MGWCC #219

crossword 2:19 (across lite)
meta about 1 minute, plus some googling to confirm 

hello, and welcome to episode #219 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Circular Reasoning”. this week, matt asks us for the four letters in the grid that you must circle to highlight the puzzle’s theme. well, i’ve already circled them in the screenshot at right, so there you go. but let’s look at the theme answers anyway:

  • {#56 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time} is ANARCHY IN THE UK, by the sex pistols. i’d never heard of this song. i just listened to it for the first time, and i can report that it’s, um, noisy.
  • {Plagiarists ignore them} refers to COPYRIGHT LAWS.
  • {Where you can’t prepare a croque monsieur} is a KOSHER KITCHEN. probably lots of other places, too: INSIDE THE EARTH’S CORE. EREWHON. THE WAR ROOM.
  • {Letters to sign for} are REGISTERED MAIL.

so given that we were looking to circle some letters, it didn’t take me long to notice that the COPYRIGHT is a circled C, and a circled R stands for REGISTERED trademark. i didn’t know about the circled A for ANARCHY or K for KOSHER, but when i did google image searches for “anarchy” and “kosher symbol”, those came right up. so there you have it: the four circled letters are ACKR. an elegantly-conceived theme, albeit a rather easy one.

the crossword was very easy, too, probably the fastest i’ve ever done a MGWCC (in across lite, since i’m on vacation and away from my printer). i liked seeing full name JOHN MUIR and the split FENG/SHUI. the adjacent etymology clues for GREEK and HINDI, and this interesting clue: {Magnus Carlsen claimed that he wasn’t sure if he owned one of these in a 2009 interview, highlighting the game’s computerization} for CHESS SET. i’m not sure if i own a crossword blogging set, to tell you the truth. that’s how digital i’ve gone.

well, since i am on vacation, i’ll stop here. what did you all think of the puzzle? let’s hear from you in the comments box.

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44 Responses to MGWCC #219

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    215 ACKR (in any order) answers. I realized too late that I could have made the meta answer K-CAR have the four circles be the wheels.

    23 people submitted ACUR with the idea that U is a more common symbol than K for kosher. I’m going to let the panel decide on that.

  2. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    As I noted in my submission to Matt, an alternative symbol for “kosher” would be a U in an O, thereby making 15 A, The U-Tile, utile!

  3. Patrick L says:

    I looked for circles of letters in the grid for a while. Finally figured out the symbols, but I picked U instead of K.

    Edit: Panel will decide? I’m doomed then. Bring on September!

  4. Dan Seidman says:

    The main problem with accepting U is that it doesn’t fulfill the requirement specified in the instructions that it be in the grid.

  5. joon says:

    hmm. not only is the circled letter the first letter in each of the other three theme answers, there’s no U at all in KOSHER KITCHEN. so which U would you circle? just … a random one from the grid? i don’t know anything about kosher symbols (both the U and K came up when i googled), but circling a random U seems like it’s going outside of the theme.

    • Evad says:

      Completely my thought on that too Joon. I figured each circled letter had to be in the corresponding theme entry and having them all be the first letter except for that one seemed inelegant.

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    The c and r were gimmes, and I was familiar with circled A for Anarchy because my now grown and splendid daughter went through that delightful phase in her teens, but I also had to Google circled K for Kosher. Like others, I’ve only seen U previously, but I wouldn’t think that makes a reasonable alternative answer, since the letter doesn’t appear in Kosher Kitchen and certainly not at the front like the others.

    By the way, Matt or Joon, since eveyone’s now had a chance to complete the Lollapuzzoola puzzles online, can you explain how the meta worked? Thanks.

    • Aaron says:


      There’s a rebus going on in Matt’s puzzle, and the symbols “stand” for themselves when reading the final across answer.

    • joon says:

      the deadline for solve-at-home is this coming sunday, august 19. after that, i can talk about the puzzles if you want. i don’t remember seeing the meta explained in the solutions brian sent out.

      • tabstop says:

        What I want to know is when the on-site solvers found out about the meta; I didn’t see anything about it in the at-home materials (save its sudden appearance in the finals puzzle).

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Fancy new format. Like the sunset photo.

