MGWCC #542

crossword 3:04  
meta 15 min* 


hello and welcome to episode #542 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Tastefully Paired”. for this tricky week 3 puzzle, matt asks us, a six-letter word that has a homophone. okay. what are the theme answers? there are six long entries in the grid that all begin with a beverage:

  • {Lowe’s purchase} SCREWDRIVER SET.
  • {They may run cars, boats, or planes} V8 ENGINES. that square with the 8 could have been lots of things, i think, because the crossing answer {Year in Augustus’s reign} 8 BC was not very specific. but picking up on the beverage theme made it clearer.
  • {First woman to land a triple-triple, 1981} MIDORI ITO. when i read this clue, i was certain there was a typo, because ito was a 1990s skater; in particular, she won the silver medal at the 1992 olympics. but no, it’s actually right—she landed the first triple-triple ever in ladies’ competition when she was 11 years old. she was 3’11” and weighed 55 pounds! that is literally the size of my daughter who is in kindergarten. (my daughter has yet to land a triple-triple.)
  • {It may say “Maxwell House”} COFFEE CAN.
  • {Stackable container} MILK CRATE.
  • {Kid-run businesses} LEMONADE STANDS.

some of these entries refer explicitly to the beverage and some don’t, but they all start with a beverage. that much was evident very early on.

but … now what? this is where i got stuck, because the title suggests firstly tastes, and secondly pairings. several of these beverages are strongly associated with one of the five basic tastes: V8 is very salty, COFFEE is bitter, and LEMONADE is sour. MIDORI is a little more complicated because it’s a sweet liqueur… but it’s most commonly seen in the context of the mixed drink called the midori sour, which is midori combined with sour mix. and that drink is, of course, sour.

i was iffier on SCREWDRIVER and MILK, especially the latter, which is definitely not associated with any of the five basic tastes. (maybe a little sweet? a little umami?) screwdrivers are orange juice and vodka, and that’s complicated too. oranges are a little sour also, because of the citric acid, but orange juice has a lot of sugar. and then there’s the vodka, which tastes like … well, alcohol, which isn’t one of the five basic tastes either.

right around the time i was about ready to ask andy if he wanted to work on the meta together, he messaged me and asked if i wanted to work on the meta together. serendipity!

andy had noticed that there were many foods included in the clues, some of them gratuitously, and wanted to pair the foods with the drinks—ideally one food per drink, and then get one letter per food to arrive at a six-letter answer. we struggled to do this because we were still trying to pair the tastes, but then i had the idea of pairing them by color. that worked much better:

  • a SCREWDRIVER is yellow, i claim, or orange, andy claims. well, i still think i’m right, because orange juice is yellow, and vodka makes the color even lighter, but i will grudgingly admit that it’s not as yellow as LEMONADE (see below), so sure, let’s call this yellow. the correspondingly colored food is pumpkin, found in {Mo. when you’ll see a lot of pumpkins} OCT.
  • V8 is red. the food here is {Apple, e.g.} COMPANY. the seemingly arbitrary choice of apple for this clue (which could have been clued using almost anything) was one of the things that made andy notice the foods in the clues to begin with. now, i feel like i have to point out that a lot of apples aren’t red at all, but i guess red is still the color associated with apples, so the mechanism still works.
  • MIDORI is green (in fact, it is the japanese word for “green”), just like lime, found (again somewhat gratuitously) in the clue {Its best-selling flavor is lime} JELLO.
  • COFFEE is brown, just like {Almond, e.g.} NUT.
  • MILK is white, like tofu, which appears (again somewhat conspicuously) in {Tofu is a good source of it} IRON.
  • LEMONADE is yellower than screwdriver, and most cheeses, including edam, are also yellow. {Cover for edam} WAX.

taking the first letters of the paired foods in order yields PALATE, a very apt word that does have a homophone (in fact, two homophones, at least the way i say it: palette and pallet.)

so, i liked this meta, but i have to admit that “taste” in the title (especially combined with the presence of v8, midori, coffee, and lemonade) is a massive salty herring. it’s very, very difficult to let go of a connection indicated that clearly by theme and title, but that connection didn’t have anything to do with the meta. i don’t know if this was what matt intended, or just a vexing accident, but i would guess it was the first thing pretty much everybody tried.

there are also smaller herrings: {Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet, in Clue} NAMES, {“Blueberries for ___” (noted children’s book)} SAL, and especially {Country known for its ham (abbr.)} DEN, are colorful foods that don’t pair with one of the beverages. i am a rather more certain matt put those in there on purpose (partly because who on earth would go that far afield to clue the normal english word DEN?), just to make it harder to spot six foods in the clues, not understand the pairing mechanism, and anagram your way to the answer.

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

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56 Responses to MGWCC #542

  1. sharkicicles says:

    Fastest Week 3 solve ever for me. Loved it!

