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This is a cryptic crossword despite appearances. On the left is a five-by-five grid with no bars; on the right are five colour-coded slats one cell wide and a varying number of cells deep. The clues are grouped by colour (so all the clues that fit in the red slat are listed under 'Red') and are listed in alphabetical order of answer in each group. The answers overlap by at least one cell when sorted into the correct order, enabling solvers to fit the answers into each slat. For example, if the Red group had answers BERYL, NOVEMBER and OVEN the slat would be filled as OVENOVEMBERYL. Once all the slats are filled solvers should insert them vertically into the grid and slide them up or down to obtain a magical solution. The solvers will need to determine the correct colour ordering as well. For the purposes of the green tick, solvers should fill in each slat correctly, and specify the letters that make up the five-by-five grid -- there is no need to show the slats sticking out of the grid at the top and bottom. Each clue should also be correctly explained.

The colour-coded squares in each slat are part of the slat and should be filled. All clues may be treated as 'down' clues for cryptic wordplay purposes. All answers may be found in Chambers Dictionary specifically, though none are particularly obscure. The next detail might be considered a spoiler by some, hence it being spoilered out.

The words in the final grid are fairly well-known but do not all appear in english dictionaries.

For people unable to see pictures, the grid is five-by-five unbarred, and the slats have lengths as follows:

  • RED 11
  • ORANGE 12
  • YELLOW 15
  • GREEN 13
  • BLUE 13 enter image description here

CLUES

RED

  • Votes in the affirmative, content to pay escrow (4)
  • Perhaps Mr. Charles's supercomputer brand's no longer about (3)
  • In the direction of a drunkard (5)
  • Sharpen by rubbing audibly where there's water? (3)

ORANGE

  • Half-gallon left for everyone coming first in European country (8)
  • Seldom encountered in backtracking hierarchies (4)
  • Bring back harbour -- again? (6)

YELLOW

  • Without air-conditioning tentacles writhe… they're irritating (7)
  • Above local river mount snare that consumed too much (9)

GREEN

  • Emperor oddly absent -- unheard of! (4)
  • Repetitive: round, round men, thanks (4)
  • Expert short assassin took dagger tip after 'saint'… (7)
  • …assigned work initially then assaulted someone's kid (4)

BLUE

  • Southern state embracing default tongue (6)
  • Was in session amid accusations (3)
  • Ruin plans regularly: how 'Dieppe Roost' reversed (7)
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1 Answer 1

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Red

Votes in the affirmative, content to pay escrow (4) _AY ES_
Perhaps Mr. Charles's supercomputer brand's no longer about (3) (-c)RAY
    Mr. Ray Charles, Cray, "C" = circa = "about"
In the direction of a drunkard (5) TO+PER
    "to" = "in the direction of", "per" = "a", as in once a/per day
Sharpen by rubbing audibly where there's water? (3) WET "whet"
    not sure how well "where there's water?" works as a definition

Slat: WETOPERAYES

Orange

Half-gallon left for everyone coming first in European country (8) PORT+U+GAL(lon)
    "U" = universal = "for everyone"
Seldom encountered in backtracking hierarchies (4) _RARE_<
Bring back harbour -- again? (6) REPORT (ddef)
    not sure how well "bring back" works as a definition

Slat: RAREPORTUGAL

Yellow

Without air-conditioning tentacles writhe… they're irritating (7) NETTLES(-ac)*
Above local river mount snare that consumed too much (9) OVER+EA+TEN<

Slat: OVEREATENETTLES

Green

Emperor oddly absent -- unheard of! (4) NERO (uNhEaRd Of)
Repetitive: round, round men, thanks (4) RO<+TA
    "OR" = other ranks = "men", "TA" = "thanks", rota
Expert short assassin took dagger tip after 'saint'… (7) S+KILLE(-r)+D_
…assigned work initially then assaulted someone's kid (4) TASK (inits)

Slat: NEROTASKILLED

Blue

Southern state embracing default tongue (6) G(LOSS)A (thanks @Gareth McCaughan)
    "GA" = Georgia = "Southern state"; glossa
Was in session amid accusations (3) _SAT_
Ruin plans regularly: how 'Dieppe Roost' reversed (7) TORPEDO (TsOoR ePpEiD wOh<)

Slat: GLOSSATORPEDO

Final Grid

The Sator Square, which originated in Rome and is the name of a location "in Pratchett's fictional city of Ankh-Morpork" (thanks @Gareth McCaughan) (hence the title)

BLUE: GLOS SATOR PEDO
ORANGE: R AREPO RTUGAL
YELLOW: OVEREA TENET TLES
RED: WET OPERA YES
GREEN: NE ROTAS KILLED

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  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The word you're missing is rot13(TYBFFN). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Aug 28, 2023 at 20:21
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Also worth mentioning, regarding the title, that rot13(va Cengpurgg'f svpgvbanel pvgl bs Naxu-Zbecbex gurer vf n fdhner (va gur "bcra nern senzrq ol ebnqf" frafr) pnyyrq Fngbe Fdhner, juvpu vf bs pbhefr n ersrerapr gb guvf guvat). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Aug 28, 2023 at 20:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Awesome work! You are quite right, an extra 's' slipped in on to the end of tongue when I was copying the clues across and I didn't notice it when proofreading -- I've corrected the clue, and please accept my apologies. Fantastic job on solving, I hope you enjoyed it despite the typo! $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2023 at 20:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm also taking your feedback on board about the two definitions you didn't like, thank-you for that! $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2023 at 21:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BenjaminWang rot13("va frffvba" zrnaf gb "zrrg sbeznyyl", fb vs fbzrbar "jnf va frffvba", gurl "fng" va gur zrrgvat (juvpu vf pbasvezrq ol n pebffjbeq fbyire) - "nzvq" znexf gung gur fbyhgvba vf jvguva gur jbeq "npphFNGvbaf") $\endgroup$
    – samm82
    Aug 29, 2023 at 15:26

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