MGWCC #313

crossword 3:40
meta DNF 

mgwcc313hello and welcome to week #313 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “That’s So Meta”. the instructions for this week 5 puzzle ask us for one of this puzzle’s 78 entries. what are the theme answers? for once, i’m pretty sure i know what they are, because each theme clue refers to another answer in the grid:

  • {Easy A, sometimes (64-Across)} is an INTRO COURSE. ha! not the ones i teach. 64a is {He once worked for George} ARI fleischer, who was george w. bush’s press secretary.
  • {Radii and such (57-Down)} are HUMAN BONES. 57d is {Splitter of the NBA} TIAGO. i am giddy with excitement over the NBA finals, starting tomorrow, with TIAGO’s spurs facing off against the heat in a rematch of last year’s epic finals.
  • {“Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car” author (11-Down)} is IAN FLEMING, better known as the author of the james bond books. 11d is {Friends to the blind} LION’S CLUB.
  • {Five-time Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy nominee of the 1980s (23-Across)} MARLA GIBBS. apparently she plaid florence the maid on the jeffersons. 23a is {Lessen} LET UP.
  • {Reverse direction (8-Down)} TURN AROUND. 8d is {Showed over} RERAN.
  • {Alley achievement (4-Down)} is bowling a PERFECT GAME. 4d is {According to} PER.

i can’t for the life of me figure out what each clue has to do with the referenced clue. PERFECT GAME starts with PER, but none of the others have that. “radii and such” might refer to cuts, and “splitter” might also refer to a cut, but it can’t be that we are looking for alternate answers that fit the clue, because certainly nobody other than IAN FLEMING wrote chitty-chitty-bang-bang.

what could the title mean? it might just be acknowledging that parts of the crossword refer to itself, but it could also have deeper significance. the prefix meta- in greek means “with, across, or after”; i wonder if “with” has something to do with it. perhaps you can combine the answers and anagram?? that seems like a lot to ask, especially in the case of the long answer LIONS CLUB.

what about “across”? is there something that crosses each referenced answer? i have to admit this idea has occurred to me only now, literally one minute before the deadline, and i don’t have time to figure it out.

looks like a failure on my part. let me know in the comments…

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49 Responses to MGWCC #313

  1. pgw says:

    It was nontrivial, but didn’t take me too long, to notice that the six theme entries were associated with six different three-digit numbers – 101, 206, 007, 227, 180, and 300. But then what? What to do with those parenthetical references to other places in the grid, with no apparent connection to the numbers or anything else? I tried pulling out letters, doing increasingly complex mathematical contortions, and finding some hidden meaning in the various entries, clues and numbers, but it was clearly going nowhere.

    The secret was, as the title suggested, to get more meta. It turns out the numbers above referred to past MGWCC puzzles, and the parenthetical references are to places in *their* grids, not this week’s.

    The resultant hunt through the archives yields a bunch of palindromes – e.g., 64-across in MGWCC #101 is ALA, 57-down in MGWCC #206 is EKE, etc. – and whaddya know, there’s one and only one palindrome in this week’s puzzle – OHO, at 19-across.

    Too bad it couldn’t have been AHA, though maybe that would have been a little too guessable. Also I found it very mildly disappointing that two of the past palindromes were four letters and not three. Still, a great puzzle – very tough, and a very satisfying solve.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I had the meta answer as AHA at first, but thought that would be too easily guessable.
      So I went with giving solvers an OHO Moment.

      64 right answers this week.

    • Evan says:

      Damn, that’s clever. I thought I was onto something with the fact that each theme answer contains a three-letter string that could sorta work for the parenthetical clues and answers:

      1. ROC is inside INTRO COURSE, and I guess the ’90s TV show character Roc worked for the character Crazy George by picking up his trash (this was the most tenuous connection)
      2. ANB inside HUMAN BONES (sort of a literal “splitting” of the NBA)
      3. NFL inside IAN FLEMING (hence, LIONS’ CLUB seems appropriate)
      4. MAR inside MARLA GIBBS (sort of a synonym for [Lessen], if it means lessening the quality of something by damaging it)
      5. NAR inside TURN AROUND (“showed,” or “ran,” literally turned over)
      6. PER inside PERFECT GAME (self-explanatory)

      So I picked -INE because the other chemistry suffix is -IDE hiding inside the central entry SEASIDE.

      • Bencoe says:

        I connected NFL with “Lion’s Club” too. Spent a while chasing that connection.
        I almost picked “OHO” at the last minute based on the fact that the clue was “so that’s your game”, with the reference to “that’s so meta” and “perfect game” among the clue words. I knew it didn’t add up, but almost picked it because I didn’t have anything. Damn.

