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This is the first Chain Puzzle in the Video Games series, in which all puzzles are themed around video games of all genres. The answer to this puzzle is a thematic word or phrase. The solver whose answer is awarded the green checkmark has the first refusal on the opportunity to create the next puzzle in the series, which must somehow incorporate the answer to this puzzle somewhere within its construction. The solver is under no obligation to create the next puzzle - in the event that the solver does not wish to take up this opportunity, the puzzle's setter may take up the offer of a willing substitute setter or choose to continue the chain themselves.

This puzzle was inspired by the video game Portal by Valve. No knowledge of the game is required for the completion of the puzzle. I would also like to give a massive shout-out and thank you to bobble and Deusovi, who were instrumental to the completion of this puzzle. Deusovi gave a lot of very helpful feedback (as well as checking the legalities of the cryptic clues, and then checking the fixed ones). Bobble ended up writing a majority of the clues because mine were bad and illegal :P. Thank you so much!


You wake up in the middle of a blank, white room, with no knowledge of how you ended up here. Suddenly, you hear a distorted robotic voice coming from above, though you can't discern where exactly it is coming from.

Hello and, again, welcome to the Aperture Science computer-aided enrichment center. We hope your brief detention in the relaxation vault has been a pleasant one. Your specimen has been processed and we are now ready to begin the test proper. Before we start, however, keep in mind that although fun... and learning are the primary goals of all enrichment center activities, serious injuries may occur. The portal will open in three, two, one -

A blue portal opens up in front of you. As you walk through, you are instantly transported out of an orange portal. The portal closes behind you, and you are faced with a giant crossword in front of you. This time, a different distorted voice crackles above you.

Dear Subject,
Greetings, unfortunate test subject! I have been recruited by Laugh-Hyphe to study the intricacies of the human brain. If you wish to escape, you must solve the following cryptic-crossword before you. It is... a bit different than what I presume you are used to. Here are the rules:

  • Enter all answers into the given grid. All of the grid-in clues are available under the "Pre-Transformation" list.
  • Once that's done, all of the teleporters will be triggered by a mysterious event.
  • Each blue (bobble) portal captures the letter on it, plus all the letters either below or to the right (up to the next blank space).
  • It moves them to an orange (Deusovi) portal, where they are entered the same way they were written (possibly switching direction).
  • Teleported letters can't land directly ontop of another portal, whether blue or orange.
  • The post-transformation clues are new words which are formed by the teleported letters. They are arranged in alphabetical order by answer.

An example below is provided:
Example grid

  • Say this is our very small, blank grid. You'd begin by entering your answers. Let's say the answer to 1a is BARGAIN and 2d is GAS.

enter image description here

  • Looking at our initial completed grid, we see that the G and the A land on the two consecutive blue portals. Now, let's say that the answer to the post clue is GRAIN. We need a G on the top, and AIN on the bottom. Now, remember that the portals capture the letter on it plus all letter either to the right or below it. The blue portal on letter "G" can't be pointing to the right, because there's a portal in the way, leading to a contradiction. Instead, it must be pointing down. So the letter G and all letters below it (the A and S) must route to either one of the two orange portals. Now, the second letter is a bit tricky. It could be pointing down, but just having A wouldn't satisfy the answer of GRAIN. So, therefore, the portal must point to the right.

enter image description here

  • Thus, our completed grid looks as follows. Note that the direction which the letters face were swapped (GAS pointed down but now points to the right, and AIN pointed to the right but faced down) but retained their word order.

enter image description here

Pre-Transformation Clues:

Across:
1. Twist more hearts around, with an audience (6)
3. Your partner, like, in sex (7)
4. Drive, doc! (2)
5. Move along, fool! (4)
7. Garbage rats scrambled, heading to hideout (5)
9. Smack band (4)
11. Strange egg art, street "artist" (6)
14. Sounds like I agree (3)
15. Marine creature in eastwards East Artic (7)
16. I heard island is a walkway (5)
17. Controversial book is obviously lackluster at first - it is set in Los Angeles (6)
20. Blue-ish drink with bit of lemon (4)
22. Splendor, an old fish (7)
23. Lost end of wide duct (3)
25. Broken edges lining a block (3)
26 Private clothing for martial arts (2)
27. Skip it after a mystical sound (4)
29. Morning, lady! (Not mom) (2)
30. Special convention from Virginia added “After DNA” unit (6)
31. Arab extremists rejected Egyptian spirit (2)
32. Check the French food (5)
33. A spoken, casual greeting (2)
35. Daughter returned moody cover (4)

