MGWCC #620

crossword 3:16 
meta 10 min 


hello and welcome to episode #620 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Two for Two”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that we are looking for a body part you’ll need to solve this meta. sounds interesting. okay, what are the theme answers? there aren’t any explicitly marked as such, but i noticed a few funny clues:

  • {B.A. source in a green field} ECOLOGY jumped out at me as strange, because … what is with the wording? yes, you can get a degree in ECOLOGY, and it’s a “green” field, but why “source”? i was also drawn to this clue because the one right before it in the grid was {Appeal from ABBA} SOS, and i thought maybe ABBA and B.A. were connected. (turns out: no, but … close?)
  • {Be home with honey} COHABITATE was the one that really caught my eye, again because of the strange wording (it would more properly be “share a home with honey” or something). and from this point, i knew i had the theme because one of the other answers was {Buzzing place} HIVE, which is a Bee home with honey. and now that i saw what was happening, i realized that a {Baa source in a green field} could be a clue for {Reversible sheep} EWE.

in fact, there are eight clues that start with two-letter words, and every single one of them can be turned into a three-letter word by doubling the second letter. in each case, the new clue clues a different across entry in the grid. it’s really quite remarkable. from top to bottom in the grid, we have:

  • {As relatives} clues AKIN, but {Ass relatives} could be an alternate clue for TAPIRS. they’re more closely related to pigs than asses, but hey, they’re odd-toed ungulates (perissodactyla), so that’s still pretty close.
  • we’ve already mentioned {Bee home with honey} HIVE.
  • {“To close…”} clues LAST, but {Too close} could be an alternate clue for IN YOUR FACE.
  • {In for the night, say} clues BEAT, but {Inn for the night, say} could clue RAMADA. (i think “, perhaps” would be a little better than “, say” here in both versions of the clue. usually “, say” indicates that the clue is more specific than the answer, but here the reverse is true.)
  • {Al of the “Godfather” movies, etc.} is PACINO, but {All of the “Godfather” movies, etc.} are DRAMAS.
  • we’ve mentioned {Baa source in a green field} EWE.
  • {Go out for a morning meal, maybe} is BRUNCH, but {Goo out for a morning meal, maybe} is … YOLK? i guess, although the “out” part of the clue is a little dubious. you could certainly crack an egg at breakfast, but just saying “out” doesn’t really work to describe the yolk coming out of the egg.
  • {“Of course!”} clues OH GOD YES (actually my favorite answer in the grid), but {Off course} could clue ERRANT.

taking the first letters of these alternate answers, reading from top down in the grid, spells out THIRD EYE, which, um, well, is not really a body part i needed to solve this meta, but i submitted it anyway. (did you know? most lizards and amphibians have an actual third eye on top of their head. it’s called a parietal eye and is used to sense light and dark.) more figuratively speaking, “third eye” could be roughly equivalent to “sixth sense”, as in something that helps you detect the presence of something that’s not visible to normal sight.

anyway: this meta mechanism is fantastic. it feels totally original and creative, and some of the modified clues are extremely smooth and work flawlessly. some of them are less smooth and therefore more conspicuous, which is what makes this a week 3 meta rather than a week 4. it’s also just really darned impressive that he squeezed 16 theme answers into the grid. eight of them had to start with specific letters and be arranged in the correct order in the grid, and the other eight had to be related by this clue transformation. so there’s some flexibility in those, but you still need the clue to be almost the same. it’s really a marvelous construction.

that’s all i’ve got. hope you loved this puzzle as much as i did. let’s hear from you in the comments!

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35 Responses to MGWCC #620

  1. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I didn’t find the right track at all, but I found a kind of rough gap in the woods that might have been a trail. E-LEG-Y and NOSE-E were two entries, adjacent in the grid, that contained body parts. The leftover letters from those entries spelled EYE, which one uses very directly in solving a meta. It wasn’t very strong, but I couldn’t find anything better, so I submitted it. The actual solution is much more elegant, of course.

    • Jason says:

      I went along a similar route, as I also saw ARM and FACE hidden in the grid, then spent most of my week looking for other body parts to no avail.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        ARM and FACE weren’t exactly hidden, but yes, I saw those, too. There was also C-RIB, as the very first entry. Those additional body parts were part of what made my solution feel so weak.

        • spotter says:

          There was also a 4X4 block on the right side that spelled CAGE (along with other 4X4s of LOBE, HOLE, NAPE, and others). I could have swore RIB CAGE would be a part of this, but it was not.

  2. Dan Seidman says:

    I saw that “Be home with honey” with some alteration could clue HIVE, but I never got any further. I looked at homophones for the first word and just removing the first word. I even tried looking at the other clues starting with two-letter words, but I missed the connection.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Ditto. I knew there had to be a meta-relevant connection between {Be home with honey} and HIVE, but the other theme answers were much more well camouflaged and I never figured out the trick.

