by M. Sean Molley, Brian Schoner, Greg Pliska, and Tanis O’Connor

with assistance from Guy Jacobson, Kiran Kedlaya, and Sarah Bagby

with assistance from Guy Jacobson, Kiran Kedlaya, and Sarah Bagby

Solvers might recognize the circular grids in this puzzle as variants on the Seven Sages puzzles created by Patrick Berry and published in the *Wall Street Journal*. In a Seven Sages puzzle, each clue yields a seven-letter answer that must be filled into the spaces surrounding the corresponding numbered tile in either a clockwise or counterclockwise loop. The starting location and orientation for each answer are to be determined by the solver. A Seven Sages puzzle typically contains a quotation from a well-known “sage” around the outer ring.

Here, each of the first three puzzles contains a hidden message on one ring which can then be applied to the corresponding ring on the fourth puzzle to yield the final answer.

The first puzzle (introductory text: “One sage hid something in this mosaic, but she dropped it and the pieces went everywhere”) works like a cross between a Pathfinder and a Some Assembly Required, although many of the letters in the grid are checked more than twice. When the grid has been completely assembled, reading the letters around the inner ring gives the message TURN CENTRAL RING PI RADIANS.

The second puzzle (introductory text: “One sage found a marvelous clue for you, but some parts of this grid were too small to contain it”) is a normal Seven Sages grid except that some of the entries are trigrams instead of single letters. All of these entries are symmetrically spaced and all of them are on the middle ring. Upon completing the grid, reading just the trigrams yields FOR THE MIDDLE ONE A QUARTER TURN CLOCKWISE.

The third puzzle (introductory text: “One wise old [SAGE] left you a mes[SAGE], but he was very self-effacing about it”) is “SAGEless”—all the SAGE strings in its clues have been removed. Its outer ring reads SHIFT LETTERS ON THIS RING FORWARD FIVE AND READ DOWNWARD.

The fourth puzzle is an ordinary Seven Sages puzzle. When filled, the outer ring says TO MAKE THREE RINGS CUT CIRCLE NICELY HALVING TRAPEZOIDS.

Solvers should take the fourth grid, cut it into rings using the two “circles” that pass through the numbered trapezoids, then follow the three instructions:

- Rotate the innermost ring 180 degrees. (TURN CENTRAL RING PI RADIANS.)
- Rotate the middle ring 90 degrees clockwise. (FOR THE MIDDLE ONE A QUARTER TURN CLOCKWISE.)
- Shift the letters on the outermost ring forward 5 letters. (SHIFT LETTERS ON THIS RING FORWARD FIVE AND READ DOWNWARDS.) Note that only the six letters at the very top and very bottom of the main grid actually matter. Reading down the central “column” of the manipulated master grid, solvers can spell TRY ANSWER NONAGENARIANS.

Below are the three completed grids, as well as the clue answers for each puzzle.

Number | Entry | Clue |
---|---|---|

1 | abandon | Verb with “all hope” |

2 | accident | “That was no ______ !” |

3 | alters | What Darth Vader does to deals |

4 | anode | Where some current flows |

5 | Antonin | Dvořák opening? |

6 | Balrog | Durin’s Bane, e.g. |

7 | barter | Common transaction on Catan |

8 | Batman | Film superhero most recently portrayed by Ben Affleck |

9 | beige | Color of a Federal Reserve Board “Book” |

10 | Betamax | Sony discontinued this in March 2016 |

11 | burn | It might be good when it’s sick |

12 | Canadians | Howie Mandel and Alex Trebek |

13 | Chase | Salmon with a big bill |

14 | cuts in on | Steals a dance partner from (3 wds.) |

15 | decanter | Wine receptacle |

16 | decimal | In math, it has a point? |

17 | Dern | Surname of father and daughter with adjoining stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame |

18 | didgeridoo | Instrument that puts a Minotaur in play, in Magic: The Gathering |

19 | Dorcas | Biblical seamstress |

20 | ebbed | Moved away from the shore |

21 | enter | “Speak, friend, and ______” |

22 | exam | Class act? |

23 | expel | Give the same fate as Hagrid or Scamander |

24 | igloo | Northern hemisphere? |

25 | ignores | Takes no notice of |

26 | ions | Charged particles |

27 | ironed | Wrinkle-free |

28 | kale | Brassica oleracea cultivar |

29 | lancet | Surgical instrument with a journal named after it |

30 | latte | Starbucks order, perhaps |

31 | Male | Densely populated world capital originally known as “King’s Island” |

