Cryptic Puzzle

The Puzzle Where Everything Goes Wrong

The Puzzle Where Everything Goes Wrong

By Tom Toce

All of the answers from the clues below have to be altered before entry. The alterations will be familiar from cryptic clue solving. You might need to enter an anagram, a homophone, or a reversal. You might need to add or subtract letters. There are no truncations or elongations, so any additions or deletions will occur in the interior of a word or on both ends. That is, you might need to transform BURSITIS into BUS or BUMPY into UMP. You might need to reverse these processes and derive BURSITIS from BUS or BUMPY from UMP. No truncations or elongations means you won’t have to derive UMP from TRUMP or vice versa.

Every word entered into the diagram is a common word playable in Scrabble, except for one proper noun and a commonly used word that somehow eluded the Scrabble team. (The word is in the SOWPODS dictionary and can therefore be played in Scrabble tournaments outside the U.S., Canada, and Thailand, but that’s getting a little far afield, I think.) The answers before alteration include three proper nouns (one is part of a double definition and doesn’t have to be a proper noun), as well as a word I would call archaic. The completed grid will contain all 26 letters. Ignore punctuation, which is designed to confuse.

This puzzle will be challenging without hints. The first level of hints provides the word lengths for the clue answers. The second level gives the transformations needed. Let me know what level of hints you used, if any.

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


1. I traipse about making analogies

5. Alternate hero

9. Where the colossus was found by marauding hordes

10. Price paid if volcano returned

11. Instant delight, edgy wit

12. Israelis turned our people into Jesuits

14. Cocktail made from Sprite with a bit of Zinfandel (red)!

15. Fertile Saudi lake on the outskirts

18. Inflection found in California, Delaware, North Carolina, and the eastern tip of Tennessee

19. Be aware of the Speaker’s disapproval

21. Commits adultery on both sides of strange driveways

23. Fellowship attained through almost complete trickery and duplicity from the start

26. Off-color feature of tribal display

27. If you don’t consider the odds, I’m no use to the majority

28. Average age dropped in state

29. Leave amidst complexities


1. Sharpen by stop taking on Russia’s leader

2. Lean towards Hungarian composer for recital

3. Pick apart pickled pectins

4. Spruce up for boisterous night tears

5. Harry spoke at afternoon socials

6. Game dominated by the queen of hearts with pieces of terrible cake

7. Illnesses arising after the first two plagues

8. Big Bill’s Bake-Off

13. Minor in-law is a famous funambulist

14. Libertine side to Lucy’s partner

16. He’s going away from Outer Hebrides with newly married woman

17. Former ballplayer turned up as an animated character

20. Frivolous masculine insults

22. Clarinet air re-orchestrated, reflecting diversity

24. Emblem embedded in Hottentot embattlement

25. Craft cut off by toboggan


First-Level Hints—Clue lengths


1—(8), 5—(3), 9—(6), 10—(4), 11—(7), 12—(4), 14—(8), 15—(6), 18—(7), 19—(4), 21—(6), 23—(5), 26—(6), 27—(4), 28—(4), 29—(4)


1—(5), 2—(4), 3—(7), 4—(10), 5—(4), 6—(9), 7—(5), 8—(4), 13—(5), 14—(4), 16—(5), 17—(4), 20—(9), 22—(11), 24—(5), 25—(6)

Second-Level Hints—Alterations

A—Anagram, H—Homophone, R—Reversal, ALI—Add one letter inside, AMLI—Add multiple letters inside, SLI—Subtract one letter inside, SMLI—Subtract multiple letters inside, ALO—Add letters outside, SLO—Subtract letters outside


1—SLI, 5—AMLI, 9—H, 10—AMLI, 11—H, 12—AMLI, 14—SLO, 15—AMLI, 18—ALO, 19—R, 21—A, 23—H, 26—ALO, 27—ALI, 28—ALO, 29—AMLI


1—R, 2—ALO, 3—SLI, 4—A, 5—A, 6—SLI, 7—A, 8—AMLI, 13—ALO, 14—ALO, 16—AMLI, 17—ALO, 20—SLO, 22—SLO, 24—A, 25—H


Previous Issue’s Puzzle—Precision Marching Bands

Click Image to Enlarge

 1.          a.            CONDONE—anagram of “Econ, Don”

  1. RANSOM—inside “Iran: some”

2.          a.            SPOCK—double definition

  1. LAMINATE—anagram of “anti-male”

3.          a.            RABID—first letters of “recur after bodily injury develops”

