MGWCC #452

crossword 4:25 
meta 10 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #452 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “And Sometimes…”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt asks us to find a six-letter word you might shout when you solve this meta. okay. what are the theme answers? well, there’s only one obvious one, the grid-spanning central across entry: {Question from an irritated person…or a question solvers of this meta should ask themselves six times} WHAT IS THAT SOUND?

by itself, that is not an especially helpful instruction. but combined with the title, it steered me in the right direction. the title is most familiar to me as part of the phrase, “A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y”—those being the five, sometimes six, vowels in english. (when i was in kindergarten i did not learn about W as a vowel in loanwords from welsh; that came a little later.) so the title certainly suggests that the letter Y is important. and indeed, there are precisely six Y’s in the grid, which is a good sign given the theme clue and instructions (although i solved the puzzle before “six-letter” was added to the instructions).

now what to make of WHAT IS THAT SOUND? it has to be about pronunciation, and the “sometimes” in the title is the key. the phoneme associated with Y can be a consonant or a vowel. indeed, a careful examination of the six Y’s in the grid reveals that at each one, the Y is a consonant in one of the crossing answers and a vowel in the other. the title and theme clue tell us to look at the cases where Y is acting as a vowel. going clockwise from the top left:

  • {French cosmetics king} YVES ROCHER (don’t know him, by the way) crosses {Up to this point} AS YET at the Y in the upper left. the Y is a consonant in YET but a vowel in YVES.
  • {Quebec neighbor} NEW YORK crosses {Stylish boot?} ITALY at the geographically-themed Y in the upper right. Y is a consonant in YORK but a vowel in ITALY.
  • {Conventioneer’s neckwear} LANYARD (consonant) crosses {Like some lips} POUTY (vowel).
  • {“Sin bin”} PENALTY BOX (vowel) crosses {Feminine side} YIN (consonant).
  • {Child’s play} EASY (vowel) crosses {“Now I remember!”} OH YES (consonant).
  • {Tarzan portrayer} ron ELY (vowel) crosses {Polite theatergoer’s question} CAN YOU SEE (consonant).

taking the first letter of each of the words using Y as a vowel in this order gives YIPPEE, which i did not actually shout when i solved it, but perhaps you did?

i’m trying to figure out how i feel about this meta. i think it’s a little weird that it’s not even possible to solve the meta without the title; i am a little more comfortable with the title just being there as a hint (helpful or not, depending on how late in the month it is), with the puzzle and instructions more or less able to stand on their own. here, the title is literally the only thing steering us to look at Y’s. i suppose that’s all right—after all, the title is part of the puzzle—but it was unusual.

one thing i don’t really know is how familiar that “and sometimes Y” phrase is to everybody. i admit that the right idea jumped out at me because i remember reading in gridlock about a puzzle the author admired. it was a henry hook themeless, built on a stack of an entry i can’t recall atop AZERBAIJAN atop SOMETIMESY (“sometimes Y”). the author of that book? matt gaffney. so that helped me. but if you’re not getting to Y from the title, you have no chance to solve this meta, because nothing else in the puzzle suggests it.

i’m not going to do a full round-up of the fill, but there were many answers i liked: PISCO SOUR, BERIBERI, SOUTHPAW, full name OSCAR/WILDE split across two entries, contemporary DOXED. didn’t so much care for the arbitrary SCENE TWO and the, ahem, self-descriptive FORCED IT.

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

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46 Responses to MGWCC #452

  1. MichaelJ says:

    Dang! Figured it out with 1 minute to spare but as I was one of those to submit prior to the revised instructions, I couldn’t resubmit or get an email out in time. Alas, would have been my
    first week 4.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 182 right answers this week.

    The reason I added the “six-letter word” stipulation to the instructions is that answers of YAY started coming in. This is pretty close to being an acceptable alternative answer since one of its Y’s is a consonant and the other a vowel. It’s at least close enough to make solvers think it’s the right answer, so I decided to send out the further instruction.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I didn’t do the puzzle until after you sent the clarification; once I had, I wondered if perhaps you added the clarification because people were guessing WHY?

