MGWCC #268

crossword 4:31
meta approximately -4:31, with increasing certainty as time went on 

hello and welcome to episode #268 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. it’s week 3 of guest constructor month, and we’ve got a julian lim puzzle called “Block Party”. now, julian’s a very talented constructor and i always look forward to his work. his recent LA times puzzle engendered this constructor interview over at crossword corner, in which (full disclosure!) i am casually name-checked. anyway, julian’s instructions tell us that we are looking for a video game. well, based on those instructions and the title, i was thinking tetris all the way. it wouldn’t be the first tetris puzzle i’d seen, but let’s see what we’ve got.

no explicit theme answers, and only one long entry: CONNECT FOUR across the center of the grid, clued as {Game whose TV ad featured the line “Pretty sneaky, sis”}. okay, blocks + four = still thinking tetris. but surely there must be something else concrete in the grid?

well, if you remember (or watch) the ad, the “pretty sneaky, sis” line comes when the sis(ter) in question connects four of her checkers diagonally. and, lo and behold, there are six places you can do that in this grid, with four of the same letter in a row connected diagonally. i’ve circled them in the screenshot. proceeding clockwise around the grid, the letters spell out EIRTST, which indeed anagrams to TETRIS. (if there is some less arbitrary ordering imposed on the letters, i can’t see it.)

i’m not sure exactly how much i liked this puzzle. unlike the previous tetris puzzles i linked to above, this one doesn’t use the canonical, unmistakable sine qua non of tetris: black squares grouped together in the form of the tetrominoes. (one can also, perhaps, imagine tetromino-shaped chunks of repeated letters, although it’s hard to imagine four of any letter in a row occurring without resorting to entries like {Unfortunate tire sound} SSSS.) by itself, that is okay; after all, it had already been done that way a couple of times. but this one didn’t give me a real “click” when it came together for me, and i can’t explain why, exactly. maybe it’s because the diagonal-letter mechanism seems directly opposed to the mechanism of tetris itself, which is rigidly orthogonal. i felt more like i was doing a connect four puzzle than a tetris puzzle, honestly.

the fill was an interesting mix. i wasn’t familiar with long answers GREENFLY or SELF-TALK. ORANGY left me with a slightly sour, citrusy taste; is that really a word? i did like ESOTERIC and ROOT WORD.

what did you all think of the puzzle?

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to MGWCC #268

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks for the review (Joon) and for the puzzle (Julian). 348 right answers this week.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    From the title, I was also looking for Tetris immediately. Spent half an hour trying to drop down the blocks to form a word, before I finally saw the diagonal quartets. Felt like quite a blockhead. A very good puzzle from Julian, I thought, although it would have risen to the level of superb if he’d found a way to make the letter quartets symmetric. I remember doing the Tausig puzzle a while back that had Tetris shaped blocks, but they didn’t drop down, either. Ah well, that would be quite a challenge.

  3. Ephraim says:

    Near each of the four corners and the middle there are blobs of letters from TETRIS. Four blobs have eight letters and one (southeast) has seven. You can embed all the tetrominoes in any of the blobs, or two different tetrominoes to cover the eight-letter ones. It looked like a clue…

    TETRIS was too obvious from BLOCK PARTY and CONNECT FOUR. The construction was clever, but I missed the cleverness.

  4. Flinty Steve says:

    Of course once you see it it looks obvious, but I want to enter my brief for MYST. If you “connect four” letters that are “block parties” (i.e. adjacent to [above] single black squares) you will see the word MYST pop out on the bottom half of the grid, reading left to right. After that I didn’t look any farther. Exception for this unintended alternate, pretty please?

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I can see where you might stop searching when MYST emerged. It is symmetric and sequential in the bottom half, the characters do seem to be occupying islands of single blocks, and it is a four letter word, as you might infer from connect four. But I think to be a legitimate alternate answer, the corresponding characters NTEN in the top half would have to be involved. Maybe, Battleship fashion, emerging from the mist of war?

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    I saw that “Block Party” would lead people to Tetris quickly, but then I thought it’d be a nice mind**** for solvers to then look around for the nonexistent Tetris blocks, then see CONNECT FOUR across the middle and then say “huh?” and then it turn out to be Tetris after all.

