MGWCC #191

crossword 8:33
puzzle about 15 minutes over two sittings 

greetings and welcome to the 191st episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Depth Squad”. this week, matt goes extra-large (17×17) for the grid, and challenges us to name a familiar Internet company. what are the theme clues? well, the long across clues in the grid are:

  • {Vessel for James Bond} is a MARTINI GLASS. i was thinking about sea vessels, but when i got the answer, of course i thought of liz gorski’s wonderful james bond puzzle from a few years ago.
  • {Max Fischer’s doodle, in the opening scene of “Rushmore”} is the EIFFEL TOWER. impossible clue.
  • {Posh place to sleep} is a FOUR-POST BED. i’ve only heard this as “four-poster bed”, but it seems to be a thing.
  • {T. Rex of the future} is a DINOSAUR EGG.
  • {Third of eight}, solar system-wise, is PLANET EARTH.
  • {Large category of games} is STICK-AND-BALL. i suppose this is true. stickball, baseball, cricket, field hockey, croquet, polo, bandy, tennis, squash, lacrosse, …
  • and finally, the long central across (which necessitated the oversize grid): {What you’ll need to think in} is THE THIRD DIMENSION.

so obviously there’s something going on with three-dimensionality, as implied by the puzzle title too. my first thought was along the lines of a 3-d crossword, but i quickly discarded it, because that was going nowhere. my second thought had to do with numerals: in addition to THIRD as part of THE THIRD DIMENSION and FOUR-POST BED, the grid also contained TWO at 25a and FIVE at 55a. this made it seem like we wanted to find a ONE and then sort something, but i couldn’t find one.

upon coming back to the puzzle later that same night, i started to focus on the shapes of the theme objects themselves, and quickly noticed that i could associate 3-d shapes with them. a MARTINI GLASS is in the shape of a cone (with a line pointing down from the vertex); the EIFFEL TOWER is sort of a curvy pyramid. PLANET EARTH is obviously a sphere (or, if you remember your mentos, an oblate spheroid). i guess STICK AND BALL kind of speaks for itself, although it’s two shapes. but i couldn’t do anything with these particular shapes.

finally the light dawned. rather than explain it, i’ll let the picture do all the explanation:

what more is there to say? the answer is yahoo!.

those of us who were fortunate enough to play john chaneski and greg pliska’s wonderful “The ACPT-zing Race” puzzle extravaganza at saturday night of last year’s ACPT festivities might remember a similar puzzle where we had to identify landmarks from photos and then use the letters suggested by the landmarks themselves to extract an answer. (i’m pretty sure eiffel tower = A was part of that puzzle, too.) there might have been a dim recollection of it still in my mind when i solved this one; not sure. anyway, this was amazingly cool and a great puzzle to cap the first month of 2012. five stars.

oh, the crossword: good lord, was it tough. the whole top section took me forever, and i especially struggled with the area around 13d: {Apocalyptic acronym} TEOTWAWKI. that looked like 9 letters of “could be anything”, so yeah, the northeast was tough. afterwards i googled it and found the end of the world as we know it, which i guess makes sense, but i’d certainly never seen TEOTWAWKI before and was not going to be able to guess it. it looks almost pronounceable, actually.

okay, that’s all for me. what’d you all think of this one?

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34 Responses to MGWCC #191

  1. Scott says:

    Great puzzle.

    I believe this is the first month that I got all metas correct…

    And I would assume that Matt would reject answers that do not include the “!”

  2. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Soooooo much easier than last week!

  3. joon says:

    matt mentioned to me that he would begrudgingly accept answers without the !.

    i wonder how many people guessed the right answer without “getting” the meta—it seems entirely plausible. for a week 4, a tougher challenge would have been “name a large company” or something like that. maybe “name a NASDAQ-100 company”?

