crossword 8:22
puzzle 2:30

sorry i’m a bit late this week. i’ve been kind of under the weather, and i had a meeting this morning. i’ll have the full writeup later today, but in the meantime, i’ll post the completed grid and meta answer after the jump and you all can discuss it.

update 2 pm central: the full writeup is posted now.

mgwcc80hi, everybody. sorry about the delay! this week’s episode of matt gaffney’s crossword contest, “Flip Answer,” was one of the most remarkable feats of construction i’ve seen in this or any other puzzle. the instructions this week said that This week’s contest answer is a word whose length is revealed in the entry at 39-across. that entry, clued as {Enjoy part of a golf course — and how to  find this puzzle’s answer word}, was PLAY THE BACK NINE. so we’re looking for a nine-letter word. how to find it? there were three big hints:

  • the title suggests there will be some “flipping” of answers.
  • the BACK NINE is the last half of a golf course, but it also suggests that something “back” is involved. together with the title, this got me thinking about looking at the answers backwards.
  • 69-across, EYE, was clued as {Watch [note: this one doesn’t count!]}. doesn’t count for what? must be the meta. by this point, i was definitely thinking about answers that could read backwards and forwards, especially because EYE is a palindrome.

well, i found a bunch of them. the one that caught my eye first, ONAN, wasn’t one of them, despite the fact that i’d seen a puzzle whose theme revolved around ONAN and NANO both being words. but there are nine of them in there, all reading across. most remarkably, all nine can fit their clue going forwards or backwards:

  • {Dark feeling} is DOOM, but you could also be in a MOOD (i.e. dark feeling).
  • one {Man’s name from the Hebrew} is ARI, but another is IRA.
  • {They go in drawers}? SPOONS go in a utensil drawer, but SNOOPS might go looking through your desk drawers.
  • {“___” IS MY CO-PILOT (popular bumper sticker)} is GOD. i’ve never seen the DOG version, but it’s out there.
  • {Seaweed is a source of it} clues NORI, the dry seaweed used as a sushi wrapper. but seaweed also contains IRON. this is a great find, although it’s a bit of a linguistic stretch to say that seaweed is a “source” of nori. nori isn’t really derived from seaweed; it is seaweed.
  • {Word on the labels of some bottles of alcohol} is LAGER, but it could also be REGAL, from chivas regal … alcohol of some sort. i don’t really drink much, but i’ve heard of this.
  • {1940s Agatha Christie title word} is LIVE. or EVIL. last week, EVIL UNDER THE SUN was a theme answer in a BEQ puzzle about fictional doctors, but i don’t think i know the LIVE title (and i didn’t know the EVIL one either until the BEQ). wikipedia tells me it’s come, tell me how you live (1946). this one feels kind of awkward; i mean, she wrote dozens of books in the 1940s and there are probably at least 100 words in those titles. i haven’t thought about it much, but i wonder if there’s a cleaner way to clue both LIVE and EVIL.
  • {Former head of Latin lands} is TUPAC or CAPUT. how so? well, TUPAC amaru was the last incan emperor, executed in 1572 (some four decades after the spanish conquest of atahualpa). and CAPUT is etymologically related to the latin for “head.” is it just “head” in latin? i don’t know my latin noun endings well enough to say. wiktionary says yes, though.
  • finally, {#1, say} is either SPOT or TOPS. the TOPS clue is straightforward, but SPOT is … eww.

once you find all nine, the last letter of each (circled in the screenshot above), taken in order, form the (rather fitting) word MISDIRECT. amazing, isn’t it? getting 9 of these into a grid, having the last letters spell something, and having them arranged in order? wow. just wow.

the crossword was reasonably tough, what with all the vague theme clues, but most of the non-theme clues were fairly straightforward. i had a wrong square at the intersection of the spanish verb TENER {To have in Havana} with the gardening term HEEL IN {Cover temporarily with soil, as a plant’s roots}; i thought it was TENAR and HEAL IN. but everything else was at least somewhat familiar. highlights:

