MGWCC #278

crossword 5:28
meta DNF 

hello and welcome to episode #278 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Corporate Structure”. this week’s instructions ask us for a well-known American corporation. what are the theme answers?

… i actually have no idea. the puzzle grid is asymmetric, and the 9- and 10-letter answers are strewn rather haphazardly about the grid. NINE IN A ROW looks like it should probably be a theme answer, but i have no idea about APPENDS TO, THE NIKKEI, GREEN ARROW, SUPPOSE SO, or OPENS UP TO.

honestly, i’ve looked at this puzzle a bunch and i have made less progress on it than any meta in the 278 weeks i’ve been solving the MGWCC. i mean, i seriously have nothing. but i guess we should take another look.

the NW corner has alternating A’s for a while. there are some other places where it looks like there might be something like that going on, but i don’t really see what to do with that.

i suppose with NINE IN A ROW i should look for … doubled letters, maybe? there’s a few. PP and LL in APPALL, PP in SUPPOSE SO, OO in CUT LOOSE, OO in SHOOS, PP in APPENDS TO, SS in A TOSS, a rare KK in THE NIKKEI, RR in GRR, EE in STEEP, SS in ASST, EE and RR in GREEN ARROW, EE in KEEP DRY, OO in ROOSTS, BB in HUBBY. that’s way more than nine. hmm.

well, maybe i’m just supposed to look at the first letters of nine consecutive answers or nine consecutive numbered squares? that would be a little odd, but it might explain the asymmetric grid. let’s just try writing these out: MADAMAGORASAWOSULSPDDARTCUTSEORGSTBSONSPANTNANRTOHOHGPLAHOLPCATSTOA (by number)
i can’t see a 9-letter string hidden in either of those that looks like much of anything.

well, we could try the old “clue fits more than one answer” idea. {Word in a South American city} PAULO could also be SAO (for the same city), or RIO or various other things. {Big index, casually} THE NIKKEI could be THE DOW. {Maude’s friend} HAROLD could be EDITH, right? from all in the family? or even VIVIAN from maude? {Syllable of reproach, often repeated} TUT could certainly be TSK. but there aren’t actually nine of these in a row (the APU clue at 57a is uniquely identifying)

none of this is going anywhere, though. i don’t even have an inkling for a hail mary guess. i suppose i could try to think of a corporation with nine letters (if that’s what i should be doing)? bah.

all right, i’m throwing in the towel after what must undoubtedly be my feeblest effort. this one crushed me. somebody put me out of my misery.

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49 Responses to MGWCC #278

  1. Matt says:

    54 right answers this week. The meta answer was NIKE, as those letters in the grid form Nike’s swoosh logo.

    • Dan Katz says:

      Tarnation. I noticed at one point there was a large mass of E-I-N-K in the middle left area of the grid, and was about to start circling them to a look for a pattern, when I was distracted by something else and forgot about it.

      Only leads I pursued were the asymmetry of the grid (which letters were opposite black squares?) and the weird recurrence of the word “one” in four clues. Fair puzzle, no complaints.

      • mps says:

        pretty much the same thing happened to me. i even recall thinking for a moment “maybe it’s nike”. but then i wandered down some other dead end and never revisited that possibility. totally gettable too.

  2. Tyler says:

    The big clue is the unusual area around 44A/47A… there are four letters used very often there and rarely or not at all elsewhere. Those four letters are N, I, K, and E. Circle every instance of those letters in the grid and you should get confirmation.

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Well, I got it right, but I had so little confidence in my entry, I commented, “Shamefully weak guess, I know.” I saw the NIKE squares early, and by my count, there are nine ways to Boggle them, but I could find no corroboration other than the homophonic shoos in the near middle. I thought of the swoosh thing, and maybe I should’ve printed it out, then used a highlighter, but I really couldn’t see it. The thing that stood out for me was that this puzzle had eight trigrams intersecting. This appears to be an irrelevant artifact, but I’d have to think it’s very unusual in a 15×15 grid. It caused me to search repeatedly for the ninth set, and though TOS and TOSS came close, this was a dead end. I actually liked my path of nine S’s and E’s on the right and nine N’s and E’s on the left better. If we hadn’t been restricted to American companies, I probably would have guessed Nintendo for NES. Looks like it was Try to Dismember September after all.

