MGWCC #538

crossword 3:20  
meta 5 min 


hello and welcome to episode #538 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “To Be Continued”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a five-letter adjective that I hope doesn’t apply to this puzzle. what are the theme answers? well, good question. there aren’t any long answers in the grid; there are a handful of 8s, and that’s it.

however, i noticed the highly suggestive clue for HYPHEN: {Useful punctuation at the end of a line or row}, especially in the context of the title—and the fact that it is itself located on the end of a line or row. the “or row” part is particularly suggestive, because the normal characterization of the place where you might use a hyphen is certainly at the end of a line of text, not at the end of a row of text—but crossword grids have rows, so we should probably start looking at that.

the first thing that jumped out at me was {Part of an appropriations bill} LINE-ITEM, as it’s tied for the longest answer in the grid, it occurs at the end of a row (i.e. it ends on the right edge of the grid), and it contains a hyphen. but i didn’t really know where to go with that. and, upon further consideration, i realized that clued this way, the answer is in fact LINE ITEM, a two-word noun that is not hyphenated at all. it would only be hyphenated as a two-word adjective, as in the context of LINE-ITEM VETO.

but surely we should be looking for something to do with HYPHENs and the ends of the rows. and taking a second look, i noticed that the entry immediately following HYPHEN was {Satisfied a snack attack} ATE, so you could put a hyphen after HYPHEN to get the hyphenated word HYPHENATE. and indeed, there are several other such entry pairs:

  • {Baby on the farm} LAMB and {Some lawyers (abbr.)} DAS.
  • {In-depth} THOROUGH and {Born partner} BRED.
  • {Skunk’s digs} DEN and {Cuban of great wealth} MARK.
  • {Trapezoid or radius} BONE and {Traveled} HEADED. this one feels at least slightly different to me, because i might hyphenate BONE-HEADED even if it weren’t broken across two lines, but i just checked my dictionary and it’s got BONEHEADED, with no hyphen, so … what do i know?

okay, time for the next key insight. LAMBDAS is a plural greek letter, but there’s another plural greek letter in the grid: {Greek letters} OMICRONS. so the extra word LAMBDAS satisfies the same clue. it turns out that all five of them have a similar clue partner elsewhere in the grid. in top-to-bottom order by HYPHENATEd word:

  • HYPHEN-ATE itself satisfies the clue for {Split into two parts, in a way} HALVE.
  • LAMB-DAS, as discussed, works for {Greek letters} OMICRONS.
  • THOROUGH-BRED works for {2018 superstar Justify, e.g.} HORSE.
  • DEN-MARK also satisfies the clue for {One of the original twelve members of NATO} USA. this one took me the longest to find.
  • BONE-HEADED is also a synonym of {Utterly stupid} MINDLESS.

taking the first letters of these alternate answers in this order gives HO-HUM, which is a five-letter adjective. fittingly, it contains a hyphen, and it definitely does not apply to this puzzle! this was a wonderful meta. there were several extremely satisfying aha moments, and the premise of the meta was quite brilliant. there’s really nothing negative i could find to say about it, even if i were looking for something negative to say about it, which i’m not.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you like this one?

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25 Responses to MGWCC #538

  1. ajk says:

    Another quick week 3 success after a week 2 fail. :)

    Got hyphenate almost right away, and the other 4 quickly followed. Did take a bit to spot the next step, but LAMBDAS/OMICRONS did it, and then another 5 minutes or so to tidy it up.

    Very fun puzzle.

    • dbardolph says:

      Ditto. HYPHEN was a nice hint to get me started. OMICRONS felt like a slightly grungy entry, so I guessed it was meta-related. When I spotted LAMB-DAS, all the alarms went off. Loved it – excellent puzzle.

  2. john says:

    Agreed, wonderful meta. Appropriate week 3: some twists, but eminently get-able to the long-time solvers.

  3. Amanda says:

    I loved it. It was the perfect amount of work and payoff for me.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 319 right answers this week, of which you were the first.

    Interesting that you caught the significance of “or row” immediately. Nicely done.

  5. Jon says:

    I figured it out (after a subtle hint that made me doubt my Denmark-Krona pairing) but thought the associations were a little arbitrary (Hyphenate to halve? Sure, in Ore-Ida it does, but not always like in words like anti-aircraft.) but the explanation that it’s another fill that satisfies the clue wording makes total sense. It’s kind of crazy you can find the answer but still have an a-ha moment later on.

    Also, for awhile I had OOHKM & wondered if I was 1-letter off and that “hokum” was going to be the meta answer!

    Now that I know the logic on this correctly, I find this to be a very elegant meta. Well done, Matt!

    • Matthew G. says:

      The first time I started looking for pairings, I also focused in on KRONA as the pairing for DEN-MARK. It didn’t seem like it could be coincidental. But when I failed to spell anything intelligible, I put down the meta for a day. When I picked it up again, I remembered that despite being Sweden’s neighbor, Denmark uses the Krone, not the Krona. That forced me to accept that it might really be a coincidence — and then the USA pairing suddenly hit me and it all came together.

      A five-star meta for sure.

      • Jon says:

        I noticed the Krone/Krona thing as well, but thought maybe the 5 fills would all be 1 letter off from being right and then those 5 “wrong” letters would spell the meta answer.

    • Dave says:

      It’s not necessary that Hyphenate=halve. What matters is that hyphenate and halve both satisfy the clue, “Split into two parts, in a way.”