      A five-star meta for sure, and one I really wish I’d gotten. This one’s gotta go on the Orcas shortlist for 2020.

  3. Wayne says:

    Loved this one. Lots of false leads to work through before I spotted the right path. I didn’t notice until reading this that the theme clues all started with two-letter words. That would’ve saved me some time :-/

  4. Mutman says:

    Never had a chance. Saw RAMAda and dRAMAs in the center and thought maybe we were seeking 2 sets of something or other.

    Meta pros, congratulations. As for me, I found it hard to make the leap of just changing a 2 letter word to a 3 — is that what the title implied I guess??

    Well done, but felt more like week 4 to me.

    • TimF says:

      Ditto with the RAMA but went nowhere & came up with a goose egg. As usual, the solution was much easier to see when it’s explained afterwards!

  5. pannonica says:

    “… TAPIRS [are] more closely related to pigs than asses, but hey, they’re odd-toed ungulates (perissodactyla), so that’s still pretty close.”

    Not so. Pigs are artiodactyls. Horses, rhinoceroses, and tapirs comprise the extant perissodactyls.

  6. Joshua Kosman says:

    Grrr. This is by far the best meta I’ve missed in a very long time. Kudos to Matt, dammit.

  7. I was so close on this. I noticed that “Be home with honey” could be homophoned to make a valid clue for HIVE, but I didn’t find any other clues that worked similarly and abandoned that line of thought. D’oh!

    I also fell into the C-RIB/E-LEG-Y/NOSE-E/ARM/FACE rabbit hole for a while. I also tried various anagram & change letter angles that led nowhere.

    The bottom-right corner was really junky with USYE and CDLI so I knew there had to be something thematic in there, and indeed I was suspicious of YOLK but couldn’t connect it to anything meaningful.

    I sent in EYE as my Hail Mary, although I have zero expectation that the committee will accept it as an alternate answer. It seemed like a possible answer to the meta prompt, and there were a lot of Y’s in the grid that had me playing Boggle and thinking about eyes. The title “Two for Two” also had me thinking about body parts that come in twos, of which the eyes are one.

    • Codiak says:

      I too fell into this trap, but took it a step further and used all the letters that “cohabitated” with the body parts, leaving me with “C IN YOUR EYE”, which I took to be CORNEA. It didn’t feel up to Matt’s usual standard of elegance, but after not seeing anything else in a couple hours of staring, it was just enough to convince me to submit on Sunday without going further. It was a sad farewell to my 125 week streak, barring an unexpected favorable ruling from the review panel.

      My alternate wrong answer that I was stuck on for a while was finding the 2 cells in the grid that could be doubled to keep the words phonetically the same (ERIE -> EERIE, A REST -> ARREST). The two phonemes could be combined phonetically to generate EAR. Some obvious issues with that one, not the least of which is that those entries were in the wrong order in the grid. It’s funny that the actual mechanism had some similarities to this approach.

      The actual mechanism is pretty awesome, though. I’m definitely kicking myself for not noticing those unusual clues.

  8. lkeigwin says:

    I was lost in the woods. Got stuck on body parts and the two-for-two thing.

    I took two letters of each and had RICE NO..LE. Hey, that’s “rice noodle” but missing OD. And OD is part of BODY. Which I happily submitted to end my torture, knowing full well it was wrong. I had to get back to goofing off.

  9. Seth says:

    A million rabbit holes. Never would have gotten this, even though I just KNEW it had to do with the clues (which I always hate…so tedious on an app to click through the clues one at a time while trying to spot connections, even though this mechanism is pretty cool).

  10. John L. Wilson says:

    Baa! I noticed two EWEs and RAMs along with the eight clues having two-letter leadoffs… then gathered wool until time ran out on this gem. Though I now understand the “Two for Two” nudge, might “Two Become Three” have drawn a more typical Week 3 turnout?

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Had Matt had gone that route, I’d have preferred the title “Two to Three”, as a more idiomatic phrase than “Two Become Three”. On the flip side, of course, that would make for a trickier hint than your suggestion.

  11. Max Woghiren says:

    This is, in my view, a masterpiece. Great puzzle, Matt!

