MGWCC #373

crossword 4:21
meta nope 
mgwcc373hello and welcome to episode #373 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Color Inside the Lines”. for this week 4 puzzle of guest constructor month, victor barocas challenges us to name a famous sculpture. so what are the theme answers? well, the only two i noticed that were probably thematic were the intersecting {Hemoglobin holders} RED CELLS and {Colorful slaw ingredient} RED CABBAGE. and in fact, later friday afternoon, matt sent out an updated version of the puzzle in which those two clues got asterisks.

so. what else is going on? i haven’t the faintest idea, so this is going to be (of necessity) a short write-up. there has to be a great deal constraining the grid, because it’s an incredibly weird grid. first of all, there’s no semblance of any kind of symmetry. second, the word count and black square count are both rather high. thirdly, there is some obviously bad fill in some places that could be cleaned up with minimal effort. to give only the most glaring example, what the heck is {Part of a mission schedule} M DAY? that could be D-DAY easily by changing 27d from MUSHER to DASHER and 31a from RUSH to RASH. so there must be something related to the meta in at least one of those answers (likely M DAY itself), but i’ll be damned if i can figure out what.

andy kravis discussed this puzzle, and he noticed that GREEN DAY is a thing, so maybe the M is supposed to be “colored” green. that seemed promising but we couldn’t find anywhere to go with that.

RED CELLS is more commonly RED BLOOD CELLS, but in any event the intersection with RED CABBAGE forms, quite literally, a “red cross”. are we supposed to make anything of that? i couldn’t figure out where to go from there. i tried looking for other color+shape representations but didn’t find anything. andy thought the missing “blood” was significant, and i suggested that perhaps the line between the boxes containing D and C of RED CELLS was where the “blood” goes (hence, coloring inside the lines), but that didn’t go anywhere either.

so i’m giving up, and i’m hoping week 5 is more tractable. i’ll send in a guess that has no evident connection to this puzzle, but seems like it might be fruitful in terms of relating to a crossword meta more generally: robert indiana’s LOVE. it’s iconic, it’s red, it consists of letters… and yeah, andy & i both tried to backsolve the meta from this guess and didn’t get anywhere.

before i sign off, i’ll point you to victor’s crossword kickstarter: ada cross, crossword detective. it’s an interconnected suite of crosswords and mystery stories, with art by hayley gold of across and down fame. looks pretty interesting! i loved victor’s previous mgwcc guest puzzle, so he certainly has the chops to make it great. i’ll have to reserve judgment on this one until somebody explains to me what the hell is going on, because whatever it was totally eluded me. how about you?

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56 Responses to MGWCC #373

  1. dave glasser says:

    You were correct.

    Color the letters in CELLS and CABBAGE everywhere red.

  2. Mark N says:

    Great guess, Joon. LOVE is indeed the answer.

    You get it by coloring in all squares that contain the letters of CABBAGE and CELLS.

    One of my favorite metas this year.

  3. Evan says:

    Here’s how you do it:

    It’s the same mechanism for Matt’s previous “Corporate Structure” meta, isn’t it? Asymmetric grid with bizarre fill and a dearth of some letters (like E) in certain sections of the grid where you’d expect to see them. That’s what helped me get this one, anyhow.

    Satisfying to crack it, but my goodness this was a toughie.

    • Maggie W. says:

      Ooooh. Aaaaah.

    • Mark N says:

      Nice gif! Maybe Matt can borrow it.

    • Giovanni P. says:

      Nice animation Evan. I’m seconding the similarities to the NIKE meta from a while back, and how that helped me get the right idea. Most of my time was spent trying to figure out the right combination of letters to color in, and I happened to hit upon it after some thought.

      Cute Victor.

    • Garrett says:

      I second Maggie’s Ooooh. Aaaaah.

  4. Maggie W. says:

    Ha, I totally backsolved this, and did get somewhere. Colored in the L, O, and E (wasn’t sure exactly what squares would be in the V) and noticed that all the colored letters were in “CELLS” or “CABBAGE.”

  5. joon says:

    good grief.

    1. that is awesome.
    2. i am off to buy lottery tickets.

