MGWCC #282

crossword 4:57
meta DNF 

hello and welcome to week #282 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “What Am I Thinking?”. this week’s instructions ask us for the only one of the five in the grid. what are the theme answers? well, there four long answers, plus the central across, that all have the initials Z.C.:

  • {Utah draw} is ZION CANYON.
  • {Intersection feature} is a ZEBRA CROSSING.
  • {12345, e.g.} is a ZIP CODE, apparently the one belonging to GE headquarters in schenectady, NY. curious.
  • {Ban Jelacic Square is there} clues ZAGREB, CROATIA.
  • and {No possibility whatsoever} is ZERO CHANCE.

other than the initials … i have no idea. i can’t figure out what to make of the title. i don’t think these things have anything else in common. it seems likely, from the instructions, that four of these five refer to something we might find in the clues (and the fifth to something in the grid), but i can’t figure out what.

i started looking for potentially related clues. maybe {37th-largest city in the EU} isn’t GENOA at all but ZAGREB, CROATIA? but no, it’s genoa. zagreb is 25th, and matters don’t improve if you look at metropolitan area or urban area population (it drops into the 50s).

maybe ZEBRA CROSSING is related to {Tiger from Georgia} TY COBB, but maybe not. ZIP and ZERO can be synonyms. ZERO is also the first name of an actor/comedian (mostel), but not one on saturday night live, so {First name in “SNL” history} CHERI can’t be a reference to him. ZION can refer to jerusalem. but ZAGREB pretty much only means ZAGREB.

all right, time to take a step back and put on my constructor’s hat. why Z.C.? there must be some rationale behind those particular initials; i don’t think it would make much sense as a meta if it were completely incidental that the theme entries had the same initials. they don’t stand for anything else particularly noteworthy. they’re both letters that turn into other letters with 90-degree rotations; indeed, if you turn ZC (reading across) counter-clockwise you sort of get UN (reading down). does that help? not that i can see. croatia, of course, is a UN member state, but the others are decidedly not.

what else could Z.C. mean? undo-copy? zinc-copper? 26-3? i am grasping at straws here. CZ could be the czech republic or perhaps an indicator that we’re talking about czars.

there are two clues that contain Z: {Do some razzing} TEASE and {“Amazing” James} RANDI. i don’t think that’s going anywhere.

back to the title: what am i thinking? hmm. is it about cognition/brain function? is it about a guessing game/riddles/mind-reading?

the deadline, even having been pushed back by 27 hours due to the late start, approaches, and my likelihood of figuring this out is approaching 58-across. (well, maybe not—perhaps one of the five obvious theme answers is also the meta answer, giving me a distinctly non-zero shot at guessing it.) i am stumped, though.

last-ditch effort: what if the initials Z.C. are just supposed to suggest a canonical set of five things, four of which can be found in the clues (say) and one in the grid? this must have to do with the title somehow. that would make this considerably less guessable, of course, especially as i’ve got no idea what to do with the Z.C. yet.

so, what comes in sets of five? the classical elements (including ether), maybe. pillars of islam. the jackson five. uh… voltron? power rangers? spice girls? stages of grief? oceans (including southern)? great lakes? fingers? marx brothers? senses?

well, i’m done. somebody let me know in the comments what i should have seen.

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61 Responses to MGWCC #282

  1. Evan says:

    Zener Cards! You know, those cards that Bill Murray used in that classic scene of “Ghostbusters” to test the effects of negative reinforcement on ESP ability? The only things that really clue you into it are the five two-word Z.C. entries plus the title (and perhaps E.S.P.N., though maybe that was just a coincidence).

    So, there are five different Zener Cards: CIRCLE, CROSS, WAVES, SQUARE, and STAR. You can see CROSS in the grid with ZEBRA CROSSING while the others aren’t, so that seems like a good choice. But just as further confirmation, the other cards are in the clues – for ZAGREB CROATIA, POOL, SIDE B, and DOM – whereas CROSS is not in the clues at all. CROSS is the correct answer.

