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Solutions for Act I Scene 1 - Spare Puzzle

The words presented here don't seem to have much in common - their meanings and types are fairly varied, and it's not clear how any connection between them would relate to the question marks. Instead, using the title as a hint, the property to be spotted is that each word can lose a spare single letter without losing its overall meaning. Bolding the removable letters, in order these are:

WRIGGLE, DEBIT, ?
SUPERB, ?, SPLUTTER, ENSNARLED
SPOILED, ALONE, PASTRY, ?
?, AFGHANI, MUTTERED, HEARKEN
AMICABLE, PINCHER, RAISE, SOUTHERNLY, WHINGE, ?
?, SOURLY, MEDICO, NUTRIMENT
ROTUND, ?, BURST, INHUMANE

Taking each of these letters and keeping the question marks in order gives: RI?, B?LL, PAR?, ?IME, CHANG?, ?OOM, T?RE. Obviously we want to add a spare letter to each string to make a word, but in most cases the missing letter could take many possibilities - e.g. RI? could be RIB, RID, RIG, RIM, or RIP. One word is certainly unique though - the fifth word must be CHANGE.

The trick here is to realise what significance the word CHANGE has with the theme of the puzzle. One promising and hopefully clear connection is that the common phrase "spare change". Indeed we soon note all the unfinished words in our list can be completed to give a unique word that can follow 'spare' in a common turn of phrase. These words are: spare RIB, spare BALL, spare PART, spare TIME, spare CHANGE, spare ROOM, and spare TYRE.

Finally we want to take these letters and see what results. In order, the spare letters spell out BATTERY, which is another word that can follow 'spare'.


Design Notes: This year we thought it would be fun to have the first day of puzzles appear to accidentally go live with their placeholder names, after the construction of Filler Puzzle and the realisation that the then-titled Recursive Puzzle-Solver and Untitled could follow a similar pattern. This left one more, 1-star puzzle to be created with the same theme, and I settled on Spare Puzzle as the title (others up for consideration included Example, Alternative, and Unused Puzzle) and worked from there.

It was interesting designing a puzzle based on its title, since in general naming the puzzle is the last step in our design process. The first idea I thought was solid was the list of "spare X" phrases, and I quickly found a thematic word that could be extracted from the small list I cobbled together (in fact the only word I didn't get to use was KEY, which was substituted for CHANGE to help people with this step). Giving the list RI?, B?LL, etc. didn't seem particularly appetising for our first puzzle however, so I wrapped it up in another thematic step of words with spare letters.

In retrospect it probably would've been neater for the list of words retrieved from the spare letters to just be another list of spare-letter words, but A) for some letters it's quite difficult to find words that can spare them, and B) this recursion step would probably have been deemed too similar to the very next puzzle's, Filler Puzzle.

The answer is: battery