MGWCC #534

crossword 2:34 (across lite)  
meta 1 day, ish 


hello and welcome to episode #534 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Quartet Quest”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a familiar quartet. what are the theme answers? well, there are four long answers in the grid, each with a parenthetical number to give us an ordering:

  • {TV show (1) about the U.S. atomic bomb program} MANHATTAN.
  • {Country (2) whose five neighbors are all landlocked} UZBEKISTAN. i believe liechtenstein is the only other “doubly landlocked” nation.
  • {Book of the Bible (3) whose name means “God remembered”} ZECHARIAH.
  • {Company (4) formed by a 1999 merger} EXXONMOBIL.

in addition, there are a few other parenthetical hints in some of the clues:

  • {Stratford’s river (not clued to the company!)} AVON.
  • {Cross (which is what the first and third parts of the quartets do)} SPAN.
  • {Hodgepodge} MIX. the hint matt sent out on friday evening included this alternate clue: {Anagram (like you must four times to solve the meta)}.

okay, first things first. the theme clues are clearly specifying a tv show, country, book of the bible, and company. the clue for AVON explicitly points out that matt is not talking about AVON the company. this strongly suggests that we should be looking for extra fill in the grid that *is* clued to the company (and tv show, book of the bible, and country). and here they are:

  • {1990s sitcom whose title character is a bookstore owner} ELLEN. this would have been easy enough to clue as something other than a tv show, so it must be relevant to the theme that it *is* clued as the tv show.
  • {Whence Jean-Claude Van Damme} BELGIUM.
  • {Source of the quote “For the wages of sin is death”} ROMANS. again, this is clued as the book of the bible rather than as the people of (ancient or modern) rome.
  • {Their ads are famously funny} GEICO.

okay, that was the easy part. what next? we haven’t made any use of that hint in the SPAN clue, nor of the anagramming suggested in the MIX clue. and i’m very glad i looked at that hint, because basically nothing else about the puzzle suggested the next step: look for yet another tv show, country, book of the bible, and company that anagram to grid entries. this was by no means easy—there are 60ish books of the bible, 200ish countries, and many thousands of tv shows and companies… more than enough to pose a problem, as we’ll see. but here we go.

i found the book of the bible first: CAST anagrams to ACTS. then i used the hint from the SPAN clue to find the crossing APSO, an anagram of SOAP (not the most familiar tv show to anybody under 40, i have to say, although i have used it as a theme answer before). the country took longer—it’s ALGERIA, an anagram of REGALIA in the grid. the company took a *lot* longer—in fact, i backsolved it, but the one i first found isn’t the only one, and i’m actually curious how many there are.

so, what do i mean by backsolved? well, i started looking at the answers i’d assembled. i’d found three tv shows, three countries, three books of the bible, and two companies:

  1. tv shows: MANHATTAN as a specified theme answer, ELLEN elsewhere in the grid, and SOAP via anagram
  3. books of the bible: ZECHARIAH, ROMANS, ACTS
  4. companies: EXXONMOBIL, GEICO, ???

look at the first letters of those. UBA in the countries and ZRA in the books of the bible caught my eye, because they can be prefixed to make four-letter entries that also fit those categories: CUBA and EZRA. so we’re getting the letters C and E for the country and book of the bible, respectively. i already then guessed that the meta answer might be the four aces, based on _CE_, because there aren’t that many things fitting that pattern that could lead to a familiar quartet.

if so, the company would have to give us the letter S; the SEG_ company would then clearly be SEGA, which means that the missing anagram is an anagram of a company starting with A. that gave me the nudge i needed to find RAITA, which anagrams to ATARI. (it certainly helped that SEGA and ATARI are both video game companies, so i was already thinking in the right subspace of the category.) later i was talking to andy kravis about this puzzle and he mentioned that he had found LODE <-> DOLE, certainly also a major american company. there’s also NOTE <-> ETON; it’s not how ETON is ever clued in a crossword puzzle, but that is undeniably a company. it feels like there must be many more, perhaps arbitrarily many more.

