Bouquet of Balloons
by Brent Holman
This puzzle is a variation on a standard Rows Garden variety crossword. Entries go into the grid in two different ways:
ROWS entries are entered left to right across a single row of triangles. Clues are given in order, so if there are two clues in a row, the first clue’s answer appears in the grid to the left of the second clue’s answer. The rows are listed in alphabetical order by first clue, so it’s up to the solver to determine which clues correspond to which rows.
BALLOONS entries are confined to single-color hexagons. A balloon answer may begin in any of the six triangles within a hexagon, and the answer may read either clockwise or counterclockwise around the central circle. Similar to the rows clues, the balloons clues are listed in alphabetical order, so it’s up to the solver to determine the locations of the various balloons.
NOTE: the colors of the circles in the middles of the hexagons aren’t meaningful. They’re just the complementary colors to the hexagons.
Probably the easiest way to get started is to notice that the top row and the bottom row each consist of only six letters. It’s highly unlikely that these will be two-clue rows, so focus on the rows with only a single clue instead of two clues. There are four such rows. One of them might jump out: “It’s opposite the top” seems like a pretty viable clue for BOTTOM. That’s six letters, and even gives a potential hint as to where in the grid you might want to place it. Start from there and keep working your way back and forth between the rows and the balloons to see if you can fill in the grid.
You can likely make some reasonable guesses for a few of the row entries. From there, you can pencil them in and try to build above and below them using the balloons. You might have to move the entire section up or down a row or two, or reverse it top-to-bottom, but eventually you should be able to get the grid sorted out.
You might also notice the final row clue: “There’s a famous one in Massachusetts.” Does that sound familiar? Given that there are four rows with only a single clue, at least two of those rows must be longer than six letters. The options are 15 letters for the medium-length rows or 21 letters for the four central rows. Where is this hunt happening right now? How many letters is that? If you can figure out one of the 21-letter rows, you know that there are only four possible locations for it. Use that to get the ball rolling as well.
Of course, there’s a slight catch. Some of the Balloon answers don’t quite fit into the grid normally because they’re seven letters long instead of six letters long. For these Balloons, one of the letters should be placed into the circle in the center of the hexagon; reading the circled letters in normal left-to-right, top-to-bottom order will reveal the puzzle’s answer, VESSELS.
Teams are likely to figure this out on their own if they’re making progress in the grid, but it turns out that the whole thing is symmetrical in that the seven-letter answers all appear in the yellow/purple and purple/yellow balloons. This should make finding and placing them much easier (and in fact will allow most teams to short-circuit at least part of the puzzle).
In listed order, here are the row answers, as well as the row number where you should place them:
STEEL BARON / BATON
8: PRO-GOVERNMENT / SEAWATER
10: MARSHALL ISLANDS
3: ISRAEL / GIFT SHOPS
9: ARIADNE / MIRACLES
5: PETNAPPERS / LABRADOODLE
4: SELFSAME / DEBRIEF
11: ANTONIO BROWN / ART
7: GOLDEN HAIR / ESCUTCHEONS
6: INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
BALLOON ANSWERS in listed order
In grid order, the purple/yellow balloons are:
The Grid, Filled In