MGWCC #660

crossword ???  meta 6 hours to construct 


Matt here, putting up a quick post (I think the weird deadline deked the joonmeister this week).

“Opposites Attract” was our title, and, with eight exceptions, every clue in the grid begins with the “opposite” first letter of its answer (A=Z, B=Y, C = X, etc.).

So ZIMBABWE at 1-A starts with Z, and its clue begins with an A [African nation that borders Botswana]. Similarly, XAVIER at 9-A begins with a C [Cugat the bandleader].

Eight clues do not follow this convention:

19-A: [___ Zane (“Callin’ Me” rapper)] = LIL, so the clue should start with an O, not a Z
22-A: [“Of course,” archaically] = TIS, so the clue should start with a G, not an O
30-A: [“Official Home of the Blues” street in Memphis] = BEALE, so the clue should start with a Y, not an O
33-A: [Temporary price hikes, e.g.] = NEW RATES, so the clue should start with an O, not a T
55-A: [Observes stealthily] = PEEKS AT, so the clue should start with an L, not an O
10-D: [Producer of Skin So Soft products] = AVON, so the clue should start with a Z, not a P
11-D: [iPod control (abbr.)] = VOL, so the clue should start with an E, not an I
24-D: [Agreement endorsers] = SIGNEES, so the clue should start with an H, not an A

Coulda woulda shoulda…take the letters those eight clues actually did start with, in clue order, and they spell out contest answer ZOOTOPIA, fittingly a Z-to-A entry.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to MGWCC #660

  1. Jim S says:

    Whoa, that’s awesome. I didn’t get there, unfortunately. “Opposites Attract” sent me down a different path – the first long across contains “Dead” and “Live” (backwards). The next long across contains “Here” inside of “There”. I was also able to find Under/On, Jan/Dec (not exactly opposites, but very similar to the meta-mechanism just using months instead of letters), Needed inside of Unneeded, and a lame Oil with an anagrammed Water (inside “Newrates”). Couldn’t make heads or tails, but placing EVILDEAD right there at the beginning seemed like a really strong pointer to me. Oops, and oh well. Great puzzle, though – wish I had gotten it.

  2. john says:

    I didn’t get this either but sussed the answer when a colleague pointed out the AMAZING construction of clue:answer opposite first letters. I loved this for the brilliance of the construction and cool idea!

  3. joon says:

    thanks, matt. yeah, i totally spaced on the post this week—i remembered yesterday not to post too early, and then this morning i completely forgot i hadn’t done it yet.

    my brief review: great meta! this is a concept i don’t think i’ve ever seen before but it’s fantastic. the clue {Questlove’s birth mo.} for JAN had me suspicious about an initial letter constraint, and then after that aha, it fell quickly.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Since Questlove has just turned 50, notably enough for me to have independently heard of it (Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show, presented him with a gift on the show, for instance), all the clue for JAN made me think was, “Oh, topical!”. In retrospect, therefore, that one stood out for me as a particularly neat way of meeting the constraint without raising a flag.

      To be sure, everyone’s experience is different, and if YouTube hadn’t put celebrations of Questlove’s 50th birthday on my front page, I might well have had the same reaction as you to that clue, but, all in all, I think it was rather a thoughtful way of addressing the J-Q requirement, and not merely the first option that popped into Matt’s head.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      For me, the Xterra/XKE clue caught my eye, and then my glance landed on the Y-Z-Y clues at 4-5-6-Down. I was off to the races after that.

  4. Mollie says:

    This was great! My initial foothold was noticing that a lot of clues started with Z & V. I also way overcomplicated things by trying to make something out of the letters the clues should start with (ZEOGHYMK) and the letters the answers should start with (ALLGLKRZ) until I finally saw the answer staring me in the face (about 2 minutes before the usual deadline yesterday, which I forgot wasn’t the deadline this week). Very neat concept & fun solve!

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      When the first couple of orderings (alphabetical and grid) that I tried for the letters of ZOOTOPIA didn’t work out, and the apt anagram didn’t spring to mind. I tried those overcomplicated variants, as well, before thinking of the possibility of ordering by clue, and circling back.

      • David Harris says:

        Yup, I also tried both of those “what should have been here” versions. My two hurdles for seeing the extraction were 1) I treated the blank of the Li’l Zane clue as an L rather than using the Z from Zane, and 2) when matching the 8 clues to their entries, I kept connecting the wrong pairs, so I had to do those rabbit holes 2 or 3 times.

        Fun puzzle—I feel like I usually don’t do as well on ones that involve special clue constraints, but *something* about this one luckily caught my attention.

    • TRidgway says:

      me too!

  5. Andrew Bradburn says:

    I noticed all the entries starting with unusual letter like Z, X and Q, and knew the alphabet and some opposite aspect of it was key. But I initially thought it was letters in the grid, and their corresponding 180 degree opposites. When the letters placed diametrically opposite to the only Z,Y and X to start a word were T,H and E, I thought I was on my way to a movie title. Alas, it did not pan out, and eventually I got to the A-Z, B-Y etc. and the solution.

  6. Garrett says:

    The first thing I noticed solving the grid were a few clues that seemed off to me, particularly the clue for ALLTHERE. The second thing I noticed is that I ran across the letters J an Q filling the grid. One of these two letters is almost always missing in any given 15×15. So, when I completed the grid, I went through all the letters to discover that this is a pangram! That’s exciting in itself, because to me that meant that it was a pangram by design.

