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Start with a word.
For each line below, drop the indicated number of letters from it, rearranging if necessary, to form a word with the (probably cryptical) meaning given. The first line clues your starting word.
You will end up one answer word per line, with each successive word being successively shorter.

      $\small\begin{array}{rl} 0&\textbf{Started a growth spurt}\\ -1&\textbf{Moved to Canada, perhaps}\\ -2&\textbf{Won back}\\ -3&\textbf{Sojourn to warmer climes}\\ -4&\textbf{Unwilling guest?}\\ -5&\textbf{Designated}\\ -6&\textbf{Quality of wine and cheese quality}\\ -7&\textbf{Wordplay, for example}\\ -8&\textbf{Tolkien's universe}\\ -9&\textbf{A drop of golden sun}\\ \end{array}$

When you have all the right words, you'll see you have all the right words.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are whitespace characters counted in the "set of words' length"? $\endgroup$ – oleslaw Jan 16 '17 at 10:06
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    $\begingroup$ Each line corresponds to a single word, with the indicated crossword-esque clue. Successive lines' words get successively shorter by one letter. There's no whitespace involved. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Jan 16 '17 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ I strongly suspect there's another rule you haven't stated, namely that after removing a letter you can also change another letter. Is this true? $\endgroup$ – astralfenix Jan 16 '17 at 11:22
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    $\begingroup$ @astralfenix: Probably not, but note that the subtraction of letters is always from the original word, so that the word with six letters removed doesn't necessarily have all the letters of the one with seven letters removed. As I see it, the words at −8 and −9 may even be totally disjoint. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Jan 16 '17 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ @MOehm Ah, that might explain it $\endgroup$ – astralfenix Jan 16 '17 at 11:27
7
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answer:

  • germinated
  • emigrated
  • regained
  • migrate
  • inmate
  • named
  • aged
  • tag (credit to Volatility. wordplay is a possible tag on puzzling.stackexchange)
  • ea
  • d (2nd note on the c major scale after c)

edit: Oleslaw spotted that when -9 is 'd', the first letter of each word spells the original (germinated)

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  • $\begingroup$ -7 could be "tag" (as in wordplay). I would say -9 is probably "d", and maybe the "word" rule isn't completely tight. $\endgroup$ – Volatility Jan 16 '17 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ The Tolkien one could be ARDA and the last one RAY. There's no question that "Ea" is better than "Arda" but there's equally no question that "Ray" is better than "D" or "I" or any other single-letter option. (But your others are pretty convincing and require the last one to be just one letter.) Another single-letter option would be N (one letter of both "golden" and "sun") but like D it isn't a word. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jan 16 '17 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ if you make the -7 "tag", -8 "ea" and -9 "D" the first letters of each word spell the full word... $\endgroup$ – oleslaw Jan 16 '17 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ @oleslaw ah, and hence "When you have all the right words, you'll see you have all the right words." $\endgroup$ – Volatility Jan 16 '17 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ @oleslaw Yes and no. There are two ways of doing it, "fixed do" where the correspondence between names and pitches is fixed, and "movable do" where the correspondence between names and scale degrees is fixed. The "fixed do" system is used in Austria, where TSOM is set, and there indeed re=D. But the "movable do" system is used in the US, where the movie was made, and there re can be any note. In the actual movie, at least in the Youtube clip I found, they sing the song in B flat, and re=C. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jan 16 '17 at 12:28

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