MGWCC #338

crossword 4:14
meta DNF 

mgwcc338hello and welcome to episode #338 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Part Time”. in this week 3 puzzle, matt asks us to identify a part of the human body. what are the theme answers? there are six long answers that end with a body part:

  • {Where to stab Dracula} IN THE HEART.
  • {Both of my cats have them} GREEN EYES.
  • {Vigilant} ON ONE’S TOES.
  • {Grubby kid’s feature} DIRTY NAILS. this feels like less of a phrase than the others.
  • {Food often braised} SHORT RIBS.
  • {One way to be armed} TO THE TEETH.

in addition, there are two other body parts in the fill, explicitly marked as not being part of the meta:

  • {Indicate willingness to obey (and not part of the meta)} HEEL.
  • {Wombs (and not part of the meta)} UTERI.

i didn’t see any other body parts in the fill that weren’t so marked.

so what’s going on? well, the obvious things like taking the first letters (HETNRT) or last letters (TSSSSH) of the body parts don’t amount to anything. the next thing i noticed was that we have TOES and NAILS, but TOENAILS are also a thing; similarly with RIBS, EYES, and RIBEYES. (EYETEETH is also a thing.) but i didn’t know what to make of that, nor did anything seem to connect to HEART.

next up: TO THE TEETH is curious because almost all of the letters of TO THE are in TEETH. in fact, everything but the O. similarly, only the N’s of ON ONE’S are missing from TOES, and only the IN of IN THE are missing from HEART. but this doesn’t seem to go anywhere either.

are there any other hints? there’s sort of a lot of cruft in the grid, with a bunch of partials and things like EQUI and UOK and BTWO. now, i think this might just be because there are six medium-length theme answers (and most of the cruft is piled into the top-middle and bottom-middle sections where there are three theme answers in close proximity). but i’ve often thought in the past “there can’t be more theme material in the grid” and then been surprised when there’s actually more (sometimes way more) theme material in the grid. so let’s have a look.

{Boston-area system, casually} THE T is an interesting answer, and not just because i live here—it’s got all of the letters of TEETH except for one E. hmm. are there more like that? let’s have a look.

  • {Bellagio at Home Mattress Collection maker} SERTA has all of the letters of HEART except an H. but it also has a replacement S.
  • {Big boats} STEAMERS has all the letters of EYES except for the Y, but it’s way longer. surprisingly, though, there weren’t any other words i could find that had even three of the letters of EYES.
  • {Cheri who played a crazy nanny on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”} OTERI has all of TOES except the S. again, some extra letters. oh, ESTA and NEST and SPOT and TRES and IQ TEST and SEA LIONS all also have three of the four letters. OATES has all four, plus an extra A. hmm. this is looking less noteworthy.
  • SEA LIONS also contains all five letters of NAILS.

all right, this isn’t too fruitful. what else could be going on?

could there be another word in the grid that would fit with IN THE ___ to fit the {Where to stab Dracula} clue? and likewise GREEN ___, ON ONE’S ___, etc.? it certainly seems like lots of things could fit {Grubby kid’s feature} DIRTY ___. but i don’t think there’s really anything else besides RIBS that fits SHORT ___ for {Food often braised}.

SPIN is lurking there at 53d, and it’s just one letter short of SPINE. is there any reason to stick an E off the edge of the grid there? i couldn’t find other grid answers that could get an extra letter to make body parts, although that would have been fun.

i’m not loving the EQUI/ESQ cross; i think that would be better as ESAI/ESS (and AOK instead of UOK). but ESAI is no great shakes either, and perhaps that is more likely to just be scrabblef***ing than thematic somehow.

HEART contains EAR, another body part. but i couldn’t find any in the other phrases.

HEART is also an anagram of EARTH (and HATER), but that’s not in the grid, and most body parts don’t have anagrams. (NAILS has several: SLAIN, SNAIL, ANILS. RIBS anagrams to BRIS.)

