MGWCC #562

crossword 3:14  
meta 3 days 

 



hello and welcome to episode #562 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Third Word Heard”. this week, matt challenges us to name an 11-letter word starting with B. that kind of instruction usually indicates that the answer won’t be directly extracted from the theme, but is instead something you need to infer. okay, so what is the theme?

  • {Romantic relationship between two corrupt politicians?} CROOKED LOVE.
  • {Shoving someone when your heart’s not really into it?} EMPTY PUSH.
  • {Enormous cohort of centenarians?} OLD MANY.
  • {Illness that requires a ton of kleenexes?} MESSY COLD.
  • {Slightly more likely to vote in favor of?} LESS AGAINST.

right, so… what is the theme? it took me a long time to figure it out. they’re all two-word phrases, but it wasn’t until i came back to the puzzle for a fourth time over the course of several days that i got it. the title certainly suggested something involving rhyming and/or homophones, but that wasn’t very helpful here.

no, the first step was something not suggested by the answers themselves, or by the title. you just had to take antonyms of each of the words in the theme answers:

  • CROOKED LOVE => STRAIGHT HATE
  • EMPTY PUSH => FULL PULL
  • OLD MANY => NEW FEW
  • MESSY COLD => NEAT HEAT
  • LESS AGAINST => MORE FOR

okay, so we found our rhymes. but then what? nothing about this gives us an 11-letter B word, or any kind of B word. the next aha is where the title comes in—you need to find a third word that rhymes with each pair, and those are scattered throughout the fill:

  • STRAIGHT HATE gets {Make happy} SATE. this is, by the way, something of a curveball, since that clue would normally clue ELATE (!). but i can understand why matt didn’t want to use “full” or “eat” in the clue there.
  • FULL PULL gets {Sweater material} WOOL.
  • NEW FEW gets {She makes 30-Down sounds} EWE, 30-down being BAAS.
  • NEAT HEAT gets {Devour} EAT.
  • MORE FOR gets {God played by Chris Hemsworth} THOR.

taken in order, the first letters of those third words spell out SWEET. combining this with the antonym part of our meta mechanism gives us the 11-letter B-word BITTERSWEET, which is the meta answer.

this was a very nice meta. for the second month in a row, i thought it was quite difficult for a week 2, although there are a healthy number of solvers on the leaderboard. the crucial first aha is just totally unclued. if the title had hinted at antonyms instead of rhyming, then it would have felt more like a week 2 to me; if you start with antonyms, the rhymes will be obvious, and you can proceed from there to have the second aha and look for the third rhymes in the grid. so the whole thing felt week 3ish/4ish to me. then again, matt has lowered the requirements for a march monthly prize to only 3 out of 5, so maybe he decided to bump up the difficulty to compensate? eh, probably not.

with five longish and five short theme answers in the grid, the fill is a little strained in places. there’s nothing super-clunky, but a larger than usual amount of bleh answers like EASTS and SELL NO. how do you feel about {Simple crossword puzzles, casually} EASIES? i don’t think i have used easy as a noun. i probably just call them mondays.

well, that’s all for me. how’d you find this one?

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37 Responses to MGWCC #562

  1. pgw says:

    I loved this one – a bit tough for a week 2, just how I like it.

    In other news – you may remember me from guest constructor month last summer, when Matt ran a puzzle of mine that, while some were put off by the rough fill, seemed well received, meta-wise. Well, if you are looking for a metapuzzling outlet in the part of the week between MGWCCs, I have a new site that at least at first will be roughly weekly:

    http://www.pgwcc.net
    Twitter: @pgwcc1

    So far I haven’t produced a grid that’s quite as beastly as that one last summer … not that I wouldn’t do it again if I had another complicated idea to justify it! (I do think my grid-filling is improving with practice, though.)

    I enjoy constructing these things; I hope folks here enjoy solving them! It’s free, so check it out.

