NYT contest puzzle answers from Sunday

Did you enter the New York Times’ crossword contest? Sunday’s puzzle had a somewhat unusual grid, plus a meta answer to figure out. Click through if you’d like to see the answer grid and read an explanation of the meta.

Sunday NY Times crossword solution, 10 21 12 “Bypassing Security”

There are rebus squares scattered throughout the grid. The challenge was to identify the thing you wanted to retrieve from the vault in the middle of the grid (that’s the GOLD in {GOLD}BERG/{GOLD} STAR), along with the seven spots to avoid—MINE in JASMINE/DETERMINES, TRAP in FLYTRAP/VON TRAPP, ASP in SIT A SPELL/ASPEN, PIT in TAR PIT/PITTMAN, LAVA in BRATISLAVA/LAVA LAMP, LION in ANTLION/DANDELION, and BEAR in REDBEARD/SHE-BEAR.

The last rebus square holds the KEY (in JOCKEY/KEYBOARDS). And where do you put that key to open the vault and get the gold?

I’ll bet at least 20% of the entrants went with SLOT, part of SLOTTED at 69a and adjacent to the vault. It’s an unfortunate red herring, and I think it’s the sort of inelegant confounder that Matt Gaffney strives to keep out of his Weekly Crossword Contest puzzles.

So, if it’s not the key SLOT, what is it? Remember that oddball clue for ANTIC, at 71a in the vault? Something like [Caper, or going the wrong way around in England]? (I don’t have a copy of the puzzle handy, just my answer grid.) With some nudging from pannonica, I Googled “counterclockwise in British English” or something along those lines, and learnt that “anticlockwise” is the British equivalent. And looking back at the grid, to the right of ANTIC is WISE. The black square between them holds the lock (ANTIClockWISE).

Now, I think it’s kind of bogus to (a) rely on an Anglicism and (b) equate “counterclockwise” with going the “wrong” way. Last I checked, there was no innate correctness to clockwise rotation. Traffic roundabouts in England go to the left (clockwise if you’re looking down), I believe, whereas American roundabouts go to the right/counterclockwise. The black squares surrounding the grid’s vault looked sort of like a traffic roundabout to me (…although it is mighty square), so perhaps that was intentional and anticlockwise was indeed “wrong” from the standpoint of England’s rules of the road. But hello! This is an American crossword puzzle.

Did you get the lock after ANTIC? Did you go for SLOT? Did you find another plausible answer? Did you enjoy the contest/meta action, or find it bothersome?

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to NYT contest puzzle answers from Sunday

  1. RK says:

    I’m with you, Amy.

    Have you guys ever seen a clue that asked for two answers? Seems that this was the problem for many.

    Someone wrote that some may call this puzzle a tour-de-force.

    I’d call it a tour-de-forced.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    SLOT for me. I still like that answer.

  3. Joe says:

    I think “wrong way around” just refers to the path one must take from the upper-left square to the “key.” If you don’t go clockwise, you inevitably hit one of the rebus squares that contains an obstacle. Therefore, anti-clockwise is the wrong way around. Unless you want to step on a mine. But I’m not judging if that’s your thing. :)

    • Thanks, Joe, for pointing this out to me. I knew something was missing here, and wondered if ANTIC[LOCK]WISE was simply used because it contained lock within two other words. I’m still not a huge fan of the puzzle, but using this as a direction helped to tighten the meta, in my opinion.

      I thought I was missing a classic literature or film reference here, a la Indiana Jones, wherein those specific hazards impede the hero’s quest for gold. Having it turn out to be somewhat randomly-placed (and randomly-selected) hazards was a bit of a let-down. Still, I applaud the effort, even though in the end it wasn’t my cup of tea.

