MGWCC #447

crossword untimed;
meta DNF  


Matt here, blogging Dave’s puzzle on behalf of the still-Christmasing joon. We randomly had a Guest Constructor puzzle this past week from MGWCC web guru Dave Sullivan. No special reason for it but we might have to make it a regular thing — I always forget how busy this time of year is.

Our puzzle is titled: “Call to Order” and our instructions ask for a restaurant in the U.S. Let’s look at our five theme entries:

19-A [Menu item at Lima’s La Locanda (1 421 4400)] = ARROZ CON LECHE
32-A [Menu item at Bangkok’s Siam House Café (2 233 7576)] = MASSAMAN CURRY
45-A [Menu item at Tokyo’s Ginza Torishige (3-3571-8372] = CHICKEN TERIYAKI
61-A [Menu item at Naples’ di Matteo (] = PIZZA MARINARA
75-A [Menu item at Seoul’s Hanchon Selleongtang Seolleung Station (2 508-2152)] = KIMCHI PANCAKE

So while testing this I wasn’t able to crack the code, which is: if you were to call any of these five restaurants from abroad, you’d need to use their country codes. Which are:

Peru — 51
Thailand — 66
Japan — 81
Italy — 39
South Korea — 82

What to do with those 10 numbers? One well-known constructor mentioned that he’d randomly asked his mother-in-law what she thought; despite having never seen a meta before, she instantly told him: “Ten numbers? Maybe they’re a phone number themselves.”

Bingo — call (or Google, if you don’t want to bother the staff) that number — (516)-681-3982, and the person who answers will tell you that you’ve reached meta answer the BROADWAY DINER in Hicksville, N.Y. 245 solvers found it, and one took his daughter there for lunch this weekend and sent along some selfies to prove it!

I dug this one quite a bit. True, you don’t need to solve the crossword to get the meta, but you don’t know that until later. Using the country codes is a novel way to conceal meta info and having them form the phone number of a US restaurant is both elegant and logical.

4.40 stars, and thanks to Dave for the puzzle.

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36 Responses to MGWCC #447

  1. ML Perry says:

    Well, crap – I tried way too hard to find 10 numbers from the grid!!!! I knew I needed a phone number…there is a lovely rabbit hole looking at down answers that could possibly pair up with the type of cuisine from the across answers…EASTERN, AZTECAN, ROMA, KIA and SOBE…
    Too bad that didn’t lead to any real phone number. Also, there are a lot of repeated letters in the answers…also a rabbit hole upon (lots) of investigation!

  2. Joshua Kosman says:

    Oh boy. This one gets no love from me at all. Matt’s pretty blase about the fact that we’ve got a huge 17×17 grid contributing exactly nothing to the meta solve, but for me that’s basically a deal-breaker right there.

    And wait, there’s more: Even the choices of restaurant are completely arbitrary. “Look at this particular pizzeria on a specific corner of Naples” says the clue, when in fact it could be any eatery in all of Italy. The whole thing is just a mass of unconstrained red herrings in my book.

    Here’s an alternative strategy, and I was so happy when I thought of it, because it seemed like the only possible way to combine all the necessary information. For each restaurant, find the menu online, and find the specific dish that’s in the grid. Its cost will be a two-digit number (in euros, soles, won, or what-have-you). Put those together to get the phone number of the restaurant. Sure, it would’ve taken some effort on the constructor’s part, but still.

    This actually works for Locanda — where the arroz con leche is listed in the menu online for 29 soles — but it falls apart after that. Grrr…

    • Qatsi says:

      I’m with Joshua on this one. Spent too much time trying to figure out something to do with the phone numbers, the list of restaurants, and the menu items. Just before the deadline, I did make up a list of countries, but it didn’t occur to me to look up the country codes.

      Perhaps those of us who failed to crack the meta can meet here to commiserate:

    • Scott says:

      I thought the exact same thing. But I found our that no area code is 29x. So I eventually solved it the correct way.

    • Stephen McFly says:

      Too funny. I went this route as well. I’m sure these restaurants had an odd surge in U.S. web traffic…

    • Tyler says:

      Yup, this is my feeling as well. Country codes were the very first things I recorded after filling the grid and it still took me three days to solve it because I wanted to use the grid.

      • Garrett says:

        This was exactly my experience, except I never got it figured out. My first thought was that they would be grid locations that would yield a name or even a clue to a next step. I was very dissappointed when that led nowhere. I got close though — I tried using the grid numbers for each answer to create a phone number. That was the right idea — just the wrong set of numbers. I couldn’t make the next logical step because it did not involve the grid in any way.

        • Jim Schooler says:

          You were even closer Garrett. Remember you compiled the country codes. Too bad the Irvine Mafia didn’t convene this week. I liked the solve though.

  3. sharkicicles says:

    Figured out the country code thing immediately, but thought it was too much of a coincidence that each number was also the number of an across entry and never got out of that rabbit hole.

    • Tyler says:

      I worked with this for a long time as well. Not only that, but each is directly below a theme answer (though one has two and another has none).