  4. oeuftete says:

    At least I can feel good about getting the crossword in 9:06. Had no clue on the meta (kept trying to make it be AMAZON… 6 letters, 6 theme entries, “Z” from a z-axis in there… guh). But an awesome and fair one, I just didn’t get it.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    I liked this one a lot. My first thought was that all the theme answers’ second words could go with crystal. But would that indicate Oracle for crystal ball (probably not, since stick and ball was already one of the entries) or for crystal clear (but is this a familiar site to all?) I decided I was forcing this solution, so I slept on it. The stick and ball = ! answer came as I was lying in bed, unable to sleep with logos attacking in my dreams. I actually missed the spelling out of YAHOO, but I felt reasonably certain ! pointed to Yahoo! since I could think of no other prominent site with a ! in its name. And this was confirmed when I noticed Matt had lined up POST over PLANET EARTH and TOWER over EGG, to make more !s. I’m not sure this was intentional – how about it, Matt? One minor complaint that Matt may get from our friendly mathematics or physics professor types: the third dimension, as his title indicates, is width – simply one of the linear dimensions, not the same thing as three-dimensional. (But what do I know? I just teach flat-land biology.)

  6. Scott says:

    I think the “!” is a critical piece of the meta since (1) it IS one of the clues and (2) it IS part of the YAHOO! brand.

  7. Bruce S. says:

    A day or two before this puzzle came out I did another puzzle with a clue like “company with an exclamion point in their name” and the answer was YAHOO. As soon as I thought of the stick and ball that way the rest of the shapes were clear as day. I can’t locate which puzzle that clue came from though. Not sure I would have gotten this meta without that other clue so fresh in my mind. Great fun as usual!

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    239 right answers, which is one more than Week 3! I didn’t expect that.

    Joon — I felt I was OK with being pretty specific in the instructions because (as egghead above can attest) not knowing about the exclamation point guessers would have likely gone with a six-letter company (and I did get a lot of AMAZONs and GOOGLEs, though I haven’t looked at many e-mails from the weekend yet so I don’t know how many of those used that logic, or how many YAHOO! people got lucky).

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Scott — those are valid points, but since the instructions asked for the company and the company (and site) itself is often known just as YAHOO, I think it’d be over-the-top to discount those (many) entries entirely. I’m sure all those non-exclammers feel pretty silly about leaving it off and that’s punishment enough.

  10. Bridget says:

    Yep. Feeling silly right here!

  11. Gareth says:

    The meta was a piece creative genius imo! Clues felt above average throughout though it was quite a while ago I solved this. Actually only took about ten minutes to get post solve, though I don’t know how, it just dawned on me all of a sudden.

  12. Dannoz says:

    Another retro-fit for me. I brainstormed well-known internet companies and compared them to my theme answers. The exclamation point (I think it needs to be there as Yahoo! itself includes it) was the confirmation of my suspicions. Yes, the grid was tough, but solvable. I enjoyed this one quite a bit…even with the added dimension.

  13. Jan (danjan) says:

    This one came pretty quickly to me; perhaps because I’ve given a couple of special people those framed photographs that spell out their names using architectural details that look like letters. Great gift, especially when the name recognition part takes a minute!

  14. pannonica says:

    After flirting with TEOTWAWKI for a few moments, I very quickly saw the answer, probably because I’m familiar with the Univers Revolved font, created by Ji Lee. The cocktail glass-Y was enough to let me fly through the others.

  15. *David* says:

    Ack forgot to look this one over Monday night to figure out the meta, doubtful that I would’ve found it. My mind was going towards shapes and ellipses in particular.

  16. Amy says:

    I fully grasped the meta, and the stick and ball really helped. I submitted my answer as “yahoo” without thinking twice about it. I believe because when I think about yahoo!, it’s as

  17. pannonica says:

    Just in case anyone wants a quick look-see: YAHOO! in UR.

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I had to give up on this meta. I was nowhere near discovering that answer! But Joon’s illustration is genius, and so’s the meta.

  19. Janette says:

    I got this one right away. I am a fan of Google doodles, so sorry to say, this seemed a bit of an appropriation too me.

  20. joon says:

    thanks amy! for a meta this beautiful, i thought only a picture could adequately explain it.

