Cryptic Puzzle

Do the Math

Do the Math

By Tom Toce

To kick off the new year properly, I’m offering another puzzle from the team of Bob Fink and Jerry Miccolis. It’s getting too confusing for me to title the column differently than the puzzle, so “Do the Math” is all there is. Here is their introduction to a puzzle I think you’ll enjoy:

Happy New Year! The first part of this puzzle is a straight-forward cryptic—except that, in the midst of all the holiday festivities, we’ve neglected to number the Across clues or put them in their proper order. So, that part’s up to you.

There is one proper noun (and another that could be, but isn’t clued that way). All other grid entries are playable in Scrabble. As always, beware of punctuation, which has been known to deceive.

Now, if you figured there’s more to the proceedings than just filling in the grid, you figured right! Your submission should also include the timely four-character solution that the completed grid prompts you to derive. Specifically, you’ll need to find five key, symmetrically-placed entries and complete their implied actions. Then, you’ll need to subject your five results to certain operations that can be found hidden within four intervening (and also symmetrically-placed) entries. As they say in math class, be sure to show your work!

As a bonus, you’ll earn a champagne toast (with, perhaps, a ceremonial dumpling), not to mention a shout-out in the next issue, if you correctly complete the payoff phrase by reordering four remaining entries—of the same orientation as the nine you’ve already utilized—to fill in the blanks. The payoff phrase is tied to the four-character solution.

Let us know if you used any of the hints that we’ve posted upside-down in the box below.

Thanks to Tom Toce and Eric Klis for test-solving this puzzle and offering valuable editorial advice.


  • Governor imprisons General to establish undisputed term of power (5)
  • Actress MacDowell, after Elijah initially gets cast, confronts director Howard to make a “Fire Wood!” stand (7)
  • Cryptic clue: “Sin(mu) is very small” (9)
  • OKs start of ballad and Les croons (9)
  • Porcelain cups not available after Bulls’ appearance in arena (5)
  • Oren, while not taking sides, joined team near the end and conformed (7)
  • Aggressive go-getter takes up residence in district I gerrymandered (5)
  • Doug, stopping short, gushed, “Made it to second base!” (7)
  • Grieves without embracing Ike (7)
  • Audibly consumed wrap on Buddhist path (9)
  • A fact Lori misconstrued concerning a machine shop (9)
  • Alien seen in the buff returning for shower (5)
  • Hexahedron-shaped copper crib (5)


 1.          Located redcoats’ leader close to Valley Forge (7)

 2.          Kidded about a condom’s texture (6)

 3.          After taking finals, docudrama pupil to write treatment for Burns (4)

 4.          Tortures a group of Spielberg’s treasure-hunting kids that lost ring (7)

 5.          Axes made from tree and extremely sharp heads (5)

 6.          Mouse activity heard in club (6)

 7.          Shocked and mocked, losing last bit of composure (5)

 8.          Endure Twisted Sister (6)

12.          Observe bishop’s jurisdiction (3)

14.          Get paid for singing in jar (3)

15.          Defile Apple model on runway (6)

16.          Yemen’s provisional capital before Original Issue Discount? It can take your breath away after inflation! (7)

17.          Oh, you texting fools! Fools! (7)

18.          Well-lit fine mark above drawing (6)

20.          Dreadlocked Jamaican announces team’s make-up in Boston? (5)

21.          Remove sand from physician on shore (6)

22.          Challenged prosecutor Rose (5)

24.          Drug addict in American trauma center (4)



Bonus Payoff Phrase:

The ________ of the ________ ________ in ________

TOM TOCE is a senior manager at EY and is a member of the Jeopardy Hall of Fame.

Solutions may be mailed to him at In order to make the solver list, you should send him your solutions by February 1, 2022.