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Got it after first wasting time (1) checking if “anti-C” was a standard British abbreviation for “anticlockwise” and (2) trying to make something of the C’s in the grid. Helped some by remembering the much harder Gaffney #104 where one had to put a U on a black square to complete the instruction DIG A TUNNEL going R-to-L (also “the wrong way”, as it happens), also extending a Down entry PRAISE to UPRAISE for a clue designed to work for both answers.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      You got it, I missed it! (stopped at SLOT, d’oh)

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        I guess we’re roughly even, then, because I didn’t solve your DIG A TUNNEL puzzle. Here I didn’t understand why people were writing so much about SLOT until I read about SLOTTED here. Keys don’t go into slots…


      • John Haber says:

        Right, the possibility that ANTI-C is a Britishism is another red herring that’s unfair to inflict on an American reader, on top of slot. I very much liked the rest of the puzzle, but that final word almost ruins it. (I definitely searched high and low for LOCK.)

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    Got it today with 25 minutes to spare. Based on what would be the most likely answer, I had decided to submit LOCK for “where to use it”, but it bothered me that it was just a guess. I finally took a hard look at the clue for ANTIC and it all made sense. (All this while making an early dinner so rest of family could go to see the women’s national soccer team in the pouring rain.) Had been thrown off earlier by the entry ESC in the grid, along with [KEY]BOARD, but then realized the point was to get in, not to escape. I wonder what percent of the correct answers submitted will be based on seeing 9 items in the grid and guessing the 10th.

    • pannonica says:

      That’s my feeling, that many people would guess LOCK without “finding” it. In fact, I called it a flaw.

      • David L says:

        I read the instructions to mean that you should say exactly where the LOCK is (i.e. between ANTIC and WISE) in your solution. That’s what I did. I got the answer immediately (I’m British, and I didn’t realize that anticlockwise would be such an unfamiliar term to so many Americans), but I didn’t understand the business about finding the right path until I read Joe’s comment above.

        For me the flaw in the puzzle was that the instructions made it seem as if finding a particular path was an essential part of the solution, but really it wasn’t.

      • pannonica says:

        I read the stipulation of “where to use it” (the key) as nothing more than identifying the item (the lock). One can choose to interpret the instruction more rigorously, but I don’t think it’s defensible on close reading of the rules.

        (But just in case, I did “show my work” for that one element of the solution.)

  6. ktd says:

    I figured the meta out without much difficulty although it took me forever to see sit A SPell/ASPen as the last rebus. I don’t understand how Caleb and Will both missed the error at 77-Down though: IZOD doesn’t have the crocodile logo, it’s Lacoste. Still a superbly fun puzzle.

  7. Huda says:

    Well, I got all the elements correctly, including the location of the LOCK, but I couldn’t figure out why the clue said going the wrong way, in Britain. I just realized that it’s because I don’t think of “anticlockwise” as an unusual term, as I learned English from an Irish nun (yeah, weird– through French, in Damascus!). So, to my ear, that didn’t need any justification.

    I did think in the end that if you’re going around a circle in Britain you’d go clockwise and going anticlockwise would in fact be wrong… I also thought that you need to go clockwise to get to the key, and anticlockwise to get from the key back to the lock. Does that make sense? Anyhow, this bit with the clue is a little convoluted. But I did think the puzzle was fun and clever and very well executed. A wonderful change from a typical Sunday!

  8. Donna k says:

    I still don’t get brier/warren. I think my google is set to not give me answers…all I get is Facebook names. No “like” for me.

    But the puzzle was so much fun I got all the clues but “lava”. I came up with oil lamp and couldn’t”t let it go. Never get the meta past week 1 anyway.

    • janie says:

      i’m thinkin’ of uncle remus’s br’er rabbit, who was “born and bred in a briar patch.” briEr would be a variant spelling, of course…


  9. Fern Taylor says:

    I couldn’t find the last hazard since for 16D I wrote “sitwell” and 30A I filled in “wen” which is a type of tree.

  10. The clue for 71-across aside (I think the answer is fine), I think this is still a fine example of a variety-rebus puzzle.

    My only issue is the contest element feels tacked on. Unlike, say, a Matt Gaffney meta, the puzzle doesn’t have any particular layer of challenge on top of the primary solve. And having to submit 10 different answers is awkward.

  11. Matthew G. says:

    Count me among those who simply guessed LOCK without finding it.

