51
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To date, on Puzzling.SE I have contributed (counting: 10, 20, 30...) 99 problems to the site. So to mark my 100th, here's a massive meta-puzzle to celebrate the occasion!


Task

Solve the nine sub-puzzles and meta-puzzle featured in the image below to find the final 9-letter answer.
Partial answers contributing to the overall solve are welcome (indeed, probably expected this time!) but - of course - do try to answer as much as you can!

Click image to enlarge:

Puzzle 100

Top-left:

Main 7x7 grid text reproduced below for copy-paste purposes:

SLVVNRE  
FTEWODN  
DEORATI  
NEPRSBE  
ORGIMSL  
TRIOAUU  
TEORCCP

Top-centre:

Across:
2. Group of sports teams might like some tips (3)
6. Mr Lee's put on the gallows, needing no introduction (3)
8. Official in Madagascar (3)
12. Southeastern state's fuel (3)
15. Bilbo's associate is wrong - right, illustrious leader? (4)
16. Knight, perhaps, seen in cloister without standard - error! (7)
17. Middle-grade is happening (3)
18. Become rich and respectable with investment of shilling (7)
19. Violent alcoholic hides white powder (4)
20. Lion and pigs rampaging and destroying (8)
21. Anger - close to exasperation - with finale of Catherine Johnson's play (5)
22. Watchmen actor is skilful, hampered by nothing (5)
23. Copies ancient artefacts, including Plato and Aristotle's originals (8)
24. Send back stew - I shall make pasta (4)
25. Setter's ill-disposed and brusque in the extreme (7)
26. Piece of jewellery for a female? (3)
27. Sailor regularly stays away, so can't have tea with me (7)
28. Jamie Foxx, to his mother, is somewhat hysterical (4)
29. Muscles, smothered by flab, suppurate (3)
30. Together with National Front, taken in by propaganda (3)
31. Before Kiss, Simmons originally wielded a woodwind instrument (3)
32. Family member is late, with no hint of explanation (3)

Down:
1. Analgesic kept in drum or phial (7)
2. Soldiers lost in battle, protecting burning island (7)
3. Runs around, red in the face, and spews (7)
4. Pub sandwiches - something to eat before school for down-and-outs (7)
5. Although at first a little tetchy and exhausted, got dressed (7)
6. Operatic piece about two 'Terror' leaders in revolution after Ms. Antoinette is beheaded (7)
7. Embraced alien in sin (7)
8. Count 'one' and bring up the birds and the bees (and antelopes?!) (7)
9. Kiwi invests last bit of currency in pre-tax arrangement (7)
10. Sunday Morning correspondent took direction from African (2,5)
11. Ghosts seen prowling in ruins, indicating their severed heads (7)
12. Gleeful lad expelled prior to strike he had plotted (7)
13. Got naked, but not quietly - like a tiger, you might say (7)
14. Scotland and Northern Ireland: one country (7)

Top-right:

Text (for accessibility):

⬤.. Has cheeses and meatstuffs galore;
..⬤ Is 'really' an online store.

.⬤. Is on-air, explosive and quick;
⬤⬤⬤ Is recorded, so deadpan and slick!

Centre-left upper:

Colour-blind-friendly version available here or as text version below (which those without colour-blindness may still find useful for differentiating between colours of different shades which appear similar):

Bk  W   Gy  P   Y   Br  W   W   Gy  Br  O   Bu
Bk  Bk  Gy  P   Y   P   Bk  Gy  Gy  Bu  O   Bu
Bk  Bk  Gy  Y   P   P   Bk  W   W   Br  Br  Bu
W   W   Gy  Br  Gn  R   Bk  Bk  Gy  Y   P   Br
W   Gy  Gy  R   R   Gn  Bk  Gy  Gy  P   P   Br
Bk  Bk  Gy  R   Br  Br  Bk  W   Gy  Y   Y   Br
Bk  Gy  Gy  Bu  O   Bu  Bk  Gy  Gy  Gn  R   Gn
W   Gy  Gy  Bu  Br  Br  Bk  Bk  Gy  R   Br  R
Bk  W   Gy  O   O   Bu  Gy  Gy  Gy  Gn  Br  Gn
W   W   Gy  P   P   Br  W   Gy  Gy  O   O   Bu
Bk  Bk  Gy  Y   Y   P   Bk  W   Gy  Bu  Br  O
Bk  W   W   Br  P   Y   Bk  Bk  Gy  Bu  Bu  O
W   W   Gy  Gn  Gn  R   Bk  Gy  Gy  Y   Y   Y
Bk  Bk  Gy  R   R   Gn  W   Gy  Gy  P   P   Y
Bk  W   W   Br  R   Gn  Bk  W   W   Br  Y   Br
Bk  Gy  Gy  Bu  O   Br  W   W   Gy  Gn  R   Br
Bk  Gy  Gy  O   Bu  Br  W   W   Gy  Br  R   Gn
Bk  Bk  Gy  Bu  O   O   Bk  W   W   R   R   Br

Key: Bk = Black; Br = Brown; Bu = Blue; Gn = Green; Gy = Grey; O = Orange; P = Purple; R = Red; W = White; Y = Yellow

Centre:

Colour-blind-friendly version available here. B=Blue, LB=Light-Blue, G=Green, O=Orange, R=Red and Y=Yellow. Two different shades (black/grey) have been used for the blank spaces alternately across the four quadrants to aid differentiation between the four sub-sub-puzzles (which do invade each other slightly - this can be used to your advantage...).