NEST is in the grid, and also hidden in ON ONE’S TOES. hmm, are there others like that? THE T is in TO THE TEETH, but i couldn’t find anything for SHORT RIBS or DIRTY NAILS.

okay, my time is almost up (have to go to class in a few minutes) and i still have nothing. i will take a flyer on a six-letter body part, since there are six theme answers. i can’t think of many—kidney, fibula, stapes (it’s not going to be stapes), thymus, biceps, tongue, eyelid (probably not something involving EYE), … well, i dunno. i think i’ll just try TONGUE, since it seems like the most commonly known body part of that list.

i checked the first letters of the clues and the diagonals of the grid for hidden messages but came up empty there. the clues, at any rate, do not look suspicious.

ouch, not a good showing for me. somebody please let me know what i missed. and have a happy thanksgiving, everyone! i will leave you with this delightful scene which i was reminded of by {Would ___ denied} NOT BE: you can’t NOT BE on a boat.

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29 Responses to MGWCC #338

  1. Al says:

    Take the number of instances of the referenced body part within the body. Take the letter of the square in the grid with the corresponding number:

    IN THE HEART – 1 heart – grid square 1=> T
    GREEN EYES – 2 eyes – grid square 2 => O
    ON ONES TOES – 10 toes – grid square 10 => N
    DIRTY NAILS – 20 nails – grid square 20 => G
    SHORT RIBS – 24 ribs – grid square 24 => U
    TO THE TEETH – 32 teeth – grid square 32 => E

    Answer is TONGUE

  2. Matt says:

    Good guess, Joon!

    1 heart
    2 eyes
    10 toes
    20 nails
    24 ribs
    32 teeth

    Those six boxes in the grid spell out meta answer TONGUE. 174 correct answers this week.

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Matt’s math themes are often the ones to trip me up, so I was very pleased to get this. But first, I spent a lot of time trying to make associations with the body parts spell something, i.e. Cardiologist, Ophthalmologist, Podiatrist… or Thorax, Head, Extremity… In the end, it was good to join the smart people. But I also felt slow-witted for taking so long to spot the meta’s elegant numerical progression. Call it a draw — you might say that Matt and I were TONGUE-tied. And of course he had an extra level I only realized later – add the numbers to get 89. Every student in my Physiology of the Sensory Organs course can tell you this is the number of chemoreceptors in most papillae, the taste buds of the tongue… Nah, just kidding, but who knows, it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s some level all of us save Jangler have missed. 4.5 stars from me.

  4. icdogg says:

    Welp… Missed it entirely

  5. Mutman says:

    I really enjoyed this meta. It took me a little while to figure out the numbers relationship. Once I got that, I kept thinking of the title and trying to relate ‘time’ to those numbers. I was ready to submit ‘ribcage’ because 24 seemed like the likely of the numbers to associate with time. But more staring got me to the grid and solution.

    Nice job again Matt!

  6. Popgun says:

    1 heart = T
    2 eyes = O
    10 toes = N
    20 nails = G
    24 ribs = U
    32 teeth = E

  7. pannonica says:

    My immediate instinct was to list the appropriate numbers, but I didn’t make the easy step of looking in those squares.

  8. Mark says:

    I’m gonna guess that Joon actually solved this one within 5 minutes, but took us all on that roller coaster write up just to mess with us, including the fake Hail Mary completion at the end. Right Joon???

    • joon says:

      lord, i wish. some day i will troll you all when writing this blog post (and in fact, i now vaguely recall that perhaps i have done that before, but i can’t remember when), but that was not today. just a lucky guess.

      on another note, i am gratified that the U of EQUI- was essential to the theme. matt, you are hereby exonerated of the crime of scrabblef***ing.

  9. Neil B says:

    I thought the numbers were important. I added them up and got 89 which went nowhere. Very nice Meta

  10. Evan says:

    CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP I was working on something else and I just finished it but completely lost track of the noon deadline and I WAS GONNA GUESS TONGUE……

    8-game winning streak over. That’s alright though. I never cottoned to the trick in this one.

  11. Erin says:

    I was lucky to have this fall right in my wheelhouse – right away I noticed the body parts differed in number. I kept trying to find a numerical pattern until I remembered Matt will sometimes use numbers to reference squares in the grid. Keep things medical-themed and I might have a perfect month for once in my life!

  12. Norm H says:

    Wow, great guess, Joon!

