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Solve 36 puzzles (or more) to find the final 6 letter answer.

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Full details on individual clue answers in this sheet. Thanks to Beastly Gerbil, boboquack, elias, Rubio, and Sid for the help.

Part 1: Assembly and Cryptics

The top left rebus means "BLACK is in STRUCT + IONS", meaning that the top row (the black squares) are all the directions we have to follow to solve the puzzle.

The next one tells us "don't rotate for everything". Okay, so nothing has to be rotated.

The third one says "fill 2/3 of the red into the blue grid, assembled as a crossword puzzle". The blue tiles can be put together to make a crossword-esque grid with the enumerations of the top two red clues, and then those clues can be filled into the grid:
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Part 2: Matching and More Cryptics

The next instruction says that the yellow boxes in the grid are |the difference between the yellow squares and 1/3 of the red squares|. (What do those bars mean? We'll see later.) So let's take another look at them: ROKU IN ICHI ISH SNA OG
These are anagrams of the numbers 1-6 in Japanese! Specifically, ICHI, NI, SAN, SHI, GO, and ROKU.
Now, if we solve the remaining red clues and yellow rebuses (which have the special gimmick that each word is clued twice), we discover that the red clues are contained within the yellow rebuses. (For instance, TILED, from the fourth red square, is contained in MULTIPLIED, from the second yellow rebus.)

The remainders are of length 1 through 6. That means the bars must mean the cardinality of - that is, the number of letters in - the difference. So now we've matched up yellow to red squares and yellow-red pairs to blue.
We can also match the red squares to the green ones: the small letters in the corner of each green square are the first letters of the red squares' clues.

Part 3: Masyu

So, we've matched green squares to blue squares through a convoluted process. Now we can replace the blue squares (when assembled into a grid) with their corresponding green squares. The next instruction says to fold the green squares into a cube and solve as a Masyu. So we do that!
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That gives the string BULGXZKCMYXUJITLUPKZRLRCLFLDOYPSUCVT. The instruction says that that's the "lock"... but what could the "key" be?

Part 4: The Key

The final instruction says that the purple squares are the key. But what do we do with them? They seem to be just random grids of letters. Well...
- The first has the numbers 1-6 hidden in it word-search style. The remaining letters spell TWOTHREEFIVESEVEN?, a clue for ELEVEN.
- The second has words from the NATO phonetic alphabet reading left to right, missing the first letter. Taking the first letters that should be there spells CHARGE.
- The third has the "leftover" strings of length 1-6 from the yellow-red pairings, hidden word-search style. Taking out those and reading the leftover letters spells out TEAAREAIYEYEELES, a pronunciation of the individual letters of TRAILS.
- The fourth is made up solely of the letters ABFLMPTU, which can be anagrammed into FLAT/BUMP. Dividing the grid into 2x3 pieces and reading off as Braille gives RAISES.
- The fifth mimics the puzzle itself, pointing to the fourth instruction. Grouping the letters in the grid together like their corresponding squares were in part 2, and reading off in the order given by instruction 4, spells CELE ACTO MEDI KNOW MUSI WORT, words missing their final letters. Those final letters (in the order 1-6 from ICHI-ROKU) spell out BRANCH.
- The final grid seems to give us our answer directly: YOUTHS. But we can fill the rest of the grid with the other purple square answers in a unique way: RAISES/ELEVEN/BRANCH/CHARGE/TRAILS/YOUTHS.

Part 5: Unlocking

Decrypting the string from part 3 (the solved Masyu) with the grid from part 4 (with the Vigenère cipher) gives the string KUDOTHGRIDTHIRTYSIISRULYSOLVDGREAJOB. We can add six letters to make it spell a congratulatory message: KUDOS! THEGRID THIRTY SIXISTRULY SOLVED. GREATJOB!

Those added letters spell out SEXTET, our final solution.

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Wrap-up: The Making Of GRID-THIRTY-SIX

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 contain spoilers.


The first thing I did was "made a mistake"

Yup! The italicised and struck-through 'made a mistake' was a prototypical cryptic from a while back, but it kinda broke too many rules. Given the current fortnightly challenge, I realised it worked perfectly as a double clued rebus, and from there, the concept of the orange rebuses was born.