    The wheels of a K-CAR would have been a neat twist. Not that I’d know a K-car if I’d seen one.

    According to Wikipedia, the Stoners’ “all-time” list contains nothing before 1940 (and only one or two from that decade), making it impossible to take seriously. Are we to believe that each of these 500 songs is better than any that Gershwin (d.1937) ever wrote, to say nothing of all the songs/arias by Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Verdi, and Puccini — plus every hymn, carol, and folk song? That’s beyond pathetic.

  8. Aaron says:

    I dunno; I wrote in my entry that U/K was going to be polarizing and I think anybody who noted this in their submission should get credit — i.e., those who were aware of the issue with U/K (both of which appear IN the grid, although not necessarily in Kosher Kitchen).

    The issue with U/K, and the reason I submitted U over K, is that U is the far more used/accepted symbol for kosher, and always appears in a circle, whereas K is less common AND doesn’t always appear in a circle when it is used. I also thought that, for a Week 2 meta, A/C/K/R was a little too obvious (because all the letters were there), and figured that you’d thrown the U/K swap in there to trick anybody who was thinking that it was just a matter of circling the first letter of each theme entry.

  9. I’m a Uey. The instructions simply state to find the “four letters in the grid that you must circle to highlight the puzzle’s theme.” A U is in the grid (eight, in fact). The kosher U symbol seemed much more common that a circled K (I did write to Matt that Circle K is a convenience-store chain). I understood that the meta was looking for circled-letter symbols representing the first part of the theme answers; in the end I guess I picked the wrong one.

  10. Noam D. Elkies says:

    [But the “edit” feature didn’t work – I tried to edit the above to explain the difference between plagiarism and breaking the COPYRIGHT_LAWS, but instead I see my previous comment unmodified :-(]

  11. Matthew G. says:

    I submitted ACKR, but I think those who submitted ACUR should receive credit. I had no idea that circled-U was a more common Kosher symbol than circled-K, but then, I don’t know anything about keeping Kosher. I imagine that many of those who submitted circled-U do, and it seems unfair to punish them for being more thoughtful about the theme.

    Furthermore, this was awfully easy for a Week 2, even in a five-Friday month. For that reason, one could defensibly have thought that there would be one extra little twist — such as one of the circled letters not being the first letter of its entry.

  12. joon says:

    i have no sympathy for the idea that making the theme inconsistent/inelegant constitutes an “extra twist” that prevents the puzzle from being “too easy”. but i do have sympathy for those who know more about kosher symbols than i do. if U is really that much more common than K, then it should be allowed.

  13. CY Hollander says:

    If you accept U, a simple Google image search suggests that you’d have to accept V as well, although that may be a moot point.

    In my humble opinion, only K should be accepted: the theme is “answers whose first letter, when circled, can take the place of the entire first word”. Changing this to “random letters in the puzzle which, when circled, can take the place of the first word of some other answer” makes for a much, much looser theme.

    Other points in favor of K over U:
    1. The A of Ⓐ stands for “anarchy”, the c of © stands for “copyright”, the R of ® stands for “registered”. The K of Ⓚ stands for “kashrut; admittedly a bit more stretched, but at least that’s a form of the root “kosher”. The U of Ⓤ stands for “union”, which has nothing to do with the word “kosher”.

    2. Whereas Ⓚ is the symbol of a organization dedicated to providing kosher certification (hence its symbol can be taken as synonymous with “kosher” wherever it appears), Ⓤ is the symbol of a broader organization, kosher certification being only one of its activities. The Ⓤ on the side of this prayer book, for instance, does not mean “kosher” but simply “endorsed by the Orthodox Union”.

  14. Themutman says:

    I had never heard of the anarchy symbol, so I took the anarchy in the UK entry as implying that U and K were both needed from the ‘kosher’ clue. Thus I submitted RCUK. I am very familiar with both kOsher symbols. Thought this made the week 2 harder but I guess I over thought the whole thing.

  15. Karen says:

    I also considered the anagram RACK, of which you get four in a Scrabble (box) game.

  16. abide says:

    Southern Catholic who googled kosher, went to wikipage, found photo of circled U, and submitted that. Confidence level…100%.Reading Joons review I thought he missed it!

