MGWCC #382

crossword 5:09
meta about 1 minute 
hello and welcome to episode #382 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “That’s a Stretch”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt asks us to find a category to which this crossword puzzle belongs. how meta!

the theme answers don’t quite stand out because they’re not necessarily the longest in the grid. but i was able to spot them pretty quickly because i spent just enough time struggling with some of the clues as i was filling in the grid. the idea is that there are 15 entries, one in each row of the grid, that can still fit their clues if you add a letter somewhere. here they are:

  • {His poetry was infused with many classical references} is edgar allan POE (who wrote “to helen”, among other classically inspired verses), or alexander PO(P)E. among pope’s most famous lines is “A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring“, from an essay on criticism.
  • {Tear asunder} is (R)END. this tipped me off first, because i thought REND had to be right but didn’t fit. i wrote the R next to it anyway, in the black square to the left of square 15.
  • {Put all your cards on the table} is CHO(O)SE SIDES, since “put” can be in either the present or past tense.
  • {Finished a mountain hike} is (C)RESTED.
  • {They make gamblers excited} (R)ACES.
  • {Summertime sight} GARDEN HO(U)SE.
  • {Life ___ (delicious candy)} SAVER(S). “candy” can be a singular or collective noun.
  • {Right where I’m pointing} is (T)HERE, depending on whether i’m pointing at something nearby or far away.
  • {Frequent crossword word that creeps you out?} is (E)ERIE. this is a stretch (hey-o!). ERIE doesn’t creep me out at all.
  • {Fun with your co-workers} is a L(A)UNCH PARTY. i failed to have a launch party when i started my new website, but it’s just as well because there would have been no coworkers to invite.
  • {German 101 word} (N)EIN. EINE or EINS, of course, would also qualify. for that matter, although i have not taken german 101, i would imagine it would include SEIN (“being”). but we need the N here.
  • {Working on some eggs} is (B)EATING.
  • {They keep the human heart alive} P(E)ACEMAKERS. another stretch, but i like the audacity of this one.
  • {Bob Dylan title word} is LA(D)Y, if you’re talking about the song lay lady lay. of course, there are many other dylan songs with even more words in the title.
  • {Big proper name in the oil industry, perhaps} is (S)AUDI. oof, i didn’t love this. audi’s not in the oil industry at all.

anyway, read off the extra letters from top to bottom and you get PROCRUSTEAN BED (speaking of classical references!). why is this puzzle an instance of a procrustean bed? i hadn’t noticed this until matt pointed it out to me (though i feel sure i would have noticed when sitting down to blog it anyway), but the grid is only 14 squares wide. so the theme is meant to evoke procrustes “stretching” it to conform to the arbitrary 15×15 standard by adding a letter to one across answer in each row.

so. this was a pretty good meta, but i was expecting something tougher for a week 4. it’s admittedly been a long time since matt has wheeled out the “one clue for two answers” trick, but it’s a pretty standard gadget by now, and this one was fairly transparent. a handful of the two-way clues didn’t do very much for me, although some of them were quite good.

against that, i really like the phrase PROCRUSTEAN BED, and it’s a nice find that the phrase is 15 letters and could be the basis of a crossword theme. and apparently my solving experience was not all that typical, as there seem to be under 200 correct answers submitted as of tuesday morning, which seems in line for a week 4. so i’ll give this one four stars—not one of matt’s absolute best puzzles, but certainly a good one.

what did you all think?

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29 Responses to MGWCC #382

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    Joon, I think you mean PROCRUSTEAN BEDS, with the S of Saudi. I enjoyed it a lot — I love a puzzle that informs as well as entertains. Thanks, Matt, for getting us to learn about Procrustes. The first long entry immediately alerted me to the dual tenses of “put” and I thought the OO coming down from POOH was the stretch involved to make either chose or choose. This didn’t work out with the other long ones, but I saw they all could have another answer with an additional letter. Then I noticed the 14×15 grid – the main reason for doing this usually involves an even-numbered central entry, telling us that HERE was probably involved. This gave me OUTAE as the added letters. I thought the category might be something like OUTAGES or OUTTAKES, but I didn’t find any reference to such categories on Crossword Fiend or other sources. So I went looking for more places that could be ambiguous, and they started to fill in. A few had multiple possibilities – NEIN or EINS for the German word as Joon notes, but also BEATING or HEATING for what to do with eggs. I thought POPE was nicely hidden (and timely for the papal visit, which by the way was a beautiful and very moving triumph for my Philly region.) AUDI/SAUDI made me grin, but PEACEMAKERS was “a stretch!”

    I think I’ve said something similar on another Week 4 gem a while back, but it’s fairly easy to stumble across a path with fifteen entrances — taking this from 5 stars to 4.5 for me. Also, I couldn’t find any puzzles of this type, only one use of PROCRUSTEAN (without the BEDS) as fill. Matt or Joon, could you please tell us more about this category?

  2. Ephraim says:

    I briefly thought this was a different kind of one-letter-off puzzle because of LIMN near top center. A one letter shift gets you LIMO, which can be a stretch, right?