  21. TimM says:

    I got this one, though I felt the “third dimension” part of it was unnecessary. A simple 2D drawing of each of the theme answers is a clearer representation of the answer than a 3D picture. The 3D actually makes it harder to see, in my opinion. It was a brilliant concept, and a tough but gettable grid.

  22. Norm says:

    Dang. I knew the stick & ball had to mean something. Should have gone to the site and looked. Feeling foolish indeed, although still glad I sussed the five letters.

  23. Matt Gaffney says:

    TimM — I was thinking more “A martini glass looks like a 3-d Y, the Eiffel Tower looks like a 3-d A,” etc.

  24. pannonica says:

    Yes, it’s the translation of the three-dimensional object to two dimensions. Projection. That’s how I saw it, even if what helped inform my insight was an unusual translation of two-dimensional objects into three-dimensional space.

  25. Pete M says:

    I liked the meta a lot. I also think THETHIRDDIMENSION is an unnecessary entry. Not sure why you felt you needed it, Matt…

  26. Bananarchy says:

    @Pete: Agreed, to a point. The 3rd dimension nudge actually led me a bit astray, but that’s not a bad thing. I don’t think it was unnecessary. I was picturing 3D objects and trying to imagine how they might fit together or how they might look arranged certain ways. The Eiffel Tower has a distinctive figure, though, when viewed from the front, so I was quickly led back into flatland. Although the 2nd dimension was really what we needed to think in, I don’t think I would have been visualizing the theme objects at all were it not for the center entry.

    Bravo, Matt; thanks for the puzzle!

  27. Mike L says:

    I know that, without the 3rd dimension clue, I would have spent a lot of time trying to do something with the *words* in the theme entries – anagramming their first letters, looking for hidden words, etc. I’d like to think I still would have eventually hit on the right answer, but it would have taken me much longer.

  28. Karen says:

    I didn’t realize DINOSAUR EGG was a theme answer (that’s what I get for solving it on my phone) and didn’t really like my solution that the stick and ball referred to O! I like the real solution even better.

  29. Howard B says:

    That’s a clever and actually cute meta. Unfortunately (for me) in that I think my lousy visual comprehension skills failed me here. I could not see this one without an explanation, and yet it is perfectly clear.
    Often metas here and other non-crossword puzzles with a visual/pictoral angle just flummox me more than they should, and I’m never quite sure why. Maybe just a brain wiring thing.

    Anyway, this was a nice one to solve, and good to see the solution.

  30. Scott says:

    Karen – how do you solve Matt’s puzzle on your phone? I have the SHORTYZ app for Android to do the NYT but I don’t think Matt’s puzzle is one of the downloads on that app.

  31. pannonica says:

    This meta was total bunk because four of the three-dimensional objects (cocktail glass, dragon egg, Earth, ball and stick) have more-or-less full rotational symmetry and two of them have limited rotational symmetry (the Eiffel tower only resembles an ‘A’ from the four secondary compass points, and a four-poster bed only resembles an ‘H’ from—ha-ha!—two aspects (unless you are insane enough to believe a laterally elongated version also looks like a capital aitch)). Matt Gaffney should be hanged.

    *captioned for the tone-deaf

  32. Old Geezer says:

    four-poster bed — total bunk. LOL!

  33. Matthew G. says:


    If you get the MGWCC puzzle e-mailed to you, and you have the Stand Alone Inc. Crosswords app for iPhone, you can hold your finger down on the .PUZ file attachment in the e-mail and it will bring up the option to open the file in the Crosswords app (same is true on iPad). I would imagine that Android also offers a way to open an e-mail attachment in a client application, but I’ve never used Android, so I don’t know how.

  34. Elaine says:

    Oddly enough, when I got MARTINI GLASS early on, I sketched one in the margin; the two FFs together gave me EIFFEL TOWER, so I added that, too. It didn’t take much contemplation, therefore, to make the leap, as I already had two strong hints. Does this mean my doodling habit is a good thing?

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