      For the first time in my six years of solving MGWCC, I prevailed via a guess this week. I saw the Y connection immediately upon finishing the grid, including the fact that there were exactly six Ys and that each was a vowel in one direction and a consonant in the other. But that was as far as I got. I focused too much on the Y boxes themselves and didn’t think to look at the initial letters of their entries.

      Come this morning, I still hadn’t cracked it, so I decided to enter a guess. Based on the instructions, the obvious word that came to mind was “eureka,” but I rejected that precisely because it’s too obvious as a word you would shout on solving something. So I googled for synonyms of “eureka,” and YIPPEE jumped out at me because it started with Y. So I went with that, and was startled to see my name show up on the leaderboard.

      So yeah, I feel a bit cheap this week. On the other hand, one win-by-guess in six years is probably acceptable noise.

    • Justin says:

      Not a big fan of this one… sorry. One way the meta would be a better click for me would be for there to be some obvious word that starts with Y=consonant and ends with Y=long “i” sound. “YEARLY” perhaps? “Yippee” ends with the right sound, yes, but not a Y.

      Alternately, if you wanted to do YIPPEE with the vowel sounds, it seems the consonant Y should be important for something too, like maybe they all start with the letters A-F and provide ordering? instead of “ANYLOC” or whatever.

      I hadn’t gotten to the puzzle before the “6-letter word” email, but “YAY” was my immediate “fitting” answer after solving this.

  3. Jim S. says:

    Not even close – scouted the grid looking for words that were, or were close to, sounds (like maybe pink being close to oink) but turned up nothing workable. It was a week 4, so I didn’t spend much time after that didn’t pan out. Nice meta, tough puzzle solve for me too.

  4. Todd Dashoff says:

    This is how I solved it, but how do we know for sure that the Tarzan actor is Ely like “E Lee” and not ELY like “sly”?

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    This seemed a fairly average meta for Week 4. Like Joon, I did not yell Yippee! once I’d solved it, but rather, I said Huh? I felt convinced there must be an added level I was missing. But after another hour of exploration, it became clear the meta was just the 6 y’s acting as vowels that the title had clearly indicated, and a very short leap to see that the starts of their words spelled YIPPEE. Three stars from me.

  6. Bret says:

    Got the Y part in moments. Got Yippee about 20 minutes ago. By the way, evidently British people aren’t taught the “sometimes y.” Whenever sporcle has some geography quiz along the lines of “countries that end in a consonant” there is going to be a massive fight in the comments section about why Germany and Italy count. People will argue to the death that words like “sky” don’t have vowels

  7. Amanda Hoffmeister says:

    Rats. I took the title to mean “And some times” and I noticed that AUER was a homophone for HOUR. I looked for other homophones for units of time to no avail.

  8. Wayne says:

    I didn’t get the meta. But I think this was solvable even if you didn’t get “Y” from the title (which I didn’t). Letter-frequency checks should be a standard tactic for week 4 solvers. The 6 Ys and the “six” in the theme answer made an audible click.

    Beat me fair and square.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I made sure that Y was the only letter that appeared exactly six times

    • I did a letter frequency check. I counted 5 Y’s and then discarded the idea that the Y’s were relevant to the meta. I clearly miscounted.

      I thought that maybe having both of the homophone pairs ELI/ELY and ARC/ARK in the grid were relevant, but there were no other pairs like that (and apparently ELY is pronounced E-LEE).

      I thought maybe the NATO phonetic alphabet was relevant: OSCAR was in the grid, and both QUEBEC and DELTA appeared in the clues, so that idea fizzled out.

      Perfectly fair meta that I could have gotten but didn’t.

  9. Thomas says:

    Saw that the Y’s were being used two ways. Since it’s [yuh] one way and [ee] the other, I figured [yuh] + [ee] = [yee] and submitted YEEHAW. When I didn’t show up in the leaderboard, I thought maybe it should have been YIPPEE, which does still use both sounds but didn’t seem like a “better” answer. Wish I had taken advantage of the offer to resubmit, even though I would have been right for the wrong reason.

    I guess I can’t complain. The answer is fair and justified now that I see it.