    I’m seriously shocked that I figured this one out so quickly, and what’s more, that I solved one that apparently stumped many others who are far more adept at solving Matt’s metas than I am. I’ve never gotten the right answer to the final meta of the month before, so I’d be interested to see if there were some major red herrings that led others astray and I simply happened to miss them (joon’s listed a few….interesting). Zener Cards was just the first thing I thought of when I saw the title, though I probably wouldn’t have known what they called were it not for being once stumped by the term in a relatively recent NYT puzzle. Must have hit my sweet spot!

    • Neville says:

      Didn’t get to start this puzzle until Monday because I was away for the weekend. But what did we have on in the hotel room? Ghostbusters.

      Ugh. Did not get.

      • Evan says:

        I just went back into the time machine and checked out a comment I wrote on Rex Parker about that 2011 NYT puzzle on Zener Cards. It definitely stumped me then, and I linked to that Ghostbusters scene in that comment too.

        I remember once reading either on Crossword Fiend or Rex Parker that blogging about a puzzle helps you remember information that would otherwise be obscure to you — I think being stumped and writing about how stumped I was helped make this meta click with me.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    The Z.C. group of five was Zener Cards. Four of them are in the clues (waves, square, circle, star); the only one in the grid is CROSS, hiding in ZEBRA CROSSING.

    52 right answers, appropriate for a card-themed meta.

  3. joon says:

    you know, i don’t feel bad about missing this one. i was actually thinking along the right lines in many places—but ZENER CARDS wasn’t familiar enough to me off the top of my head, nor was it familiar enough to word lists to come up when i tried searching for ZC phrases. and frankly, i don’t know enough about them that they would have jumped out at me from a list anyway (e.g. i didn’t know there were 5 of them).

    cool meta, but i wasn’t ever getting it.

    • icdogg says:

      I doubt I would have got it either, even with lots more time. But maybe I should have. I have read some of James Randi’s books, and he was mentioned in the puzzle. And he talks about Stanford Research Institute’s flawed and likely fraudulent tests with Zener cards. Pretty sure he covered the subject in “Flim Flam”. Then again, I read that book 30-some years ago.

  4. abide says:

    This one hurts. I got to “Zener Cards” about 30 minutes after completion through a OneLook search of z* c*. Read all about them on Wikipedia, including the “hollow square” card. It’s early Sunday morning and only 12 correct answers…I am a genius! Then the wheels fell off.

    I misinterpreted the instruction as “Which (one of five Zener cards) is found in the grid (grid italicized)”? As a sporadic constructor, I always felt the “grid” was BEFORE answers are filled in, and a grid is nothing except a lot of “hollow squares”. Seemed to me the Os in the completed puzzle were red herring circles. I did notice the CROSS in the answers but chalked that up to coincidence –how many 13 letter Z*C* s could there be? Plus, filled in answers do not equal “grid” to me.

    So I submitted “Square (Zener Cards)”. When my brilliant answer was not rewarded, I took another look at the CROSS and verified through the clues. (By the way, I also found A CROSS outside the completed puzzle…can you?)

    Moral: Sometimes having constructor knowledge helps you solve a meta, but here it led me astray.

  5. Swing and a miss for me. I searched through the list of Wikipedia article titles for ZC phrases, and Zener cards was there, but it didn’t jump out at me. The only ones I thought notable were various Zinc-copper phrases (if BRASS were in the grid, that would have been great; BRONZE is copper+tin) and Zdeno Chara (captain of the Boston Bruins). The latter seemed rather unlikely given that you’d have to be a Bruins fan to recognize him, and nothing else pointed at hockey.

    I ended up sending in BRONZE AGE as a guess (Wikipedia does say the bronze and brass were used interchangeably in antiquity). The other possibility I considered was (Drew) BLEDSOE, former quarterback for the New England Patriots, based on the weak grid–gridiron–football connection; but that didn’t belong to a canonical set of 5 or have any relation to the ZC theme.

  6. Maggie W. says:

    Wow, I think this may be the first MGWCC I didn’t get and don’t feel too bad about. :) Never heard the term “Zener Cards.” Like Joon, I did due dilligence on “things ZC stands for” and “groups of five things,” and came up short. Also noticed the conspicuous “half circle” in the clue for SIDE B as possibly relating to the “square” from the Zagreb clue but didn’t know what to make of it.