  2. Al Sanders says:

    Each theme entry suggests a number:

    INTRO COURSE – 101
    HUMAN BONES – 206
    IAN FLEMING – 007
    MARLA GIBBS – 227
    TURN AROUND – 180
    PERFECT GAME – 300

    These numbers refer to MGWCC numbers. The clues referenced in the definition of each theme entry don’t in fact refer to this week’s grid, but to the grid of the MGWCC for the associated number.


    64- across in MGWCC #101 is ALA
    57-across in MGWCC #206 is EKE
    11-down in MGWCC #007 is MAAM
    23-across in MGWCC #227 is TET
    8-down in MGWCC #180 is MMMM
    4-down in MGWCC #300 is ENE

    Note that each of these are palindromic (and that the first (and of course last) letters of each are from the word META).

    The only palindromic entry in this week’s grid is OHO which is the answer.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      “Note that each of these are palindromic (and that the first (and of course last) letters of each are from the word META).”

      Can’t sneak anything by these folks…

      • Pete Mitchell says:

        But OHO doesn’t start and end with a letter from the word META. That must be why I couldn’t figure it out. (Yeah, right.)


  3. Joshua Kosman says:

    I got one step further than you: Each of the theme entries is associated with a 3-digit number.

    Intro Course = 101
    Human Bones = 206
    Ian Fleming = 007
    Marla Gibbs = 227
    Turn Around = 180
    Perfect Game = 300

    Once you crack the code that associates that number with the other entry, I assume you take 313 (the number of this puzzle) and do the same. How do you do it? No f’in clue.

  4. joon says:

    okay, that’s pretty brilliant. yikes. the idea of past MGWCCs actually occurred to me, but i never saw the 3-digit numbers. wow.

  5. Bencoe says:

    Aaargh. That is truly frustrating. Not only did I see the 3 digit numbers for many of the clues, I also considered the idea that the title could refer to other metas (I thought “that’s so RAVEN”, maybe referring to the raven meta, but the clues didn’t match). But I didn’t put the two together. Also, I saw a person had gotten the meta answer in one minute, and I assumed there was something really easy and obvious I was missing. Man, I spent a lot of time thinking about dead ends (and right ideas) on this one without getting it.

    • Gwinns says:

      How in the world did someone solve this in a minute? I got it right, but navigating the puzzle archives alone took me at least five minutes…

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        No one got it in one minute! I had to post a couple of hours early (around 1:oo PM) because I don’t trust WordPress’s autopost feature and I was going to be gone all afternoon. Dave had autoset the submissions form to open at 3:00.

    • Evan says:

      I’ve always assumed that if someone shows up on the leader board in one minute, it’s because he or she was a test-solver and Matt just entered them into his database upon posting the puzzle. But then again, there are some crazy good meta solvers out there….

    • abide says:

      I also considered that SHEBOP was on Lauper’s album “She’s so Unusual” , and you can find SHEBOP spelled vertically in each of the six entries. Was wondering if that was an intentional red herring, but had to be a coincidence.

      • Bencoe says:

        Ha! I thought the contest opened at 3, so I assumed there were a couple of people who got it in less than five minutes. That would have changed things.

  6. Jon says:

    I’m glad I at least was on the right track. I saw the number associations but couldn’t break out of the mindset that the parentheses referred to THIS puzzle. Too made none of the past MGWCC palindromes were an entry number and direction that wasn’t possible for this puzzle. But perhaps that would have made it too easy and not worthy of a week 5 difficulty level.

  7. abide says:

    A good streak broken. I stumbled across the correct numbers this morning, but couldn’t do much more than TOTAL them. I eventually went with ORIGIN, because it sounded meta-ish.

    When I saw the explanation, I was skeptical that 5 years ago Matt would have referenced Puzzle 7 as 007, but, sure enough, he did!

    Kudos to those who cracked this, especially the guy that did it in one minute.

    • Crossword Beast says:

      No one could have solved this in one minute. This puzzle hit my inbox at 12:58 pm ET, just over two hours earlier than the 3 pm ET time it was supposed to be made available.


      • abide says:

        Yes, I posted about the minuteman before I saw the explanation above, but it did put me in the mindset of “there must be something obvious” rather than thinking I’d need to go beyond the printed page.

        When I went back to look at #007, I saw ELF. Then I remembered you have to look at the post about #008 to see the #007 grid.