32 | Modelo | Grupo known for a namesake beer |

33 | namaste | Last word in yoga |

34 | on tap | How one might serve #32 (2 wds.) |

35 | Oogie | _____ Boogie |

36 | ordinal | First or third |

37 | Palance | Brando’s understudy in A Streetcar Named Desire |

38 | palate | A chef’s is refined |

39 | Pantone | Company whose 2019 Color of the Year is Living Coral (“this life-affirming shade invites us to reach out and touch”) |

40 | percussionist | Evelyn Glennie is a notably deaf one |

41 | pirates | Strait of Malacca danger |

42 | Radar | Palindromic M*A*S*H character |

43 | ramen | College student’s go-to meal |

44 | Reznor | NIN frontman |

45 | Ride | First American woman in space |

46 | Rockapella | “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” group |

47 | Roland | Wielder of Durendal |

48 | Sacramento | Bee town |

49 | seahorses | Storm, Imp, and their ilk |

50 | sexpert | Savage, for one |

51 | spelt | Another name for dinkel wheat |

52 | Streep | Recordholder for most Academy Award acting nominations |

53 | stubbed | Hurt, as a hallux |

54 | Toledo | Holy city? |

55 | Zerg | StarCraft race known for its “rush” |

Number | Entry | Clue |
---|---|---|

1 | “Estoy aquí” | Shakira’s 1995 Latin Pop chart-topper (2 wds.) |

2 | prairie | Big place for a Little House? |

3 | Spartiate | One of the Homoioi |

4 | psi loop | Structural motif first identified in the aspartic protease family (2 wds.) |

5 | toolmaker | Black & Decker or DeWalt |

6 | Permiak | Member of a Russian-Finnish group associated with the Komi |

7 | C.A.P. Turner | Designer who patented the Spiral Mushroom System (2 wds.) |

8 | precyst | In some parasitic infections, developmental stage following trophozoite |

9 | cyclonist | Organic particle effects plug-in once made by DigiEffects |

10 | Nicosia | Only world capital with two time zones |

11 | wisecrack | Smart aleck’s remark |

12 | ratline | Ladder-like part of a shipâ€™s rigging |

13 | fertilise | Amend soil, as to help your rocket or courgette crop grow |

14 | feeders | The Arkansas and Illinois, vis a vis the Mississippi |

15 | Forrester | “Finding” follower |

16 | reactor | There’s one in NW12 |

17 | The Others | It opens with Nicole Kidman saying “Now children, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” (2 wds.) |

18 | sea star | Marine celebrity? (2 wds.) |

19 | Midas List | Forbes venture capitalist ranking (2 wds.) |

20 | lankest | Most limp |

21 | lean-eared | Having thin handles (hyph.) |

22 | reptile | Cold-blooded creature |

23 | stationed | Placed at a base |

24 | Samoyed | Reindeer-herding dog |

25 | aquaphile | Michael Phelps, e.g. |

26 | art-rapper | Maker of avant-garde hip-hop, like Open Mike Eagle (hyph.) |

27 | preinsert | Put into beforehand |

28 | unspurned | Not yet rejected by a lover |

29 | closed set | ℤ in ℝ, e.g. (2 wds.) |

30 | backwater | Epithet for a rural town, perhaps |

31 | tablewise | Aligned with the nave, rather than the altar |

32 | forswears | Makes a Lenten promise, e.g. |

33 | relathers | Soaps up again |

34 | ideal norm | Kind of commutative algebra mapping, or best possible Cheers character? (2 wds.) |

35 | worldlets | Small celestial objects or planetoids |

36 | loneliest | Like the number one, in song |

Entry | Clue |
---|---|

tsp. | 5 mL |

rte. | Mass. 9 or U.S. 20 |

ill | Sick |

Mim | Merlin’s nemesis Madam ______ |

carets | Editorial insertion marks |

Coe | Runner Sebastian |

centred | In the middle, in Middlesex |

sta. | Kendall/MIT, e.g. |

cheat | Copy another’s exam |

lie | Golf ball’s position |

kea | Antipodean parrot |

EPA | Scott Pruitt’s former dept. |

tam | A toorie bunnet |

Number | Entry | Clue |
---|---|---|

1 | hatless | San[s a ge]ntleman’s headwear |

2 | Fiat Uno | Italian supermini launched in 1983 (2 wds.) |

3 | last not | _____ least (2 wds., uncommon) |

4 | aetatis | At a certain year of one’[s age], from the Latin |

5 | E.U. state | A Schengen vi[sa ge]ts you into one (abbr.) |

6 | Reuters | New[s age]ncy headquartered on Canary Wharf |

7 | on order | Requested but not yet received, as goods by a busines[s age]nt (2 wds.) |