Top-left quadrant: CRISS-CROSS

APE  ANKH  CLOCK  DAHLIA  ANTIGEN  FLUELESS  IGNORANTLY
ASK  ARAB  ETHER  LOLLOP  CHOLERA  ZIMBABWE
BUT  BODE  KNOLL          CLOSEST
DUO  EPIC  LIBRA          GAZELLE
EKE  FORD  MACAW          GHOSTED
EMU  ILKS  MAQUI          HALCYON
ETC  ITCH  MESSY          MUZZLES
FEE  LOGS  PLATE          PURLIEU
GIF  LSAT  QUASI
GOT  MAUL  SPINE
HEY  OTIS  TONGA
IRE  PITY  TUSKS
LAP  SAGO
LAY  SALT
LOP  SCUM
SAG  SECT
SEA  SODA
SUE  SOUR
TAO  TINT
TOW  TOYS
USE  TWIG
YET

Top-right quadrant: QUIZWORD

Across:
1. Third most populous city in Florida (5)
3. _____ Us, online multiplayer game pitting Impostors against Crewmates (5)
7. Member of Mystery, Inc. voiced by Frank Welker (4)
9. Skin condition common in adolescence (4)
10. ____ Brockovich, 2000 Julia Roberts movie (4)
12. Yorkshire city on the Humber estuary (4)
13. IATA airport code for California’s busiest airport (3)
15. Pacific ___, 2013 movie directed by Guillermo del Toro (3)
16. Shout loudly and insistently, e.g. for attention (7)
18. Norwegian synth-pop band behind 1984’s Take On Me (1-2)
19. Tactile writing system based on 3x2 dot matrices (7)
21. 2006 Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. movie (3)
22. Capital city of South Korea (5)
24. Site of the Nile’s largest embankment dam (5)
25. Ebony and _____, 1982 hit single for Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder (5)
27. Billy the ___, outlaw of the American Old West (3)
30. Figure of speech (5)
34. US state and D-Day landing beach codename (4)
41. October’s birthstone (4)
43. Unit of volume equivalent to 900 litres in Bordeaux (7)

Down:
1. Forerunner of modern fax, email and text messaging (5)
2. Bosc, Bartlett or Comice? (4)
3. Segment of the circumference of a circle (3)
4. Bronze Age standing stone (6)
5. Small roofed theatre or concert hall in Ancient Greece and Rome (5)
6. 2003 Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez movie (5)
7. In geology, could be alluvial or abyssal (3)
8. No _____, opening track on 1964’s Beatles For Sale (5)
11. Third most populous city in Turkey (5)
14. Brightest star in the constellation of Lepus (5)
15. Marco, Republican US senator for Florida (5)
16. Blue’s _____, Nickelodeon TV series, premiering in 1996 (5)
17. Relating to inflammation of muscles or joints (9)
18. ___ Ramsey, England’s 1966 World Cup-winning manager (3)
19. Banal, lacking in originality (8)
20. First letter of the Hebrew alphabet (5)
23. South Korean performer behind 2012 hit single, Gangnam Style (3)
24. Italian river in the Tuscany region (4)
26. Interjection expressing distaste or annoyance (5)
31. Kevin, Stuart and Bob? (7)
35. Lord Voldemort’s first name (3)
36. Piece of software designed for a specific purpose, often on a mobile device (3)
37. Deadly Sin (4)
42. Coastal golf course (5)
44. Noise made by a pig (4)
45. Deciduous tree, genus Ulmus (3)
46. Lewis Carroll protagonist, portrayed by Mia Wasikowska in a 2010 movie (5)

Bottom-right quadrant: CODEWORD

Solution grid provided at the bottom of the main puzzle image for your use.

