In a twist on consonant sameness, each clue leads to a pair of words that swap their vowels to reveal a common phrase.


The clue

Latest, forested (6, 5)

has solution

latter, treed $\longrightarrow$ letter trade


latter, treed = lttr + ae, trd + ee
letter, trade = lttr + ee, trd + ae.

Note that the sequences of consonants and vowels each maintain their order but may be combined in a different way. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of letters in each clued word (latter, treed); unlike in this example, the words in the answer phrase (letter, trade) may have different numbers of letters, if the number of vowels in each word differs.


  1. Annoy, squad (4, 4)
  2. Cheers, journey (6, 4)
  3. Drum, ambiences (5, 5)
  4. Mushrooms, woman (5, 3)
  5. Overacts, reduced (4, 3)
  6. Skin, active (4, 4)
  7. Sugary, listens (3, 5)
  8. Thug, rind (4, 4)
  9. Yearn, disadvantage (4, 3)

Clarification: In this puzzle, the vowels are only the standard a, e, i, o, and u; every other letter is considered a consonant.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So the clues are only used to find half of the solution, then the complete solution is "dealer's choice"? $\endgroup$ – Ian MacDonald May 22 '18 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald I'm not sure what this refers to. Is it the fact that there are multiple ways the consonants and vowels can recombine in each word? $\endgroup$ – noedne May 22 '18 at 15:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It just feels like a partial puzzle. The clues and letter counts offer a path to the left-hand words, but there's no motivation for any of the right-hand words aside from "these words work, I guess". I understand the hesitation in making the clues also descriptive of the RHS, but without something pointing at a "right answer", it just feels unsatisfying. $\endgroup$ – Ian MacDonald May 22 '18 at 16:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald Ah, I see. I agree, and while planning I had clues for the final answers as well but then worried about backsolving eliminating the need for the vowel swap gimmick. Then I considered writing vague tangential clues for the RHS that would only make sense in the context of the answer, but that was also a little unsatisfactory because it just felt like poor cluing. Definitely something to think about in the future. Thanks for the feedback! $\endgroup$ – noedne May 22 '18 at 18:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald I disagree. The right hand side is what makes it a complete puzzle. Yes, as we saw, what qualifies as a "common phrase" is a bit subjective. But I think noedne did a great job of picking words where, when you get the answer, you get that satisfying feeling of knowing that you got it correct. That's how I felt for each one I completed anyway, and when I saw the answers that others found. Just my 2 cents $\endgroup$ – ferret May 23 '18 at 19:49

#9 I think is a trick question, which is appropriate since it was the last one.

1. Annoy, squad $\implies$ rile, team $\implies$ real time
2. Cheers, journey $\implies$ elates, tour $\implies$ lotus-eater (solved by ManyPinkHats)
3. Drum, ambiences $\implies$ tabla, auras $\implies$ tabula rasa
4. Mushrooms, woman $\implies$ fungi, she $\implies$ feng shui
5. Overacts, reduced $\implies$ hams, low $\implies$ Ohm’s law
6. Skin, active $\implies$ flay, spry $\implies$ fly spray (solved by hagfy)
7. Sugary, listens $\implies$ -ose (suffix), hears $\implies$ sea horse
8. Thug, rind $\implies$ goon, peel $\implies$ gene pool
9. Yearn, disadvantage $\implies$ long, con $\implies$ long con

  • $\begingroup$ Great job so far, just a couple more! $\endgroup$ – noedne Apr 29 '18 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ @noedne pretty stumped on the last 2 :( $\endgroup$ – ferret Apr 30 '18 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ @noedne added a guess for #7 $\endgroup$ – ferret May 19 '18 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ An interesting try for #6, albeit with an obscure answer phrase. As I should have clarified in the question, I am considering all letters other than the standard $5$ vowels as consonants, regardless of usage in specific words. Your interpretation was also reasonable given that y is used as a vowel in these two words. I appreciate the continued effort on this puzzle! I am usually reluctant to add hints, but perhaps it is time to add one. $\endgroup$ – noedne May 19 '18 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ I bet that journey translates to “rot13>gevc” in puzzle two, if that helps. $\endgroup$ – Sean May 22 '18 at 13:55

A guess for #2: Cheers, journey (6, 4)

ELATES, TOUR $\implies$ lotus-eater

  • $\begingroup$ Argh, I never came up with your first word. I think you got it...nice work! $\endgroup$ – hagfy May 23 '18 at 19:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I came up with both of those words separately, but never together :'( $\endgroup$ – ferret May 23 '18 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ You got the last one! All of you deserve +1 for getting some really tricky answers, and @ferret will get the tick for solving the majority of the clues, probably after editing in the two other contributions for sake of completeness. $\endgroup$ – noedne May 23 '18 at 21:30

6) Skin, active (4, 4):

Flay, Spry $\implies$ Fly Spray

Still stuck on #2, but I really want to know what it is, so here are a couple ideas I've come up with:

WHOOPs, Trip $\implies$ Whips Troop (some kind of soldier who uses whips?)
Proost, Ride $\implies$ Priest Rood (barrier in a church that blocks the priest from view?)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Correct! I was under the impression that this was a common phrase, but I could very well have been mistaken. Apologies for the artificial difficulty if that was the case! $\endgroup$ – noedne May 21 '18 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ Oh wow, cool! It very well could be a common phrase, but I just don't hang out in the right circles. =D I really just wasn't sure if it fit what you were looking for. Now let's get #2 answered! $\endgroup$ – hagfy May 22 '18 at 11:34

I think I got #2

Thanks, trip -> Thinks, trap

  • $\begingroup$ Good try, but the answer should be a common phrase :) $\endgroup$ – noedne Apr 29 '18 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I see now. Missed that part. $\endgroup$ – Riley Apr 29 '18 at 3:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No worries, the example was probably slightly misleading as "letter trade" is not a common phrase, but I wanted something thematic. $\endgroup$ – noedne Apr 29 '18 at 4:01

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