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Cactus Canyon

Spaghetti Western

by Yar Woo, Larry Hosken, Brent Holman

To solve this puzzle, teams had to go back-and-forth between figuring out how individual "spaghettis" worked, their answers, their bonus words; and the four shared "feeder" words. It started out as quite a muddle, but once the four shared "feeder" words (DEAR, MALE, SORE, SPAN) were nailed down, teams could work out the rest.

To get the puzzle's message: From each spaghetti-puzzle extract the bonus word letter that goes into the spaghetti-answer. E.g., in the books, the bonus word extracts the J in the prime of miss Jean brodie. Thus, the message starts with J.

The message is JONAH HEX MEDIUM; thus the solution was COMIC BOOK. (Yes, there was a Jonah Hex movie; that came later.)

Spaghettis with Answers

Each of these words can fill in the blanks, in order, in a famous author's name. E.g., if MAIN were a word, it could fill in □□_ _   _ _ _□□ to make MArk twaIN.

The bonus word is MILK - calf beverage

The circled letters (in the order presented) yield the solution: JOINT

+ fill-in-the-blanks authors:
  MAry sheLlEy, thomaS PAiNe, w. SOmeRsEt maugham, DantE AlighieRi

  Cover of books, extract letter from title, give enumeration blanks for
  author and title.

  to extract J, MurIeL sparK, the prime of miss Jean brodie
  J the prime of miss Jean brodie
  O of human bOndage
  I Inferno
  N common seNse
  T frankensTein
Each of these words, combined with another word, makes a nonsense phrase—that sounds like another word. E.g., if AXE were a word, it might combine with HASTE to make HAYSTACKS.
HEIR ____ _ _ _ _ _ _
DINAH ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
FORK ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
RAIN ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
SAW ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The bonus word is LOWS - makes cow sound

The solution is ADORN

+ Punny homophonic double phrases

  HEIR MALE  -> airmail
  DINAH SORE -> dinosaur
  FORK LOWS  -> foreclose
  RAIN DEAR  -> reindeer
  SAW SPAN   -> saucepan

  Bonus word is “LOWS”. Circled blanks make ADORN. Extract O

Each of these words, preceded by a letter, sounds like a common phrase. E.g., if ROW were a word, then "Nothing" might clue ZERO ("Z ROW"). We clue these:

Expression of dismay (2 words) _ ____
Occupy or involve _ ____
Very ugly thing _ ____
TV station with senators _ ____
Internet missive _ ____

The bonus word is GAUGE - measure

The two-word solution phrase is ON ICE

+ Letter + word sounds like common expression. Extract the letter


  Answer is "ON ICE"; bonus word is GAUGE, which extracted N
All of these words fit the rule that you can change a letter to make a new word, then add a profession-word to make a phrase. E.g., if LACK were a word, it might combine with WASHER to make LOCK WASHER.

When Fred grows up, he wants to become a free agent.

_ _ _ _   Admiral
_ _ _ _   Trader
_ _ _ _   Chef
_ _ _ _   Teller
_ _ _ _   Doctor

The bonus word is IRAN - nation

The puzzle's solution is DRAMA

+ Change a letter, add to a career to make a phrase
  {d} REAR admiral
  {r} SOLE trader
  {a} IRON chef
  {m} TALE teller
  {a} SPIN doctor


  IRAN -> irOn chef . Bonus word is IRAN, extraction is an A
Once the words are ordered correctly, you can insert a W at the first spot in the first word to make a new word; insert a W in the second spot in the second word, etc.
Kid W ◯ _ _ _
Uttered _ W ◯ _ _
Container _ _ W _ ◯
Birth ◯ _ _ W _
Parish _ _ _ ◯ W

The bonus word is HELP - aid

The circled letters make the solution word, HORSE

+ Insert a W in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th slots

   W HELP  (kid)
  S W ORE  (uttered)
  DE W AR  (container)
  SPA W N  (birth)
  MALE W   (parish)

  HELP is the bonus word, and H is the extraction. Solution is HORSE
Each of these words can be inserted into another word to form a third, longer word. E.g., if TAKE were an answer word, you could insert it into MISS to form misTAKEs. Sometimes this "insertion" is at the edge.

Sometimes, one word just begs to have something in; thus it begins.

BEEN _ _ _ _ _ _ _
TAS _ _ _ _ _ _
RESPOND _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
SIMS _ _ _ _ _ _ _
WINGS _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Given the mechanism, it's perhaps appropriate that the bonus word is HOLD - possess

…which in turn goes nicely with the solution word HANDS

+ Join with another word to form a longer word

  taMALEs (tas + MALE)
  responSOREd (respond + SORE)
  siDEARms (sims + DEAR)
  wingSPANs (wings + SPAN)

  bonus is HOLD, answer is HANDS, extract H

If you add a letter and anagram each of these words, you get a type of tree or tree-like shrub. E.g., if CURSE were an answer word, you could add a P to get SPRUCE.

