A Weird Tour

October 2023 : Solution

October’s puzzle was presented without instruction on how to solve it and what all these clues meant. Observant solvers could gather hints from the title, the flavor text describing 120 (= 5!) countries with gradually changing dialects, the bolded names of the means of transport, and some of the crossword clue answers to notice that this puzzle was all about the five vowels on the English language (sorry Y, we need committed always-vowels for this puzzle).

The crossword clues are more easily solved when one discovers that every answer has exactly one of each of the five vowels, and the order of these vowels is determined by the position the clue is along the journey and the names of the methods of transport: when traveling between two country destinations, the method of transport contains exactly the two consecutive vowels whose orderings are swapped in the names of the two countries. Furthermore, the journey begins with the natural ordering AEIOU and ends with the exactly opposite ordering UOIEA, as hinted by the flavor text.

This extra constraint helps narrow down the answers of the clues:

  1. Unserious - FACETIOUS (AEIOU) plane swaps AE
  2. Social - GREGARIOUS (EAIOU) tour swaps OU
  3. Learning about (3 words) - READING UP ON (EAIUO) big bus swaps IU
  4. Weakness - EXHAUSTION (EAUIO) subway swaps AU
  5. ??? (EUAIO) tunnel swaps EU
  6. Game series (2 words) - SUPER MARIO (UEAIO) train swaps AI
  7. Superstar artist (2 words) - LUPE FIASCO (UEIAO) boat swaps AO
  8. Sign of doubt (2 words) - QUESTION MARK (UEIOA) bike swaps EI
  9. Exec - BUSINESSWOMAN (UIEOA) horse swaps EO
  10. Suddenly emote (3 words) - BURST INTO TEARS (UIOEA) limo swaps IO
  11. South Asian - SUBCONTINENTAL (UOIEA)

We are asked to fill in the fifth country in the tour, which we expect to have vowel ordering EUAIO, but we don’t have a crossword clue for it! Now we use the extra numbers at the ends of the existing clues, and if we read off the letters from the answers we’ve found so far we get GROUP ELEMENT. This can serve as the crossword clue for the fifth country, which appropriately can be found to be PERMUTATION.

Congrats to this month’s solvers who successfully sleuthed out the name of the fifth country!