Previous Issue’s Puzzle—Orientation Day


 1. GIDDY—GID (“Dig around”) + DY (“Dostoevsky’s gutters”)
CHEST—Outside of “Chickamauga’s forest”

 4. REVERSE—Pun on “poet’s second attempt”
ROTATED—RATED (“Held influence”) around OT (“overtime”)

 8. APARTMENT—Anagram of “Tampa tern”
INDUCTORS—Anagram of “Don Curtis”

 9. AGA—Inside “Propaganda”
ILL—Double definition: Ill (“Sick”) and I’ll (“me being expected to”)

10. ITERATE—I + first letters of “tenor eager, ready, and tolerably equipped”
SWIVELS—SW (“Swanee starts”) + IVE (“I have”) + L (“fifty”) + S (“second”)

11. USERS—USHER—H (“heroin”)
ASHES—Anagram of “Shea’s”

12. CLEVER—C (“mediocre”) + LEVER (“machine”)
RHUMBA—RBA (“rhythmic bar “) around HUM

14. HEBREW—Inside “the brewery”
RETURN—Anagram of “turner”

18. COBRA—Double definition
SAYSO—First letters of “state agencies yield somewhat on”

20. ACRYLIC—A + CRY (“Yelp”) + LIC (“relic, for the most part”)

22. FAN—Double definition

23. RECYCLING—Pun on “Biking again”
REBOOTING—Reverse “Goober” around T (“T”) + IN

24. LOWERED—(G)LOWERED (“look askance, after a bit”)—tense problem here, sorry
MEASURE—MEA (“My Latin”) + SURE (“certainly”)

25. BORED—Outside “bothered”
DEBTS—D (“500”) + “Best” scrambled


 1. CLASSIC—Outside “clashing music”
RAISING—Homophone of RAZING (“tearing down”)

 2. ELEVATE—Anagram of “Eve, et al.”
UPENDED—U (“you said”) + PENDED (“hung over”)

 3. TUTTI—TUT (“express contempt”) + IT reversed
YUCCA—Homophone of YUCK, A (“Gross, an”)

 4. DEPOSE—Anagram of “Speedo”
ASCEND—Anagram of “dances”

 5. TITRATE—Anagram of “A titter”
RESCUER—Anagram of “Securer”

 6. VOICE—VO (“very old”) + ICE (“diamond”)
TEACH—Anagram of “cheat”

 7. RULES—RU(B)LES (“Moscow’s capital”)
STAIR—Homophone of STARE (“Look”)

13. BLOGGER—B (“Pretty good”) + LOGGER (“woodsman”)
UPGRADE—Anagram of “ad purge”

15. BELABOR—BE (“Attend”) + LA + BOR (“bordello for a while”)
BACKLIT—BACK (“finance”) + LIT (“English class”)

16. RECORDS—Pun on “By the fireplace, stacks more”
HUNDRED—Homophonic pun on HUN DREAD (“Fear of invaders of Rome”)

17. VARIED—Anagram of “Drive a”
ACTIVE—ACT (scramble “cat”) + IVE

18. CHARM—Anagram of “March”
LIFTS—LIFO (“an accounting method”)—O (“has no zero”) + TS (“Eliot”)

19. BURMA—Anagram of “umbra”
WONKY—WON KY (“took first place in the Derby”)

21. RACED—(T)RACED (“Kept track after a bit”)
BOOST—Partial anagram of “Boston”


Steve Alpert, Anthony Amodeo, Dean Apps, Lois Cappellano, Jared Dashoff, Todd Dashoff, Christopher Dickens, Mick Diede, Bob Fink, Phil Gollance, Pete Hepokoski, Catharine Hornby and Bruce Harvey, Max Jackson, Eric Klis, Paul Kolell, Ken Kudrak, Ben Lynch, Dave McGarry, Jim Muza, Jerry Miccolis, David and Corinne Promislow, Bill Scott, Zig Swistunowicz, T. O. C. E. (Josh DenHartog and Sean Donohoe), Betsy and James Uzzell

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