MGWCC #646

crossword 4:31 
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #646 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Rising Force”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that we are looking for a plural noun. what are the theme answers? well, there are two related things going on here. the final across entry is {Soft drink that’s clear, like certain squares in this grid when it’s solved} 7-UP. and there are seven empty squares in the completed grid. each one occurs as the last square of a down answer that includes the bigram UP:

  • {2000s BET series starring Tatyana Ali} BUPPIES_. i was not familiar with this show. apparently the title is a portmanteau of “black” and “yuppies” (itself a portmanteau of sorts).
  • {Starbucks containers} RECYCLABLE CUPS_.
  • {Minestrone, e.g.} PASTA SOUP_.
  • {Swedish university city} UPPSALA_.
  • {Quality of sounding pleasant} EUPHONY_.
  • {Mathematician’s sets} SUBGROUPS_.
  • {Pea-family plants} LUPINES_. i didn’t know this word either. i do know the adjective LUPINE meaning of or relating to wolves.

the blank squares occur in these across answers:

  • {Cain’s victim} _ABEL crosses the blank square at the end of BUPPIES_.
  • {“___ if I can help it!”} N_OT crosses the blank at the end of PASTA SOUP_.
  • {Workmanlike} PRO_SAIC crosses the blank at the bottom of UPPSALA_.
  • {Referred to as} NA_MED crosses the blank at the bottom of EUPHONY_.
  • {A single time} ON_CE crosse the blank at the bottom of SUBGROUPS_.
  • {Necessitator of penalty kicks} T_I_E has two blanks, crossing both RECYCLABLE CUPS_ and then LUPINES_.

so, what now? i really don’t know. the most obvious thing to do would be to look for letters that could fit in those blank squares to spell something sensible, but i don’t think there’s anything you can put into PRO_SAIC or N_OT or NA_MED. nor does it seem like our old friend transaddition (anagram plus one letter) will help here, even though adding a letter is kind of suggested by having those blank squares.

what else is there to look at? well, the UPs are interesting, as they’re suggested by the 7-UP answer and the title. ordinarily i’d be interested in the letters that come either just above or just below the UPs, but my enthusiasm is dampened by the fact that the UP is at the top of UPPSALA (so there’s no letter above) and the bottom of PASTA SOUP (so there’s no letter below). taking just the first letters of the down answers than include UP gives BRPUESL, which looks like it might plausibly be an anagram of a plural noun if we can figure out an ordering mechanism… but in fact, it isn’t. there is nothing that raises my spidey-sense about the clues for any of the answers with blank squares, so i don’t think it’s in the clues.

what else? well, sometimes the thing to do is look at what’s left over if we remove the UPs: BPIES_, RECYCLABLE CS_, PASTA SO_, PSALA_, EHONY_, SUBGROS_, and LINES_. other than the last one, not very promising.

well, i’m stumped. there have been nearly 500 correct answers submitted, so evidently this is not that tricky, but i’m just not seeing it. i really hope the answer isn’t just 7-UPS, because that would be unsatisfying, but that’s what i’m going to submit, because i don’t see what else to do. please let me know in the comments what i missed!

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28 Responses to MGWCC #646

  1. Susie says:

    I don’t feel so bad now. I didn’t see it either, and all I could come up with was BURPLES (first letter of the words containing UP). It’s a weird kids’ drink from the 80s.

    • Rand says:

      That same “BURPLES” occurred to me, and — although I never made it any further figuring out the actual mechanism — merely seeing “BURPLES” was enough to make me think of BUBBLES, and decide that that was a very reasonable guess. (Success!)

  2. Birdbrain says:

    What rises in 7-Up? The bubbles! And how far do they rise? In this case, seven spaces. Seven spaces up from each empty space gives us the letters B-U-B-B-L-E-S – the answer for a plural noun.

  3. PAUL says:

    BUBBLES – count seven letters up from each blank.

  4. Seth Cohen says:

    I thought about submitting BUBBLES. That’s a plural noun. Those empty squares are like bubbles, right? But that would be very unsatisfying.

  5. pgw says:

    Go “7 [squares] UP” from each blank square and, reading left-to-right, you get BUBBLES.

