MGWCC #356

crossword 4:53
meta about 5 minutes 

mgwcc356hello and welcome to episode #356 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Ode to Crosswords”. first, thanks to neville for filling in last week. second, it was great to see many of you in stamford at the acpt! i’m already looking forward to next year’s. anyway, for this week 4 puzzle, matt gives the following interesting instruction: To solve this meta, do as I will instruct you — or else you will fail! in the email sent out, it was even more interesting, as it looked more like this:

To solve this meta,
do as I will instruct you —
or else you will fail!

on three lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, like a haiku (except, you know, not about nature). anyway, there are three obvious theme answers in the grid, each spanning the full 15 squares:

  • {Lines hiding herein} TWENTY-FOUR POEMS.
  • {How to do as I instruct} OBEY ELEVENS ONLY.
  • {Solvers must do this} UNCOVER YOUR TASK.

well, the title and instructions and first theme answer sure suggest looking for 24 haikus, and indeed, the 72 clues in the grid are grouped into three-line poems with that 5-7-5 pattern. (yes, every single clue is either 5 or 7 syllables!) that much wasn’t that hard, but certainly some of these clues were strangely worded even bearing in mind the syllable constraint. they make sense if you take the next step, which was a little less obvious: you had to extract the 11th syllable (out of 17) from each haiku. this turned out to be the penultimate syllable in each of the 7-syllable lines:

  • {Corridors you walk right down} HALLS. this is a weird clue—why “right” down? we’ll see.
  • {T.S. who adored the cats} ELIOT. again, why “the”?
  • {Thug who may stink at word games} HANGMAN. this is kinda cute.
  • {In cuteness, scoring highly} TWEE.
  • {Burly, like Gerry Cooney} BEEFY. who the heck is that?
  • {How to do as I instruct} OBEY ELEVENS ONLY.
  • {Sheep only seen in the dark} ARIES.
  • {Bills whose back features an eye} ONES.
  • {Hooky players’ are certain} ABSENCES. another stilted clue
  • {Where you can dump flour boxes} SIEVE.
  • {Zaps with an overall shock} TASES. again, “overall” doesn’t make much sense here.
  • {He made machines for sewing} elias HOWE, inventor of the sewing machine.
  • {“Listen up now, alright dude?”} HEY MAN.
  • {Gehrig who would play outside} LOU. “outside”? not even a mention of “baseball”?
  • {God often seeking a fight} ARES.
  • {Organ that may look crosswise} THE EYE. this time it’s the answer, not the clue, that seems to have an extraneous word.
  • {Woodwinds much seen in word games} OBOES.
  • {Those who earn very highly} HAVES.
  • {Event with hugs and cooing} TRYST.
  • {Sort of torte eaten in Linz} SACHER.
  • {Kind of org. that hosts the frats} UNIV.
  • {When spotting deer is common} DUSK.
  • {Votes for those parliament folk} AYES.
  • {Brand name on vodka boxes} SKYY.

did you get that? reading these syllables (phonetically) uncovers the task: write the word haiku in the answer box. also write out a crossword haiku in the comment box. that’s what you needed to do to solve the meta. since i’d just come back from the acpt, and matt hadn’t been in attendance, here was my haiku:

missed you this weekend
but i’ll see you at next month’s
indie 500

there are some creative folks who solve these, so i’m betting matt got some great answers. feel free to share yours if you were proud of it. i am still a little bit wiped out from acpt, so i’m going to cut this post short, but i really liked this puzzle and meta. it wasn’t hard—certainly easier for me than last week’s renee zellweger meta—but it was really creative and used the website submission form in a new way, to say nothing of the originality of using the clues to conceal 24 haiku. great stuff.

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41 Responses to MGWCC #356

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    I could see that Matt had massaged the clues considerably, and I tried counting by elevens in various ways, but they didn’t fall on an intelligible sequence of words or syllables or letters. I didn’t get it until I realized I’d written down the instructions as they appeared on the web site, all in one line, not the PUZ file, where as Joon notes, they’re arranged haiku-fashion in three lines. From there, it was a wonderful reveal. Not the hardest Week 4, but richly deserving of five stars. Here’s my tribute – maybe others would like to share theirs, too:

    Best meta ever
    Gaffney haikus delight us
    Astonishing feat!