  3. Matthew G. says:

    I was so close. I saw almost all the missing letters, but I missed PO(P)E and LA(D)Y, and I had (H)EATING instead of (B)EATING and EIN(S) instead of (N)EIN. I tried anagramming the letters I did have, and I naturally went back and looked for more hidden letters, but still didn’t see PO(P)E and LA(D)Y.

    Because the long entries had the extra letters within the word and most of the short entries had the extra letters at the beginning or end, I erroneously thought that would be universally true. A good reminder to question assumptions.

    C’est la vie. Nice puzzle.

  4. Amy L says:

    Aarrgh. I saw only the words where you add the first letter (as in R-end, C-rested, R-aces, N-ein). I kept looking for a Dylan song that had LAY with another letter in front (S-lay, P-lay, C-lay???).

    I’ve never heard of a Procrustean bed. I sleep in one from Bloomingdale’s.

    Tough puzzle–for me–but good.

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 195 right answers this week. So better for a Week 3 than 4. I’ve been a week behind all month it seems.

  6. Dan Seidman says:

    I didn’t submit PROCRUSTEAN BEDS for three reasons:
    1) It’s not a category.
    2) It was too obvious for a week four.
    3) The words that formed it were ones that shrunk, and the title seemed to imply that — as with the “real” Procrustean bed — there were also those who had to be stretched to fit.

    So I looked for words to be stretched, and found four across and four down, in order:
    23A They make gamblers excited: ACS — athletic clubs, where there is plenty to bet on
    27A Summertime sight: GARDEN HOE
    58A Green prefix: EO — where green means early, undeveloped
    63A Random apartment number: NINE
    17D Big impact: SLASH — as in slashing jobs or costs
    45D Flying horses: PEGAS
    51D Fish the Basques…: EEL
    54D Astute: DEF — in slang
    The eight letters added to stretch these words to fit the grid are ESCAPIST, which seemed to me to better fit the definition of a category and certainly applied to the puzzle and the 15 letters that escaped.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Dan, some of these are quite stretchy, too, but as someone who’s argued for alternate answers in the past, I think yours is pretty cool.

      • mrbreen says:

        Neat alternative indeed, but I find it impossible to believe that you submitted Escaspist, despite :seeing: Procrustean Beds, because “2) It was too obvious for a week 4.”

        On a side note Procrustes was a prominent entry in this week’s Fireball! Too funny!

        • Dan Seidman says:

          “Tear asunder” had to be REND, and for “Finished a mountain hike”, CRESTED was much better than RESTED, so I was looking for extra letters the whole way through. So I figured PROCRUSTEAN BEDS was just the first step, since it didn’t seem to fit the requirement of a category.

        • dave glasser says:

          Yeah, what are the chances that an unusual Friday Fireball contains the obscure answer word to the same day’s MGWCC?

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            I assume Peter and Matt were in cahoots. Imagine my surprise, having needed to Google PROCRUSTES when blogging the Fireball, when PROCRUSTEAN BEDS popped up in the MGWCC.

    • Dele says:

      That… is a pretty incredible coincidence. I think you should definitely get credit for that.

    • Evan says:

      Creative, but one problem is that you could remove a couple of other letters that could theoretically make the corresponding answers fit their clues, tortured though they may be (though no less tortured than some of the examples you provided):

      [Snake’s feature] = SHAPE. Incredibly vague, but it’s technically true.
      [Fuel source in Ireland] = PEA. If you imagine you’re fueling your body by eating a single pea.
      [Webmaster’s concern] = SE. It’s an acronym for “software engineering” (and “search engine,” just like in SEO).

      Beyond that, I’d argue that the main idea in this puzzle isn’t that the words formed in the grid shrunk. It’s that you have to stretch them further to get the same clues and PROCRUSTEAN BEDS, which is apt. Plus with some of the really stretchy answers like PEGASI and the randomest of random Roman numerals, I thought this meta was hilarious.

  7. Mike W says:

    I saw the missing letter theme, but I was looking for symmetric matches. Rend for end was symmetric with lady for lay, the four long answers also were symmetric with missing letters. I saw Saudi for Audi and thought Chapo fit for capo (El Chapo is the Mexican drug lord in the news recently for his prison – Mexican mafia?). Unfortunately, I couldn’t resolve Pope for Poe and nein for ein. No matter – I had not heard of Procrustean Beds. Good learning experience and fun mental exercise!

  8. Jason T says:

    Got the answer but missed the detail that the missing letters stretch the 14-square grid to 15. That’s the extra detail that pulls the whole thing together into a lovely package. This one was a lot of fun. I caught the long stretchable answers fairly quickly, but the fun Aha moment was when I realized that every row had a stretchable answer. As I said in my comment to Matt: Super(b)!

    • Dele says:

      I can ditto every word of Jason’s comment. (Well, except the last sentence… I didn’t write that to Matt, though I do agree with it!)

      Like joon, I got my first hint when I wanted to fill in (R)END. (B)EATING and (C)RESTED also jumped out at me, so at first I thought it was just extra letters at the beginning. Went through the Across entries in order and realized there was one insertable letter per line, and I was off to the (R)ACES. (Chuckled when I got down to (S)AUDI at the end–definite groaner!)