Down:
1. Not even Lucille is weird! (7)
2. Quill’s father, for example, married with a ring (3)
3. New kebabs at only half-dull game (10)
6. Exotic organism not lost? ‘Tis a puzzle (8)
7. Spell "rout" wrong (4)
8. Aloha state (2)
10. Weaken wise old man, amputating leg (3)
12. Creature from Aesop’s at odds (3)
13. Run into a legendary king from India (4)
15. Deliberately destroy tea bag - so damaged! (8)
18. Judged after netting is mangled. (9)
19. Atoll resort, harboring capsized beast of burden and fish (7)
20. Walk backwards into legal harm (4)
21. Shopping center turns down a beast of burden (5)
24. Evil function (3)
25. Grab a bass ukelele containing type of oil (7)
28. X marked second-to-last spot aboard train on vacation (3)
30. Beard of Gauss with top trimmed flawlessly (6)
34. Who Uncle Sam wants in tryouts? (3)

Post-Transformation Clues

a) Silver disc gone (3)
b) Say Ma sues improperly (6)
c) A person to be conscripted from a bee toll? Crazy! (8)
d) Coerce nothing into mythic beast’s heart (7)
e) Upset about storming out into a gaggle of followers (9)
f) Guests regularly come by (3)
g) Draw bad angle (5)
h) Ran away, perhaps, initially leaving Earth very annoyed now that everyone's dead (8)
i) Wizard magazine: “Potions Central” (4)
j) Egyptian god found in pyramids (2)
k) Baby's dress is synthetic, in part (5)
l) Performances by one person: Crazy Lois! (4)
m) Notice a smudge (4)
n) Alarm rattles organization (7)
o) Chemotherapy drug demand by outpatient locations, initially (5)
p) Train footless wanderer (4)
q) Real characters in "Love, Rita" - bleh! (9)
r) Save broken urn (4)
s) Spit out horrible motive abruptly (5)


You look up at the ceiling. "Who are you?"
The voice responds cryptically.

Perhaps the better question to ask is... who are you?


Chain Puzzles are a novel approach to puzzle series creation, in which the solver of the previous puzzle in the chain becomes the setter of the next.

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  • $\begingroup$ Chain puzzles are something of a group effort by nature, so feel free to use the dedicated chatroom to work together. I hope you have fun! $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ Also, since this is technically a logical deduction, a solution path would be nice, but it is not required. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 23:21
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Step 1: solving most of the clues (advance warning: there are some errors but I fix them later)

Across:

1. Twist more hearts around, with an audience (6)
3. BELOVED LOVE in BED though I'm not convinced by "sex" as def for BED Your partner, like, in sex (7)
4. DR double def Drive, doc! (2)
5. GOON GO ON Move along, fool! (4)
7. TRASH RATS* + H(-ideout) Garbage rats scrambled, heading to hideout (5)
9. KISS ddef Smack band (4)
11. TAGGER (EGG ART)* Strange egg art, street "artist" (6)
14. AYE homophone though I think "I" is used twice Sounds like I agree (3)
15. SEASTAR substring Marine creature in eastwards East Artic (7)
16. AISLE homophone of ISLE I heard island is a walkway (5)
17. LOLITA L(-ackluster) O(-bviously) + IT in LA though I think either L and O are the wrong way around or "at first" has been used twice Controversial book is obviously lackluster at first - it is set in Los Angeles (6)
20. TEAL TEA + L(-emon) Blue-ish drink with bit of lemon (4)
22. POMPANO POMP AN O Splendor, an old fish (7)
23. VAS VAS(-t) though I'm not sure about "lost end of X" to mean X without its last letter Lost end of wide duct (3)
25. BAN B(-roke)N around A Broken edges lining a block (3)
26. GI ddef though I'm not convinced by the def Private clothing for martial arts (2)
27. OMIT IT after OM Skip it after a mystical sound (4)
29. AM (-ma)AM Morning, lady! (Not mom) (2)
30. GENEVA GENE + VA though I think the def is iffy Special convention from Virginia added “After DNA” unit (6)
31. BA A(-ra)B< Arab extremists rejected Egyptian spirit (2)
32. Check the French food (5)
33. EY homophone of A A spoken, casual greeting (2)
35. Daughter returned moody cover (4)

Down:

