MGWCC #595

crossword 3:58 
meta DNF 3 days 


hello and welcome to episode #595 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “This and That”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt instructs us that the contest answer is one way to solve metas. okay. what are the theme answers? the five long acrosses are all of the form [this] AND [that]:

  • {The loyalty of the people, in metaphor} HEARTS AND MINDS.
  • {Frequent action for a blogger} COPY AND PASTE. not the first way i would have thought to clue it, but this is quite true.
  • {Like non-Manhattanites, in Studio 54 co-owner Steve Rubell’s phrase} BRIDGE-AND-TUNNEL. never heard of this expression.
  • {Action of a lively debate or fencing match} CUT AND THRUST.
  • {Classic entree combination across many cuisines} CHICKEN AND RICE.

this is, basically, as far as i’ve gotten in three days. i really don’t know what the next step is. maybe i can figure it out in the next hour.

the first thing i noticed was that CUT (of CUT AND THRUST) also goes with … AND PASTE. however, that does not seem to be relevant, as there isn’t any other pair of themers that can be stitched together similarly.

the second thing i noticed was that the C of COPY AND PASTE is shared by the down entry {6 of 118} CARBON, and CARBON COPY is a thing. that seemed promising, and indeed still seems promising. but i feel like i should have been able to find more of these, and i haven’t. you could argue that CHICKEN goes with {Cheese and salsa go in it} TACO, and i guess i wouldn’t object. the words pair in the other order, but it’s still something.

oh hey, here’s another. HEARTS goes with {Blazing} AFIRE (this sitcom made very little impression on me, but it certainly existed). hmm. that leaves BRIDGE and CUT. i suspect this is the right track, but here it’s getting murkier. there are entries that i can pair with BRIDGE, although the resulting bridges are not especially familiar. ACTON BRIDGE is a village of 600 in england. similarly, CUT has only dubious partners, although there are many such, perhaps the least dubious of which is AGENT’S CUT. i think this isn’t it.

aha, okay. look at the initials spelled out by the theme answers: HAM, CAP, BAT, CAT, and CAR. these are all common words, which feels like it is probably not a coincidence. (looking at initials of things is usually my achilles heel in meta solving, so i’m pleased to have finally thought of it for once.)

not only that, they can each go at the start of a common [this] AND [that] phrase:

  • HAM and EGGS
  • CAP and GOWN
  • BAT and BALL
  • CAT and MOUSE
  • CAR and DRIVER

and look, OVA, a synonym of EGGS, is in the grid at 6d, clued as {Fertility clinic collection}. are there other things relating to the other second words?

… no. there really aren’t. well, maybe. hey, a ROBE is kind of like a GOWN, and not only that, it’s clued as {Gown cousin}. could it be that each of these second words is actually in a clue?

yes, it could! not only that, but each one starts its clue:

  • {Cheese and salsa go in it} TACO. not EGGS after all—HAM and CHEESE is much better.
  • {Gown cousin} ROBE.
  • {Ball, Bacall, or Beyoncé, say} ICON.
  • {Mouse swallower} ASP.
  • {Driver of many classic motorcycles} LENO.

this explains the somewhat arbitrary choices made in cluing four out of those five entries (everything but {Gown cousin}). taken in order, these five words spell out TRIAL, so repeating the [this] & [that] idea gives TRIAL AND ERROR, which is indeed one way to solve metas. whew.

got this one in just under the wire, and boy is it cool. no time to comment further, since now it’s noon and i have to publish. awesome meta, though!

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15 Responses to MGWCC #595

  1. David R says:

    I really liked this one, many steps but very tight connectivity which made it easier then usual for a Week 4. I also thought of robe as a gown and then looked at the clue.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 272 correct entries, so this month we had a Week 1, then a Week 4, then a Week 3, then another Week 3. I will strive to order these better in the future.