  4. “Hello, Broadway Diner.”
    “Hi, uh, I have a bit of a strange question. Have you guys gotten a lot of calls this week about a crossword puzzle?”
    “….Crossword puzzle?”
    “Yeah, I’m wondering if other people have called trying to find out if Broadway Diner was the answer to a special kind of crossword called a meta.”
    “Maybe. I can ask my manager. Did you want to make a reservation?”
    “No, that’s all I wanted to know.”

    How I imagined the dialogue would go, but with way more awkwardness. Did others call the number?

    • Joe says:

      I didn’t actually call Broadway Diner (used Google), but at one point I did try calling a number based on the first letter of theme answers minus the ‘con’ in Arroz con Leche, dialed alphanumerically (256-228-7657). The phone number is based out of a small town called Section, Alabama but was out of service. Interestingly, there is a restaurant in Section called Kudzu Café, both words of which are referenced in the grid, but the phone number didn’t exactly match.

  5. Brian Kell says:

    The lengths of the words in the theme entries were 535-85-78-58-67. The last eight of these digits match the phone number for The Kitchen at Boston Public Market: 978-578-5867. But I couldn’t see how ARROZ CON LECHE could indicate 97…

  6. Evad says:

    Just to answer one question a lot of solvers had, I have no connection whatsoever with the Broadway Diner (I live in Vermont, pretty far from Long Island), and I have the tax returns to prove it! :)

    It was surprisingly difficult to find a restaurant that had a phone number made up of two-digit country codes of country’s whose cuisines are somewhat famous. Any pair of numbers that began with a ‘2’ was out as all African countries (where the 2’s are located) have three-digit country codes.

    Sorry for the lump of coal for those that didn’t enjoy it, but thanks for the nice comments as well for those who had that nice AHA moment when they checked the phone number to see if it was a restaurant.

  7. Katie M. says:

    It seemed pretty straightforward to me. I googled each restaurant name and phone number together from the clue, and saw that the first two digits of their phone numbers were missing. Ended up with ten digits, so tried them as a phone number, which turned out to be Broadway Diner.

    • Jon says:

      This is exactly what I did. It seemed like a no brainer that the country codes were obviously omitted & the arrangement of the codes in order would provide a US number. To me, this had the difficulty of a week 1 or 2 meta.

      I will echo others that a meta that doesn’t even use the grid answers is bad, especially for a week-3-plus meta.

  8. Craig says:

    I hated this one. One potential ordering by phone number led to PAM, KC. Pam Pam is a closed restaurant in Kansas City, which I ultimately submitted, because all the other orderings and indexings I tried with and without the country codes led to nothing.

    I agree with Joshua. The dishes, the words “menu item” (looking for menus and item numbers), restaurants, locations, and phone numbers were all red herrings which wasted far far too much time. There isn’t even a good reason to string the country codes in that order, other than it being top to bottom.

    I wish I could give it zero stars. The irrelevance of the crossword as a vehicle for this puzzle can’t be overstated.

  9. Amy L says:

    I loved this puzzle. Of course, I love all crosswords about food. I knew that with five theme entries we had to find the numbers to make up a phone number. First, I thought it would be really cool if the dishes were on numbered menus and the number of the items gave the answer. But the pizza marinara wasn’t on a numbered menu (besides, there were much better pizzas on the menu). Then I thought it’s perhaps the year the restaurant opened–di Matteo’s opened in ’36. It was too hard to find the other restaurants’ opening dates. Then I thought maybe it’s the price. Then I noticed the COMPLETE phone number of one of the restaurants and I knew I had it.

    Perhaps you have to be used to calling overseas and having to find country and city codes to get this meta. I used to work in International Programs and was always wasting time looking up codes, so I was familiar with them.

    The Broadway Diner does look good!

    • Andy says:

      I had the same initial thought, but I scoured the Locanda menu and couldn’t find arroz con leche anywhere! I even checked it 3 times. Someone above says they found the price, so it must be there, but nope, I checked again just now and still nothing.

      I did find the right method pretty soon after that (I live overseas, so country codes are a regular part of my life), but I don’t generally enjoy meta puzzles where the grid is not a factor.

  10. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I was oddly bothered by the fact that La Locanda doesn’t actually have Arroz Con Leche on its menu.

    I was hoping that the answer would be that you could get the phone number of each restaurant from the menu item in some fashion, and then you’d apply that technique to SAFETY PIN (the center down answer) to get a phone number of a US restaurant (maybe one like the taco place near my house that has a safety pin image in the window).

    I was briefly excited to find an approximate homonym of a well-known food from a national cuisine at 41A… but it wasn’t one of the theme countries.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I also looked up all the menus, but I did find Arroz con Leche at La Locanda. It’s in the Postres section, on the line beginning, “Esfera De Chocolate Blanco.” I didn’t like this meta so much, for reasons others have expressed, but the food at La Locanda sounds so good, I hope to visit Lima some day and have a scrumptious meal. Thanks for that anyway, Dave.

