Thursday, May 8, 2014

Avalanche (Puzzle No. 3,325)

Bangle singing with glee club
Some puzzles give you breakthroughs rather than the smooth solving experience of a good block cryptic.  If you remember Chem. 101, it’s the concept of activation energy.

This week I worked on solving several of the Cryptic All-Stars puzzles.  One of them was a John Forbes puzzle called “Wrap Sheet.”  Its answers are entered in the grid starting at the corresponding numbered square and then going in any direction: right, left, up, or down. 

The trick in this particular kind of puzzle is to fill in all the first letters you can get, and then use a process of elimination to get down to the only possible orientation for an answer.  You might have to work out 20 or 30 of the 50 or so clues before you can fill in even one word.  But once you have that first one, it can lead you to another one, and that one leads to a third, and pretty soon you have enough intersecting letters to start working out the remaining clues and finish the puzzle.  It can feel like an avalanche once it gets rolling. 

This is one of the reasons I post hints for some of the variety puzzles that come up in Sunday Brunch.  In the comments on those puzzles, you often see solvers asking for help because they don’t know where to start.  Once they get that toehold, they get the reward of seeing the pieces fall into place, and maybe they’ll be hooked. 

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): Hard, especially if you aren’t familiar with some of the uncommon types of wordplay Hot and Trazom like. 

Hozom’s comment: “How Hard Can It Be?” in which Hot and Trazom ask a crossword blogger to explain how he rates each puzzle as hard or easy.
Themework: see 29d.  I actually forgot about the theme until after I had finished all the theme entries.  

Back with the solution and annotation Monday.  Make sure you try and work out all the wordplay in this one in the meantime.   

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