Before and After
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Before and After is a type of atomic solve path element in which two or more strings contain the same end/beginning, allowing them to overlap and form a longer (but likely less comprehensible) final string.
Named after the category from the TV show Wheel of Fortune, which usually involved phrases overlapping by a single word, Before and After puzzles can include any amount of overlap, from a single letter to more than an entire word.
Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]
Use of Before and After varies based on two main qualities: the type of overlap that occurs between distinct strings and the amount of overlap present.
Type of Overlap[edit | edit source]
Most uses of Before and After have the overlap between entries be as literal as possible, focusing on having the shared space be made up of the exact same letters in the exact same sequence. This method makes sure that solvers can identify when an overlap is occurring just by looking at the text.
A less common option is to have the overlaps be phonetic, allowing for a bit more freedom of choice for the author. This is because many overlaps in letters are also overlaps phonetically, there are still more phonetic overlaps for most cases than letter overlaps for those same cases. Phonetic overlaps also mean that physically pronouncing the result can be a unique challenge of its own. The downside to this type of overlap is that it can be more difficult for non-native speakers to get the connections.
Amount of Overlap[edit | edit source]
The amount of overlap two entities share can drastically change a Before and After puzzle's overall feel, especially since certain amount of overlaps are more appropriate for particular string lengths.
Overlaps of a single letter are best for either shorter strings or a set of strings that only has a single way to be properly arranged. Overall, single-letter overlaps are more likely to be ambiguous, and aren't used very often unless there's a clear way to disambiguate.
The range of a couple letters to about a word for an overlap is most common, allowing for both unambiguous overlapping and more 'traditional' Before and After implementation. This range is also best used for creating longer chains out of mid-length-or-longer strings, as it allows for a significant portion of each string to be used on either end while still leaving enough options for the author to choose from.
When the overlap starts to increase past the length of a single word, mid-length strings start becoming out of the question, and longer phrases start becoming more and more necessary. Overlaps of this size also prevent long chains from forming, and as a result are mostly used for two-string chaining.
Element Compatibility[edit | edit source]
Before and After works especially well when paired with a few other elements, particular extraction elements.
- Reordering - Since overlapping strings allows for a chain to form, Before and After is an excellent way to reorder answers into a cycle. It does not, however, solve the problem of not knowing where to start/end the cycle.
- Indexing - Depending on the amount of overlap, indexing can be an excellent way to extract from paired-up strings (particularly if one of the pair begins with the index), as one can choose to index into the area of overlap (as long as the overlap is textual rather than phonetic). This can also be done with a non-cyclical chain, if the puzzle chooses to present a full sequence of numbers for indexing. As long as there's a clear start and end to a chain, indexing can be done on the overlaps.
- Extraneous Letters - Sometimes, a Before and After chain is interrupted, and contains either letters preventing the overlap (that are in one side but not the other). Often, if this is the case, this can indicate that those letters are important for extraction. Alternatively, a chain may be 'almost perfect', meaning that all but a small section of each string is used in overlaps, which can also indicate use in extraction.
Strategy[edit | edit source]
Notable Examples[edit | edit source]
Played Straight[edit | edit source]
- Motel 6 (MITMH 2002) (web) - A pure meta that relied on solvers noticing a pattern in the feeder answers. In this case, Click to revealthey could be arranged into an almost perfect Before and After chain, where a single letter in each word is never used in an overlap. When starting at the right spot in the cycle, these letters end up spelling the final answer.
- Before and After MASH (MITMH 2017) (web) - A distinctly TV-themed Before and After (as indicated by the title, which mashes the phrase with the TV show 'After MASH'), this puzzle uses clues sung to TV theme tunes to indicate Click to revealoverlaps between common phrases/names and TV show titles, such as TRIGGER HAPPY DAYS and FAMILY GUY FIERI.
Notable Twists[edit | edit source]
- Smush (MITMH 2003) (web) - A live event puzzle involving small trivia questions. In it, participants had to answer clues that could overlap phonetically, such as Click to revealOVALTINE + TINA TURNER. The twist was that in order for answers to be counted, they had to be spoken out loud without being written down first, which proved to be very difficult as their lengths grew. At the end, people had to recite 'smushes' made up of 8 different answers!
- Cozcamiahuatl's Shrine (MITMH 2004) (web) - Leaning heavily into the cyclical chain aspect of Before and After, this puzzle requires solvers to Click to revealfigure out the missing words from what would otherwise be a perfect overlap chain (except for a single D that goes unused). Doing so and filling the gaps in the chain allows them to do it again, but smaller, finding one answer that fills the final gap.