With the answer to that first rebus, 'skewered', I couldn't help but notice the word 'sewer' hidden in there... and fairly quickly noted that sewer could lead to a nice little double def cryptic. So now I had some cryptics to make! At this point, I realised I was making a big puzzle, and I couldn't make a big puzzle without including some grid-deduction, could I? It needed to be a little unusual, so I put it on a cube, of course :P

A very sixy puzzle

Once I decided on making a cubic grid-logic puzzle, it evolved naturally that each set of puzzles would be a sextet. Not only that, but it'd look great if there were six sets of six!
However, if I wanted cross puzzle connections, I would need to put in a little bit of guidance, so I set the first row of 6 to be instructions. Obviously, the instructions couldn't just be straightforwardly readable, so I made a little rebus to even show that they were instructions!

Now, I needed some row to somehow clue the cube net, as I didn't want the grid logic puzzle to be obviously assemble-able. I toyed around with the idea of having edge markings, etc. but it was all either too obvious or too handwavy. How could I make pieces fit together in a non-obvious way... maybe there is something else that needs to be constructed?

I had a few spare cryptic clues (also from a while back), so it suddenly struck me that I could make a jigsaw crossword! This solved the issue of it being too easy to assemble, because usually jigsaw crosswards usually don't have joins which are super obvious, but it also meant that it was clear that the pieces had to be put together, and the clues would ensure only one way to do this.
But I realised that with the enumerations, and maybe a clue or two, the crossword would be fairly easy to assemble without solving the clues. Since I didn't want any part of this puzzle to be skippable, somehow I needed to make the answers to those clues useful too.
Aha! Let's do the classic thing and highlight some letters. Somehow, these letters would need to carry infomation that could relate each face of the cube net to something else. Naturally, the numbers 1-6 came to mind, but the problem is in most languages we either get an x or a q in those numbers. Apart from Japanese, where the worst letter to include is K! Not bad at all. With a few new clues, and some more shuffling around, the broken crossword was complete.

Putting things together

Now I realised that the rebus/cryptic connection would be clear to someone who solved pirate and irate, and that the length of the extra letters could link these to the cube net! A few rebuses had to be replaced, and 'LIAR' had to be replaced by 'IN' for LINEAR to make this step work.
Once this was done, I just needed to connect the masyu to either the rebuses or the cryptics (connecting the masyu straight to the crossword would of course render all these intermediary steps pointless, which I didn't want).

At this point, I was a little low on the creative juices and decided that taking the initials of the clues was enough work for this step :P

Wait, what do I do with the last row?

All that was left to do was actually design the cubic logic puzzle, design a sixth row, and work out the extraction.
I wanted the 6x6 format of the puzzle to have a purpose somehow, and having a 6x6 grid of letters where the inter-row relationship would be useful seemed like a logical sub-puzzle to make. The concept of purple 5 got created, and then it seemed likely that the rest of the puzzles in that row should be 6x6 grids of letters too!

What do grids of letters remind you of? That's right, the childhood fave, wordsearches :) ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX was an obvious choice. I didn't want to do any others based off numbers, but somehow the words would need to be recognizable without extra clues. Phonetic alphabet seemed like a nice choice, but perhaps too obvious? Taking off the first letter seemed to work, as strings like OMEO and HARLIE would be enough of a signpost.

I wanted to use EVERYTHING in this puzzle. Nothing should be wasted! So, of course, I took those leftover letters from the rebuses-cryptics, and put them into a wordsearch. You might notice that MULPI and BCERIA are in 'obvious' orientations - this is so that it becomes a little more recognizable and less of a leap that you need to find those strings, especially since BCERIA should look really really familiar after solving those rebuses!

Then, I wanted to subvert expectations a little by having a not-wordsearch. But what else can you fit into a 6x6 grid of letters? Suddenly, I realised that braille letters would fit wonderfully into a 6x6 grid, but that the bumps and flats would need to be somehow clued by letters. I toyed with a vowel/consonant split, but then it wasn't obvious which letters were bumps or flats. How can I make a split where there is no ambiguity as to what each letter corresponded to? Oh. BUMPs and FLATs.