  2. Pete R says:

    I got as far as SWEET, so I went with BLUEBERRIES.
    So close, yet so far away…

  3. Rachel says:

    Gah. How many times did I say “More for” and I didn’t try antonyms for the rest?! I blame “Gov(t) love.” Agree that something could have/should have suggested antonyms for week 2. As is, I’d say week 3. But I like it. Gettable clearly.

  4. paul coulter says:

    After identifying the technique, I could see Matt wanted bittersweet. The problem is, bitter isn’t really the opposite of sweet. In some contexts, sure, like “bitter failure” and “sweet success.”but to a biologist, sour tastes are caused by acids, while bitter ones are caused by bases. If you surveyed the general population, I’d imagine a very high percentage would say the opposite of sweet is sour. The biological opposite of “sweet” is… wait for it….
    “not sweet.” I enjoyed the meta, overall, but there wasn’t much of a click for me at bittersweet. I wouldn’t have been shocked if the answer turned out to be something else.

    • Jon says:

      I’ll comment to say ditto on this. As someone with anosmia, I’m acutely aware of the tasting terms. The opposite of sweet is not sweet. The opposite of bitter is sour because that’s the acid/base taste scale. You could also make a case that the opposite of sweet is salty. Although “bittersweet” is listed as an example of an oxymoron, I think it’s just one of those times a term has entered into the lexicon & people just accept as an oxymoron without bothering to actually think if it’s technically correct. Plus, there’s “sweet sorrow” & “sweet tart” as other sweet oxymorons. Thankfully Matt directed us w/ “starts with the letter B” hint.

      I will say that at first I was going with more “sounds like” once I got SWEET. “Suite” sounds the same & so when I saw BACH at 1d, I was trying to find a 11-letter Bach suite that started with the letter B.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        With all due respect, I think you people are overthinking this. In the term bittersweet, “bitter” is the figurative opposite of “sweet”.

        • Jon says:

          From Urban Dictionary: “with all due respect” – a statement said before you give an insulting comment. generally to not get the person pissed off…

  5. Clint Hepner says:

    I submitted BITTERSWEET, but I kept feeling like I was missing some hint that the final answer was created from SWEET and an antonym. If this had been a Week 3 or 4, I’d have been looking for a word in the grid (or an additional set of theme answers to produce a word) that rhymed with SWEET, and the antonyms of *those* two words would have been the answer.

  6. David Harris says:

    I thought OLDMANY was going to be what cracked it for me, as it seemed like the themer with some possibilities—meaning rabbit holes, in this case. It was so close to Old Navy, but no idea what I thought I could do with that. I think what ended up finally giving me a way in, late last night, was that MOREFOR isn’t just antonyms of LESS and AGAINST, but also a phrase with pretty much the same meaning. I already had rhymes in mind from the title, and I must have been trying to rephrase the answers into rhymes—MOREFOR materialized, and from there I was thankfully able to extend that idea to per-word antonyms and spot the rest of each trio.

    Once I had SWEET, though, I hit a block until morning. I wondered if maybe something like BELLIGERENT was meant to be the answer as an (arguable) antonym of SWEET, but then when looking at other antonyms I realized BITTERSWEET could fit the prompt. Still waited a few hours before submitting in case I could come up with a route to that answer that clicked a bit stronger—could two entries in the grid combine to form an antonym somehow?—and then was antsy to see from the leaderboard update if I’d made it. Given the Time Til Eureka measure and the nervousness when submitting, I’d agree it probably felt more like a Week 3 with the rhyming being hinted rather than the antonyms.

  7. David Glasser says:

    I thought of “MORE FOR THOR” before even finishing the grid, but I spent literally days trying to find synonyms of other full theme phrases before hitting on antonyms.

    I also think there’s something a little silly about a final answer that you would never in a million years consider without the exact prompt given. SWEET, yes. BITTER, maaaaaybe. BITTERSWEET – it’s not actually what was done in the puzzle!

    That said, I solved it and despite those quibbles I thought it was pretty good with a good set of theme answers.

  8. john says:

    I liked it a lot but agree its harder than a normal week 2. Its one of those rather inexplicable things that i jumped to antonyms rather quickly. I did try to do something with OLD-NAVY also, as i thought that was the answer initially when i was lacking 2 letters to finish. I came up with CROOKED-LINE before deciding that i was off-track.

