Cryptic PuzzlePuzzles

12534 or 15234

12534 or 15234

By Tom Toce

This puzzle gets its name from the two words that can be formed from the letters you’ll need to add to some of the four-letter answers in order to get the “five from fours” answers. Five of the four-letter words from the diagram will each take one extra letter. A four-letter word provides five positions where a letter can be added. Position 1 is before the first letter, position 2 is between the first and second letter, and so on. The “fives from fours” answers are formed using all five positions. The series 12534 and 15234 refer to the ordering of the five added letters and the new words that can be formed from these orderings.

For example, suppose the “fives from fours” were made by adding 1) a T at position 1 to a four-letter word, 2) an R at position 2 to another four-letter word, 3) an A at position 3 to another one, 4) an L at position 4, and 5) an E at position five. The added letters TRALE can make LATER if ordered 43152 and ALTER if ordered 34152.

The “fives from fours” clues are given in no particular order. Also, there are eight four-letter words in the diagram, and only five are used for making the “fives from fours.” The solver will also have to determine which four-letter words to use.

The diagram answers are straightforward. There are five proper nouns or adjectives among the diagram entries and one unusual word. One of the diagram entries is two words. There is another proper noun in the “fives from fours.” Everything else is playable in Scrabble. Ignore punctuation, which is designed to confuse.

Thanks to Eric Klis, Bob Fink, and Jerry Miccolis for test-solving and editorial suggestions.


  1. Unusual tote held by some princesses in recession

8. Cut back by a couple, I’d say

9. Part of the small intestine found in crappy milieu, I must evacuate

10. Abba hit by iron! Nurse! Also head of orthopedics!

12. Little bird swallowing large rake

14. Effort’s said to lead to affluence

15. Breaks in again to evaluate short-term rental units

17. Was Picasso serving savory jelly?

18. Addressing packages “Mr.”

19. Fashion into Cree structure


1. The man in Havana works up gag

2. In need of a job, heartthrob auditioned

3. Large numbers of fish in motion bearing roe on the way up to Sound in Seattle

4. Unconventionally appealing with a little something extra

5. A purge left Nancy ultimately with a very dry delivery

6. Start all over again or Ed goes schizo

7. Drunk superb ale and ready for examination

11. Buggy carrying huge amount overturned as he says, “Et tu?”

12. Siren blast at the conclusion of service

13. True, we objectively can like Chianti

15. Playing “More” all around the Trevi Fountain

16. Antitoxin’s saving Yugoslavian hero

Fives from fours

Ladies’ man starts to reminisce over many erotic opportunities

Renovated décor as a concept

Fresh pears cut up

You can tap this tree shading Dad on the way back

Drummer as egomaniac rendering “Wipe Out”

Two words that can be formed from the five added letters

__ __ __ __ __ and __ __ __ __ __

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