  • NENE is a {Name on a Denver Nuggets jersey}, specifically, the jersey of their cat-quick starting center. it’s his first name, but it’s the name on his jersey, i guess because … he’s brazilian and that’s what brazilian soccer players do? i love watching the nuggets, even if it means staying up past 1 am a little more often than i’d like.
  • LBS is clued as an {Incorrect-but-common abbr.}, i guess for pounds? but it’s a perfectly correct abbreviation for linebackers. (yes, i am a sports addict. what tipped you off?)
  • orange has some kind of … thing about leo SAYER, who had {two #1 hits in 1977}. i don’t really know who that is, but i recognized the name well enough to put him into the grid.
  • there were a couple pairs of mutually cross-referenced answers: I DO crossing I DON’T both clued as {Opposite phrase of (___)} was pretty blah, but i liked seeing OLGA and OLEG clued as the masculine and feminine forms of the same name, because i didn’t know that.
  • best meta-reference, though? 1-down is DENT, clued as {Damage, sometimes}. and 48-across is {Dent in this grid}, with the answer ONE-DOWN. ha! usually you’re not supposed to repeat a fill word as a clue, but doing it on purpose is just hilarious. the only thing that would have been better would have been going with something sneakier like {Dent location}.
  • the partial I GAVE is usually clued as {“___ at the office”}, but here it’s {“___ my word to stop at third” (abstinence slogan)}. whoa. that’s not one i’ve seen. then again, i don’t think i remember any of the slogans i have seen, so this one might be better. even if it pretty much implies that anything up to but not including penetrative vaginal intercourse is encouraged. that’s probably not entirely consistent with the belief systems of most abstinence supporters.

okay, that’s all for me this week. how did this puzzle treat you?

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33 Responses to MGWCC #80

  1. peechy says:

    I took the letters from the spaces with a back nine and played them into SPEND,
    appropriate for the times, eh?

  2. peechy says:

    A “flip answer” eh?

  3. Meg says:

    This was so hard!! In fact it was harder for me than the Hell month puzzles! Late Saturday night I finally noticed how SPOONS and SNOOPS both fit the clue. Up until then I was focused on palindromes and golf. Clearly, I forgot the cardinal rule, which is to examine EVERYTHING very closely. I spent too much time on the grid and the clues were so cleverly worded.

    Congrats to Matt for a devilish puzzle. My family thinks I am obsessed.

    BTW, Augusta National is the only golf course in the world whose back nine is a numeric palindrome. Unfortunately this little tidbit had nothing to do with the puzzle.

  4. John says:

    I divided the puzzle like a real golf course. Acrosses were front nine, Downs the back nine. Took the clues with “9” in them, and used the last letter (flip answer) in each one. Back nine spelled out SORE. Front and back nine spelled out EYESORE!

  5. Alex says:

    Feel better soon, Joon!

    I just got this one sent to Matt in time, about twenty minutes before the deadline. Man, what a tough meta, but what a great payoff! And quite a feat of construction too … just try fitting nine semordnilaps into a grid, each of which can be clued like its reverse, plus a defining fifteen-letter entry, *plus* have their last letters spell out a common word! Wow, kudos.

  6. Alex says:

    Oh, and who has a cell phone with DVR capability? Certainly not me …

  7. joon says:

    i do feel better. getting 12 and a half hours of sleep will do that for you! but it means i didn’t get around to blogging last night. i’m on it now, though.

  8. Evad says:

    Yes Alex, at first I missed that the 9 words that spell out MISDIRECT can be clued the same way in both directions. (I only found this out when emailing Matt and asking him why ONAN/NANO, RENIN/NINER, RELIT/TILER and OGRE/ERGO weren’t included.)

    Excellent meta…this took me 2 days of off-and-on head banging.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Only about 85 correct answers this week, maybe half of whom got MISDIRECT without noticing the nine reversible answers.

    Hope you feel better, Joon. Think I’m getting it, too.

  10. Mary Lou says:

    Yeah, Matt – I got it that some of the answers would be words when spelled backwards, but NOT that those also fit the clues…oy vey!

    And I should have gotten that, since I knew the Agath Christie reversal was also part of a title. EVIL and LIVE…funny, I used the first letters of the reversed answers and Joon used the last letter of the non-reversed answers – same thing, different directions.

  11. noraA says:

    Guilty as charged for not noticing the reversible answers–at first I was looking for literal holes where connected words crossed, of which I’d then take the last nine. While doing that, I noticed a few entries made words when read backward. I then noticed that there were ten across entries that reversed, and after I ruled out NANO for not really being a word (and wondering about IRA/ARI), knew that MISDIRECT was too good of a fit to NOT be the right answer.

