Deceptive Diagramless

Note: You will probably want some form of graph paper, square paper, crossword-constructing program, spreadsheet software, or some tool for inputting things into a grid to solve this. A blank 25x25 grid has been provided for convenience, but this does not imply that the size of the grid is 25x25; the size of the grid is for the solver to determine.

The answer is a single word, thematic to the puzzle.

Many thanks to Deusovi, mathgrant, Mad Jaqk, Projectyl, and ExtraTricky for testsolving this.

ERRATUM: At 19/04/2018, 08:35, the clues 17A, 34A and 1D were amended, as an earlier version of the puzzle was uploaded by accident. Your progress should not have been affected.

ACROSS:
1 Make dark mountain hold deficiency
4 Environment Secretary meeting with nurse, or politician?
7 Save money for a radio
9 Papers for chart in steel amalgamate
10 I taunt lad; it breaks down, feeling related
12 Boba to wiretap iocaine smuggler
14 Laved due, unfortunately, went down in price
15 Froth from sclera fluid
17 Poetry menace Cyril
18 Opening found in print roller
20 Reminder of right speed, in hindsight
22 Snitches, captured: point values?
24 Later, behind protections
26 Repairs what we hear mongrel destroys
27 Chaos from left changing direction, amidst yen collapse
29 Hero-destroyed clothing: wear it
30 For example, Snapchat collage? Ideal mosaic! (2 wds)
32 Incorrectly label ricin as "glitter"
34 Outlines of pruned shrubs
36 Tool on German submarine? Silent? Worrisome

DOWN:
1 Two nibbles by the heartless
2 Speed up treacle ace? Difficult
3 Student ran tirelessly, hid contestant
4 Germanic people, rating, shot wildly
5 Unpredictably, Eric ate rodent companion
6 Circuit's gate with some data
7 King or Queen in mix-up, slain? That's murder, for one (2 wds)
8 Foreshadowed queen of the gods led five-hundred within
11 Newer hay, tossed around, is in every place
13 Phone a friend who's a clown, maybe?
14 Sensitive operator #99 had lunch, for example
16 Draws anti-tank plots
19 The Reverend reports a patchwork car near the pavement
21 Understands rises
23 Basically, the Spanish sent me all year
24 Chocolate bar's ultra-erotic contents
25 Large pipes swat airmen in battle (2 wds)
26 Comforted criminal put bottom on shoe
28 Cry loudly, "Why, behead the moral traitor!" (2 wds)
31 Length of weather office's reply
33 Prison square

• (if you want to collaborate, docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/… ) – Quintec Apr 19 '18 at 2:23
• Just to check but the numbering follows standard crossword numbering, right? I.e. 1 is the highest, most top left square? – Veskah Apr 19 '18 at 3:09
• Yes, the numbering is as in a standard crossword, with 1 being the leftmost square on the top row that starts an entry, 2 being the next leftmost square on the top row that starts an entry, and so on. – edderiofer Apr 19 '18 at 3:21

Solved in chat by Alconja, Ankoganit, ffao, Sid, thecoder16 (and possibly others I'm forgetting).

The solutions to the cryptic clues are:

Across:
1 B(LACK)EN
4 GOVE+RN+OR
7 CACHE (homophone of CASH)
9 TELE(GRAPH)S*
10 (ATTITUDINAL)*
11 ANGER (anag. of ENRAG(-e))
12 _TAPIOCA_
14 (DEVALUED)*
15 WHITE+WATER
17 (LYRIC)*
18 _INTRO_
20 R+ECAP<
22 RAT(E)S
24 AFTER+WARDS
26 CORRECTS (homophone of CUR WRECKS)
27 EN(TROP<)Y*
30 (SOCIAL MEDIA)*
32 (BRILLIANCE)*
34 (-h)EDGES
35 REPL(-a)YING
36 U+(TENSIL)*
Down:
1 BYT(-h)E
2 (ACCELERATE)*
3 _ENTRANT_
4 G+(OTHS)*
5 ER(RAT)IC+ALLY
6 OR+BIT
7 CARD+IN+(AL SIN)*
8 HERA+L(D)ED
11 (ANYWHERE)*
13 PIER (homophone of PEER)
14 DEL+IC+ATE
16 AT+TRACTS
21 APPRECIATES ddef.
23 ES+SENT+I+ALL+Y
24 _AERO_
25 (WATER MAINS)*
26 CON+SOLED
28 Y+(-s)ELLOUT
31 MET+RE
32 B+RING
33 CELL ddef.


However, trying to fit these in a grid, we quickly run into trouble. The trick is that

The cells at the intersection of an odd-numbered row and an odd-numbered column (numbered from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, 1-based indexing) contain two letter each, unless it's on the main diagonal. Using this rule, we can the fill the grid as follows:

Now we can find the final answer by

reading along the main diagonal, which says BETRAYAL, which is thematic, because the letters are literally "double-crossing".

