MGWCC #556

crossword 3:34  
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #556 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Double Meaning”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt tells us: You must change one letter in this grid to complete this puzzle’s theme. Which letter is it, and what letter does it change to? okay. well, what are the theme answers?

… i have no idea. there are no long answers in the grid, and nothing special is indicated in the clues. so, uh, not much to go on. there’s some weird fill, certainly. right at the top, {Ontario-based sports org.} CHL crossing {Eavesdrop successfully} HEAR is pretty clearly worse than the much-more-familiar CFL crossing FEAR. the partial {“___ risen”} HE IS and cheater square in that corner are also a bit unsightly, so i strongly suspect that there is significant thematic constraint in this corner. elsewhere, the fill is somewhat cleaner, but 78 words (with no long answers) and 8 cheater squares suggests that the grid is fairly packed with theme material.

what could the title signify? oftentimes, the trickiest metas are when there is a second answer not in the grid that could satisfy a clue, so that might be what’s going on here. are there things like that? sure. one thing i noticed was the clue for 2d HEAR is actually a better fit for OVERHEAR. elsewhere in the top row, the clue for 4d {“Look where I’m pointing!”} THERE could also be for OVER THERE. i thought there might be something going on with implicit OVERs at the top of the grid—maybe UNDERs at the bottom? but no, there was nothing like that to be found.

there are a few more entries that could make a compound word or familiar phrase with OVER, all in the downs.

  • {“Stop wasting time!”} MOVE.
  • {Take ball four} WALK.
  • {Book contents, sometimes} MATCHES.
  • {Proclivity} BENT.

but none of MOVE OVER, WALKOVER, OVERMATCHES, or BENT OVER is a reasonable alternate answer to any of those clues.

even so, the presence of ODER crossing EDEN in the grid, which would be better filled as OVER crossing EVEN, gives me hope that perhaps that’s the letter change we’re looking for. if i don’t figure out the actual meta mechanism before the deadline, that’ll be my desperation guess. i like that both OVER (as in again) and EVEN (as in divisible by 2) could be semantically hinted at by the title “double meaning”.

what else is there to note? the CHL -> CFL change is one of several instances where altering one letter could produce an alternative answer to the clue. here are some others:

  • {Stupors} HAZES, but DAZES also fits the clue. in fact, it arguably fits slightly better, and i had originally put DAZES into my grid before checking the crossing {“Good one!”} HAHA. DAHA isn’t a word, though, unlike the FEAR you would get at 2d by changing CHL to CFL.
  • {Zodiac creature} RAM, but RAT is a creature in the (chinese) zodiac. again, that would make the crossing {Intersect} MEET into TEET which isn’t anything.
  • {Amusing exclamation of surprise} ZOWIE could be WOWIE (or perhaps even YOWIE). the Z in {Brass component} ZINC can’t really become a W or a Y, though.

what else? well, {“Everything will work out!”} IT’S OK could also be THERE THERE, and THERE is itself in the grid at 4d. that is suggestive, certainly, and fits with the title. oh hey, CHOP CHOP could be an answer to {“Stop wasting time!”} MOVE. this must be relevant.

HEAR HEAR is potentially the answer to … some clue. maybe {“Good one!”} HAHA? wait, no, it’s {“Amen!”} SO TRUE. okay, so it looks like the clues in quotes have double answers. what other ones are there?

  • {“I knew it all along!”} AHA.
  • {“omg 2 funny”} LOL. maybe this is HAHA HAHA? that seems weak, though.
  • {“My bad”} OOPS.

FIFTY in the grid looks like it could be the answer to something, but i don’t see any clue that looks like it wants to be FIFTY-FIFTY.

ack, i’ve just run out of time and i feel like i’m so close to finding the answer, but i didn’t quite get there. oh well.

how’d you all manage this week?

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35 Responses to MGWCC #556

  1. pgw says:

    The “double” grid entries – 11, 22, 33, 44, 55 – correspond to the “doubles” you hit upon.

    1. chop chop -> 11. move
    2. hear hear -> 22. so true
    3. like like -> 33. fancy
    4. there there -> 44. it’s ok
    5. fifty fifty -> 55, which should be even instead of eden

    • joon says:

      oh boy. i didn’t actually manage to submit that (or anything) on time; i wonder if i’ll get credit, not that i quite deserve it.

      • pgw says:

        you got close – if you’d noticed the grid numbers thing you would have gotten there, especially considering you’d already found the eden -> even change.

      • David Harris says:

        Joon, your write-up was an emotional rollercoaster ride—especially as someone who also fixated on OVER/EVEN, but had no idea why. Your “OVER” theory got me so hopeful, and then smarting when it didn’t work out, before wondering where the doubled entries could end up. I didn’t make those connections myself, but was following with you every step.