  17. Wayne says:

    @CY Hollander: Perfectly said.

    @joon: Re: “those who know more about kosher symbols than i do.”

    Circle-U is more common, but you can find examples Circle-K in every aisle of your neighborhood supermarket. “Those who know” about such things should–at a minimum–know that both symbols exist.

  18. Jeffrey says:

    I put K but thought about U and think they should both be accepted.

  19. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    Well, I knew that Copyright has the circle, but not any of the others, so I completely missed the meta’s line of thought. I was intrigued, though, by the SHE on the west border and HER on the east, and the fact that there was SHER in koSHER. Then I noticed that–beginning with the H in the first theme answer, and moving downward in that column– that you find all four of those letters in that column of the theme answers. So I submitted SHER. The logic I was working on was the if you have a three-letter window, and SHER is a “wheel”, then rotating it allows you to move from SHE to HER.

    Plus, I really had no other ideas. Sigh.

  20. Wayne says:

    On July 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm, you said:
    “[D]on’t worry, next month I’ll become Mr. Tough Guy again.”

    Waiting :-)

  21. jefe says:

    I’m embarrassed that it took me 3 days to figure this one out. I was distracted by fill such as NAME over AMEN, SHUTS over HUTS, AH OK and A-OK, OUTDO, UNDO and REDO. I’d considered the ambiguity in the instructions and entertained for way too long the notion that perhaps when ALL instances of some four letters were circled, some pattern would be revealed.

  22. Ken / Cazique says:

    Cute, quick meta. The instructions said find four letters in the grid, so if a U appears in the grid (and it does) and the letter U circled is a symbol for Kosher food, then it’s awfully hard to argue against accepting the U. Another answer being more elegant (which the K is) does not make a given answer any less justified.

  23. neil B says:

    I am Jewish and when I realized the meta I put U without thinking as that is what I grew up seeing. The instructions just say the 4 letters so U would seem to be reasonable.

  24. Dave C says:

    Being Jewish and having worked for Consumer Packaged Goods companies on Kosher product development, I am familiar with both U and K. Thus, I was concerned that I was missing a twist, esp. with the U and K in Anarchy in the UK. Fortunately, nothing ever came to mind to suggest a twist so I stuck with ACKR.

  25. J. T. Williams says:

    Well I’ll pipe up to support Jefe, because this one took me absolutely forever too. I was looking for, actually, I don’t know what I was looking for, but I definitely noticed the name/amen, shuts/hut, chens/kitchen, lots of random four-letter “circles” that made words, and more. I thought I was finally onto something when I realized you could add A, B, and C respectively to the first line to make words that still fit the clues (yeah, the BASTER is one of my favorite flowers, I know), and then there was FUTILE… Finally after about 2 days light struck my brain about COPYRIGHT and REGISTERED, and some googling confirmed what I was beginning to suspect about KOSHER and ANARCHY. I thought it was a great puzzle because there was so many “clouds” (there’s that word about seeing things in clouds that I can never remember) to obscure the meta. Turns out it was probably just me lol!

  26. abide says:

    I always enjoy the comments on these “panel” discussions. This is the link I hit for researching kosher.
    About halfway down on right hand side there is a photo of the circle U, with the caption “The circled U indicates that this product is certified as kosher…” After double checking there was a U in the grid, that was good enough for me. I did notice it was different from the others, but it seemed plausible to me that it was intentional to weed out submissions that would just guess the first letter of each theme entry; i.e., separating the men from the goys. The U-TILE entry seemed to approve of my logic.

    I do acknowledge that had I clicked Google Images I likely would have noticed the Circle K (amongst the Diamond K, Star K, Scroll K, and Plain K) and gone for the more consistent letter. As the U is only symbolized in circle form, it’s a bit unfair to exclude the U clan based on “elegance” when the answer is “the four letters in the grid that you must circle to highlight the puzzle’s theme.”

  27. CY Hollander says:

    @ Ken / Cazique and abide: with all due respect, when you pick on the word “elegance”, I feel you’re missing the point of the objection. The instructions to circle “the four letters in the grid that you must circle to highlight the puzzle’s theme” leave it up to the reader to infer what the “theme” is. That’s where “elegance” becomes not only important but crucial: at the end of the day it’s our only guide to determining the theme. Otherwise, to use a reductio ad absurdum, I could send in “N, A, A, M” and claim that the “theme” is “The four letters in the top-left corner are circled”. How do you know that that’s not the theme? Purely and simply because it’s inelegant.

