The maze

enter image description here

The paths

  • Malfunctioning oven trade fixed kitchen (9)
  • Damages small vehicles (5)
  • Coastal airport department's vulnerability (3,8)
  • Happy about rook color (4)
  • Anger about queer, out celebrity friends (9)
  • Returned sticker was doctored (5)
  • Heir to Spanish gold: we are rich (8)
  • Confusing car and ion can be severe (9)
  • Behind talk show host is funny brother (5)
  • Raise in risk is key to every sport (10)
  • An airport in a blog announcement (5)
  • Investigating team heard pro-Nitrogen position of France (9)
  • Model employee told how airlock was broken (10)
  • It sounds like Russell was aware and fresh (5, 3)
  • Occasion to hear a few heartbeats (8)
  • Breakfast for Francis (5)
  • At table number 6, Stark has no question about sauce (9)
  • Correction officers separate leaders from all detained terrorists (9)

The goal

  • Create a continuous path (series of letters) from the S(tart) to the E(nd). Or from the E(ntry) to the S(uccess). Same thing.

The rules

  1. Solve the cryptic clues to acquire paths.
  2. Each path must intersect (share one letter with) exactly two other paths. (First and last paths are the exception, as they'll have only one intersection.)
  3. One letter per box. Obviously, not all boxes will be filled.
  4. Paths can only be deployed in canonical crossword directions (Across and Down).
  5. For the multi-word answers, treat them as a single path with no space. So if an answer was "Got it", it would take up five boxes in a row.
  6. The "E" and the "S" are given, and each is the last letter of one of the answers.


This is my first time writing my own cryptic clues, so hopefully they (mostly) meet standards, but you may need to interpret them a bit liberally.


What song was in my head while I was creating this puzzle?

  • $\begingroup$ Woo, cryptic clues! :D $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jul 21 '16 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ Small clarifcations: The words must be placed such that you read them left-right or downwards, correct? (So the "path" will traverse some of the words against the reading direction.) $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jul 22 '16 at 19:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest Precisely. You just need an unbroken path of letters to walk on, even if they're counter to the word's direction. (E.g., you can go up a word that's written downwards.) But each word must read left-to-right or downwards. $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 22 '16 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ these clues are hilarious $\endgroup$ – matt Sep 18 '20 at 15:50

This solution build on the work coordinated by Deusovi and the restrictions outlined by Bulldog6404. I haven't put the more general comments below in spoiler tags, because that woulx be a lot of spoilers. Most of it is obvious anyway.

A good strategy might be to start in the bottom right corner, where there is only one room to cross from any of the possible endings (SCARS, FORENSICS, SONOROUS) to the long bottleneck.

The long tunnel must be filled with a word at least nine letters long. If the word has exactly nine letters, its beginning must cross with a short word's end and its end must cross with the end of any word but the longest, LAXSECURITY.

That means any of AMENDMENT, CARBONARA, ENTOURAGE, FORENSICS and RENOVATED are out. DRACONIAN might fit when it crosses LACED and LOGAN/BACON. The next level might work as well, because there are words ending in A and E and other words beginning with B, L, G, A, C for the next cross.

Of the ten-letter words, BASKETBALL is out, because whether it sticks on one or two L's at the end, it must cross with a word that ends in L, of which there aren't any more. Likewise, there aren't any words ending with C or I, so it can't be WORKAHOLIC either.

LAXSECURITY is possible, but it can have three possible positions. The position where L—ITY stick out is out, because that would require a short word ending with L. Sticking out LA—TY works, because the top can cross with LOGAN or LACED (WORKAHOLIC and BASKETBALL have their L's badly placed) and the bottom could cross with GRAY or AMENDMENT. Sticking out LAX—Y reduces the options at the tail to GRAY, but opens up many possible crossers with A's at the top in addition to LOGAN and LACED.

So the possible words for the long bottleneck are DRACONIAN and LAXSECURITY, the latter in two possible positions. We can combine them with all three possible end words and try to fill the bottom room.

Frankly, that's not a fun prospect. So I've written a small C program (link to pastebin) that tries to find a possible path through the maze by brute force. It comes up with the following solution:

Maze solution

Bonus meta question

This question cannot be solved without doing the maze portion first, as revealed by the puzzle author. This means that the finished maze provides the method of answering this question. The most practical way I could think of was to take all the intersecting letters and unscramble them. As it turns out, it does present a solution:

Mild criticism

The Cryptic Clue Maze is a novel idea for a puzzle and I like it. I think, however, that the second stage where the path is built should be a bit more accessible, perhaps by having smaller rooms and more narrow passages. It should be possible to find the path just by reasoning and just occasional probing.

