Solution to PClueRS

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Answer: BLADE

by Chris Jones

This is a puzzle about five types of wordplay games: cryptics, printer’s devilry, pure metas, puns, and straight (crossword) clues. Each clue in this puzzle has two parts: an “inner clue” which consists of a contiguous set of some words from the clue, and an “outer clue” which is the remaining unused words.

The inner clue solves via one of the five wordplay mechanisms to the name of one of the five types: CRYPTIC, PRINTERSDEVILRY, META, PUN, or STRAIGHT. This gives the type of the outer clue. The outer clue can then be solved to a normal English word. These outer clue answers are alphabetically sorted, which should help with solving and confirmation. (You can see full answers to the inner/outer clues at the bottom of this page.)

There are 25 clues, and in fact each of the 25 pairs of clue types appears exactly once as inner/outer clue types. This suggests that we put the words in a 5×5 grid based on (inner type, outer type). Doing this with the proper orientation, five new clues appear along the rows. Here the rows and columns order the clue types alphabetically. This may not be the first way that solvers put the words into a grid, but related words should jump out enough so that the table is reordered to make phrases (SEX-LINKED and GENE, MOVIE and ROLE, etc).

crypticmetaprinter’s devilrypunstraight

Finally, the five new clues should be solved as clues of their appropriate type (the inner type, which is common to all words in the clue). The solutions are (again, taken in alphabetical-by-clue-type order)

Clue typeClueAnswerExplanation
crypticSex-linked gene stores secret advantageEDGEHidden word: sex-linkED GEne
metaTESTED, DEADLOCKS, SHINS, FEET, DOG-EARSBARELYExactly one way to insert a letter and create a new word: TESTBED, DREADLOCKS, SHINES, FLEET, DOG-YEARS. The added letters are BRELY. “Do it again” to get BARELY.
printer’s devilryRonaldo scores wither over defenseAHEADRonaldo scores with [A HEAD]er over defense
punOn vacation and smashing thingsBREAKING
straightStarring movie role or clueLEAD

Taken together, these five words match the enumeration given at the bottom of the puzzle: EDGE BARELY AHEAD BREAKING LEAD (5). This is a final cryptic clue, and the final answer to the puzzle is BLADE = Edge / B_ + LADE*.

Author’s Notes

I’m pretty happy with how this puzzle turned out. The progression of insights on the way to a solve seemed solid and steady (first the break-in with identifying probably a cryptic or maybe the Greek letters meta, then “what are the five clue types?”, then realizing “huh we need a printer’s devilry inside a printer’s devilry somewhere, how is that even possible”, then using the 5×5 grid to polish off the last few tough clues). The fact that for many of the clues you already knew the answer (well, or at most 5 options) makes solving these clues feel exciting. Hopefully you saw how ugly the phrases were, said “this looks terrible”, proceeded to solve the puzzle, and then decided “wow, that was fun!”

If I could do it again, the final cluephrase could be improved. I couldn’t think of an interesting, easy extraction method so I defaulted to a cryptic clue. But even then, testsolvers pointed out that every word in the cluephrase is a cryptic indicator, which is just needlessly intricate. A clearer cryptic is “Urinary sacs avoid doctor’s scalpel” (BLADDERS minus DRS / scalpel). But maybe there are other extractions out there that take advantage of the five clue types?

We ended up having quite a bit of discussion on what constitutes a “pun”. Should the clue be interpretable in two ways, or should the answer be interpretable in two ways? I think we ultimately steered away from the “standard crossword” pun (clues that end in a question mark) because these can be near-impossible to solve in isolation. I would love to see more pun clues in the future since they give me a good laugh.

I tried a bit to make both the rows and columns of the 5×5 grid read as new cluephrases, but this was just too constrained.

