MGWCC #303

crossword about 7 hours to write 

Matt here, self-blogging this week due to joonlessness.


The seven paintings described in theme clues all had a certain type of flower in them. They were:

17-A — Vincent Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet,” where the doctor is holding foxglove.

22-A — Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nympheas,” which contains water lilies.

27-A — Enrico Coleman’s album of 88 paintings, which are all of orchids.

39-A — Pablo Picasso’s “Portrait of J.R. With Roses,” which contains roses.

48-A — Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Black Iris,” which contains an iris.

57-A — Gustav Klimt’s “The Sunflower,” which contains a sunflower.

65-a — Judith Leyster’s untitled 1643 print, which is of a tulip.

Take the first letter of those seven flowers (subtracting the “water” part from “water lilies” as the MONET clue instructs) and you get…


…meta answer FLORIST, found by 328 solvers. Spring is flower time, but it’s snowing outside my house right now. Oh well, winter can’t last forever.

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50 Responses to MGWCC #303

  1. Mark M says:

    As always enjoyed the puzzle. But the meta felt like a week 2. With this many solvers I fear week 4, seriously fear week 4.

    • Matthew G. says:

      The (entirely necessary) caveat in the MONET clue blew this wide open, by instantly bringing to mind his water lilies and focusing the solver’s attention on the names of flowers. I bet a hundred fewer people would have solved this if there had been a way to leave out that parenthetical. Given my recent track record with Week 3s, I might have been one of said hundred.

      • Matt says:

        I also used that parenthetical as a guard against non-FLORIST answers (flower arranger, gardener, horticulturist, etc.) since that line makes no sense without seeing the whole FLORIST idea.

  2. Jason says:

    Guess I got lucky as I only saw the piece of work associated with each artist had a flower. I wonder if FLOWER SHOP would have been accepted as an answer.

    • Jonesy says:

      in case the other comments don’t clear this up — FLORIST is the only answer that was (or should have been) accepted as any other answer doesn’t involve the accrostic involved with the flowers in each painting…

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    I like a meta that makes me do some research, as long as there’s a reasonably clear indication where to look. In this case, we viewed outstanding artwork and the hints were more than ample. As soon as we were told to ignore M. Monet making water, it was clear he’d soon paint lilies. Novice meta solvers had a very fair shot to bring other flowers into bloom. As for veterans, I agree with Mark that it played like a Week 2. But that’s a function of how Matt chooses to color with parenthetical remarks, rather than the puzzle’s composition. This one was as lovely as spring’s first daffodils. I enjoyed the AHA moment when the flowers opened into a very appropriate FLORIST. I was also a bit surprised that the obscure Enrico Coleman represented Orchid instead of Georgia O’Keeffe, who’s particularly noted for her sensual orchid paintings. But then, Matt must work within tight canvas to produce his chosen effect. Given such precise constraints, our resident Old Master continues to impress with beautiful brushwork.

    This week, I happened to encounter two of my favorite cryptic clues this year:
    Old joke about chicken crossing street even aunt will follow (8) _ _ _ S _ _ _ _
    Together – apart if it’s reversed (6) _ _ _ T _ _

  4. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    The “Drop the ‘water’ from Water Lilies” really gave it away for me. I was able to solve the meta as an anagram, lucky for me, since I only had half of the references correct. I thought Van Gogh clued “Irises”, Picasso was being remembered for his “Rose” period, and O’Keeffe had something going on that started with “F”. But with Lilies, Orchids, Sunflowers, and Tulips, I still came up with a FLORIST!

  5. ant says:


    I had the Picasso title as “Jacqueline with Flowers” and the Klimt as general landscapes, so I missed the FLORIST spelling. I was going to submit FLORIST, but sent in FLORAL DESIGNER instead, thinking that sounded more official.


    • nancy schuster says:

      Drat! Me too.

    • Karen says:

      I only saw the Picasso ‘Jacqueline with Flowers’ also, but got all the other ones (and they kind of looked like roses). I like this idea of a crossword scavenger hunt.