(while we’re here, andy also pointed out that the PORE/ORBAN crossing was necessary because PURE/URBAN, while objectively better fill, has the problem that PURE anagrams to PERU, which wasn’t part of the meta. none of this is to say that hungarian pm viktor orban is somebody you shouldn’t be aware and terrified of, but certainly he is less famous than the word URBAN.)

leaving all that aside for now, what does this mean for the tv show? with MANHATTAN, ELLEN, and SOAP, we need for there to be a tv show called AMES to get the A for ACES. and … there isn’t. there’s a 1950s singing group called the ames brothers, and they had a short-lived tv show called the ames brothers show. but that just doesn’t fit the pattern.

on the other hand, we have _CES already, by a clear and unambiguous mechanism; the order is set in stone, and CUBA, EZRA, and SEGA are evident. and the letter that fills in the blank to make a familiar quartet also has to be the same letter that fills in _MES to make a tv show. there just isn’t anything it could be other than A, so the four aces has to be the meta answer.

i don’t know exactly what to say about this meta. parts of the mechanism are ingenious, but the part where we were supposed to somehow just know to anagram random fill entries into things that fit into defined categories was fairly absurd without the hint. i don’t see why anybody would think to do that. even with the hint, it would have been a bit much to find APSO/SOAP without an additional hint. there are just so many tv shows, many of which i’ve never heard of (including, i feel i should say, MANHATTAN). and yet AMES just isn’t one of them. so unless i’m missing something, the meta is fatally flawed.

well, that’s what i’ve got. if there’s something i missed that makes it all hang together somehow, please do let me know in the comments. thanks!

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to MGWCC #534

  1. Will Nediger says:

    AMEN is a TV show, as is NOVA, an anagram of AVON. (This is why AVON has to be in the grid with the disclaimer – otherwise, AVES/BEDE/BIT/AGEIS would have worked.)

    • LauraB says:

      And AVON/NOVA crosses/SPANs MANHATTAN, per 27d, as all of the anagrammed entries do (i.e. the third set of themers crosses the first set). We were stuck on SOAP for the longest time (and on LODE/DOLE, and then on ORBAN/BROAN [a kitchen appliance company]), and it was only by restraining ourselves to possible anagrams that crossed the first set of theme entries that we found NOVA and ATARI.

      Week 5 is going to be a BUST!

      • AMYF says:

        Ouch … I thought that the SPAN clue was referring to MANHATTAN and ZECHARIAH somehow.

        With the SPAN clue properly interpreted, it does constrain the answer space a bit, but you have to make several leaps in the process. Whether they’re fair or not, I’m not sure, but the lack of early solves feels telling.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 171 right answers this week.

    From the hint in the 37-D clue, the anagrammed entry has to cross the long numbered theme entry of its kind, like CAST/acts crosses ZECHARIAH and REGALIA/algeria crosses UZBEKISTAN. So the TV show is “Nova” from AVON crossing MANHATTAN.

    It seems that some solvers interpreted “the first and third parts of the quartets” from that clue as the 1st and 3rd letters of the final four words, so C and B in CUBA, for example. But I meant the parts in the order the solver gets them, so first is the numbered theme clue (e.g. UZBEKISTAN), second the shorter entry in the grid (e.g. BELGIUM), third the anagram (e.g. ALGERIA). So the sitcom “Amen” was the final answer of that quartet.

  3. Wayne says:

    Not quite. Remember the parenthetical in 37D. The first and the third have to cross. So AVON -> NOVA is your third TV show. Not APSO -> SOAP. (Though both great shows in their own way, to be sure.)

  4. Thomas says:

    Dang it. I found the anagrams, but couldn’t get the next step. I think what threw me is that 37D calls the crossing entries “the first and third parts,” so I looked at MEN?, UBA?, ZRA?, and EGA? and saw nothing promising.

  5. paul coulter says:

    Boy, that sure was hard. I never would’ve gotten it without the hint. Matt, how many did? For me, I think it might have been doable without the hint, if the anagram element were removed. Pretty sure this would have been appropriately difficult. But we would have had a chance to see the sets of four. Still, a damned good idea and construction.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      About 20. So without the hint being offered I’d guess about 50 would’ve gotten it eventually. If it had been Week 5/5 I might’ve not given out the hint, but as a Week 4/5 it definitely needed it.