    I sent in “zip code,” as the only one of the five theme answers that’s in the grid. Namely, “12345,” the zip code from the clue, is in the NW corner. As it so often is. I knew it was wrong, but I think it’s nicely justified.

    • BrainBoggler says:

      Very clever approach with “ZIP Code”, Maggie! I had focused on ZIP Code early on but in a slightly different way. I interpreted the 5 ZC entries as reinforcement for the central theme entry, ZIP Code. Since the clue included “12345”, I was nearly convinced that I needed to send ONE because it was the only correctly spelled-out digit used in the grid.

      In the end, I dismissed that idea for a more appropriate self-fulfilling prophecy: submitting “ZIPPO” as another expression for “ZERO CHANCE” (of finding the intended answer).

  7. pgw says:

    It turns out that the (obscure, to me) Zener Cards come in a set of five. Circle, Cross, Waves, Square, and Star. Cross was in the grid, the rest in the clues. (Cross is also in the clues, sort of – in the heading “Across.”) So there you go.

    I stumbled upon this on the Wikipedia page for “telepathy,” nudged by the puzzle title. I went through several other dead ends previously. Even when I OneLook searched “z* c*” I did not stop to look at Zener Cards, and OneLook does not consider it a “common word or phrase.”

    This was a well-constructed meta, but not my favorite. Its difficulty was a function not so much of the puzzle itself being hard, but that the thing one had to know (or learn) to solve it was obscure. joon accurately guessed at the puzzle idea, but failed to solve it simply because he (like me and I’m sure many, many others) had simply never heard of a Zener Card.

    • joon says:

      to clarify my own position: i have heard of zener cards; they certainly come up regularly enough in clues for ESP, a 3-letter entry which has a tendency of finding its way into crossword grids on a pretty regular basis. but this meta required you to actually know things about them, which i didn’t.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Hmmm, I thought Zener Cards would be better-known, especially to a game-oriented group.

    I hate to have people miss a meta, especially a Week 4 where there’s lots of time invested, by the meta answer being unfamiliar.

    • hibob says:

      I think that what made this a week four puzzle was the obscurity of the name of “Zenner Cards” and really nothing else. The initials ZC do not prompt Zenner Cards to mind in the way the initials DQ immediately prompt Dairy Queen. If ZC readily prompted Zenner Cards then I think this puzzle would be more of a week three, as once that was in your head it was not a huge stretch to look for the shapes.

    • Evad says:

      I’m in the camp of knowing that there were such things to test ESP, but had no recollection of what they were called. I went to and put in the Z* C* pattern, but got so many obscure entries, I limited it to just the most common ones, and unfortunately these cards weren’t shown on the list.

      I got stuck on an electricity/grid kick, thinking the What in the title was a homophone for Watt, and there was also Herr OHM and Intel’s MOORE (of Moore’s Law fame) lurking about. I went with HALL’S, since there is an electrical principal called the Hall Effect I think.

    • John says:

      Never heard of Zener Cards. Tried to watch Ghostbusters, hated it, and stopped watching, sometime in the 80s. wasn’t going to get this with a month of extra time.

      Congrats to the GB fans.

      • Howard B says:

        Heard of the cards, rather aware of their content, but the initials themselves were nowhere near enough to point me in that direction of a meta. Ouch.

  9. ant says:

    There is only one “U” of the five vowels in the grid, and thought that Matt was thinking of “you.”
    I was certain the ZC themes were just red herrings themselves.
    I, too, have never heard of Zener Cards.
    Oh, well – next week is a new month…
    …with five weeks.

  10. Jim Schooler says:


    I sent in this answer to Matt:
    “Zero Chance”

    And in the comments section:
    “…that this is the meta!”

  11. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Desperate to send in something, anything, I sent in ZEBRA CROSSING on the exceedingly thin basis that 3 D, BRONZEAGE, which contains the letters Z, E, B, R, and A, crossed ZEBRA CROSSING!

