MGWCC #482

crossword 3ish? 
meta 1 day 


hello and welcome to episode #482 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “You Don’t Have to Shout”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt challenged us to find a word often spoken loudly. okay. what are the theme answers? it’s not 100% clear, but the four long answers all contain lengthy abbreviations:

  • {MSNBC show since 2007} MORNING JOE.
  • {Comedian whose 1970s catchphrase inspired the computer acronym WYSIWYG} FLIP WILSON. i don’t know this comedian, but the acronym is “what you see is what you get”.
  • {MMORPG since 2001} RUNESCAPE. never played this massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
  • {They’re often QWERTY} KEYBOARDS. not mine, though. i use dvorak.

in this context, the central answer ALL CAPS, clued as {Annoying usage of some people in online communications — stop them! They make me want to shout “NOOOOOOOOO!”}, looks important too. why that many O’s? in addition, there are a host of other entries—too many to list—that have striking and unnecessary examples in their clues. for instance, TAFFY is clued as {Candy from an oceanside resort like Fenwick Island}, but “like fenwick island” obviously doesn’t need to be there. {Antelope found in South Africa, Namibia, and Angola} is a bit much for IMPALA. and so on. {Tan, Carter, Irving, Poehler, Lowell, and Adams, to name a few} is probably the most striking—that is more than a few AMYS. (also, i don’t know amy irving. apparently she’s an actress.) in general, there seemed to be just a ton of capitalized letters in the clues, but not in a way that spelled anything significant-looking.

i solved this one with andy kravis, and after we both went down a few dead ends, andy finally hit on the big idea: there are so many capital letters in the clues that it’s nearly the same as the number of letters in the grid. and they match up… almost. andy noticed that the lone Q in the grid is matched by the Q in QWERTY, and so forth.

i’ll spare you the bookkeeping, but this turns out to be true. there are 189 letters in the grid (15×15 = 225, minus 36 black squares) and a total of 184 in the clues, including the first letters of all 80 clues and 104 more. they match up exactly, except the grid has an extra HHSSU. using those letters, you can spell out SHUSH, which is indeed a word often spoken loudly (ironic, that) as well as a very appropriate answer for a puzzle with this title and central theme answer.

this is the “wow”est meta i’ve seen in a while. geez. what a crazy idea in the first place, and then to actually pull it off is something else entirely. crossword grids are vowel-heavier than english in general, and vowels (other than A) are less likely to appear at the start of a word, so getting all those extra capitalized vowels into the clues would’ve been tough (aided, of course, by NOOOOOOOOO). about the only negative was the rather large amount of bookkeeping between the “aha” moment and the final answer, but that final answer was satisfying enough to be worthwhile. definitely a 5-star puzzle.

that’s all from me. great month of puzzles, matt!

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31 Responses to MGWCC #482

  1. austin says:

    i agree this was a crazy good meta.

    as a bonus, if you cross off every capital letter in the order they appear, you are left with SHUSH spelled out in order in the bottom row (noSH, yUkon, diSH)

    • Jon says:

      I’m glad this comment is here. I noticed this too and it really does make this meta even more elegant than it already was. Bravo, Matt. A terrific week-4 meta. I must be getting better because it only took be 2-days to figure it out.

  2. Tom says:

    Thank you Matt for going easy on us that only noticed one S remaining, not two.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I delayed sending in my answer because I didn’t trust my own bookkeeping enough to be sure that it was SHUSH and not HUSH. Found some downtime on Monday night to redo the entire grid just to be sure.

      The best, top-flight metas give me physical goosebumps when I realize that a random idea that occurred to me really is the key to the solution. This was one of those metas.

    • pgw says:

      I wondered about that – I very nearly sent in HUSH, because my method of crossing out letters in the grid was to hastily scribble over them with the same pen I’d solved with, so spotting the letters left over – especially an S that itself looked like a hasty scribble – was not trivial. I was curious whether Matt would have charitably accepted it.