  4. hibob says:

    no wonder I didn’t get anywhere close

  5. Cole says:

    I saw the scrambled NIKEs near the NIKKEI/NINEINAROW and eventually realized there were no other N I K or Es anywhere else in the puzzle and managed to trace out the swoosh. I thought that was cool.

  6. John says:

    Wow. That was my first wild guess based on Nikkei and SHOOS. Thought Corporate Structure meant “ladder” and sent in Home Depot.

  7. tabstop says:

    Oh I see. Had noticed all the A’s in the NW/SE but hadn’t really noticed the lack of E’s.

    The problem with having sudden brainwaves based just on the title is that it’s hard to get rid of them (at least for me). I decided (based on just the title) that all those C*O corporate titles would be important, and then when they didn’t appear at all I was floundering.

  8. chnest says:

    I was so close, but yet so far away. I thought about Nike based on “shoos” in the middle. But I thought that the “Structure” had to do with chemistry–seemed to be a lot of single letter chemical symbols (and Cu, Ag, Au also present). I now know why–N, I, and K are two-way players.


  9. pgw says:

    I was stuck on the doubled-letters idea for a long time. There are eight unique doubled letters, and there are a couple instances of two-in-a-row black squares to make a ninth, uh, thing that shows up “in a row” … but that went nowhere. Finally stared at ‘THE NIKKEI’ long enough, since that is such an odd bit of fill. I started noticing that there are lots of clusters of ‘N-I-K-E’ in *some* configuration, and finally thought to start coloring them in.

    As with so many of Matt’s tough puzzles, it was remarkably simple in retrospect … but so hard to see.

    Matt, how soon did you abandon any hope of a symmetrical grid?

  10. Evan says:

    Giant swing-and-a-miss for me. I thought maybe the meta had to do with golf, with ROUND, OPENS, GREEN, and NINE (holes/iron) serving as pseudo-theme answers, but nothing came to mind. Then went looking for NYSE stock symbols that I thought might show up in the grid, and still nothing. I just guessed APPLE, INC. because the first three letters appear in APPALL and APPENDS TO.

    The only place where I might have been on the right track was to think about corporate logos, but the only logo I could latch onto was for SKODA Auto, which has a GREEN ARROW in its logo. Alas, it’s a Czech company.

    • DannyBoy says:

      I also guessed Apple, mostly because it was in the news last week for becoming the world’s most valuable brand. I also considered SONY, because the stock symbol for its American corporation is SNE, and I noticed the nine in a row strings mentioned above. So “NINE IN A ROW” means nothing and there are no theme answers?

  11. Gwinns says:

    I got Nike off of SHOOS, not because it sounds like “Shoes” but because it looked a lot like SWOOSH. Most likely a coincidence, but it was enough to put the idea in my mind to see if all those N-I-K-E’s made a swoosh.

    • BrainBoggler says:

      I did go with NIKE largely based on SHOOS as SHOES (partially on THENIKKEI), but I also thought it was interesting that the first letter of the SHOOS clue is W, which when inserted and re-arranged, gives SWOOSH. That said, I never thought to try to make the swoosh pattern using the letters from NIKE. In fact, other answers in the grid had me convinced I was on the right track: TAR made me think of TARHEELS, CUTLOOSE had me singing FOOTLOOSE lyrics, and TALUSES clue even included “foot”. Great puzzle, Matt. Even though I submitted the intended answer, I wish I could have grokked the intended solution.

  12. Christopher Jablonski says:

    Coincidentally, “swoosh” is also the sound of this meta going over many, many heads.

    *has a long, cathartic, cry

  13. Jason T says:

    Nike crossed my mind at one point (based solely on the letters in THE NIKKEI). Why didn’t I… JUST DO IT?

  14. Dave C says:

    Wow, my barely educated guess came through at 11:59. I got lucky in that I almost exclusively focused on the stacks in the middle of the grid, which featured those 4 letters. I correctly interpreted corporate structure as meaning a logo within the grid, sensed the loose beginnings of a swoosh in the letters in those stacked answers, so I just went with it. I had no confidence in my submission, though.

    The only other thing I briefly looked at was the 5-5-3 answers in the top 3 rows and the 6-3-4 answers in the bottom 3 rows, since there was small bit of continuity there, but that got me a quick nothing.

  15. Alexander says:

    Dang. I thought of Nike right at the start because of Nikkei, but didn’t think to circle the letters in the whole grid.