  6. Barb says:

    Backsolving, I was able to fill in from ?LO?IST. I also used Picasso’s Rose period, and flowers in general for what was in Dr. Gachet’s vase. To me, it simply looks like a bouquet of mixed blossoms, though I’m sure if I’d looked further, they’re described somewhere as foxglove. Still, I agree with Paul that Matt’s painted us a gorgeous picture. This vision of spring flowers comes so welcomely after The Winter that will Never End.

  7. icdogg says:

    Oh well, winter can’t last forever.

    Or CAN it?

    Dun Dun Duuuuun…

  8. Clay says:

    I am not a very good lateral thinker, so I was pleased at solving a Week 3 without a lot of problems. It took me a while to start looking at the specified paintings as the theme (I know, I know – pretty obvious theme – did I mention I don’t think laterally!). Once there, fairly straightforward – even though I have had a crazy weekend and while I had solved the crossword Friday, I almost forgot to go back and solve the meta – thank goodness I had printed it and left on my desk.

    I found the best part was finding the actual paintings and remembering why these artists are so renowned. Excellent puzzle, excellent meta, and a little art history to boot.

    • JustinR says:

      I could have written this entry myself. Thank you, Clay.

      Four months ago, the parenthetical wouldn’t have tipped me off to the theme entries. Thank you for making this week 3 accessible to intermediate solvers like myself, Matt. In my opinion, this is your best puzzle to date. Identifiable theme entries, a clear path to investigate the meta, and a satisfying solution (figured out florist from “__o_ist” but thoroughly enjoyed identifying all seven flowers within those works of art).

  9. Matt Sandler says:

    I was thrown off by all clues having numbers in them, even when not needed. I assume that was deliberate?

    • Matt says:

      Not deliberate, but I had to be very specific in identifying the paintings, so numbers (price, year painted, etc.) were a big help with that.

    • Barb says:

      I think the numbers were meant to help us google the paintings. I’ve also just noticed MG’s clever spin on Joon’s usual solving times. I always wondered how long he spends constructing these. Matt, if I can ask, is 7 hrs about average for a meta puzzle?

      • Matt says:

        7 hrs is a little high for theme/grid/clues/editing. I usually set 8 hours aside each week for all aspects of MGWCC (theme/grid/clues/editing, writing the post, e-mails, etc.) so only about 5 of that is for the puzzle itself. But this theme took a long time (maybe 3 hours) to get right since the constraints were tight (7 different painters, symmetrical last name lengths, only one kind of flower in the painting, didn’t want all of them to have the flower name in the title, etc.)

        • Garrett says:

          A beautiful piece of work.

        • Jonesy says:

          Going back to last week’s ‘symmetrical’ discussion — this feels like a theme that “should’ve” required the grid to be asymmetrical just due to all of the constraints… commendable that it was pulled off in symmetrical fashion, especially given it wasn’t an anagram but had the letters in order

          not that anyone should be surprised…

  10. Flinty Steve says:

    I knew there had to be more to the Van Gogh and Picasso paintings! Luckily for me, Dr. Gachet’s first name was Paul-Ferdinand (an F!), and Jacqueline Roque’s last name starts with an R. Still, by that point *LO*IST seemed to point in a pretty clear direction.

  11. Mutman says:

    I found the puzzle itself a very difficult solve. Meta was not too bad. I agree the Monet clue helped immensely.

    Like others, I had _ L O _ I _ T and easily saw florist.

    I also enjoy the Googling and learning something new, in this case my vast ignorance in the art world :/

  12. Brucenm says:

    I wonder if Matt G will give me credit for a correct response. I found all the flowers easily, and sent in “flower arranging” with an appended question “Is that even a profession?” I even commented ruefully to Matt that I’m sure “subtracting water” had to mean something that was beyond me, so I didn’t “solve” the meta at all; but perhaps he will allow that I lucked into it just by noticing the flowers.

    I actually knew all the flowers except for Ms. Leyster’s tulips, hence found the puzzle easy, but the “Frans Hals Museum” was a huge hint. (OK, this last sentence is a campaign speech to have my answer accepted.) :-)

  13. joon says:

    ah, shoot. sorry about the joonlessness—i have been wiped out by an illness for the last 48 hours or so and this totally slipped my mind. i was going to post pictures of the paintings and everything. sorry, matt and everyone else.

