Cryptic Puzzle

Tax Reform

Tax Reform

By Tom Toce

Most Americans are dealing with their taxes about now, so I thought we should have a tax-themed puzzle. There are no complicated instructions for solving this one. You need to spend your time on your filing.

All the clues lead to common words playable in Scrabble, except for five proper nouns, a few two-word answers, a common acronym, and a common foreign word. Ignore punctuation, which is designed to confuse.

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


1. On the borders of alarming perturbations

5. Privileged expect contempt from both sides

8. Dude, maybe Connecticut’s giving rebates

9. Call, raise, or book

11. One hundred and fifty plan lawsuit

12. Revere’s shot—arrest Sue

15. Objectively, we dropped out of pondering Dynasty

17. Avidly goad disturbed, long-haired protester

18. Climate-control worker goes after Earl’s bookkeeper

19. Arid ruminations from Sally

23. Experiments with rerecording cassettes

25. The president recently deposed, “Western Ohio’s at two degrees”

26. Hurry up and show some life

29. It’s taking a couple of emphatically declared yes votes to get down to brass tacks

30. Arrange pieces of Elgar and Nielsen?—certainly

31. Jack and some others are beginning to wonder what he uses to open the cabinet?


1. Spot new-fangled trauma center near Mass.

2. Cardinal uncovered nothing at first like rigged voting districts

3. Return and enter the other way

4. It’s a gift to be comparatively well off

5. It’s often said to be near-term

6. Louis’s state is one after Missouri

7. Unit is a hit in African nation

10. Rip apart themes of Bellow?

13. Art peed all over the bureaucracy

14. Nothing needs to be mentioned

16. Aware of creative costing

17. Stella’s mother is bonita

18. In Barcelona, what comes after a vote—ruin?

20. Frank’s second wife has Eric intoxicated with greed

21. Iron, swallowed by school administrators, causes hearing loss

22. Wags around Josephine’s knickers

24. Nothing but net seen around Arizona and New Mexico?

27. Somewhat bloodthirsty tax collectors

28. First Lady is on the brink


Previous Issue’s Puzzle—Some Assembly Required

There was an error in one of the hints—or depending upon your perspective, the colors in the diagram. Somehow, red/white/blue/yellow in the first diagram I reviewed became red/white/yellow/blue in a later draft, and I didn’t catch it. If you didn’t use the hints, you wouldn’t have caught the error. Several solvers who did, did. It’s possible there were more potential solvers who got thrown by the error, which I regret.

Sixteen-Letter Word

Dephlogisticated, which refers to air that’s been purified to oxygen. I thought whatever got trapped in the box might need some oxygen. I found it in a list of sixteen-­letter words. I didn’t consider looking it up or searching on the internet for it as using any hints.

Six-Letter Words

SORDID—Anagram of “Droids”

SINGLE—SING (“Carol”) + LE (“after seven Annabelle”)

PATTON—PAT (“Perfectly understood”) + TON (“a great deal”)

CHORES—Hidden inside “macho researchers”

Seven-Letter Words

TANK TOP—TANK (“holding cell”) + TOP (“Excellent”)

ROACHES—Wrapped outside of “roadhouse wenches”

DISCORD—DISCO (“Bee Gees’ music”) + RD (“recorded with the midrange removed”)

JINGLES—Double definition

Four-Letter Words

Top of the box:

SCAG—S (“second”) + C (“cup for second place”) + AG (“silver”)

Bottom of the box:

DOPE—DOE (“Peter’s mother”) around P (“softly”)

Around the box:

HILT—HI (“high”) + L(“low”) + T (“Tic-Tac-Toe’s lead”)

TIDE—Homophone of TIED (“all even”)




I omitted a few names last time. Mendy Friedman, Jim Muza, and David and Corinne Promislow should have been among the solvers. My apologies.

Solvers using no hints:

Steve Alpert, Dean Apps, Christy Brink/Priscilla Cho/Preet Dhillon/Jing Feng/Michael Manos/Jose Roca-Leon, Mick Diede, Dave Dougherty, Bob Fink, Phil Gollance, Ruth Johnson, Eric Klis, Paul Kolell, Mike Kosciuk, David Lovit and Christine O’Keefe, Tim Luker, Dave McGarry and John Murray, Jerry Miccolis, Jim Muza, David and Corinne Promislow, Bob Schriver, Bill Scott, T. O. C. E. (Sean Donohoe and Josh DenHartog), Jon Turnes, Zig Swistunowicz

Solvers using some hints (or not saying)

Lois and Paul Cappellano, Ken Kudrak, Ben Lynch, Doug Szper


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 April 1, 2018, leaving two weeks to finish your taxes.

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