    I thought the whole grid was a floor plan of a department store: Madam and Hubby in different rooms, “saw” and “wax” in the hardware area, and even “pink” or that other word by intimate apparel. “Opens up to” is the main entrance down the middle, and “green arrow” is the YOU ARE HERE pointer. (Floorplans of Target have a green stripe right down there too!). I turned in J.C. Penney because of DJs and “Got a C”, but I knew it was a wild guess.

    Again, great puzzle. When you see the swoosh it’s so obvious. Nice one, Matt!

  16. Mutman says:

    Beautiful meta!

    I noticed the absence of Es in the top and bottom. The N, I and K were not as obvious.

    Noticed the asymmetry immediately but couldn’t make it help me.

    Ended up guessing Etrade because of the GREEN ARROW answer and the E thing.

    Great job Matt!

  17. Amy L says:

    I tried many of the same things Joon tried. I almost went for FOR EYES when I noticed there were only four i’s in the puzzle., but I thought that would be way too lame for Matt. I did notice the weird pattern of letters but never put it together.

    The solution is amazing–as usual–and makes total sense.

  18. Pj says:

    I’m such a visual learner, that I think I’ll have blurred vision for the rest of the week trying to squint and see something in the grid. I submitted Playboy because i was able to make out the bunny. Started withe the bowtie (squares on point) and saw the ears at the top left. Knew it was a stretch but had to choose something. To be honest, I really don’t see the swoosh very clearly. I was sure that the asymmetry referred to a company with an unusual corporate structure or something like that. GRR!!!

  19. Maggie W. says:

    Got this pretty last minute, although it was going to be my guess all along, due to the high concentration of NIKE letters in the NIKKEI region.

    I got stuck for a while on 3-letter runs appearing in two intersecting answers: ROW, DRY, PEN, TOS, ARR, ENI, NIN, EXT, SES, OSE, etc. Maybe these things show up in puzzles all the time, but since there wasn’t much to go on, and I sort of figured there weren’t any theme answers — Matt, was SHOOS intentional? — I noticed them here.

    Yay, Matt!

    • Bob J says:

      I also got stuck on 3-letter runs. I thought some of the entries sounded like rebus-style instructions – APPENDSTO (‘append STO’), TAKENIN (‘take NIN’), and KEEPDRY (‘keep DRY’) – and saw that each of those 3-letter runs intersects the same 3-letter run in the crossing entry. That didn’t lead anywhere until I noticed, from top to bottom:
      the crossing STO’s form a J
      the crossing NIN’s form a +
      the crossing DRY’s form a J
      leading to Johnson and Johnson, enough for a last-minute guess. Swoosh…

  20. Pj says:

    Thanks, joon. Now I can see it in your grid above!

  21. Pete Rimkus says:

    Not even close for me…I got bogged down in O’s…

    There were all those theme answers which ended with long O :
    even OHOHOH – I mean how obvious is that once you’re seeing O’s!!!

    …and long U sounds – but with the letter O :

    …as well as the OO’s in CUTLOOSE and SHOOS.

    I did notice the diagonal EEE at what I see now is the right end of the swoosh, but they were minimalized because of the two sets of diagonal AAA’s in the NW…

    Kinda disappointed that the theme answers – except for THENIKKEI – didn’t really play into to the meta…live and learn… Good job Matt!

    • pgw says:

      There were no theme answers (other than, arguably, THE NIKKEI and SHOOS.)

      • Pete Rimkus says:

        OK…not “theme answers”…long-ish answers masquerading, because of their length – as such

    • Shawn P says:

      I got thrown off by the O’s as well (there are also a lot of diagonal and vertical O’s) and went with Google because of the bottom of it’s home screen is the word Goooooooogle. Definitely no AHA (4 Down) moment.

      I was also trying to figure something out with all of the long answers ending in conjunctions (APPENDS TO, TAKEN IN, OPENS UP TO, SUPPOSE SO, SOP UP), but could not think of a related corporation.

      The closest that I got the actual answer was noticing that the word NINE crosses itself in the grid.

  22. yoyomonster says:

    What?! Another sports related meta? I kid. As a sports and Niners fan, I loved last week meta, though it was embarassing that I didn’t get it.

