There is a story, much loved by grammar teachers, about a man who sent his agent to Europe to inspect a villa. The agent cabled back, “ASKING PRICE ONE MILLION DOLLARS AWAITING FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.” The potential buyer was scandalized at the cost and wired his man accordingly. Unfortunately, he was not very good at punctuation, so his absolute refusal came through as the title line on this page. The agent bought the villa.

At this juncture the English teacher points out that a forgotten comma can cost a lot of money, and moves on to the next example (usually “Let’s eat Mother. I’m hungry.”). If the teacher and students could only hang in there for another year or so, they would catch the real denouement when the hapless buyer sells the same leaky, rotting habitation for twice what he paid. For more on the subject, solve away.


To solve the puzzle, first fill in the numbered blanks of any clues you can decipher. As an aid to the solver, the clue answers are in alphabetical order so that, for instance, the answer “Dallas” would precede the answer “Dalliance. Each time you fill a clue blank, transfer the letters to the correspondingly numbered blanks in the message. Each message blank is characterized by a letter as well as a number – the letter indicates which clue the blank is to be filled from. Even with a very few clues filled in, you will begin to see words and phrases take shape in the message. Use word lengths, arrangement, and punctuation to help in deciphering the message. Work back and forth, from clues to message and from message to clues, until the puzzle is completed.

Each clue indicates the answer in more than one way. In addition to straightforward definitions, clues may also contain puns, plays on words, anagrams (“The ability to lead people in confusion is a charm” – CHARISMA), or embedded spellings (“How it zeroes in distinguishes a cannon”). Another common type of clue is word construction, where the answer is built of component parts. Example: “American leader required identification in gift” (PRESIDENT = I.D. inside PRESENT). All abbreviations are acceptable as long as they are in current usage (e.g., TV, p.d.q., etc.). Isolated letters may be indicated in a variety of ways – as compass points. Roman numerals, grades or scores (A, F, “zero” = O, “love” as in tennis = O), musical notations (P, F for soft or loud respectively). Parts of words may be used (IVE or just V might be indicated by Mid-wIVEs”).

The one paramount rule is that the clue sentence, with a little repunctuation, will tell exactly how to get the answer.

Hint: The clues contain two proper names.

Send the completed puzzle (or reasonable facsimile) to Puzzling, D Magazine, 2902 Carlisle, Dallas 75204. All correct solutions will be held for one week after receipt of the first entry, at which time a drawing will take place to determine the winners. First winner will receive a $25 cash prize. Runner-up will receive a free one-year subscription to D. Winners and completed puzzle will appear in the August issue.


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