MGWCC #614

crossword 2:51 
meta 1:20 


hello and welcome to episode #614 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Add to the Mix”. i solved this week 1 puzzle without the instructions. what are the theme answers? there are eight clues with a parenthetical number, one each from 1 to 8:

  • {Herb used in pizza sauce (1)} OREGANO.
  • {Bob or beehive, e.g. (2)} HAIRDO.
  • {Americans abroad (3)} EXPATS.
  • {“This isn’t a joke!” (4)} “I’M SERIOUS!”.
  • {Zero (5)} AUGHT.
  • {Mysterious puzzle (6)} ENIGMA.
  • {Big road, in Spanish (7)} AVENIDA.
  • {What like minds may reach independently (8)} SAME NOTION.

to round it off, we have this hint at 59-across: {Like the eight theme entries, you might say} OVERSTATED. with the hint in mind, i very quickly saw that OREGANO was just OREGON + one more A, lightly anagrammed. the others were similarly anagrams of states plus one more letter:

  • AUGHT = UTAH + G

the extra letters spell out ARPEGGIO, which is GEORGIA plus another P. it seemed to make sense to have georgia, rather than ARPEGGIO itself, be the meta answer, and so it was, because the instructions asked for one of 50. (can’t say “state” there because of the reveal answer OVERSTATES.)

i thought this mechanism was very elegant, but it felt more like a week 2 than a week 1, even with a fairly heavy hint. maybe it’s just me, though. it’s a nice construction, though, with pretty clean fill despite nine medium-length theme answers. they’re not quite symmetrically positioned in the grid because the lengths don’t really match up, but that didn’t bother me in the least.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you fare on this one?

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26 Responses to MGWCC #614

  1. Garrett says:

    I started out noticing state abbreviations in 6 of the 8. Then I noticed that OREGANO + NONAGON yielded Oregon (yes, and flipping ANO and dropping the A in OREGANO did that too), then later that OREGANO + AVENIDA yielded OREIDA.

    Then: SAMENOTION yields MENTION if you drop the SAO.

    It was very much a last minute thing for me to go back to OREGANO::OREGON+A and carry that forward, and then only with a nudge from JJL.

    Personally, I think SUBTRACT FROM THE MIX would have a more helpful title. :-) These anagrams make my brain hurt, like I just over-slurped an Icee on a cold winter day.

    • Garrett says:

      Re: ARPEGGIO

      Entries with “geropiga”
      jeropiga: jeropiga (English) Origin & history Portuguese Alternative forms geropiga Noun jeropiga (pl. jeropigas) A liqueur made from partially-fermented malt or wine, found mainly in Portugal.


  2. Scott says:

    I stupidly screwed this one up! Nice puzzle anyway.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 506 right entries this week. So an easy Week 2 or a very tough Week 1.

  4. cyco says:

    OREGANO –> OREGON was also my entry into getting the theme. After that it fell pretty quickly. The only snag was my stupid brain seeing AVENIDA as INDIANA+V instead of NEVADA+I.

  5. Reid says:

    I really liked the theme and the mechanism, but i would have liked to have seen this run later in the month but with out the parentheses shining a bright light down the path. feels like too good of an idea to use on a week 1.

  6. Jim S says:

    One brief red herring for me was “ENID” in AVENIDA, and we all know it’s in Oklahoma which is an 8 letter state. Looked for other cities in the theme answers for awhile to support Oklahoma as the meta answer before landing on the right approach. I echoed Joon’s thoughts in my submission to Matt – seemed like one too many steps for a typical week 1 (where “ARPEGGIO” would typically have been the end and the answer). No complaints here – I loved the extra step.

  7. Jim Schooler says:

    I got stuck on postal abbreviations for the states in each theme fill. I did a major head slap when I read joon’s write up. Now I have a headache to rival Garrett’s brain freeze. 5 stars from me.

  8. Streroto says:

    I saw MAINE in ENIGMA (admittedly having read the clue – i’m not nearly ready for that yet) literally on my first entry, so this one felt pretty easy. However, in my zeal to enter my result, I almost wrote ARPEGGIO instead of GEORGIA. DOH!

  9. Margaret says:

    Yes, I had to do a week one as a team solve so I also thought it played like a week two. I mean, I loved the answer once I saw it but a little harder than usual.

  10. Jon says:

    I agree, seemed like a week 2 to me. There were too many steps for a week 1 & the themers were hidden in the grid. A solid week 1 feels like the themers are usually in the longest & symmetrically placed locations in the grid & there’s just 1 step to solve the meta. A solid & elegant meta though.