If these were all little subpuzzles, the last purple one would somehow need to bring them together, as I felt like getting a meta from 6 purple answers would be a little mean and unmotivated (especially since there was no rebus or cryptic meta). Fitting answers into a mostly empty grid seemed like the logical path to go down, so it was decided all the purple answers would be 6 letters long. I thought of the clue phrase, 'SENARY', and since Y was the most difficult letter there, it was to be the given line.
Since I had quite a bit of freedom with the purple answers, I tried to choose words with multiple letters in common with SENARY to make the last grid very difficult to fill out until you literally had all the purple answers. This seemed to work beautifully as the first 4 purples to get solved still left a lot of room for shuffling.

Extraction

Huh. So how would a grid of 36 letters be useful? Oh, maybe make them a vigenere key. But for what?
The only unused element I had left was the Masyu. So maybe the Masyu passes over letters...
Designing the single solution Masyu on a non-euclidean and edgeless grid was an ordeal especially once I decided the solution path should pass over exactly 36 letters!!! 3x3 faces made the most sense with that length of solution path, and suffice to say the Masyu was probably the most difficult part of this puzzle to design.

Thinking of the final message was also quite difficult. It seemed clunky to me if it just gave words for a final meta, 36 letters was more than enough for a short message! But I felt like a puzzle like this needed a final bit of zing, a single word answer that fit the theme. First letters would be a bit boring... how about missing letters? Once SEXTET was decided as the final answer, the message grew off the fact that the missing X would have to be clued by GRID THIRTY SI.

Other thoughts

One of the goals of GRID-THIRTY-SIX was to be a non-linear variety mix, so that people with different strengths could all chip in and solve a sub-puzzle or two. I'd like to think that this puzzle mostly achieved this goal, and as you can see, many names are credited in Deus' answer! If this puzzle gave everyone just a little bit of fun, and gave a few people some memorable 'aha' moments, then the time I've spent on this puzzle hasn't been wasted :) There's nothing better than to see solvers enjoying the experience.

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Has been solved in TSL and on Google Docs by Deusovi, Beastly Gerbil, elias, Sid, boboquack and Rubio

Communal spreadsheet

Main steps (Deus will be doing a proper write-up later this morning (UTC):

The first rebus for black is 'BLACK IS in STRUCT + IONS'

Deciphering the other black squares gives us some basic instructions on how to solve it.

The red squares are cryptic clues. Solving the top two allows us to fill in the crossword, which needs to be assembled into a cube net from the blue squares. The yellow cells give Japanese numbers 1-6.

The orange squares are double rebuses, encrypted in two ways. They take the form of last red cryptic clue + letters (will be used later) = orange rebus. The letters have lengths 1 through 6 = the yellow cells on the crossword.

The green masyu has 3-letter codes corresponding to the initials of the red cryptics. So we can link the blue net to a new green net by the orange rebuses and the red cryptics. Then we can solve the masyu to get a 36-letter string.

Meanwhile, the first 3 purples are word-searches of varying types. One of them uses the spare letters from the orange rebuses. The fourth purple is Braille using the letters BUMP and FLAT. The second-last has letters we have to arrange in order, by the 1-6 numbers again. We have to arrange the colours as per the instructions. Taking the last letters of the uncompleted words, we get another word.

Each of the first 5 purple grids clues a word, which we can insert into the sixth grid. Then, using the 36-letters there as a string, we can decode the masyu text to get a string with missing letters, which we have to take to get the answer.

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This post is for solvers who don't understand the accepted answer or
cannot access Google.
This may not be the full answer.

CAUTION: This post may contain spoilers.


The Solutions to the black clues

First black rebus:

BLACK IS INSTRUCTIONS (BLACK IS in STRUCT + ions)

Second Black rebus:

NO ROTATION FOR EVERYTHING (the ROTATION is crossed out; 4 everything;)

Third Black rebus:

Fill the top 2 clues of each red box into the blue (crossword) box.

Fourth Black rebus:

The abs of the difference between the bottom clue of the red box
and the orange rebus. The length of the remainder is the number
in the yellow squares, that is 3, 1, 4, 2, 6, 5 in Japanese.
The Green, orange, red, and blue boxes are matched each.

Fifth Black rebus:

MA MA U is for The Masyu, the puzzle.
Fold the green boxes into a cube, and solve it as a Masyu puzzle.
That's the lock.

Sixth Black rebus:

The first 5 purple boxes each makes a word to fill in the sixth
grid. That's the key.


