MGWCC #497

crossword 2:50 
meta DNF 3 days 


hello and welcome to episode #497 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “What Did I Say?”. for this week 2 puzzle, we were looking for a famous historical figure. what are the theme answers? i’m not 100% sure, but these are the long across answers:

  • {Ten Commandments phrase} GRAVEN IMAGE.
  • {Boundary} DIVIDING LINE.
  • {Best Director winner for 2011’s “The Artist”} michel HAZANAVICIUS.
  • {Delicious green} BIBB LETTUCE.

the one i’m not sure about is the central 7, {Worthless} OF NO USE. it might be thematic, and i’m inclined to think it is. but as sometimes happens (though not on a week 2, that i can recall) i’m blogging this before figuring out the meta, so let’s work through this together.

it seems fairly clear that the theme answers themselves have nothing in common, so it is probably something to do with the letters or words or sounds. the “say” of the title is a keyword that could denote homophones in a cryptic crossword sense, but i didn’t get very far along those lines. yes, the end of HAZANAVICIUS sounds like “vicious” and LETTUCE sounds like “let us”, but GRAVEN IMAGE and DIVIDING LINE … not so much.

what about the “I” of the title? are we supposed to do something with the letter I? DIVIDING LINE has four of them, and the other long answers each have at least one. but i can’t see what to do with those letters, or make any phrase out of the adjacent letters.

one thing i noticed is that GRAVEN IMAGE is a synonym for IDOL, which is an I-word… and OF NO USE could be a synonym for IDLE, which is a homophone of IDOL. intriguing, right? but the others are not so helpful along those lines. ICEBERG lettuce is a different kind of lettuce, but i couldn’t think of any I-words related to DIVIDING LINE, and obviously not HAZANAVICIUS either—that’s just a dude’s name.

speaking of dude’s names, “I” + historical figure leads me to the roman emperor claudius, title character of robert graves’s novel i, claudius. and GRAVEN is only one letter off from GRAVES… but there’s just nothing else to connect claudius to the puzzle.

i can’t shake the feeling that there is something quite obvious here and i’m missing it. so far, about 400 people have solved this, so it can’t be all that intricate. i just want there to be some famous quote jumping out from the grid, and then the meta answer is the historical figure who said it.

aaaand i found it. graVEN Image, diVIDIng line, hazanaVICIus—that’s “veni, vidi, vici”, which julius caesar said. (so claudius was actually pretty close!) and the “I” hint in the title is another nice nudge because the english translation is “i came, i saw, i conquered” (in addition to all three of those latin verbs ending with -i). phew, i really thought i might trip at this very early hurdle in a december to dismember.

i have to say, i don’t know what BIBB LETTUCE is doing in the theme. my first thought was that there was another word hiding in there, maybe a latin word, but i don’t see one. my second thought was that maybe it’s used in a caesar salad (which is not named for julius caesar, but whatever)… but that doesn’t appear to be true either; it’s romaine. so i’m still stumped on that one.

are there any other hints at julius caesar? his other famous quotes (historically) are “alea iacta est” (“the die is cast”), upon crossing the rubicon; and “gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” (“gaul is a whole divided into three parts”), the opening line from his commentaries on the gallic war. oh, and there’s also “et tu, brute” from shakespeare (which he did not actually say)… ah, and ET TU is in LETTUCE. well, that explains it.

i’m not sure i can articulate why this meta was so difficult for me. sometimes you just don’t see it, i guess. anyway, i did eventually see this one, but it was a fairly close shave—as i’m finishing this post it’s twelve minutes to noon, leaving me enough time to redo the screen shot.

well, that was a struggle, but at least i came, i eventually did see, and i sort of conquered. and you?

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16 Responses to MGWCC #497

  1. Lance says:

    This one clicked for me, I guess. I also spent some time wondering if there was something phonetic going on with “…let us…”, but a little more staring at the long entries, convinced that there was something hiding in them, turned up VICI first, and from there it was pretty clear. (ET TU also stood out at that point for me.)