    • bananarchy says:

      Spot on. That’s exactly what happened to me. A bit easy for a week 3/5, but still gave me a bit of a run-around and, all told, a very nice puzzle. Also, I’ve been on a huge gameboy Tetris binge lately (finally was able to max out my score at 999,999 this weekend as well!) so Tetris came to mind immediately.

      Thanks Matt and Julian!

    • Jason T says:

      Well, if that was the plan… mission accomplished! :)

    • Garrett says:

      I guessed it might be Pong. So retro! But then the title of the puzzle made no sense for that.

      The title could have been left out of this puzzle, with the meta question being, “video arcade game and the title of this puzzle.” That would have removed the “lock” quotient, but the repeated letter patterns of fours and the center of the puzzle would have been lock enough for me.

  6. peechy says:

    SITTER is also an anagram and video game.

  7. Mutman says:

    I too thought Teetris but took a while to get it. I was thinking of a four letter video game that might fall like the quads did. Halo came to mind. Eventually when that did not work, I went back and saw the four Ts. The rest then fell into place.

    I liked puzzle and meta but think a lot of late guesses of Tetris probably came in based on title and theme Nswer.

  8. Amy L says:

    I was sure I wouldn’t get the meta as I’ve never played video games, except for one: Tetris. It seemed way too easy but I entered it at the last minute. I never saw the four-letter runs to be anagrammed. I think that if they had been hinted at it would have been a more intriguing puzzle.

    As for {Evening gown material} RAYON, I feel sorry for the woman who wears a rayon evening gown. It’s not exactly a luxurious fabric and I think of it as more for everyday wear, like an inexpensive dress for work.

    • Christopher Jablonski says:

      That clue stymied me as well. Now I think it’s probably one of those tongue-in-cheek things where the “evening gown” in question is actually a nightgown. Are nightgowns made of RAYON?

      • Amy L says:

        I think of rayon as even less likely for nightgowns. Cotton is preferable with cheaper ones being nylon.

  9. Finn says:

    I tend not to look at the titles until after I’m done solving, for some reason, so I was proud to figure this one out by noticing the four T’s in a row in the SW. That actually helped me solve the rest of the puzzle; if I saw two or three letters in a diagonal, I’d write in the rest. Then I figured TETRIS out once I saw that I had IRTS and two corners left to go. Try to avoid looking at the title next time—makes the search for the meta much more interesting!

  10. Wayne says:

    The title was a dead giveaway, which both made the solve less enjoyable; and made me think that TETRIS couldn’t possibly be the answer; and that I must be missing something.

    I agree with joon about the diagonal motif being incongruous with Tetris. To be fair, Caleb’s Tetris puzzle from last year was a work of art, so the bar was pretty high.

    Fill-wise, my only quibble is that AT and ME appear twice each (46A/47D and 27A/38A, respectively). There were a large number of question mark clues, but they were good ones.

  11. Christopher Jablonski says:

    Puzzle gets quite a bit harder when you think you’re looking for a “video game character,” and you just can’t see how you’re going to make the board say LINK. I need to start reading instructions better.

  12. bananarchy says:

    Joon, I agree that the diagonal mechanism seems contrary to the core idea of Tetris (which didn’t detract from the puzzle IMO – I liked the way that the two games were tied together). Interestingly, though, expert players looking for an additional Tetris challenge will try to set up the playing field so that the bottom 10 rows or so are completely filled save for a diagonal line of empty squares running up from one of the bottom corners to the other side. Very difficult to do.

  13. Alex says:

    one can also, perhaps, imagine tetromino-shaped chunks of repeated letters, although it’s hard to imagine four of any letter in a row occurring without resorting to entries like {Unfortunate tire sound} SSSS

    I was hoping for tetromino-shaped arrangements of the letters in FOUR, including the straight one in CONNECT FOUR. But alas, it appears the solution has nothing to do with the game of Tetris at all.

  14. Jeffrey K says:

    Never saw the diagonals. Figured title led to TETRIS. Done.

  15. Matthew G. says:

    To qualify for Week 3 difficulty, this at least needed to have the clue “game” rather than “video game.” But then the CONNECT FOUR answer would have been too confusing, so I understand why that wasn’t done.

    So far, the Guest Constructor Month puzzles have been okay, but not quite as good as even an average week for one of Matt’s own puzzles. That only leaves me more impressed at his consistency.

  16. Jeff says:

    At first I misread the “video game” as board game and couldn’t find the line of W’s to make TWISTER. Then I reread the page.

Comments are closed.