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This puzzle was originally formatted as a PDF; the puzzle PDF is available on Dropbox, and a screenshot of said PDF is available on Imgur.If you'd like to solve digitally, there is also a template Google sheet.

This is the fourth and final puzzle in a sequence, coming after Not Bluebeard's Castle, Oops! All Acros--, and In Any Case.... The sequence is themed after a certain set of works, revealed in the first puzzle. No knowledge of the works in question is necessary to solve this puzzle, though it may make some parts slightly easier. It is necessary to have solved those three puzzles before this one.


Encore!

by Deusovi ✎The Villager

ACT 1

Try to remember now… how did it all begin?

To solve the Down clues, you must modify one word in each, using these transformations six times each:

  • __________: a substring starting with "t" and ending with "e" will be gutted.
  • __________: the last letter of a word will go back to the beginning.
  • __________: a letter that appears exactly twice will be buried deeper in the word.
  • _ENCORE_: an "encore" will be created in the word, replacing something else.

A letter on a stormy night…

If the change is from puzzle n, circle the nth letter of the clue in this puzzle and underline the nth letter from the end of the corresponding clue in the corresponding puzzle.

This script is controllingly captivating… and this encore follows it to the letter!

Two of the rows in the finished grid will spell out what you need to do to keep this crazy play going.

ACT 2

"Did the play stop / because you made a mistake?"
"Must you alone / try it again? / To spin the tale of the perfect night?"
Tonight, we've been tamed by the world, and become "slaves" to the lead role's play...
I'm the only one who notices: this world is just a fake!

✎ Wait, some of these Down clues are fake! It looks like 11 of the Down clues you should solve have been disguised as Across clues, and replaced by a fake Down clue! The enumerations may be misleading, but you don't need any of the transformations from Act 1.

How might the play come to an end? How might I be able to save everyone?

✎ The diagonal of the remaining Across clues [that is, the mth letter of the mth such clue] spells a word that may fit this exact moment, helpfully translated below.

The letters that you underlined in this puzzle spell a word that may fit this exact moment, helpfully translated above.

ACT 3

Tonight, so that the world shall be tamed, shall we become slaves to the lead role’s play?

✎ If you apply the four transformations (in the order given by the circled letters) to my ‘fitting’ word, you'll see a certain object that I needed in each of the previous three cycles.

The script is controllingly captivating...

✎ This object can be found in each of the previous three puzzles, with a different meaning each time. (One of these meanings is more commonly pluralized, and another may make more sense if punctuated.)

✎ Each of these appearances is somewhere in the clues, but has been ‘damaged’ in some way; the letters you’ve underlined in those puzzles (top to bottom on the page) will tell you how it has been damaged.

...and this encore follows it to the letter!

✎ Two of the rows in the finished grid will spell out what you need to do with the final answer you got from each puzzle, letting you modify the answers to those three clues.

And “once again”, we shall perform…
On to the En▒▒▒▒!

✎ Assembling these three pieces (in puzzle order) will produce a two-word phrase.

✎ This phrase is both "real" and "fake", for both the source series and this puzzle:

  • Interpreted one way, it gives a description that is unfortunately not accurate to the overarching plot.
  • Interpreted another way, it gives a description that is accurate to this last song.
  • Yet another way, it gives an inaccurate description of these four puzzles’ grids.
  • And the fourth and final interpretation gives an accurate description of this whole set, especially this puzzle!

12×11 crossword grid

Across

1. Space is free: engineered heading to go as hotel becomes inflamed (4, 7)
12. Moderate state leadership (4)
13. Cutting down plants and people's origin, along with shortened character in Greek (4)
14. "Energetic character" ore picked up architect's first (4)
15. For amigo, is exploded steam missing apparatus at the end? (4)
16. Sister married to cold Latin (for now) (4)
18. Primarily, a school containing aristocratic people, as a group bringing about part of music (5, abbr.)
20. Catch a group of sixteen from France (5)
21. Extremely outlandish spacewalker in acknowledgement; showing concern (2, 3)
23. Did submit flat about detective (6)
24. New automaton that learns to be near plugs for IO, and so on (6)
25. Noisy baron disrobed to win gambling game, principally (5)
26. Illica's piece (with murder involved in hollow melodies) coats drops in the wrong place (5)
28. Simian missing one side: one with others (2, 3)
32. "I don't know... a famous soccer player adopted Mike, for one?" (4)
35. NYT owner once read out beef (4)
38. Small battery size found in odd parts of Alabama (4)
39. Fleece patch-applied item that's held by manila (4)
40. Friend of a large group said "Perhaps Capone, as the first person" (4)
41. Throws away drunkard's returned letters near beach (admitting bit of shame) (6, 5)

