MGWCC #330

crossword 4:33
meta 15 minutes 

mgwcc330hello everyone, and welcome to episode #330 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. this week, francis heaney rounds off guest constructor month with an absolute tour de force, “Repeat Offenders”. for this week 4 puzzle, we’re looking for a ten-letter word. sounds straightforward enough. what are the theme answers? there aren’t any explicitly marked as such, but the three answers across the middle row of the grid are all very interesting and suggestive:

  • {Lattice (or where a word in the clues should not appear, per crossword custom)} GRID.
  • {Hints (or where a word in the grid should not appear, per crossword custom)} CLUES.
  • {Sucker (or word that appears more than once in a crossword)} DUPE.

okay, so taken together with the title, we know we’re supposed to be looking for repeats (or DUPEs) between the grid and the clues… like, say, GRID and CLUES, which appear both in the grid and in each other’s clues. that much i saw right away. in fact, i arguably saw it before right away: even before i started doing the puzzle, i noticed that the clues were extremely long in general. francis is often prone to write wordy (but very amusing) clues, but this was extreme even by his standards—i needed to cut the font to 10 point just to get the entire 15×15 puzzle onto a single page, and that only barely. (usually 12 or 13 will do it; even a sunday-size puzzle normally requires only 9-point font).

i figured there’d be 5 such pairs, but then actually searching for them, i actually didn’t find any more like that. here’s what i did find when i started looking at suspiciously wordy-looking clues. take {“The ___ of Spring” (“Fantasia” movie segment)} RITE, for instance. there’s no particular need for the parenthetical part of this clue; stravinsky’s the RITE of spring is a famous enough ballet that it needs no particular qualifying explanation. not only that, but “fantasia movie” is redundant—of course fantasia is a movie. so what’s it doing there? well, “fantASIA Movie” contains AS I AM, one of the other answers in the grid. aha! i was onto something.

i started scouring the grid and clues for more examples of this. what i found was jaw-dropping. first of all, in every instance, the grid entry hidden in a clue actually crosses the clued word. (noticing this fact definitely sped up my search.) second, the clue that other entry contains the original entry! thirdly, there are not five but fully ten pairs of these grid/clues “dupes” in the puzzle. ordered from top to bottom by the letter where they intersect (circled in my screenshot above), here they are:

  • {Parts of a patriotic design} STARS crossing {Activity that may involve civil unrest, arson, looting, and the like} RIOT at the R.
  • {Scorecard digits for players like Glavine, Koufax, and Seaver} ONES crossing {“Middle Cyclone” songstress Case} NEKO at the E.
  • {It may be dirty but not unclean} RICE (on top of everything else, that is a great clue) crossing {___ Deadly (Muppet who duetted with Vincent Price)} UNCLE at the C. okay, i don’t know the muppet.
  • {Not getting enough nutrients, perhaps} THIN crossing {Nothing, in France} RIEN at the I.
  • {“Doesn’t that sound like a good ___?”} IDEA crossing {They may be seen alongside a group of stags} DOES at the D.
  • {Lattice (or where a word in the clues should not appear, per crossword custom)} GRID crossing {Room probably filled with stuff you ought to be getting rid of} ATTIC at the I. okay, now francis is just showing off—he’s repurposing this theme answer as, well, a theme answer. plus, that ATTIC clue is classic francis.
  • {Prevents from becoming law, in a way} VETOES crossing {Rant because angry feelings have to escape} VENT at the V. this is another unusually long and awkwardly worded clue, which could have been an entry point if i hadn’t already seen what was going on.
  • {“The ___ of Spring” (“Fantasia” movie segment)} RITE crossing {Alicia Keys release that won Favorite Album in two categories at the American Music Awards} AS I AM at the I, as already discussed.
  • {Appreciates the appetizer} EATS crossing {Trial run in response to nuclear threats, briefly} A-TEST at the S.
  • {It can power a motor} STEAM crossing {Member of a St. Louis team} RAM at the M.

reading off those crossing letters in order, we get RECIDIVISM, a fancy word for the behavior exhibited by repeat offenders. that’s the pièce de resistance right there.

this is just an absolutely stunning and intricate construction. in addition to the obvious hints of GRID, CLUES and DUPE across the middle, there are twenty (!!) theme answers in this 15×15 grid, in ten interlocking pairs, with brilliantly linked clues to boot. there are some puzzles that are so brilliant that i say to myself as a sometime constructor, “i wish i’d thought of that!” and then there are francis heaney puzzles, which are so far beyond anything i could have thought of (let alone executed) that i’m just glad there’s a francis heaney and i get to solve his puzzles.

whew. well, guest constructor month was fantastic. still, it’ll be nice to have matt back in the saddle next week. i wonder what october will bring?