  10. ajk says:

    Also believe that Y is the only letter that appears precisely six times. So with the amended instructions one might have a (narrow) shot without the title.

    ETA: oops, beaten by Wayne. :)

    • Todd Dashoff says:

      That’s why I would have gone with Yippee over Eureka if I hadn’t been able to figure out the rest of the meta .

  11. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    It would be a rare event for me to get a Week 4, but in any case:

    I did see that there were 6 Ys – you can see them circled on my grid – but I didn’t see anywhere to go with them.

    Instead, I focused on the idea of “sound” of vowels with the early appearance of YVESROCHER, Y sounding like E, ER sounding like A (if I have the French right), and later SHU (SHOE?) and AUER (HOUR?) and MHO (MOW?). Of course, this approach petered out after that and led me nowhere.

  12. sharkicicles says:

    I did get Y from the title, and was one of the YAY submitters. But I still think getting to that part of the solving process is doable without the title- there’s a 6 in the theme clue and Y appears 6 times.

    (edit: beaten soundly on this topic, I see)

  13. dbardolph says:

    Before the title steered me to the Ys in the grid, I was led far astray by words (YOU, SEE) that sound like letters. Anyone join me there, or was that my own personal rabbit hole?

    • mpstable says:

      That’s one of the dead ends I followed after my YAY was marked wrong. With the new instructions I thought maybe each Y was meant to draw attention to a word or syllable in one of the entries that spoke the name of a letter. Guess I under-thought it at first, then way over-thought it when given a second chance. Ended my longest streak yet, too.

      • dbardolph says:

        And then I wanted a six-letter word that used Y as both vowel and consonant. Somehow, I don’t think the judges would believe that I shouted “Yeasty!”

        • Joe says:

          This was my logic exactly. I thought Yay first because I figured the answer was a word using Y as both a consonant and a vowel. So I figured it had to be Yay until the amended instructions came out. Then I began a two day search for other words with two Ys that you could yell in excitement. I considered Yippee since both sounds were there but no second Y so I threw it out. Wasn’t a fan of the final step needed to use the first letters of the answers where Y is a vowel. Seemed like an arbitrary leap to me. To me, Yay is a much better answer if not for the six letter requirement. It has a Y serving both purposes just like the themers.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          I considered YEARLY or YEASTY, but couldn’t figure out what plausible instructions would be.

  14. LuckyGuest says:

    Like Bob K, I tried stringing together some of the “sounds like another letter” occurrences; Y in YVES sounds like “E,” ER in ROCHER sounds like “A,” CANYOUSEE sounds like U and C, PI in PISCO sounds like “P,” etc. Getting nowhere, I went back to the title: “And Sometimes…” When We Touch? No. “And Sometimes…” A Cigar is Just a Cigar”? Then it hit me like a brick and I had it within minutes. Week 4 and my first perfect month; YIPPEE indeed.

  15. ASB says:

    Rabbit hole:
    YVES ROCHER smell
    PISCO SOUR taste
    CAN YOU SEE sight
    WHAT IS THAT SOUND hearing
    PENALTY BOX touch??? (nope)

  16. Clint Hepner says:

    After a false start involving homophone pairs ELY/ELI, ARC/ARK, and IVS/YVES[ROCHER] (yes, the last is a stretch) and a presumed answer of EUREKA, I did notice the 6-Y connection. Paired with the title, YIPPEE popped up pretty quickly, but I hesitated for a while because I couldn’t find any other clue to ordering the initials beyond anagramming them. In the end, I figured it was at least a reasonable guess, far beyond what I can usually come up with late in the month. (I noticed the letters formed a bit of a spiral, but never really connected that with using “clockwise” as a direction.)

  17. Math Teacher Dave says:

    I saw the six Y’s and the title but couldn’t take the next step to get YIPPEE. I did wind up going on a painful tangent involving the fact that there are six Greek letters (ETA, RHOda/RHOne, PI, MU, DELTA, and TAUrus). Wound up going with the obvious (wrong) guess “EUREKA”

  18. Dave says:

    We definitely thought about Yippee because of the “Y” and “EE” sounds, but failed to see it in the first letters even though we wrote those down. They didn’t spell a word in clue order, so we moved on. Clockwise from the top seems random.

