As promised a couple weeks back, today we present Tom Toce's extremely clever and very challenging word puzzle composed mostly of cryptic clues and a few straight-up anagrams. If you're just joining the fun, check out my last two Word Wraps to get up to speed.
I'm going to turn the floor over to Tom Toce now, but before I do, let me just wish all of you luck in solving this. First person to figure out which three words fit in the diagram below and slap "˜em down in the comments, along with an explanation of how you arrived at the answer (including how you solved the cryptic clues!) gets a copy of the mental_floss book, Instant Knowledge. May the best Wordie win!
Check out the clues after the jump...
Below are five groups of clues. Solving them produces a six-letter word, a five-letter word, a four-letter word, and a three-letter word for each group. Within a group, the six-letter word comprises all five letters of the five-letter word, which comprises all four letters of the four-letter word, which—guess what?—comprises all three letters of the three-letter word.
For example, one group's clues might lead to BUTANE, BEAUT, TUBE, and BUT. The extraneous letters (i.e. the N from BUTANE "“ BEAUT, the A from BEAUT "“ TUBE, and the E from TUBE "“ BUT) go into the diagram above.
An anagram of the extraneous letters from group one fill the top row and make a new five-letter word. An anagram of the extraneous letters from group two will have one repeated letter. Delete the repeated letter, scramble, and make a new four-letter word for row two. An anagram of the extraneous letters from group three will have two repeated letters; delete them, scramble, and get a new three-letter word for row three.
Along with the N from the example above, the other 6-5 letters might be E-R-E-V, allowing you to make NEVER (NERVE, too, but never mind NERVE for now, the actual five letters can produce only one word). If the 5-4 letters were K-P-I-S-P, you could make SKIP by omitting the second P. And if the 4-3 letters were I-I-E-P-E, you could similarly make PIE and enter NEVER SKIP PIE into the diagram, for example.
Hint: The actual completed diagram will be another useful (mental) health tip. Another hint: Ignore punctuation, which is intended to mislead. Yet another hint: Well, ignore punctuation except if a clue has a final exclamation point (!), which by cryptic clue convention signals an "&Lit" type of clue. If you don't know what an &Lit clue is, you can still do okay, but you might want to review David's intro and follow a link or two. An incredible hint: because this is the first time a cryptic puzzle has appeared here: The answer to the first clue is "Els." If you don't see why, you probably need to review the general cryptic clue rules again.
U. S. Open champ trains (3)
A great offer to travel smoothly in the Sound (4)
Mosh alert! At its core is soft rock (5)
No good comes from halogens' eerie glows (6)
A tree grows in Belmar (3)
The doctor, full of himself, said in Spanish, "Show your cards" (4)
The top prize? Stick your nose in to the auditorium (5)
One often in distress led Sam astray (6)
Berkowitz's father? Or Uncle? (3)
Former giant department store! (4)
Typical teacher's comment sounds pretty lurid (5)
Contemptibly small and red (6)
Famous Norwegian golf position (3)
Yodeling in the middle of Zabar's (4)
Even characters in Neil's indies leave something out (5)
Fielder runs out foul to foul (6)
That woman is Zeus's main squeeze, for the most part (3)
Detect strains audibly at this position (4)
A second note, alas, to the Germans is the most that can be accomplished (5)
Guevara, man, said this might happen after a shot (6)
Check out all past Weekend Word Wraps here.