MGWCC #394

crossword 3:49 
meta … 10 minutes? 3 days?
entirely wrong? we’ll see 


mgwcc394hello and welcome to episode #394 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Low and Inside”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a well-known literary work. it’s about to get a lot more specific than that, though, because the three-part hint in the grid spells out SHAKESPEARE PLAY / WHOSE NAME HIDES A / FITTING CREATURE. and that’s it. that’s all we have, i’m pretty sure. i don’t think there are any other clues to the meta in the crossword, though i’d be happy to be proven wrong.

the thing is, i feel like this isn’t tightly pinned. i’m pretty sure the answer is twelfth night because it hides “elf” and that’s fitting because it’s almost christmas (and the play’s title does in fact refer to the twelfth night of christmas, not that they had any particular tradition about elves and santa in shakespeare’s day), but there isn’t enough “click” for me. elves are short, so it fits the title—they’re “low” and the ELF is hidden “inside” the play’s title. but why can’t it be the merchant of venice, which hides an ant? (antony and cleopatra also contains ant, but it’s not especially hidden, is it?) ants are low, and “fitting” is pretty vague—maybe it just means that those letters “fit” into the title. so i dunno.

meta aside, the crossword is pretty good. with only 3×15 worth of theme, matt opens up the grid a little bit to a deceptively low 72 word count. the clue {Like crossword writers and fashion models} for SEXY made me guffaw. angle of REPOSE (10-down) is a wonderful book, and nikolai GOGOL (43a) is a wonderful writer, so those clues both made me smile.

that’s all i’ve got. i’ll be traveling next week so there will probably be somebody else blogging the puzzle in my absence. happy holidays everyone, and i’ll see you in 2016!

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62 Responses to MGWCC #394

  1. Todd Dashoff says:

    I got the same answer and the same logic, then went Googling. ELF is Extremely LOW Frequency as well as a programming technique that lets you see “inside” a Linus program, so I felt better about my choice.

  2. Ephraim says:

    When the answer struck me it seemed perfect: a seasonal creature and a seasonal play in the appropriate season. What could be more fitting? But like you, Joon, my friends didn’t feel a click in the answer.

  3. CC says:

    I submitted “Measure for Measure” (and did not make the leaderboard) because it contained MOUSE, which was related to WALT, TRAPP, RAT, and PREY. “Low and Inside,” I figured, referred to the iconic mouse hole.

    • mps says:

      I went with Merchant of Venice for similar reasons, including the title evoking a mouse hole. And for me it was RAT and KIN in symmetrical position that signaled mice. Removing the interior letters leaves you with MICE. But I was never that confident in it. I put in my answer comment that it was more a guess.

  4. Matthew G. says:

    Ah. I guessed TIMON OF ATHENS, because there are a number of cartoon animals referenced–ASTRO (from the Jetsons), ARLO (the dinosaur in the new film “The Good Dinosaur”), ABU (the monkey from Aladdin) hidden inside TAKE A BUS, and Mickey Mouse in a clue. So I looked for a Shakespeare play with a cartoon animal in the title, and stumbled upon TIMON OF ATHENS–Timon being the meerkat from “The Lion King.” Not tight, obviously, but I feel better knowing the real answer didn’t have a strong click either.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      And the Lion King is based on Hamlet, while Lion King II is based on Romeo and Juliet, so Timon is a logical choice.

  5. Jim Curan says:

    I scoured all the Shakespeare lists I could find. I expected the “hidden” word to cross one or two word boundaries but didn’t see anything there. I ended up with merchANTofvenice as a Tuesday 11:55AM Hail Mary entry. Low and inside.

  6. Amy L says:

    I liked Timon of Athens FAT HEN.

  7. David Stein says:

    Wow, I totally overthought this. I saw “elf” quickly but rejected that. The cluing threw me off. “Part 1 of meta answer,” “part 2” “part 3 of hint” made me believe those three answers didn’t quite go together. Also, there was ODOR which was clued as ‘HINT” I was stuck, thinking I was looking somehow for a answer with a animal with an odor. The first part of Cleopatra anagrams to POLECAT so I went with Antony and Cleopatra. Oh well.

    • Dave C says:

      I also overthought the wording of the theme clues, looking for some creative angle to give a literary piece that might not even be a Shakespearean play. Fortunately I ended up with the right answer, even though I scoured a bunch of TWELFTH NIGHT references to confirm there were no elves. ELF trumped ANT, so that was my Hail Mary.

    • Matt says:

      That was a last-minute mistake, sorry. I decided to change the phrasing of the theme entries from “hint” and accidentally left the last one on. Pretty bad. Ugh.

  8. I’m with Joon — I got the right answer, but it didn’t quite click enough for me. I grepped my word list for substrings of all of Shakespeare’s plays to see if there was anything obvious I was missing, but I couldn’t come up with a better answer, so I sent it in.