    Considered “Tricky” because each Y is a “Trick Y”. Went with Eureka since it has an E that says “Y” and another that says “EE”.

  19. Mutman says:

    Well maybe I really liked this meta more than most because I got a rare week 4 solve by early Saturday morning!

    Followed all the logic like everyone else. I don’t see where the big themer necessarily points to the long E sound, so I just wrote both sets of answers out and saw the yippee immediately.

    Excellent work, Matt!

  20. Scott says:

    Got the right answer in the totally wrong way. Saw the Y. Can you see made me think of eye = I. Pisco made me think of Pee Pee. And I convinced myself from that point on. Oh well…a right answer anyway.

  21. Brian says:

    Pretty quickly noticed the fact that there were 6 Y’s, and they were a consonant or vowel depending on whether you look across or down. But couldn’t figure out what to do with them. Tried various things with the sounds “ee” and “ja”, since the long across entry indicated something to do with the sounds. Also noticed all the crossings were in a T shape (which didn’t have to be the case, even given the double role the Y’s had to play), but couldn’t get anywhere with that. Seeing the answer now, it seems pretty arbitrary to take the first letter from the entries where the Y’s are vowels (why not the consonants?). I think I was too focused on finding an answer which treated the vowel/consonant roles symmetrically, so completely missed this one.

  22. PatXC says:

    Totally misread the instructions as looking of a nine letter word. DOH! I was so there, but had to leave for a job interview. I think I’d best stay retired and focus on crosswords, metas and bridge, the things that really count

  23. kaes says:

    Definitely liked YAY, which was also my first submission after seeing the double vowel/consonant role of each Y, because it seemed like the literal answer to the grid-spanning question. That is, I asked myself “What is that sound?” for each Y, and saying “yuh” + “ee” six times certainly started to sound a lot like “yay.”

    I liked that the real answer used each of the six Y’s exactly once, but I the “first letter” step and the clockwise ordering felt a bit arbitrary, and frustratingly disconnected from the central theme answer.

    For a long time I wanted the literal sound of each syllable with a vowel Y to point to a letter; e.g., EASY –> “zee” –> Z, PENALTY –> “tee” –> T, etc. Didn’t work throughout, but at some point with TZEE on my notepad I think I did literally shout “Yahtzee!” before realizing it was 7 letters (and already used in a clue).

  24. Lance says:

    The title made me want to look at the Ys before I even started solving; the “what is that sound” was just a confirmation in that direction. But as to what to do with those Ys: I spent a lot of time trying to think of a word that sounds like “[y-consonant-sound] or [y-vowel-sound]”. Yoree? Yorie? Yandie? To be honest, I never noticed that the first letters of the Y-as-vowel words spelled something…but, really, why would I be looking at those? As opposed to the starts of the Y-as-consonant words? Or indeed, as opposed to the Ys themselves, which is all I was really looking at, and which was all the central entry seemed to be telling me to look at?

    In the end, I submited…well, either YIPPIE or YIPPEE, but I did so on the grounds of “starts with [y-consonant], ends with [y-vowel]”, since the Y vowel sound was always the last sound of “yippie”. (I seem to be on the leaderboard, so I suppose I spelled it right?)

  25. Magoo says:

    Wow. “And Sometimes…” did not mean anything like that to me. Perhaps British teaching just doesn’t use the phrase “and sometimes Y”. Therefore I never got close to the meta. I see now that if I had Googled “and sometimes”, the first page would have given me one implicit and one explicit clue, so fair enough.
    There were so many letters in the clues (pi, mu, delta, sin), and in the grid (OSCAR, a pair of RHOs, two OHs and YOU and SEE in the same answer), that there was plenty to send me off on false sound-trails.

  26. David Samuel Glasser says:

    Well, if I hadn’t somehow missed finding the sixth Y, maybe I would have gotten this.

    I spent most of my time focused on the symmetrical entries SOIVE and WILDE which have a “why” sound in them…

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