Bottom-left quadrant: THREE-TO-ONE

Across:
28. DEFECTS / DEFENCE / EFFECTS
29. CURD / EURO / HERO
33. BEND / SATE / SETT
39. TIBIA / TIGER / TOSCA
47. FRY / ICE / OWE
48. ABSOLVE / RESOLVE / RESULTS
50. COBRA / COLON / ZEBRA
51. FAR / OAR / ROE
52. AARON / SEVEN / TENOR
53. ART / IRA / LEO
54. GAMES / GOLEM / JULEP
56. ALP / ETA / ITS
59. APOSTLES / EPISODAL / EXOSPORE
61. ALCOHOL / ARRIVAL / ROOIBOS
63. ANT / DIY / NIL
64. FRUITINESS / SKANKINESS / STANDSTILL
65. BATTERY / POTTERY / TEACUPS
67. MOM / NOT / ROT
68. ADD / DEN / ORE
69. ABET / ATOM / WHAT
70. BOOS / GELS / STIR
72. BASE / SHIA / THAN
74. ITALICS / ITERATE / SKIRTED
75. AEON / ATOP / ETON
76. BELOW / TALON / WHIRL
77. FELON / PYGMY / TOKEN
78. ENERGY / QUEENS / WORKER

Down:
32. GRANDMAS / PARABLES / PARALLEL
38. BROADTAIL / DREAMLAND / ECCENTRIC
40. ICON / IVOR / OVEN
49. DOTES / TROPE / VOIDS
50. COY / CUT / ZEN
55. MARRY / PERKS / PERRY
57. ALL / PLY / SOT
58. DIVAN / ROBOT / TOTEM
60. ILIAD / INNER / OLIVE
62. ASCOT / OUTRE / OUTRO
64. FRISK / FROST / SPORT
65. BOTHER / POTATO / TOMATO
66. PAPAW / SWEET / VALET
67. LABEL / NASAL / REBEL
68. APRON / DELAY / OFTEN
70. BAP / GEN / SEW
71. ISLE / LIMO / OILY
73. ION / SOL / SON

Centre-right:

Zoomed-in image available here.

Centre-left lower:

Larger, colour-blind-friendly image available here. Bk=Black, Bu=Blue and R=Red.

Bottom-left:

Where does 'Colon' fit in the following list?

Seven Marble Eight Smut Kent Oxford Mile
Last Rod Dollar Butter Grange Snake Cookie
Than Wren Right High Day Magnet Vile
Equals Martin Rome Tact Long Sand Icon
Pin Agnes Bond Nine Dash East South

Bottom-centre:

Visual puzzle - no text equivalent provided.

Bottom-right:

9x13 grid with some cells shaded (X) in each row:

X X X X X
X X X
X X X X
X X X X
X X X X
X X X X X
X X X X X
X X X X
X X X
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4
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ Well, it's taken me several months of devising, formatting, testing and re-testing, but I am delighted to be able to present this to you all at last. A huge thank you to all at Puzzling for interacting with my previous puzzles, and I hope you enjoy this one too :) I'm looking forward to getting back to setting some shorter ones soon! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 22 at 23:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JLee One part is a cryptic crossword - I just ran out of tags! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 22 at 23:26
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Ooh, exciting! Can't believe it's already been 100 puzzles... $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    May 23 at 3:35
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ This is a brilliant puzzle! You truly are an inspiration :-)! $\endgroup$ May 23 at 12:49

4 Answers 4

25
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Top left:

This grid looks suspiciously like the one from Stiv's tenth puzzle, Twelve Labours #2. The 7 likely indicates that the solution will have 7 moves.

Given the starting blanks, S_V_N_E, the answer likely starts with SEVEN. (It could be SAVE, but there's no A nearby.) And given the second row, you can fudge SEVEN LETTER WORD as a probable start to the cluephrase. This gives enough to figure out the necessary steps.

As Carmeister showed in their answer, you can push the pieces around like so:
bottle movement
giving the cluephrase SEVEN-LETTER WORD FOR A DIVER, PISTON, GAMBLER, OR SUCTION CUP. The answer to this is PLUNGER.

Top center:

This is a cryptic crossword! And so was Stiv's twentieth puzzle, Twelve Labours #09. There, once the puzzle was solved, you had to look at the cells with a letter from the top row of a QWERTY keyboard.

clue explanations

filled grid with cells highlighted

The marked letters spell SCALPEL.

Top right:

As user2390246 discovered, this is a "prefix-suffix-infix riddle"... just like Stiv's thirtieth puzzle, A Riley riddle to end the year!.

The three parts are DELI, VERY, and LIVE; combining these makes DELIVERY.

Center left 1:

Just like in This Cipher Needs a Name!, Stiv's fortieth puzzle, we solve the Mastermind minipuzzles:

mastermind solutions
Converting to ternary in the same way as that puzzle (red/yellow/blue = 0, orange/green/purple = 1, brown = 2; then A=0, B=1...) gives the answer of BIRDWATCHING.

Center:

As in This Month's $100 question (Stiv's fiftieth puzzle), we solve the four crossword grids. filled crossword grid
The blue cells spell ALIGN THE LIGHT BLUES; IT'S AN EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT; NINE LETTERS.