    (The midori = green thing kicked it off, so I started with colors instead of tastes.)

    • Matthew G. says:

      Ditto here — both on it being a very fast week 3 solve and on midori being the Japanese word for “green” as my entry point to the meta.

      To joon’s review, it is worth adding that the homophone “palette” is also apt because it relates to colors. A nice solid click that elevated the meta, I thought.

      • joon says:

        oh man, the palette = color thing totally went over my head. that’s very good.

        • Also from the Got The Meta But Something About It Went Totally Over My Head department: I didn’t realize until a day after getting it that the key words in the clues were all foods. I just thought, a pumpkin is orange. Tofu is white. That made it harder for me to understand why “scarlet” wasn’t the key word for “red,” at least aside from the fact that it doesn’t help spell PALATE.

          This is why nobody ever asks me for cooking or restaurant tips.

        • Craig Mazin says:

          AHHHHHHH I missed that connection too! In fact, when I got PALATE, I just thought “Oh, okay, and pallet, I guess?”

          My thinking was that Matt mentioned the homophone just so we wouldn’t wonder if PALATE was or wasn’t correct… perhaps in reaction to last week’s TORNMUSCLEgate.

          Was I ever wrong. PALATE/PALETTE moves this puzzle from a 4 to a 5 for me. Awesome.

        • Howard says:

          Clue for “EDEL” involved “weisz” (white in German)

  2. Joe says:

    Saw the drinks, but I was thrown off by the 42(!) 3-letter entries and was convinced I’d need to combine two of them to get a word. Never escaped from that.

  3. Gideon says:

    Same. Looking up Midori clearly indicated color as its most striking characteristic.

    Lots of “red” herrings and misdirection. Edam could be red, apples aren’t necessarily, the foods mentioned above, and almond could be off white.

  4. paul coulter says:

    I liked this one. For me, it’s satisfying when the key in a hard puzzle is found in the clues. That’s where I always check when stuck. Plum was a particular RED herring for me. It slowed me down considerably. While the color plum is purple, the fruit’s flesh is often red. So I had P in that spot for a long time. Ham and blueberries weren’t problematic, since there were no blue or pink beverages. I agree with Joon that these foods were in the clues intentionally, to discourage a short cut to the answer. All three of these clues were awkward, as were the ones for lime and tofu, which is where I found the path. It was particularly nice how Matt paired palate (taste) with palette (color.)

    • dbardolph says:

      So many foods, so many colors, so many rabbit holes… but it all ended well. The palate/palette thing was a beautifully elegant touch. Well played, Matt.

      • Mark says:

        stuck on red herrings (or fruits) of plum and blueberry. Also thought coffee was black. Oh well.

        • Mark says:

          also, had the idea that in the title, the word PAIR was a twin with PEAR, and the other fruits: APPLE, PLUM, BLUEBERRY, LIME and PUMPKIN.

        • Dave says:

          The color of coffee was my last stumbling block. After I figured out that the colors of the drinks could match up with colors of foods in the clue, I had Pumpkin, Apple, Lime, ___, Tofu, and Edam. So, I knew the answer had to be “palate,” but where was the black food that began with A? I read the clues over and over, thinking I’d missed something. I finally concluded that Matt must adulterate his coffee.

          • joon says:

            i mean… coffee is brown. even “black” coffee is brown (admittedly, a darker brown than almond). this is because roasted coffee beans are brown.

            in addition to referring to a bean or a beverage, “coffee” can refer to a color. guess what? it’s brown. (#6f4e37, if you care about such things.)

            • Matt Gaffney says:

              Had a series of discussions with the consig about the color of coffee. He insisted it was black because of the phrase “black coffee,” but I said that’s just an expression to emphasize its unadulteratedness, not its actual color — like “white wine” is not white, it’s gold. But I brought up the color called “coffee” which is unambiguously brown, and thought the PALATE/PALETTE click was strong enough once seen that any ambiguities like that one could be clarified with backsolving later.

  5. Matt says:

    Thanks, Joon — 197 right answers this week.

    Exactly right on those three extraneous foods — otherwise solvers could just get PALATE from anagramming the first letters of them. Had to make sure of course that they couldn’t be confused colorwise with any of the other foods/drinks.

  6. Jimbo says:

    Thought Augustus’ reign was 1 BC, making “V1 engines”, which are a thing, and as it turns out, V1 is a vodka, so I had no chance to meet the meta.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I put 6BC, giving me V6 ENGINES, but still made the connection with the tomato drink, and not until I had already submitted the correct answer to the meta did I realize I should have had a V8.

      • BrainBoggler says:

        That’s too funny — LOL! I hope, in true “V8” fashion, you smacked yourself in the forehead while realizing it aloud or internally, too.