    The theme entries seemed to have an inordinate amount of repeated letters, so I focused on those. By theme entry, here’s a list of the letters that are repeated:
    THE / E / ONES / I / SR / THE

    Those letters anagram to THERE IS THE NOSE, so I went with NOSE.

    I also saw that the third letters of the theme entries anagram to TOOTER. The second letters of the theme entries include RHINO. Amazing how my mind found so-called “evidence” of a completely wrong theory. Looks like I was sniffing the wrong scent!

  13. Mark G says:

    Working from the bottom I wrote down EXIST, UOK, GOALS. Then decided that couldn’t make a sentence so stopped. That’s a kicker.

  14. Mac says:

    Got the numbers pretty quickly, noticed that they we’re all different and in progression from top to bottom. But never looked back at the numbers in the grid. Looked for a body part that appeared in the body a number of times different than the six numbers already given. So I submitted knuckle (appears 28 times). Pretty much knew I was wrong though. Wasn’t clean enough.

    • Bencoe says:

      Same here. I got the numbers and the fact that they went from 1 at the top and increased as they went down suggested that it was a sequence, and we were supposed to guess the next part of the sequence. So I submitted VERTEBRAE, as there are 33 vertebrae in the human body and it would be the next higher number possible.

  15. makfan says:

    Well, I blew this one. Nice puzzle when you see what was going on after the fact.

    I was led astray by ITHINK and IQTEST, so having nothing last night, I submitted BRAIN.

  16. abide says:

    After a few days, my best approach was a Seven Deadly Sins theme, looking for the odd man out: (Lust) “in the heart”, “green eyes” (Envy), and “to the teeth” (Gluttony) were pretty solid. (Greed) “dirty nails” and (Sloth) “on ones toes” were more tenuous but plausible. That left Pride and Wrath. I couldn’t connect Pride with “short ribs” but Wrath had me thinking about a “sharp tongue”. Looked in the grid for a tongue, saw “toga” at 1-A, and somehow it all came together.

  17. Jon says:

    The word “time” in the title (“Part Time”) tripped me up because I thought the answer would be a unit of time & a body part. I saw the 1, 2, 10, 20, 24, & 32 (52 if you count how many teeth we’re born with; permanent & baby teeth) but tried to use them to make calendar dates. 12/10/2024 plus 32 or 52…. Hmm… I never thought to look at the numbered squares in the grid.

    This felt much more like a week 4 meta.

  18. Dan Katz says:

    Went through a lot of the thought processes that Joon did, except I forgot to lob a guess.

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I magically hit on the right approach within about five minutes of solving the crossword, so I figured it had to be super-easy. (I am often not a week 3 figure-outer.) It’s gratifying to have cracked a rather challenging meta … but irritating that Joon could be so adrift and still submit the correct answer! *shaking fist* “Paaaahhhhk!”

  20. jefe says:

    Yes! I’d never been able to successfully guess a meta before!

    There was one time I was one of 29 to solve a Week 5 (#252), but Tyler happened to guess correctly, so I feel Amy’s pain above.

  21. Raygirl says:

    After flailing (and failing) with anagrams, number sequences (using a handful of possible numbers for ribs– 24, 12, 14 and 7), and deadly sins, I parsed the title and came up with a feasible guess: colon. See what I did there? A colon parts time and is a body part. And I could anagram large intestine using selected theme answer letters so…. But no.

    Frustrated that I had the numbers and didn’t think to use them in the right way.

  22. pj says:

    Did what I do too many times. Wrote the number of that body part next to the answer but could go nowhere. So, I went to bed and ran it through and through and through my mind…and the aha moment hit hard. Check the grid boxes to see if the numbers spell out a body part. I ran downstairs, heart racing (yes, I do get a rush when I’m on the right grid), opened my iPad where the completed crossword lay with meta unsolved…okay, let’s see…the 1 is a T, the 2 is an O (oh, beating heart be still! Could this spell something? Maybe TONSIL?)…ok, the 10 is N…TONSIL ‘s looking good…but wait, the 20 is G…could it be, could it be? The 24 is U…32 is E. AHA! ‘Tis the answer…TONGUE!

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