1. ODDBALL ODD + BALL Not even Lucille is weird! (7)
2. EGO EG + O Quill’s father, for example, married with a ring (3)
3. BASKETBALL (KEBABS AT)* + (-du)LL New kebabs at only half-dull game (10)
6. NONOGRAM (ORGANISM NOT - TIS)* Exotic organism not lost? ‘Tis a puzzle (8)
7. TOUR ROUT* Spell "rout" wrong (4)
8. HI ddef and also &lit Aloha state (2)
10. SAG SAG(-e) Weaken wise old man, amputating leg (3)
12. ASP E(-e)S(-o)P(-'s) Creature from Aesop’s at odds (3)
13. RAMA RAM + A Run into a legendary king from India (4)
15. SABOTAGE (TEA BAG SO)* Deliberately destroy tea bag - so damaged! (8)
18. LACERATED RATED after LACE Judged after netting is mangled. (9)
19. AXOLOTL ATOLL* harboring OX< though an axolotl isn't a fish Atoll resort, harboring capsized beast of burden and fish (7)
20. TORT TROT< though I don't like "into" here Walk backwards into legal harm (4)
21. LLAMA MALL< + A Shopping center turns down a beast of burden (5)
24. SIN ddef Evil function (3)
25. BABASSU substring Grab a bass ukelele containing type of oil (7)
28. TEN (-mark)E(-d) aboard T(-rai)N though I think "spot" is surplus to requirements X marked second-to-last spot aboard train on vacation (3)
30. GOATEE G + (-t)O A TEE Beard of Gauss with top trimmed flawlessly (6)
34. YOU substring Who Uncle Sam wants in tryouts? (3)

Post-Transformation Clues

a) AGO AG + O Silver disc gone (3)
b) ASSUME **(MA SUES)***Say Ma sues improperly (6)
c) BALLOTEE (A BEE TOLL)* A person to be conscripted from a bee toll? Crazy! (8)
d) DRAGOON O in DRAGON though I think "heart" here implies insertion into the middle Coerce nothing into mythic beast’s heart (7)
e) Upset about storming out into a gaggle of followers (9)
f) GET G(-u)E(-s)T(-s) Guests regularly come by (3)
g) GLEAN ANGLE* Draw bad angle (5)
h) LEVANTED initial letters Ran away, perhaps, initially leaving Earth very annoyed now that everyone's dead (8)
i) MAGI MAG + (-pot)I(-ons) _though I think MAGI is the plural Wizard magazine: “Potions Central” (4)
j) VOMIT MOTIV(-e)* though I think this is in the wrong place Spit out horrible motive abruptly (5)
k) RA substring Egyptian god found in pyramids (2)
l) RUN URN* though I don't understand the def Save broken urn (4)
m) SISSY substring Baby's dress is synthetic, in part (5)
n) SOLI LOIS* Performances by one person: Crazy Lois! (4)
o) SPOT ddef Notice a smudge (4)
p) STARTLE RATTLES* Alarm rattles organization (7)
q) TAXOL TAX + O(-utpatient) L(-ocations) Chemotherapy drug demand by outpatient locations, initially (5)
r) Train footless wanderer (4)
s) VERITABLE substring Real characters in "Love, Rita" - bleh! (9)

(The post-transformation clues were accidentally slightly out of alphabetical order in the originally posted version of the puzzle. That's since been fixed, but as you'll see my answer uses the labels repeatedly and I'm not going to relabel them all now :-). The labels below match the ones in the spoiler block above, which are no longer the same as the ones in the question. Sorry about that.)

Grid at this point:

enter image description here

Step 2: mostly moving things

At this point it seems like we may make progress faster by figuring out what moves where. I shall allow myself to make extremely plausible guesses rather than looking for watertight proofs. So:

q:TAXOL is clearly made from AXOLOTL. The T at its start is either just a T or is a moved-unit that forms a word on its own. In the latter case it must be (r) although we haven't solved that one yet. I don't see any length-4 units starting with a T (other than TOUR/TRASH which we obviously can't use here), so this is a solo T, from the end of 20d:TORT. After SAG is removed and something is placed to the left of where the G was, we're going to get a short word beginning with T. That can't be TAXOL which we've already found, so on alphabetical grounds this must be (r). So T + a moved-unit will solve this. Aha, we have RAM making r:TRAM (= TRAMP without its last letter). Where does the AG go? It doesn't look like it'll be in d:DRAGOON which we already have a better explanation for, so probably a:AGO or i:MAGI. Actually, i:MAGI is surely MA (from 13d:RAMA) plus 26a:GI, so let's place that. Oh, and actually that will make a:AGO after 23a:VAS and the end of 30d:GOATEE go away, so AG from 10d:SAG must be somewhere else; let's just remember that we have an AG to place and remove it to make way for RAM. Now, what's happening with the O near 32? The only plausible thing I currently see is o:SPOT; we have an SP so let's put that in place; we've used our isolated T, which is too bad because then we'd make f:GET along with o:SPOT. Let's put an isolated T in there, and remember that along with our AG still to place we now have a surplus isolated T to deal with somehow. ... Ah, wait, I've been misunderstanding how this works: I think that when a blue portal has things both to the right and below we are supposed to move just one. (Otherwise 3d is in trouble after the TRASH is taken out.) In that case, we can put TOUR or TAGGER across at the start of TAXOL. (Not TEE, surely needed for c:BALLOTEE; not TED, surely needed for h:LEVANTED.) It can't be TOUR because there's nothing suitable beginning with R; k:RA is the best that's available but then we can't do anything with the A below. So it must be TAGGER with g:GLEAN running downward. (LE from 16a:AISLE. N looks like it must be from the end of 25a:BAN.)

