MGWCC #368

crossword 5:54
meta 2 days, with help 

mgwcc368hello and welcome to episode #368 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Moving Parts”. for this week 3 puzzle, we were told that In order to complete this puzzle’s theme pattern, one letter somewhere in the grid must change to another letter. Which letter is it? Hint: it’s in a five-letter word. so what are the theme answers? there are six long answers in the oversized 17×17 grid:

  • {Sink pipe} PLUMBING TRAP.
  • {Source of not-painful “lashes”} WET NOODLE.
  • {Pan grabbers} OVEN MITTS.
  • {Labor savers in the kitchen} FOOD CHOPPERS.
  • {Fall tourists in New England, often} LEAF PEEPERS.
  • {Where F is for Ford} STOCK TICKER.

i struggled with this for a couple of days on my own. i noticed that a common type of PLUMBING TRAP is a P-TRAP, which seems interesting. also, “moving parts” might refer to anagrams of “parts”, and TRAP is “part” backwards. but these observations went nowhere. STOCK TICKER contains TOCK TICK, which is a word-reversed onomatopoetic sound of some moving parts, but that didn’t go anywhere either.

finally, i called in the cavalry: andy. he hadn’t tackled the puzzle yet, so he solved the crossword and we looked at it together. immediately, he made the key observation: each of the theme answers ends in a slang synonym for a body part: your TRAP is (rudely) your mouth, NOODLE is brain, MITTS are hands, CHOPPERS are teeth, PEEPERS are eyes, and TICKER is heart.

so then what? well, we’re still looking to change one letter in the grid, and a letter in a 5-letter word. we soon noticed that there are verbs in the fill that are associated with those body parts: your brain can THINK (49a), your hands CLAP (33d), your teeth CHEW (77a), your eyes LOOK (79a), your heart BEATs (17a), but what does your mouth do? there are several possibilities, including some that are one letter off from a grid entry (e.g. BAT -> EAT), but the only one we could find in a 5-letter word was SMILE from EMILE (at 41a). so there it is.

smiley face

a while back, there was a meta with instructions similar to this, and changing the letter in the grid made nonsense in the other direction. i didn’t like that one bit, and neither did many other solvers. this time, changing the E to S makes EMS into SMS in the other direction. SMS isn’t great fill, but it’s perfectly clueable as a text message, and it’s pretty much on a par with EMS, so i’m satisfied with the instructions in that regard.

cool meta. i don’t know if i would have solved it on my own. i hadn’t spent a great deal of time looking at it over the weekend because we had out-of-town guests and my daughter’s 5th birthday party, but that’s the sort of thing i could have easily just continued to miss. i did notice that the 17×17 grid strongly suggested that there were six (not four) long theme answers, and the instructions strongly imply that there are also some short theme answers, but there’s still a major aha to be had that i wasn’t having. anyway, as always, it was a delight to co-solve with andy.

how’d you like this one?

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36 Responses to MGWCC #368

  1. Puff says:

    Went with Asset to Asses. Thought Smile was already covered by Trap since they both were mouth related.

    I had a feeling this one would be trouble. Even put that in my note to Matt.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Heh. I briefly contemplated ASSES too. But a couple years ago there was a MGWCC where you had to find two grid entries that would combine to form another theme entry, and I couldn’t figure it out. For reasons I can no longer recall, my best guess was SEXES ASSES. This was back when you had to e-mail Matt your entry, and he wrote back (gently) poking a bit of fun at me for thinking he would make that a meta answer. Since then I have assumed the correct answer to a MGWCC will always pass the breakfast test.

    • Dave Taube says:

      I agree, Puff. I think Asses is a valid answer to the meta.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 195 right answers this week.

  3. ICDogg says:

    I guess what I didn’t like about it was that “choppers”, “trap”, “noodle”, “mitts”, etc. sound like the kind of slang you see in old movies or on the Three Stooges, while “smile” has a different tone to it, or something. But I wound up submitting “smile” anyway.

    Would have preferred something more in line with the other words, like “gams” for example.

    • joon says:

      i’d politely suggest that you weren’t thinking about the meta the right way. all six of the slang body part synonyms were already there. to complete the meta pattern, you didn’t need another slang body part synonym; what you needed was another verb associated with one of them, since only five were in the grid to begin with. SMILE goes with CLAP, THINK, CHEW, LOOK, and BEAT. none of them are slang.