  11. LuckyGuest says:

    Got the country codes thing right away, but didn’t go far enough with it. Noticing that the country codes all also corresponded to a square/letter in the grid, I got D-J-E-W-A, which anagrammed to “JAWED.” And naturally (because it’s almost impossible to *not* get a hit with any two-item Google search), there was a Jawed Restaurant. I didn’t like that (maybe I’m getting better after all?) so I looked at the country codes again, this time as an addition problem (i.e., 51 +66 +81 etc.), which gave me 319, which looked to me like an area code (“Call to Order,” after all!). 319 is the area code for Cedar Rapids Iowa, and while they have tons of restaurants, what made me stop looking any further was that McDonalds has their corporate headquarters in Cedar Rapids. So, yeah, I was wrong, but I have no complaints at all about the meta!

  12. Wayne says:

    I was pretty confident that the country codes were Step #1. But I was stuck there for a few days. As others have said, enough red herrings to open a fish hatchery.

    Whenever a grid is larger than 15×15, I assume it’s hiding extra meta material. So I thought that the country codes were references to Across entries. I spent a long time trying to do something with “dol jon era wolf aton”, without success.

    Curiously, two of those entries were suggestive of famous chefs:
    “+39” (Italy) -> 39a -> WOLF[gang Puck].
    “+82” (South Korea) -> 82a -> A[l]TON [Brown].
    Fortunately, the madness ended there, so it was pretty clear that I was on the wrong track.

    I eventually spotted the right answer. I probably would have been annoyed that there was no meta material in the grid. But (a) This is a novel and clever mechanism, so it’s hard not to like it; (b) I grew up 10 miles from that diner. It was a very satisfying click when that “516” area code leapt out at me.

    • sharkicicles says:

      I had noticed Wolfgang and Alton as well, then saw another coincidence in those five entries: they are all part of men’s last names:

      Bob DOLe
      Davy JONes
      Michael cERA
      Tom WOLFe
      Michael keATON

      Perhaps making the answer “Five Guys?” But that’s not all that elegant of a solution. Plus, I was pretty certain that Dave had placed the country codes in a particular order for a reason, and that solution didn’t use that ordering at all. Wish I would have used that assumption to make the logical leap that it was the numbers’ order, not the clues they referenced, that was important.

  13. Adam Levine says:

    I noticed that the entries corresponding to the five country codes were all short words (DOL, JON, ERA, WOLF, A TON), and spent a lot of time trying to anagram those letters to produce the name of a restaurant. I figured that the 17×17 grid was needed in order to get 81 and 82 to appear as clue numbers.

  14. Al says:

    To self-nominate for the MGWCC Idiot of the Year award, I hit on country codes pretty early, but somehow managed to switch the codes for Japan and Italy while writing them down, so came up with nothing when I googled the resultant 516-639-8182. Sheesh.

  15. Hugh says:

    The online reverse phone directory I used led me astray. The answer I got back was that 516-681-3982 was a private number in Nassau County, New York — my old neighborhood. I just figured that a private resident there would have gone nuts handling hundreds of calls from all over the country, and looked elsewhere. Oh, well . . .

  16. Pete Muller says:

    I loved this puzzle.

    After many false starts, I had the following conversation with my mother-in-law (who has never seen a meta puzzle):

    Me: I’m stuck on this meta puzzle. I figure out he’s left out the country codes but I have no idea what to do with these 5 two-digit numbers.

    M-I-L: Hmmm, 5 two-digit numbers, that would make 10 digits, which could be a phone number.

    Me: No way. That’s a clever thought, but there’s no way Dave would have done that. And then there would definitely not be a need for a 17x grid (or even a 15x). But I’ll google it just to show you…um…well the phone number is a restaurant, but I’m sure that’s a coincidence….um….pretty crazy coincidence though, …(you know the rest)

    I emailed Dave and he told me one of the reasons he used a 17x was so that each of the numbered squares would be there and set a trap. Evil, but fair game and a great aha for a week 4 imo. Thanks Debbie!

  17. Abide says:

    Mighty fine meta Evad. I justified the 17x as being a sneaky way to implicate the 81 and 82.
    Herring special at the Broadway Diner!

  18. Jim Schooler says:

    Hicksville. Figures. I was thinking of a national chain. In this case how about a shout out to the Rainbow Grill in Chamberlain, South Dakota. My aunt used to bake the pies there. Home cooking away from home! Yum!

  19. peedee says:

    After reading these comments, I realize my brain just works very differently from many of you super-meta-solvers. I usually don’t get the month’s penultimate meta and almost never get the last one, and I got this within about twenty minutes. It seemed obvious that I was looking for a 10-digit number almost immediately (2 per theme clue) and I tried just a few things before I realized country codes are 2 digits. When I looked up the country code for Peru and found a 1 in the second place, I was certain I had a US phone number. I’m not sure if it is reassuring or not to know that not being able to get harder metas each month may be due to just being wired differently.

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