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48 Responses to MGWCC #330

  1. Mutman says:

    At first I thought this was an easy week 4 — ha! It looked like the theme
    answers had pairs of letters (like yoyotricks, had ‘yo’, etcetera had
    ‘et’). I would then simply get five pairs, possibly anagram them, and I’d
    have my answer.

    Not so simple. That only happened 4 times.

    I then reverted to the center clues and started looking for words in
    grid/clues. When I finally decided to search the PDF file, I made progress
    (like finding attic in Lattice), but still did not have quite what I
    needed. I finally realized some of the words spanned others (like ‘steam’
    in St Louis team) and it all came clear.

    I really liked this meta — challenging, plus I solved it!

    Great work Francis and Matt!

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon and Francis.

    When I test-solved this a couple of months ago, my e-mail response to the author was “Thanks a lot for upstaging me on my own site, you [unprintable word]”

  3. charles montpetit says:

    Granted that this was an exceptional meta. But wouldn’t it have been an improvement if there had been no unintentional dupes in the clues (aside from GRID and CLUES, which were integral to this meta)? The dupes that I found (followed by their grid number / clue number) were:

    (grid# / clue#):

    A(merica): 23a / 48d
    AS: 67a / 48d
    IN: 56a / 16a, 21a, 33a, 39a, 40a, 41a, 66a, 2d, 18d,
    24d, 27d, 37d, 48d, 50d
    O(rganization): 54a / 23a, 38d
    R(oo)M(s): 10d / 25d
    U(nited): 54a / 23a

    That’s one hell of a red herring!

  4. Jim S says:

    Wow, not even close. I was stuck on some long across entries having repeated letter pairs (YOYOTricks, ETcETera, shORtORder, yESsES). Couldn’t find a fifth pair for the life of me that might anagram to a 10 letter word. My “solution” was much too easy for a final week, so I should have known I was headed down the wrong path, but nothing else jumped out.

    Very cool concept for the real solution – kudos!

  5. DannyBoy says:

    Brilliant meta, which I didn’t see. But I did come up with an alternate answer that gave me a real AHA moment. There are exactly ten repetitions of three letter words commonly used in crosswords that form parts of longer words in the grid – nor, ens, den, ses, ate, ort, tea, sot, Ric, Ing. Their first letters anagram to ADROITNESS. That seemed an appropriate answer, since it’s the quality you need to solve a tough meta. I’m not arguing it compares to what Francis really did, but still, I think it holds together pretty well as an alternate. What does the group think?

  6. Evan says:

    Wow. Second time in my MGWCC solving career that I’ve thrown up a hail mary at the last second and gotten it right. RECIDIVISM was always going to be my desperation guess since I knew it related to repeat offenses, but I could never quite get it to fit.

    I was actually 75% there — I found ten words in the grid that were also in clues (ATTIC, RIOT, RIEN, THIN, VENT, UNCLE, DOES, RICE, RITE, EATS), I wrote down the answers to the clues where those repeats were found, and I noticed a few pairs of the repeats (UNCLE/RICE, THIN/RIEN, and ATTIC/GRID) crossed one another. But I couldn’t figure out how they all worked. I just never checked the rest of the clues to see if any repeats spanned multiple words. Well, I sorta did, but I tried to do it the quick and dirty way by taking the PDF file and doing a control-F for things like ED EN. That got me nowhere, so I abandoned that strategy. I did notice the ONES spanning two words in the clue for NEKO, but I thought it was just an outlier.

    Oh well. A right answer’s a right answer. Nice meta, Francis.

    • Evan says:

      Incidentally, I wonder how many people had either RECIDIVISM or RECIDIVIST as their desperation guess and submitted the latter. I only picked the former because I figured that it was more common.

      • PatC says:

        I wrote it on the top of my written-all-over copy but didn’t submit it as I thought it was too obvious, not having grokked the meta. After observing so many of the long clues, I concluded that it was a matter of style, not the solution. But it’s not hard to admire this meta.