  1. ELEMENTS—anagram of “steelmen”

4.          a.            STATE—reversal of ETATS (“many parts of France”)

  1. ARACHNID—anagram of “Ah, rancid”

5.          a.            PRION—outside “Probiotic inoculation”

  1. EARLIEST—EARL (“nobleman”) + I (“one”) + E (“excellent”) + S (“second”) + T (“tenor”)

6.          a.            TORII—TORI (“Donuts”) + I

  1. AMARETTO—AM + ARE (“The first and second person to be”) + T (“true”)

7.          a.            PASSED—homophone of PAST (“in an earlier period”) & literally “Uttered in an earlier period”

  1. SILVER—inside “Utensil versatility”

8.          a.            CAPITANO—CA (“California”) + reversal of “on a tip”

  1. SCRAM—reversal of “Marc’s”

9.          a.            ELEVATE—ELATE (“cheer”) around EV, short for electron volt (“a little burst of energy”)

  1. DOUBTS—anagram of “Do buts”
  2. a. MASSACRE—A pun on MASS ACRE (“Boston plot”) & literally
  3. ANGLE—inside “dangles”
  4. a. BOOT HEEL—Pun from BOO THE EL (“Show contempt for the subway at times”) or a construction of the individual components
  5. LAGER—homophone of LOGGER (“Lumberman,” apologies for misprint)
  6. a. RIGHTO—RIGHT (“Reactionary”) + O (“circle”)
  7. BESPAKE—BAKE (“cook”) around ESP (“clairvoyance”)
  8. a. ERG—inside “merger”
  9. ENTANGLING—ENG (“Engineer”) around TAN (“some color”) + LI (“Long Island”) + NG (last two letters in “swimming”)

Band A

  1. CONDO—pun on CON DO (“Hairstyle worn by prison”)
  2. OMEN—reversal of “Nemo”
  3. SNARLED – anagram of “Sled ran”
  4. SOT—S (“second”) + OT (“overtime”)
  5. ADS—double definition
  6. LINGER—inside “Dialing error”
  7. GNAT—inside “Ignatius”
  8. CEELO GREEN – anagram of “Glee encore”
  9. DINERS – anagram of “rinsed”

Band B

  1. POCKET—outside “Pocohontas’s casket”
  2. ANIMALISTIC – anagram of “militias can”
  3. KENO—prime number positions of “a keen model”
  4. APSE—ending letters in “Collapse”
  5. BRIGHTER—B (“but hardly”) + RIGHTER (“more correct”)
  6. EAT – anagram of “tea”
  7. IOTA – anagram of “I to a”

Band C

  1. BIDS—outside of BIRDS (“chicken and turkey”)
  2. TENEMENT – TE + NE (first two letters of “Tennessee” and “Nebraska”) + MEN + T (“initially take”)
  3. GURL—reversal of L (“Ludmilla’s debut”) + RUG (“wig”)
  4. GAL—reversal of LAG (“trail”)
  5. BOOTH—double definition
  6. AIRSPACE—AIR = homophone of HEIR (“Scion”) + SPACE (“headroom”)

Band D

  1. TSAR – anagram of “rats”
  2. ACHIEVABLE – anagram of “a vile beach”
  3. MASSA – anagram of “Ma’s as”
  4. VISOR—VIS (“force”) + OR (“as an alternative”)

Band E

  1. PEARL – anagram of “paler”
  2. REM—double definition
  3. LEST—inside LEAST (“infinitesimally”)
  4. TATE – anagram of “teat”

Band F

a,            PANORAMA—PAN (“Look for gold”) + OR + A + M (“male”) + A (“adult”)



Jina and Michael Accardo, Steve Alpert, Dean Apps, Jack Brauner, Lois Cappellano, Laura Cremerius, Todd Dashoff, Mick Diede, Sean Donohoe and Josh DenHartog, dba T.O.C.E (The Thousand Oaks Cryptic Enthusiasts), Deb Edwards, Bob Fink, Mendy Friedman, Edgar Goral, Pete Hepokoski, Ruth Johnson, Eric Klis, Ken Kudrak, David Lovit and Christine O’Keefe, Michael Manos, Dave McGarry, Jerry Miccolis, Jim Muza, David & Corinne Promislow, Bill Scott, Zig Swistunowicz, Jon Turnes, James and Betsy Uzzell. Doug Szper was omitted from the list of solvers last issue.


TOM TOCE is a senior manager for actuarial services with Ernst & Young in New York and is a member of the Jeopardy Hall of Fame.

Solutions may be emailed to In order to make the solver list, your solutions must be received by Nov. 30, 2017.

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