    • Wayne says:

      This actually threw me off for a bit. I thought that Matt disliked pangrams as a matter of principle. So the fact that this was one made me think that it had to be.

  7. Mutman says:

    Hmmm … I was there, but had PIZOAOTO, which never registered as a movie anagram.

    Not sure what order got it into the answer … I thought I went top to bottom with the letters.


    • Alex B. says:

      Acrosses first, then downs (“clue order”). Matt has a typo in the writeup, as the last one should be 24D, not 24A.

      My entry was the bizarre clue for AND which seemed like it was forced to start with a Z. I love how everyone had a different entry point!

    • Jeff M says:

      Numbers smallest to largest; the acrosses and then the downs

      • Mutman says:

        Ugh — funny, that’s how I usually do it and am wrong, so I went in grid order.

        Go figure! I see it now ….

    • ajk says:

      I had this exact same issue (not really knowing the movie didn’t help), but received a gracious and helpful nudge from a fellow solver that put me on the right track. For some reason ‘clue order’ wasn’t in my playbook.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        I haven’t seen clue order very often before, if ever, but then, the initial letters of the clues are rarely the letters that need to be ordered. In a sense, taking the letters of the thematic clues in their order of appearance is analogous to taking the letters of thematic grid entries in their order of appearance, which is common enough.

  8. Abide says:

    Spectacular concept indeed! AND/Zooey was my foothold, about 2/3 of the way through. But I wrestled with ZEOGHYMK and ALLGLKRZ for a day before taking the Occam’s razor approach.

  9. BHamren says:

    I bet that I am not the only one that made 4 columns for these 8 non-opposite answers:

    1 for the grid answer
    1 for the grid answer opposite
    1 for the first letter of the clue
    1 for the opposite of the first letter of the clue

    I just happened to start in the correct order (and once I saw the A=Z, B=Y, etc. it helped fill in the grid on some tough ones). After a bit I noticed Zootopia popping out and found I had missed the I clue. It took quite a while so I am glad I had a bit of time for this one.

    • cyco says:

      I did the exact same thing.

    • Norm H says:

      Yep, I did exactly that.

      My path was noticing the following, in order:
      Pangram in grid >> Initial letter pangram in grid >> Scrabbly-ness in clue starting letters >> Clues starting with opposite letters as their entries (biggest aha, of course).

  10. Wayne says:

    Count me as another ZEOGHYMK fan. I have a spreadsheet with 8 columns of gibberish as a result of me applying the transformation everywhere I could think of.

    Finally I looked up to discover that the answer had been sitting there in column 2 all along…left eyebrow raised, sadly shaking its head at me.

  11. David R says:

    My process was to note unusual first letters of the grid in the puzzle. Wondered what was the opposite and looked at 1A seeing clue starting with A which struck me. I continued through the puzzle and saw it throughout the first row of the puzzle. Stopped and assumed all the clues/answers were that way.

    No further progress looked at movies from the decade and saw Zootopia with the same concept and was going to send that as an answer if nothing else came of it. Came back to the puzzle and found the clues/fill that didn’t match and confirmed the answer.

    In Judaism there is this concept used for numerology where you can swap letters in a similar manner which is the first place I’ve seen this idea. This is called Atbash in reference to the first Hebrew letters and their opposites.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Ha, my first two sentences of notes after filling out the crossword read:
      “The crossword is a pangram. In light of this, could it be conceivable that the title refers to an [Atbash] sort of scheme?”

      It took me a little longer to get to the clues. Only after noticing that not merely the set of grid entries, but the much smaller subset of their initials comprised a pangram, did I think to look at the initials of the clues.

  12. Seth Cohen says:

    Great meta! Hey Matt, want to share the meta you were trying until late at night but gave up on? Or are you saving it in case you can salvage it for another time?

  13. Seth Cohen says:

    Although, couldn’t you do this with literally any grid and make it spell almost anything? I bet, with enough creativity, you could write a clue for any entry that starts with any letter you want.

  14. Hector says:

    Not only is it a pangram, but I believe it contains 25 of the 26 possible clue-entry combinations with opposite first letters (I think it’s E-V that is missing). I look forward to hearing from Matt about how this one came together.

    • Andy says:

      I originally thought he successfully had an entry, and therefore a clue, for each letter of the alphabet, but indeed VOL is the only V entry in the grid, and its role in the meta means there was no E clue.

  15. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    It doesn’t look like it’s been said here, but Matt definitely didn’t do himself any favors with the grid: 14 8-letter entries and 8 7-letter entries are tough to fit together, especially when you are deliberately trying to use many letters of the alphabet. It’s an impressive construction.

  16. TRidgway says:

    Haha! Didn’t realize the Z-A ends of the meta until Matt pointed it out.

  17. Mike Nixon says:

    Please tell me I’m not the only one who transcribed the entire grid to the “opposite” letters thinking the meta would pop out before finding that to result in nothing but gobbledygook and then going back and checking each clue…

  18. Slash says:

    Absolutely brilliant! Stephen Hawking fits the A-Z, B-Y, etc. theme, and would have been proud!

Comments are closed.