      • Lance says:

        My method was to copy the clues out of the PDF into Python, type out the grid, and ask it to tell me the difference between the letters in the grid and the capital letters in the clues. And even then I hesitated over submitting my answer until I had counted and re-counted and convinced myself there were indeed two Ss and not one.

  3. pgw says:

    This one had me stymied for a long time, thanks in part to an amusing red herring I found early on. If you expand slightly the number of theme entries to include the symmetrically-placed CASTRO (whose clue has the all-caps expression “U.S.” in it) and DECALS (AAA), you can then (with some similar fudging) find one all-caps grid entry crossing each (EPOCH, a chemo regimen; SAGA, also a multiplayer game; RCA; SPCA [doing double duty]; INRI; and LSD [but not AWOLs, because the s isn’t capitalized].) The letters at which these crossings occur anagram to CRAPOLA.

    This was obviously wrong – the clues contain more all-caps expressions; so does the grid; and a few of the ones I used are pretty damn obscure – but the whole idea hung together just well enough to take root in my mind and make it hard for me to think of any new approaches. But yeah, I did keep thinking “gee why are there so many extraneous capitalized words in these clues?, and finally I hit upon the right idea.

    Speaking of those extraneous capitals, I don’t understand why Matt didn’t include another Amy A., and lose one of the Lou A.s, to make a septet of Amys whose surnames Acrosticize to CAPITAL.

    I agree with joon – this was a pretty nutso idea to begin with, and to pull it off was very impressive. Five stars for sure.

    • Bob says:

      “Speaking of those extraneous capitals, I don’t understand why Matt didn’t include another Amy A., and lose one of the Lou A.s, to make a septet of Amys whose surnames Acrosticize to CAPITAL.”

      E.g., golf’s Amy Alcott, or Amy Aquino of TV’s “Brooklyn Bridge” (who also appeared in a few episodes of “Judging Amy”).

  4. Ephraim says:

    Here’s a funny thing. There are nine unpunctuated all-caps words in the clues: EE, MSNBC, NOOOOOOOOO, AAA, WYSIWIG, USMC, MMORPG, QWERTY, NSA. Take the lengths of these and look in the corresponding squares of the grid to get ETACMHIIC. If only those two I’s were otherwise (E and K instead), you could anagram CHECKMATE. So close and yet so far.

    • Dave says:

      I saw the same thing, and spent a while trying to figure out how to change those I’s. The closest I got to the actual mechanism was to notice that V, X, and Z were the only letters not to show up in the grid, and also the only three not to show up as capitals in the clues.

  5. David says:

    Darn it! I had the right idea, but since I always fill out my crossword grids in lowercase, I was stuck trying to anagram all 189 letters. So close!

  6. Joe says:

    Kicking myself, should’ve had it.
    Rabbit holes I went down that led nowhere:
    – TINA crossing MAE (Anna Mae Bullock is Tina Turner) and OWEN crossing WILSON
    – Duplicate Irvings in the clues, also Raiders & raids both appear..
    – Morning Joe can be de-capitalized into morning joe, so can Flip, Rune. Sunfish was clued as a brand of boat which seemed odd

  7. Amy L says:

    It took me three print-outs to do this correctly. The first was just exploring. With the second, I was on to it but I missed an I and a T in the clues, so I had HHSSUIT. So I did it all over a third time and got it right. No wonder no one got it in the first three minutes.

  8. Justin says:

    So no-one’s going to point out how painful this puzzle must have been for Joon to recap?

  9. neil B says:

    I guess the amount of Os was a clue that i missed but in addition to the 4 long answers there were also AAA, EE, NSA and USMC which made me add those to the the 4 so I was looking for an 8 letter word. I see now the direction it went so i understand it but quite difficult to see.

  10. PJ Ward says:

    I almost submitted “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”

  11. lisepac says:

    I wasted way too much time on Wikipedia for this one! Started with Morning Joe leading to “cup of joe” to Java to … maybe a JavaScript keyboard, with runes? Back to Morning Joe, whose last name is Scarborough; RuneScape is set in Gielinor; Flip Wilson’s famous character, who said “What You See Is What You Get,” is Geraldine. Hmmm. WYSIWYG “implies a user interface that allows the user to view something very similar to the end result while the document is being created”–so, maybe that relates to keyboards?