8 | Rothman | He’[s a ge]ophysics professor at MIT |

9 | Pyramis | Company founded by Alexandros Bakatselo[s age]d 27 |

10 | Cypriot | Eli[sa Ge]orgiou, e.g. |

11 | not long | For a short time (2 wds.) |

12 | foist on | Force (someone) to deal with (2 wds.) |

13 | wristed | Made a certain shot, in hockey |

14 | aretted | Imputed, as a fault (obs.) |

15 | fleeted | Moved or passed quickly |

16 | deliver | Administer, as a do[sage] |

17 | free air | Welcome gas station sign, for a driver with a flat (2 wds.) |

18 | grinder | Device for preparing meat for sau[sage] |

19 | meterer | With “net,” denote[s a ge]nerator/consumer on an electric grid |

20 | mandate | Decisive vote for a party’[s age]nda |

21 | randori | Term for “free practice” in judo |

22 | written | On paper, like the works of Le[sage] |

23 | gateway | Point to acces[s a ge]ographical area, perhaps |

24 | goes dry | Ban[s Age]nais wines and other spirits (2 wds.) |

25 | Loremen | James Shakeshaft and Alasdair Beckett-King podcast |

26 | Fortune | Magazine where Jame[s Age]e worked after college |

27 | satoris | States attained by Japanese [sage]s |

28 | die-cast | Like Matchbox or Corgi cars (hyph.) |

29 | Niebuhr | Theologian and [sage] who wrote the Serenity Prayer |

30 | Chunnel | Pas[sage] from Britain to France |

31 | tennist | Federer or Nadal (in uncommon u[sage]) |

32 | alpiste | The seed of canary grass (var.) |

33 | fur-clad | Like a target of PETA’[s age]nts, clothing-wise (hyph.) |

34 | rug mill | Karagheusian factory alluded to in Springsteen’s “My Hometown” (2 wds.) |

35 | milkier | More like a light vi[sage] |

36 | iterate | Say or do again |

Number | Entry | Clue |
---|---|---|

1 | maillot | One piece at the beach? |

2 | apelike | Simian |

3 | Ridpath | On the Edge author Michael |

4 | terries | Towel fabrics |

5 | booster | Second shot |

6 | Nairobi | Capital whose name comes from the Maasai for “cool water” |

7 | Gaiares | Game featuring Zz Badnusty |

8 | recused | Stepped aside, in a way |

9 | contest | Dispute |

10 | orarion | Stole from a deacon |

11 | caravel | Niña, for one |

12 | Van Veen | Head of Global Creative Strategy at Facebook (2 wds.) |

13 | Avicine | C_{20}H_{14}NO_{4}^{+} |

14 | sidle in | Enter as a crab might (2 wds.) |

15 | diarchy | Place with two rulers |

16 | percale | Sheet material |

17 | Type VII | Most common variety of WWII U-boat (2 wds.) |

18 | ranting | Carrying on |

19 | trasher | Vandal, often |

20 | heaping | Like a trencherman’s plate |

21 | in a daze | Confused (3 wds.) |

22 | Addario | Photojournalist Lynsey |

23 | dragons | Toothless and Mushu, e.g. |

24 | Toronto | Raptors’ home |

25 | Mangirl | Comic by Kagari Tamaoka |

26 | named to | Appointed as, as a government position (2 wds.) |

27 | OneNote | Office component |

28 | earnest | Heartfelt |

29 | treated | Picked up the tab |

30 | zero air | Atmospheric gases cleaned to remove almost all impurities (2 wds.) |

31 | ten iron | Most steeply angled golf club that is not a wedge (2 wds.) |

32 | last nod | Final gesture of approval (2 wds.) |

33 | Woodley | Prior portrayer |

34 | sea town | Coastal village (2 wds.) |

35 | ageable | Like wine or cheese that improves over time |

36 | giggled | Laughed nervously |