  12. Silverskiesdean says:

    I am writing this probably because it’s the first time I solved a meta that a small cross section of the group was able to solve and I am feeling ecstatic. I did think about however, what makes a meta hard?. For instance, when I do Pete Muller’s, he asks for a difficulty rating. Because I am usually self-deprecating, if I figured it out, it’s easy, if I didn’t figure it out, it’s hard. So I usually leave that blank. But I figure there are two ways to rate a meta. First, if there’s one step, but it’s a very vague step, it can be hard. But there are a lot of geniuses? (genii?) in this group, so that is very subjective. The other way, is more objective, and that is the number of steps it takes to get the answer. Now this is a Week three Meta with the response time of a Week 4 Meta. What happened?
    I spent all of Friday seeing body parts, such as eLEGy, and cRIB, and pEYSEr, FACE, NOSEe, and ARM, and by the time I went to sleep, I was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to solve this one, especially since the count at 5P was less than 20.
    The next day, I awoke, and looked at it and lo and behold, just like in the movies, the clue magically lit up, and that clue was “be home with honey’. I suspect that the smart people in this group have good memories and remember all the answers while doing the puzzle. I don’t but because of sheer rote from the day before, “hive” jumped into my head. WOW, I SOLVED THE META. (not quite), and thereby hangs a tail (body part joke). I then was looking for homonyms and found “in for the night”, and “to close”. The problem was, I also found “of course” and “Al of The Godfather…”. which were not homonyms. Which to use. I was torn because a clue like “off course” was too good a clue especially with “errant” in the grid to discount it. I also assumed that the added letters i.e. “n” for in and “o” for to where what would spell out a body part. To sum up I had:

    be +E
    In +N
    To +O
    Of +F
    Al +L

    I figured if “flynose” is a body part I’m close. It was at this point I reviewed:
    I had ENOFL
    but if we take their respective clues, we have
    In your face
    Dramas then we and up with:

    finally, if we took the second clues, we have:

    Oh god yes
    Pacino. We now end up with:

    I stared at all three and this is where I got very lucky. I looked at HRIED and thought heart and a few other things. But also figured Matt is a very elegant meta writer, and Heart, bone, arm, face, and the ever present Flynose are too pedestrian for him. I actually saw “Third Eye” from “HRIED” which was an incredible stroke of luck, and then also figured he probably put them in order in the grid. He did, From there I back-solved and got it.
    Now look how many steps that was:
    First: Go from looking for anagrammed body parts to homonyms in the clues.
    Second: Going from homonyms to looking for two letters plus a third as in ii+I to give you another way to arrive at “Third Eye”.
    Third: Going from saving the added letter each time it is added to spell the body part to using the 2nd answers in the grid, not the first.
    Fourth: The realization that a Matt Gaffney elegance would also include the answer in order in the grid in order for me to back solve, or if I got the answers first, to spell out the answer.
    That was 4 distinct steps I went through to solve this puzzle. There may be more that I didn’t see but may have subconsciously used.
    I submit that four steps equals a week 4 or 5 as a more objective way of determining the difficulty of a Meta. I’m sure there are plenty of people that got that first step, went AHA! and still didn’t get the answer. I know that because I went from AHA! to utter frustration until I got the 2nd, 3d and fourth AHA moments.
    Well, take the above for what it’s worth. My ebullience is showing over having solved this Meta. It’ll probably not happen ever happen again, so don’t worry about me hogging all this space again.

  13. Wayne says:

    My favorite rabbit hole in this puzzle was 68a, “Chuck up in the sky”, which I felt *sure* was a head feint at 46d, SPACES (in the scifi defenestration sense of the word).

  14. Amy L says:

    I saw the duplications in goGAGA and bERsERk, which obviously led nowhere.

  15. Jay Miller says:

    Interestingly, if you broke slightly from the pattern there might have been a third clue that could be answered by EWE:

    Reversible Sheep
    BA(A) Source in a Green Field


    Judges (S)hear Them

    Tense is off too, but it’s close.

  16. Amanda says:

    Oh wow, I was in a crazy rabbit hole. I found five words for which you could exchange two letters for two other letters and still fit the clue. SAwed for HEwed, sEA for sKY, PLaces for SPaces, DAda for SOda, and PIke for HAke. Of course I didn’t get anywhere after that, but I was so sure I was on the right track for “Two for Two.”

    • Dave C says:

      Amanda, I went down that same crazy rabbit hole, with MOwed for HEwed, and also had ISr for SYr (10D – Country on the Med.). PLaces for SPaces in particular felt so promising that I never considered anything else…

  17. Seth says:

    I think the problem for me was that “Two for Two” has SO MANY possible interpretations. I spent all weekend trying idea after idea, and they all seemed plausible, and they all dead-ended.

  18. Bill Katz says:

    My first rabbit hole was that I found 4 pairs of words that were anagrams but for one letter – starting with DRAMAS and RAMADA giving me two letters. Then I got a nudge toward the right direction. Once completely done, I finally saw the brilliance of the design.

  19. john says:

    Only the YOLK one seems a stretch, the rest are great and its a superb idea and execution. Like many here i saw lots of the dead ends and was as mystified reading Joon’s write-up as i’ve ever been. Just not anywhere close.

  20. John Lombardo says:

    63 across tipped it off for me after a series of rabbit holes. I found the first seven letters straight away and so had THIRDEE. Aha! I need a Y and that must be yolk. I then spent five minutes re-reading all of the clues looking for “e.g.” somewhere. Surely it must be e.g. leading to egg. Something like: Primary color, e.g., yellow and the grid answer would be red or blue. I wonder if Matt tried to get that in there and ended up settling for go to goo.

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