Here's what we have so far; note that there's one 2-letter unit removed but not yet replaced. (Drat; I notice that there's also the first letter of one word that I accidentally removed in error; please ignore.)

enter image description here

Now

I bet c:BALLOTEE is BALL from 1d:ODDBALL + O in the middle of 3a:BELOVED + TEE from 30d:GOATEE. I can't place that until I've got ISS from 9a:KISS out of the way. That's got to be part of m:SISSY. I don't see suitable S or Y already in the grid, so I think this has to be up at the top where we have orange portals @@..@. Let's move ISS from 9a:KISS there, and place BALLOTEE as already discussed. To the left of there, I notice a fine spot for p:STAR/TL/E, so let's put that in, using STAR from 16a:SEASTAR and TL from 19d:AXOLOTL. Hmm, I think I've made at least one misstep here, because I don't see what I can do to the right of that S -- SOLI is the only candidate and I don't see where I have an OLI to move. I'm also having trouble seeing how I'm ever going to make VERITABLE. Still, let's proceed, and figure out later what will need undoing. Ah, well, at any rate I see where LEVANTED must go: across the second N of 6d:NONOGRAM. The L will be from the orange portal above and left; and EVA and TED will go horizontally. So what about the L? It must come from a piece that has L in its fourth place. I don't have any such piece yet -- it must be 32a, which is now -A-L-. (That A will make DRAGOON work, too.) Obviously the first letter is L ("the French" -> LA) so LA-L-. Darn: I don't see anything other than LADLE and LAXLY, neither of which seems to work. Oh, maybe "the French" comes at the end so it's -A-LE or -A-LA? Maybe TAB+LE (as in "keep tabs on") though that seems a little iffy. Well, let's go with it. [OP has kindly explained to me elsewhere that it's "check" as in the thing you call for at the end of a meal in a restaurant -- if you're in the USA. Here in the UK we call it the "bill", which is my excuse for not thinking of that :-).]

Here's where we stand now; note that we have a 2-letter unit still to place, and that I believe I have been a little too eager to make guesses near the top and will likely have to retract at least one of them.

enter image description here

Ooh. I bet that TABLE is going to be the end of s:VERITABLE, which gives us a good place to put j:VOMIT too. Do we have a VER? We do if it's at the end of 1a, which must then be O-IVER. Aha, "Twist" doesn't mean what you think it does: OLIVER. (-m)OR(-e) around LIVE. Nice. It looks as if n:SOLI is going to go here, except that we don't seem to have any post-transformation words ending in SE. Never mind, figure that out later. Where's (e) going to go once we solve it? I think it has to be at top right where we have 2+4+2+E. I bet it ends in AGE using that still-pending AG. Oh! It must be EN/TOUR/AG/E: ENRAGE about OUT*.

So now we have this; there's no longer a pending 2-letter insertion, but I still suspect there are some premature guesses.

enter image description here

We need

to put A/SSU/ME somewhere. Where's the ME coming from? Ah, it must be from the end of 35a which we haven't solved yet. DOME: D+EMO<. That's got to be up at the top where I currently have ISS and, aha, ISS is actually going to go to the left of that and use the Y from 14a:AYE. We're almost done; what's left? Ah, duh, I'm a moron; (l) isn't RUN which not only doesn't have comprehensible wordplay but is the wrong length, it's VASE (SAVE*). I was confused because it's out of alphabetical order. And that's it, apart from the isolated orange portal at the left, which I guess gets 21d:LLAMA entire making k:RA.

Final grid:

enter image description here

With the blank spaces made a bit more blank, and also with one answer (the second-last to be entered) flipped from the wrong orientation I'd put it in with, duh:

enter image description here

Finally, we have the mysterious entity's question, which is answered

by the isolated words: BABA IS YOU. (The name of another puzzly computer game.)

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  • $\begingroup$ My apologies if not doing the chat-room thing is viewed as antisocial or anything... $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jan 19 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ It will probably not surprise anyone that I do not wish to take the opportunity to set the next one. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jan 19 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, you got it! $\endgroup$ Jan 19 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ (I would still suggest you do it as you [hopefully] clean up some of the urm chaos :P) $\endgroup$ Jan 19 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ Done. It's still kinda untidy but I'm not sure how to make it much better other than completely redrawing the final grid from scratch; it's 2:30am local time and I'm not going to do that :-). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jan 19 at 2:29

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