Down

1. Admitting limits, Father chose to absolve (4)
2. Homemade bombs from last riot of bloodied soldier vanguard (4)
3. Tussles after scams' frontrunner is mutinied (5)
4. Machine of the 40s created using mean finance: banking unevenly (5)
5. Topic in Uri Geller's second bunco (4)
6. At riddling snack, showed more posies (3, 2)
7. Lead to "berries" found using narc's rules that had been overturned (4)
8. A flawless remedy, when presented after horns, is something up your sleeve (2, 3)
9. Notify the cops after "peanut" altercation, catching your breath (7)
10. In Rennes, be benign, concealed by quiet resort (4)
11. Stationed over the ocean, taxmen concealed cook (6, 2)
17. Continue to add to it, shifting around back row (4, 4)
19. It sets up a count as "vandal"? That's undue (3, 1)
20. Heel of "Mistress" to slam rear (4)
22. Scripture books with prayers for AIDS defense (7)
27. Oscar replaces database through African country's turmoil (5)
28. Once: Dodges nonomniscient anger (5)
29. Deals the final blow for intruders, the Spanish nuts (5)
30. Infection that might cause some gauge to be green when above 51 (1, 4)
31. A good sign in alley when ultimate player charges to oust leader (4)
33. In ugly game, one who may fight gorges (4)
34. Rock cartooned by comic artist (4)
36. Those in charge of "Head of Development" to secure lither intern (4)
37. What's in rashest learner's eye problem? (4)

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Missing some wordplays still

ACT 1

The solutions and grid for act 1 are given below. I'm slightly unsure about the wordplay for 40A.



The two rows spell out REINCARNATE ILLOGICALLY

ACT 2

Here we should solve the across Schrödinger clues with different solutions. The ones I have are in the image above, but I'm missing 21A, 25A, 28A, 39A and 40A. However, we have enough to move forward and the grid is given below.

The remaining clues spell diagonally MITSUKETA which means "I found it!" The letters which we should underline in this puzzle in ACT 1 spell out EUREKA, also meaning "I found it!"

ACT 3

The circled letters spell out DO FIRST, THIRD, SECOND, FOURTH. Applying the transformations to MITSUKETA gives

MITSUKETA -> MISUTKEA -> MISUTEA -> AMISUTE -> AMINUTE

In the first puzzle, we had A MINUTE (the time period), and the underlined letters spell STRUCK.

In the second puzzle, we had A MINUTE (as in minutes, notes), and the underlined letters (considering only letters before the page rip) spell RIPPED.

In the third puzzle, we had A, MINUTE (small a), and the underlined letters spell (when taken in the correct order from top to bottom in the pdf) TINTED.

Although we are missing some of the answers in ACT 2, we have guessed the missing letters on the relevant two rows so that they spell out REINTERPRET CRYPTICALLY.

So my interpretation is that we should reinterpret KILLING TIME, FIRST STRIKE and ESCAPE ROUTE cryptically to give the final answer. Perhaps KILLING TIME clues something related to cross (a cross, crossing...) but the best I can come up with is CROSSING S OUT and I'm not particularly confident with that answer.

Deusovi hints at in the comments that we should look at the specific clues where the damage has taken place. In the first puzzle, A MINUTE is struck from the clue

28a. A member of tribal pro(MIN)ent flank (5) - THIGH

The second puzzle is slightly trickier. We are looking for a clue where A MINUTE (likely as in a note, record) is ripped. Perhaps this means clue 29d, which begins with the word "Note" before being ripped, having the answer

29d. Note... - LOSER

In the third puzzle, we are looking for A MINUTE which is tinted. In solving the puzzle, we highlighted one lower case "a" in the clue

19a. face of soldierly nation creates type of tank - SCUBA

The final answers in each of the puzzles were KILLING TIME, RETREATED and ENCRYPTED. Performing these operations for the above answers, we finally arrive at

HIGH + RESOL< + UTION

which indeed, both is and is not an accurate description of the puzzles and related work!

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  • $\begingroup$ Impressive progress so far! There are more specific occurrences of "A MINUTE" that appear in the clues, each one "damaged" in the way suggested - and the "final answers" are not the Across answers, but the last things found in each puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Jan 11 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi Thanks for the hint, finally figured it out! $\endgroup$
    – user39583
    Jan 11 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ That's correct, nicely done! Hope you enjoyed! Let me know if there's anything that still doesn't make sense. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Jan 11 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi Oh, definitely enjoyed, it was an amazing puzzle (as were the previous ones)! Your edit also makes more sense (although I thought "part one" as in "disconnect one" kind of worked too). Still haven't been able to figure out some of the CC's in act 2. I have some guesses for a couple of them but can't quite get the definitions to match. $\endgroup$
    – user39583
    Jan 11 at 19:10

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