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Variety Cryptic: Digital Dexterity

· By JWords · Published 2024-01-21T19:00:31.915Z

Constructor's Note
The solutions to fifteen clues contain a portion which must undergo a digital transformation before entry into the grid. The unclued 25A gives a further hint towards what process the solver must undertake for these transformations. The first letters of these fifteen clues, when taken in an appropriate order (across before down where it is ambiguous), will reveal what game is being played in the completed grid.
Here's my first variety puzzle! I think the special rule is really interesting, and though final hidden message might be a slightly niche reference it is not required for solving the puzzle and is just a bonus. Hope you enjoy!
Small hint: The solutions to the thematic clues are all longer than their grid entry.
Medium hint: The transformations in the thematic clues condense a portion of the solution into one cell. The rebus function is not required for this puzzle.
Large hint: Ten cells do not contain a letter.
Checking for previous play data...


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  • Hector 🤓52:25 · 2024-01-21T22:21:17.849Z
    That was fun! Thank you.
    • JWords constructor · 2024-01-21T23:03:01.544Z
      Thanks for solving!
    • Aaron Riccio 38:10 · 2024-01-22T15:12:26.413Z
      Plonked the theme quick from what 6A had to be, but was ultimately stuck by some words I just didn't know (16D, I think is C+mARRy+E+/for/, not sure where the first letter comes from) and some tough parses/definitions (like the deceptive 24D, which I think is NE for "upright on a map" and maybe also somehow a double def for "not"?). That's more to do with me than anything with your cluing though, which I thought was ultimately tough but fair, and more importantly, fun. (Like, the definition E'ER for "incessantly" without any poetic qualification is hard!) I'll keep noodling on 12A (I thought it was removing artist RA, but I'd then be looking for proportions for RATIOS), 20A (somehow w->FR in weight?), 39A, 30D, etc.
      I really loved 15A, 33A, and 35A!
      • JWords constructor · 2024-01-22T18:05:52.270Z
        Thanks so much for the really useful feedback! This was the first time I constructed a barred grid of this size and although I'm mostly happy with the fill there are certainly some words that leave a bit to be desired, plus too many 3-letter words. Also, some of the thematic answers were obscure by necessity, which isn't ideal. THREEPS, for example, is the only word in Chambers (along with its variants) containing 'three' which isn't a reference to the number (like, say, threefold). Although I'm aware I couldn't totally avoid number references.
        I'm glad to clear up the clues you've mentioned:
        16D: That's the correct parse, C=caught, which all the other wordplay elements 'neighbour.'
        24D: Correct parse again, 'not' is the definition (per Chambers) but could probably use an obsolescence qualifier, and 'upright on a map' is the cryptic second definition.
        Re EER: I agree, that's a really tough definition. My thinking was that the wordplay was simple enough to even it out, but perhaps it needs an adjustment. Also, this answer (along with NE) is totally checked in the grid, which I used to justify tougher clues — perhaps wrongly.
        12A: That's the correct parse, just the S comes from 'South'. (RA)TIO+S.
        20A: 'for' with its essential part withheld, and 'weight' losing W=with. F(O)R+(W)EIGHT. Looking back, that first part is definitely not fair to the solver, so I'll probably edit this one.
        39A: Take time=T off GET STEVEN (ref: Steven King). GET+S(T)EVEN. I really like the surface here, but the wordplay is super tough, especially considering the last 5 letters are effectively unchecked other than by the gimmick. Hmm.
        30D: THRE(AD)+EPS
        Thanks again, next time I attempt a puzzle of this scale I'll try to find some test solvers to iron out the wrinkles!
        • Aaron Riccio 38:10 · 2024-01-22T19:44:56.698Z
          30D is totally fair in wordplay, just a word I didn't know (as you acknowledge from the dense constraints). Are 39A, I agree that the surface is nice, but the author is STEPHEN, not STEVEN; I don't think I've ever seen his name spelled the way you need it.