  6. Ale M says:

    Red cabbage is famously a pH indicator. The pH of red cells is 7, or NEUTRAL.

    What sculpture depicts a scale at neutral?

    I went with Lady Justice. Seemed good as an answer, and the central diagonal line looks like a titration curve. Rats!!

  7. Al says:

    Wow, Joon, that must one of the best meta guesses of all time. I figured that one was unguessable. Lots of red herring hints in the grid, MILO in MILORD, DAVID Lee Roth, DEGAS spelled backwards in MESSAGED. The title certainly pointed to coloring things in the grid to create some sort of shape, but took me days to figure out what. I thought of cabbage as a slang for “money” and thought sure I had hit on something when I found RAND and RIAL hiding in RANDB and RIALTO. But that went nowhere. Tried coloring all the T’s and “PHOTO” as types of cells. Nope. Finally, yesterday morning, I thought on a lark, what if you colored every letter that appears in CABBAGE and CELLS (A, B, C, E, G, L, S). I was truly amazed when discernible letters started to appear. One of the all-time MGWCC “click” moments.

  8. Gwinns says:

    For crying out loud. I colored in all of the squares with RED and got nothing, and moved on. Trying to backsolve, LOVE was one of my top 3 choices, besides Christ the REDeemer and Venus de Milo (which I went with because of the MILO under the four black squares on the left)

    • Jeff M says:

      I did the same exact thing, except (even worse) I was deciding between VdM and LOVE…and went VdM.

      P.S. A replica of the LOVE sculpture is displayed prominently in my house. D’oh.

  9. Victor Barocas says:

    Hey –

    I hope that people enjoyed the meta. As you might guess from the hideous grid and weird fill, it was a battle, but, in the end, I was happy with how it came out, especially Evan’s beautiful animation!

    Best to all,
    – VB

  10. Travis H. says:

    I got hung up on the fact that red cells turn red in the presence of oxygen and red cabbage turns red in the presence of acid. Tried coloring all the Os red for oxygen but couldn’t figure out what to do for acid. (But Ken Kesey! The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test! It has to be related, right?)

    Eventually abandoned all that and guessed LOVE for basically the same reasons Joon did.

  11. pgw says:

    I can’t believe what an idiot I am. I thought of this idea and never actually coloured in the squares. Didn’t have access to paper this week. I like to think I’d have gotten it if I’d had a physical puzzle to work with, but who knows.

    • mps says:

      same here. i even thought of the NIKE meta from a while back, but never went all the way down that road. ugh.

    • Dele says:

      Just a couple of suggestions for anyone who wants to color squares without a printout:

      Several people downthread have mentioned using a spreadsheet to do this. You’d type in the grid, one letter per cell, and then adjust the background fill color of the relevant cells (either manually by selecting each one, or automatically with conditional formatting).

      Alternatively, any basic image editor (e.g., Microsoft Paint in Windows) should have a color fill tool you can use on a screenshot of the grid.

  12. pgw says:

    I guessed spoonbridge and cherry because the constructor is from Minnesota. Not my finest hour.

  13. Matthew G. says:

    Man, I was on the right track so early, but got off of it.

    I got the idea of coloring things red, but not specifically the squares that use the letters from CELLS and CABBAGE. I tried coloring in all the Os, and then all the letters that have enclosed spaces in them, and then drawing red lines between letters shaped like “lines,” such as I and T (i.e., “between the lines”). But I never thought of coloring in entire squares!

    I eventually gave up on coloring and focused on the word “red” as opposed to the color red. This led me to two possibilities. First, I thought of Moses, because the asterisked clues “part at the red C.” But I eventually ruled that out because although there is a famous statue of Moses by Michelangelo, it doesn’t depict the parting of the Red Sea. I finally submitted CHRIST THE REDEEMER (i.e., the statue above Rio de Janeiro) as my answer, because the asterisked clues both start with “RED,” and if you draw lines across those squares, it looks like Christ with his arms outstretched at perfect 90-degree angles, as in the statute. I knew it was wrong, but didn’t have anything else.

    Amazing meta. I’m relieved to know I was at one time on the right track, even if I didn’t get there.