    But I knew absolutely nothing about Zener cards and CROSS never crossed my mind.

    Not that I am feeling CROSS about it, of course.

    • Kman23 says:

      I also did that! But noticed that BRONZEAGE = ZEBRA crossing GENOA in the grid (only one A in the grid). Was also looking for something BLACK (like BLACK ADDER for example) crossing something WHITE, but couldn’t find it!

  12. bananarchy says:

    I’m curious to know how many missed this one simply because they had never heard of Zener cards. Not actually that tricky of a meta once you know what ZC stands for, but I think foreknowledge of the cards would be crucial here since the initial intuitive leap hinges on it; figuring out what to actually do fell into place pretty quickly once I made the connection between ZC and Zener cards. In contrast, there have been many metas that I was able to crack through a bit of googling (pretty much all of the sports metas, for instance), since I first figured out the extraction mechanism/gimmick/whatever and then filled in my knowledge gaps once I knew what to search for. Maybe it’s just me, though; after all, joon nailed with uncanny precision the extraction mechanism near the end of his write-up, but Zener cards just never occurred to him I guess.

  13. Paul Coulter says:

    Didn’t come close. Couldn’t have told you what Zener Cards are, though I’ve seen Ghost Busters numerous times. Did notice the square and circle in clues for crossing words at Zagreb/SideB and the clues seemed odd enough that I looked for this pattern at other themers. However, I thought of the pair more as opposites than part of a set, and the pattern didn’t repeat in any case. I followed many of Joon’s steps, and finally sent in a wild guess of Zippo, which was Zeppo’s original stage name with the Marx Brothers (zany comedy for z.c.) Oddly enough, my granddaughter urged me to send in Cross instead, though it was for SMW Cross, one of the five perfect players. Given the arguably obscure nature of the phrase Zener Cards, I think this meta would have been more solid if the set of five symbols had appeared in four theme clues and one theme answer.

  14. Mutman says:

    I never heard of Zener Cards either, which put me at a huge disadvantage for this meta.

    Prior meta experience led me to guess ZEBRA CROSSING. Thought there might be something hidden in a crossing, like a nun’s habit (black) crossing Ty Cobb (white striped uniform). This black/white zebra crossing is found in the grid.

    Well maybe not. Lame guess, while in the ballpark, is undeserving of meta correct answer.

    Nice work Matt!

  15. DBraun91 says:

    Yes, the term Zener Cards may be relatively unknown to most. But I don’t think that this makes the meta “unfair”. I am by no means a consistent week 4/5 solver. I think I’ve gotten one or two since starting on Matt’s metas back in March. I came to the answer through the title “What am I thinking?”. How are we to know what Matt is thinking other than through some sort of magic. ESP is a common xword entry, and I saw it pop up within ESPN. Maybe a fluke? As with most week 4’s, I set wikipedia as my home page and use that as my main source. So, to wikipedia I went. And what do you know? . The 5 Zener Cards are the main photo for the ESP page, with a link to Zener Cards in the caption. It clicked when I saw that ZC connection. Then it was as easy as finding which Zener Card was in the grid and double checking by finding the four “not in the grid” which can be found in the clues.

    • Alex B. says:

      This is exactly what I did.

    • bananarchy says:

      I stand somewhat corrected, then (when I averred that this one was largely ungooglable above). Didn’t hit up the Wikipedia page since Zener cards clicked right away for me, but I likely would have otherwise since I inferred ESP from the title. Seeing those five symbols straight away would have likely set off my meta-solving alarm, but who can say for sure.

      • abide says:

        I may be the only wrong entry who got to Zener cards, but picked the wrong one! I can’t say I had ever heard of them, and the One Look slog was tough (probably page 15), but when I saw the entry it looked promising enough to click on. If they were Zuner cards, I may not have survived that search.

        • Al says:

          Hi Peter, no you and I were in the same boat. I knew of Zener Cards and got the Z. C. connection, but came up with BLACK SQUARE for my entry, similar to you. Sigh.

    • Justin says:

      I’m in agreement here. Never heard of them, but it’s certainly a fair meta.

