Rackenfracker #5: Song of the Summer

Celebrating three of our dearest favorites: Wisconsin, pop music, and puzzles.

We’re toasting our home state with this puzzle: It celebrates Summerfest, the annual Milwaukee music festival. If you’re new to The Rackenfracker and perhaps to cryptic crosswords, welcome! A cryptic crossword works a lot like a traditional crossword, except the clues have two parts: a definition, but also wordplay. This special PDF version of today’s puzzle also includes our new one-page guide to introduce you to solving, and we recommend all kinds of further reading here.

Because it’s a variety puzzle, it goes a step further: The puzzle has five secret answers you’ll only be able to get by completing the rest of the puzzle, and those secret answers lead you to one final answer.

Our editor this week is Steve Mossberg, who runs parallel puzzle blogs: crosswords and cryptic crosswords at Square Pursuit, and variety cryptic puzzles at Square Chase. No one today is doing more to make cryptics accessible to new solvers than Steve, and his help here is deeply appreciated. Ditto for Andy, John, joeadultman (whose Cryptics 101 course is also highly recommended for new solvers), kaybartplays and Kelsey Dixon for their test solves of the puzzle, the solving guide, or both.

The first link lets you play in-browser, on your desktop or phone. The downloadable .ipuz file has been tested for the Puzzazz app for mobile devices. For those that prefer solving on paper, there’s the PDF version.

The solution explains every clue as well as how all of its secrets work. It’s also available as a PDF, and the explanations will show up in the electronic versions of the puzzles once fully solved. To enter the final answer when solving in-browser, go to the last square and hit [ESC] or 🔠 and just type it in; in Puzzazz, hit the Rebus button on the keyboard and type it in.

The return of Summerfest, the “world’s largest music festival” held in Milwaukee, got us thinking about music fans’ annual debate about the song of the summer. We think there’s a tune from one of 2022’s Summerfest acts that is uniquely qualified to be the all-time titleholder: That’s the shaded entry at 24-Across. The entry must be deduced by crossing letters, as must five other theme entries in the puzzle. Once you’ve determined our pick (and its qualifications), you’ll know how transform those five entries into a final answer. The final answer won’t tell you the name of the act, but it will give you their opening number. The five theme entries include a hyphenated word, a person’s name, and two two-word phrases.

Image credit: Summerfest 2019 by Ryan Dickey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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