Clue [inner clue]Inner typeOuter type = inner answerInner explanationOuter answerOuter explanation
It follows a deuce on a [plain street, right around a] courtcrypticSTRAIGHTplain / ST + R(A)IGHTADVANTAGE
Nightfall brought the caravan [satanic teachings of Epson]: “toast still well before journey’s end”punPRINTER’S DEVILRYEpson is a printer brandANDNightfall brought the caravan to a st[AND]still well before journey’s end
This [direct], e.g.straightSTRAIGHTCLUE
Aboard Cassiopeia, forego gravimetric [measure: permittivity/torque. Significance] is essential hyperlink became deadmetaMETAMEASURE, PERMITTIVITY, TORQUE, SIGNIFICANCE have Greek letter abbreviations μετα = METADEADLOCKSFirst letters are A-I, in this order last letters are DEADLOCKS
Team [teacher says Okafor/Ward solution will suffice] opposing the offenseprinter’s devilrySTRAIGHTteacher says “ok a [STRAIGHT]forward solution will suffice”DEFENSE
Folded pages made [cut time triplets answer. Aligned sold-out show] in the booksmetaSTRAIGHTCUT TIME, TRIPLETS, answer, ALIGNED, SOLD-OUT SHOW clue consecutive poker hands 2pair, triple, answer=STRAIGHT, flush, full houseDOG-EARS
There’s a few [people you ended] in the yardmetaPUNInitial word sounds are emphasized lettersFEETCan you imagine a yard with 3 feet in it?
Kelly Hackman [team set to get next-level] wildercrypticMETAMETA* / next-levelGENEFamous Genes: Kelly, Hackman, Wilder
Maybe solve [puzzle using the answers] DAVID, SKEIN, GOUGE?straightMETAMOVIEDiagonalize five 5-letter words
Working [connected to tombs and such] for no returnpunCRYPTICONWorking / ON<
Place in the hospital where you make [wordplay] decisions?straightPUNOROperating Room (OR)
What a fraction [attempt to adapt Crimean dish! Men taxed due to budget constraints,] says on the radioprinter’s devilryPUNAttempt to adapt Crime and [PUN]ishment axed due to budget constraintsOVER
One day I’ll get [a clue with second string left out,] a chance to play for money and travel ’top a guest a diastraightPRINTER’S DEVILRYROLEOne day I’ll get a chance to play for money and travel to p[RO LE]ague stadia
Shooter from Portugal’s land shot in [to e-Node. My own block cipher (bad idea!)] initially ran once onlyprinter’s devilryCRYPTICto en[CRYPT I C]ode my own block cipher (bad idea!)RONALDOShooter from Portugal (is) / NALD* inside ROO (inits)
Canon stratagem enforces [all Mystery Hunters should utilize a nag] ramming online siteprinter’s devilryMETAall Mystery Hunters should utilize a na[ME TA]gSCORESLengths are unique between 4 and 9, sort and read first letters
Something that’s only [a joke is mixed up with information last] known by Victoria?crypticPUNa joke / PU* + _NSECRETReferring to Victoria’s Secret
Small (formerly large) [mysterious twitch after Yelp page] found written on X chromosomecrypticCRYPTICmysterious / CRY + P + TICSEX-LINKEDS + EX + L + INKED / on X chromosome
Text from dissident [apprentice (Petersburg's undeterred revolter) “Serious] I R in a rat ukay” awakes thousands to regime’s horrorsmetaPRINTER’S DEVILRY3-syllable words, middle syllables are “pren ters de vel ree”SHINSText from dissident Irina Ratu[SHINS]kaya wakes thousands to regime’s horrors
Opinion of [one-line play?] Thornberry on LHCpunPUNSMASHINGNigel Thornberry often says “smashing”, and the LHC is an atom smasher
The Sun syndicate is putting [UK crossword] in the spotlightstraightCRYPTICSTARRINGSTAR + RING / putting in the spotlight
(A bothersome [clue type) resistance normal in delivery trips, crazy] dog need train itself from barkingcrypticPRINTER’S DEVILRYclue type / R + N inside PITERSDEVILRY*STORESA bothersome dog need[S TO RES]train itself from barking
Tried [cracking rare mystery carpophyte spotted within Deccan] tea – seed bits scattered around shirtmetaCRYPTICDouble letters are cracking = C, rare = R, etcTESTEDTried / T + ESED* around T
Objects or [like how heterosexuals stand] stuffpunSTRAIGHTHeterosexuals are straight people, who might stand up straightTHINGS
Talia Gerini had [got to know ’er in England] along ole-timers’ naps’ hotels’ weedspunMETA“Meta” in British English sounds like “met her”, or “got to know ’er”VACATIONAnagrams of (country minus letter): LATVIA NIGERIA CHAD ANGOLA TIMOR-LESTE SPAIN LESOTHO SWEDEN
Bills made music [as can get them disqualified from the 100m dash if they cheat] in the 70sprinter’s devilryPRINTER’S DEVILRYa s[PRINTER’S DEVILRY] can get them disqualified from the 100m dash if they cheatWITHERBill [WITHER]s made music in the 70s