        I think this is my first month-long streak, but with two of them being last-minute hail Mary guesses. Not sure that’ll last. My best (dead end) theory this time was that 2D: HEAR and 4D: THERE involved doubling the clue for two entries that sounded related. Needless to say, that did not pan out.

        Question for Matt, just for my own curiosity—were the quoted clues for 11/22/33/44 an intentional constraint, or just a natural result of the doubled phrases being colloquial?

        • Matt says:

          Just happened that way — hadn’t even noticed until I read your comment. I was trying to clue the entries to nudge solvers toward the repeatable words at 1-5 Down.

    • Mutman says:

      . Never figured the meta out, but that was my first guess at a square with a legit change. Didn’t submit it though.

  2. paul coulter says:

    Joon, I guessed ODER/EDEN changing to OVER/EVEN for very much your line of reasoning. I couldn’t find any implicit UNDERs, except OVER/UNDER with the change. I also looked for implicit RIGHTs and LEFTs. “So true, right?” kind of works, but anything else like “Eat right” for the chef’s command was a big stretch.
    Matt, this was another great idea, executed beautifully. Wish I’d understood the mechanism, but I’ll take the lucky guess.

  3. Joe says:

    I thought for sure MOBILE was going to play some part in it, with INERT and RAZR also in the grid.

  4. Les Yonce says:

    Ah, really good puzzle – it got me!

    Thought about EDEN to EVEN as a guess but went in another direction. Also thought SOTRUE and ITSOK were odd entries, and I noodled on CHOP chop for half a second. Not sure why I didn’t take that further – busy weekend maybe.

    Also thought about doubling the grid numbers, as in 2, 4, 8, 16…. But Matt did a backgammon-themed puzzle a while back that did the same thing. Unfortunately I didn’t pursue the grid numbers beyond that.

    Congrats to all who solved it!

  5. Eckless says:

    I was too hung up on entries that were “doubled” in the grid with another letter in front (there’s RAM and TRAM, ARTS and DARTS, AHA and HAHA, heck even AMIS and MESAMIS)…

    Regardless, totally fair meta…well done to those that solved it!

  6. Brian says:

    Eventually got there, but spent forever stuck on AMIS/MES AMIS.

  7. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Hmm, I went down a totally different path than the correct one. Although it was a little shaky in a couple of places, enough parts of it lined up that I thought it was a reasonably strong solution. I’ll be curious about what the rest of you think:

    1) A number of entries in the grid can be taken to have double meanings, in the sense that they’re valid answers not only for their own clue, but for a different clue in the puzzle corresponding to a different meaning. Admittedly, deciding exactly what constitutes a “valid answer” can be a bit of a gray area, but some of these really stood out to me. The strongest examples I found were the following:

    a) AMIS (clued as a last name) works as the answer for “My friends in France”
    b) MOVE (clued as “Stop wasting time!”) works as the answer for “Fly off the shelves”
    c) PRESORTS for “Orders”. This was probably the shakiest one, since the “Pre-” part is not reflected in “Orders”. Also, in this case, it would not be the grid entry, but the clue “Orders” that would have a double meaning (“systems” and “sorts”). Still, “presorts” and “orders” are so close in meaning (enough to substitute for each other in some sentences) that this one stood out, at least once I was looking for double meanings.
    d) HAHA (clued as “Good one!”) works as the answer for “omg 2 funny”. While this is close to the meaning of “Good one!”, I’d submit that it’s not quite the same, since one might say “Haha” or “Good one!” in response to something clever, though not laugh-out-loud funny.
    e) WALK (clued in a baseball sense) works as the answer for “Stride”

    2) Once I was looking for significance in these entries, I couldn’t help but notice that their initials, in order, spelled AMPH[W]–very close to amphi-, which is a prefix, meaning, appropriately “double”. This step of the reasoning felt very solid: after all, the initials of the strongest double-meaninged entries were lining up to spell something that itself was literally “double”-meaning, in turn, giving the title itself a double meaning!

    3) Thus, I thought I was looking for a letter that could be changed to give one more double-meaninged entry that began with I. However, the word WALK gave me qualms, since WALK for “Stride” seemed to fit the theme better, if anything, than PRESORTING for “Orders”, so it was hard to exclude the one while keeping the other, but if I kept WALK in my list, the acronym would be spoiled. Therefore, it seemed that the best solution would be a letter that both provided an I and removed the W.

    4) The only letter that fit this bill was the K at the intersection of IT’S OK and WALK. That could be changed to an N to spell IT’S ON, which could be taken (perhaps at a slight stretch) as an answer for “Amen!” (e.g., in response to “Let’s do this!), and clued with a second meaning, e.g., as something like “This means war!”. Turning WALK into WALN was another shaky part, but it is a surname (and radio call sign) with a handful of Wikipedia entries, so I didn’t think Matt would scruple at that to complete his theme.

    Unbiased thoughts?