  8. Jim S says:

    Not even close on this one – I went so far as to highlight the matching theme answers and those the that they referred to in different colors. There were no Down answers that were wholly unintersected (somewhat expected given the long across themers) but plenty of across answers that had no letters colored in. Anagram ing the intersected letters – RRANBA – led nowhere.

    I initially questioned the speed of some solves, but Matt cleared that up. Whew! I know I’m not the brightest bulb, but solving this in under 5 min would truly be astounding!

  9. pj says:

    I have only two questions: how are the first two submitters this week able to get the meta in a flash? It would have taken a few minutes to look up the old Gaffney puzzles, would’t it? Amazing! I could have worked for 24 years and not gotten this one.

  10. Mutman says:

    Can’t say I liked this one at all. Reminds me of the crossword anniversary meta, which I also did not get. Did manage to get the numbers like some others, but got stuck there. I love doing research to solve metas, but not sorting thru old puzzles.

    Just me I guess.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      It’s like 3 minutes of “sorting” once you see the idea. So what?

      • pgw says:

        I found it surprisingly hard to locate the old puzzles; could not find a quick way to find them by number, and had to search by month. So I’d say it was more like 10 minutes. Agreed, though – If you never had the idea to look through old puzzles, how can you complain that that was required?

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          I used Google myself (type in “MGWCC + [puzzle number]”) and it takes you right there and also gives you the option of reading the Fiend review for that puzzle). But there’s also a search box on MGWCC itself you could have used.

          • Mutman says:

            Let me be clear, Matt. I guess it is a bit of sour grapes about spending lots of hours and not getting meta — my bad, I get it. I guess I feel like each puzzle is a standalone and does not need prior puzzles to solve. But I am about 100 puzzles in deep here and should know better.

            In retrospect, it was gettable, albeit very tough.

            How you come up with so many creative ideas is still impressive to me.

            Nice work!

  11. sharksonfire says:

    Ever since the Great Shaman Murder Case of puzzle 178, one of my “I have no idea what to do” things to try is to go back the website description or try to link with old puzzles. This week it finally paid off!

    Once the numbers fell, I actually got it pretty quickly. Now I just have to wait 135 weeks for Matt to use this again.

  12. wobbith says:

    Just brilliant. Saw the numbers right off the bat, then spent 3 days spinning wheels.
    Head-desking now. IIRCC, this is not the first time a meta referenced a previous puzzle, or at least something on the MGWCC blog. Yep, that is SO meta!

  13. Aaargh, I was this close to getting it! I saw the number associations, and I even briefly considered the notion that each clue was referencing an entry from a past MGWCC somehow (in particular, the 227 from 46A reminded of MGWCC #178 (different actress from 227 this time though), but I couldn’t make that work out. Unfortunately I didn’t think to consider using the numbers as MGWCC puzzle IDs. Le sigh.

  14. Abby B says:

    Sorry, hate it. I got the three digit numbers. Fast. They’re written right here on my walking copy, see? But… really? Maybe if any of the numbers were really unique enough to have to be a puzzle number (like the current one with a nudge that that’s right under your nose). But I don’t really see how to get there from here they aren’t even references to the meta answers for those puzzles, but to the puzzles themselves.

    If the title had been “back and and forth in history” or something, that would’ve worked a lot better.

    I did find, though, that the mean of the theme clue and referenced clue numbers was exactly 34 (Neat Trick). Not a satisfying answer, but when I saw it was an integer, it gave me something to guess at least.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I mean, it’s a Week 5. They’re all 3-digit numbers lower than 313 (current puzzle number). That was enough of a nudge for pretty much my target # of solvers for a Week 5 to solve it.

    • pgw says:

      Kudos for getting the numbers fast. It took me a while.

      As for how to get there from here – one thing the numbers had in common was they were all less than 313. And those references to 57-down, etc. mean that there has to be some association between the three-digit number suggested by each theme entry and *some* crossword entry and/or clue. The most obvious idea is that those entries and/or clues came from this puzzle itself. When all attempts at finding some connection failed, one had to back up and consider other approaches. That’s what, to me, made it such a brilliant puzzle. No one said it was easy; it wasn’t supposed to be.

      I’ve recently defended the rights of puzzle-haters to give low ratings and suggested that Matt should accept that and not get too annoyed. And I certainly still feel that way. If you didn’t like this one, so be it. But your complaints, to me, boil down to “it was too hard,” and that’s really not a valid complaint for a week 5 that 64 people figured out. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a valid complaint for any puzzle, period.

      • Abby B says:

        The obviously 3-digit numbers maxing out at 300 doesn’t seem odd at all even by random chance. If it were some sort of letters to numbers code (I’ve done too many Listeners), it might be difficult to code numbers any larger anyway with fiveish letter words.