    Comparing the two candidate themes
    1. “answers whose first letter, when circled, can take the place of the entire first word” and
    2. “letters somewhere in the grid which, when circled, can take the place of the first word of some answer in the grid”
    it seems clear to me that 1 is more elegant—to the point that were my answer A, C, U, R, I’d think that I must have missed something.

    Furthermore, 1 is unambiguous: only the respective first letters of the four longest answers in the puzzle fulfill its requirement. By contrast, whereas 2 allows for Ⓤ, it doesn’t rule out Ⓚ either. It would also admit Ⓥ (kosher symbol; see the link in my previous post), Ⓟ (copyright symbol), and perhaps even Ⓧ (copyright symbol in Japan, supposedly). Given the requirement of “four letters that you must circle to highlight the puzzle’s theme”, surely it’s the solver’s duty to formulate a theme that admits four letters and no more.

  28. abide says:

    Cy, I already acknowledged had I researched through Google Images, I would have likely picked the more consistent letter. Your understanding of the “theme” is obviously different than mine. To me, the theme is “the first word of the longest entries can be represented by a letter in a circle. Tell me what those four letters are”.

    You seem to be the only one arguing that Circle U does not represent “kosher”. Many here acknowledge it is the more recognizable symbol. By the way, I would not argue for NAAM :)

  29. Jason says:

    I turned the grid 90 degrees and saw the letters TIL in front of me. Since I tilted my head I submitted TILT. My head is almost a circle. No reason. Nice to know I was so close to the meta this week.

  30. Joan says:

    Well sure it was easy—-unless you were looking for a common theme in the words
    “anarchy, laws, kosher, and registered” and decided they all had something to do with rules and regulations, or government. Then it was hard! ….didn’t get it.

  31. CY Hollander says:

    To me, the theme is “the first word of the longest entries can be represented by a letter in a circle. Tell me what those four letters are”.

    You’re omitting the “in the grid” requirement, which seems arbitrary in your interpretation of the theme (there’s no connection between the location of the letters and the answers that they connect with, and it’s hardly remarkable to include a given letter somewhere in the grid). I don’t think that that’s enough reason to rule out your version of the theme per se, but I do think it’s reason enough to look further before being satisfied with that theme.

    Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, your theme allows the alternate answers U, K, and V for the Kosher symbol, and P and C for the copyright symbol, yielding at least 6 different admissible solutions. Given that the puzzle asks for “the four letters…”, I’d call that a flaw in the theme as you have it.

  32. Rich says:

    I followed Abide’s logic. It bothered me that the K wasn’t circled in the sites I checked so I went with the U.

  33. klew archer says:

    Went into exactly the same tailspin as jefe and jt williams, but never came out and never got the right answer.

  34. Plum says:

    I also made a Uey and agree that these submissions should be counted a, well, kosher. There are Us in the grid. Naturally, I explained to Matt in my email that I was torn but ultimately went with the U symbol because it was much more common.

  35. klew archer says:

    I started to relate to the guy who goes crazy in this movie

  36. ===Dan says:

    I was unfamiliar with Ⓐ so I put the puzzle aside and forgot to return to it. I would have guessed ACKR with discomfort (if I didn’t think to google an anarchy symbol).

    I think (U) should not be accepted. K is not the only (or most common) symbol for Kosher, but it is valid, and there is no thematic reason not to use it. There’s no thematic support to pick some random letter from the grid. U-Tile was a nice fortuity, but there’s no thematic reason to allude to Scrabble®.

  37. Eli Barrieau says:

    As someone who has never received registered mail I had to Google image that, which gives a P in a circle for the first ten or so entries. Combined with choosing U over K, I had ACUP, which for obvious reasons I think should be accepted as an acceptable entry for “circular reasoning”.

  38. xhixen says:

    Bah. I noticed there were exactly 4 K’s in the puzzle, and submitted Circle K, as in the convenience store chain. I figured the theme answers were just red herrings.

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