(P&A 71 was released today, which means the answers are now online for P&A 70; so here’s my spoiler-laden recap of our experience solving the last issue, themed around Madeleine L’Engle.)
For a change, we weren’t racing to be done for soccer reasons; the Midnight Riders actually had a pub trivia night (well, afternoon) at 2, but we knew we wouldn’t make it to Boston by 2 and it had already been a busy holiday weekend, so we decided to punt trivia and focus on puzzles. As it turns out, we finished just after 2 (starting at noon Eastern), so this was a very quick issue for us.
My printer prints pages in reverse order, and so New Year’s Eve caught my eye right away. I got the aha immediately (from the flavortext and spotting the anagrammed “INFINITY”). Jackie had picked up Earth Day, but I asked her to help spot a few of the remaining math words, and after switching from the incorrect ordering (vertical) to the correct one (horizontal), we submitted the answer from six out of nine letters at 12:06. As usual, I went to the Stats page to try to identify the low-hanging fruit, but at that point our solve was the only solve! So I flipped through the stack and New Year’s Day seemed approachable; that was solvable with only about 2/3 of the grid filled, submitted at 12:14 (after incorrectly submitting the plural form). As it turns out, the first two answers we got were probably the two of the most helpful in breaking into the meta, but we didn’t know yet that they were paired!
Now there were a few other solves on the Stats page, which led me to Mother’s Day. The third clue on that one was the break-in, and I submitted the answer at 12:19. At this point, Jackie had the gimmick on Earth Day and most of the grid filled, and we worked together to figure out the answer at 12:25. We then teamed up on Flag Day, which wasn’t too bad (12:29). Now there were six puzzles solved on the stats page, and the only remaining one was Back to School, a word search. Faced with the choice between a word search and an unsolved puzzle, Jackie wisely ran toward the unsolved, grabbing the logic puzzle Independence Day while I dealt with Back to School. It was tedious but not too difficult, and I finished it at 12:42. We now had six puzzles solved, and according to the Stats page, no other puzzles had been solved by anyone else.
Jackie kept working on the logic puzzle, while I focused on Christmas Eve. I ID’d a lot of pictures and didn’t see a common thread, so I employed a standard strategy for this sort of puzzle… Google various combinations of likely interpretations and hope the results yield, say, the lyrics to You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch. Once that page came up, I was able to ID all of the pictures except the Eel and the termites. (Fun fact: Early in our relationship, Jackie wrote a short Christmas puzzlehunt for me that featured a Grinch song parody; the lyrics were about me, and the extraction involved looking up the long bits at the end of the verses. I bring this up in case anyone doubts that I married the perfect woman.)
I was stuck on extraction and so was Jackie (having finished the logic portion of her puzzle) so we worked together to finish the extractions for Independence Day (1:07) and then Christmas Eve (1:09). We then worked together on President’s Day, and after filing the grid with what seemed like garbage letters, I wondered aloud, “What does this have to do with presidents?” and she had the aha moment that the letters (mostly) corresponded to last names of presidents. Once again we tried reading vertically before we read horizontally, but then we had an answer at 1:25.
Nine answers and no ideas on the meta… I had noticed MON in LEMOND and thought from the date pages that we might be using days of the week, but I didn’t know how that would work with the clocks, and there weren’t day abbreviations jumping out of the other answers. Jackie got to work on the anaquote lyrics while I started chipping away at the cryptic clues in Valentine’s Day. I was noticing some overlaps between clue answers (PANACHE/PANACEA, for example), and when Jackie had about half of her lyrics identified and was trying to do the same creative Googling we’d been successful with before, I thought about the title and noticed the Days of Christmas gifts in the artists. Initially we counted wrong when indexing and got a key letter wrong, but after correcting the L, we got from ?EC?LA?MUSI? to an answer at 1:55.
Jackie went to move her laundry, and I still had cryptic clues to solve, but I figured that with ten out of twelve answers, we should really be able to break into the meta. After some staring, I found MIN/UTE and SEC/OND (now having SECULAR MUSIC was very helpful) and figured that SECOND/MINUTE/HOUR/DAY/WEEK/YEAR would fit the clocks and calendars. I filled in the ten answers we had and wanted the letters to somehow fit the sequences of wrinkles… they did not. But the other ends of the answers did seem to spell something, and with ten out of twelve answers, the meta answer fell at 2:04.
Based on the meta mechanism, the remaining answers needed to be of the form R*AR and T*Y. Since one of the remaining puzzles (First Day of Spring) prominently featured lions, I tried ROAR as a wild stab… Success! Jackie returned and we teamed up to finish Valentine’s Day; we knew the first and last letters from backsolving and worked out the second and fourth (and first) letters as intended, which was enough to figure out the answer and secure a complete.
January Update: Two months later, we never figured out how the lion/lamb puzzle worked. I’ve looked at the solution now, and it appears the lions and lambs are just showing you which letters the hidden Boggle words start and end with; if that’s the case, I cry foul at the fact that some of the corner squares are indicated by icons orthogonally adjacent to the letter, and some diagonally adjacent (see, for example, the two lambs in the bottom center grid). I don’t see any reason to place them inconsistently unless they’re trying to be something more involved than “next to a letter”).