Another drawback is that all cryptic clues must be solved before you can begin to construct the path. Maybe a tighter maze design and some restrictions on the words could help to make the maze more crosswordy, so that possible intersections help to guess yet unsolved words.

All that is easy for me to say, of course. This puzzle is part of a Fortnightly challenge, where new puzzle avenues should be explored. The Cryptic Clue Maze does this and it is a good idea for a puzzle. At the moment, though, solving the cryptic clues is more fun than constructing the path.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Totally fair criticism. With the maze part, I was trying to both: 1. Make a unique solution and 2. Get the difficulty right. I think I probably did the first but not the second. Originally I had a few correct letters scattered in the grid but took them out because I thought the answer was unique without them. Should've left them in! $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 25 '16 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ (Also, that was not a trivial solver to program, nicely done.) $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 25 '16 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ And now that the path has been solved, can anyone answer the bonus meta? $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 25 '16 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with the analysis in the answer. I came to many of the same conclusions but never worked out the entire answer. Good work! As for the meta question... I believe I can see the answer clearly, now. $\endgroup$ – Bulldogg6404 Jul 26 '16 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Bulldogg6404 Nice job on the meta! $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 26 '16 at 13:09

The clue answers I've figured out so far:

Malfunctioning oven trade fixed kitchen (9)


Damages small vehicles (5)

S+CARS (thanks, M Oehm!)

Coastal airport department's vulnerability (3,8)

LAX SECURITY (thanks, Will!)

Happy about rook color (4)

G(R)AY (thanks kayzeroshort!)

Anger about queer, out celebrity friends (9)

EN(TOU*)RAGE (thanks kayzeroshort!)

Returned sticker was doctored (5)


Heir to Spanish gold: we are rich (8)

SON+ORO+US (thanks, M Oehm!)

Confusing car and ion can be severe (9)


Behind talk show host is funny brother (5)

HARPO (rev OPRAH) (thanks kayzeroshort!)

Raise in risk is key to every sport (10)

B(ASK)ET+B+ALL (thanks, M Oehm!)

An airport in a blog announcement (5)

bLOG ANnouncement

Investigating team heard pro-Nitrogen position of France (9)

FORENSICS (hom FOR N SIX (F (France), converted to a number))

Model employee told how airlock was broken (10)


It sounds like Russell was aware and fresh (5, 3)


Occasion to hear a few heartbeats (8)

INSTANCE (thanks, Hugh!)

Breakfast for Francis (5)

BACON (ddef)

At table number 6, Stark has no question about sauce (9)

CARBON + AR(-y)A (thanks, Will!)

Correction officers separate leaders from all detained terrorists (9)

A(MEN)D(MEN)T (thanks, M Oehm!)


http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/brandnew/logantogovernmentcenter.html (?)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ All are correct. Onwards to the maze. $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 22 '16 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ For the sake of convenience, discussion on this question has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – user20 Jul 22 '16 at 20:45

This answer is incomplete. I wasn't much able to contribute to the cryptic clues, but I'll try to help work out the maze portion. We have the following words confirmed as answers, organized by letter count then alphabetically:


I ported the grid to my favorite image editing software and painted the critical cells, the squares that are required to have letters in them by logic:

These colored cells must have letters in them. Some are choke point intersections, where a word must pass through in order to go from the starting point to the end point. The others are based on what words could possibly fit in those locations and their corresponding lengths. For example, in the bottom right, we have a word that must end in 's'. We only have three options for this (SCARS, SONOROUS, and FORENSICS), the minimum being 5 letters long. enter image description here
The critical region column in the bottom right is at least 9 letters long, cutting the number of possible words for this region in half. Further reducing that number, if the word is a 9-letter word, then the two words that branch off of it must end in those letters. As an example, we could not put FORENSICS into that column because we have no words that end in F. (see diagram) enter image description here

Further analysis pending.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ SCARS could also go in the bottom right, right? $\endgroup$ – DooplissForce Jul 22 '16 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ Good catch. I will edit. $\endgroup$ – Bulldogg6404 Jul 22 '16 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe helpful: There are 138 letters in the words above from which we have to substract 17 (the connections) and 2 (Start and End), so that there are 119 unique fields to be filled. The shorted direct path between start and end would have 88 steps, so we know that we will "overshoot" a bit. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jul 22 '16 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ The frist word can only be INSTANCE or ENTOURAGE as it needs to end with an E. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jul 22 '16 at 20:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Rule 4 says that words are deployed in canonical crossword directions. I extrapolated that this would also mean that two vertical words cannot connect to each other, same with horizontal, because this is the traditional behavior of a crossword puzzle. $\endgroup$ – Bulldogg6404 Jul 22 '16 at 21:42

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