Fireball Contest — July 12, 2023

Grid: an hour; Meta: got a nudge 


Alex Eaton-Salners’ Fireball contest, “The the Fifth” — Conrad’s writeup

This month, we are asked, What five-letter word is hinted at by this puzzle?  There were four long horizontal entries:

  • [Natural process disturbed by industrial activity]: CARBONCYCLE
  • [Phishing hooks?]: SPAMEMAILS
  • [Kid rock?]: BIRTHSTONE
  • [Many a math class symbol]: GREEKLETTER

Two and a half of the apparent themers had an obvious fifth: Emerald is the fifth birthstone and epsilon is the fifth Greek letter. Then there’s CARBONCYCLE, which doesn’t quite fit. Boron is the fifth element, but two thematic entries described a group of things, and carbon is one element. TIL that the carbon cycle apparently has 4, 5, or 7 steps, depending on who you ask. I lingered in that rabbit hole for too long. SPAMEMAILS yielded nothing

Searching the rest of the grid: I spotted PLANET and wrote down Jupiter. I wrote down Thursday for the fifth DAY and Leonine for TAURINE. But nothing clicked. So I asked my friend Wendy for a nudge, and she got me on the right track. The themers had clue numbers that ended in five:

FB Contest – 07.12.2023 - Solution

FB Contest – 07.12.2023 – Solution

  • 5d: DAY -> THUR(S)DAY
  • 15a: PLANET -> JUPI(T)ER

The fifth letter of each thematic entry spell STEAL, our contest solution. This one felt a bit inelegant to me. It’s odd to have four long acrosses while only two were themers. CARBON was tough as well. I talked to a friend afterward, and he pointed out that STATE was clued as “Set forth”, unlike the thematic entries which were clued directly. Such as PLANET, clued as “Kashyyyk, for example” (a fictional planet). To my friend’s point: I didn’t have STATE in my notes (I spotted the others, plus some non-thematic friends). He also mentioned the odd-sized grid which had nothing to do with the meta. But: the meta was a 100%-er when you spotted it, and the 5’s in my notes were staring me in the face. So it was definitely solvable. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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4 Responses to Fireball Contest — July 12, 2023

  1. Paul+J+Coulter says:

    This was excellent. Well done, Alex. Not only five things of an ordinal nature, but an apt answer by taking the fifth letter of the fifth in a series for a meta titled “Taking the Fifth.” I didn’t even realize they occurred at 5, 15, 25, 35, 45 until I ordered them from my notes to find “steal.” This blew me away. It must have taken a lot of work to find a grid design and set allowing this symmetrically.
    My only quibble is that many would say that Friday is the fifth day, not Thursday. I had ATEAL on my first attempt. But anyone who got this far quickly changed Friday to Thursday, no doubt.

  2. Garrett says:

    Peter Gordon wrote, “Next, take the fifth letter of each item. In order, these letters spell STEAL, which is a five-letter synonym of “take” and the puzzle’s final answer.”

    I don’t understand the reference to “take.@

    • PJ says:

      I think it relates to the title of the puzzle, “Take the Fifth,” an iconic phrase.

    • BarbaraK says:

      It’s a USA thing. The fifth amendment to our constitution says you don’t have to testify against yourself. So people “Take the Fifth” when they refuse to answer questions about possible wrongdoing.

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