The solution to the red clues:

Castle Bird (1 word, 4 letters):

ROOK (Castle in chess; a kind of bird;)

Almost Celestrial Descendant (1 word, 3 letters):

SON (direct descendant; homophone of SUN, a celestrial;)

During Home (1 word, 2 letters):

IN (not sure yet; During = IN, at home = IN)

The initials of each clue (not the answer) is CAD.

Ingest Bad Tea (1 word, 3 letters):

EAT (ingest; anagram of TEA; "EAT" is the present tense;)

Flavor Time (1 word, 6 letters):

SEASON (flavor; time of the year;)

Located In A Tree:

The initials of each clue (not the answer) is IFL.

Notes... (2 words, 3+6=9 letters):

DOT POINTS (Notes; the ... mark)

Grovel Without World's First Supporter (1 word, 3 letters):

FAN (Supporter; FAWN , grovel without W)

Mad, Imaginary Fare:

The initials of each clue (not the answer) is NGM.

Release Note (1 word, 4 letters):

EMIT (release; Sorry, I don't know what the German means)

Sorry, I don't know what the German means.

He Crafts Organs (1 word, 6 letters):

HEARTS (organs; HE + Arts and Crafts)

Paved Detail Without A Mistake (1 word, 5 letters):

TILED (paved; anagram of DETAIL without A)

The initials of each clue (not the answer) is RHP.

Sang About Badgers (1 word, 4 letters):

NAGS (badgers v. ; anagram of SANG)

Secured Vault (1 word, 5 letters):

BOUND (vault as a v. ; secured)

Tailor drain (1 word, 5 letters):

SEWER (drain when pronounced as 1 syllable; tailor when pronounced as 2 syllables)

The initials of each clue (not the answer) is SST.

Thin, Racist, Chaotic Devil (1 word, 1O letters):

ANTICHRIST (anagram of THIN,RACIST, ; Devil)

Simple Sour Citrus (1 word, 6 letters):

RUSTIC (anagram of CITRUS)

Twelve In Operation Back And Forth :

The initials of each clue (not the answer) is TST.


The solution to orange clues:

First orange rebus:

SKEWERED (a line to cross out food;)

Subtraction:

SKEWERED - SEWER = KED (3 letters)

Second orange rebus:

MULTIPLIED (MULTI=many + P + LIED = the x symbol)

Subtraction:

MULTIPLIED - TILED = MULPI (5 letters)

Third orange rebus:

Subtraction:

Fourth orange rebus:

Subtraction:

Fifth orange rebus:

Subtraction:

Sixth orange rebus:

LINEAR (L is in EAR; the letters are written in lines)

Subtraction:

LINEAR - IN (not sure) = LEAR (4 letters)


The solution to the green clue:


The solution to the blue crossword:
(Bold letters are the letters in the yellow cells)

..B.
ROOK
U.U.
S.N.
.EMIT.DOTPOINTS.
F...I.........O.
ANTICHRIST.H..N.
N.......E..EAT..
A..A
S..R
O..T
NAGS

The letters in yellow cells make:
SAN / ICHI / SHI / NI / ROKU / GO (from the original sequence of the boxes)
which is Japanese: ** 3 / 1 / 4 / 2 / 6 / 5 **.


The matching, according to the 4th black box:

CAUTION: The letters are for what I'm not sure about.
The same letters are for the same numbers.

XXX!XX
46a53b
35???4
a54b36
314265
123456


The solution to the purple boxes:

Box 1:

ETWTWO
OETHRN
EERFIE
SVUHVE
ISOITE
XVFEN?
The BOLD letters make ONETWOTHREEFOURFIVESIX.
The remaining letters make TWOTHREEFIVESEVEN?, which is for
ELEVEN.

Box 2:

HARLIE
EOTELX
TRLPHA
OMEOAL
ETOLFT
CHOERS
The BOLD letters make "(C)HARLIE" "(H)OTEL" "(A) LPHA" "(R)OMEO" "(G)OLF" "(E)CHO", words missing their first letters.
The extra letters make "EXTRA LETTERS".
So the answer is "CHARGE".

Box 3:

Box 4:

Box 5:

Box 6:


The final answer is:

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  • $\begingroup$ I can't access Google, so I have to solve them by myself. $\endgroup$ – Scratch---Cat Dec 17 '18 at 10:44

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