MGWCC #451

crossword 3:42 
meta 5 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #451 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “You Skipped Me”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt asks us to find a nine-letter word. what are the theme answers? well, it’s not entirely clear, since there are only a couple of long entries and they don’t seem to have any obvious connection to the meta, but the central down entry TYPOS has a suggestive clue: {They’re understandable when your finger just missed by one, but by two is a bit much}. with that in mind, we can find a whole bunch of clues that contain “typos”, all of them in the across clues:

  • {Two of these in an NBA game means an election} TECHNICALS. ejection.
  • {Road, to an ancient woman} ITER. roman.
  • {Routing animals} CARRION. rotting.
  • {Channel for Rachel Maddox} MSNBC. maddow.
  • {They make sure your papers star together} STAPLES. stay.
  • {Taster animal} BUNNY. easter.
  • {Beginning of siring} EQUINOX. spring.
  • {Coming bird} DOVE. cooing.
  • {3-Day commander} EISENHOWER. d-day.

in a rather elegant touch, these entries are all symmetrically located in the grid. so what is the meta answer? take another look at that clue for TYPOS: all of these “typos” are two keys away from the correct key, rather than the usual adjacent-key typo. and that really is a bit much. taking the title into account, we have to look at the key in between (on a standard QWERTY layout):

  • election/ejection: K is between the L and J.
  • woman/roman: E is between W and R.
  • routing/rotting: Y is between U and T.
  • maddox/maddow: S is between X and W.
  • star/stay: T is between R and Y.
  • taster/easter: R is between T and E.
  • siring/spring: O is between I and P.
  • coming/cooing: K is between M and O.
  • 3-day/d-day: E is between 3 and D. this is very clever! since the earlier E already used the W/R combo, to bracket the E in a different direction required either 3/D or 4/S. it’s a good thing there wasn’t a third K; otherwise he’d have had to use I and , for the typo keys.

in order, this spells out KEYSTROKE, the nine-letter word we’re looking for. (this is why that clue for TYPOS is careful not to include the word “key”.) this is a lovely meta. i know some people hate it when the aha is in the clues, rather than the grid, but it’s not like you could have solved this meta without doing the crossword. although any individual one of those clues looks much righter with the correct letter than the incorrect letter, without the solution grid, the uncorrected clues seem as plausible as any other impenetrable-at-first clue of the sort you typically find dozens of in a mid- or late-week crossword. plus, a word like routing can be “corrected” in several different ways to get a different word (rooting, rouging, touting, pouting, rousing, routine to name a few). anyway, i liked this meta a lot. nice mechanism, elegantly executed.

quick hits:

  • {Word before buzz or nom} OSCAR. timely, as the OSCAR noms were just announced. i’m pulling for lin-manuel miranda to complete his EGOT (nay, PEGOT) by winning best original song for “how far i’ll go” from moana.
  • {Like 1984 and 2016}… i can’t EVEN.

that’s all i got this week. how’d you like this one?

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26 Responses to MGWCC #451

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    This reminded me of a “Misprints” specialty cryptic, with the nice added twist of the intervening letters spelling the answer. I enjoyed it, but thought it would have made a better Week 3 without the overly generous hint at TYPOS. Unless you were solving on paper, this made it pretty obvious. Four stars from me.

  2. Bret says:

    I had to backsolve the K because I originally wanted “Homing bird.” I am not smart.

    • ajk says:

      hand raised for this one too

    • Laura says:

      I thought the bunny was “Faster animal”. Eventually I realized that (1) it was a hare, not a bunny and (2) the tortoise was faster.

    • george says:

      Same camp. I went so far as to find “rock dove”, which is a type of pidgeon, in order to further delude myself that I was right. Once I got the answer, I tried to figure out how coming>homing could yield a k. Looking at all the letters circling k it finally clicked.

    • Garrett says:

      I had to backsolve the R because I took {Taster animal} to be Tester animal inseat of Easter animal (Rabbits have a similar physiology to that of humans, making them a good candidate for use in animal research).

