MGWCC #571

crossword 3:24  
meta 3 days 


hello and welcome to episode #571 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Chemical Change”. for this week 2 puzzle, the instructions ask us to find a chemical element. what are the theme answers?

  • {Catchphrase of Rob Schneider’s “Richmeister” character, on “Saturday Night Live”} MAKIN’ COPIES. minor demerit for crossing this with {Copy, for short} REPRO.
  • {There might be a clown under it} CIRCUS TENT.
  • {Cleanse with unproven medical effectiveness} COFFEE ENEMA.
  • {Common exterior choice} VINYL SIDING.
  • {It’s usually used to write one-digit numbers} GOLF PENCIL. probably not if i ever played golf.
  • {Infantry member} FOOT SOLDIER.

i spent entirely too long fixated on the fact that you MAKIN COPIES (ZINC), CIRCUS TENT (TIN) and GOLF PENCIL (GOLD) contain substrings that are one letter off from a chemical element name. (although i have just now noticed that TIN and GOLD are also one letter off from the DIN of VINYL SIDING and the SOLD of FOOT SOLDIER as well. maybe that should have been an earlier tipoff that i was on the wrong track.) the actual mechanism is a little different: each two-word phrase can become another in the language phrase by changing the first word to a chemical element:

  • ??? ENEMA

even without the ???, the answer jumped right out at me from the acrostic: COBALT. post-solve googling confirmed that apparently BARIUM ENEMA is a thing. okay.

anyway, this was a perfectly nice week 2 meta, even if i made a hash of it for three days. i’ve left myself too little time to blog it, so i’ll stop here. how’d you like this one?

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21 Responses to MGWCC #571

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 354 right answers so right down the middle for a Week 3 of 5, so the Week 2 Curse continues! I’ll make next week a Week 2/5 and then we’ll be back on track (assuming success, which is not guaranteed).

    This theme idea is only possible, believe it or not, by using COFFEE/BARIUM ENEMA as a theme entry. I had ARGON first but that required RADON DETECTOR as a theme entry which my consigliere nixed because a) not that in-the-language and b) there are obscure but existent other things like silicon detectors that would ruin it (there couldn’t be any ambiguity on the replacement elements, which I think was achieved here). None of the four- or five-letter elements worked then none of the other sixed did either, so BARIUM ENEMA it had to be. Well TIN was doable but that was too short a meta answer to be worth doing.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I think RADON DETECTOR is perfectly in the language. But I agree that the presence of other types of detectors would have made that a less-than-ideal choice.

  2. Thurman8er says:

    I really enjoyed this one…especially the fact that a puzzle about the chemical elements DIDN’T rely on the abbreviations. That was a nice change of pace.

  3. Norm H says:

    Took me a while, until it didn’t. Like Joon, KINC/ZINC and GOLF/GOLD distracted me for a bit. Thank goodness I didn’t notice TEN/TIN, or I would have been even further delayed. I also spent some time sorting elements by name and symbol. Finally, I noticed CARBON and LEAD at the same time, and it was pretty quick work from there.

  4. Math Teacher Dave says:

    Spent a while trying to follow up on the promising SIN->TIN and ICON->IRON changes in the top right and never got around to looking at the long clues (having dismissed the GOLF->GOLD transformation as not fitting with the other two).

  5. Reuben says:

    Figured out the mechanism, but got sucked down a rabbit hole of “golf IRON” and “sales LEAD” for a while…ended up backwards solving by realizing, hey, those letters almost spell out cobalt.

  6. Jim S. says:

    Funny how these strike people differently. Barium enema was my entry point (no pun intended).

  7. Margaret says:

    While I completely agree that all these are real phrases (i.e., not “green paint” phrases), they were absolutely not on my radar. I haven’t thought of aluminum siding or a lead pencil or a tin soldier in a million years, they seem… dated? Even carbon copy sounds dated though of course I cc all the time. Anyway, good meta, totally legit, but not my wavelength this week. Maybe I was too focused on the usual abbreviations. I also took a side trip to sound-land, since the CH in CHemical is a different sound than the CH in CHanges… just not my week.

  8. James says:

    I knew I would hate not getting this one. Yep, explored every rabbit hole mentioned and a few more. I definitely (re)learned the period table so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. Not that the hours I log are ever a waste of time–perish the thought!
    I kept reminding myself “It’s only a week 2; you can get this.” Hah! And of course, it’s even more irksome when you realize that the title makes perfect sense (in hindsight).

  9. I loved this one and basically got the meta right away because I thought, geez, isn’t “golf pencil” the clunky entry. Instantly put me on the path.

  10. Heidi Birker says:

    I saw all the above, then saw LEAD, LEAP and LEAR. Pr is the symbol for Praseodymium. Doh!

  11. MichaelJ says:

    I think if I’d thought of TIN SOLDIER I would have had a good starting point to work with, alas. What makes it extra painful, though, is that we’ve just had the anniversary of the Kent State shootings and so I’ve heard CSN&Y’s song “Ohio” quite a few times recently, which has the famous lyric “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming”.

  12. john says:

    I too back-solved BARIUM ENEMA, but my wife got it straight away. She’s had the misfortune of having to undergo a procedure featuring this little lovely and it is an event not soon forgotten.

  13. Seth says:

    This one was great! Got stuck for a while looking at single-letter element abbreviations (like oxygen, carbon, etc.), especially when I started counting how many unique letters in each theme answer were NOT single-letter elements. Turns out that the first five theme answers each have exactly three unique letters that aren’t single-letter elements. What an odd coincidence! I’m glad the sixth theme answer broke that pattern, because if it hadn’t, it would have seemed so correct it would’ve been impossible to tear myself away.

    • Seth says:

      I had a meta suggestion here, but decided to delete it and send it to Matt directly, in case he wants to use it…

  14. Silverskiesdean says:

    Why do people always say “No Pun Intended” when it always is intended?

    • Steve Faiella says:

      I’m not sure that they do – initially. I often make that comment when I have written something, and it occurs to me later that it *could* be a pun, but it wasn’t my intention. And sometimes it really isn’t intended, but there is no other good way to express what you’re trying to say.

  15. Steve Faiella says:

    I wanted this to be a play on the abbreviations in the Periodic Table so badly that it blinded me to any other possibility. I’ve always been fascinated with chemistry and especially with the P.T., so I thought that this would finally be the reward for all of those years of studying it… there is actually a term for this… Complexity Bias. It’s the process of dismissing simpler solutions because, “that’s too easy”. Thanks for reinforcing the lesson of Occam’s Razor, Matt! :-)

  16. Garrett says:

    Oh, I forgot to take Psychotropic drugs while solving this one.

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