  9. Jon says:

    I will add that before I got a hint from a solving partner, I was trying really hard to find substitutes that gave more well known phrases. For instance, with CROOKEDLOVE, you could substitute TAINT for CROOK and get TAINTEDLOVE, the Soft Cell song. And you could substitute IAR for OVE and get CROOKEDLIAR, a more well-known term. So I spent about a day on the other themers trying to duplicate the same mechanism to no avail.

    Also, I thought maybe CROOKEDLOVE was meant to possibly be CROOKEDBACK and with BACH crossing the themer, I wondered if Matt was trying to do sounds-like fills with CROOKED BACH.

    I had to be hinted repeatedly until I clued on antonyms. Definitely more of a week 3 or 4 mental leap in my opinion.

  10. Gideon says:

    Bunch of quibbles:
    – “more” in the clue for less against
    – more for is both synonym at the ohrase level and antonyms of the words
    – no indication of the antonym mechanism – not week 2 for me. Although lots of people did solve it
    – the answer had nothing to do with the rhyme part of the mechanism

    Sorry for being on the grumpy side today.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Ack! That’s a bad mistake. I spotted that stray “more” and removed it with a different phrasing, then forgot why/that I had done it and put it back in later to make the sentence read more nicely.

    • david glasser says:

      Ha, I spotted that “more”, decided it meant the path through MORE FOR had to be wrong… and then helpfully forgot that realization by the next day.

  11. Scott says:

    All five theme entries had 3 syllables. That stumped me for a long time. Then my wife found that the antonyms rhymed and we got it from there.

  12. Brian Mac says:

    Liked this one, but agree it played harder than a normal week 2.

    My biggest hangup was seeing RAM as the opposite of EWE. Before I stumbled on SWEET, I thought the conceit would be to find the opposites of each of the “third words,” so as to complete the theme answers by also bringing them to 3 words (OLD MANY RAM). Spent some time on that before noticing SWEET and going that direction.

  13. Giovanni P. says:

    Anyone else go with BELLIGERENT as an antonym of sweet, or just me? Is it worth asking for a review on that one?

    • I almost submitted “Badmouthing” as an antonym for “sweet” thinking that maybe the answer was just an 11 letter antonym of sweet (and this kinda fit) but that is not how Matt’s puzzles generally work. Took awhile for ‘Bittersweet” to click. I also spent time trying to find a rhyming word for sweet in the grid or clues or an additional set of theme answers that produce a word as Clint mentioned above. Very tough meta for me but really fun.

    • Gwinns says:

      I submitted BELLIGERENT, and upon appeal Matt gave it to me.

  14. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 307 right answers, which is just right for a Week 3/5, not a Week 2/5. So we’ll do a real 2/5 this week.

    My difficulty-o-meter is still in the shop, I guess…

  15. BarbaraK says:

    My first thought was that we’d be rhyming the theme words with something else in the grid, but I was looking for synonyms, not antonyms.

    Minus Versus Arenas seemed promising
    Askew Woo Ewe, OK

    But then they got weaker and I never did find anything for oldmany. Lots of other rabbit holes then til I hit on the right path.

  16. Joel Lipman says:

    The Hallmark Crossword Mystery had the word bittersweet in it. Although I had not been thinking about the puzzle, I immediately knew the answer. The show claimed there was no such thing as a coincidence.

  17. Jim S. says:

    Dang it! I did everything right except the opposite of COLD for me was HOT. With POT in the grid, I figured that had to be right even though I couldn’t think of an opposite for MESSY that rhymed with HOT. That led me to SWEPT, so I submitted BROOMSTICKS. I suspected it wasn’t correct because it didn’t have that backward-facing elegance that Matt usually works in, but HOT and POT made it impossible to get away from.

  18. Jim Curran says:

    Ha! I got the rhyming antonyms then googled “11-letter words starting with B” looking for embedded antonyms. Submitted BITTERSWEET as the Tuesday curtain was coming down.

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