    • KZ Condor says:

      Well, but smile was parallel to “chew”, “beat”, etc., not to the slang words for body parts. Trap:smile::ticker:beat

    • Matthew G. says:

      But that wasn’t quite how it worked. SMILE was the answer because it is the “motion” associated with “mouth” (TRAP). Just as BEAT went with “heart” (TICKER), THINK went with “brain” (NOODLE), etc.

      I get where you’re coming from, though, because I originally went down the same path. I saw the body-parts slang almost immediately, but I couldn’t figure out the next leap in the meta for some time. I kept looking for a five-letter word that I could change to another body-part slang. I was close to giving up, and giving SMILE as a half-hearted guess. But late this morning I noticed CHEW, and then LOOK, and so on, and it confirmed SMILE as the right answer for a better reason.

  4. Evan says:

    Co-solve for me too along with two others. I had nothing for days, had a really bad false a-ha moment this morning, and got nowhere with it. That big red herring: five clues have the word “part” in it (TENON, AGLET, EAVES, EMS, INST.). That this wasn’t apparently relevant tortured me for the last several hours. Maybe it is, somehow?

    We nearly went with changing an S in ASSET to a T, and anagramming that gives you TASTE, though that’s a slight stretch — a tongue does the tasting, the other action words (CHEW, LOOK, etc.) don’t need to be anagrammed at all, and it doesn’t look as good if either one of the two S’s in ASSET could change.

    Very tough to see what was going on, but quite satisfying to get.

    • Dan Seidman says:

      I looked at “part” clues also, particularly at TENON and the one you omitted, TETON. How could that be a coincidence? It took me a while to give up on that and move on. I also did an image search on Picasso paintings to see if I could find a portrait with the mouth at the top, heart off to the left, etc. Eventually I went word by word through the grid and it came to me.

      • Evan says:

        Man, not sure how I missed that “part” in TETON. I’m glad I did, because six “part” clues with six body parts would have been really tough to abandon.

        • Maggie W. says:

          I saw all six and spent quite a while down the rabbit hole trying to make that work. I found that AGLET is from the French for “needle,” which has an eye, and TETON is from the French for “breast,” which holds the heart…it all seemed like too much to be a coincidence. But it was a coincidence!

          I was thinking about changing the last letter of TENON to an R because then it could be clued as “voice part.”

          • Bob D. says:

            Was it a coincidence? Take one letter from each of those six “part” clue answers and you can spell ESMILE.

  5. bananarchy says:

    The biggest trouble I had was with CHOPPERS, because I’ve always heard them called CHOMPERS, so I thought that that was the letter that needed changing and I wrestled with getting ASLAM to make sense for a while. A bit of googling showed me that many people do in fact say CHOPPERS, so it’s legit.

  6. cafaba says:

    I got all the above, but went back and forth between e/smile and e/waves, as in what your hands do. I chose waves. It seems acceptable? “Blows” is what your mouth can do.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      But MITTS (hands) is covered by CLAP.

      • Justin says:

        Right, but this person is claiming “BLOWS” for mouth.

        Edited – nevermind, Peter’s got a good point.

    • bananarchy says:

      But your mouth can’t “blows,” it can only “blow.” None of the other verbs use the -S form

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Hmm, but if it’s BLOWS *and* WAVES, then two of the six use the -s form. That would’ve been inelegant on my part, but I can see how a solver could think it’s correct.

        I’ll ask the panel to adjudicate that this week. I’d lean no but it’s close.

      • genefaba says:

        Sure you can. Your mouth blows up a balloon.

  7. cafaba says:

    I meant to add that there is “blows” for what your mouth does.

  8. George says:

    I kind of lucked into getting this one right. I struggled with it for a while. After I saw the slang body parts, I couldn’t figure out how they composed a set/pattern. I was also thrown because the first parts of some of the theme answers are also slang body parts (oven and plumbing).

    I really wanted it to be parts of mr potato head. This would have gone great with the Moving Parts title. But I don’t remember him having a heart or brain. Finally I guessed smile, based on its proximity to think in the center, and at least some of the body parts fit the phrase “smile with your… Teeth/heart” or “think with your….” So I got lucky this week, but it was a fun puzzle!

  9. Jesse says:

    Ugh. Stared at this for an hour this morning and went through the exact same steps as Joon, but “smile” didn’t seem right. I never thought of the verbs! Well played, Gaffney.