  2. Jim S. says:

    I spent more time on this one than any prior meta and still didn’t see what is fairly obvious once it’s pointed out. I have no idea why I couldn’t see it. “HAZANAVICIUS” being a single word vs the others being 2 words may have blinded me. I can take solace in the fact that Joon and other better solvers than me also struggled.

  3. Joe says:

    I never even saw ET TU, but VENI VIDI VICI was enough. I thought BIBB LETTUCE was just hanging out there as a distraction. Glad to see that it was meta related!

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Nice save, joon! CDXXIII right answers this week.

    It’s like the Starbucks sizes hidden word meta — the eye doesn’t really scan for foreign words, it’s in English mode, so they’re tricky to see.

    Note that the four are in chronological order (assuming he said any of them at all, who knows)

  5. Jon says:

    I highlighted all the I’s in the grid and that’s when I noticed the veni, vidi, vici. I think it took me about 10 minutes after that to see the ET TU in Lettuce as for awhile I was scratching my head on thinking of a 4th part of the famous Caesar line.

    A very good week 2, I think.

    • Lance says:

      There is a fourth part: VENI, VIDI, VICI, BIBB, which translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered, I had a Caesar salad”.

  6. Jay G says:

    I got this right for the wrong reason: Caesar was a graven image on coins in biblical times. Dividing line references the Rubicon. Hazanavicius won a Cesar award. And Bibb lettuce can be used to make a Caesar salad.

    It helps to be lucky sometimes.

  7. pannonica says:

    OF NO USE contains nous (‘we’ in Latin) but I don’t know if that’s intentional.

    In British English it means ‘common sense, alertness’.

  8. Amy L says:

    I also spent a long time on this. Since OREO was from last week’s puzzle, I thought maybe the two puzzles were connected and spent lots of time comparing Is in both grids, which was hard since last week’s grid was 13 x 13. In the midst of all that, the answer just jumped out at me. Those words were very well hidden.

  9. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I also noticed that there are 6 each of V and B in the grid, of which half of the Vs and all of the Bs are not thematic. This took me until I looked for anything interesting straddling words in the theme answers, at which point “VENI” popped out and the rest of it followed including the late notice for ET TU. I think the hard thing about this was that it’s really a regular themed crossword without a revealer. Completely fair for a week 2, but I’d been looking for something lateral but obvious instead of something standard but subtle.

  10. J B says:

    I was stuck on all the short words that begin with “I” :(

  11. peedee says:

    I got this one right away. I’m always flabbergasted when I get something that joon doesn’t get right away. I’m generally not very good at metas and Peter out by weeks three and four.

  12. tabstop says:

    There was a disturbingly long period of time between when I said “that director has “vici” in it, wouldn’t it be neat if the other long answers had veni and vidi in them” and “hey the other answers do have veni and vidi in them”. An hour maybe? The intervening time was spent trying initials and sound-alikes.

    I included a parenthetical in the notes on my submission on the lines of “I don’t think Bibb is the right lettuce for a Caesar salad” which also became cringeworthy once I noticed et tu.

  13. PuzzleCraig says:

    This one took absurdly long for me too. It finally clicked when I started going through the I-answers that @JB listed above. IBET, IRAN, IRON was close enough to jog my mind and dislodge “I came, I saw, I conquered”, so I submitted the correct answer.

    That said, I really wanted this to be Abraham Lincoln, and I think Matt might want to consider it as an alternate answer. Of Lincoln’s speeches:

    His First Inaugural address has “grave” thrice in varying forms.
    His House Divided speech obviously alludes to “divid[ed]”.
    His Lyceum speech mentions the “vicious” portion of the population.
    His Second Inaugural uses “let us” twice.

    Food for thought, maybe. Obviously, this would be more persuasive if they had appeared in date order in the puzzle.

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