The Nation cryptic, like most crossword puzzles, is a self-contained form of entertainment. Solve all the clues, and your reward is a completed grid and the opportunity to go read a book or take a walk.
But what about those occasions when solving one puzzle only piques your desire for more? What you want then is a suite of interrelated puzzles, with each solution feeding into the next in an extended network of enigmatic challenges. What you want is a puzzle extravaganza.
And you’re not alone. That desire—for connectivity, for narrative, for puzzles that do more than simply stand alone—has become increasingly marked in the puzzle world in recent years, and constructors have been expending more effort into the creation of large, multi-puzzle structures.
The terminology for such projects is fluid. In a publication like the old Games or the recently arrived Will Shortz’s Wordplay, you might see one referred to as a “suite” of puzzles. At the Equinox Party, the biennial wordplay shindig we’ve been helping organize in Berkeley for thirty years, the term “megagame” has often been in common use because it refers to something larger than a single puzzle (it also has other pleasing properties, as you can see if you divide the word in half).
But whatever you call it, the chance to extend the solving process beyond a single puzzle is a welcome one. The annual convention of the National Puzzlers’ League usually comes to a climax with a Saturday night puzzle extravaganza, packed with a dozen or more individual puzzles that all combine to form a final solution of some kind. (In light of that sort of bounty, the more modest Berkeley “megagames” have often been termed “miniganzas.” Everything is relative!) This weekend, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the annual ritual of the MIT Mystery Hunt—the biggest and most ferocious of all multi-puzzle constructs, with dozens upon dozens of puzzles crammed into a breathless and sleep-deprived seventy-two hours.
And whatever the scale of the undertaking, the underlying idea remains constant: the solution to one puzzle becomes the premise for the next one, either serially or in combination. It’s a way of multiplying the Puzzle Pleasure Principle, and forestalling for as long as possible that deflating moment when all the mysteries and riddles have been solved, and life seems momentarily stripped of its magic.
This week’s cluing challenge: MULTIPLE. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen. And now, four links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines | PDF
• Our e-books (solve past puzzles on your iOS device—many hints provided by the software!)
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where every one of our clues is explained in detail. This is also where you can post quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle, as well as ask for hints.