  6. Mary Flaminio says:

    I am dizzy after reading that! Way over my abilities.

  7. Eli says:

    I caught SOAP and DOLE, as well, but that’s were the parenthetical clue at 37D came in. The anagrammed entries all cross the first theme entry (the clues that contain the numbers):

    APSO and LODE don’t cross the themers, so they aren’t included in the meta. I agree it was a little directionless, especially if I hadn’t used the hint, but I felt pretty satisfied when I figured it out.

    • Les Yonce says:

      SOAP and DOLE threw me off for hours as possible 4th entries for the company quartet.

      After rewriting the three items I had under each category name, I realized the letters needed to go at the top/beginning not the bottom/end. Having NOVA was a big help, although it was EZRA I saw first.

      One of the better aha’s in recent memory IMO.

      • Norm H says:

        I assume both APSO and LODE were deliberate red herrings. There are a few alternatives to the L in square 24. And an I in square 64 would have made for a simple combined clue for 64A and 48D.

        If my assumption is correct, that is some brutal misdirection from Matt.

  8. Les Yonce says:

    Good job getting the answer. I got AMEN for the fourth TV show.

    Think the N comes from Nova, which crosses Manhattan as an anagram, like the other three “third” parts of the four quartets. (ACTS, ALGERIA, and ATARI all cross their respective first/theme entries.)

  9. Norm H says:

    Can’t believe 171 people got this. Curious to know how many claimed to have done so without the hint.

    My head is still spinning, even knowing the solution.

  10. Mutman says:

    I hate being the guy offering alternative answers, but let me make the case for TUBA (a familiar quartet, as evidenced by a Google search).

    I found the second set of answers also: ELLEN, BELGIUM, ROMANS, GEICO.

    After a (long) while, I reasoned that since items 1 and 3 were clued as SPANning (37D) , we must be looking for something describing items 2 and 4. This would be ABUTting (14A).

    Anagramming ABUT gives you TUBA. All reasonable assumptions given the meta instructions and parentheticals in the clues (the 4 anagram hint was not part of the original puzzle).

    Thoughts? Anyone else go there?

  11. Freddy says:

    Can someone please explain the hint: Cross (which is what the first and third parts of the quartets do) SPAN

  12. David R says:

    Once I saw the hint and knew I was in for a treasure hunt in anagramming, I put the meta down. Anagramming is so 2012 and overdone, I don’t want to see another meta with that hook for a long time.

  13. Jon says:

    This one took me ages to get. And I had at first dismissed AVON/NOVA as being in the 3rd part since it didn’t “cross” the themer, but merely connected to the themer. So that clue, to me, was a bit off.

    Anyone that was able to figure out the meta without the hint is amazing in my book. Never would have gotten it without Matt’s hint.

  14. BarbaraK says:

    Did anyone else notice that there is also one of each type in the clues? I was initially thinking that these were the 4th members of each quartet.

    Sherlock (TV show) in 55D
    U.S. (country) in 17A
    King’s (bible book if you ignore the apostrophe) in 30A
    Dole (company) in 47A

    Didn’t love them – the use of two clues from theme entries, Dole with the lode anagram, and that apostrophe. So I was looking at a list of bible books, wondering if there was something else in the clues, when Ezra jumped off the page at me and I realized the right way to get the fourth piece.

    • Les Yonce says:

      I tried to go there with Kings. I’m impressed you found the other three – I did not!

    • Eli says:

      I noticed this, as well. Plus both words in the clue for 67A (Funny Holmes) appear in other clues: 28D – “Their ads are famous FUNNY” and 55D – “Part of a Sherlock HOLMES costume.” I was pretty confident it didn’t mean anything, but it did send me down a bit of a wrong turn when I got stuck for a while.

    • Katie M. says:

      This is where we went wrong. With the four from the clues, we had a quartet of quartets, and never figured out what to do with them.

  15. Will Nediger says:

    With the hint, I found the anagrams and then figured out ACES, but I assumed there would be a fourth member of each quartet (starting with A, C, E and S respectively) hidden in the grid somehow, since I wasn’t thinking about how AMEN, CUBA, EZRA and SEGA were already the fourth members of the quartet. For example, I tried to do something with the fact that SETTER is a phonetic anagram of ESTHER, a book of the Bible that starts with E.