    • yoyomonster says:

      Get well soon, Joon!

      Love the puzzle and meta, Matt. It reminds me of my backpacking through Europe days and seeing some of these masterpieces.

      Are VASE and ROSETTE intentional hints?

    • Matt says:

      It’s OK, joon! Heal up quick tho, as Week 4 beckons.

  14. Amy L says:

    I noticed all the numbers too but I quickly realized that was to direct solvers to very specific paintings. So I looked each painting up, which was a lot of fun, and found each picture had one type of flower depicted. Finding those paintings must have been Matt’s challenge. There are a zillion Dutch still lifes with tulips, but probably not that many that have ONLY tulips. And who knew there was an Anglo-Italian orchid painter!

    Did anyone else notice the name of the museum in 48A? Is there a name for flipping words around like that in a phrase?

    take care, joon.

  15. chess enthusiast says:

    Nice Puzzle. Got a nit tho. Tonsberg is over 60 miles (er, sorry, 100km) from Oslo.

  16. jps says:

    I went with flower designer. I couldn’t see the acrostic as I had “flowers” instead of “roses” (I couldn’t discern what the flowers were from the image) and “poppy” instead of “sunflower”. Klimt painted poppies in 1907 as well as sunflowers; I stopped looking once I saw the poppies. Van Gogh painted them as well.

    • abide says:

      I had “Poppies” in my first draft as well, along with a flowerless 1954 Sylvette. Some enjoyable Googling germinated the correct response. Merci bouquets, Matt!

      In other meta-related news, did I really out-solve Jangler on this month’s Shinteki or is he just taking the week off?

      • CY Hollander says:

        I, too, had poppies at first, yielding the solution FLORIPT, but common sense prevailed, and I went looking for another flower.

  17. VU-Prof says:

    Boy did I get lucky. I googled the paintings, caught on about the flowers and even listed them (in order, I think) in the comment to my answer (something about making a nice bouquet). From the flowers alone I sent in florist without ever seeing the anagram! I could easily have come up with flower arranger or gardener instead, without realizing that it didn’t fit.

  18. Howard B says:

    Got the meta after much research. Very Week 3, just right! If this seemed that easy to many, then they are very bright souls and/or very experienced meta solvers indeed! The meta did tip itself off a little bit, but some of the paintings took a bit of specific research (thanks for the clues, Matt). Even after finding a painting with a single flower, a clear description of its kind was the most challenging puzzle in a few cases. Some sites, where the flower was not the focal point of the work, had this information missing or entirely wrong.

    So kudos on a well-made puzzle. But not an easy one to complete for its week :).

  19. Ed F says:

    I very quickly realized that the theme had to do with flowers related to the specific paintings referred to. The only problem was the Gustav Klimt painting – google searches kept pointing me to Danae rather than The Sunflower. That, and not immediately writing the names of the flowers neatly in a column. At least I’m 3 for 3 thanks to a relatively easy week 3.

  20. Paul Coulter says:

    Here are the answers to the two cryptic clues I mentioned above. Oddly enough, the second is a bit of a chestnut, which happens to be the answer to the first!

    Old joke about chicken crossing street even aunt will follow (8) _ _ _ S _ _ _ _
    Together – apart if it’s reversed (6) _ _ _ T _ _

    UNITED (untied, if IT is reversed)
    The first is from the Times Jumbo, the second from Hectence in the Guardian Quiptic. Both are elegant in their simplicity, with every word serving its purpose to produce a completely natural and interesting surface.