  9. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Don’t overlook “Shrew” as a remote possibility! But “Elf” was clearly the winner.

    Even though there was none of the two- and three-level deep coding we expect from week three or four, I was confident of Twelfth Night on the basis of a line in Matt’s blog last week: “I made the first three metas of this month quite easy, just to get everyone overconfident, and then I’m going to pick off those on the margin with a crusher next week.”

  10. Paul Coulter says:

    Other than the shaman meta, this is probably the one I least enjoyed. Honestly, elf was the first thing I saw, as soon as I turned to the list of titles, and I rejected it immediately as not up to Matt’s high standards. But in the end, after trying all weekend to see some better technique Matt would have used for a Week 3, all I had was the list of ENT from gentlemen, ERN from midsummer night, ANT from both antony and merchant, which tended to eliminate it, (fat) hen from Timon of Athens, ELF from Twelfth, maybe LEO from Cleopatra, and maybe ROC backwards in Coriolanus, and probably not PEST in tempest. The only one that remotely has to do with the play’s plot is (fat) hen, since feasting features prominently in Timon of Athens, and hens are low-slung creatures, so I went with that. There are no elves in TWELFTH NIGHT, which I see now isn’t what Matt was going for, but more the fitting inside the word stretch that Joon mentioned. I also agree with Joon that there was no tradition of Christmas elves in Shakespeare’s time, and I wouldn’t call them creatures, anyway, more like beings. If there’s more to it than this, someone please explain.

    • Garrett says:

      Besides all these that you found, Paul, I also noticed THING at the end of Much Ado About Nothing. That was kind of tempting, because “The Thing” is a creature, but how is it fitting? With so many — ahem — things to choose from, I figured there had to be some kind of lock. So I refocused on “low and inside” and this made me think of baseball. Were we looking for a play with a ball? Say a masquerade ball? So I spent a lot of time on that and could not find a lock between characters in a ball and creature in a title.

      Next, I looked at the grid — low down (for low), for a word that had something inside. Cannabis has Anna inside. Was there a play with an Anna character? No.

      So then I started anagramming parts of titles. Titus Andronicus is one N short of UNICORN. The Comedy of Errors contains EROS. A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains EMU, and Coriolanus contains LION. None of these went anywhere.

      So, I went back to ELF, and looked in vain to see if there was an ELF inside the play. Nothing I could find. So I just quit thinking about it for most of Monday.

      At some point last night the low and inside thing struck me like this: low — as in lowlife, or like a cad, or a cur… or a rat! and inside — there must be a rat inside the play!

      Enter Romeo and Juliet — First letter of Romeo, and of and, and the last letter of Juliet, for RAT. After I came up with this, I decided to sleep on it, and if nothing new came up, submit it this morning. But, I never did because I got so busy this morning I forgot. I’ll leave you with this, from Romeo and Juliet, III, 1:

      Mercutio: “A plague o’ both your houses! ‘Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a cat, to scratch a man to death! a braggart, a rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of arithmetic!”

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 248 right answers this month.

    I was a little surprised that this didn’t click properly with a too-large # of solvers. I thought the puzzle’s title, plus the seasonal nature of both ELF and “Twelfth Night” would have done the trick, but since many kept looking I guess not.

    • jps says:

      Because it didn’t click, I had to reverse solve it. After discarding ant, hen, char, (there’s almost an oriole in Coriolanus), I was left with elf. I read up on Twelfth Night; no elf there. Perhaps it was his 11th play – nope. “fitting” was a distraction; once I rephrased it in my head as “seasonal”, I figured that must be it.

    • Molson says:

      No click for me as well.
      1) “Elf” doesn’t really say “creature” to me
      2) “Fitting” doesn’t really apply to an elf in 12th night since elves don’t enter into the play at all.
      3) No idea why “Low and Inside” makes sense to describe elves.

      I spend a lot of time looking for anagrams in play titles but didn’t find anything that worked, and in the end figured that Elf had to be it because there was nothing better.

      Although I did seriously consider “Much Ado About Nothing” because of the Elizabethan-era double-entendre pun in the title, but figured that Matt wouldn’t reach to call a vagina a “creature.”

  12. Steve Durfee says:

    Twelfth night was my best guess for quite a while, but I wanted something better. I kept looking for reindeer names in the grid and clues with limited success, and eventually settled on Merry Wives of Windsor, which includes the letters for reindeer (now I see that it’s one E short). I probably have been too immersed in Tolkien, etc., but it’s hard for me to think of an elf as a “creature”. Shucks.

  13. Dele says:

    This took me way longer than it should have, because at first I kept reading “creature” to mean “animal”, even though it didn’t say that. So I was confused when I didn’t find any hidden animals appropriate to their plays (at least using consecutive letters). For a while I considered submitting A midSummer night’S dream (in which “low”ly Bottom is trapped “inside” the body of an ass).