Aligning the light blues as before...
map
world map
...it lines up with a real-world map, as before - this time of Oxford, UK; the highlighted area is BRASENOSE College.

(Note:)

It seems like we can extract extra hints from some of the subpuzzles, as we did in the previous puzzle:
The top-left has several unused words: HEY LOP TOW / BODE PITY TINT FORD / ETHER / MUZZLES / FLUELESS.
Last time, a message came from changing one letter of each word, in increasing order of length. Here, we can change the first letter of each word to spell KEY TOP ROW: CODE WORD CITY HINT. OTHER PUZZLES CLUELESS. The lower right's substitution key has a top row of FOUNDBYTHAMES, giving a hint to the city. The other two puzzles don't produce anything using the original extraction method.

Center right:

In Stiv's sixtieth puzzle, Tabletop Games #01, many items were shown; they could be divided (logically) into several sets of the form "things contained in ___", and divided (physically) into a 3×2 grid. Reading off as Braille gave the answer. The difference is that here, the containing items will be countries rather than board games.

image containing all locations IDed
user39583 has helpfully identified all the locations. The countries start with the letters from A to M, with each being represented exactly once; reading the Braille letters in this order gives PHOTOENGRAVED.

Center left 2:

As in Shipwreck Hunting, Stiv's seventieth puzzle, the grid is mostly filled with Wingdings... but it also has the Greek alphabet. Tracing the alphabet in order gives this:

grid with Greek alphabet traced

This is a map of the western US, with state capitals marked. The U and C are placed in the top-left corners of Utah and Colorado, respectively, and the blue arrows show that the capitals of Nevada and Arizona are farther away.
The red star, our answer, is CHEYENNE (the capital of Wyoming).

Bottom left:

(thanks to user39583 and somebody for this part of the solution)

This is a puzzle like "Where?", a genre Stiv adapted for their eightieth puzzle.

Like a "connecting wall", the words can be divided into groups that have something in common. Here, each of the groups' commonalities also associates them with a different word, not given; the words are placed so their "counterparts" are in alphabetical order.

One group is missing one element (Colon), and it's up to the solver to figure out where it goes.

The groups are:
Substrings of chemical elements: (bi)SMUT(h), (lan)THAN(um), (la)WREN(cium), (p)ROME(thium), (pro)TACT(inium), (sil)ICON.
Words and their opposites: LAST ↔ first, RIGHT ↔ left, HIGH ↔ low, DAY ↔ night, LONG ↔ short, EAST ↔ west.
First halves of Pokémon names: BUTTER(free), MAGNET(on), VILE(plume), SAND(shrew), PIN(sir), NINE(tales).
First names of Simpsons characters: KENT (Brockman), ROD (Flanders), SNAKE (Jailbird), COOKIE (Kwan), MARTIN (Prince), AGNES (Skinner).
First words of London Underground stations on the Central Line: MARBLE (Arch), OXFORD (Circus), MILE (End), GRANGE (Hill), BOND (Street), SOUTH (Woodford).

US QWERTY keyboard shifted counterparts: SEVEN (Ampersand), EIGHT (Asterisk), DOLLAR (Four), EQUALS (Plus), DASH (Underscore).

So COLON goes in the last group, and its counterpart is SEMICOLON.

image with same data as previous list

Bottom center:

In This Diagram Needs A Name (Stiv's ninetieth puzzle), we found that these represent countries starting with the given letters, and their adjacent countries / bodies of water. The nine countries represented here are Poland, Finland, Canada, Norway, El Salvador, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Chad, and Guyana. The first letters of their capitals spell WHOOSHING.

Meta:

Our answers are BIRDWATCHING, BRASENOSE, CHEYENNE, DELIVERY, PHOTOENGRAVED, PLUNGER, SCALPEL, SEMICOLON, and WHOOSHING. Each of them has a body part in it:

BIRDWATCHING, BRASENOSE, CHEYENNE, DELIVERY, PHOTOENGRAVED, PLUNGER, SCALPEL, SEMICOLON, WHOOSHING.

It seems they should be inserted into the grid at the bottom so these body parts are highlighted. And if we order the body parts from top to bottom (SCALP at the top, then EYE is lower than that...), they all fit!

meta solved
So, as shown by the marked column, the answer to this puzzle is CENTURION!

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5
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wanted to continue with this answer, but I have to head off for the night - hope this is helpful to anyone else who gives this puzzle a shot. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    May 23 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ A great start :) And you've cottoned on to my 'recycling'...! In fact, there is a specific pattern behind which ones I've referenced, and I have actually clued this pattern in the puzzle to help solvers work out which other ones they might need to look into for help solving or extracting answer words... $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 23 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ @user39583 All totally correct remarks :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 23 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ @user39583 Ah, thanks for the help! (Oh well, there goes my backsolve guess...) $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    May 24 at 0:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Great job everyone :) Thanks for seeing this through to the end - I hope it was an enjoyable experience and didn't feel like too much of a slog! I found it quite fitting that it was you who ended up solving this puzzle, as (completely by coincidence) I believe you were actually responsible for solving about half of the original puzzles this one was based on! Well done. Checkmark awarded - #100 complete! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 26 at 8:13
8
+500
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Wrap-up: The Making Of I got ninety-nine problems - so here's another one!