    I agree with Amy 100 percent. Even if you can lawyer up an argument for the use of the word “wrong” in the ANTIClockWISE clue, it’s waaay too much of a stretch. Add to that the fact that your main clue relies not just on an Anglicism but a comparatively unfamiliar one, and what ought to be an aha moment kind of lands with a thud.

    I would love to see more metapuzzles in the NYT (and I love that Agard/Gordon/Muller are giving Gaffney some meta-competition with increasing frequency, too). This particular meta, unfortunately, is painfully flawed at the end.

  12. sps says:

    The puzzle was not so much a meta as a treasure hunt. I saw SLOT and thought, “Well, that’s an unsatisfying answer”, so didn’t submit it. I agree with just about all that was mentioned by the naysayers here, esp. the awkwardness of giving ten answers and the ease of submitting LOCK without actually finding it in the puzzle. There’s an art to creating meta puzzles a la Gaffney. Who was it that said that they couldn’t define art but they knew it when they saw it? This wasn’t art.

    Or was that quote actually about “smut”?

  13. pannonica says:

    I’ve been going through the various reactions—during and after the incubation period prior to the reveal—to the puzzle on the various blogs (namely, this one and especially wordplay/NYT and Rex Parker) and have one overriding observation.

    All the disparaging people who are dumping on the puzzle, saying it’s “childish to make it a contest and why can’t just see the answer grid now?” and “I don’t care about a stupid calendar,” to them I say: isn’t it incredibly childish to not have the patience to wait a couple of days for the solution to be posted? And—apologies to those who solved the meta aspect and still complained—remember Aesop’s fox? It isn’t so important, people, it’s a pastime,.

    All that said, I don’t think it was the greatest crossword puzzle, and far from the worst. Whence such vitriol from a considerable segment of the solverati? One person even proclaimed it the worst puzzle ever in solving the NYT since the 1950s.

    Honestly, the Sunday offering in recent memory that was in my opinion least like a crossword was “You’ll Get Through This” from 29 May 2011. Seems to me there was much less rancor over that one, though it’s difficult to compare as it didn’t have a delayed solution.

    Incidentally, there was a time when one had to wait a whole week for the Sunday solution to be published.

    • John Haber says:

      I don’t know about that: I don’t myself have any vitriol, and I had no trouble waiting a couple of days, but I had not the least interest in a calendar myself and could have done without the ritual.

    • JDM68 says:

      Has anyone been solving the NYT since before Rex, Google, Wiki, or even the entire internet? I recall working on the Sunday grid until Friday and finally succeeding. That sense of accomplishment is lost today. Folks are giving up far too soon. This grid sadly proves my point.

    • pannonica, I just checked out the comments on Another Blog, and I was also surprised by the intense reactions. I wonder if this event was somewhat of a test, one proving that much of the Times audience isn’t quite ready for meta puzzles and contests.

  14. cyberdiva says:

    I’m with RK: “tour-de-forced”

    Of course, my solution was even more forced. Since I couldn’t find LOCK no matter how hard I looked, and I wasn’t happy with SLOT, I went with ENTER. KEYBOARDS made me think of ENTER, which I saw (with, um, some effort) right inside the vault. If you take the second E in REECE and move up diagonally to the left, you get N. Moving to the right horizontally gives T, down diagonally to the left gets you to E, and an easy move to the left gets the R. Easy peasy. :-) Oh well….

  15. David says:

    OMG, I didn’t even get GOLD…I thought it was ASTAR (“A star”)… Forced out at first.

  16. Lauren says:

    Could not find the lock–although I spent some time looking at 12 down, thinking it was “locked away” instead of “led away.” Except, that didn’t work with 10 across Mikhail Tal. And anyway, the lock was too far from the vault.

  17. J. T. Williams says:

    It seems to me that the complainers are looking at this from the wrong angle. For a good meta, when you find the right answer, you know that is the right answer. It clicks, it makes sense, everything fits, voila. The AHA moment. Was there ANYONE on this puzzle who actually found the lock who didn’t immediately have that AHA moment? I saw SLOT, and I thought about SLOT, but I kept looking because it didn’t have that perfect fit. Painful experience has taught me that with very few exceptions, you usually know it when you find it.

Comments are closed.