    Made a hail mary grab here this week. I believe Matt filled SHOOS on purpose to help us get NIKE. He could have easily gone with SHOOK/TAKE. Other fills mentioned by BrainBoggler also helped.

    Coincidentally, I picked up NKE stock recently, and it shows up inside TANKERS.

    Clever meta, Matt. Is 54 a record low?

    • Maggie W. says:

      The last week of the Hunt for Food October in 2011 had only 13 survivors. I doubt anything will ever beat that. (A challenge, Matt?)

    • Crossword Beast says:

      No, Matt could not have gone with SHOOK/TAKE. All the N’s, I’s, K’s, and E’s in the grid are in the swoosh; the K in SHOOK/TAKE would have been outside it.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        SHOOT/TATE would have worked. I’m pretty sure the SHOOS was an intentional nudge, since the puzzle contained no other help, and the title’s hint was very well disguised.

  23. Archie says:

    Thought it had to be Oracle, based on all the Os, row, row (your boat), nine in a row, round two, oh, oh, oh, as Oracle had just taken the ninth game of the America’s cup, their second time.

  24. bananarchy says:

    I’m slightly disappointed that the (nearly) symmetrically-placed ORGASMS and OHOHOH had nothing to do with the meta

  25. When I was running low on ideas, I did a frequency analysis of all of the letters in the grid, as I sometimes do, and compared that with the expected frequencies for normal English text (which admittedly are not quite the same frequencies of letters found in crosswords, but it should be close enough).

    What I immediately noticed from that was that there were far fewer E’s and I’s than expected and far more A’s and P’s than expected. I looked at the A’s and P’s and didn’t see much, but when I looked at the E’s and I’s, I saw that they were all clustered in the middle rows of the grid. From there, it didn’t take too long to also include the N’s, and then later the K’s, and there was the Nike Swoosh.

  26. Jed says:

    Stuck on the asymmetry – I superimposed the inverted grid on the normal one and used sharpie to black out squares to create a symmetrical black-heavy grid.

    Interesting that there are only two pairs of symmetrically placed black squares in the grid…I was sure that meant something.

    • Amy L says:

      I too wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the grid symmetrical. Swoosh….

    • Garrett says:

      I was absolutely convinced we were to find a way to make the grid symmetrical after finding no obvious theme clues. I figured that when that happened the answer would shake-out.

      I noticed there were 37 black squares — 18 at the top of the middle row, and 18 below, with just one black square in the middle row, for a total of 37. But the single black square in the middle row was not in a symmetrical location. Originally I started by moving rows. Swapping the 38A row with the 40A row made the middle symmetrical, but what to do with the row at 44A?

      So then I tried moving squares around, shifting the letters they moved through. There were a number of ways to do that, but nothing came of it.

      Finally I tried rotating columns, popping off the top and adding to the bottom to see if some company name came out.

      Fairly early on I decided that the likely answers were Yahoo (add to Shoos) and Nike (subtract from Nikkei) but a) I could find no “it makes sense” way to do that, and b) I could not guess because either answer made sense.

      I completely missed the swoosh. However, I did notice the high count of ‘A’s, though I could not make the leap to what that implied.

    • Scout says:

      I also thought the answer would be to make the grid symmetrical. I figured that “Corporate Structure” meant “top-down”, so I created a grid based on the top half and then tried to anagram the blacked out letters with no luck. Finally fell back on the number of times Nike could be created in a small space and submitted that.

  27. Abide says:

    I did circle most of the nike in the middle, but only had nike four times. Seemed too much like a red herring. Went with Google since there are six blocks with 9s in the across answers. NOPRST seemed to cry out for a Q company.

  28. Byron says:

    Ceci n’est pas une pipe?

  29. Abby says:

    I noticed the vowels were clustered (As and Os at the top, Es and Is in the middle) and figured there was some kind of picture, but didn’t get around to coloring the Es in until Monday. “That checkmark looks kind of like a Nike swoosh!” Since I was doing the “coloring” by computer, I tried the other vowels and then figured it out.

  30. Howard B says:

    Clever construction there, impressive.
    Never do get these visual ones though, so never came close. Again. :) I don’t know what it is about my mind, but visual themes just perplex me. Oh well.

  31. Adam Thompson says:

    I didn’t get the meta. I was distracted by the weird fill on the left side (OBST, GHAT) and the abbreviations in two clues that didn’t lead to abbreviated entries.

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