Cryptic Puzzle

Taking Inventory

Taking Inventory

By Tom Toce

Ten across answers are too long by one letter. Either the first or the last letter must be omitted for entry into the diagram. Both the original answer and its modified version will be legitimate words. The omissions lead to different meanings, so you might find CLARK and LARK, but you won’t find LARK and LARKS. The ten omitted letters, in order, will spell out a pertinent two-word phrase.

There will be five proper nouns entered into the grid. One other answer will be a proper noun, but after the deletion, the grid entry will be a common noun. There is one foreign word. Everything else is playable in Scrabble. Ignore punctuation, which is intended to confuse. Thanks to Bob Fink, Eric Klis, and Jerry Miccolis for test-solving and editorial suggestions.


1. Blamed for accident second-hand

5. Struggles with accents

9. Squeamish apparatchik, full of bad luck

10. Witch hazel’s integrants decomposed

11. Throw rug behind where the fringe turns up

12. Harry barged in upset

13. Some cats covering rare Van Halen and Hendrix

16. Rouse bum in Italy’s capital

18. Manifest evidence, evidently

21. Pence admitting hint of favoritism

26. Resoundingly deliver a big gun

27. Abatements caused by substitute assignments?

28. Hater wielding pungent vegetable for Italian film director

29. Softer pitching from Woods

30. Possibly Rick’s set for decals

31. Sol, like most slackers, is lacking liquidity


 1. Maisel’s reckless and unpredictable

 2. Boiled rice has one seeking consideration

 3. Stuck with rising debts while getting degree

 4. Have the right to desecrate preserve on the outskirts

 5. Hector’s uneasy with Kindles

 6. Upwardly mobile clip joint with new-born acclaim

 7. Big shot sporting suspenders

 8. Nannies rest, it’s recreation

14. Laugh I experienced in the ancient Greek

15. M*A*S*H is droll, I’ve heard it said

17. Mythical monster or Caligula’s head?

18. Spirited winemaker assumes support may end prematurely

19. Like coastal waters with citrine eddies

20. Exaggerate Eastern patience over Chinese dynasty

21. Sneaks porter, upsetting witnesses

22. Attractive pies with no crust and brownies

23. Fluster badly in Pacific

24. One nerd worked with a color from Benjamin Moore (4,3)

25. Starts to employ a secret execution so Brigham Young just wins (5,2)

Two-word phrase:

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

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 him at In order to make the solver list, your solutions must be received by May 31, 2020.

Previous Issue’s Puzzle—OK Boomers

Top row

BANJOIST—BAN (“bar”) + JOIST (“stud”) 

Bottom row

CONVERSE—Triple definition


BINDER—Double definition

REPO—Anagram of “Rope”

OYSTERS—Anagram of “destroys” without the D

SPAT—Reversal of TAPS (“last call”)

TUNIC—Homophone of “to Nick”


AXED—Alternative pronunciation of ASKED (“requested”)

DAIS—Anagram of “said”

SILO—Anagram of “oils”

OVER—(L)OVER (“After its premiere, Don Juan”)

REPS—Double definition

SALE—Homophone of SAIL (“cruise”)

EMIR—Anagram of “I’m—er”

RIME—Homophone of RHYME (“poems often do this”)

ENDS—Anagram of “Send”

SKAS—Hidden in “Brisk ascent”

SUMO—SUM (“Descartes’ conclusion”) + O (“love”)

OMEN—Anagram of “Nemo”

NERO—First letters of “not everyone raved over”


NURSE—Reversal of RUN (“Runaround”) + S(U)E (“Sue does not need university”)

LEE—Reversal of EEL (“slippery one”)

LAIR—Right side of BEL AIR (“fancy LA community”)

REACH—Anagram of “Rachel” without the L (“after Louise’s van left”)

HER—Right side of “rather”


OUD—Reversal of DUO (“Couple”)

DOE—Double definition 

ERRANDS—Anagram of “Darners”

SOL—Double definition, from SOL (“The fifth” note) and an abbreviation for SOLUTION (“QED”)

LED—Double definition

DOC—Anagram of “OCD”

CITE—Homophone of SIGHT (“one sense”)

ELSE—Outside “elbow grease”


INK—INKLING (“an impression”)—“Ling”

KING—KIN (“family”) + G (“grates, at first”)

GOT—GO (“a game of strategy”) + T (“tournament’s opening”)

TEAR—Double definition

ROI—Anagram of “or I”

IRON—Reversal of NORI (“seaweed”)


NOB—Outside “snow job”

BONO—Inside “Gabon once” 

OARS—Homophone of ORS (“Alternatives”)

SANE—Homophone of SEINE (“it ends at the English Channel”)

ERAT—Inside “deliberations” 

TAME—Anagram of “meat”

EMIT—Reversal of “time”

TSAR—Anagram of “arts”

RAGE—Anagram of “anger” without the N (“with no name”) & literally

EARN—Homophone of URN (“pot”)

NETI—Anagram of “in E.T.” 

IDLE—Double definition

ELKS—Last letters of “the bell clerk brings”


TAKER—TAR (“One who sails”) outside KE (“around Kenya”) 

RATS—Reversal of STAR (“a leading role”)

STAG—STAG(E) from “phase ends early”

GRAD—Double definition 

DEES—Reversal of SEED (“Sperm”)

SNEEZE—SN (“tin”) + first letters of “ear: every zither enchants”

Famous chess players



Team AALO (Kristen Bischoff, Danny Clark, Kristen Detwiler, Alec Pirritano), Steve Alpert, Anthony Amodeo, Dean Apps, Bob Campbell, Lois Cappellano, Laura Cremerius, Todd Dashoff, Mick Diede, Bob Fink, Mendy Friedman, Bruce Fuller (with Eric Smith and David Wirtner), Phil Gollance, Catharine Hornby, Ruth Johnson, Eric Klis, Paul Kolell, Mike Kosciuk, Ken Kudrak, Ben Lynch, Dave McGarry, Jerry Miccolis, Jim Muza, David and Corinne Promislow, Jay Ripps, Bill Scott, Andrew Shewan, Zig Swistunowicz, T. O. C. E. (Josh DenHartog and Sean Donohoe), Betsy and James Uzzell, Nathan Worrell

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