by Guy Jacobson
Problem: Thanksgiving Town/​President’s Day Town

Do you remember that charming viral video from about five years ago called “Dumb Ways to Die,” which was produced by Melbourne, Australia Metro Trains as a public service announcement? Of course you do. (If not, go watch it right now!) So cute, so morbid. Did you know that all the little cartoony victims of their own stupidity actually have names? Of course you didn’t. Well, they do. See, for example, the Wikipedia page about the video. It was even made into a little video game; you can read about all the characters here.

In this puzzle, each line of the ditty describes the death of one of the twenty dumb victims. Their names have been replaced by the word NAME in the color of the corresponding victim (as a helpful confirmation). Here’s the verse with the actual names substituted in:

STUMBLE stood too close to the edge when he fell.
NUMPTY set his own hair on fire, sad to tell.
DUNCE sold both kidneys, earning some bread.
NINNY pushed a button (the button was red).
NUMSKULL doffed her helmet while floating in space.
DIPPY had some fish bite a sensitive place.
HAPLESS poked a bear with a sharp pointy stick.
LAX ate a really old pie and got sick.
MISHAP got a bite in the eye from a snake.
BOTCH played moose—quite a fatal mistake.
PILLOCK took some meds that expired long ago.
PUTZ wandered out on the tracks (what a schmo!).
BONEHEAD was impatient, and drove ’round a gate.
CALAMITY ate some superglue, sealing his fate.
DIMWIT did some wiring, and died in a fire.
BUNGLE met his end when he hid in a dryer.
STUPE crashed his airplane, losing his head.
DOOFUS kicked a wasps’ nest and ended up dead.
DOOMED scratched a drug dealer’s car (what a dork!).
DUMMKOPF tried to pull out the toast with a fork.

What to make of those trigrams below the verse? If you watch the video, you’ll note that the poor little guys come out grouped into five verses, with the “Dumb Ways to Die” chorus in between each verse group. These verses correspond to the lines with the trigrams, with each trigram indicating one of the victims (each group/verse is one line.) The first victim in the third verse is unnamed and never appears in the video (so there’s just “---” instead of a trigram), and the last verse describes the deaths of five (rather than four) victims.

But what are the trigrams? Well, this video was made by Melbourne to promote train safety, and in fact the trigrams are all codes for stations in the Melbourne railway network. Reading the first letters of the trigrams in order we get the acrostic message HOW LONG ARE THESE NAMES? Solvers must use the length of the corresponding victim’s name as an index to select a letter from the full station name:

HIG: Highett[NUMPTY = 6]= T
OFC: Officer[HAPLESS = 7]= R
WSN: Willison[PILLOCK = 7]= O
LWA: Leawarra[DIPPY = 5]= A
OAK: Oakleigh[DUMMKOPF = 8]= H
NCE: Northcote[DIMWIT = 6]= C
GWY: Glen Waverley[STUPE = 5]= W
ASY: Anstey[LAX = 3]= S
RIV: Riversdale[DOOMED = 6]= S
ELS: Elsternwick[NUMSKULL = 8]= W
TOR: Toorak[BUNGLE = 6]= K
HEY: Heyington[MISHAP = 6]= G
ELT: Eltham[DUNCE = 5]= A
SGS: Showgrounds[CALAMITY = 8]= U
ERM: East Richmond[NINNY = 5]= R
NPT: Newport[BOTCH = 5]= O
ALM: Alamein[DOOFUS = 6]= I
MYN: Merlynston[STUMBLE = 7]= S
EDI: Edithvale[BONEHEAD = 8]= L
SEN: Seddon[PUTZ = 4]= D

Reordering these indexed letters using the order the victims appear in the ditty yields the cluephrase STAR WARS GOOD LUCK WISH indicating the puzzle’s answer MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU.