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Blank crossword grid

Letters from Gladys are geography-themed standalone crosswords. Each puzzle has five thematic answers, which are places, sights or landmarks in or around a certain location (in this case, a group of islands). Each thematic answer is notable enough to have its own article in the English Wikipedia, although not necessarily under the same name that is used here. The goal is to fill the grid, identify the thematic answers and guess the name of Gladys’s destination, which is not indicated in the grid.

Dear Puzzling,

How have you been? I am writing to you from yet another tropical paradise island. It’s almost like someone has picked all the amazing places in the world that they have always wanted to visit, and I get to go to all of them! I have walked on pristine beaches, explored coral reefs full of rich wildlife, and seen wild horses running along the mountain sides. Can you guess where I am?

Wish you were here!
Love, Gladys.

Across
1. Young woman (one of noble birth) from the Greek city of Argos is close to the end of Herculean task (6)
5. I wasn't serious about Gladys being stuck in La Brea, struggling to escape (9)
10. Northern French river makes unpleasant sounds (5)
11. Old lady's in possession of reasonably good pots for making coffee (5)
12. Craze for expensive clothing and gold (5)
13. It gives air of acceptability principally associated with an inspiring figure, Romeo (7)
14. Shanghai vacancy filled by doctor Singh (9)
15. Particularly redundant actor (5)
17. Scary book banned from city university attended by Mr Wales (5)
18. A magical land surrounds India to the west and north – is it Israel? (4)
19/21. Maybe Hugh Jackman got extremely sentimental and finally explored Chagos Archipelago (7,7)
24. Strong three-of-a-kind – the strongest one known in poker town (4)
25. As announced, one of the Jonas Brothers is running for president? (5)
26. Cha-cha-cha vocalist covers "Helter Skelter" (5)
29. Boom, girl! I resolved a complicated situation! (9)
31. For starters, Lex and Superman guard one British pound, leading to blood, sweat and tears? (7)
33. Excellent – good and sensible! (5)
34. Scottish university lost – and recovered – Western Irish specialties? (5)
35. Native Congolese cook was paid regularly (5)
36. Focuses on being dressed as eccentric (9)
37. Great leader visits the planet Arrakis, working to get space underground (7)

Down
1. Comic preacher briefly appearing near the centre of Manhattan Island (9)
2. After capsizing, sailors captured smart little stowaway? (4,3)
3. Italy's premier Olympian lost in Albertville – one of female gender, showing lack of skill (5)
4. Half-nude composer's sister invited Eric and two other boys in for some mathematics (9,8)
5. One of the Jonas Brothers has blown smoke? That's humorous (8)
6. Engineer lost a unit inside; it is locked up (17)
7. Cloud to travel exactly four weeks northward (5)
8. Abhorrent criminal is like Lex and unlike Superman (9)
9. Fighting Katherine on the outside, Rita got exhausted (6)
16. Body part (of which everyone has one half-dozen) given away by mutilated aviator (5)
18. Nobody in Brazil cheered (5)
20. Right for celebrity to get on the plane? (9)
22. Hearing about Anglicans is what many Scots desire (9)
23. Lex devastated on account of Superman – originally they used to be intimately involved (2-6)
27. Town described by guitar virtuoso Steve on record (7)
28. A French painter died here of deadly virus, one primarily caught by recovering addicts (4,2)
30. Heavy clothes worn by judges that have struck down the principal part of Roe against Wade's conclusion (5)
32. Liquor never contains a fungus-based ingredient (5)

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ careful leaning on that fourth wall, you just might break it :P $\endgroup$
    – juicifer
    Jul 29, 2022 at 13:06

2 Answers 2

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Gladys is writing from

French Polynesia

and in there she went to

Mangareva, Austral Islands, Faaa, Hiva 'Oa, and Vaitape.