    But once I finally got away from animals, I did feel a nice “aha!” when I found the elf.

  14. Bri Nebulae says:

    Seemed to me like a play on the Christmas tradition of finding the “elf on the shelf”. Since books can also sit on a shelf, I imagined this was the germ of Matt’s idea?

  15. Jim S. says:

    Not a fan of this one either. I saw Elf very quickly, but “fitting” to me meant that the creature hidden inside the title had references in the play itself. Even with the helpful statement about weeks 1-3 being easy, I didn’t think it would be THAT easy so I overthought it… After perusing recaps of Twelfth Night and finding no mention of an Elf, I looked for other non-anagrammed creatures with no luck beyond Shrew. I don’t know much Shakespeare, and it’s too busy around the house and at work this week for me to have delved into anagramming or reading up on all the plays. I did find some papers on Shakespeare’s use of “creature” much more frequently than “animal” – if I recall, “creature” was used more than 100 times while “animal” was only used 8 times, but it appeared to be a sign of the times vs. Shakespeare himself – as well as a list of all of the animals referenced in his plays.

    A different word might have helped, but it would be tough to do that without giving it away… “Seasonal” would be too obvious. Perhaps “timely”? But who am I to complain – more than 200 people landed on something that I overthought so I can’t blame the puzzle too much.

  16. Jim Schooler says:

    I thought what is more of a “fitting creature” than a ‘tailor’, and found it in an anagrammic way in “Troilus and Cressida.” Boy was I way off! Thanks for the challeges this year, Matt, and on to next year!

  17. Travis H. says:

    I also thought of ELF and rejected it since it had nothing to do with the play. Went with A Midsummer Night’s Dream (without much confidence) on the grounds that A, S, S appear in order (although not together) and Bottom being transformed into one is a major plot point. (And maybe the “Low” in the title was related to the name “Bottom” somehow?)

    My kingdom for a “horse” in the title of Richard III…

  18. Norm says:

    I went with Macbeth, which has “bat” [as in wing of] although you have to anagram. Is there a rules that “hides” means the actual word is there?

    • George says:

      I thought “fitting” meant the creature appeared in or had something to do with the play. MacBeth was the only thing I came up with because I saw “bat” which is mentioned as one of the ingredients the three witches add to the bubbling cauldron for their famous witch’s brew. However, I knew I was on the wrong track when I saw that “MacBeth” also contains “cat,” which is also mentioned in the same scene. Given the three-part hint in the grid, I didn’t think it was possible that the play title would hide two creatures.

  19. Puff says:

    Is an elf a creature? Put mythical in front of it and maybe?

  20. Matt says:

    Hmm, I thought this would be about the least controversial meta imaginable! Saw the ELF–>Twelfth Night piece of wordplay (not many words have ELF in English, the self- ones mostly). Couldn’t ever use it early in the month since it’s Christmas related, so figured I’d cover my bases and state outright that it was easier than normal.

    • Matt says:

      Not to blame solvers, please understand — enough had doubts about ELF when they had it that it’s clearly a whiff on my part. I’m just surprised I didn’t make contact. Happens I suppose.

      • ajk says:

        Even though I’ve only been doing these for a few months, my own trepidation was the result of an already-healthy respect for the cleverness of your work. Figured I had to be missing something (though in the end I went with it). Mostly on the grounds that I usually am. :)

        But I missed the bit about it being easy. That might well have calmed some fraction of my fears. :)

      • Jim S. says:

        As ajk stated, I think it has more to do with your track record than anything else. If it had been a week 1 or 2, I might have stopped at Elf and Twelfth. Even as an advertised easy week 3, I expected something more involved than it ended up being. I’d say it’s not your fault, but you’ve certainly built a strong legacy that threw me off, but one off week is well worth the weekly treats that you provide all of us! Lesson learned for me, though – when Matt says it’s easy, think Week 1 :)

  21. Blanche says:

    I still like my answer — I thought a mermaid would be a lovely midsummer night’s dream.

  22. Dan Seidman says:

    I thought it was pretty straightforward — as soon as I saw ELF in a title that refers to Christmas, I knew I had it. Maybe it’s from doing a lot of cryptics, but I think “HIDES” always indicates a word contained as is, so I didn’t bother looking for anagrams or anything else more complicated.

  23. Once I had twELFth night as a possible answer, I went looking for other things that might solidify it as correct (for the same reasons everyone else was under-confident). The best thing I found was a surprising amount of “HO”s. HOping this was correct, I submitted, and got lucky.

    That said, oh boy, did the different wording of the the 3 meta clues throw me off. I tried so very hard to make them parts of 3 different 3 part meta clues, obviously to no avail. I also tried to make sense of the need for the INDEFINITE ARTICLE ALERT!, but was far less confident that was relevant.