    I generally stumble through golf courses as it is, so my solution felt pretty natural.

  12. Evad says:

    Another wrong path for me was to only look at answers that ended in the #9 (9-Down, 19-Across, etc.) What led me there was the central theme entry was 39-Across and the one entry that was explicitly excluded (EYE, which is the same both ways) was 69-Across. Bad coincidence there for me.

  13. Abide says:

    I had question marks by NORI and TUPAC as potential “nonsense words”, so when the penny dropped on SNOOPS/SPOONS (surely I’ve seen that one in a Hex cryptic), the others came fairly easy. Nice thrill at the end writing out the ennead in a list and seeing M-I-S-D-…!

    Agree with Alex about the feat of construction.

  14. Matt Gaffney says:

    Re the IRON/NORI crossing — I’m going to do a full write-up of this meta on Friday (it took me about 4 hours to work the theme and meta out — that’s not counting constructing the grid or cluing), but I made a list of about 25 entry pairs that could be clued reversibly. From that I went looking for a nine-letter meta word, since I hit on the kicker phrase PLAY THE BACK NINE (15 letters, woo-hoo!) so 9 letters it was.

    I didn’t want it to be something random like AMSTERDAM, but instead a 9-letter word that had some relevance to the theme. After a few dead ends I hit on MISDIRECT which was good, but I only had one I in my 25 candidate pairings (ARI/IRA) and no C. So I spent about an hour just coming up with the NORI/IRON and TUPAC/CAPUT pairings and phrasing (if anyone can come up with other C or I pairs I would be extremely interested in hearing about it).

    Anyway, hence the awkward clue phrasings on TUPAC/CAPUT (which is indeed “head” in Latin) and IRON/NORI.

  15. Evad says:

    Shame that Yma Sumac could not be considered an existentialist.

  16. Matt Gaffney says:

    Evad — I did spend a minute or two looking for a clue that worked for SUMAC/CAMUS!

    If you though the TUPAC/CAPUT clue was a stretch…

  17. Evad says:

    I’m sure they both can be tied to Kevin Bacon in some circuitous way, which would lead you to the clue to each other.

  18. Matt says:

    I was miffed that NENE wasn’t clued as the Hawaiian you-know-what. Doesn’t tradition mean anything anymore? Hmmph.

  19. joon says:

    for C, the possibilities i see are BUC/CUB {Player on a 2003 playoff team}, and maybe EVAC/CAVE {Abandon one’s position, informally}.

    it looks to me like you chose the best options for I. nothing in my searches comes out as anything remotely cluable. not kidding, the best options seem to be ISITI/ITISI and EREI/IERE.

    for EVIL/LIVE, how about {Undead, maybe}?

  20. Karen says:

    Bah, I found the nine words but didn’t find the initialism. I thought anadromes was too obscure to be an answer.

  21. Matt Gaffney says:

    Aha, BUC/CUB isn’t bad. I missed that.

  22. Garrett says:

    Because Matt Gaffney has in the past created puzzles in the MGWCC venue which tie to current events, I figured that the PLAY THE BACK NINE fill was a reference to the Tiger Woods ado. Then I reasoned that the title “Flip Answer” was to be read as flippant, and I went off looking to see if Tiger or anyone associated with this whole thing had said something flippant. I never did find anything which filled the bill, and wasted a huge amount of time trying to track that down. When I eventually got to looking at word reversals, I found more than nine because I did not get or see anything which said it would be just across clues/answers. I never did make sense of anything and so just submitted Nordegren as my answer. Wrong. By the way, Elin Woods is also nine letters.

  23. tabstop says:

    I was with Evad looking at 9, 19, etc. for a while. Then I went too literal and looked at 10, 11, …, 18 instead. The last letters almost anagram to a word — and if you take out the I like 69A says to do, you end up with DEROGATE (or AGREED TO, I suppose). I actually submitted that answer :shame: but I fixed it after thinking about TUPAC for a little while. I didn’t say anything about the words working both ways because I didn’t think they did (I didn’t really buy NORI, and I had forgotten/never knew the Christie novel with LIVE).

