Solution to Simplicity

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by Lewis Chen

The letters are rebuses cluing North American cities plus an additional letter. They are sorted alphabetically, and are as follows:

RebusExplanationCityExtra Letter
(BURL in GT) on LBurlington, VermontL
NACCCTI(C in CC) in NATICincinnati, OhioC
(M in NEAP) on LISMinneapolis, MinnesotaN
ASAGAWSAGA in AWSaginaw, MichiganA
(T or C) on TOToronto, OntarioC

Plotted on a map, we can note that besides Cincinnati, the other cities are roughly the same latitude and north of Cincinnati, roughly matching the five blanks. In order from left to right, the extra letters spell out NACL. This is on top of the C in Cincinnati, which leads to another rebus:

Extracted letters (N A C L on top of C) overlaid on a map of North America

Using NaCl as the chemical abbreviation for table salt and C as phonetically similar to "sea", this resolves to SALTON SEA, which is another North American geographical feature.

Author’s Notes

The concept of this puzzle stemmed from the answer being rebus-able, although it took quite a bit of idle thinking in order to get the puzzle to the current form.

Initially there would be pictures associated with various rebuses, although when I thought about how Cincinnati was also rebus-able, finding a few additional cities (most with two "directional" indicators) certainly made the puzzle more cohesive.

One city, Concord, was ultimately removed for being a bit more ambiguous than the rest (either Concord, NH or Concord, MA would work geographically, though several other Concords wouldn't). This was replaced by Burlington, which is also a bit ambiguous but perhaps less so.

(There exist cities with the same name for the other four cities in North America as well (even Minneapolis and Toronto!), although the intended cities for these should be much more clear-cut.)