        Quick, come up with some good theme words for >313 that aren’t rehashes of what’s there (like 360 would be). I tried to come up with some other ones (for any value) thinking it might help me find the other word and didn’t get much at all.

        • joon says:

          LEVI’S JEANS
          THE BEAST
          HERMAN CAIN

          “quick”? these took about 60 seconds total.

          look, this was eminently fair. “meta”, in common parlance, can mean self-referential; a MGWCC that relies on past MGWCCs is just that.

    • Tom says:

      I had the opposite problem. I immediately had a suspicion that the answer was going to use past puzzles, but it took me a long time to figure out the connection.

      • Bencoe says:

        I don’t know. Personal taste, of course–I’ve been known to give puzzles bad ratings and defend my reasons. But, although I found this meta maddeningly difficult, and didn’t get it, I thought the solution was rather elegant.

  15. John L. Wilson says:

    Like Bencoe above, I tiptoed up to the idea of harking back to previous puzzles via “that’s so RAVEN” but never took the plunge. Didn’t even get as far as most here with the number associations, choosing instead to tie Ian Fleming to M or Q, Lion’s Club to L, Alley Acheivement to X, etc. Raven lunacy, I can see now. A fabulous Week 5 stumper.

  16. Amy L says:

    Brilliant. I’d rate it a 5+++ even though my policy is to rate the ones where I get the meta a 5 and the ones where I don’t a 1. (I have never actually rated any of the puzzles.)

    I got the 3 digit numbers right away and worked with them on an Excel spreadsheet. I came up with no pattern at all. I wondered if Matt ever did a math puzzle before. My excuse for missing this meta is that I’ve been doing these only since #244, so there are a lot of tricks I still have to learn.

  17. bergie says:

    Wow 313, wow.

  18. DBraun91 says:

    I’m a fairly consistent Week 1-3 solver. Probably 100% on Week 1 and 2, 80-90% on Week 3, and around 40-50% on Week 4. Up until this week I had not solved a Week 5 since I started playing the MGWCC back in Feb. 2013. The rush I got when I discovered the common pattern in the theme answers (3 digit numbers) was enough to convince me that I’d be solving this Week 5. However, it was about 24 hours until I finally figured out what exactly I’d be doing with those 3 digit numbers… A double AHA moment!! I had a blast searching through MGWCC of yore. This was a very nice meta. Just the right amount of grid specific information as well as outside information needed to make this very challenging, yet 100% fair.
    Time to get a streak going

  19. Garrett says:

    I was initially focused on the peculiar coincidence of the 6 references being across, down, down, across, down, down. This made me see Add, Add. So I went off on a wild goose chase adding the numbers for the six them entries and the numbers for the six secondary references and playing with them.

    But I did finally get that what the six them entries had in common was a number. I was not, however, able to make the leap to other MGWCC puzzles. Had I, this meta would have been very easy for me.

  20. Anne E says:

    Glad I didn’t spend more than about 10 minutes on this one as I’d never have gotten it – never heard of either 227 or Marla Gibbs. Nothing’s more annoying, meta-wise, to see an answer I didn’t get and feel that with just a little more time and effort I could have cracked it. This week definitely didn’t fall into that category!

    • joon says:

      i’ve heard of 227 only because it was a theme clue in a previous MGWCC (referenced twice upthread, in fact). never heard of marla gibbs, but that’s what google is for.

      • Al says:

        To an old guy like me, Marla Gibbs is famous for “The Jeffersons”. Don’t really know 227 at all, but like Joon said, Google (or in my case, IMDB) found that association pretty quickly.

  21. Norm H says:

    Seems like an unusual amount of sour grapes this week. It was a brutal Week 5, yet 64 people still figured it out. Sounds right to me.

    Alas, I was not one of the 64. Not even close. I never even saw the numbers. The best I could do was start parsing the theme entries, sort of cryptic style. TURNAROUND led me to write DNUORA. PERFECTGAME had me writing EMAG and MAGE. MARLAGIBBS begat BIG SLAB. That’s as far as that nonsense got me, but I was still fixated on parsing and decided to read That’s So Meta as That’s some TA. On that basis alone, I almost submitted TATA.

    I needed the LIONSCLUB because I was certainly blind on this one.

  22. ===Dan says:


  23. peedee says:

    I got as far as the three digit numbers then tried to put the six “referenced” clues in order based on the numbers. I gave up after several hours. Great meta. I would never have figured it out in a thousand years.

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