    On Monday the unusual number of capitalized words in the clues finally struck, but I initially circled all the proper names in the grid and highlighted the intersections, then crossed them out to see if the shaded squares formed letters. Then tried to make something of the clues that DIDN’T contain acronyms or abbreviations or proper nouns. UGH! About an hour before the deadline, I tried shading the letters that were capitalized in the clues, but didn’t include the capitalized first words unless they were proper nouns. A lot of letters were left over, so I added those initial capitals, and voila! and AHA! Except that after I submitted SHUSH at about 11:45, I realized that HUSH might be right if I messed up.

    Thank goodness for this blog, because Matt hasn’t updated the Leaderboard since 9:30 this morning, and I’d be half-crazed with suspense.

    A great puzzle!

  12. Dan Seidman says:

    I was looking for something meaning “stop them!”, which seems to be gratuitously inserted into the central clue. The Fenwick Island page on Wikipedia mentions pirates burying treasure, and “Raiders” appears arbitrarily in another clue, so I was thinking AVAST. But that didn’t explain Nixon and Reagan, or Namibia and Angola, so I moved on. I eventually solved it, but it took pretty much the whole four days.

    The puzzle makes me think of Sister Mary Elephant screaming “Shut up!”

    • Matthew G. says:

      My initial reaction to “stop them!” and “NOOOOOOOOO!” was to think that the answer might prove to be “GUARDS!” As if shouted by an evil villain from whom the heroes were escaping.

  13. Mutman says:

    Close, but couldn’t finish the job. Thought just the ‘themers’ — those like USMC and NSA –were the key. I did see all the extraneous stuff, but it was not enough.

    I did think of submitting QUIET because of the irony, but eventually decided to fail with TIMBER!

    Well done Matt! (My ‘Andy’ needs to Start solving again!)

  14. John says:

    Yeah, didn’t get this one. I thought the acronyms in the clues of the “themes” and the theme fill, together, had to mean something. Then I was tempted by all the fill that would normally be all caps too (LSD), as well as extraneous capage, like USMC. I have a paper full of all-cap clue/fill but never thought to match one against the other, including the stand-alone caps. Beautiful though. 5 stars from me.

  15. Evad says:

    I’ll chime in for Matt as he appears to MIA that 150 got the meta solution, counting both HUSH and SHUSH as correct. I believe his intention is to include the HUSH submitters in the weekly prize drawing, but not be eligible for the monthly August prize.

  16. slubduck says:

    Like some others, i have a note sheet with all the capitals from the clues (it’s even on a sheet of graph paper, so things line up and so forth, I kept thinking there would be a word(s) spelled out somewhere in those clue caps) — having noticed the first 4 across clues begin with E-A-S-T and the first 4 down clues begin with L-E-A-F, i started thinking there might be a pair of 3s and a pair of 5s and so on, leading to some message or other. Alas, it was not to be, but glad to know I was somewhere in the area code of the thing.

    There were also some hidden acronyms (capitalizable, if you like) in some other clues: PIN, VIN, USS, FEMA, NGO

    Then also if you go with the acronyms in the grid, (RCA, SPCA, LSD, AWOL, INRI) but only use each letter once, you can anagram them to WORLD PANICS. This was fun.

  17. George says:

    Personally, I really enjoyed the “bookkeeping” on this puzzle. It felt like a nice change of pace to have a hard puzzle that involved a mental leap and a work leap instead of multiple mental leaps. One of my favorite solves to date. Thanks Matt!

  18. Qatsi says:

    I tried to tally the letters by hand, but after a first pass where the number of letters in the grid didn’t match my tally, I decided to use the magic of Excel to do the counting for me. Even then, it took me a few passes to get it right – but at least it was easier to check my work.

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