  7. Jon says:

    “but i will grudgingly admit that it’s not as yellow as LEMONADE (see below), so sure, let’s call this yellow.” I think Joon meant to end that sentence on the word orange, but it works great as a subconscious “mistake.” Ha ha!

  8. Doug Morack says:

    DOH! I had VXENGINES for 21 across. When I saw 37-Down, I couldn’t stop mixing drinks (Screwdriver, VX Vodka, Midori, Coffee, Milk, Lemonade). Combining the ingredients, I had a Frank Lavin (Vodka, Cognac, Orange Juice) and a White Russian (Coffee, Milk, Vodka). I submitted a Hail Mary answer of Flower thinking I was missing a drink with the first letters of OE.

    I took a big swing at a bloop pitch and missed terribly.

  9. Mutman says:

    I finally got the meta but fell into (a planned?) huge trap. I thought the foods were in the grid after seeing (orange) roe, (green) jello and a (brown) nut.

    Finally got off that and found them in grid.

    My only ding; all lemonade I’ve ever seen is grey, not yellow like Edam. Just look at the Chic Fil A reservoir.

    Well done Matt.

  10. BarbaraK says:

    I’m not crazy about that 8, especially with a crossing clue that left a bunch of possibilities. After seeing that VW engines wouldn’t work, I figured it had to be a Roman numeral. Found that VV is a correct description of a W engine. These were used in planes and cars for sure, and hasn’t most every engine eventually ended up in a boat somewhere? Couldn’t believe there was really a number instead of a letter there until I googled Midori and found out it was a drink too.

    • Matt says:

      My consigliere thought I should change that clue to make it a specific year, but I figured it was better to leave it as a mini-puzzle to backsolve — once you see all the drinks, you realize it has to be an 8 (I see from a comment here that V 1 is a brand of vodka, but not a very well-known one and it’d be weird to use a brand there instead of “vodka.” I know V8 is a brand too but it’s unique, so that’s also the name of the drink itself.)

  11. Craig says:

    I considered the possibility of the taste qualities to begin with.

    I had noticed all the foods in the answers and debated some sort of flavor pairings with the beverages, e.g. screwdrivers with savory breakfast foods like ham, etc.

    I also ran through seemingly endless lists of cocktails and other beverages.

    I tried combining the 3-letter answers after noticing LAW opposite NUT which could reasonably make WALNUT on rotation.

    I would never have paired the beverages with the foods by color – not merely because of the deceptive title, but also because the choice of apples as red is arbitrary, and Edam is just as red for its waxy hull which is specifically called out in the answer – which I know Matt disagreed with above for it being the packaging.

    I think this puzzle could have used another test pass.

    • Matt says:

      OK, from now on the titles won’t be deceptive. Thank you for bringing this scourge to my attention.

      • Craig says:

        Sorry, I was trying to find a good term. I’ll keep my mouth shut the next time.

      • AK37 says:

        Although it didn’t give me an inroad, after solving and submitting, “Tastefully” in the title was a very nice touch. It makes the connection between food/Palate and color/Palette, and ties the whole puzzle together.

      • kristin g says:

        I’m not sure why one would think “tasteful” only applies to food, when it is defined as “showing good aesthetic judgment or appropriate behavior.” I see the pun “taste”-ful there, but it actually added to my click when I realized the tasteful pairings were coordinated colors as opposed to actual flavors.

      • Andy says:

        I, for one, had no problem with the title. I’m with some of the others in thinking it referred to “tasteful” in a stylistic sense, plus a nod towards the answer of PALATE.

        It helps that MIDORI put color in my mind as the important property and that never wavered.

        I also thought that in general the title isn’t supposed to be a clue to the meta but rather a wink that usually makes sense only after you’ve gotten it.

  12. David Harris says:

    Doh, I definitely never thought to go by colors, that helps make sense of a lot of the false starts I kept hitting. I did spot gratuitous foods in the clues, but the extra herrings had me lost, with no sense of which ones mattered, which made me second-guess if that was the right direction. The one I was most sure about was PLUM, as it was *so* gratuitous for the entry NAMES, and it even had a homophone, which seemed plausibly part of the trick. I do see tofu, lime, edam, almond, pumpkin, and apple all circled on my sheet, so at least I had identified the pieces I would have needed, along with the herrings.

    I also got briefly distracted by ALMOND as a pairing for MILK, and wondered if SOUR in the word “source” in a clue was meant to tenuously pair with MIDORI. It was getting away from me a bit there.

    In a perfect world, I might have liked some sort of subtle or decipherable hint towards the colors, or something sans “taste” in the title—maybe something playing about “complementary” pairings”?—but I have to admit that they match up very cleanly once you go that route for a nice click, so it’s hard to fault the connection.

