Raise your hand if this poem was in your high school English textbook, possibly misattributed to Ogden Nash:
the catsup bottle
none will come
and then a lot'll
— Richard Armour
... OK, looks like yet again only the two of us have our hands up.
Nevertheless, it's a useful metaphor (and also possibly synecdoche? Should have kept that textbook …) for today's puzzle: Things will seem stuck at first, until all of a sudden it's flowing at top speed.
That's because our first Out of Shape is a coded crossword: The numbers in the grid each stand for a different letter of the alphabet, with each instance of a given number representing the same letter across the puzzle — so once you've placed your first A, you've placed all the As.
If you're nodding along saying, yes, that indeed might make it way too easy, then you'll understand why we had to take away the clue numbers.
And all of the grid bars.
Digital solvers have a couple of ways to play:
If you want normal solving plus be able to put in grid bars, we've got some great news: Our solving platform squares.io now supports that. Just set your cursor in the cell and you can add them up (^), down (_), left ( [ ), and right ( ] ).
If you want all instances of a letter to fill in once you've guessed it, then we've got a Google Sheet for you. You can also draw in grid borders this way as you would in any spreadsheet, but it's a few extra steps.
Thanks to test solvers Andy Stilp and John Sams, and to (fanfare!) editor Will Nediger. One more quick programming note: Our subscription puzzles have long come out on the 25th of the month, but it occurs to us that consistent day of week is kinder to you than day of month, so subsequent Out of Shapes will be released on the last Tuesday of the month.