          You might get a kick out of this recent variety cryptic if you haven't seen it:
          BTW, just in case it's not clear, I admire everything you were doing here. Cryptics are very hard to write, and variety puzzles are even tougher. I streamed six different ones last week (including the WSJ one linked above) and it helped me get clarity on personal pain points.
          • JWords constructor · 2024-01-22T22:58:33.263Z
            39A: Whoops, that is embarrassing!! Thanks for pointing it out, will change that clue. Will be a good opportunity to make it a bit fairer too.
            Thanks for the puzzle recommendation, will definitely check it out! The only American cryptics I’ve really touched so far have been on this site, having stuck to British papers for published cryptics, so will be interesting to see the differences!
            And don’t worry, I didn’t think you were being negative at all. I am still pretty new to setting and your feedback is totally fair and useful. Thanks!
      She delivers maps, now, to get about the place
      1. 1A
        She delivers maps, now, to get about the place
      2. 6A
        The heart follows boundless hazes and decay. Warcraft happens here
      3. 10A
        Before start of Friday, I've taken drugs at smack-up? (2 wds.)
      4. 12A
        Artist taken out of proportion by South Peruvian uncles?
      5. 14A
        Take to court, perhaps, to move latest in tennis exercise
      6. 15A
        Going out out, dismiss flapper commanding a hefty bill
      7. 17A
        Extremists in Saudi troupe took ten hostage and succeeded in fencing guard positions
      8. 20A
        Withholding centre in for weight with lost cargo
      9. 21A
        This setter backs the leaders before the people
      10. 23A
        Greek character penning in large mammal
      11. 25A
        [Unclued — see preamble]
      12. 26A
        Awkward loner ousts trousers
      13. 27A
        State but a "hello" in part
      14. 28A
        Earl's scratching his head incessantly
      15. 32A
        United in enigmatic ire for man who transformed many functions of mathematics?
      16. 33A
        Breathing bothers choking spaceman, having lost cadmium casing
      17. 35A
        Half the French dance in May
      18. 37A
        Gets down drink in piss-up
      19. 38A
        Build up in mouth that might precede echo?
      20. 39A
        Revenges don’t start revenge with ends of spirit levels? (2 wds.)*
      21. 40A
        Nicked intricate lock — Ennis distracted focus of locksmith's intelligence
      1. 2D
        Accepts vodkas — that's not odd
      2. 3D
        That man's cycling with that woman
      3. 4D
        Magnesia Mile's first events in Greece Olympics (abbr.)
      4. 5D
        Excuse me for a-droning or showing signs of a poor public speaker!
      5. 7D
        Head towards inn, needing last drop after having nothing (2 wds.)
      6. 8D
        Rout out military deployment
      7. 9D
        Those who hammer out differing opinions of value negotiate saucier tone
      8. 11D
        Couple's sex appeal turns me!
      9. 12D
        Bill's key strap
      10. 13D
        Abrupt aristo and duke going after Bob for display of digital dexterity (3 wds.)
      11. 16D
        Marry naked belle at last, calling out for neighbour caught in a crossroads
      12. 18D
        High note hitter, ultimately?
      13. 19D
        Strongman cultivated mass with Ultimate Macho Protein
      14. 20D
        Sound note in musical strain (var.)
      15. 22D
        What this puzzle doesn't quite reach in intensity?
      16. 24D
        Not upright on a map?
      17. 25D
        Sound of hesitation from the woman in Hackney?
      18. 27D
        Scottish island? You first
      19. 29D
        Top coming off in spooky lake
      20. 30D
        No advertising found in String records Glaswegian rebukes
      21. 31D
        Lurch up and lecherously look
      22. 33D
        Tap dancing to get fit
      23. 34D
        Like forward, or back (2 wds.)
      24. 35D
        Gnasher's theme ends up removed from Dennis the Menace comic
      25. 36D
        Hidden within flab... stomach muscles?