Grid:

enter image description here

Clue answers and explanations:

1. Young woman (one of noble birth) from the Greek city of Argos is close to the end of Herculean task (6) = MISSION (task) = MISS (young woman) + IO (A princess from Argos, in Greek mythology) is close to N (end of "Herculean")

5. I wasn't serious about Gladys being stuck in La Brea, struggling to escape (9) = JAILBREAK (an escape from jail) = JK ("I wasn't serious"/"just kidding") about I (Gladys) stuck in LA BREA anagrammed ("struggling") = J(A(I)LBREA*)K

10. Northern French river makes unpleasant sounds (5) = NOISE (unpleasant sounds) = N (Northern) + OISE (a certain river in France and Belgium)

11. Old lady's in possession of reasonably good pots for making coffee (5) = MOKAS (pots for making coffee) = MA ("old lady"/mother/mother figure) 'S in posession of OK (reasonably good) = M(OK)AS

12. Craze for expensive clothing and gold (5) = FUROR (crave) = FUR (expensive clothing) + OR (name of the color gold used specifically in heraldry)

13. It gives air of acceptability principally associated with an inspiring figure, Romeo (7) = AERATOR (It gives air) = A ("acceptability" principally) associated with ERATO (a Muse, or an inspirational goddess of literature/science/the arts, in Greek mythology) + R (Romeo is the NATO abbreviation for R)

14. Shanghai vacancy filled by doctor Singh (9) = SLINGSHOT (called a "shanghai" in Australia and New Zealand) = SLOT (vacancy) filled by anagram of ("doctor") SINGH = SL(INGSH*)OT

15. Particularly redundant actor (5) = EXTRA triple definition: first, e.g. "extra-careful" = "particularly careful"; second, if something is extra then it's unnecessary and therefore it may be redundant; third, an actor in a show who stays silent and is usually in the background is called an extra.

17. Scary book banned from city university attended by Mr Wales (5) = CYMRU (native name of Wales) = IT (scary book, authored by Stephen King) banned from CITY + U (university) attended by MR = C(-it)Y (MR) U

18. A magical land surrounds India to the west and north – is it Israel? (4) = ZION (I think Zion can also refer to Israel; if I'm not mistaken the usual meanings are "Jerusalem" or "Mount Zion") = OZ (Land of Oz, in the Oz series by L. Frank Baum) surrounds I (India; NATO abbreviation), but reversed ("to the west") + N (north) = Z(I)O< N

19/21. Maybe Hugh Jackman got extremely sentimental and finally explored Chagos Archipelago (7,7) = AUSTRAL ISLANDS (archipelago) = AUSTRALIAN (Maybe Hugh Jackman; he's an Australian) got S_L (extremely "sentimental") + D S (finally "explored" "Chagos") = AUSTRALI(S_L)AN D S

24. Strong three-of-a-kind – the strongest one known in poker town (4) = FAAA (a certain town in French Polynesia) = F ("forte", music abbreviation meaning "strong"/"strongly") + AAA ("three-of-a-kind" - the strongest one known in poker; basically three aces, with the ace usually being the highest-valued card in poker)

25. As announced, one of the Jonas Brothers is running for president? (5) = NIXON (Former American president) = homophone ("As announced") of NICKS (Nick Jonas) ON ("running"/operating (of an appliance))

26. Cha-cha-cha vocalist covers "Helter Skelter" (5) = HAVOC (= "helter-skelter" = an uproar/state of disorder) = substring of cha-cha-c(HA VOC)alist ("covers")

29. Boom, girl! I resolved a complicated situation! (9) = IMBROGLIO (a complicated situation) = BOOM GIRL I anagrammed ("resolved")

31. For starters, Lex and Superman guard one British pound, leading to blood, sweat and tears? (7) = LIQUIDS ("blood, sweat, and tears?") = L and S (For starters, "Lex" and "Superman") guard I (one) + QUID (slang for one British pound (in terms of currency)) = L(I QUID)S

33. Excellent – good and sensible! (5) = AWARE (sensible; "sensible of the problem" = "aware of the problem) = A (excellent, as in "A-tier" or in grades) + WARE ("good"/commodity)

34. Scottish university lost – and recovered – Western Irish specialties? (5) = STEWS (Irish specialties, as in Irish stews) = ST ANDREWS (Scottish university) lost AND R ("recovered" western (western part)) = ST (-and)(-r)EWS

35. Native Congolese cook was paid regularly (5) = OKAPI (Native Congolese mammalian animal) = _O_K _A_ P_I_ ("cook was paid" regularly)

36. Focuses on being dressed as eccentric (9) = ADDRESSES (Focuses on) = DRESSED AS anagram ("eccentric")

37. Great leader visits the planet Arrakis, working to get space underground (7) = DUNGEON = G ("Great" leader) visits DUNE (another name for the planet "Arrakis", in the Dune series by Frank Herbert) + ON (working/operating (of an appliance)) = DUN(G)E + ON