  13. Amanda says:

    I saw the beverages, but I couldn’t get past trying to “pair” all the grid entries that differed by one letter and make something of the switched letters. Are all of these a coincidence? BREE/BRER, ARC/ARI, ALI/ARI, EPI/EMI, WAG/WAN, LAT/LAW, VIS/CIS, APU/APE, FEE/FED, FEE/DEE, and DEE/DEN. Weird what you can find when you’re looking for patterns!

  14. Coreen Steinbach says:

    I don’t know if the nod to Jan Vermeer (3D) was intentional on Matt’s part or not but it made me smile. I am a professional artist and he is my god – the Master of color and palette – a beautiful tie in to the entire puzzle!

  15. CFXK says:

    Immediately after solving the puzzle but before I seriously attacked the meta, I went down to our local wine superstore to pick up some wine for the weekend. There I overheard two of the employees talking about “palates” (or at least I thought so) and said to myself “how nice that they are chatting about wine tasting; I should listen more closely and maybe pick up some tips.” But it soon became apparent that they were talking not of PALATES, but about stocking some cases of wine that were still sitting on their shipping PALLETS. Eureka!! Palates? Pallets? Tastefully paired?!?!? Homophone? Of course!! The meta is PALATE.

    Sadly, however, I never could quite figure out exactly how the puzzle got to Palate. I just knew it was right – but too proud to submit it before figuring out why it was right.

    Lesson learned: for solving metas, spend more time at the wine shop.

  16. Amy L says:

    I feel like a fraud. I got it without figuring any of it out. I saw colors and thought “palette” but it has too many letters. Then I thought “palate” but I worried that it wasn’t an exact homophone, since the accent is different (when I say it). I wondered if pool balls could be involved, but I just ran out of time and entered “palate.” Was is a lucky guess or are the two words so apt for this puzzle that they popped into my head?

    • Jeremy Smith says:

      And I saw the different colors of the beverages, and thought of submitting COLORS/(cullers). I ultimately submitted POURED/(Pored), as each of the beverages may be poured. This played out for me as more of a Week 4.

    • Andy says:

      I say palette/palate as exact homophones. Pallet too, for that matter.

  17. ajk says:

    Got the drinks and the colors and even matched up lime and still didn’t get it. My brain must have been doing other things. :)

  18. Karen says:

    I noticed some foods but never thought of colors. I was distracted by all the alcohol, and kept thinking about various cocktails, jello shots, keg stands… I guess I was subconsciously inebriated :)

  19. Jeff says:

    Favorite part was seeing Miss Scarlet as a red herring.

    Guffaw guffaw guffaw!

  20. lkeigwin says:

    After struggling for a bit with six theme answers but only five food tastes I moved on to the color possibilities. But I failed to consider coffee anything but black. (Okay, you can make it brown with an additive but by itself, coffee is black and ordered that way.)

    So my pigheadedness doomed me.

    I also struggled with foods and colors. Too many variations, too many foods, too many rabbit holes.

    Pairings was another time sink. screwdriver/nut, v8/iron, midori/hai, coffee/ice, milk/fed, lemon/law. Ugh.

  21. bwouns says:

    I tried backsolving by trying to pick out a six-letter word from the nine food words in the clues. Unfortunately I stumbled on APPEAL first (anagram of ‘A PEEL’, relevant because all of the foods have peels of some sort)
    Screwdriver –> Apple (Apples and Oranges is a thing)
    V8 –>Pumpkin (Pumpkin and Tomato are both fruits that are often considered vegetables)
    Midori –> Plum (Plum wine is a popular alcoholic beverage in Japan like Midori)
    Coffee –> Edam (?????)
    Milk –> Almond (Almond Milk is a thing)
    Lemonade –> Lime (Lemon-Lime is a thing)

    Now I know some of those connections are tenuous or non-existent, but when you consider the title “Tastefully Paired” and since were already talking about homophones — ‘Pair’ is a homophone of ‘Pare’ which is a synonym of ‘Peel’ , I felt I was surely on the right track and it had to be right.

    So I guess what I’m saying is I’d like to APPEAL to the panel of judges.

  22. Rachel says:

    The stain coffee leaves behind (whether it’s a ring on a napkin or a splotch on my sleeve) argues in favor of Team Brown. Even when I take it black ;)

  23. slubduck says:

    the numerous items associated with colors reminded me of the billiard ball meta from a few years ago ….. as some above said it was a quick w3 by my standards …… no sympathy whatsoever for those misled by the title, as that happens to me on a weekly basis, including 1’s and 2’s ….. those titles are way more hampering than helpful, beware i say.

  24. Silverskiesdean says:

    I don’t think that Matt has to be worried about the title because of course tastefully means having, or being prepared in good taste, in this case by matching color to color, another double meaning. Of course, the expression in “tastefully PREpared”, which then would have meant in relation to how a food would be made. I thought that perhaps the dropping of the prefix PER had something to do with it either consciously or subconsciously.

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