    In retrospect, it makes sense that they’re not, because otherwise solvers could shortcut it just by finding those four words and realizing their initials spell out ACES. But I was certain I was missing something, because of the fact that the fill in the northwest corner (ABAB, ETH) is less than ideal, even though that section is otherwise unconstrained. I wonder if that’s just because Matt wanted to avoid any fill that would anagram to a company or a TV show in that section?

  16. Garrett says:

    Amazed that anyone could get this with no hint. We were supposed to intuit that MIX clued Hodgepodge means that anagramming is involved, but not in all cases? I’m not sure I even follow the explanation, so let me get this straight:

    1. Four theme fills give us the second letter and a category.
    2. Four other fill words give us the second letter and fit the category.
    3. Four other fill words anagram to give us the third letter and also fit the category.
    4. We try random letters from the alphabet experimentally as the first letter to create words that also fit the category.
    5. Putting them in order 1-4 gives us ACES with the first letters of the formed words.

    Is that right?

    • KZ Condor says:

      To be honest I’m a little surprised people needed the hint.

      1) The second set of (TV show, Country, Bible Book, Company) in the grid implies we should look for a third set (and then a fourth)

      2) 37D tells us the third set crosses the first

      3) Check the entries intersecting the first set and REGALIA is clearly an anagram of ALGERIA

      4) Finding the other anagrams is now easy

      5) ZRA for the third set is begging for an E in front of it

      6) Trivial from there

      Step 3 was the only tricky part. Last month’s week 4 was way harder.

      • AMYF says:

        The fact that 20 (of 171) claimed to solve without the hint probably means you shouldn’t be surprised people needed the hint.

        • Dave says:

          I’m not sure that’s really a fair way to gauge the difficulty of this puzzle. Many people looked at the hint as soon as it came out, which was really not very long after the puzzle was released, so maybe only 20 people even tried to solve the puzzle without the hint. I think a lot more people would have solved it without the hint if they would have just given their solving skills a little more credit and waited a bit before reading the hint. Of course, this is also mere speculation on my part.

          • pgw says:

            The first solve came six hours in. That is nearly unheard of in mgwcc history other than the one impossible one that like four people solved. Congratulations on finding it easy, but it clearly wasn’t for just about anybody else.

            • Dave says:

              Not sure if that comment was directed to me, but I never said it was easy, just that it’s impossible to say how many people would have gotten it without the hint. Maybe 20, maybe 120, maybe 171. It would be easier to tell if there were very few solvers by Monday and then the hint came out, but it seemed from various comments that most people looked at the hint as soon as it came out. Maybe this one just had a few more steps than usual and there would have been a lot of breakthroughs on Saturday despite the initial low solve count. Really no way to know for sure.

              I just kinda like puzzles that I can’t solve in the first 20 minutes (or even 6 hours) as long as it seems fair once I see the answer, so I continued to try to solve without the hint and eventually got it sometime over the weekend. I think others could have done the same given the skill set of this solving community.

    • pgw says:

      No-hint solver here. Here’s a breakdown as I recall it going.

      First two steps we can agree are pretty straightforward.

      Your step 3 omits the fact that matt told us in the clue parenthetical that the third element of each quartet crosses the first, and note the clunky phrasing of the parenthetical, in which matt made sure to separate the sense of “cross” he was going for from the “span” sense. That suggested to me that for each category of thing, after the second which was pretty easy to find, we would find a third in a grid entry crossing the long theme entry. But none of the crossing entries on their own fit the bill, so we had to do something else. I stared for a while and eventually saw the Algeria anagram. (It probably helped that I love anagrams, and play a lot of scrabble.)

      For step 4, I couldn’t find anything else in the grid or clues (glad i didn’t look too hard at the clues, apparently they were there per other commenters!), but I had TV SHOWS: MEN, COUNTRIES: UBA, BOOKS: ZRA, and COMPANIES: EG_. (Couldn’t find Atari without backsolving, and even then I got it “wrong” and went with obscure health care company Atria, thankfully without it mattering.) Cuba and Ezra jumped out pretty readily, no random letter hunt necessary. That gave me enough (_CE_) to think “maybe it’s aces, there are four of those,” and verify that it all worked.