Oh no! Someone put a curse on this spruce!

tree 1 leaf 1
tree 2 leaf 2
tree 3 leaf 3
tree 4 leaf 4
tree 5 leaf 5

The bonus word is RANDOM - MIT residence hall

This yields the answer, PIECE

+ anagram+1 letter makes a tree: maPle, osIer, aspEn, Cedar, madronE

  Mini-solution is PIECE, bonus tree is RANDOM/madronE; extract E

Each of these words can fill in the blanks, in order, in a country's name. E.g., if SILK were an answer word, it could fill in the squares in □_□   □_◯□_ to make SrI LaⓃKa.


□ □ □ _ _ □ _
□ □ □
□ _ □ □ _ _ □ □ _
□ □ _ _ _     _□ □ _
□ □ _ □ □ _

Here, the bonus word is LEMUR - arboreal primate

The puzzle's solution is DIXON

+ fill in the blanks into countries

  SOuth koREa

  Bonus LEMUR : LuxEMboURg . circled "leftover" letters form answer DIXON
  Extract the X

Each of these words can be "beheaded": removing the first letter produces another word. "Clue" these words to provide an order:

Thing found in a kitchen
Body part
Mining goal

The bonus word (carefully chosen to be not-four-letters long so solvers have to figure out the real extraction) is CHARMING - Prince of tales

The solution is ALARM


  Take middle letter of beheaded word: A L A R M

  Mini-solution is ALARM, bonus word is CHARMING, extracted letter is M

Each word can have one letter replaced by T to make a new word. We clue these to provide an order:

Someone spilled tea everywhere!

Each of a pair
Small conflict

The bonus word is SEARCH - hunt

This yields the solution, LENDS

+ change letter to T: spaT, Tear, Tore, maTe

  E N,D,S,L

  Bonus word is SEARCH, change to STARCH, solution is LENDS
  Extract the E
Put the words in the grid; thanks to the grid's half-twist, it also forms other words, as clued.

The bonus word is WELD - use a blowtorch

The solution is POLED

+ The half-twist in the grid forms clued words:
  + SOLD auction yell
  + MARE female horse
  + DELE proofreader's mark
  + SPAR train for boxing
  + WEAN feed baby not-milk

  Bonus word is WELD. Circled letters spell POLED.
  Extract the letter you got from bonus word, D
Fill in this story's blanks with anagrams of the words.

After he had his _ _◯_, he washed the _ _◯_. Then he went to sleep for the _◯_ _ _. When he _ _◯_, he _◯_ _ the newspaper.

The bonus word, obviously with five letters, is THING - object

The answer is ANISE

+ narrative with anagramming

  After he had his MEAL, he washed his PANS.
  Then he went to sleep for the NIGHT.
  When he ROSE, he READ the newspaper.


  Answer is ANISE. Bonus word is THING, extract I
Convert each letter in a word to binary and then XOR those numbers together to get a new letter.
Bitwise is W: 00010 ^ 01001 ^ 10100 ^ 10111 ^ 01001 ^ 10011 ^ 00101 = 10111

The bonus word is WEST - sunset direction

The solution word is beloved television character URKEL

+ Convert to binary, then XOR incrementally

  SPAN becomes 01100 (L)
  MALE becomes 00001 (E)
  DEAR becomes 10010 (R) 
  SORE becomes 01001 (K)

  Solution is URKEL, bonus word is something that can XOR to a U: INVENTIONS

Each of these words can be combined with another, clued, word and an ex- prefix to sound out another word. E.g., if one of the words was ORBIT, then "ex + ____ + camper's quarters" sounds out EXORBITANT.

ex ____ sac _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ex flatten ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _
ex ____ avoid _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ex ____ Hundred Acre Wood donkey _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ex ___ tug _ _ _ _ _ _

The bonus word is HAM - meat

This yields the solution EXCLAIM

+ punny phrases with “EX”, use crossword clues

  EX SORE CYST (exorcist)
  EX PRESS MALE (express mail)
  EX SPAN SHUN (expansion)
  EX DEAR EEYORE (exterior)
  EX HAM PULL (example)

  Bonus is AMP, answer is EXCLAIM if you "do it again"
  or just CLAIM if you're not into that. Extract the M from HAM


Larry Hosken writes:
I was listening to contemporary interpretations of Ennio Morricone songs, noodling around ideas to turn them into a puzzle for this WestWorldLand round we were putting together. I wasn't sure what I wanted, puzzle-wise, but the title "Spaghetti Western" could be funny.

Then I realized that the "Spaghetti" name should instead go with a tribute to Eric Berlin's blog-game. I started futzing around with an outline.

Though I enjoy reading other folks' Spaghetti-ideas, I never actually had such ideas myself. Thus I didn't get very far in constructing this puzzle on my own. I soon asked Editor-in-chief Yar if he could rope in a metapuzzle-enthusiast who might want to work on this puzzle. Yar himself had a bunch of ideas and then he tapped Consigliere Brent who had even more. Soon we had a workable draft to show around. Amongst the testsolvers were more of Left Out's metapuzzle-specialists, and they had more ideas to swap in.

tl;dr, you should read Eric Berlin's blog, Left Out has some pretty-good metapuzzle-makers, and For a Few Guitars More is a fun album.