  3. David says:

    Also got this one a bit under the wire. I had spotted the 3-letter words last night, and even managed to identify the pairings with ROBE and ASP, but I was treating this as an “alternate answers to the clue” meta, or something closer to Joon’s instinct with CARBON COPY about pairing words in the grid. Adding OVERDO as a match for HAM made me really think I was on the right track—and with 2 of the 5, I guess I was—so I kept looking at the substance of the clues and entries, rather than just words used. (CAR had herrings in RENTAL and OLDS, but BAT was giving me nothing.). Finally something made me refocus and think about “and” phrases, which quickly led to finding the sore-thumb Ball clue, and then it all fell into place very quickly.

    Feels crazy to have been on so wrong a version of the right track, but got there eventually, whew.

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    Like many others probably, I suspected right away that TRIAL AND ERROR would be the answer. But even knowing this didn’t help me back-solve through the weekend. The leader board’s high results and relatively few misses for a Week 4 confirmed that the obvious guess was probably the right one. So I submitted my guess with unusually high confidence. Despite the freebie, it was another fine technique from Matt. Instead of trial and error, it was more like guess and hope for me.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Yes — before I even started solving the grid, I expected TRIAL AND ERROR to be the answer. I still figured the meta out through the intended path, though. This was definitely easier than Week 2 or Week 3 this month.

  5. john says:

    In that odd way of things, this one came pretty quickly for me. Believe it or not though, i had CBGMD written on a piece of paper for a few hours while I mulled where they might lead. Simply turning back to the grid was maybe too easy and so didn’t occur as a week 4 mechanism? I can’t really say, i just didn’t look for a while. In the end, loved it, and loved this month. Matt might not feel they ticked the right difficulty boxes, but it was an awesome month, IMO.

  6. Lance says:

    I think the best thing about this meta is that not only is TRIAL AND ERROR one way to solve a meta, it seemed the best way to solve *this* meta… There were just so many red herrings! I fell into the CARBON [copy] one, and and the RENTAL [car] one and I think the OVA [eggs} one; I was even answer-adjacent for a while with the fact that “Mouse swallower” could be a clue for CAT and “Gown cousin” might be a clue for CAP, but when nothing else panned out I erased that.

    This isn’t sour grapes–I did get the right answer. It just felt to me like there was no path to it other than trying a whole bunch of things and hoping one of them would work.

  7. Garrett says:

    I have a friend who I noticed on the leaderboard Saturday and that made me think the meta must be quit easy. I did not look deeply enough at this one. It is a very nice meta!

  8. Dan Seidman says:

    Was OVA a deliberate red herring?

  9. Jim S. says:

    I think the high number of correct answers was at least partly due to the guessability of the answer. I didn’t progress very far down the right path – I noticed the 3 letter words of the initials of the theme answers but didn’t get any further – and just lobbed a “Trial and Error” guess in there that seemed like it might be right (though I added a comment to my submission indicating that I felt there was a .01% chance that I was right). Might be interesting to add some kind of “guess” indicator on the submissions, like there is for solo vs group work – that might reveal whether this was truly week 4 in difficulty but highly guessable vs. week 3 in difficulty.

  10. Seth says:

    My first week four! (I think.) Yeah, it was easier than usual, but whatever — I’m taking it.

    I also thought of HAM and EGGS first, and I thought to look for clues to which EGGS could also be an answer, and I landed on TACO. I tried to do the same thing for the rest, and only then did I realize that the clues started with the operative word.

  11. Toast says:

    Did anyone else notice that
    HAM might clue ACTO[N -> R], and
    CAP might clue BERE[A -> T] ?

    CAP + MOSS anagrams to COMPASS and
    HAM + LENO anagrams to MANHOLE.
    Hm. Both of which are … round. Like Os.
    Maybe adding a four-letter solution and anagramming yields things whose shape describes the characters that …
    What on earth is the shape of a BOTANIC?

    (Eventually, saner brain cells prevailed. Thanks to everybody posting about how this is really more of a week-three for sparking the indignation that ultimately propelled me out of these rabbit holes.)

  12. Margaret says:

    I didn’t even make a start at the meta but threw up a Trial and Error Hail Mary anyway, yay!

  13. jefe says:

    Fail for me; couldn’t shake Guess and Check.

    Fantastic mechanism, but it’s another where the answer is fairly guessable without grokking the meta.

  14. Adam Thompson says:

    I think I submitted “guess and check” and it got marked as correct.

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