  8. Matthew G. says:

    I got stuck on the fact that CHL could be changed to CFL, and HAZES could be changed to DAZES, and RAM could be changed to RAT, and all would still fit their clues perfectly. Given that the meta instructions specifically refer to changing letters, I figured that there was zero chance these were coincidences. I figured there was just a step I was missing–something that would make sense of the crossing entries.

    But coincidences they were. I’m not much of a rabbit-hole guy, but this time I was way down one.

  9. I’ll just point out that the clue for EDEN ([Perfect place]) is the real cherry-on-top in this puzzle. It signals that it’s the right place to look for the meta without telling you why.

    • Matt says:

      Sheepishly I can’t take credit for that since I only realized it when I saw your comment. Constructor note: this grid was extremely challenging to fill in large part because of a hidden constraint: there can’t be an entry 66. So that severely restricted what the grid could look like. So many times I’d made everything fit and then I looked down to lower-right and…there’s a 66-A.

      126 right answers, BTW.

  10. Reuben says:

    Went down the HAHA/AHA, TRAMS/RAMS, DARTS/ARTS, MESAMIS/AMIS rabbit hole… which I submit is kind of crappy fill if it’s NOT theme related, no? Or just a sneaky red herring?

  11. Reid says:

    My big rabbit hole was that there are a lot of answers where if you remove the first or last letter of the answer, it still works.

    – Remove the T from 4 down and “here” is still a good answer
    – Remove the T from 8 across and “ram” is still a good answer
    – Remove the E from 18 across and “file” is still a good answer
    – Remove the Y from 24 across and “tre” is an OK answer
    – Remove the R from 29 across and “sample” is an ok answer
    – Remove the second A from 29 across and “hah” is still a good answer
    – Remove the G from 41 down and “pin” is still an OK answer

    It obviously never went anywhere, but it seemed to fit so well with the title that I was never getting off of it.

    • Oh, I got stuck (t)here for a long time too. It made me think that if you change HE IS to LEIS, you’d get CLOP at 1D and LOP might be a clue for [Wield a cleaver], although then that changes the pattern in that CHOP fits the clue but CLOP doesn’t.

  12. Al says:

    Ugh, it hurts to lose a long streak. Spent too much time looking at MOB in MOBILE (Crowd in a clue) , sotRUE (street), longHORN (brass), PRESorts (Don, okay that was a stretch that told me I was down a rathole).

    Looked at the double letter entries this morning and saw FANCY/LIKE and MOVE/SELL, but never got to the right path. Is “like like” for FANCY a thing? That one doesn’t make sense to me. Otherwise, another very clean, brilliant meta from Matt.

    Haven’t had to experience (virtual) Tuesday Morning Gaffney Fail Depression Syndrome in over a year, sigh

    • Al says:

      Double number entries, I meant to say

    • Reid says:

      As a middle school teacher, “like like” is definitely a thing in terms of talking about crushes.

      “do you like him/her?”
      “but do you LIKE like him/her?

      • pgw says:

        ohhhh – now I get that sense of *like* like – I was thinking it was some colloquialism like “ooh, that’s fancy, [I] like, [I] like” – I still think it’s the weakest of the five, but this was a pretty tough idea to execute.

      • I mentioned this use of like/LIKE to someone – we were saying that in the 60’s!!! I like LIKE him!! :)

  13. Jon says:

    I got stuck on a lot of rabbit holes before I was finally subtly clued to the right meta answer. First I was stuck on the amis/mesamis ram/rama arts/darts route. Then after I found the chop chop here here etc mechanism, I then thought perhaps HOGS was to change to HUGS. But I knew it probably wasn’t right since that wrong route used ALOHA and so ALUHA wouldn’t have worked. Later I thought the pattern was the clues with both quotation marks and exclamation marks. And “exclamation” is in the clue for ZOWIE. So I wondered if WOWIE was what it was supposed to be. Again, the new cross of WINC wouldn’t have worked. Finally I saw the 11, 22, 33 etc pattern & it became crystal clear that EDEN/EVEN was the pairing for Fifty Fifty. A very hard meta indeed.

  14. LuckyGuest says:

    Can I say it? I’m proud of me! I spent almost a day on the things you guys are talking about, then started fresh with the title. I think it was HEAR [HEAR]/”Amen!” that gave me the first nudge. I noticed CHOP [CHOP] and excitedly found its clue, then excitedly found THERE [THERE] and its clue. But it wasn’t until I started writing down what I knew that I noticed the 1/11, 2/22, 4/44… so, I looked at 3/33, and ended up being satisfied that LIKE LIKE was a thing. What took me the longest time was trying to find a Double Word at 5 Down that answered “Perfect Place”…NIFTY NIFTY? FIFTH FIFTH? Finally I looked at the grid entry at 55, and actually wrote down in my notebook “AHA”! Very satisfying meta. And yeah, yay me!

  15. Alex B. says:

    LIKE LIKE is an enemy in The Legend of Zelda that looks like a stack of pancakes and that’s all I have to say.

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