Solution - Bullion
ANSWER – ELDORADO

The grid contains 6 special squares where the across and down answers conflict with each other. Each of these squares contains 3 letters from each of the intersecting answers. Taking the letters from the across answer first and the down answer second, the two 3-letter segments can be connected with OR to make an 8-letter word (e.g. FLU OR INE). This mechanic is clued by 12-Down, since "or" is the French word for gold, and also makes sense because the box can be filled in with FLU or INE.

This yields six 8-letter words: ASSORTED, COWORKER, EMPORIUM, FLUORINE, IGNORANT, and LICORICE. Each word starts with one of the 6 letters that appears in the acrostic at the bottom. The acrostic can be filled in by indexing into the word that starts with the given letter (e.g. F2 would be the second letter of FLUORINE, L).

Filling in the acrostic gives the across clue "Link's princess" and the down clue "Painter Dali". These can be used to fill in the word cross with Z[ELD]A and SALV[ADO]R. Repeating the mechanic from above, adding an OR in the special square yields the answer, ELDORADO.


Author's Notes

  • This is another puzzle title we were especially proud of, since it not only means "gold", but it also sounds like "boolean".
  • This puzzle was originally conceived for the answer RAZORFISH. We had to revise our metapuzzle but we wanted to keep this puzzle idea, so we tried to find a new answer with an OR in the middle. As soon as we saw ELDORADO, we knew it was perfect since it was extremely thematic and also had the OR exactly in the center.
  • The clue "Animals in a Dalmatian coat??" is a very obscure reference to the coat of arms of Dalmatia. All of our test-solvers thought it felt like an inexact clue since they interpreted it as referring to the animal's spotted coat. We thought about replacing the clue, but since we liked it so much we just added a 2nd question mark and accepted that most people probably wouldn't get it 😅

Stats

  • 139 solves
  • 68 incorrect guesses
  • Most common incorrect guess: SALVATORE (guessed 4 times)
  • First solve: F13 in 22 minutes and 19 seconds