    • Todd Dashoff says:

      Paul – I was the one sitting behind you at the ACPT – glad you finally figured out the meta. Still amazed at the puzzle you handed out.

  2. Evan says:

    Wow. That is cool. But I never saw it. Even after recognizing the 24 haikus, I wasn’t anywhere close to this one. But I did notice that Matt used the word “overall” in the TASES clue instead of the much easier “electric,” which I figured surely meant something.

    Thanks for the Indie 500 haiku, joon!

  3. Ephraim says:

    One rathole I spent time on was that some of the 7-syllable clues looked like cryptic clues. “In cuteness, scoring highly” might be TEN, for example. I also tried every 11th syllable instead of the 11th of each haiku (haiclue?).

  4. Joe Eckman says:

    Awesome meta! Matt also accepted “high coo.” Definitely the most case of solver’s adrenaline rush that I’ve ever experienced…

    Thanks, Matt!

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Probably the fastest I’ve ever solved a Week 4 meta, and I imagine that’s true for many people this week. Noticed that the instructions were a haiku even before I looked at the puzzle. It might have been more challenging if he had formatted the instructions as a single sentence, rather than in 5/7/5 lines. Not that that’s a criticism.

  6. Bob Klahn says:

    I’ve never met a
    Puzzler quite as clever as
    Matthew Clark Gaffney.

  7. Mutman says:

    My haiku moment didn’t come to me until Wednesday morning. I still had trouble figuring out next step. Kept trying to make sense of Kia-tases-envy from the 11th haiku. Finally the 11th syllable clicked. Since it took me so long, I submitted something simar to:

    The A C P T
    Helped me to solve the meta
    Extra time needed!

  8. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Matt creates puzzles,
    Clues and answers set in place
    With smooth perfection.

    • mathdanmom says:

      I love that one. It seems to have the right tone for a haiku. Mine was:

      Matt Gaffney’s metas
      Elaborate, intricate,

      Took me a while to find which “elevens” to obey, but syllable counting was a natural choice.

  9. Garrett says:

    There is an interesting coincidence in the clues. By my count, all the clues which contain the letters required to spell ‘ode’ total to 24. This does not lead anywhere, except that many of those have a 1:1 relationship with one of the haiclues, and — of course, the number 24 is tantalizing. I was going through those looking at the 11th letter. Did not think about counting syllables, for some reason, and ran out of time. I’m pretty blown-away by the complexity of the puzzle and the meta. There are a lot of moving parts there.

  10. pj says:

    I loved it! Of course, I’m an English teacher and have been writing or teaching haiku since I was 15. Having said that, I am embarrassed that I didn’t see the haiku in the instructions right away.

    Cross words lie in wait
    Matt’s meta starts uncoiling
    Aha! I solved it!

  11. Daniel Barkalow says:

    Standardly, the haiku form requires use of some word that references a season, out of a standardized list of these associations, which are often only related for cultural reasons. Initially, I thought the puzzle was kind of lacking in these, but then I noticed that the grid had both ICES and ICIEST, which seems like something Matt would usually avoid. Once I noticed that, I found more and more suggestive answers, including some that might be particularly handy to crossword constructors, causing me to note:

    Crossword rules allow
    As a season reference

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 201 right answers this week.

    Note also that the three theme entries are themselves a haiku.

    • Evad says:

      Very nice touch. If “poems” has two syllables, wouldn’t “flour” though?

      • Amy L says:

        It’s one syllable in Pittsburgh.

        • Evad says:

          Here in New England, it’s a homophone with flower, and both are pronounced flou-ah.

          • ICDogg says:

            I’ve always pronounced it just like “flower” as well. But that’s apparently wrong. Might be a Philly thing, I pronounce “jewelry” as “jool-uh-ree” too.

          • mrbreen says:

            I grew up in the Philly suburb Flourtown, and we pronounce it Flower as well. That said, the Philly accent makes the 5 syllable Philadelphia the 4 syllable Filelfia.

