincides with a Revolution home game; the tailgate lot opens at 4:30pm ET, so we’ll be doing our best to polish off the meta in three hours or so. Wish us luck! (Or don’t, if you’re trying to come in above us on the leaderboard.)
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This issue (the meta, at least) was a fairly quick solve; Jackie and I had the first meta solve, and I think it was in just over ninety minutes. We didn’t complete the issue until later that night, but that was partially because we were distracted by grocery shopping, soccer, and Japanese wrestling. So, you know, a typical Saturday.
The first two puzzles I worked on were The Key-Lock Man and Showdown at Yellow Brute, and on both of those I got stuck on the answer extraction. Meanwhile Jackie solved The Man Called Noon (with some assistance from me with regard to time machine trivia), and afterward I talked through my progress on those first two puzzles and we worked out how to finish them, giving us a total of three answers.
Next I solved Treasure Mountain while Jackie worked on Long Ride Home, and after I finished the former, I helped her finish the latter. The Long Ride Home answer was key, as the relationship between TETRAGRAM and MARGARET jumped out at me, and the other answers we already had confirmed the meta mechanism. The answers we now had gave us ??L?C?S??TO?. The context given in the flavortext made SUITOR look pretty likely, but we weren’t sure about the first half. Given the reference to “regressive” in the flavortext, which I didn’t yet realize was a mechanism hint, I thought A BLACK SUITOR might be more progressive if Louis L’Amour’s books were filled with white people (I’d never heard of him before solving this issue), but that wasn’t correct… we then co-solved Lando, and even though the A that gave was already something we’d considered, this narrowed things down enough for us to get the metapuzzle answer with only 6 out of 12 puzzles solved.
Now that we weren’t on the clock, Jackie shifted her focus on other things and I started solving for the complete. I took a look at the letters we needed to produce for the meta, and the only thing that jumped out as a likely answer was FAKED, but I didn’t feel like randomly trying that answer on every puzzle. (Though for what it’s worth, with an automatic answer checker, I see no ethical reason not to do that. Discuss.) I solved Trouble Shooter, which wasn’t bad once I broke in. Then I figured out what to do on Trail of Memories, but once I figured out the extraction, I counted the number of dots, dashes, and spaces, and confirmed that in the right order, they could produce FAKED, so I submitted that and skipped the rest of the puzzle. I like to figure out how every puzzle in the issue works if possible (which we failed at in the Christie issue), but if I know the answer and how it will be extracted, I don’t feel much of an urge to fill in all the blanks.
On Last of the Breed, getting ESP from the top of the grid was enough to get the answer via a wild card search, and once I started making progress on Iron Marshal, I solved the full puzzle, because how could you not? Tall Stranger was tough to break into since I’ve never seen the TV show the puzzle was based around (and there was a lot of data to sift through before deciding what I needed). I thought both of these last two puzzles were good pop culture puzzles; even if you didn’t know the shows involved, both were based around show concepts that were interesting and easy to digest. I thought the hardest puzzle in the set by far was Hills of Homicide, as even when you have a long phrase translated, reconstructing a Playfair square is not at all easy. I think I got three out of six letters (probably the first, second, and fourth judging by the puzzle), and that was enough to solve the puzzle knowing the meta constraint.
Elegant meta and some nice satisfying puzzles, even if the theme this month did nothing for me. As previously noted, the answers this month haven’t met Foggy’s usual standards for entertaining meta answers, but I suspect there’s an additional constraint on those that we haven’t seen yet.