by Martin Reinfried
Answers: FLAMEWAKER, RE
The solver sees “Hunt and Peck Machine (10)” followed underneath by a row of 10 squares and two columns of pecking chickens pointing at non-sense letters. The first thing to notice is that the text is in a typing font. The next thing solvers may notice is that the nonsense letters are each only from one of the three rows on a keyboard. The (10) after “Hunt and Peck Machine” suggests that solvers come up with a 10-letter answer to that clue, which is TYPEWRITER. TYPEWRITER is made up of letters from only one row of the keyboard. This word fits wholly on top of the top row of the keyboard, from which both sets of nonsense letters after the first pecking chickens are from. If solvers lay the letters of TYPEWRITER on the first typewriter row (hinted at by the row of squares that look like keys), and then type the nonsense letters on the original letter keys, the substitute letters spell out words. In the second column, e.g., EWPUQO goes to PYRITE. The procedure now repeats, except that the next set of nonsense letters in the column are from the second row. PYRITE (2 wds) is FOOLS GOLD, which fits on that second row, the nonsense letters now spelling FLOODS. All three keyboard rows of letters are used, depending on the length of the answers.
The first column goes as follows (one chick operation at a time):
old hunt and peck machine → typewriter → petite
petite → diminutive → divine
divine → understand → statues
statues → monuments → most momentous
most momentous → gravest → savage
savage → ferocious → fire rouser
The second column goes as follows:
old hunt and peck machine → typewriter → pyrite
pyrite (2 wds) → fools gold → floods
floods → inundates → us state
us state → washington → hit songs
hit songs → singles → lessening
lessening → moderating → mage minion
The last words in both columns are combined with a plus sign. FIRE ROUSER MAGE MINION clues FLAMEWAKER, a card in the game Hearthstone.
Certain letters are underlined, matching the added chick operation with blanks underneath, and after translation (right to left, top to bottom), this makes:
Using the same procedure as in the two columns, and thinking about the chicken theme to solve “penless",
PENLESS → FREE-RANGE → RE
Therefore, the two answers are FLAMEWAKER and RE.
Background and Credits
This puzzle came together quite quickly, starting from the idea that the word TYPEWRITER uses only one row of the keyboard and the connection between a typewriter and a chicken (hunt and peck). However, after that, it took a while to get it right, so that the first aha was gettable and there was a reasonable path to the somewhat janky second answer (RE).
I had help from Todd Etter (backsolving prevention and brainstorming), Brent Holman (layout and extraction), and Jeff Stribling (second answer).