# MGWCC #621

crossword 5:01
meta 5 min

hello and welcome to episode #621 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Run the Numbers”. for this week 4 puzzle, the instructions tell us that we are looking for something you might say after getting the meta. okay, what are the theme answers? this 17×17 grid has seven long across entries whose clues have parenthetical numbers:

• {*In great detail (6,11)} EXTENSIVELY.
• {Become too big for* (2,4)} GROW OUT OF.
• {Douse* (6,8)} EXTINGUISH.
• {Square cookie* (2,9)} FIG NEWTON.
• {*Pick up on something (8,10)} GET THE HINT.
• {*Diva’s asset (1,5)} FINE VOICE. this is maybe not quite a phrase, but rather two words that can go together.
• {British technology magazine since 1856* (3,9)} THE ENGINEER. i wasn’t familiar with this magazine, but THE ENGINEER is also the villainous character in miss saigon.

okay, there are several things to note here. the first is that, in addition to the parenthetical numbers, these clues are also asterisked. that seems redundant, doesn’t it? the second is that the asterisks aren’t all in the same place—some of them come before the clue, and some come at the end. that must be a hint of some kind.

the next step is to figure out what the parenthetical numbers are doing. they’re not enumerations or indices. instead, each answer is an anagram of those two numbers spelled out, plus two more letters:

• *EXTENSIVELY = SIX + ELEVEN + T + Y.
• GROW OUT OF* = TWO + FOUR + G + O.
• EXTINGUISH* = SIX + EIGHT + N + U.
• FIG NEWTON* = TWO + NINE + F + G.
• *GET THE HINT = EIGHT + TEN + H + T.
• *FINE VOICE = ONE + FIVE + I + C.
• THE ENGINEER* = THREE + NINE + G + E.

the last step is easy if you happen to have done the right thing on the previous step: of the two leftover letters, take the left one if for clues where the * comes first, and the right one if the * comes at the end. in some of the cases, there’s some ambiguity about which one is on the left and which is on the right. for example, GET THE HINT has three T’s and two H’s; depending on which ones you considered “used” for the anagram of EIGHT + TEN, you could be left with HT or TH. the way i did it was to cross off each used letter starting from the left, so that i had ____H____T at the end; then the * picks out the H instead of the T. similarly, THE ENGINEER has four E’s and a G, but i crossed off the first three E’s so was left with GE instead of EG. this is a logical way to resolve the ambiguity; it has the virtue of being probably “the first thing you’d try”.

anyway, reading the selected letters in order reveals TOUGHIE, which is indeed something you might say after getting the meta—or, for that matter, after not getting the meta but reading about the solution here! although i would bet that if you “run the numbers”, there will be more correct answers this week than last week, as the mechanism is not as thoroughly disguised, since the entire theme is there in the longest answers and their clues.

this is a pretty good meta. i wonder if it would have been possible to construct it with only one letter left over in each answer instead of two. that feels like it would have been more elegant than adding *s to pick out one letter (and opening up the ambiguities i mentioned above). but it also might have been slightly easier that way, and maybe matt wanted to beef up the difficulty for a week 4.

what did you all think? let’s hear from you in the comments.

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### 26 Responses to MGWCC #621

1. Matt Gaffney says:

Thanks, Joon — 216 right answers this week.

Had to use two extra letters with each pair of numbers. Using only one yielded very little.

• Alex B. says:

ENDNOTE ONE TEN D
NEEDNOT ONE TEN D
NOTBEEN ONE TEN B
NOTEVEN ONE TEN V
WROTEON ONE TWO R
OUTWENT TEN TWO U
WENTTOA TEN TWO A
BOXESIN ONE SIX B
DOWENOT ONE TWO D
ENTERON ONE TEN R
INBOXES ONE SIX B
NOTNEED ONE TEN D
OPENNET ONE TEN P
SILENTX SIX TEN L
WENTOUT TEN TWO U
FIXESON ONE SIX F
LOWNOTE ONE TWO L
SEXTING SIX TEN G
SOMINEX ONE SIX M
TOWNLET TEN TWO L
WINSTONE NINE TWO S
NIKETOWN NINE TWO K
FORTUNES FOUR TEN S
WENTINTO NINE TWO T
FORTUNED FOUR TEN D
THERUNOF FOUR TEN H
UNROOFED FOUR ONE D
TETHERING EIGHT TEN R
GETONWITH EIGHT TWO N
INTHEGATE EIGHT TEN A
FREEUNION FOUR NINE E
THELEGION EIGHT ONE L
NEITHERONE NINE THREE O
HUGEPROFIT EIGHT FOUR P
TWELVETONE ELEVEN TWO T
EXTENSIVENESS SEVENTEEN SIX S
FURTHERNOTICE FOUR THIRTEEN C

Not too much there indeed and some of these are pretty bad

• Jeffrey Harris says:

Also VERIFONE = FIVE + ONE + R. (Verifone is a credit card reader brand that I saw frequently in restaurants–I’ve had that partial anagram around for a while)

Notably, TOUGHIE is also an anagram of EIGHT + OU, matching the them answer pattern, which certainly adds to the elegance.

3. Tyler Hinman says:

How in the hell did I miss the asterisks’ inconsistency for four days? Thankfully I still managed to tease out the answer, but having seven extra nonsensical letters delayed my submission until yesterday.

• pgw says:

I never noticed the asterisks at all, and was extremely vexed for a couple of days – got step one quickly and couldn’t make sense at all of the resulting 14 letters. I finally teased out the answer and assumed the confirmation was supposed to come from the fact that TOUGHIE = EIGHT + OU, but even so I was unsure enough to be nervous upon submitting, a little frustrated with what I thought was a vague last step, and quite relieved when my name hit the leaderboard the next morning.

