M Puzzle: Efficiency

by Francis Heaney and Lance Nathan

This puzzle is about efficiency: getting one letter to do the work of many. The two sets of clues can be matched so that a string of two or more letters in the answer from the left can be replaced by a single letter in the answer on the right. (As a guide, the twenty-five letters are all different.) The clues, correctly matched with their answers and ordered by the right column, are:

Left clue Right clue Left ans. Right ans. String Ltr
Alaskan Eskimo Stop INuit quit IN Q
Ashore, like a whale Vandyke, e.g. beaCHEd beard CHE R
Sleeveless women's garment Persuade caMISole cajole MIS J
Food storage area Spasm panTRY pang TRY G
Michigan city Superfluous (2 wds.) detroIT de trop IT P
Worked in marble Offspring chiSELEd child SELE L
Change chemically (as with yeast) E.B. White character ferMENT fern MENT N
Large wine bottle Certain gift bearers magNUM magi NUM I
Maturation period Crevice filler puBERty putty BER T
Dog A dessert caNINe cake NIN K
Earth goddess Hesitation demETEr demur ETE U
Show passion or fervor Join ENTHuse fuse ENTH F
Forefather Fix ancESTor anchor EST H
Hero worshipper? A machine leANDer lever AND V
Doric or Ionic Legislature diALECt diet ALEC E
Beast Fold creaTURe crease TUR S
Snake Aroma sERPent scent ERP C
Exterior Laughing gas is one oUTSide oxide UTS X
Hold together Arrive coHERe come HER M
Scope Shower alternative bREADth bath READ A
Move around, as at a party Chocolate sauce mINGle mole ING O
Lemur, for instance Value priMATe prize MAT Z
Barren Fashion stERIle style ERI Y
Reclusive author Someone at a wife-swapping party sALinger swinger AL W
Big name in trains Possible Hearst crime? liONel libel ON B

The replaced strings spell out "In chemistry, it's element number nineteen / The stand a lecturer puts her reading material on". These are clues for another pair of words where a letter can replace a string, "potassium" and "podium". This gives the unused letter (d) and the answer, which is TASS.