by Benjamin Monreal and Sarah Bagby
Problem: Arbor Day Town/​Bloomsday Town

You have thirteen book covers, torn in half. Each half-cover includes a character name at the top and part of a title; the right half-covers also include some number of clipart glyphs related to the title, while the left half-covers have some number of handcuffs. The placement of the character names suggests that, when reassembled, each cover will say something like “So-and-so & Thus-and-such IN”: so these look like recurring characters, already familiar to the reader from earlier books in the series.

Each of the rather unusual character names given shares a (more or less cockeyed) member-of-common-set relationship with the name of a famous detective or that detective’s partner from detective fiction. The nature of these relationships is hinted in the flavortext: “Gedult’s & Alkaline Earth, Booksellers” maps to the familiar Barnes & Noble, Booksellers (Gedult’s and Barnes are both chess openings; “alkaline earth” and “noble” are both the adjectival parts of informal names of periodic table groups). Working out these relationships allows you to reassemble the pairs:

Cover detectives Common sets Original detectives Author
Black & Simon the Leper (A tool company namesake and a biblical Bethanite household) Decker & Lazarus Faye Kellerman
Hibbert & Torvald (A Simpsons doctor and a Doll’s House character) Nick & Nora Dashiell Hammett
Oddfellow & Avenue (A fraternal organization member and a roadway word) Mason & Street Erle Stanley Gardner
Sigma-Aldrich & Dash (A chemical supply company and a Morse code character) Fisher & Dot Kerry Greenwood
Mattock & Crossbowman (A garden tool and a shooter of a bow) Spade & Archer Dashiell Hammett
Cardozo & Deep Blue (A SCOTUS justice and an IBM game computer) Holmes & Watson Arthur Conan Doyle
Executioner & Bonham (A part of the trial system and a Led Zeppelin member) Jury & Plant Martha Grimes
Hadrian & Jughead (A Roman emperor and an Archie Comics character) Nero & Archie Rex Stout
Maryland & Biketoberfest (A DelMarVa state and a motorcycle rally) Delaware & Sturgis Jonathan Kellerman
Catchfly & Buddytruk (A flower in genus Silene and an on-demand moving startup) Campion & Lugg Margery Allingham
Uppercut & Potpan (A boxing punch and a Romeo and Juliet servant) Cross & Sampson James Patterson
Semaphore & Clark (A code and a Western explorer) Morse & Lewis Colin Dexter
Quadrophenia & Ha’penny (A rock opera and a small British coin, colloquially) Tommy & Tuppence Agatha Christie

Having assembled the book covers, you now know the full titles. Each pair of real characters recurs in a finite set of stories; as suggested by the flavortext (“mixed-up titles,” “blatantly derivative works”), the fake title is an anagram of one of the real titles in this set. (Leading articles, “Adventure of the,” and “Case of the,” all typeset in smaller font, are excluded from the anagrams.) The price stickers, for unique values from $1.99 to $13.99, should suggest themselves as the ordering mechanism. (You might be tempted to alphabetize by author. To maybe dissuade you a bit, the fake authors’ names are all synonyms for RED HERRING.) The title-specific clipart glyphs on the right half of each cover provide an index into the original title. (This indexing step excludes any portion of the title that wasn’t anagramed: leading “The,” “The Adventure of the,” “The Case of the”; these excluded portions are typeset to match the red-herring authors.) The indicated letters spell out FIND THE CROOKS.

Price New title Original title Clipart Cluephrase
1.99 Refs Ponder Canada Sacred and Profane 13 maple leaves F
2.99 (The) Math Inn (The) Thin Man 3 beds I
3.99 (The Case of the) Minty Pet (The Case of the) Empty Tin 8 cats N
4.99 Tarantula, Her Bridal Mentor Murder on the Ballarat Train 4 brides D
5.99 (The) Most Fallen Ace (The) Maltese Falcon 4 aces T
6.99 (The Adventure of the) Enmeshing Tuber (The Adventure of the) Engineer’s Thumb 11 potatoes H
7.99 (The) Elves Babbled of Annelid (The) Five Bells and Bladebone 6 worms E
8.99 Darn Fleece Fer de Lance 9 sheep C
9.99 Bugbear Hews the Honk When the Bough Breaks 14 horns R
10.99 Actual Fertile Phone Police at the Funeral 2 telephones O
11.99 Whoops, Eaglets Pee Pop Goes the Weasel 2 splats O
12.99 Toadstools, Two Bucks Last Bus to Woodstock 18 $2 bills K
13.99 (The) Cadaver’s Rest Rye (The) Secret Adversary 1 bottle S

Search for spoilers (all findable in plot summaries, Goodreads reviews, etc.); the post-it note, with spoilers alphabetized by first name and then redacted, should clear up any ambiguities (e.g., are you looking for Sir James Peel Edgerton, or just James Peel Edgerton?). Where the book has been adapted for TV or film and character names have been changed, you of course want the book version. Now collar the crooks: the number of sets of handcuffs on the left half of each cover gives you an index into the villain’s name. In price order, these extracted letters spell TEAR US A NEW ONE. (We hope that you will interpret this to mean “mock up a new cover in this vein and tear it in half,” but there’s some flexibility.)

Price New title Crook Handcuffs Cluephrase
1.99 Refs Ponder Canada Cameron Smithson 11 T
2.99 (The) Math Inn Herbert Macaulay 2 E
3.99 (The Case of the) Minty Pet Rebecca Gentrie 7 A
4.99 Tarantula, Her Bridal Mentor Alastair Thompson 8 R
5.99 (The) Most Fallen Ace Brigid O’Shaughnessy 11 U
6.99 (The Adventure of the) Enmeshing Tuber Lysander Stark 9 S
7.99 (The) Elves Babbled of Annelid Hannah Lean 5 A
8.99 Darn Fleece Manuel Kimball 3 N
9.99 Bugbear Hews the Honk Edwin Hayden 1 E
10.99 Actual Fertile Phone Andrew Seeley 6 W
11.99 Whoops, Eaglets Pee Geoffrey Shafer 3 O
12.99 Toadstools, Two Bucks Sue Widdowson 12 N
13.99 (The) Cadaver’s Rest Rye James Peel Edgerton 7 E

Solvers who came to HQ to TEAR US A NEW ONE watched as we tore up a folded piece of paper in front of them, and were then handed the pieces. On reassembling the pieces, solvers found yet another mystery cover (this one from a real book), with a piece missing. What remains is the author’s name, Carter Dickson; the art; and the beginning of the title, Seeing is. The answer to the puzzle is the rest of the title: BELIEVING.