Down

1. Comic preacher briefly appearing near the centre of Manhattan Island (9) = MANGAREVA (French Polynesian island) = MANGA (a Japanese comic) + REV ("reverend" (a type of preacher) abbreviated ("briefly")) near A (the center of "Manhattan")

2. After capsizing, sailors captured smart little stowaway? (4,3) = SHIP RAT (little stowaway; I think it hides in ships?) = SRAT ("tars" (sailors) after being flipped "capsizing") captured HIP ("smart"/fashionable)

3. Italy's premier Olympian lost in Albertville – one of female gender, showing lack of skill (5) = INEPT (showing lack of skill) = I (Italy's premier) + NEPTUNE (an Olympian!) lost UNE (in Albertville (i.e. in France), "one", of female gender -> "une" rather than "un") = I NEPT(-une)

4. Half-nude composer's sister invited Eric and two other boys in for some mathematics (9,8) = NUMERICAL ANALYSIS (field of mathematics) = NU(-de) = (half "nude") + MY (composer's (Jafe's)) + SIS (sister) invited ERIC + ALAN + AL (two other boys) in = NU M(ERIC ALAN AL)Y SIS

5. One of the Jonas Brothers has blown smoke? That's humorous (8) = JOKESOME (humorous) = JOE (Joe Jonas) has SMOKE anagrammed ("blown") = JO(KESOM*)E

6. Engineer lost a unit inside; it is locked up (17) = INSTITUTIONALISED (locked up) = anagram of ("engineer") LOST A UNIT INSIDE

7. Cloud to travel exactly four weeks northward (5) = BEFOG (to cloud) = GO (travel) FEB (February, the month with exactly four weeks, usually) reversed (northward)

8. Abhorrent criminal is like Lex and unlike Superman (9) = EARTHBORN (like Lex, who was born on Earth, and unlike Superman, who was born in Krypton) = ABHORRENT anagram ("criminal"/"suspect", in the adjective sense)

9. Fighting Katherine on the outside, Rita got exhausted (6) = KARATE (a type of martial arts) = KATE (Katherine) on the outside, with RA ("Rita" got exhausted (middle parts exhausted))

16. Body part (of which everyone has one half-dozen) given away by mutilated aviator (5) = AORTA (Body part of which everyone has one) = VI (six, or half-dozen) given away by anagrammed ("mutilated") AVIATOR = A(-vi)ATOR*

18. Nobody in Brazil cheered (5) = ZILCH (nobody/zero) = substring of bra(ZIL CH)eered ("in")

20. Right for celebrity to get on the plane? (9) = STARBOARD (right side, in ships) = STAR (celebrity) BOARD (to get on the plane)

22. Hearing about Anglicans is what many Scots desire (9) = SECESSION (what many Scots desire; separation from a current state) = SESSION (Hearing) about CE (Anglicans; I think this is the Church of England?)

23. Lex devastated on account of Superman – originally they used to be intimately involved (2-6) = EX-LOVERS (originally they used to be intimately involved) = LEX anagrammed ("devastated") + OVER (on account of, e.g. "they argued on account of who was going to inherit the house") + S ("Superman" originally) = EXL* OVER S

27. Town described by guitar virtuoso Steve on record (7) = VAITAPE (French Polynesian town) = VAI (guitar virtuoso Steve Vai) on TAPE (record)

28. A French painter died here of deadly virus, one primarily caught by recovering addicts (4,2) = HIVA 'OA (A French painter (Paul Gaugin) died here) = HIV (deadly virus) + O ("one" primarily) caught by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, a group of recovering alcoholics) = HIV A(O)A

30. Heavy clothes worn by judges that have struck down the principal part of Roe against Wade's conculsion (5) = OBESE (heavy/fat) = ROBES (clothes worn by judges) that have struck down R (the principal part of "Roe") against E (Wade's conclusion) = (-r)OBES E

32. Liquor never contains a fungus-based ingredient (5) = QUORN (brand of meat substitute made from fungus) = substring of li(QUOR N)ever ("contains")

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I would guess

Metropolis, based on the multiple clues mentioning Lex and Superman, and it sounding sort of like "tropical".

Partial crossword solution:

enter image description here

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