    Anyway, if not for the meta clues error/debacle I probably would have been much more comfortable submitting twELFth night.

    To conclude with controversy, anyone who is throwing shade for “elves are not creatures” is, frankly, just wrong.

  24. Gideon says:

    I too submitted ELF though it didn’t click.

    I did find a link between elves and 12th night:

    Not obscure if you are solving in Iceland I guess…

  25. Laura E-D says:

    I interpreted “Low and Inside” as a hint that the answer was lower-case and on the inside of a word. This was of course in hindsight after I’d already found ELF, but the logic made sense to me.

  26. PJ Ward says:

    I saw the elf but opted for Mark Antony’s chariot, drawn by lions.

  27. pgw says:

    I benefited from never having given any thought to the connection between the play title and the Christmas season. So I was scratching my head trying to understand what, other than it being late December, was so fitting about elf – and then I had … [removes sunglasses for effect] AN EPIPHANY.

  28. Kristin G says:

    Antony and Cleopatra has “anaconda” in it. I was hoping anacondas were somehow related to asps via some remote link so I looked into it…I think we all know how that panned out. “Quite different, they are.” (Yoda, 2015) I enjoyed the puzzle overall, though!

  29. Anonymous Elf says:

    Dear Homo Sapiens:

    I am a creature, just like you.

    Since it’s so snowy where I live, I’ve never played baseball. Is “Low and Inside” a baseball term? I’d like to know because I don’t think of myself as low, but I am usually inside.

    Your Elf Friend

  30. Lynne R Equation says:

    Found “elf” quickly, and tried to connect it to a well known literary work. Should have stopped there, but I overthought it a bit, I guess, as I submitted the “jolly old elf” in the Night Before Christmas-which I think is a more well-known literary work than “Elf”, the movie. Well, considering all the pressure and stress that the Christmas Season brings, I’m happy to have found time to complete the puzzle! Happy Christmas to all!

  31. joon says:

    i think this puzzle could have used a couple other clues (maybe even just one) steering you towards “elf”. then it really clicks.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I think if there had been anything other than the date of publication hinting at a holiday theme, that would have done the trick in focusing me on Twelfth Night.

  32. joe says:

    Seems like any animal should be acceptable. This one was a bummer,

  33. Abide says:

    My experience seems to be the reverse. Took me three days to find “elf”, and then three minutes to get the click.

  34. Robert Loy says:

    I was just happy to actually solve a week three. For my money, that’s better than a click.

  35. Robert Hutchinson says:

    I made it to the right answer, but briefly considered A MidsummER Night’s Dream, as I can think of few more “fitting” creatures for crosswords.

  36. Shika says:

    Pleased, at least, that no one else went down the “Char” route, and searched for 2 or 3 fish hidden in the grid (hake in first part of hint was one)… I gave up on this because of lack of connection to title…

  37. ML Perry says:

    Well – I went with “The Taming of the Shrew” since Mingo is a shrew in a cartoon TV movie…can’t get more fitting than that. Too bad it’s wrong!!! But, I did have the right idea – a hidden word in a title…

  38. Cyrano says:

    Count me in the group that saw Twelfth Night/ELF immediately but discarded it and ultimately sent in no answer, largely because I was traveling and forgot. But I never thought to connect the character with the time of year and not necessarily the play, which has no elves in it. Anyway, like others if it had been Week 1 maybe I wouldn’t have over thought it.

  39. ===Dan says:

    I saw ELF early but didn’t send it in because I couldn’t find one in the play. I did find a presentation of the play by ELF, the Electronic Literature Foundation.

    The best I could come up with was

    Midsummer Night’s Dream hiding A, the head of Ass.

    That didn’t seem right either. At the end I did not send in anything.

  40. LuckyGuest says:

    I’ve got no beef with the puzzle or the clues, and like the rest, I read through all the titles looking for a creature (completely missing the intended meaning of “fitting” and absolutely forgetting to look at the title). Had some close ones, including “woge” (a creature from Grimm) from “Two Gentlemen From Verona,” but settled for a “ham” from Hamlet (an actor — of sorts — in a play; a stretch at a “fitting” creature). Even with no click, I sent it in. Puzzle good… me bad.

  41. whatever says:

    Norton? Was he a nominee or was it Cooper?

  42. Dave S. says:

    I went with Corialanus, because the last four letters were fitting the lead character, and was low and inside.

  43. Lisa from Queens says:

    Being overly familiar with “Twelfth Night” definitely hindered me as I would never have thought Elf had any connection at all to it. It’s not like the play is a Christmas play. My preferred idea was “fat hen” from “Timon of Athens” although it was also shaky and I ultimately didn’t submit anything. Oh well.

  44. spongeamy says:

    I also thought fitting meant relevant to the play, which is why I submitted Timon of Athens as fat hen seemed to fit perfectly.

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