    • Todd Dashoff says:

      I had exactly the same thought process (and result) as you.

      Missed this one – the second meta in a row with a Philadelphia connection!

      • dave glasser says:

        I hate to break it to you… While I too always thought of the LOVE sculpture as a uniquely Philadelphian thing growing up, it turns out that there are dozens of LOVE sculptures around the world, and the Philadelphia one wasn’t even the first.

  14. dky says:

    Totally flummoxed !

  15. hipokrit says:

    I submitted (with low confidence) Michelangelo’s Moses (
    I saw Crossing Red Seas, with Pharoah (Faro) in-line with one direction of RedC, and Lord in line with the other direction.
    I kept looking for a way to split the puzzle, in some way, that would give a revealer, but I blew all my time on that “obvious” red herring, and just submitted.

    The actual answer is much more elegant.

    • KZ Condor says:

      I submitted the same thing even though I knew it was wrong – it didn’t explain the grid asymmetry and it didn’t have any clickiness. Might as well go down swinging though.

    • Justin says:

      In fact, there’s this sculpture, which seemed plausible enough that I submitted before looking further:

      Then I realized I was wrong, thought uhoh if it’s Spoonbridge I’m going to be really upset (that’s where my wedding was in Minneapolis), then eventually saw the light.
      Well done, Victor.

  16. Daniel Barkalow says:

    The combination of a slash of black squares with a non-straight bottom and a triangle of “RED” sticking off near the top made me think of Calder, but I couldn’t pick a particular piece to backsolve, and (obviously) couldn’t get anywhere on that.

  17. Jim S says:

    Wow, that was tough. I got stuck looking for colors in the grid – there’s the obvious reds and an orange in the left middle (using letters from ROo, messAGEd, AND Ncis). Jodhpur and redcells get close to purple, so I started thinking maybe black squares played into the colors. Couldn’t shed the idea and was stumped.

  18. Matt Gaffney says:

    89 right answers this week, including Joon’s!

    Great puzzle, Victor — thanks! And yes Evan, I will be stealing your animated grid for the writeup on Friday.

  19. bananarchy says:

    I coloured so many different things red, but never thought to try the letters in CABBAGE and CELLS. So close, so far, etc.

  20. Paul Coulter says:

    A fail for me, and I probably had more promising leads on this than any other fail. The starting point I kept coming back to was WINDGUST, which was so awkward, I felt sure it had to be important. But its two halves can be turned into WINE and RUST (or LUST) – that are both shades of red. Did anyone else go down this path? It didn’t follow through elsewhere, but with nothing better, I had to submit a guess based on the changed E and R or E and L. The choice was between EROS, which seemed to have possibilities since it’s an anagram of rose, or LOVE, which I knew is red, since I’ve passed it often in Philly. God, I wish I’d guessed right, since I even knew its distinctive shape. 4.5 stars from me.

  21. Stribbs says:

    Was stuck for a bit on the fact that LATINIV had the string “LATINGV” in its clue. But last time we had an asymmetric grid and a bunch of sections eerily devoid of E’s, it was basically the same trick, so it was at least worth checking it out again…

  22. The puzzle had what I assume was a coincidence that I just couldn’t shake. Both the starred clues contain RED, one forward one backward (holDERs & ingREDient). I know, I know, it’s a common trigram, so I was sure to find it other places, and I did! Several! In nice locations!

    I hope that it was an intentionally planted RED herring. For pun’s sake.

    • Dele says:

      I got hung up on this for a while, too.

      Also tried to look for other “colors” hidden in the clues… for instance, [Buffalo group] and [It’s written before we trust] (which happen to cross OTERO and ROO, two of the red/der entries).

      Obviously, this didn’t go anywhere.

  23. Bri Nebulae says:

    Anyone else get thrown by the concept of shapes colored red? e.g. the Bass Ale logo is a red triangle. The Japanese flag (Imari) has the red circle. Red cells and cabbages have somewhat round or spherical shapes.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Yes, this is one of the routes I thought had promise, particularly the red Bass Ale triangle. Imari porcelain is also known for its characteristic red glaze. Then there were the shades of red Venetian, Cardinal, and Whiskey appearing in the clues.

