Rackenfracker #4: Calculating Route

You're gonna need a GPS (Good-natured Puzzle Sense).

Lots of things affect the difficulty of a puzzle—the clues; the grid size; the words chosen for the answers; and, in a variety cryptic, the gimmick—and we are still learning to be good estimators of how tough a particular crossword is going to be.

So on the one hand, we’d like to say this one’s on the easier side — it’s only a 7×7 grid! it’s only got 15 clues! — but such affirmations only remind us of our friend John …

… so maybe we shouldn’t make promises.

(“Wait, if it’s a 7×7 grid with no black squares, then how can it have 15 clues?”)

Our editor for this outing is Juff, a constructor who’s been solving for 30 years and has their own puzzle blog with lively ideas and clever themes. We were also invaluably helped by VraieAmy, who stans the Maryland flag and apprenticed on this puzzle. Many thanks to them both. (We posted a note about our approach to editors and apprentices last week.)

This puzzle isn’t a jigsaw—we’d call it a “golfalike,” similar to Cox and Rathvon’s Cryptic Golf or Traffic Lights puzzles—but you might still solve clues before you place them, so don’t forget the ✏️ after each clue when solving in-browser, or the Clue Options button in the 💡 menu when solving in the Puzzazz app on mobile. Thanks to (our other friend) John and Andy for the test solves — more about Andy in our next post.

In this puzzle, each entry begins in its numbered square and ends in the sequentially next numbered square, except for the last entry, which, if it is the last answer entered, will end in the only remaining empty square. Each entry begins by proceeding in one of eight directions, including diagonals. Divergences are consistently indicated. Enumerations are not provided per clue but include one (3), five (4)s, three (6)s, two (5)s, three (7)s and one (9). Answers include three proper nouns.

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