NYT puzzle contest wrap-up (the succinct version)

Blindauer 5 minutes for the meta, standard NYT solving times all week (Amy/pannonica) 

Explanation of Patrick Blindauer’s six-day suite of NYT crosswords with a meta answer at the end appears below the jump.

Region capture 6
This 72-word grid contains two thematic long answers:

  • 9d. [Map phrase … and a hint to finding this week’s final answer], X MARKS THE SPOT. You may have noticed that each of the week’s puzzles had one to three X’s in the grid, always near the top of the puzzle.
  • 18d. [Certain character set … and a hint to translating this week’s final answer], ALPHANUMERIC.

My first approach was to see what letters in the Saturday grid underlie the locations of the X’s in the previous puzzles, but that proved to be a nonstarter. The ALPHANUMERIC thing prompted me to check to see if the week’s X’s were always in numbered squares, and they were. Monday’s X was in square 20, and the 20th letter is T. (Still mildly troubled that the Monday puzzle had a CENtury and TEN [years in a decade], not part of the second/minute/hour/day/week theme.) Tuesday added two X’s, 5: E and 13: M. Wednesday, 16: P and 21: U. Thursday, 19: S. A bunch of themes about time and we’re spelling out TEMPUS? I see where this is going. 6: F and 21: U arrived in Friday’s puzzle, and the 7: G, 9: I, 20: T round out our TEMPUS FUGIT, or “time flies,” in Latin.

And there you have it. Easier than a Blindauer puzzlefest or a mid- to late-month MGWCC, but still requiring some thinking outside the usual boxes of crosswords to suss it out.

How’d the contest treat you folks?

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7 Responses to NYT puzzle contest wrap-up (the succinct version)

  1. JohnV says:

    No luck. Could not see it. I’m pretty much one dimensional when it comes to puzzles, so no real surprise there. Solved the grids okay, but no luck on the meta.

  2. David L says:

    The instructions in the Saturday puzzle were enough that I figured out the answer pretty easily. But as someone who doesn’t normally try metas at all, I needed a big push in the right direction. If the final puzzle had just said “X marks the spot” without the alphanumeric hint, I don’t know that I would have got there. So I think this was a good effort for an audience that can’t be expected to have any real experience with metas.

    On the other hand, after I solved the meta, my reaction was basically, so what? Which is maybe why I stay away from metas in the first place…

  3. huda says:

    I’ve never done a meta, so it was definitely not easy for me to see. Of course I knew it would have to do with Time given the themes from early in the week, and I contemplated the possibility of clocks or multiplication. The Saturday hints were critical to get to the answer, and even there, I made it very complicated for myself. Rather than focusing on the number of the square where the X is, I focused on the number where the word containing an X started, so that meant I often had two different numbers, for Across and Down. Then I figured I would only look at the answers where the X was the first letter, which then got me back on the right track. A big hint was that the X was in the top part of the grids, which meant having a low number was critical, which made me realize that I should be thinking about the alphabet.

    And I really enjoyed the answer in the end. I thought it was lovely to look back and see how the theme of time was interwoven, how there were some red herrings (to me the X and the TEN at the bottom of Monday was a big red herring), the Times Square, and the teasing Peakaboo I See You with a face (which made me consider clock faces).

    I would give the series a very high rating from the point of view of a newbie learning about metas. I appreciate the creative and editorial effort that went into opening a new experience for the more typical solver.

  4. Art Shapiro says:

    It bested me. I took the three squares (I think they were 6, 12, and 20, but it’s not in front of me right now) where there were Xs in the Monday puzzle, and wrote down the letters that appeared for those three numbers in the subsequent puzzles. It looked really promising when the last four letters were E A S Y.

    I hate barking up the wrong proverbial tree.


  5. Avg Solvr says:

    Anyone who’s had some experience with puzzles would’ve understood this meta instantly through the alphanumeric clue.

    Who did the week long meta with Julius Caesar, dice and Crossing the Rubicon? And are the week long metas from past years in the archives? If so, I’d love to know the dates so I could do them.

    • Evad says:

      That was Patrick Berry (notably, another PB). Monday through Saturday, October 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22, 2011.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Thanks. That was a memorable one. Am I to assume that the NYT week long metas are always done towards the end of October? I guess I’ll start looking in the archives.

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