Fireball Contest Puzzle: Thursday, November 9, 2017

Puzzle 8:20 (Jenni)
Meta: DNF  


Peter Gordon’s contest puzzle, “It’s Elementary” stumped me. Well, the puzzle didn’t stump me, but the meta escaped me completely.

Peter asks “What means of transportation is hinted at by this puzzle?” The title also provides an important clue.

The theme answers all hint at a number.

FB contest puzzle, 11/8, solution grid

  • 17a [Cooing lovebirds?] are TURTLEDOVES. In the song “Twelve Days of Christmas,” there are two of them.
  • 24a [Certain golf iron] is a MIDMASHIE. This is also known as the 3-iron.
  • 35a [Diamond gem] is a PERFECT GAME, in which a pitcher faces the minimum of twenty-seven batters.
  • 50a [Hall of Fame linebacker and defensive end who played his whole career with the Kansas City Chiefs] is BOBBY BELL. The Chiefs retired his number, which is 78.
  • 60a [Toronto tower] is SCOTIA PLAZA. That’s the third-tallest building in Canada, but that’s not the number Peter is looking for. He wants the 68 floors.

The title tells us we’re looking for elements. Each of those number corresponds to an element on the Periodic Table: 2 is helium (He); 3 is lithium (Li); 27 is cobalt (Co); 78 is platinum (Pt) and 68 is erbium (Er). Put them all together and they spell HELICOPTER.

There was too much trivia – especially sports trivia – in this one for me. The Jersey number of a retired Kansas City football player? I realize that use of reference materials is allowed (and I would think necessary – did anyone know all the numerical references *and* the elements that corresponded to those numbers?) but enough is too much. Then again, I am not a huge meta fan, and I realize a lot of folks may disagree and think this was just the BEST meta ever. Let me know.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there is a book called “ALI vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment.”

I leave you Tom Lehrer, just because.

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10 Responses to Fireball Contest Puzzle: Thursday, November 9, 2017

  1. pannonica says:

    “Enough is too much.”

  2. Eric Conrad says:

    I see a lot of anti-Google sentiments among meta solvers. I don’t quite get it.

    It’s been said many times: using Google for solving the meta is acceptable. The universe of potential meta solutions would be much, much smaller otherwise.

    • Matthew G. says:

      It’s just an incorrect view. Using Google to solve metas is not merely acceptable, it’s encouraged. More to the point, it is not a valid criticism of a meta that it requires Googling to solve.

      This was a puzzle where my lack of knowledge on one point worked to my advantage in solving. I had never heard of a MID-MASHIE before, so had to Google to learn that it was an old-fashioned name for a three-iron. That got me focused on numbers.

    • GlennG says:

      The usual question with Google is as with the crosswords themselves. If I used Google, did I really solve it. This is the problem with a lot of puzzling itself, including the metas. Though, much more so with the crosswords themselves – as a significant amount of the crossword solving and creating populace seems to believe that Google is an acceptable thing.

      Granted, though, I’ve pretty much accepted that Google is a requirement with the metas, the problem I have is seeing absolutely no direct logical association between the grid and the meta answer or reasons that anyone would find said meta answers. If there is a reason, this one is why a lot of Google-required metas fall flat with most people – there’s nothing that was actually “solved” or could be “solved”, and hence any joy from that is robbed from the solver. In that sense, most of the meta puzzles, including this one, falls pretty flat with me. No logical (i.e. arbitrary as Birnholz writes below) path to the solution.

      • Maybe it’s arguing semantics, but I wouldn’t say there was no logical path to the solution. The title suggested the periodic table, and I figured the theme entries would match up with either an element or a number in some way, though it was a bit odd how MID-MASHIE could associate with both. Anyway, that’s how I and I imagine many others got there, and it’s still a successful solve even if you needed Google to do it (which I did).

        My issue is that when I got to the answer, it didn’t have any obvious relationship with the periodic table, other than it’s just a random word you can spell with the chemical symbols. More of an “oh, okay” moment rather than “a-ha,” I guess.

        • GlennG says:

          Maybe the phrase I’m looking for is “plausibly logical”. For the people I share metas with that I referenced in the other thread, the usual question back from them (phrased for this puzzle) is: “How was I supposed to know to look for numbers associated with those theme entries?” You mentioned the title, but the question is if it really connective enough that it makes sense. If I did actually solve it (I started looking for things in line with Elementary as in “Basic” – most notably the entries with A, B, and C in them), it would been a “Yeah, whatever *roll eyes*” as a reaction. Jenni writes a similar thought in her review above.

          More or less, the whole thing was just something that seemed to be out of thin air instead of something that made absolute sense once the solution was revealed.

  3. Abide says:

    This was a perfectly FINE meta. Just letting you know.

  4. LuckyGuest says:

    Count me among those who think that this was a great meta. It had the perfect mix of the usual tacks:
    – Solve the grid
    – Determine the trick/relevance of the themed entries (some required Googling)
    – Determining what to do with those numbers (title)
    – Google lookup/verification
    – Concatenate results; leading, as you proceed, to…
    – …a great “aha”

  5. I agree with the above comments about Google being acceptable and encouraged for solving metas, and that the method for extracting this meta was fine.

    But what didn’t sit well with me about this meta is that the answer felt kinda arbitrary. HELICOPTER is a word you can spell using chemical symbols, but why that and not any of the thousands of others? Unless there’s a deeper meaning to HELICOPTER that I just didn’t see, I think my a-ha would have been a bit better if the answer had a more specific association to the periodic table or numbers in some way. Just looking at that linked list, maybe something like ARSENIC or ASTATINE?

    • Matthew G. says:

      Yeah, this is the reason I gave this a 3.5-star rating (a pretty low rating from me on a Fireball puzzle). It wasn’t arbitrary because it required trivia but because the theme wasn’t too tight.

      I also thought the title made it too easy, though I’m not sure there was a middle-ground way to point the solver at the Periodic Table without making it too hard instead. And that kind of ties in with the arbitrariness—in the best metas, the title serves as confirmation of the meta answer rather than as a completely indispensable key to the extraction mechanism. Take the word “Elementary” out here and there’s no way to solve it; leave it in and it’s too easy.

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