Spaghetti #5 and out

Voting took a big dive yesterday, which I think reflects my newfound view that this game is best played in small doses. Nonetheless, go and look at the entries from Dan Katz and Ucaoimhu (I have to look up how to spell that every single time). Both answers seem genuinely plausible. They tied on the voting, and I think that’s absolutely fine.

I promised we would play the game all this week, and despite the decreased enthusiasm, I am plunging ahead. Furthermore, I am turning the dial to 11 for this final day: SIX words, instead of five. I’ll be curious if that makes this easier or harder. You tell me.

Good luck! And thanks for a very entertaining week of wordplay.


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  1. JanglerNPL
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    The end of each word can be phonetically followed by a letter to (approximately) make a new word:


    Those letters can be rearranged to spell, aptly for the puzzle’s mechanism and for the last puzzle of the week, THE END.


  2. Kevin west
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    The answer is clearly “Borscht Belt”.

    The key is VELVETEEN, which anagrams to NEVELE VET.

    RIVERBOAT and CAST IRON both include the word TRIO. They make a sextet, and CAN BRAVE the audience together.

    Comedians were sometimes PUNSTERs.

    And it is IRONIC that they asked patrons to LINGER, tip the waitstaff, and try the veal.


  3. AmesGames
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Can I just point out that these first two solutions were posted within an hour of the original post?


  4. nancy coughlin
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Eric, Thanks so much for coming up with this fabulous game, and for putting these rounds together, and I really hope you’ll present the game again whenever you think best.

    Coincidentally, this exercise fits in remarkably well with my emerging, zennish belief that we all tend, individually or collectively, to create our own coincidences, and, thus, our own “meanings”–that so much of our experience of the world is like, say, staring up at a cloud formation and deciding it looks like a bunny.


  5. Posted October 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    This is making it much harder for me. Having said that, however, I have a slightly tangential query: are you sure these words are random? Have you gone public with your selection process? I only ask because these words all seem interesting to me, and I would expect a random selection to include more words like SET and PARA-AMINO BENZOIC ACID—that is, a mix of incredibly common dull words, and medical or technical terms no one much knows or uses. A random list of vaguely compelling words–like what we see here–actually seems like a BETTER idea than purely random words, since it presumably triggers the solving instinct, making it LOOK like a puzzle might actually exist. It’s the difference between a random sentence and a “plaindrome.”


  6. Posted October 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh, wait. Never mind. I saw your comment on Day Two. A 60,000 word source is a brilliant way to control against undue obscurity. Nice!


  7. Posted October 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    The answer is RUNNER.

    The clue here is that there are suddenly six words, and none of them are shorter than six letters long. Clearly, what’s being called for is a six-by-six lattice of letters. If you stack them in order:

    RIVERB (oat)
    PUNSTE (r)
    CASTIR (on)
    VELVET (een)

    There are 233 words you can get by choosing one letter from every column. But when you limit it to words that a.) take one letter from each source word, b.) are Scrabble-legal (no slang, no proper nouns) and c.) in the 60,000 word source dictionary, there is ONLY ONE ANSWER: RUNNER. (The other options are Vinnie, Renner, and pen nib)

    I should point out, by the way, that this takes a VERY LONG TIME to figure out if you don’t have programming skill. (I do not. I’ve been working at this ever since my last posting.) Also, I knew you stacked them from the front because, if you stack them from the end…

    (riv) ERBOAT
    (p) UNSTER
    (ca) STIRON
    (vel) VETEEN

    …the only matches are ENTREC, SENNAR, and SENNET, none of which are common, so that must be a dead end. Which is a shame, since stacking from the end would make a good argument for why we have the word VELVETEEN and not simply VELVET. I’m going to say it was a deliberate red herring.


  8. Posted October 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    The words can be matched in pairs (X, Y), where X is something Y becomes after removing letters; in order of increasing number of removed letters, VELVETEEN is a LINER (LINGER – G); CAST IRON is IRON (IRONIC – IC); and a RIVERBOAT is a PUNT (PUNSTER – S, ER). Reading the patterns of removed letters as Morse code gives the solution, ETA.

    As for the meta-meta (based on WEIRD, SLUR, EYE, ACETIC ACID, and ETA): The four distinct characters in the chemical formula for ACETIC ACID, CH3COOH, represent the other four words: H = ETA, O = EYE (by visual appearance) C = SLUR (a singly-curved line in music notation), and 3 = WEIRD (the only non-alphabetic character). If we list the words (with repeats) according to the formula, and take the diagonal (with wrap-around), we get:


    and if we STIR “EYA”, the only anagram (not merely reversal) that is a common word is the meta-meta answer, YEA.


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