This is not a solution to the puzzle, but provides notes from its poser. This type of answer has been approved by the community.

Caution: This post may definitely does contain spoilers.


Inspiration

Towards the end of 2021, I happened to notice that my 100th question on Puzzling.SE was coming up fast. I had previously marked my 50th puzzle with a super-sized crossword puzzle - This month's $100 question (not a real prize) - and I thought it would be fun to mark this next major landmark with an even bigger one.

As is often the case with my puzzles, the general idea for a puzzle combining many of my previous contributions arose from an "I wonder if I could..." moment, with the self-imposed challenge of somehow combining every tenth puzzle in my back-catalogue. These puzzles were:

#10 Twelve Labours - #02 Lernaean Hydration
#20 Twelve Labours - #09 House of Hippolyta
#30 A Riley riddle to end the year!
#40 This cipher needs a name!
#50 This month's $100 question (not a real prize)
#60 Chain Puzzle: Tabletop Games #01 - Let's Play
#70 Shipwreck hunting
#80 Introducing "Where?" - a GCHQ word association puzzle
#90 This diagram needs a name!

The most obvious way to achieve this would be by creating a metapuzzle, with each sub-puzzle contributing a keyword so that all nine keywords could then be combined in some way to reveal the final thematic answer I wanted to encode:

CENTURION - this being my 100th puzzle, of course.

In December 2021, by the time I had already had this idea and was beginning to think about developing the puzzle, @Stevo posted a puzzle with this exact same solution word (for his own different thematic purposes), which caused me a little flutter of panic! However, the road to creating my puzzle looked like it was going to be long, so by the time I would finally have it ready this other puzzle would likely have stepped backwards into the shadows of the PSE archive, and no longer be so present in people's minds...

Creative steps

The first step was to decide on the final metapuzzle mechanism - how would it work? What would the nine keywords be? For some time I had been wanting to produce a metapuzzle where the secret to its solution lay in...

...a set of words containing body parts as substrings, arranged in the order they appeared in the human body from top to bottom.

I suspect this may partly have been inspired by a great little puzzle of @JS1's that I had solved back in September 2019, which has lingered in my mind (do check it out).

So I then identified nine words that could be used in this way, whilst satisfying several other constraints:

1. Within these words it would need to be possible to spell out the word 'CENTURION' from top to bottom.

2. The target word to be used in the affix riddle (#30) would need to have a satisfying and clearly delineated prefix, infix and suffix, both for the quality of the riddle and the avoidance of receiving a flood of incorrect 'guesses' (as is often the way with this puzzle type) from passing users. DELI+LIVE+VERY, making DELIVERY, proved to be perfect for this scenario.

3. For aesthetic purposes, the target word to be used in the 'Masternarymind' cipher puzzle (#40) would need to be of a length that was a multiple of 6. This way all colour sets appear the same number of times and form a pleasing rectangular grid without any gaps. BIRDWATCHING (12 letters) swiftly became the prime candidate.

4. The target word to be used in the central crossword-concealing-a-map puzzle (#50) needed to correspond to a location in a well-known city with a street system that could be mapped fairly closely on a rectangle. Knowing the grid-like streets of central Oxford very well, BRASENOSE College gave me exactly what I needed.

5. For the dot-to-dot puzzle (the feature of the rather detailed #70 that I considered easiest to replicate as a simple component of a metapuzzle), I wanted the solution to represent a map in order to retain the spirit of the original - so I needed a keyword that was a place name containing a body part. Scouring a map of the US for suitable cities led me to CHEYENNE, the capital of Wyoming, in a wonderfully replicable straight-line-borders part of the map - bingo!

6. Deciding on the keyword for the 'Where?' puzzle (#80) also needed a little considered thought before the puzzle could be constructed - after all, it couldn't just be any old word; I needed a word that could be paired with another within a recognisable theme. I settled on the use of SEMICOLON within a category of 'symbols sharing a key on a keyboard'. (More on this later...)

All other keywords had far fewer constraints - I settled on PLUNGER for the Labyrinth puzzle (#10) since this had many synonyms that could be listed in a hidden clue, SCALPEL for the QWERTY cryptic crossword (#20) because it was short and wouldn't require the crossword to be too huge, and PHOTOENGRAVED for the visual Braille puzzle (#60) and WHOOSHING for the 'Cartographics' diagram puzzle (#90), since these purely required a word to be enciphered and had very few restrictions (although it took me a while to pick a suitable word for this last one, as there are some common letters of the alphabet - 'E', for example - which do not begin the names of any world capital cities, and there is only one beginning with 'I').

