Meta 2-3 hours
Laura here, sitting in for Joon, covering a guest puzzle by Nate Cardin, who is sitting in for Matt. I’m super thrilled to be blogging my friend Nate’s puzzle, since much of what I know about solving metas I owe to him!
This week we’re looking for two eight-letter words. I was pretty stumped once I got through the grid, which itself seemed pretty ordinary. Luckily since I didn’t have a perfect record this year, I’ve been exempt from Matt’s request that solvers not collaborate for the last five puzzles of 2017. Buoyed by a brief hint from someone in my solving group, I took another look at the title: “The Sixth Element.” While I have a great regard for the 1997 film The Fifth Element (1997), in which the fifth element is [spoiler alert] the friends we made along the way, I suspected that the element in question here was carbon, element #6 in the periodic table, with the chemical symbol C. I then noticed that all the Cs in the grid were placed symmetrically (noted in red), and that there were eight.
Given that this week’s answer is a pair of eight-letter words, I suspected that the Cs in the grid would somehow lead me to both of them, and they would be related to carbon. Were they on either side of each C? Top and bottom? I tried different combinations, finding a lot of gibberish, before discovering that the first letters of each down entry containing C spell out DIAMONDS (noted in blue), and the first letters of each across entry containing C spell out GRAPHITE (noted in green). What’s particularly cool is that diamonds and graphite are allotropes of carbon; i.e. they are chemically identical, with their molecular structures configurated differently — much like the entries in the grid!
Lovely work, Nate.