      Hard, no doubt. But i love these kind of metas that require keeping your options open, moving on to the next step without being fully confident you’ve completed the prior step, and having the various mental connections involved in the solve strengthen one another mutually, sometimes in defiance of the logical or temporal order of things.

      5 stars from me. Not the most elegant mgwcc of all time, but intricate, challenging, and once you get it it all hangs together pretty well. My only question is, is matt willing to make week 5 *even harder*? (I hope so, fwiw.)

      • KZ Condor says:

        I will be very disappointed if week five is not harder. What’s the point of a week 5 if not to snap some long streaks (if mine is among them, so be it)?

    • Garrett says:

      Gee, I even got confused writing this list: should be…

      1. 2nd letter
      2. 3rd letter
      3. 4th letter
      4. 1st letter

  17. Cindy says:

    Well I just have to weigh in and say that I thought the construction was brilliant and one of Matt’s best. In hindsight after seeing Uzbekistan and Belgium, I think I should have seen Algeria without the hint. But alas I read the hint.

  18. Adam t says:

    Was 2D an intentional red herring for Abba?

  19. Rosebud says:

    Shoot! I actually thought at one point that ACES (or ACE/KING/QUEEN/JACK) was going to be the answer, but I was only through step two when I took a wrong turn. I noticed that the clues to the TV shows contained the words “Atomic” and “Sitcom”, which are anagrams for each other if A goes to S. When I didn’t find similar near-anagrams in the Country, Bible, and Company clues, I dropped that road of thought, and didn’t even submit it as a guess. Worse yet, getting off the wrong line of thought didn’t put me onto the right road, as I never got any further.

  20. Dave says:

    Here’s how I would explain it.

    You know you are looking for quartets from the title and the meta prompt.

    Based on the parenthetical numbers, you know what the theme entries are, and it is reasonable to assume that these are the “first” entries in the quartets:


    If these are the first entries, then it is also reasonable to assume that we are looking for 4 TV shows, 4 countries, 4 Bible books, and 4 companies.

    It’s fairly quick work to find the “second” entries in the grid:


    Now, how do you find the “third” entries? Well, that’s where it gets harder, but it is a week 4, so you’ve got to work a bit for it. We know from 37-D that the third entries have to cross the first entries, so just look at all of the grid entries that cross MANHATTAN and try to find a TV show, then look at those that cross UZBEKISTAN and try to find a country, etc. Well, there aren’t any just laid out for you, so try to manipulate the words a bit, and you see that AVON can become NOVA, and then you realize that you need to anagram (or, if you looked at the hint, you already know this), so you eventually find ALGERIA, ACTS, and ATARI.

    Now, your groups are, in order:


    So, you need a 4th entry to make a quartet. This is a bit tricky and maybe the weak link here, but still pretty cool. Just look at those countries, and it’s not a giant leap to see CUBA from UBA (the first letters of each country), so CUBA is our “fourth” in the country quartet. Once you see one, you only need to use the same trick to find the others, and you have:


    This give you ACES, which is a familiar quartet. Lots of steps, but that’s the fun of puzzles, isn’t it?

    • Cindy says:

      Or The Four Aces musical quartet. Just one more step!

      • Dave says:

        Oho! I was just thinking of cards (Aces of Clubs, Spades, Hearts, and Diamonds). I kinda like your interpretation (and Joon’s I now see) better. I wonder which Matt had in mind…

    • Garrett says:

      I did not understand the 37D hint properly. It now makes total sense. I like this explanation. It really is a brilliant meta.

  21. john says:

    Wow. Just wow. I was one of those who got the MGWCC #530 in about 20 minutes and fewer than 100 got that one. I could have worked on this Rosetta Stone and not figured it had i another month and yet 171 got it. Strange how the mind works.

    I got as far as seeing three of the initial pairs and just did not think ‘TV show’ to go with Manhattan. Weirdly clued and so you have to zero in on that but as soon as i got the fill done i never thought TV show:Manhattan again and so was doomed. I also was looking for quartets, so it was easy to think the pairs were a red herring.

    Plotted like a Chandler novel, Matt. Bravo.