  16. Christopher Jablonski says:

    Count me in the list of people who HAVE heard of Zener cards and thought they were pretty fair game. (So yes, I also got the meta.)

    Maybe Matt could include a poll with next week’s contest to see how well-known they actually are.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Actually I was thinking of doing exactly that because I want to know too. It never crossed my mind at any point until reading joon’s post above that Zener Cards might be unfamiliar.

      Maybe I think they’re common knowledge because I had a set as a kid.

  17. Joe says:

    Count me among those who didn’t even take a guess at this one because Zener cards are com. plete. ly. unfamiliar to me. I psyched myself out so much that I was convinced the ZC pattern was just a red herring. I started looking at the clue itself as a cryptic. I thought that maybe “the grid” was an anagram. And then fact that grid was italicized had to mean something, right? *shakes fist at the heavens* Curse you, Gaffney!!

  18. Jeff M says:

    Never heard of Zener Cards either…

    Couldn’t get past: 1) the initials of the title spelled out “WAIT” and 2) that there were no apostrophed (is that word?) clues in the Across but several in the Down. So I was either thinking that the meta had to something with “wait” (or “weights”) and/or atomic weights in the apostrophed clues.

    I ended up guessing “George” because I figured that was a king who was thin one letter in the grid (Georg –> George / What was I thinking).

    I think I need to get out more.

  19. Archie says:

    I had never heard of Zener Cards, but I think my answer of “Zip Code” deserves an Honorable Mention, as it is the only one of the five theme answers listed in the ZC Grid. Look it up on Google.

  20. Mark M says:

    Count me as one who has never heard of Zener Cards.

    But if 52 folks were able to gronk it then fine by me. Payback for all the times the meta has a sports theme that comes easily to me and hard to others.

    I guessed Zippo linking it to Zero Chance. All the ZC related web searches turned up nothing for me.

  21. Jason T says:

    Never heard of Zener cards (and I love Ghostbusters!) — but I found my way to an alternative answer that was, to me at least, utterly convincing. I figured out that we were likely looking for a phrase with the initials ZC, for which there are only five examples, only one of which was in the grid – and after a fair bit of Google experimentation, I happened upon “Zimbabwe currencies.” Enter that in Google, and Google announces that there are indeed five Zimbabwe currencies: the U.S. dollar, the Botswana pula, the South African rand, the Euro, and the UK pound. Okay, so far so good, but it only works if we can find one and only one of them in the grid – and sure enough, there at 11-down, is the South African RAND in RANDI. I experienced the delightful “Aha!” moment of satisfaction, chalked up the title to just generally meaning “Let’s see if you can guess which ZC I’m thinking of”, and submitted RAND with absolute confidence… only to be very surprised that I turned out to be wrong. I’m assuming this was an unintentional red herring, but wow! What are the odds that there would be two “Z C” phrases that indicate a grouping of five items, only one of which can be found in the grid??? Is it just sour grapes that I prefer my answer? I have at least heard of Zimbabwe. :)

  22. John L. Wilson says:

    So many flourishes here (ESPn, RANDI), but the subtlest for me was ZIP CODE’s “12345, e.g.” clue, matching the number of lines/curves/points in the five Zener cards.

  23. Crossword Beast says:

    This one was quite easy for me bause I’m quite familiar with Zener cards, which the Z* C* pattern and the puzzle title and especially ESP’n at 15-Across (which I think is hilarious) led me to. I mentioned ESP’n at the beginning of my entry-submission comment, asking if it was intentional. Matt emailed me this morning saying ” those ESP’s were SErendiPitous.”

    There’s just one tiny thing I would have changed: In the 3-Down BRONZEAGE clue, I would have used “began” instead of “started,” to avoid the extra “star” string.

    Let’s see, what’s another word for “Across”? Hey Matt, I’m glad you didn’t rely on =that=!

  24. Al says:

    I’m in the unfortunate group along with Peter that figured out the puzzle was referring to Zener Cards (based on the Z C pattern and the “What Am I Thinking?” title), but still didn’t get the meta. I somehow stumbled on a version of the cards that are in color and the squares are black, so I submitted BLACK SQUARE, thinking as Peter did of an unfilled grid. Never noticed how four of the shapes were in the clues and one in the grid answer, which makes it a much better meta.