      • Math Teacher Dave says:

        Make that one more super lucky guess in lobbing ‘recidivism’ at the eleventh hour. Now that I know why it’s right, I’m so bummed I didn’t see the solution sooner.

  7. peedee says:

    Brilliant meta! I spent hours looking at repeat letters in the grid. I wish I had gotten this one.

  8. Scott says:

    I was looking for an answer that sinuated across the grid to no avail.

  9. Garrett says:

    I could not see into the tapestry well enough to get it. But I did have recidivism/vist in my side notes, along with crosswords. I came up with recidivism because it just goes with the title. I came up with crosswords because the word WORD is repeated 6 times in the clues — and one place (24D) has the answer in the grid (SNORT) crossing GRID (39A). And then I thought, SHORT ORDER can be a word (i.e., stay, heel, sit). And repeat offenders could be cross words, as in a hurtful argument. So I submitted that instead of the correct answer.

    Loved it!


  10. Wayne says:

    Just brilliant. I was nowhere close. But I am in awe.

    @Joon, I would argue that there were actually 24 thematic answers, not 20. I’m counting the four long answers with repeating letter pairs (YOYOtricks, ETcETera, shORtORder, yESsES), since that bit of misdirection made this extra challenging. And even more impressive.

  11. Jeff G. says:

    Evad, I think I may have accidentally submitted a 3 star rating. Sorry. Please change to a 5 star rating if possible. I didn’t get this one, but I’d give it 10 stars if I could! Extremely clever and well done. Bravo!

  12. Abide says:

    Nice one; I couldn’t get past the ten double letters in the clues (LEFTPOBRDS). I had the right Hail Mary guess but never threw the pass, due to a lengthy hearing this morning waiting on a criminal docket to finish. Ironic.

  13. pgw says:

    Wow, I was already impressed and am now even moreso. My method of solving this was to download the pdf version of the puzzle and start doing word searches for each grid entry one by one. I found ten – those that do not break across word divisions. This strongly suggested I was on the right track, but resulted in a couple of dead ends. Then I scratched my head a bit and then I returned to the grid and started highlighting the grid entries in question, as well as the clues in which they appear, and I noticed that the embedded entries cross the entries clued by the clues in which they’re embedded, which is cool. But that only left me with eight letters situated at the crossings. I managed to solve it by noticing that reading left to right and down I got RCIDIVIS so I looked for an E and an M in appropriate places to complete the word, found them, noticed “Louis team” and “‘Cyclone’ songstress” and just stopped there.

    So I solved it and I’d say I achieved something like 75% grokkage of the whole theme, and I was already impressed, but now I am blown away. I don’t know if this was specifically intended but the fact that exactly ten of the embedded entries didn’t bridge a word gap was a very artful roadblock. Often a difficult puzzle flows easily once the key idea is hit upon, but this took a few such moments. And while the clues were indeed overly wordy by necessity, none felt like a real stretch. So I agree with joon – this was really, really well done.

  14. Norm H says:

    I actually caught onto this pretty quickly. Obviously, the central row was the first indicator. Then I saw unclean in the clue of a word crossing UNCLE and I was off. After about 6 letters, I had enough to know it was RECIDIVISM, so that made the remaining confirmatory search easier.

    BUT…I only saw half the story. That is, for any given intersection, I only noticed one embedded grid word in the opposite clue. It wasn’t until coming here and reading Joon’s write-up that I realized the trick went both ways. So, using the above example, I never saw Price in the clue of a word crossing RICE.

    Even seeing only half of it, I thought the puzzle was brilliant. Now that I see the full picture, I am astounded.

  15. Giovanni P. says:

    Yeah, I wasn’t close on this one at all. I saw the wordy clues, but that’s about it.

    I was expecting something killer when I saw who wrote the puzzle, and the puzzle doesn’t disappoint. To cross both the clues and answers like that is crazy.

    Thanks to all the guest constructors this month! Maybe I should get in on this one of these years.

  16. Evad says:

    I have a question for the guessers/hail-maryers out there about their submission–why choose RECIDIVISM over RECIDIVIST? The title refers to the offender and not the offense, so if I were to guess one of those two, I’d go with the person.