All of this made me a little grumbly; the puzzle grew on me over the next couple of days but it wasn’t until reading joon’s writeup that I realized Matt had actually solved the problem.

• Reid says:

You’re definitely not alone. I noticed the asterisks late last night, but it meant nothing since i had nothing else.

Slightly frustrated to see the solution, since i vaguely noticed that FINEVOICE and THEENGINEER had similarities to the numbers FIVE and THREE, but it didn’t trigger anything in me to follow that thread. Always a bummer to notice the trick and not notice it at the same time…

4. Norm H says:

Never paid attention to where the asterisks were, so futzed around with 14-letter anagrams that included TOUGH, ENOUGH, NIFTY, I GOT IT, etc. I also removed EIGHT, TEN and ONE from the 14 (obviously only one at a time) and tried to anagram what was left.

I feel like an idiot. Very nice puzzle, though.

5. Mutman says:

I noticed the asterisks in different spots!!!

But that was about it :(

Nice meta though!

6. MarkR says:

It took me the better part of a day to notice the inconsistency with the asterisks. I think the parentheses helped disguise it. The way the puzzle used left vs. right in the cluing, the elimination of letters, and meta extraction was pretty elegant.

7. Tom Burnakis says:

Not even CLOSE! I had someone nudge me to the two letter thing, but I ended up with the “wrong” order of letters. When I removed the letters I went spelling order (take the letters in the order they come up first in the words) so:
GETTHEHINT -> EIGHT -> TTHEN -> TEN + TH
THEENGINEER -> THREE -> EENGIN -> NINE + EG

That said I may or may not have gotten to the end anyway. Definite week 4 and a definite “should I even be doing this?” I am not sure I am at a level of expertise sufficient enough to EVER get something as elegant (and twisted) as this. Hats off to the creator.

8. john says:

I got the initial letters and noticed the asterisks right off and still missed this. It never occurred to me to treat the couplets as separate and tried several ways to put the two before or after things, including grouping them according to the asterisks and anagramming. Seems so simple now. Urf.

• Jeff M says:

*1

9. Jim S says:

Hindsight – “That’s so simple!”
Real-time – “Ummmmmmmmm, huh?”

• Jim S says:

Oops, meant to add… “Great, great puzzle – 5 stars from me”

10. Dan Seidman says:

Add me to the list of people who solved it without noticing the asterisks. Once I saw TOUGHIE I knew that was probably it. Having spent all of the previous weekend striking out on Two For Two, I decided to just take my chances and submit it rather than torture myself again. Now that I know how it was supposed to work, I really appreciate the cleverness.

11. Silverskiesdean says:

Since I have started to do METAs, I’ve been trying to think about how the brain works. For instance, a man asks his secretary where the “Norman” file is. It’s not under the “N”s? The secretary pulls the file out of the “G”s and gives it to her boss. He says “why is it under the “G”s to which she says “because you play golf with him every weekend.
That little metaphor came to me regarding this meta. It’s how we situate the brain in its thinking. When I got the META, I started for three hours thinking this was one I wouldn’t get. I kept thinking of mathematics and the title “Run the Numbers” as well as the numbers next to the themes.
Then, went shopping. (Don’t tell anyone)
When I got back, I said to myself, I will put my brain in another mode and NOT think about math, but think about English and words. Within one minute after looking at it, I realized they were anagrams.
Take it for what it’s worth!

12. Thomas says:

I had my leftovers in the wrong order both times. NEVERTHELESS (3,7) I figured it out.

• pgw says:

+2

13. Richard K says:

Everyone’s comments so far describe my experience on this meta almost perfectly. Except that it took me until late Monday night to notice the placement of the asterisks. My best effort at the (irrelevant) 14-letter anagram was “County egg fight.”

• slubduck says:

CUTE FOGGY THING
GOT THE FUN CIGGY
and i noticed the asterisk placement, but never figured out what to do with it. Sigh.
Enjoyed how “run” can mean “remove” in a sense, I believe based on the phrase “get run out of town”. You hear it in baseball, for instance, if a manager is ejected — e.g. “Joe Torre got run after that argument.” Anyway, it helps the title describe the act of cancelling out the letters of the parenthetical numbers perfectly.

14. Steve Thurman says:

My OCD actually helped out here, since the asterisks bothered me before I even started working the puzzle!

15. Jay Livingston says:

Would I have been able to solve it if I had printed out the .pdf rather than doing it as .puz? In .puz it’s much easier to pay less attention to the clues over in that narrow strip on the right. In the .pdf all the clues are visible at the same time. In .puz, when you scroll down, the clues above disappear, making it hard to notice that the damn asterisk is in a different place.

I probably wouldn’t have gotten it anyway.

16. Seth says:

WAY easier than week 3.

17. Streroto says:

Like many of those posting here, I got the first part very quickly, then spent the better part of two days trying to anagram 14 letters. I found TOUGHIE no problem, but it just didn’t seem to work. I even saw the EIGHT within TOUGHIE but never seriously considered entering that as an answer at that point. It was all close, but not quite perfect as Matt would no doubt have left it. Then I saw the asterisks and it all fell into place. Super elegant, loads of fun, and I agree easier than last week.

18. jefe says:

Didn’t notice the asterisks, but saw TOUGHIE zigzagging down the remaining letters.
Glad there was something more than just arbitrarily picking one of the two.