    I also only just learned last week what arpeggios were in my violin class so that was a neat coincidence! Five stars.

  11. john says:

    Ditto on the week 2 difficulty, but i love that. Matt is certainly right to bring varied levels of difficulty to the gang, but its fun having week one tax my brain a little.

  12. Tom Burnakis says:

    I struggled and struggled until I got a nudge from someone to follow my first instincts. Then I saw all the state abbreviations which got me nowhere. It was ENIGMA that tipped me off when I saw that it was MAINE with something added. That got me to all the rest and I was feeling pretty smug as I drew out all the letters, arranged them by parenthetical number and got ARPEGGIO???

    That is where I went stupid…

    I looked for things that combined 50 and arpeggio and adding to a mix and found some in GOOGLE (I mean you can probably find any kind of associations if you look hard enough). So I went with the very unsatisfying ARPEGGIO and submitted, then went back and looked and saw the DOH! moment. How much nicer GEORGIA fits into the constructs, I suppose I was just overanxious because it was my first time as a member of the MGWCC. I will try not to rush it next time.

    • joon says:

      you shouldn’t feel stupid at all, especially not for your first time. repeating the mechanism is a very common technique used in meta solving, and now you’ll be on the lookout for it next time it comes up.

      • Eckless says:

        Tom, a suggestion I’d make – if you go up to the top of this post, you’ll see “joon” underlined in the byline – click that, and you’ll get many of Joon’s summaries. When I started getting “serious” about doing metas, I went through like the last 50 or so solutions, absorbing not only the solution, but also common techniques and Joon’s solving attempts.

    • john says:

      hear, hear. and welcome!

  13. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    @Tom Burnakis — Just when I was going to say that I had found a unique way of getting the wrong answer, perhaps you joined me in my mistake. I also Googled ARPEGGIO and found entries for Nespresso Capsules OriginalLine, Arpeggio Decaffeinato, Dark Roast Coffee, 50 Count Coffee Pods. So, of course, in such a package, “an Arpeggio” would be one of 50!

    Thinking this was some currently faddish, hippy thing, which a young, with-it constructor like Matt would know and I wouldn’t, I sent in ARPEGGIO. When my name didn’t show up on the Nice list, I took a second look and treated myself to a great metaphorical head slap!

  14. AK37 says:

    Matt – have you ever considered abandoning the week 1-4 (or 5) difficulty scale, and just going random (like WSJ)? Seems like we discuss a lot here about which week a puzzle belongs in. I personally would like them all harder, but I think not knowing what week/difficulty a puzzle is would be fun.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I have not considered that. I like the rhythm of working from the easier to the tougher metas throughout the month and then starting over, and I think solvers do as well. As solvers aim for a perfect month (4/4 or 5/5) I aim for my own “perfect months” too (decreasing # of correct entries each week, preferably with at least a difference of 75 entries between weeks). But I like that the WSJ is random as a counterpoint to MGWCC.

      • Cyrano says:

        Just one opinion, but please don’t ever make it random at MGWCC.

      • Jonesy says:

        Whileheartedly agree with Mr. Gaffney. I like the rhythm of MGWCC but it’s also nice that you can access other metas that are random (WSJ, Fireball, AV club, and several indies).

        Speaking up for what I’m guessing is the silent majority!

      • Margaret says:

        Don’t know if anyone is still looking at the comments here but another vote for increasing the difficulty over the month and keeping a week 1 level at the beginning!

  15. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I, too, thought this felt more like a Week 2 than a Week 1, but I’m all for this being the baseline difficulty.

  16. Jonesy says:

    I agree selfishly but I think it excludes beginners so I support having a “week 1” level. I know that I really appreciated having week 1s when I started out so I’m imagining that a lot of others agree (and obviously increasing the subscriber base should be a goal for MGWCC to keep it sustainable!)

  17. Silverskiesdean says:

    When I did this one, I even felt that if Matt had left out the asterisks, this may have been a good Week 3 or possibly Week 4. When you were writing this one, did you consider that Matt?

    • joon says:

      there were no asterisks, just parenthetical numbers. without them, the puzzle would have been not just much harder, but also much less elegant, for two reasons:

      1. the theme answers are scattered haphazardly around the grid, rather than being the longest entries or even occupying symmetric places. there would be orders of magnitude more noise than signal even if you guess how OVERSTATED is meant to be interpreted.
      2. the numbers are crucial to the ordering of the letters to get ARPEGGIO. without them, you have a pile of letters rather than a word, and you just have to anagram them into a state. it doesn’t even really make sense to have the extra P at all.

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