    Note to self, never send in the answer too quickly, and don’t solve it online. I think I would have had a better chance of seeing the clue pattern had I printed the puzzle out like I usually do.

  25. Pete Rimkus says:

    Add me to the “never heard of “Zener Cards” list…
    And the italicization (word?) of “grid” led me to waste my time looking for an alternative to the puzzle grid itself…a ‘grid in the grid’ maybe…

  26. J. T. Williams says:

    I thought very seriously about “*GRID*” meaning that the card itself was graphically represented in the grid, and I was concerned that the emphasis was meant to indicate that CROSS in the answers was not correct. But then I noticed ALL 4 of the other cards in the clues, which was that perfect touch that made it so clear what the correct answer was. Really liked this one, but then again I was one of the fortunate ones for whom seeing Zener cards flashing by in a list of the onelook Z* C* search (actually, I did ZU* C*, ZO* C*, etc, so as not to be overwhelmed) actually could spark an AHA moment.

    • John says:

      Yeah, zener card is 214 in that list and goes on from there. If it doesn’t strike an immediate chord, i don’t see how you make anything out of it. It doesn’t seem any more promising than dozens of others. To investigate all of them would seem too much like work – I do these for fun. :v)

  27. stupid sisters says:

    We’d heard of the name “Zener Cards” but NEVER could have come up with it. We played with those ESP cards when we were little though. The big clue was the title: “What am I Thinking?” That made us think of ESP and prompted us to look up the cards on Wikipedia. Got about halfway through reading the first paragraph when the Z-C of Zener Cards caught us and we realized we were onto something. Had been trying to figure out why that word “grid” was in italics since Saturday and the light turned on!! Remembered the clue with the word “waves” in it (60 across) and realized four of the cards might be in the clues, but only one was going to be in the grid!

    Great meta Matt – you didn’t need to know the term Zener Cards to get it – you just had to think in the right direction.

  28. David Stein says:

    Great Puzzle, Matt. I was nowhere close, although I knew of Zenar Cards. Just never thought of it. I was fixated on the italicized word “grid” in the instructions. I was sure I was supposed to think about a different grid. Electrical or something.

    I can live with this miss as I wasn’t even close. always fun, though, whether I get it or not.

  29. PJ says:

    I have never heard of Zener Cards even though I have seen Ghostbusters. I didn’t even find it when I googled ZC, which I knew had to have something to do with the meta. However, I found that Ty Cobb was ONLY ONE OF THE FIVE players who were first inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Voila! He is in the grid and the other four are not!

    • - kip - says:

      I entered Ty Cobb for the same reason. Figured “What Was I Thinking?” referred to what Matt might rather be thinking about this week with the World Series in full swing. :)

  30. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    I never knew those things were called Zener cards, or that there was a fixed deck of them. I was distracted by the plethora of initial ‘A’s in the grid.

    If I counted right, there were 5 X’s, of which 4 were in the clues and 1 in the grid. The letter X is incidentally between Z and C on the keyboard. I submitted ‘X’ in desperation at 5 am today to avoid further distraction. (What’s funny is that ‘X’ is a rotated cross of sorts.)

  31. DJB says:

    I had never heard of Zener Cards before, but did get the meta. However I had a lucky break along the way.

    Initially, for the exact same reasons as Evad, I was convinced the meta had something to do with an electricity grid (What/Watt homophone, Ohm, Moore, power in 1A clue, cluster of letters forming diode). Also zip code 12345 is General Electric’s HQ! Going down this false path, I tried to turn the crossword grid into an electric circuit grid.

    The first thing I did was look up what Z and C stood for in electric circuits. It turns out Z stands for Zener Diode! This seemed pretty obscure, but searching for Zener in Wikipedia takes you to the disambiguation page, which includes a link to Zener Cards. Clicking through, the image right at the top of the page is of five cards. The rest fell into place from there.

    The first time that chasing down a false lead has actually helped!