    • Les Yonce says:

      Right there with you from the opposite direction. I never got #530 despite My Very First Thought being “this has to do with the first letter/sound of the theme entries.”

      This one? No-hint solver. It is amazing how the mind works.

      I’m a little nervous about week 5 though.

  22. David Harris says:

    I started off with a somewhat amusing dead end, looking for anagrams of bands with four members based on the musical connotation of “quartet” and the presence of an anagrammed ABBA in the upper left. I stuck with the musical dead end for a while, as ABBA (combined with bands being a blind spot for me) made it seem very plausible that there were other groups hiding somewhere, and I found a few near-misses. So for everything I describe below about ways that I missed or tortured the meta clues, don’t judge me too harshly, I was looking for anagrammed Swedish popstar names!

    I definitely needed the hint—anagramming grid entries is always on the table, but not something I was especially thinking about at first, as I didn’t have a specific anagram target I was looking for. Either way, I got very slowed down by the mistake of not immediately noting the placement of the numbers in the theme clues (and forgetting about the AVON parenthetical), so I actually didn’t entirely realize that each number indicated a specific quartet category until after I’d started checking for anagrams that crossed. I wasn’t specifically looking for other examples of companies, etc., which delayed my realization that BELGIUM, ELLEN, and the others were part of the meta. That’s definitely my own fault, in retrospect that aspect of it was certainly lampshaded, and it’s not like I hadn’t thought that BELGIUM was an unusual enough middle-grid entry to probably be relevant somehow. I was just totally spacing on the easiest part of the meta, for no good reason. ROMANS helped me get there, and I wondered if being alongside ZECHARIAH was meant to suggest SPANning—not quite, but it helped me spot the significance of the others a bit later.

    In totally the opposite order from Joon, ATARI was my breakthrough rather than my backsolve. That said, I found it while looking for more crossing band names, and saw online that the Ataris exist, so it took me a bit to deal with it as just a company name rather than another musical dead end. I saw ALGERIA next, and saw that Algiers is a band…so I was confused but hopeful and kept looking. Finally, thank goodness, I realized that ALGERIA is a country (I really don’t know what my brain was doing until then) and lo and behold, Atari is a company, duh, and that made me realize the significance of the category clues, which led me to ACTS and NOVA.

    The backwards order that I did the meta’s steps, with anagrams ahead of existing entries, did give me some confusion about the first/third clue, which I see Matt noted in comments above some others also had. That I came late to the categories made this take a bit longer to correct, as even when I had UZBEKISTAN paired with ALGERIA, I was just treating it as a themer and its cross, rather than a pair of countries, and so it seemed possible that I had to use the R of REGALIA, or even the letter (I) where they crossed, rather than ALGERIA as a free-standing entry in the quartet. So I was putting things in UBA? order, and considered that maybe all four categories in order would spell a longer phrase. Thankfully, the seeming impossibility (but clear rightness) of ZRA? finally shook my brain loose and got me looking for letters that could complete into other members of the category. AMEN was the only one I wasn’t familiar with, but with ?MEN in place and ?CES for the meta, I wisely didn’t insist on running with X-MEN as my fourth TV show, and things worked out.

    Appreciate Joon mentioning the ORBAN/PORE crossing, as I’d also wondered if there was a specific reason not to use URBAN/PURE there. Because I was limiting my anagram checks to the crossing entries, the PERU confusion didn’t occur to me, but I can definitely see how thinking about PERU would really obscure the restriction on anagrams needing to cross their long themers. Looking back, I imagine Matt was trying to avoid having BRAUN as a plausible company crosser, which also makes sense—and either way, I’ll feel validated if my instinct on the unusual fill being meta-related was right, even if it was to avoid meta issues rather than a meta-entry itself. During my solve, I had looked around a bit to see if BARON was a plausible company or band name (and wondered if the O of ORBAN might mean LEGO as the meta-company), but thankfully I stuck with ATARI in my final solve. Would be curious if Matt intentionally used ATARI and SEGA because the video game connection would make it easier to spot, as I definitely thought about and appreciated that connection during my solve.