In fact, I did consider many alternative keywords before deciding on 'PHOTOENGRAVED' as the perfect fit since its central 'N' forced the final metapuzzle solution to appear straight down the central column of a grid in which it fitted perfectly across the width - very visually pleasing!

Now to construct each sub-puzzle...

Logistical steps

Before creating any sub-puzzles at all, I settled on an appropriate layout. Since this would hinge quite crucially on the size of the elaborate crossword-concealing-a-map puzzle (#50), the very first thing I created was the required Oxford street map, which fitted well into a 13x16 grid of squares.

Creating the hidden map of Oxford

(Here, Brasenose College is shaded in red, while other Oxford colleges are shaded blue - I had initially considered involving their shapes in the puzzle also, but scrapped this notion as an over-complication...)

With that in place (as a 29x29 square section), I allocated suitable spaces for the other puzzles, trying to retain the chronological order of the original puzzles across and down the layout. Ultimately the final size of the puzzle was dictated by needing a 7x7 space for the Labyrinth puzzle, a minimal 7x29 space for the cryptic crossword, an 18x12 space for the 'Masternarymind' cipher puzzle, and a 13x17 space for the end metapuzzle, with appropriate spaces for the other puzzles drawn up based on aesthetics:

Puzzle layout plan

From the outset it was clear that the nine sub-puzzles I needed to create would require differing amounts of time and creative investment. To give myself a mental boost I decided to try and tackle some of the 'easiest' first, rather than proceeding in the chronological order of the originals - this way I would see the puzzle take shape much quicker!

What follows is roughly in the order I set about constructing the sub-puzzles, with a few relevant notes on their construction...

Affix riddle (#30)

Straightforward. With the affixes already decided, all that remained was devising appropriate clues that rhymed.

'Cartographics' diagram puzzle (#90)

This was fairly quick to create, just needing to pick suitable countries for the cipher, then make the visuals using manually positioned text-filled circles in MS Excel. Where possible I tried to use capitals that had not appeared in the original puzzle; however, the fact that Islamabad is the only world capital beginning with 'I' meant that I couldn't quite fully avoid this, so the Pakistan pentagon ended up appearing again.

'Masternarymind' cipher puzzle (#40)

Likewise, as another cipher puzzle, this one was also straightforward to create for the second time. Knowing the ternary numbers I needed to encode, I devised a set of 12 Mastermind puzzles which would lead to these required solutions. In order to avoid directly copying any I had used in the original puzzle, I deliberately ignored it while making this one. The formatting, testing, and creation of the colourblind-accessible version probably took far longer than creating the puzzle itself!

Cryptic crossword (#20)

The first step here was to populate the grid with answers, ensuring letters on the QWERTY keyboard top row appeared only in the squares corresponding to the hidden keyword SCALPEL, whilst maintaining grid symmetry. Additionally, I wanted to ensure that every letter from the top row appeared at least once in the grid (it felt more complete that way). The Qat online tool helped no end here when trying to find words that fitted the gaps (APTERYX, anyone?!).

Then it was a case of setting the cryptic clues, which I did in multiple batches over several evenings, shaping them until I was happy with their surfaces. (I have to say, I personally feel I have learned a lot about cryptic clue-making since creating my original cryptic crossword puzzle back in 2019 - largely due to solving the many excellent cryptic crosswords on Puzzling.SE that have been contributed by @Jafe over the years and taking part more regularly in the Cryptic Clue Chat Chains in The Sphinx's Lair chatroom on this site. I strongly recommend both to anybody interested in introducing themselves to this particular breed of puzzle...)

Dot-to-dot puzzle (#70)

To set this up, I first planned out a grid that fitted within the allocated 11x12 space in the layout which would show sufficient state borders in order to be able to identify the western USA, then worked out how to plot the borders via a dot-to-dot in 24 steps or fewer (since the Greek alphabet contains 24 letters).

Designing the dot-to-dot

After that it was a case of replacing the numbered dots with their corresponding Greek letters, shuffling the last few back down the path in order to fit all 24 into the design, then populating the other cells in the grid with surplus Wingdings. In case the design was still not necessarily recognisable as a map of the western USA, I also added stars to mark each capital city and initial letters of the 'Four Corners' states as additional waymarkers.

Visual Braille puzzle (#60)

In the original puzzle, Braille letters were concealed in an image of six square areas populated by playing pieces from the same board game. Here, I chose instead to use landmarks from the same countries, and chose countries whose initial letters began with one each of the letters A to M, enabling the Braille letters to be sequenced to spell the answer once the countries were put in alphabetical order.

