MGWCC #567

crossword 4:14  
meta 10 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #567 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “The Leftovers”. this is week 2 of gentle april. after last week’s 13×13, we have a supersized 17×17 grid this week, although matt claims that is coincidence rather than any kind of make-up. anyway, what are the theme answers? there are eight 8-letter across entries in the grid:

  • {Class starter} ROLL CALL.
  • {Canines} EYETEETH.
  • {Her friends include Rebecca Rabbit and Freddy Fox} PEPPA PIG.
  • {Cutting pair} SCISSORS.
  • {“Ta-ta!”} TOODLE-OO.
  • {Cylindrical food} TATER TOT.
  • {Beloved olive} KALAMATA. this is just going too far. i guess some people like them, but “beloved”? no way.
  • {Holding an impromptu press conference, in journalist slang} GAGGLING. this is not a journo slang term i’m familiar with, but okay.

the first thing to note is that each of these answers has a single letter repeated four times. those repeated letters, taken in order, spell out… LEPSOTAG. that is very unlikely to be the answer to the meta, since it’s, uh, not anything.

what else can we do? well, the title suggests looking at the leftover letters other than the letter that appears four times. so that gives us ROCA, YTTH, EAIG, CIOR, TDLE, AERO, KLMT, and ALIN. this is not an inspiring list either, as only ROCA and AERO are word-like. but look at KLMT! that looks a lot like painter gustav KLIMT, who’s in the grid at 77d. now we’re onto something!

it turns out that each of these leftover tetragrams has a corresponding five-letter entry elsewhere in the grid which has all four of those letters, plus one more. most of them (KLIMT being the notable exception) involve a rearrangement of the four letters. let’s take a look:

  • {Tricky pool shot} CAROM is ROCA + M.
  • {Radisson rival} HYATT is YTTH + A.
  • {Mental picture} IMAGE is EIAG + M.
  • {Prefix with manager} MICRO is CIOR + M.
  • {Triangular letter} DELTA is TDLE + A.
  • {Pavarotti’s love} AMORE is AERO + M.
  • {Austrian who painted “The Kiss,” 1908} KLIMT, as we’ve already seen, is KLMT + I.
  • {Back porch on “The Golden Girls”} LANAI is ALIN + A.

taking the extra letter from each of these, in order, reads MAMMA MIA, which is a thing, and the answer to the meta. just to check, the instructions ask for something you might say while struggling with a tough meta, so this qualifies.

was this easy enough for a week 2? (here we go again.) yeah, i guess it was. there were more steps than a typical week 2 meta, but each of them was pretty clearly indicated, and the title was certainly a part of that.

more importantly (at least to me), this was just a great meta. the solution path was not so obvious as to be insulting, and there were several successive ahas, all of which were quite satisfying. i’m glad matt decided to make this a 17×17. not only does that make it a lot easier to fit eight theme answers in (arranging them in four pairs, each pair occupying a full row with a black square separating them), but it also gives the grid breathing room to accommodate the eight extra hidden 5-letter theme entries. even in the northwest and southeast corners where thematic 5s were stacked crossing a thematic 8, the fill didn’t suffer. ENGRS isn’t ideal, but really nothing else around there even comes close to being ugly fill.

this is a really nice construction all-around. although the final answer doesn’t have any particular appropriateness for this meta mechanism, it’s still fine and good. i’m a little surprised that it ended up having so many M’s; i wonder if matt chose the answer among lots of different options, or if that’s just what ended up working out.

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

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

16 Responses to MGWCC #567

  1. Jim S. says:

    Didn’t get it – vacationing on the west coast so no time to spend trying to figure it out – but I think the 4 Ms in the meta answer tie it back to the theme answers very well. Bravo!

  2. Matthew G. says:

    although the final answer doesn’t have any particular appropriateness for this meta mechanism

    I presumed that MAMMA MIA was meant to conjure up images of an Italian grandma who wants to serve you her tasty leftovers. This may only be because I had an Italian grandma who always wanted to serve me her tasty leftovers.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 365 right answers so you’d have to squint to see a Week 2 here (target range: 400-500 right answers) so it’s more like a Week 3/5. Difficulty meter still slightly off but definite signs of progress.

  4. jefe says:

    I struck out hard here. YTTH seemed impossible to do anything with, even though I’d been staring at the A wondering why we had GAGGLING instead of GIGGLING.

  5. PJ Ward says:

    This would have made a great MMMM puzzle.

  6. john says:

    The 4-letter frequency didn’t come to me quickly. Letter repetition is something i used to explore extensively, but was so often fruitless, i don’t even bother looking anymore – repetition just happens, frequently. So then you were looking for themers and i wasn’t sure there even were any, given the relatively short length and overall disparate nature of the “long” answers. So I flailed for most of the weekend. When i finally explored the often-barren well of repeated letters, it all fell rather quickly but, as joon said, very satisfyingly and with a good dose of ahas. Very nice meta, stem to stern.

  7. AaronB says:

    I noticed the 4 M’s and followed the pattern of just looking at the leftovers = 3 A’s and an I.

    • Justin says:

      As in you submitted “AAIA”? I’m not usually a fan of sending things to panel, but if you didn’t get credit for that you might at least ask Matt since you obviously got there through MAMMA MIA.

  8. Steve Faiella says:

    I liked it! I think it was definitely OK for a week two, because I really suck at metas and I got this one, pretty much by the same process that you described. :-)

  9. Scott says:

    I struggled with this puzzle. I spent a lot of time and just could not produce an answer. It was a really good puzzle but I simply whiffed on it. Thanks Matt.

  10. RAD2626 says:

    So frustrating. Took all the 32 leftover letters and eliminated those dupes as well and got…gibberish. Never thought to rearrange each block of four. Darn. Great puzzle and meta. Wish I had seen KLMT as a unit.

  11. I’ve been struggling with these week 2’s a lot more than usual lately…

    I got as far as LEPSOTAG but couldn’t make the next leap. I even wrote down all of ROCA/YTTH/etc. but decided that was wrong (oops). I tried anagramming but knew that was wrong — it’s a good set of letters and makes things like STEP GOAL, but nothing that fits the meta, and there’s no reason Matt couldn’t have reordered the theme answers in the grid to get the answer without anagramming if it was that simple. I rightly guessed that there was something more in the grid but couldn’t find it.

    Great and fair puzzle, but a swing and a miss by me.

  12. ===Dan says:

    I’m an early-week solver, but to me this was fairly straightforward. I got the LEPSOTAG very quickly and then struggled for a while. When removing all those letters from all the theme answers, the remaining letters could be rearranged to spell “Mr. Rich Kid cryin’ ” and I was pretty sure that wasn’t it. Then KLMT jumped out at me and the rest came within minutes. I think seeing those letters in the correct order is what makes this a week-two.

  13. Dave says:

    Small rabbit hole: several of the sets of 4 “leftover” letters can form words in the fill if, instead of adding a letter and rearranging, you change a letter and rearrange.


    It doesn’t work for EIAG or KLMT, but it was plausible enough to keep me looking for other examples for a few minutes.

Comments are closed.