    Fun puzzle and solve, if it felt a bit meta-brutal at certain moments—but that was probably less about the puzzle offering too little guidance, and more about me being oblivious to the parenthetical hints that were already there. If I’d focused on those sooner, I’d probably have spun my wheels a fair amount less, so difficulty (with hint, at least) was probably about right for a week 4. Next week I should probably try paying attention…

  23. Matt Gaffney says:

    Correct — it was PURE/URBAN but then both PERU and BRAUN are problems.

  24. Jim S says:

    The real question is… did Jangler get it without the hint? I assume he was one of the 20ish who did, and it just took him longer than normal (or he got a late start due to he late delivery)…

    • Jeffrey Harris says:

      I did not. I tried for an hour or so and failed, so I looked at the hint as soon as it was released. (I preferred a stress-free weekend to bragging rights, and in hindsight, I may not have solved it without the hint even with the full time.)

      My main error was thinking of each show-country-book-company grouping as a “quartet” (and I had no compelling reason to believe there were more than two such groupings), so I thought Part 1 of each quartet was the show and Part 3 was the book (so I did find ACTS crossing SOAP, but that didn’t work with the other groups.)

      • ASB says:

        I got it (with the hint and help) but I’m more proud that I got stuck down the same rabbit hole as Jangler.

  25. Small Wave Dave says:

    I got to ACES via an inelegant and not entirely satisfying process, then figured the answer was the quartet of suits so I submitted Diamonds Hearts Spades Clubs.

  26. bunella says:

    I, too, thought the singing group The Four Aces from the 1950’s.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I’ve never heard of that group — I just meant the answer to be the aces in a deck of cards.

  27. Silverskiesdean says:

    I was stuck on the fact that the 1st and 3d crossed. I don’t think anyone mention that in the southeast corner, I thought one needed to add a letter, that is shoe crosses with Pete and if one adds one letter you get House and Peter, the first being a TV show and of course Peter a book of the Bible. Then I thought you can add a letter to PCS and SHOE to make “cops” and “Hosea” again a TV show and book of the Bible. When I saw that corner, I got stuck on adding a letter to be the key. Also, I don’t think I noticed anyone say that in the NE corner part of regalia and Uzbekistan reads across and down to make “Galatians”. That was when my eyes began to cross. Also in the West corner, I saw 38A and 41A combined to make “Mexico”. Then back to my add a letter gimmick, I saw that 15A could become “Aruba” and/or “Acura”. The point is, it was a great meta and in my case proves Matt’s adage that “I should not be led astray by clues intended to deceive”. Pardon my rambling. I tend to do so when I don’t get any sleep for 4 days and didn’t even solve the puzzle!

  28. bwouns says:

    I had about as much trouble with the third step as anybody. Fortunately the meta was gettable without it. Having seen the ‘ZR’ of Zechariah and Romans, and assuming I was looking for other bible books, EZRA jumped out at me. It didn’t take long after that to confirm the ‘UB’ was referencing CUBA.

  29. Ken Stern says:

    Anyone else waylaid at least temporarily by OMAN hidden in ROMANS? It didn’t go anywhere, obviously, but not for lack of trying.

    • Dan Seidman says:

      I noticed that too. Aha, I thought — the fourth member of each quartet is contained in another entry. Nope.

  30. joon says:

    thanks to everybody who chimed in. i don’t know the tv show AMEN, so i don’t think i was ever getting off AMES. that said, i’m more than a little relieved i was close enough to get the right final answer without having all the steps right.

  31. Richard K. says:

    I managed to piece this meta together with a big help from Matt’s hint. ALGERIA was my entry to the actual solution. Somewhat earlier I was excited to notice that the stacked entries ROMANS/ZECHARIAH contained all the letters of ARIZONA and GEICO/EXXONMOBIL could very nearly spell out NEW MEXICO. Sure enough, UTAH was right there inside ABUT/MANHATTAN, so I felt sure I would see COLORADO in the northeast corner and the quartet would be the Four Corners . . . but there it was, PATROL/UZBEKISTAN. I’m always amazed at how many attractive blind alleys lie within Matt’s puzzles.

  32. Since people have mentioned that URBAN/PURE was impossible because PURE anagrams to PERU, I feel it’s also worth noting that Matt couldn’t do ALSO/PILE in the southeast corner because ALSO anagrams to LAOS. I guess that led to some SOAP confusion, too, but I think Matt made the right trade-off there.