Images were sourced from Wikipedia and various travel-related websites, predominantly the first sites that came up in Google searches for 'landmarks in [country name]' (notably, travel2next.com). Aware that size on-screen and image resolution might be issues, I tried to ensure that spaces containing a greater number of images (e.g. the top-left) predominantly contained the more easy-to-recognise landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower (France), Uluru (Australia) and the Sphinx (Egypt), while other more obscure landmarks in nations like Denmark, Hungary, Libya, and (apologies) Kazakshtan could be displayed at a larger size, aiding identification whether through visual inspection or reverse image search tools.

'Where?' puzzle (#80)

The key to setting this type of puzzle is definitely: testing, testing, testing. With 35 squares in my planned grid requiring 36 connections (6 groups of 6) and having decided that one group - that required by the keyword SEMICOLON - would be 'symbols sharing a key on a keyboard' I first had to choose which other words to include within that group. One consideration to bear in mind here was that keyboards around the world have different layouts. To minimise the trouble this could cause, I opted for keys that were identical across US- and UK-style keyboards.

When planning other groups I aimed to get a good mix of popular culture (The Simpsons minor characters and Pokémon), geography (London Underground stations), science (yes, the Periodic Table!), and language (antonyms), whilst also trying to sow a few red herrings into the mix: for instance 'Agnes' (Skinner, from The Simpsons) is also a substring of the Periodic Table element MAGNESIUM; there are two Gen I Pokémon whose names begin with 'Sand'; both 'East' and 'South' appear in the puzzle but belong to different groups; 'Nine' does not belong to the same group as 'Seven' and 'Eight'...). This reflects one key advantage of a 'Where?' connections puzzle over a typical puzzle - red herrings can be more easily disproven because the alphabetical sequence of expected answers is already known, e.g. knowing 'Agnes' comes later than 'Icon' means that they cannot both reflect 'MAGNESIUM' and 'SILICON' and so one must belong to a different group.

After much testing to ensure no items could belong to multiple categories given their alphabetical position - and now sure that the puzzle wasn't so easy as to be trivial, yet not too difficult to resolve eventually (it did turn out to be the last part to fall, as it happens) - I was happy to move on.

One final note, though. It might seem strange (perhaps even careless) to some that I chose to present the hidden body part 'COLON' as part of the question itself - after all, the question was 'Where does 'Colon' fit in the following list?' However, this was a conscious decision, largely as a bit of fun for myself, getting to put part of the solution in plain sight! (I also hid various other words among sub-puzzles as a furtive nod towards other puzzles on the page - for example, 'Oxford' in this one and 'Braille' in the central crossword; these are little Easter Eggs sprinkled about to bring a knowing smile to those who spot them...!)

Crossword-concealing-a-map puzzle (#50)

Describing this puzzle's creation process would take a whole post in itself, so here are just the main bullet-point instructions:

  • Knowing the target map, distribute the coloured (red, orange, yellow, green) target street name spaces between the four grids; simultaneously reserve the corresponding square by symmetry in its opposite grid - this will also need to contain a letter.
  • Distribute the blue spaces which are needed to form the remainder of the streets between the four grids, again marking other reserved spaces required for symmetry. Try to preserve an even distance (preferably of 4 cells) between mandatory cells wherever possible, as this reduces the number of restrictions for choosing legal words later.
  • Create a hint message whose length equals the number of blue squares in the grid. Enter these letters into the blue spaces across and down the puzzle.
  • Populate all four grids with words, accommodating the mandatory letters while maintaining rotational symmetry. Ensure words used in the top-right 'quizword' lend themselves to trivia-style clues as much as possible. Try to ensure every letter of the alphabet appears in the bottom-right 'codeword' sub-puzzle. Then write the clues as appropriate. (NB This step takes several days!)

Labyrinth puzzle (#10)

In essence, draw out the finished grid first, writing out the target message. Ensure that some part of the message can be intuitively deduced from the fixed black circles (as it turns out, the solve here worked out exactly as I'd hoped, with the potential phrase 'SEVEN LETTER WORD' being spotted, providing the solver with a focus). Work backwards to find a satisfying starting state about 7 or 8 moves back (any fewer and it's too easy, any more and it's too tedious to solve).

Resources

The entire puzzle was prepared and created in Microsoft Excel, using separate tabs for different sub-puzzles, and a final one where they were all brought together as one. With the exception of the visual Braille (images from the web) and 'Cartographics' cipher (manually positioned shapes) sub-puzzles, all content was created just through use of alphanumeric/special characters, font size, cell/font colour, merged cells, text alignment, and margin weights.

Rows and columns were sized so as to create square cells. Special characters used included ● U+25CF (Black circle), ■ U+25A0 (Black square), a variety of Wingdings, and black and white unicode bubble writing easily generated using yaytext.com.

While most testing was carried out on-screen, for the final checks I printed out the puzzle on four sheets of A4, taped them together, and solved the whole thing by hand. (This actually picked up one final error to fix before publish!)