      • Flinty Steve says:

        Plus an ANT that could be red, and a TTOP that surely came from a little red Corvette. I got so fixated on red that I submitted the correct answer as a hail Mary, based simply on the sculpture’s color. I never saw the actual route to it and feel a little embarrassed about guessing right.

  24. Slow Stumper Solver says:

    Wow. Awesome week 4, which makes it very scary for what the week 5 will be.
    I got stuck with the plethora of alliterative names in the puzzle: T.Tritt, E.Els, K.Kesey, Hattie Hardy, Otto Octopus, Wim Wenders, Wilhelm Weber. I can’t believe these had nothing to do with the solve, and were merely coincidental.
    Also noted that the only color contained in any of the clues is red, 4 times in order (red) and 3 times in reverse (der). Leaving aside the asterisked clues, the 3 other (red) clues contain geographical places (Hundred Acre Wood, Massachusetts and Tunis). Again, very hard to ignore these.
    The grid also contains 5 instances of the 3 letter sequence “I_I”. Had the consonants which fill those blanks been meaningful (they weren’t) I thought that was a great way to find something “between the lines”.
    Great meta with many misleading parts.

  25. Garrett says:

    I started off getting fixated on REDC, but as Matthew G said, the famous statue of Moses doesn’t have anything to do with the Red Sea. I was so bothered by the asymmetry of the grid that I played with re-arranging it so that it was symmetrical, and then trying to anagram the displaced letters into something. This led nowhere.

    I was also bothered by the I in the cross of DAIMON and SINS (59A/54D). Why such a bizzare spelling? You can easily clue SENS and have DAEMON, so I kept trying to figure out why the I was there. This also led nowhere, diagonally or any other way.

    It seemed to me that Matt would never do anything so obvious as point us directly at an answer, so I figured REDCELLS and REDCABBAGE had to indirectly point to the answer. But I just did not get the correct indirection!

    What I noticed shortly before the deadline was that you could go right off the R of REDCABBAGE, then down to see another RUSH, and go left off the M of ULM then right at the R of AROMA to get MORE — meeting the tail of RUSH — and crossing the second E of REDCELLS, which gives RUSHMORE. So I submitted that Hail Mary.

    I think the puzzle is astounding. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been to construct. Bravo!

    • Abide says:

      I first colored the R-E-Ds on Saturday, but expanded my thinking to get LOVE on Sunday. I would have guessed something by Calder, since most of his sculptures were red. If you Google Image ” famous red sculpture” a good number of the results are the meta answer. My finished grid did have DAEMON, so I wondered why the E looked a little goofy.

  26. lilroser says:

    I noticed something else, and am curious if Victor meant to include these specific items as a nudge in the right direction?

    The original LOVE sculpture is red and BLUE –

    RED CABBAGE – also known as “blue kraut” (thanks Wikipedia!)
    RED CELLS – depicted as blue in veins in medical books, also supposedly new red blood cells can be blue (who knows if it’s 100% true, but it’s on the Internet!)
    BASS ALE – Famously a red triangle, but they also made a version with a blue triangle
    WIND GUST – Beaufort scale goes from Blue to Red
    GAP – their logo is blue, but they have the RED campaign (and they have a corresponding red logo)
    MUMS – can be blue or red (or other stuff, so this was a bit of a stretch)
    JODHPUR – known as the Blue City
    JEAN – obvioulsy blue jeans…
    R AND B – could abbreviate RED AND BLUE

    So I started looking for RED AND BLUE sculptures, and the most famous is LOVE…

    Then I used the weirdness of the grid to backsolve LOVE once I noticed all the letters were distributed in an odd way. But if I hadn’t gotten it, LOVE was going to be my guess!

    So, was this intentional?

  27. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    I’m quite livid at myself now– I realized it to be obviously like “Corporate Structure” given the restrained fill’s letter frquencies and the grid’s asymmetry, and did not even bother trying other lines of reasoning because I felt the above had to be true– but the only combinations of letters I tried in full were R, E, D and then R, O, D, I, and N then just the most frequent letters (T, O, A, and I I believe). I was definitely considering using Excel’s conditional formatting to try other letter combinations, but was distracted by having to fix a server I’d taken down. I’m bitter that I didn’t devote more time to it.