  33. Big Cheese says:

    Love Matt … but not necessarily this META. Felt the last step was a bit clunky and bit of a stretch (having to guess the last letters). Admittedly, I did not get this one and glad that I somewhat threw the towel in after Sunday AM. Never heard of AMEN as a show nor the ANSWER, FOUR ACES. Although I wrote down NOVA as anagram and also from this generation, I don’t think that I would have ever thought of the TV show. Also grew up playing ATARI, but that company a bit to ancient for it to have hit my radar screen.

    I feel like the 37A clue was a bit misleading, as all 4 quartets have an Anagram that CROSS their respective category, not just quartets 1 & 3. Honestly, if this were rewritten as “which is what the 4 quartets do”, then I would have had a better shot. I did look for Anagrams with words that cross Zechariah and Manhattan. Unfortunately, never saw ACTS and would have been looking for Acts of the Apostles anyway, so excluded that. With a reword of 37A, maybe I would have found ALGERIA.

    Unfortunately and rather quickly, I saw EZRA as part of ZECHARIAH, and then saw ICAH being 1 letter short (M) for MICAH. With the 37A clue and the 2nd clue of ANAGRAM/MIX, I thought that I needed to find the remaining 2 members of the quartets by crossing/mixing letters of 1st & 3rd Quartets. You could also make ISIAH or BATMAN or MEXICO or even CUBA by mixing letters from the other 4 long clues. So that, obviously opened up way too many combinations of Anagrams, and led me done a huge bunny hole.

    Like I said, Love Matt, but glad I didn’t make it my Sunday-Tuesday mission to solve this one.

    • pgw says:

      I’d never heard of the TV show AMEN either. But the answer is not THE FOUR ACES – it’s just ACES, of which there are four in a deck, making them a very familiar quartet. As for the parentheticals, I think you misread the one about crossing, which said “which is what the first and third *parts* of the quartets do.” So for example, the first country (Uzbekistan) crosses the third country (Algeria, derived via anagram.) Likewise for the other quartets.

      The last step involves some intuition and you’re free to find it clunky, but I don’t think you really had to *guess.* If you wrote out the initials of your first three bible books (ZRA) and did likewise for your first three countries (UBA) it was in my opinion pretty obvious that we’d be looking for EZRA and CUBA as the fourth members of those quartets. At that point we have _CE_ as a potential final answer. “Hey, there are four aces,” the mind observes, and then we go back to step 4 and note that if we follow the pattern, AMEN is a word that might be a TV show title, which google confirms, and now we’re really on to something. So if (like both you and me) we had not figured out the third company, the patterns that had emerged were strongly suggesting that the *fourth* company would be of the form SEG_. SEGA jumps out, we look for an entry crossing EXXONMOBIL that includes an A and might anagram to a company, and we find that RAITA anagrams to ATARI (or if you’re dumb like me, you find that it anagrams to ATRIA and that there’s a company so named that operates senior living facilities and that’s good enough for you.)

      I’m not trying to convince you you have to like it, but it seems to me that some of your stated reasons for disliking it are based on misunderstandings of how it works. I myself loved it but different strokes …

  34. pgw says:

    @Dave, above –

    My bad, I thought you were the original commenter (KZ Condor) who said “I’m a little surprised people needed the hint.” I’m sure you’re right that more would have broken through without it, and we can’t know how many. I don’t think it’s the best look to essentially say “this puzzle that everyone but me clearly struggled with was, in fact, easy,” which KZ Condor kinda did.

  35. Jack says:

    I never made it to step 3 either. I was convinced that I needed to put the answers from step 1 and 2 together, then anagram the other 2 answers from that. Surprisingly, I got Ezra and Micah out of the Bible fill, with “Sharon” left over. Then I tried the countries, and I was able to get Tunisia out one try, Belize another, but of course the rest of the letters didn’t spell anything. I really was convinced that would be the mechanism- that you find 2 answers of the quartets in the puzzle, anagram out the second 2, and then the leftover letters spell the meta quartet. would have been impressive if it were possible! Never got the full solve bc the hint just made me think I was already on the right track

Comments are closed.