    I thought this was a great puzzle. I also thought it was week-4 level difficult, but I know that wasn’t the collective experience – I saw commenters elsewhere describing it as easy for a week 3. For me though, I had to backsolve it (“what’s a seven-letter answer that would make sense here? ooh, I bet it’s bubbles – let’s see if I can find those letters in the theme entries …”) – and I’m not sure I ever would have “front-solved” it.

    Very clever mechanism, with apparently a lot of variance in difficulty.

  6. Laura E-D says:

    Totally didn’t notice the UP in each theme answer. I imagine that would have made it harder to solve since it seems unrelated to the meta?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Not strictly necessary, but at Evan mentions below I’ve got 7 theme entries to work with so might as well make them tighter than just the 1-letter requirement. Idea was to push solvers further to the idea of looking up — already plenty of hints (7-UP, “Rising Force,” clear square at the bottom of each entry, all seven of those entries are long so lots of space to move upward) but didn’t intend to confuse anyone with the UPs in there.

    • jefe says:

      Yeah, I saw the answer pretty quickly without having noticed the UPs in each of those entries.

  7. Dan Seidman says:

    I figured out BUBBLES was the best answer long before I thought of counting 7 up from the bubbles.

  8. joon says:

    oh, that is very good and i’m annoyed with myself that i didn’t think of doing that. thanks, everybody!

  9. john says:

    I came up with PILLARS. I thought the blanks were like bases for the columns of letters. A rising force could define a pillar and the plural is 7 letters. Plus, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a famous book by T. E. Lawrence. Didn’t feel right but i don’t know if it would have come to me to use 7 as a number to count upwards. Just not in the cards this week.

  10. I think Laura E-D is exactly right. This meta seemed so obvious in retrospect but I think noticing the UPs in the theme answers made it way, way harder than I would have expected. There’s an a-ha just to spot them, but they’re essentially irrelevant except to further confirm that you should think about moving upward in some way. On the other hand, if the UPs weren’t in the theme answers, then you could pick any theme answers with the B/U/B/B/L/E/S letters in the right positions, which wouldn’t be a tight theme set. A sneaky red herring, that. But I still dug the meta despite all my struggles with it.

  11. BHamren says:

    I answered Plutoniums (and in my note saying I was torn between Plutonium and Plutoniums since both are valid plural) after seeing all the PU going up in each answer. I thought it was the obvious answer since it is definitely a “force”. Oh well.

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 479 right answers this week.

  13. ===Dan says:

    I didn’t see the B’s, so I thought Bubbles was too obvious. But if I was thinking of it close the deadline, it would have been my hailmary.

  14. Dave says:

    I never considered any way of looking at the puzzle in which the seven UPs were not relevant to the solution.

  15. David R says:

    I think the irony of this meta was the better you are at metas the more difficult it became. I spotted the UPs in the themes and thought that had to be part of the meta. I looked at the letter above the UP and then thought there might be a capability to put the U or P in the blank spot and make a new word via anagram. What changed my thinking was seeing how many people solved it and realized I was digging deeper then I needed to.

    • Jim S says:

      Perfect explanation, in my opinion. I’m a middling meta solver, but when I saw “7UP” I immediately said, “Oh, I bet I go 7 above the blanks and grab those letters.” I never saw the embedded “UP”, but when I read about them here I thought “Yeesh, good thing I didn’t see those or I bet I’d have been stumped”.

  16. omniart says:

    I thought the answer was DWARVES. After fumbling around a bit, I looked at the clues. One-across clued DOC, one of the seven DWARVES, a seven-letter plural noun! The answer below it, AHA, was clued as “It’s all so clear to me now!” The word “clear” echoed the clue for 7-UP (soft drink that’s clear, etc.). “Aha!” I said to myself, thinking that I had cracked the meta.

  17. david glasser says:

    i don’t want to admit how much time i spent thinking about the phrase “recyclable cANs”

  18. cyco says:

    Funny, I’m far from an expert at these and this played like a week 1 or 2 to me. The “7UP” entry just screamed to be taken literally. One of the rare puzzles where it was trickier to fill out the grid than to solve the meta.

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