    • DannyBoy says:

      Thanks, Paul, I enjoyed both clues. I wonder why cryptics have never really caught on in the States. The American puzzles I’ve seen are generally so weak, they aren’t worth the bother. Either the clueing is shockingly unsound, or it’s set at such a trivial level, the only way to take pleasure in the challenge is to do each clue blind. I’ve found I usually can finish without knowing any crossings.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I agree up to a point. When I first got into cryptics, even the easiest puzzles seemed very tough. Then I worked in London for a time, and I was exposed to the real art of the top setters. Take Rufus, the regular Monday setter in the Guardian – you probably know he often gets stick over his easy clueing. And these days, I don’t exactly solve him without crossings, but I’m disappointed if I can’t go from entry to entry with no erasures. But in the US, he’d be at the top end of the difficulty scale.
        Where I disagree is that there are some wonderful US setters – Cox and Rathvon, Trip Payne, and HH, to name a few. Some of their clues are very good by any standard. I even found a Shortz puzzle in an old Games Magazine cryptic collection from ’92, and most of the clues were very sound, if easy. The trouble is that the small market for cryptics in the US has never been exposed to the joy of solving harder puzzles. But by the same token, American style crosswords published in Britain are also laughably weak.

  21. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    Argh. Schoolwork and related academic endeavors got me too occupied to try hard after getting the fill Sunday. I told myself that I would simply submit “Florist” due to the black iris, tulip, sunflower, and lily, but didn’t remember in time. Terrible, terrible, terrible.

  22. DaveN says:

    Love how you coincided the flowers meta with the first week of Spring!

  23. Jeff G. says:

    One of my favorites of the year! Well done all around. I thought the difficulty level was just right for week 3.

  24. Brucenm says:

    As I said, I liked and enjoyed the puzzle, but I knew that there was something about the meta that I found vaguely troubling, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. It’s the fact that it was set up completely as a computer exercise. It is completely useless and irrelevant that I was familiar with most of the artists and flowers (including, oddly, Enrico Coleman and his orchid paintings). It’s not knowledge that is rewarded, it’s adeptness at navigating around the computer. I know that for most people, adeptness doesn’t even come into it. It’s just taken as a way of life.

    But to me, this is just another instance of the computer crutch destroying an otherwise enjoyable human activity. Take anagramming. It used to be fun and interesting to figure them out. WS ran a game once which consisted of finding apt anagrams for movie titles. It was fun to manipulate Scrabble tiles and discover that, e.g. “The Towering Inferno” anagrammed to “Not worth fire engine”; “Steel Magnolias” to “I meet salon gals”; “A Star is Born” to “Brat soars in.” But the computer, with its anagram generators, has completely taken the fun and challenge out of this previously enjoyable activity. I feel the same way about the “CGI” sequences in movies. You’re watching something phony, unreal, cartoonish. Who cares.

    Someone else had the insight that this meta was deliberately set up as a googling exercise, and that’s what I didn’t like about it.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Why must every meta be set up to avoid the need for extrinsic information? There’s fun in a scavenger hunt. I think Matt strikes a pretty good balance of metas that expect the solver to do research and those that don’t.

  25. musicguy595 says:

    Didn’t even see the spelling of FLORIST… just decided that’s what the answer had to be! A little luck never hurts.

  26. Peedee says:

    Yeah, I thought it was a pretty easy week 3, but I needed an easy week three after my last few weeks. The thrill of (finally!) solving a Week Three puzzle temporarily erased the stress of the lingering winter and the last few weeks. Then I sent in my answer and saw how many had already solved it. There was a glitch in the scoreboard (at least on my browser) and the list of correct respondants wouldn’t update. For about 24 hurs I wondeed if I had missed something and this was one of Matt’s tricks, disguising a much more difficult puzzle with a seemingly easier one. Even still, it’s nice not to feel like a dummy going into Week Four for once.

    And I loved the scavenger hunt aspect. More, please!

  27. Brucenm says:

    Interesting and revealing that a couple people have used the expression “scavenger hunt.” A scavenger hunt used to be an *activity*, where one was out in the world roaming from place to place, physically active, looking for things. Now it seems to refer to staring at a computer screen, plunking keys.

  28. Singerdog says:

    I’m still struggling with florist as as “artistic profession”…

    • Gideon Fostick says:

      “Floristry is the production, commerce and trade in flowers. It encompasses flower care and handling, floral design or flower arranging, merchandising, and display and flower delivery.”

      Floral design and flower arranging clearly qualify as artistic.

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