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Welcome to Sunday Puzzle Warm-Up, a weekly opportunity to have a little fun and to get your brain in gear for the regular Sunday Puzzle.  

These warm-up puzzles are intended to be a new-puzzler-friendly. So if you've never tried Sunday Puzzle before, and are scared to dive in the deep end, come on and dip your toes in here.

This is a JulieCrostic.  If you're not familiar with this kind of puzzle, don't panic -- full instructions can be found directly below tonight's puzzle.

If you'd like to take part in the group solving, come on down to comments and join in. We're friendly and we love having new people! (Please remember not to post spoilers in the subject line, though; use the subject line to indicate what the comment is about, and put your guesses as to clue answers inside the comment.)

If you'd prefer solving the puzzle on your own, no problem. Just set your comment preference to SHRINK (so you only see the subject lines of comments); then, if you get stuck, look for a subject line identifying a comment dealing with a clue you need help with, expand and read that comment, and you're good to go.

Tonight's puzzle has 5 rows, with 3 answers per row. One answer is a 2-word phrase. Here are your clues:

 1. box
 2. half-conscious state
 3. half-human creature

 4. walking sticks
 5. milk-derived protein
 6. poison

 7. sad song
 8. like a raccoon's tail
 9. what Carroll's cat did

10. schemes
11. correct name for card the USPS sells [although post office people generally don't know this!]
12. missionary

13. controversial racial slur
14. free
15. associate

For those of you new to Sunday Puzzle, here's an explanation of How JulieCrostics Work

To solve the puzzle, figure out the answers to the clues and enter them into a grid of rows and columns. For the warm-up puzzles on Saturday I generally tell you how many rows and columns there are in the grid; for the regular puzzles on Sunday that's usually left to the solvers to figure out.

All the rows in the grid will be the same length (i.e. have the same number of answers). All the answers in a column will be the same length (i.e. have the same number of letters).  And the words in each column are one letter longer than the words in the column to its left. That's because...

Each word in a row has all the letters of the word before it plus one new letter.  For instance, if the clues for a row were (1) Alaska governor, (2) mountainous, and (3) clarify, the answers would be PALIN, ALPINE ( = PALIN + E), and EXPLAIN ( = ALPINE + X).

Write the added letter in the space between the word which doesn't have it and the word which does.  For the row in the example you'd write:

When you have solved all the clues and written down all the added letters, the added letters will form columns that spell out a message of some sort. It might be a person's name, it might be the title of a book, it might be a familiar phrase, or it might be a series of related words. Your challenge is to solve all the clues, fill in the vertical columns, and figure out what the vertical columns mean.

To show you what a completed puzzle looks like, here is the solution to last week's puzzle.  
harp  S  sharp  E  phrase
desk  U  Dukes  C  sucked
Toni  P  point  O  option
lane  R  learn  U  unreal
disk  E  skied  R  risked
Rice  M  crime  T  metric
The verticals read SUPREM  ECOURT. When spaced properly that spells out Supreme Court (which has handed down several important decisions in recent days -- rightly striking down DOMA, not-so-rightly striking down key portions of the Voting Rights Act).
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