  10. Joe says:

    I really liked the first part of this meta, finding the common thread among all of the theme answers. But when it came to the second part, I thought there were way too many distractions. Your mouth can “ask a” or issue blows. Hands could be associated with clap, bat, beat, blows, manual, and even possibly stenos. The other four body parts were much clearer and only had one item associated with each. I just wish things hadn’t been so muddy with mouth and hands.

    In the end, I submitted emile/smile, since it was the only five letter word that made sense. And I also noticed how the crossing entry would still work after this change, and I remembered the furor from the last time Matt asked for a similar type of answer.

  11. Norm H says:

    Spent a good while searching the five-letter entries for a seventh example of a slang body part, thinking I could change the symmetrical entry to form an eighth. Closest I got was ASSET, but the slang was at the beginning of the word rather than the end, and I couldn’t change the symmetrical CASTS to make anything that made sense. So, I went away for a day, came back and happened to immediately look at CHEW. From there, my solve went just like Joon’s/Andy’s. Amazing what a fresh perspective can do.

  12. Chris says:

    In my explanation to Matt, I suggested some non-PG change a letters (ATONE – STONE, e.g.) I did not see the “verb that also applies” aspect, but I did mention EMILE/SMILE in my explanation (just as a “probably not right, but I also found” explanation, so here’s hoping for some eleventh hour extra credit.

  13. Mutman says:

    I got the meta after some work. The body parts came rather quickly, but was mislead by seeing mouth (in clue at 10D) and hand (at 14D). Then 36D and 39D implies eyes and mouth. But all these went nowhere.

    Finally noticed the appropriate answers for meta and got SMILE. Blows never occurred to me and is stretching it a bit, in my opinion.

    Nice week 3 Matt!!

  14. Wayne says:

    I came close to submitting ADMIT (changing the N in ADMIN). Picking up on the old movie vibe, when the rat in the gangster film fails to keep his TRAP shut he ADMITs to wrongdoing.
    There was no theme material in the NW corner, so I was sure that the meta answer would be up there.

    But it didn’t have that aha feel to it, so I kept looking and SMILEd once I spotted the right answer.

    Loved this meta.

  15. David R says:

    ISO solver with good sense of humor preferably on PST who can take panicked call at 9 PM on Mondays to complete Week 4 and 5 puzzles and on occasions Week 3. Disclaimer: I got this one but the angst of being alone in a darkened room at 9:30 staring at a computer screen dumbly trying to figure this one out on my own was too stressful.

  16. Jim S. says:

    My guess was admittedly a stretch. I saw some of the theme answers and thought I spotted words in other parts of the puzzle as the verbs for the entire theme answer (not just the second word)…

    LeafPeepers Look, FoodChoppers Chew (teeth), and PlumbingTrap Els, so “Blows” to “Flows” seemed like a good description for the StockTicker.

    Oh, well. Classic case of getting stuck on an idea and being unable to abandon it.

  17. Robert Hutchinson says:

    It bugged me, to the point of sitting on my answer for 2 days, that 5 of the 6 verb entries were symmetrical. EGAD, what a red herring.

  18. Andy says:

    Always a pleasure co-solving with joon. I would have forgotten to solve/submit this week had he not asked, so I’d say the effort was mutually beneficial.

  19. magoo says:

    I chose BROWS (from BLOWS) as it’s slang for eyebrows and they’re the other body part that can move in an emoji. I saw the SMILE possibility but it didn’t fit in with the other themers which were all body parts – a smile isn’t. (On the other hand I didn’t spot it would make SMS going down)

  20. Shuka says:

    Was anyone else distracted by the best Actor 1985/6 issue? (Caine was 86, Ameche was 85″ ). Or does “best supporting actor FOR 1986” somehow refer to the ’85 awards? I spent some time looking for ways to change VI to V and back…

  21. BretBloomquist says:

    I spent at least a minute trying to will “enate” into “orate”

  22. Vraal says:

    I really liked the meta but what I didn’t like was “blows” in the grid was a verb that goes perfectly well with the mouth (yes, let’s go with the verb one does to one’s hot food, thank you). And BLOWS changes to BROWS, a bodypart, but doesn’t follow the theme well. I also saw A SLAP was something that went with hands and it crossed, so I was looking for verbs that crossed at least one of the theme answers. Took me awhile to see the other word going with MITTS.

    I finally revisited the puzzle from scratch (thanks JeremiahsJohnson for encouraging me to go back to it!) to get the answer.

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