    I caught onto this pretty quickly as well (I thought the title and those central entries perhaps gave away too much for a week 4), but got caught up a bit noticing a clue with the word “athiests” crossing the entry ATEST, so I was thinking the dupes didn’t necessarily have to be contiguous letters. The other thing I missed until coming here was to see that the letters appeared in order–I just started writing down random letters as I found the dupes and anagrammed the set when I was done. Imagine not knowing there were 10!

    • pgw says:

      I think recidivism just seems more like a “thing” or “meme” or phenomenon whatever that might be a puzzle answer, as opposed to a mere individual example of such a phenomenon. I know when I started looking to complete the word as described above, in the back of my head I was allowing for the possibility that I was looking for a T instead of an M, but M seemed more likely just intuitively. That’s the best explanation I can give anyway.

    • Francis says:

      I subscribe to the “no random anagramming” principle.

    • Evan says:

      Like I said above, I feel like I hear RECIDIVISM much more frequently than RECIDIVIST. Every time I’ve read books about prisons and crime rates (a lot, given my interest in criminal justice history), the authors would often talk about recidivism being a problem, or what the rates of recidivism were, but rarely would I see the same authors describing convicts as being recidivists.

      Not that I didn’t consider RECIDIVIST for the reason you described above, but I guessed that the act was more common in criminal justice parlance and thus had a greater likelihood of being the right answer.

  17. Amy L says:

    When I started looking for dupes, I found ASIA M and S TEAM right away, so I tried anagramming them. I couldn’t work anything out; besides, that seemed like it would be too easy. I knew it would be hard to find the dupes, so I actually typed all the clues into a word document and removed the spaces between words. Then I could search and find all the dupes. I then highlighted them and found the answer. Lots of legwork but worth every minute. An amazing puzzle!

    • Francis says:

      I’m familiar with that solving technique, since it’s the same one I used to weed out any unintentional hidden dupes in the clues (like the ANY hidden in the original “Indian yogurt sauce” clue for RAITA).

  18. MDS says:

    Loved this, and got it, but I was clearly bugged way more than others by the GRID and CLUES dupes (i.e. the one was in the clue for the other and vice versa). I get that neither one of those was “hidden” the way the theme dupes were “hidden” in the clues, but still, something felt off about having those literal dupes not matter at all. I love that I gave this puzzle 4.5 stars and am a huge outlier on the low end. Ha ha. Awesome. Sincerely, this puzzle is really impressive.


    • Francis says:

      Next time, no hints in the puzzle for you.

    • Francis says:

      (I thought your quibble was going to be my own self-quibble — which is that, as noted by a few solvers, the meta is solvable after finding just half of the hidden words, since you can still find the intersection and read the answer. But I decided I liked the idea too much to disqualify it because it was possible to find a short-cut.)

  19. Abby says:

    Shouldn’t CLUES really not be in the clue for 39A? I mean, yeah, it was a hint to the puzzle, but it ends up mucking it up, doesn’t it? Would’ve been easy to change it to “clue list”, right? Or am I missing something?

  20. Steve says:

    I spent quite a while in a rabbit hole of lewis Carroll’s making. The portmanteau of chuckle and SNORT is “chortle”, but could also have been SNORKEL in some other world, which could be considered some twisted kind of dupe. Never mind – I really wish I could I unremember the explanation now.

  21. Brucenm says:

    I guess the consensus is that it was a great puzzle; and I will accept and respect that. But it is hard for me to take much interest in a puzzle where I have to deal with so many total Danzigs, to wit: 14a; and 8, 48, 52 and 55d.

  22. David Stein says:

    Congratulations, Francis, this was an amazing meta. I was most of the way through by just getting the one-way dupes. In fact, I thought the answer might be RIDICULOUS. Once I saw the two-ways, the rest fell quickly as did my jaw!

  23. Bunella says:

    I thought recidivism right away from the title and even wrote it in the margin of my printed puzzle and hemmed and hawed and figured it was week 4 and I had to be wrong and never sent it in.

    That’s ok, i would never have figured out the real meta.

  24. Sandy H. says:

    After looking at the main grid entries and never coming up with an answer, I tucked RECIDIVIST away as a possible answer given the title. Then, I started looking again at the grid and kept seeing the GRID CLUES DUPE but not going there for some unknown reason (I think the “be not led astray by words intended to deceive.” scared me off). Instead, I grabbed INST VETOES INDC and went with FILIBUSTER. Oh, well… I guess being a newbie to meta puzzles shows me how much I have to learn, and just how clever some of these constructors are.

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