  3. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Although I thought this was unusually easy for a Week 3, I did manage to take two wrong turns on the way to the solution:

    At 3 D, I thought there was a meta contributor, since I have more often heard of an “Oscar nod” than an “Oscar nom.”

    And since I consider a DOVE to be a pigeon, my first thought at 62 A was a “Homing bird” rather than a “Cooing bird”!

    Only short diversions from the correct answer, of course.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      homing/coming/cooing mixup — interesting! Not intentional on my part.

      • ajk says:

        pretty simple to dig out of when you had the rest though (he says from experience). Plus the C to H jump is more ambiguous in terms of which letter is being skipped, which struck me as suspiciously below Matt-level elegance. :)

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    An amazing (to me) 401 correct entries this week. I had guessed 220 and my consigliere guessed 277. I thought I was on point slating last week’s as a Week 2 (which it turned out to be) but I would not have guessed at all that this was a Week 2 (an easy Week 2, even).

    Entering overcompensation mode, fair warning.

    • joon says:

      the TYPOS clue was rather specific about what to look for, so i am not surprised that it played easy.

    • Kettlebadger says:

      Hey now, let’s not go too crazy…some of us have our first streak going here.

    • Garrett says:

      I’m amazed also. This puzzle was not easy for me to get in the second part. I read the clue about TYPOS {They’re understandable when your finger just missed by one, but by two is a bit much} as pointing to the looked-for character being one away, not in-between two. Finally I was able to find a ray of light by thinking about the puzzle’s title while considering the clue. Good thing I had a keyboard lying around!

  5. Matthew G. says:

    I loved this one. Although I got it right, during the solve I was only able to find KYSTROKE, and searched in vain for the first E. The “ancient woman” part of the ITER clue actually works just fine for that answer in a way that the other typo clues do not work for their answers–even if “ancient Roman” obviously works better. I feel a bit silly that I didn’t see it until reading joon’s review, but the meta answer was still clear.

    The 3-day/D-day clue was the easiest way to break this open, and I suspect the number of correct answers might have been a lot lower if the meta had used letter typos only. I initially was looking at letters skipped within the sequence of the alphabet, before the “3” prompted me to look at a keyboard instead.

    I agree with joon that this does not fall into the category of metas that should be dinged for being based on the clues. If the process of solving the grid is helpful to getting the meta, then it’s not an issue that most of the work is in the clues. It’s only when the grid is totally irrelevant to the meta that people seem to get testy.

  6. pannonica says:

    I suspect that the high tally of correct submissions is due in part to the mechanism being too close (ha-ha, the irony) to that of the recent MGWCC#446, “Mid-Solve”.

  7. Jim S. says:

    My trigger was actually Matt’s perfection. He’s so diligent about sending puzzle updates when they contain typos that a puzzle that hasn’t been recalled that contains a typo is surely meta-related. It was a tough puzzle solve due to the “typos” but the meta fell pretty quickly (though I also briefly fell for the homing – cooing mistake explained by Bob above).

    Great puzzle, and constructing must have been very difficult – valid words in symmetrically-placed clues that jump a specific letter but make a well-written clue when “fixed”? Yikes! Bravo!

    • Justin says:

      Agreed that this was really elegant, having the symmetry and using two different “directions” for each K and E.

  8. Jon says:

    I initially thought Taster Animal was Tester Animal for BUNNY. So I didn’t know it was W or S when it went from the letter A to E. Only when I had the rest of the the meta letters did I realize it was actually Easter. I must also give kudos for the easily missed roman to woman typo.

  9. Scott says:

    ***** from me.

  10. Kristin says:

    If you write a list of all the typo letters, and then make another list of their replacements, the word JUMP ROPE can be made with the letters in there! And the clue is, “You skipped me”! Seemed obvious until I realized it had only 8 letters…what are the odds?

  11. Mary says:

    Beautiful and fun puzzle, ingenious clues and construction. After writing down the corrected typos, the string RTWYE led me to a QWERTY keyboard. My only disappointment is finding out that my first week-3 solve is a gimme!

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