    • Evad says:

      Actually I forgot to say that what led me down the electric path was that wikipedia shows very few abbreviations for ZC, but two of them end in Coulomb. Also, I thought it curious that Matt only clued INTEL to one of the founders, indeed the one who authored Moore’s Law regarding transistors.

      Ah well, I’m ok with not getting this as well, as I wasn’t anywhere near the right answer.

  32. jefe says:

    Utterly baffled; never heard of Zener Cards.

    However, I am now an expert on Zebra hybrid offspring, Zodiac Constellations, and Zermelo’s Axiom of Choice (I thought for some time that the answer was to be found by taking one letter between each Z/C, which almost gives NEIGH, which is equine-related, or by taking one letter from each Z-word and C-word, which almost gives NARRATION, or internal monologue which Matt could be thinking).

    Finding nothing, I saw you can *almost* make the 5 boroughs of NYC Boggle-style, and you can make Staten Island in the NE, so I went with that.

  33. Meg says:

    I’ve seen the cards, but didn’t know they had a name and didn’t know there were 5. Matt- any more unusual childhood toys we should know about?

  34. lorraine says:

    count me among those who had never heard of Zener Cards….However, given my record of successfully solving week 4/5 metas (maybe, like, 20 for the last 250??), it’s not like knowing of them would have led me down the proverbial garden path to the right answer…

    my half-assed wild guess (which i didn’t send in because, my God, there was no way it was the right answer!) was zebra crossing based on the the first letters of the title words spelling WAIT….and that’s what you do at a zebra crossing. yeah, lame, i know. I did think of groups of five things out of which we’d be able to extract the one we needed, but having never heard of zener cards, there was no way I’d ever find my way to the answer.

  35. Anne E says:

    Late to the party, I know! I’m about as proud to have gotten this meta as any MGWCCs. I had seen ZENER once or twice in a crossword before, clued with reference to ESP, but had never seen the cards, and of course I’ve seen thousands and thousands of different words in crosswords. For me it was the title that unlocked it, the EXTREMELY helpful italicization of the word “grid” in the instructions, and the deliberately awkward wording of the clues that contained the Zener words. (I didn’t notice anyone else mentioning these awkward clues, but they were a huge help to me.) Once I started thinking of ESP based on the title, staring at ZC suddenly resulted in the Zener word surfacing out of my memory (I have no idea how – I got no help from Googling ZC).

    And sorry joon, I disagree with your comment that you had to know something about Zener cards to solve the meta – I started from exactly where you did, having seen the word in crosswords a couple times. I didn’t know a thing about them other than that they were used in ESP testing. So I Googled the cards and stared at the photos, then looked at the awkwardly-worded clues again (which I’d flagged right away when solving), used the help of the italicized word “grid”, and there it was. But I do have to agree that if I had never ever heard the word “Zener” before in reference to ESP, I wouldn’t have gotten this – it wouldn’t have occurred to me to randomly start Googling ESP. The “proud” part is that I couldn’t believe I somehow retrieved the word Zener from my subconscious. That usually doesn’t happen. :-) I have no idea how I did that!

  36. ICDogg says:

    I had various thoughts, like different meanings of “grid”… like the checkerboard pattern on the mesas around Zion Canyon… but never came up with Zener Cards.

  37. Bernie says:

    Add me to the list of folk that never knew that those funny cards with stars and waves on them were called “Zener Cards”.

  38. Abby says:

    I know Zener Cards and that they’re called that, but there was no way I was getting there just from ZC and the title. Maybe should’ve, but even in retrospect, I don’t think that’s enough. Maybe If I’d spotted the other ones in the clues, but they’re common enough words I didn’t see them in the short time I had to work on this. I do not think this was good one. :-(

    I did try to find sets of five things where one was in the grid, but there were several reasonable contenders and nothing that made a lot of sense. Finally tried to see if any of the theme words were represented in the grid in another way, but couldn’t get anything I liked there either.

    I think if the theme words had spelled out ZENER initially or the title had been more on the nose about mind-reading I would’ve got there, but I couldn’t make the leap as was.

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