Here we are given a list of unusual phrases, the majority of which are made up of exactly two words. It should soon be assumed each line is cluing two words, since the lines with three words can be broken into two logical parts ("[nine performers] [single]", "[dressing gown] [beating]", "[musical performance] [each]", "[my mistake] [basket]").
Some of these clues could have many different interpretations and therefore synonyms, but there are a few that stand out as really only having one common alternative, e.g. "pepper mound" implies "chilli hill" and "nine performers single" implies "nonet one". Other single words have clear synonyms, e.g. "anklebones" for "tali", "Spain" for "espana", "umbilicus" for "navel", "each" for "per", and "aqualung" for "scuba".
Once we have enough data the mechanic here is hopefully clear: Each phrase gives a word, followed by the word contained within its two outside letters - its "filler text". Knowing this, we can deduce the rest of the list:
Evidently the second word in each phrase has now served its purpose. What remains to be looked at then is the letters surrounding the filler text in the first word of each phrase. Looking at the first stanza, it's clear that the first letter of each word spells out a phrase: AFRICAN TRIP. Similarly, the last letter of each initial word spells another phrase: AT A DISTANCE. Altogether we get five pairs of phrases:
It's clear we want to apply the "filler" mechanic again, finding pairs of words whose second is the inside of the first. Luckily most of the words here are quickly guessable, and we get:
This time the first letters don't spell out a word, but if we follow the pattern of reading down the left and then down the right of the first words in each phrase, we get SANDWICHED, which is a fitting description of the filler text in each phrase we've dealt with.
Design notes: This was a fairly fun puzzle to construct, and it's surprising just how many such (interesting) pairs of words there are. Admittedly some of the synonyms were a little sneaky, but hopefully they were all considered fair and gave rise to some amusing surface readings.
|The answer is: sandwiched|