  6. Margaret says:

    I got the hyphenated words pretty quickly, and I noticed the “coincidence” of the two Greek letters right away, but it took me FOREVER (plus a couple of nudges from a friend) to see that the other hyphenated words had matching clues. I was dead-set on all the matches being symmetrical since OMICRONS was symmetrical to THOROUGH, so I kept looking at OKIE etc even though DEN/DAS and MARK/LAMB were already matched. And I kept looking at acrosses only instead of both sets of clues, though I should know better when there are no obvious theme answers across.
    PS After I submitted hohum, I freaked that I needed to have submitted ho-hum (with the hyphen) instead. Thanks for setting my mind at ease, Matt!

  7. Mary Ellen Price says:

    I loved it – it was a fun aha for me. I’m a big fan of Matt’s logic and constructions. Perfect!

  8. Silverskiesdean says:

    I feel like the “little brain” or “small brain” in the movie “Defending your life”. However, I’d like to see if anyone went the way I did.
    I pretty quickly noticed the five words:
    After a few permutations, I then thought of the title “To be continued”. So, I continued and came up with what I thought were five other words in the puzzle that made these words continue.
    First, I saw Thoroughbred which reminded me of a HORSE
    Next, I noticed DENMARK, and saw the word “KRONA” since it is used both in Sweden and Denmark.
    At this point, I used the next two to work backwards and fit my answer, which was stupid of me. The clue regarding a hyphen stated “punctuation at the end of a line or row. So when I saw HALVE, I though that it could be a half of a Word, even though hyphenate is a verb, but I went on. Finally, LAMBDAS are mathematical symbols or Fraternities, i.e. Lambda There pi. I saw the word NAMES. So to review:

    Hyphenate. Halve
    Lambdas Names
    Thoroughbred. Horse
    Denmark. Krona
    Boneheaded. Mindless

    Finally, I continued again and thought of words that would add to these and I got:

    Hyphenate. Halve. Words
    Lambdas. Organization Names
    Thoroughbred. Race horse
    Denmark. Danish Krona
    Boneheaded. Mindless. Here it got iffy, but I looked it up and found a group called “Mindless Youth”, which is what I needed. So finally:

    for “WORDY” which is an adjective and what you would hope a “to be continued” puzzle is not too “WORDY”.
    When I submitted it, I knew it was probably wrong, but I still had hope. I knew I had not used Omicrons, but had hoped it was put there “to deceive”

  9. Silverskiesdean says:

    PS-I thought of “HALVE” for hyphen, but it doesn’t always, in fact usually does not “halve” a word, so I erroneously disregarded it.

    • Jeremy Smith says:

      I did solve the meta, but I wasn’t sure if HALVES or HPS worked with HYPHENATE. HP computers are manufactured by Hewlett-Packard (with a hyphen).

  10. Magoo says:

    Loved it, as you can see here ( Really neat even though for a while I thought 58d LAND was the clue for DEN-MARK.

  11. Daniel Barkalow says:

    My break was when I was refilling the grid, and noticed that I’d written THOROUGH BRED, and that HORSE was in the grid. Took a bit to see HYPHENATE, since it’s more compositional than the others, and that’s what convinced me the split words were different answers to the same clues, rather than related to the normal answer words. And then I came up with all of the combinations of initial extraction and ordering except for the actual one. Aside from that, I thought this puzzle was (makes a pleased chef gesture) MUOHH.

    While I was trying to figure out what to do with my insight, I noticed that the grid contains a third original NATO member state: ICELAND, starting partway through 40D and continuing in an adjacent column at 58D. Was that an intentional distractor, or a complete coincidence?

  12. Clint Hepner says:

    I stumbled for a while thinking that THOROUGHBRED paired with NAMES. Figuring that my answer of HONUM had to be HOHUM instead, I went back and noticed that HORSE made a better partner for the singular THOROUGHBRED. I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s puzzle.

  13. Garrett says:

    The title led me to read into the clue for hyphenate, especially with the mention of row, so I started looking for words that could continue on the next line and nailed the five right away. Pretty exciting to get that so fast. But then I wondered if the trick could have been employed in a downward fashion, and noticed PRY (9D) and BAR (29D) and it gave me a brief pause. I decided that adding the word row to the clue was to make sure we remained focused on rows, not columns.

    The next step I too after seeing nothing from these words alone was to look for something that could be pointed to by this one. Omicron, horse and mindless came right away, then after a bit, halve, but like Silverskiesdean and others, I initially paired Denmark with Krona. When this made no sense I guessed that I was looking for a U, remembered USA, and looked up the original 12 members of the UN and that was that.

    I’d say it took me about as long to get the hyphen trick as it did for me to connect Denmark to USA via the UN clue, and I’d say that I got this faster than any week 3 in recent memory.

  14. Lee Sammons says:

    This doesn’t deal with the puzzle but with the medium. I solve with Puzzazz on an iPad. Usually it never tells me when I have solved the puzzle correctly. This time I got the (welcome) chime and green “correct” notice. Is this a permanent change? I hope so.

  15. David says:

    I totally didn’t catch the significance of the HYPHEN clue, or even really that the words bridging lines were hyphenated. Obvious in retrospect, but once I flagged that entry as answer in the meta, I guess I just glazed over the signpost it was offering. Adds an extra layer of elegance to the whole thing, very cool.

    I figured out the trick from THOROUGH, as my brain kept wanting to add BRED to the end of it. When I finally spotted that BRED was right there in the grid, too, things fell very quickly into place. And as others noted, the LAMBDAS/OMICRONS connection jumped out right away to show what trick had to come step.

    Very pleasant meta, so week 4 is presumably about to ruin my month,

  16. Stephen McFly says:

    I didn’t get this one (did not submit anything), but seeing it now it was very good.

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