• Very well done! I'm not going to mark it as solved just yet as there are two minor things that need answering: the explanation for ANGER and why the final answer is thematic. – edderiofer Apr 21 '18 at 14:51
• @edderiofer - is it betrayal simply because the odd squares each had a pair of letters, but one of each pair on the diagonal betrayed/killed off the other, leaving only one? – Alconja Apr 22 '18 at 23:12
• Not quite, but you're on the right track with it being related to the two letters per square mechanic. – edderiofer Apr 23 '18 at 20:55
• @edderiofer made an edit. – Ankoganit Apr 24 '18 at 3:01
• Yep, that's exactly the right reason! Marked as solved now. (Apologies for the pun.) – edderiofer Apr 24 '18 at 21:08

Wrap-up: the making of Deceptive Diagramless

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 contains spoilers!

The idea for this puzzle was inspired by a bunch of variety cryptics in the Jaw-Dropping Puzzles article written by TMCAY. The puzzles in question had some cells that each contained multiple letters (rebuses), and (not liking how constrained barrred cryptics are) I wondered if I could make a rebus cryptic with a British grid. I then hit upon the idea of making each crossing cell have two letters.

My first attempt looked like this: image

The fill I chose unfortunately wasn't great, and I was half-asleep when I wrote some of the clues. Further, I didn't immediately have a way to extract a final answer. All in all, when Deusovi tested this, he had great issue with it.

So, after brainstorming how to fit a final answer, I decided to go with "some crossing cells are only single-letters, which spell out the answer". (Trying other things, like "making only some cells be double-crossing and spell out the answer" just made it impossible for me to find a suitable answer and fill the grid still.) Given that we had a grid with lots of double-crossings, it made sense that the answer should be BETRAYAL, which also fit a 15x15 grid perfectly on the diagonal.

I booted up QXW and inputted all the constraints. Instead of using the UKACD18, which often gave me ridiculously obscure words, I used 12dicts instead, and manually weeded out the American spellings because I'm in the UK and I wanted revenge on all the Americanisms used in variety cryptics. This is also the reason you see Britishisms like B(LACK)EN, GOVE + RN + OR, and MET + RE. I also hate clues that refer to singers or actors or sports or other types of pop culture, so I made sure to get my revenge by referring to academic subjects (e.g. BRING, DEL+IC+ATE, BY+T_E).

I then used the autofill for a few recommendations before manually working my way through the grid. The top right corner of the grid gave me the hardest trouble, but in the end I went for CARDINAL SIN instead of whatever the other alternative was, and got a reasonably-cluable grid.

Then I wrote the clues, and passed it to Deusovi for testing. As he often does, he pointed out the iffy clues which I updated. But then I wondered, "He already knows about the mechanic from when he tested the first attempt. What if I were to give it to someone else? And I need to make sure the gimmick of double-crossing isn't too easily-spotted. I know, I won't give enumerations, and I probably won't give the grid either so that it's not easy to spot what's going on for a while."

Thus I made the cryptic a diagramless enumerationless cryptic, and sent it off to Mad Jaqk for testing. He pointed out that I should probably add in the "(2 wds.)" tags to make it a bit more fair, so I did. He identified the red herring CHAIN LETTERS for 9A, but didn't put it into the grid because 9A did not have a "(2 wds.)" tag. He ended up getting the answer within a reasonable amount of time.

Next, I sent it off to Grant to test. He unfortunately didn't fare so well, not even spotting the gimmick and giving up after solving about half of the clues and not being able to slot them all together.

The next tester I sent it off to was ExtraTricky. He also didn't fare too well; he found the gimmick but couldn't solve as many clues as would have been useful.

The last tester I sent it off to was Projectyl. He blazed through the whole thing in under 90 minutes, and at that point I knew the puzzle was fair for a team solve (as Projectyl often enters puzzlehunts as a single solver) and wasn't too ridiculous. He also said that it was an overall enjoyable solve, so at this point I decided to publish it.

Unfortunately, it seems some of the earlier clues managed to slip back in. Thankfully it seems nobody had much trouble with them. Also, "23D Basically, the Spanish sent me all year" didn't work as well as I'd wanted it to ("the" in Spanish is "el", not "es"; "es" is "is") but was saved by the fact that ES happens to be the 2-letter code for Spanish. Oh well, I'm sure I can catch these things next time.

I would like some feedback on this puzzle. Which clues were your favourite? Which clues did you dislike, or think were unfair (barring the ones I've mentioned)? How was the gimmick? And so on.

• I won't say Favourite, but BRING was downright evil. – Sid Apr 30 '18 at 6:41
• Hehehe. Knew that one would be evil, but I went for it anyway. >:D – edderiofer Apr 30 '18 at 6:59
• I've never used QXW (here I am, hand crafting my crosswords like a chump) and am going to be lazy and ask the question before even googling... Is it hard to configure to handle such non-standard constraints? (awesome puzzle btw) – Alconja Apr 30 '18 at 11:20
• No, it wasn't too hard to configure it for this one at all. To allow multiple letters in a cell, select a cell and press CTRL+I; then type in ".." for a cell that allows two letters, "..." for three, and so on, or "*" for any number of letters. You can also configure QXW to have lines that don't go horizontally by adding lights manually. QXW has a manual that explains things. – edderiofer Apr 30 '18 at 15:35