    I agree that this is one of the most fantastically constructed puzzles I’ve seen in a long time.

  24. wobbith says:

    Man, I was so MISDIRECTed into solving this one the hard way.

    Started out with the problem the Evad mentioned – the “back nine” surely refer to the clues/answers numbered 19, 29, etc.. I spent hours spinning my wheels there. Eventually went through the puzzle backwards and saw the reversible words. Then spent some time on the first letters of those (10, counting ONAN) across words – because we’re flipping the answers and looking back, right? When I finally looked at the right letters I wrote them down, working from right-to-left (flipping again!) and with a goof I got SIMDRIECNST. So I had to anagram, losing the N, to get MISDIRECT. It was only when I circled the letters to check myself (naturally working left-to-right as there was no need to flip), did I see it spelled out in order right there in the grid.

    I thought that that alone was a pretty remarkable construction feat.

    Never saw the double-duty clues until Matt asked, and boy did I feel dumb.
    I feel a bit better now, thanks to the company!

    I agree w/Alex too… brilliant construction!

    Oh, I might be looking at a MAC or at a CAM on my desktop?

    Amy – your new site rocks!

  25. Howard B says:

    Wow, this one was freaking brilliant.
    I can take comfort in knowing I would have never, ever solved this meta, mainly because I wouldn’t have understood the references to a few of the theme clues. I would have thrown out the idea as a close shave, and tried something else, had I even thought of it (such as TUPAC/CAPUT, the REGAL alcohol reference, and DOG/GOD).

    When I step back from my own experience (nice puzzle, by the way), the whole theme, concept, and execution is just amazing. Hats off to you, Matt. Took a fair beating this week, but will be back for the next round ;).

  26. Tim Platt says:

    What Howard said! I noticed a few of the backwards words, SPOONS/SNOOPS in particular, but I was too busy trying such nonsense as making something out of the last nine letters of the puzzle, skipping EYE. I’m simply in awe of anyone who could construct such a diabolical puzzle/meta. Keep ’em coming, Matt! You take crossword solving to another dimension.

  27. Amy Reynaldo says:

    “Brilliant” seems to be the default position on this puzzle—it’s the word I used when submitting my answer to Matt, too.

    Joon, sorry you’ve been ailing, glad you’re feeling better. For the record, I do not have a “thing” about Leo Sayer. Just that my mom joined the Columbia House record club and would up ordering his album, and he had the white-boy fro and colorful attire that remind me of Richard Simmons, plus that crazy falsetto.

  28. Matt Gaffney says:

    @ Wobbith —

    I considered MAC/CAM in the sense of the tennis line judge camera (for some reason they call it a MAC CAM even though it’s named after John McEnroe, not MACenroe) but I didn’t consider the MACintosh CAMera angle. Not sure if there’s a clever way to clue it but it does seem promising.

  29. Dan F says:

    Outstanding! I was gonna say “brilliant”…

    I noticed some of the both-ways words, but didn’t make the connection with the clues.

  30. Anne E says:

    It boggles my mind that people were able to get the meta without realizing the two-way nature of the clues! As I said to Matt… those people were lots smarter than I am! As it was, I had to backsolve a couple of the entries once I had the meta, in particular the DOG/GOD one (I’ve never seen the bumper sticker, and I hope I never do!).

    I’ve run out of ways to compliment Matt on his (yes) brilliant, creative work on these, week after week and week…

    Anne, who totally doesn’t get dog-worship

  31. Ben says:

    If I can’t have the honor of having solved this week’s meta, at least I get the honor of comment-posting in the immediate wake of my home state’s top two crossword solvers, Anne and Amy. (Where are Bob Petitto and Kent Brody when you need them?)

    Like John, Evad, Tabstop, et al., I looked at answers 9, 19, 29, etc. The [this doesn’t count!] in the final clue ending in 9 didn’t help me much; in fact, it made it a lot harder to expand my mind to alternative interpretations of “back nine.” I never did back out of that ditch and drive the car to the finish line.

    My hat’s off to everyone who did solve it, and to Matt for the ingenious feat of construction. Hex would be proud!

  32. Abby says:

    The easier way to clue LIVE and EVIL would be “Half of Black Sabbath album title”, but that might be too easy. :-)

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