We are presented with a series of crossword-style clues (corresponding to the “modern art pieces” in the flavortext) and four mini-exhibits. We can start by solving the first set of clues, aided by the observation that the answers are in alphabetical order:
|James Gray sci-fi flick (2 words)
|They lend a hand with a hop?
|Discolored by bruising (3 words)
|BLACK AND BLUE
|Novelty line dance with a hop
|Heavily ornamented household object (2 words)
|Shellfish that's all the rave
|Texture of celery or roasted nuts
|At the scheduled time, at MIT
|Go AWOL, in modern slang
|Like a rule or certain ratio
|Large, as a piano
|How you should turn your clothes before putting them into the washer (2 words)
|Protagonist who reaches into vigilantism?
|Large, as a mattress (2 words)
|Without comrades, as a wolf
|Andrew Jackson's seedling
|A tinkerer with a space
|Certain DJ's cylindrical head shape
|Starts at daybreak
|The hemisphere you are most likely in
|Tool to fill an image (2 words)
|Member of the genus Sabal
|Lost in 1667
|Term of endearment or pie type
|Grocery store or a secure route
|Fish served grilled, smoked, or raw
|Winningest head coach
|With "the," cheeky answer to a common greeting
|You may be asked if you'd like to construct this at Disneyland
|It ain't all this and rainbows
|Holiday fashion faux pas (2 words)
|Wizard of Oz descriptor
As prompted by the flavortext, the next step is to figure out how to sort these “modern art pieces” into the four mini-exhibits. This is also confirmed by counting the number of components in each mini-exhibit (11 lines, 14 lines, 14 letters, and 9 images respectively), which sum to 48 — precisely the number of crossword clues. Furthermore, the puzzle title and mini-exhibit names suggest various kitchen/dining implements used for various purposes.
The key break-in here is that eleven of the clued terms in the first section are the names of college football rivalry BOWLS (suggested by “mixing bowl” and the flavortext mentioning “traditional battles”). Additionally, we identify the mascots (“symbolic figures”) of the teams that participate in each bowl.
|Team 1 mascot
|Team 2 mascot
|Black and blue
|OWLSLEY AND HOOT
|MR. & MS. WUF
|WILD E. CAT
These mascots fit perfectly into the provided blanks:
The highlighted letters spell out the phrase RUBTOASHINE, which clues the mini-puzzle answer POLISH.
This mini-exhibit is all about CUPS — in particular, Reese’s peanut butter cups (clued by “measuring cups” and the word “nutty” in the flavortext). Indeed, fourteen of the clued terms in the first section are the names of Reese’s peanut butter cups variations: BAT, BELL, BUNNY, CHRISTMAS TREE, CRUNCHY, FOOTBALL, FUDGE, GHOST, HEART, INSIDE OUT, KING SIZE, PUMPKIN, SNOWMAN, and UGLY SWEATER.
Additionally, the flavortext tells us that the clues in this mini-exhibit all refer to specific people, but at first it appears impossible to uniquely identify the person in each case. The key realization is that all of these people are named Reese. Furthermore, each clue is also directly associated to one of the Reese’s peanut butter cups variations. We can then use the age of each person in the provided year (as clued by “associated with people through the ages”) to index into the Reese’s variation:
|The baseball player in 1920
|PEE WEE REESE
|The long jumper in 1989
|The dead Western actor in 1932
|The winter skier in 1993
|The musical guitarist in 1943
|The fashion designer in 1975
|The decorated soldier in 1921
|The rich actress in 1981
|The airy jazz singer in 1934
|The sports commentator in 1948
|The seedy rapper in 1996
|The larger-than-life art dealer in 1924
|The crisp poker player in 1956
|The thorough bridge player in 1916
The indexed letters spell out ANSWER CERAMICS.
The fourteen pieces in this mini-exhibit are all words or phrases found on state license PLATES. The provided letters in the mini-puzzle are the first letters of the corresponding states. Prompted by the flavortext, we seek to find the state capital corresponding to each license plate text:
|License plate term
|Salt Lake City
We then “trace” out a path between these capitals on a map, following the provided routes:
We see that “9+2” is spelled out, cluing the mini-puzzle answer ELEVEN.
The final mini-exhibit is about POT (following the cannabis interpretation). The phrase “best of high-time competition” in the flavortext clues the historical winners of the Cannabis Cup, an annual competition held at the High Times festival. In fact, the remaining nine clue answers from the first section are all one half of a two-word name of a winning pot strain. The other halves of the pot strains are almost-anagrams of the words clued by the provided images (“hazily depict” in the flavortext). Finally, we observe that the provided images clue words in alphabetical order, implying we should reorder them somehow; the key is to sort by the year in which the corresponding pot strain won the Cannabis Cup (clued by “over the years” in the flavortext).
|Full strain name
|PEARL -> APPLE
|LIGHTS -> THIGHS
|HERER -> HERRO
|WHITE -> THIEF
|PEACE -> PEACH
|SWEET -> TWEET
|GLORY -> GROWL
|NELSON -> LOOSEN
|DREAM -> ADORE
After sorting, we consider the modified letters from the counterpart strain words and the image words. This spells out the phrase PH OF H TWO O, cluing the mini-puzzle answer SEVEN.
After solving the four mini-puzzles, we arrive at the four answers POLISH, CERAMICS, ELEVEN, and SEVEN. Put together, these form another clue-phrase yielding the final answer, BOLESLAWIEC POTTERY.