Takeaway

This puzzle consumed me on-and-off for many months, always present at the periphery of my mind. With my contributions to December's 2021 Puzzling Advent Calendar taking me up to 98 questions in total, and one eye on contributing an April Fool's Day puzzle, I deliberately avoided setting any others in the meantime, just in case I was forced to rush preparations for this one in order to get it posted before 1 April.

Before embarking on the project I did consider the potential criticism that puzzles referring to other content on this site (e.g. user names, the wording of users' bios, posts currently appearing in the sidebar...) are usually frowned upon. However, in these cases it is because this content is prone to change - a user changes their name or their profile text, the sidebar is frequently updated automatically; a puzzle reliant on this content is now rendered obsolete and unsolvable based on current information. However, in this instance the puzzles I referenced were not going to change - my tenth puzzle would always be my tenth puzzle; I am not the kind of person to delete my past questions. Part of me still suspects that the 2 downvotes received so far (currently registering at +44/-2) may have been from users who considered the puzzle 'too self-referential' (if not the downvote-all-puzzles brigade), but hey: you just can't please everybody.

My advice to anybody else considering creating a back-catalogue metapuzzle like this? Don't! As I mentioned earlier, this was a personal challenge born out of "I wonder if I could..." curiosity. It is incredibly time-consuming and might even put strain on your real-life relationships. There are plenty of other original ideas waiting for you to discover them, somewhere out there - don't invest your time in rehashing this one: it's been done now!

Thanks for reading :)
Stiv.

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2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Quite funny now I think of it how I seemingly used the same answere here :o. Anyways, a very good puzzle indeed! (sorry for the late reply) $\endgroup$
    – Stevo
    Jun 9 at 8:11
  • $\begingroup$ And "stepped back into the shadows of the PSE archive"... that's a really nice way of saying it! Best of luck Stiv; you are getting precariously close to the 100k barrier... $\endgroup$
    – Stevo
    Jun 10 at 4:55
7
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Top right

The patterns of dots are to indicate prefix, suffix, infix, and whole word

⬤.. Has cheeses and meatstuffs galore;
-> Prefix = DELI
..⬤ Is 'really' an online store.
-> Suffix = VERY, which means "really" and also is an online brand
.⬤. Is on-air, explosive and quick;
-> Infix = LIVE, which can mean all three of those things
⬤⬤⬤ Is recorded, so deadpan and slick!
-> Whole word = DELIVERY, when meaning "way of speaking" this can be deadpan or slick

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2
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, nicely spotted! $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    May 23 at 19:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Spot on! I was worried that this one would result in lots of pure guesswork answers so I filled it with hints to avoid doubt. You spotted all but one I think ('Recorded ANSWER' is a thing in itself, at least in my part of the world). Well done :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 23 at 21:36
7
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Partial answer

Top Left

Thanks to Deusovi for recognizing that this puzzle uses the mechanics from Stiv's Twelve Labours #2 puzzle. For each of seven moves, we take our extra (white) ball and push it into one of the white rows or columns, forcing the opposite ball out the other side. Guessing that the final phrase begins "SEVEN LETTER WORD FOR", a bit of trial and error leads to the following sequence of seven moves: list of Labyrinth move grids The final grid reads "seven letter word for a diver, piston, gambler, or suction cup", leading to the answer PLUNGER.

Top Center

Here is the finished grid: Filled crossword grid, some squares shaded blue Just like in the puzzle Twelve Labours #9, we shade all the letters found in the top row of a QWERTY keyboard. The shaded squares spell out our answer, SCALPEL.

Clue explanations:
Across:
2. First letters of Might Like Some
6. hANG
8. madAGAscar
12. d.d. (GA'S and GAS)
15. NO+R+I
16.
17. gRADe
18. PRO(S)PER
19. violenT ALCoholic
20. (LION+PIGS)*
21. IRE + exasperatioN + catherinE
22. ADEPt + O
23. RE(P)LIC(A)S
24. ZIT< + I
25. SETTER'S*
26. jEWEllery
27. Every fourth letter of staYs awAy so Can't Have Tea wIth mE
28. hystERICal
29. flAB Suppurate
30. A(N)D
31. Simmons + A + X
32. DEAD - E
Down:
1. druM OR PHIAl
2. MI(LIT+I)A
3.
4. B(EGG)AR+S
5. A+T+TIRED
6. mARIE + (T+T+A)<
7. GRE(ET)ED
8. ADD+A+(XES<)
9. (Y+PRE-TAX)*
10. MOROCCAN - N
11. First letters of Seen Prowling In Ruins Indicating Their Severed
12. (GLAD - LAD)+RAP+HE'D
13. STRIPPED - P
14. ALBA+NI+A

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1
  • $\begingroup$ Nice work - great contribution :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 23 at 21:34

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