Authors: Kevin Lin, Max Chang
The flavor text gives a rough overview of the order of things to do. First, we need to figure out what to add, then what to subtract, and finally identify what’s equal.
First, to add, these passages are a crossword-style clue, but are missing words/phrases in the form of printer’s devilry. For each passage, two elements of some ordered set have been removed, sometimes broken up into multiple parts. The clues with the phrases added back in and the answers are shown below:
|Full Clue||Clue Answer|
|The creature who’d clai[m a y]outh or 14 as tribute, from a civilization with figures fro[m arch]er Paris to the Medusa. (8)||MINOTAUR|
|On certain shows, this is a person whose ef[fort y]ields m[one]y if they do well. (10)||CONTESTANT|
|Feeling captured in one's reaction to a pile of ma[nu]re, perhaps, or anything one may quite loa[the ta]king in. (7)||DISGUST|
|Especially if you disc[uss elect]ions, this northern populo[us sta]te with two parts is a must-win on an express cale[ndar d]ay every four years. (8)||MICHIGAN|
|Some particular now-obsolete TVs and neon lights are in[venti]ons that use this state, which is most relevant in aca[demi]c subfields of physics. (6)||PLASMA|
|Within a period of time containing things like the [Mars]hall Plan, the placement of several of this projectile n[ear th]e US, in Cuba, tested international relations. (7)||MISSILE|
|In order to trun[cat]e the time spent making, for example, an impressive [cher]ry pie, ramp up the oven with this action to warm u[p it]s machinery before putting in the loved or [cher]ished pastry. (7)||PREHEAT|
|Particular target of affection that the singer ha[s wan]ted, but lost in a darlin[g old]en tune; it's a relative of a manda[rin g]iven as a snack. (10)||CLEMENTINE|
|A role that plays [a pa]rt in wha[t ite]ms on the agenda are enacted, can make things harder to pass with a veto, and typically resides in the capi[tal c]ity of their state. (8)||GOVERNOR|
The two things that have been removed are part of an ordered set, and are given in order of the element with larger associated index first. To subtract these, we find the element of the set associated with the difference between their two indices:
|Set||Elements Added to Clue||Element Indices||Index Difference||Difference Set Element||Clue Answer||Overlapping Letter|
|USDA grades of beef(*)||US SELECT/US STANDARD||6/5||1||USCANNER||MICHIGAN||C|
|Starbucks cup sizes||VENTI/DEMI||5/1||4||GRANDE||PLASMA||A|
|12 Days of Christmas Items||SWAN/GOLD RING||7/5||2||TURTLEDOVE||CLEMENTINE||E|
|Mohs Scale of Hardness Materials||APATITE/TALC||5/1||4||FLUORITE||GOVERNOR||R|
(*): Lists for USDA grades of beef online tend to number the best grade, US Prime, as 1, but the reverse numbering is used primarily for the sinful step - ideally, the other clues listing the higher indexed element first should clue that the order for this uses the lowest grade beef, US Canner, as 1.
Finally, we want to check what’s equal. Comparing the resulting elements from the differences step to the answers of the original clues, we see they are the same length and share exactly one letter at the same position. Extracting this letter, we get the answer phrase ANSCAMPER, which gives us our answer, CAMPER.
The associated sin with this puzzle is greed, which tells us to use the best or last element instead of any old element. Thus we identify and use these elements instead of the difference elements we used previously:
|Set||Original Difference Element||Best Element||Clue Answer||Overlapping Letter|
|USDA grades of beef||USCANNER||USPRIME||MICHIGAN||I|
|Starbucks cup sizes||GRANDE||TRENTA||PLASMA||A|
|12 Days of Christmas Items||TURTLEDOVE||DRUMMER||CLEMENTINE||M|
|Mohs Scale of Hardness Materials||FLUORITE||DIAMOND||GOVERNOR||N|
(**): Loosely, as this doesn’t hold up mathematically, but there’s only one thing that makes sense as the last element of this set.
We proceed as we did in the original solve and identify the letter that is the same at the same position, namely R, T, G, I, A, E, H, M, and N. If we sort these alphabetically by the clues, this gives us our sinful answer, NIGHTMARE.
This puzzle originally was to be a mathematical optimization puzzle (to optimize for the general good vs being selfish/greedy), but it was difficult to have a second hidden sinful solvepath that wasn’t obvious or easy to stumble upon, as selfish optimization seems like a pretty reasonable thing to try.
The original idea of breaking down printer’s devilry into smaller parts came from the 2009 Mystery Hunt puzzle pluHarmony, but bigrams were way too difficult to solve for in initial playtests, so larger chunks were used instead.
It was much harder than I originally thought to think of good ordered sets - many common ones can be interpreted in multiple ways as multiple potential sets or with some optional elements, unfortunately.