          • Matthew G. says:

            These words that end in “-er” sounds are always so syllabically confusing. Take “fire,” for instance. Every dictionary I know of says it’s officially a one-syllable word, but unless you’re from the Deep South and say “fahr,” you probably pronounce it as “FIE-er.”

          • pannonica says:


  13. Matt Gaffney says:

    Webster’s says it’s one:

  14. dbardolph says:

    Loved it – possibly my favorite ever. I did see that the theme answers made another haiku – but doesn’t that mean there are 25 rather than 24?

  15. Matt Gaffney says:

    26 counting the instructions I guess, but the 24 is what you needed to UNCOVER YOUR TASK

  16. Jason says:

    The moment I read the instructions I suspected a haiku theme, and figured out that the clues were divided into 24 haikus. But it never occurred to me to look past the 11th haiku about KIAS and TASES. I was going to give up and just send in HAIKU as my answer and maybe throw in a nice haiku about Matt as well…..

  17. ICDogg says:

    Matt, I wrote you about my specific situation. Now that the answer is public, can you tell me what the problem was with my answer?

  18. Matt Gaffney says:

    ICDogg — let me get back to you tonight, I’m on my phone now and don’t recall your answer at the moment, so would be much easier on my laptop later.

  19. lorraine says:

    wow, i so did not get this at all. I knew it was haiku-related from the beginning but could not parse the rest of it. i tried using multiples of 11 but the answers didn’t get me anywhere. i never came close to figuring out the “24 poems) part of it. finally i just bailed, sent in “Haiku” as the answer and composed a haiku to Matt about my cluelessness in the comments box — i must have used the 5-7-5 meter appropriately since I was among those with the “right” answer. I don’t think i’ve ever thrown a hail mary pass this spectacularly before. Oh well, i’ll take it!

  20. Jim S. says:

    Couldn’t make the leap to the syllables. I saw the haikus but got stuck looking at the 11th haiku and both haikus involving the 11 square in the grid.

    Awesome puzzle, though – the clues forming haikus and syllables spelling out the direction… Just wow.

  21. Norm H says:

    I was just plain lost,
    even though some clues looked weird.
    Jangler I am not!

    Brilliant meta, Matt!
    How you do it ev’ry week
    I will never know.

  22. Anne E says:

    I didn’t even get to print this out till late Tuesday, and after ACPT and about 4 hours of sleep Monday night, I thought it would be hopeless, so I’m really surprised I got it (although I’d been alerted by several people at ACPT that it wasn’t as hard as usual for a Week 4). Loved it also, great fun to count out the syllables and watch the instructions take shape. I submitted something quick-and-dirty so that I could go to sleep!

    ACPT done,
    A photo finish, almost-
    Just wait till next year.

  23. Dele says:

    My jaw hit the floor
    At the awesomeness of this
    Amazing meta!

    Thanks, Matt!

  24. Neil Stephens says:

    My answer, which Matt said he was considering, was based on the 11th Haiku in the clues. The answers to those three lines are KIAS, TASES, and DENY. Interestingly enough, those words anagram to TASK IS SEND AYE, which I thought fit perfectly with the instructions:

    To solve this meta,
    do as I will instruct you —
    or else you will fail!

    AYE and “I will instruct you.” Doubles back, just like the best Matt metas do.

    • Matt says:

      Hey Neil — I just ran this by the panel and they voted 3-0 against this answer (independently; they don’t see each other’s votes).

      It’s an interesting find, but main rationale was that it’s too random to be the correct answer.

      • Neil Stephens says:

        Random? The instructions do say “Obey Elevens Only,” which I interpreted as the 11th haiku’s answers. And uncover your task . . . . I understand though. Kind of :)

        • Bob Dorfman says:

          I feel for you, Neil. I spent way too much time over the weekend trying to unscramble KIA-TASES-DENY and also came up with TASK IS SEND AYE, as well as I SAY SEND KEATS, which tied into the ODE TO CROSSWORDS puzzle title. Ultimately felt neither was obvious enough to go with.

  25. Garrett says:

    My haiku

    Gaffney’s masterpiece
    meta, “ode to a crossword,”
    leaves me in clean awe.

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