      Thanks for the fun (and educational!) puzzle, Matt!

  9. Norm H says:

    (S)AUDI clued me in to the missing letter trick — that was probably the clunkiest of all of them. From there, I went word by word to see what could be added to the remaining Acrosses. I found 13 of them pretty quickly and noticed they were one to a row, but a couple eluded me. I finally Googled “pro-r-steanbeds” to discover Procrustean Beds and back into (C)RESTED and GARDENHO(U)SE.

    Good stuff. Reminded me a little of the Patrick Berry MGWCC puzzle during guest constructor month, which Matt liked a lot.

  10. Mike says:

    According to my numbers (I could be wrong), the average for a week 4 since the paywall is 196, although the numbers jump all over the place. Judging the difficulty of a meta is harder than judging the difficulty of the grid, I think.

  11. Molson says:

    I picked up on the missing letter theme but I missed a bunch of them – PO(P)E, (R)ACES, SAVER(S), (T)HERE, (N)EIN, (B)EATING, and LA(D)Y.

    So I thought maybe just the long answers were the “missing letter” answers so I got OUAE, and thought there might be some weird “missing vowel” theme or something but couldn’t figure anything out.

    Some of the “wrong” answers to the clues were such that it didn’t seem like there should be a missing letter. POE/POPE, EATING/BEATING, ACES/RACES, LAY/LADY, EIN/NEIN… add in the fact that I’ve never heard of a PROCRUSTEAN BED and this left me a little underwhelmed. There’s just a missing level of elegance that I’ve come to expect. I got the main idea of the meta but there wasn’t any aha moment even when seeing the answer.

  12. Jim S. says:

    “Garden house” and “Savers” were the last two to fall for me, and if my theory on “Launch party” wasn’t exactly right, it appeared to be headed towards “Procreate in/on beds”. Quite a category, but not sure how that fits into the crossword world! Finally spotted the ‘u’ and accepted the plural as a legit letter addition to get the right answer. Nice puzzle, and a new term for me. I took the ‘arbitrary’ portion of the Merriam Webster definition to mean that symmetry wasn’t required – the “stretches” were arbitrary, both in grid location and in the placement within the word.

    Hat tip to Jangler and Matt’s interview with him – finally made the “look at the clues” leap this month to help me out. The result? My first perfect month!

    • Tim H. says:

      Mine too. I’d obviously call it the easiest month in a long time, but I’m glad to see Matt hasn’t consciously eased up on difficulty to broaden appeal or whatever- the later months should be punishingly abstruse to make us work.

  13. Abby says:

    I noticed the puzzle was 14 x 15 and some of the clues were hinky, so I figured I needed to make up the 15 that were short with alternate words. Made pretty short work of it for a final week. (Though, historically, if I miss, it’s usually the penultimate week of the month for some reason.) Good one, though.

  14. Shuka says:

    Wheee! What fun. I got led down a different garden path … the lower long answers all had added letters that appeared in the short words sharing those lines. Hence, for “chose sides”, I went for the very questionable “chose side As”, which had two representations in the short associated word. It turns out that anagramming the vertical words (without the letters used to stretch), gave :
    “desired result hue”.
    So I went with “black and white.”. Maybe next week four….

  15. Abide says:

    Took me more than a Joon-minute (three days), and even then I was focused on NERO CRUST EMBEDS (capoNE and Mein), since the extra letters were embedded. Finally noticed poPe this morning. I have a vague recollection of “procrustean bed” from some legal brief, but enjoyed reading about the mythology behind the “one bed fits all” bandit.

  16. Crypdex says:

    My first thought for this week’s theme was that it was a letter substitution, because I almost filled in MATING for [Working on some eggs] as I was working on the grid! Discovering (B)EATING, then (R)END, then (S)AUDI led me off that garden house path.

    I quickly discovered PROCRUSTEAN BEDS but didn’t actually submit it as my answer. So after reading through joon’s write-up this morning (it’s Wednesday morning over here in Sydney), I thought I’d messed it up and wasn’t expecting to see myself on the leaderboard.

    I wanted to submit MISSING LETTER or DELETED LETTER because that seemed more apt as a crossword category name. However the Procrustes Wikipedia page mentioned Poe’s PURLOINED LETTER which I thought was pretty close and tied back to PROCRUSTEAN BEDS, so I went with that instead.

    I did mention this in my comment though, so Matt, thank you for being kind to me and accepting my answer!

  17. CC says:

    The Saudi/Audi drove me way down the wrong path- probably because I spent over a decade in the auto industry and the Audi clue made no sense. I ended up stretching the puzzle along that column, adding letters to theme clues, etc. Oh well, better luck next time.

  18. CC says:

    (Oh and not to get down on the puzzle at all! I’ve found that too much domain specific knowledge can be a bad thing when it comes to lateral thinking!)

  19. jefe says:

    Thankful for the easy meta (after missing last week’s), but I feel it was too soon after Patrick Berry’s guest meta (SOLO/PARTNERS) which had a similar gimmick.

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