    It is very well-constructed, however– doing that sort of constrained gridding is quite difficult I can imagine.

  28. Amy L says:

    aaaarrrggghhh! I was going to guess LOVE (I live four blocks from the Philadelphia statue!) but I was determined not to unless I figured out why.

    Yes, LOVE seemed more famous than Pierre Puget’s “Milo of Croton,” (in the Louvre) even though Milo is right there in the puzzle at 40A.

    I tried lots of the things everyone else tried. Did anyone else notice the reds lurking in four of the clues (e.g., sacRED cod)? For four days I asked myself, why the asymmetry? I hate these puzzles where the answer, once revealed, seems so obvious and simple.

  29. Dave says:

    I’ve never been so close to a meta and failed to get it. My first guess, based on the title and the asymmetrical grid, was that coloring in some squares would reveal the sculpture, like the NIKE meta from a while back. I even went so far as to make a spreadsheet that would automatically color in the squares for any set of letters. Tried CELLS, CABBAGE, RED, the names of several sculptors, INSIDE THE LINES, and anything else I could think of. Somehow failed to try CELLS and CABBAGE together. Ugh.

    Great puzzle!

  30. Chris says:

    YES!!! Me and joon are in the same boat of guessing LOVE. It was an eleventh hour guess, but it paid off.

    I actually did try to color boxes in the puzzle, but I colored squares that had B, D, O, P, and R which are letters that contain spaces, as indicated by the title “Color Inside the Lines”. Didn’t produce anything, but I’m all I needed was LOVE.

  31. pj says:

    Went through lots of what all tried; then submitted LOVE. I didn’t have it on my radar at first but added it to possibles because REDCELLS and RED CABBAGE surrounded JODHPUR, which is , the BLUE CITY. I googled red and blue sculpture and came up with LOVE. I figured we needed to color in squares to “see” the sculpture, and Te LOVE cube would fit, but didn’t know how to get at it. Not as satisfying as if I’d seen the visual and honestly solved the meta.
    What I want to know, though, is why the asterisk hint opened the meta up to some of you? Those two answers were already on my radar because of the title.

  32. Bob J says:

    With colors on the brain I headed down a few blind alleys. The clue for MILORD is ‘Relative of “Your Grace”‘ whose initial letters are a tantalizing ROY G, but there was no BIV to be found. The B in RANDB, plus JEAN, plus the PUR of JODHPUR had me looking for a blue-red-purple connection, but no dice. Very satisfying to finally see the light on this one.

  33. Mutman says:

    I’ll blame being on vacation, but that’s not really it. I was just defeated.

    Was I the only one who guessed David due to the obvious phallic symbol of black squares in the center, a la ‘escalator’?

    • pannonica says:

      Ah, but Michelangelo’s David has a notably diminute and flaccid member, which it is speculated to reflect the intimidation engendered by his foe, Goliath. Nothing doing with Verrocchio, Donatello, or Bernini, either.

  34. Jason T says:

    This was outrageously satisfying to solve – just a perfect, clever meta. Thanks for the asterisks! Not sure I would have zeroed in on it without the certainty that those two entries were key.

    Thanks, also, for breaking your “No Repeated Constructors” rule, Matt! :) Well worth it.

  35. Abby says:

    I was guessing it had to be colored in, and with my particular set of skills, that’s easy to try. Once the computer showed me the pattern, I printed one and colored it in for satisfaction’s sake, but it probably looked cooler on the screen.

  36. Dele says:

    Didn’t get the meta, but LOVE the idea and execution. Everything was right there laid out, if you only knew what to look for.

    Thanks, Victor and Matt!

  37. Margot says:

    I guessed the statue of Lenin in Red Square. I cannot recall precisely how I got to that answer.

    • Jim Q says:

      I was either gonna guess that or Christ the Redeemer (T TOP and the RED answers crossing seemed to suggest that), but got it eventually with a very, very satisfying AHA.

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