MGWCC #661

crossword 3:44 
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #661 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Palimpsest”. thanks to matt for filling in for me last week when i forgot to blog the puzzle due to the altered deadline. for this week 5 puzzle, the instructions tell us that the answer is seven letters long. okay. what’s the theme? in this oversized (17×17) puzzle, the theme answers are all down entries cluing a famous author via one of their works:

  • {He wrote the 1978 novel “Chesapeake” (4)} JAMES MICHENER.
  • {He wrote the 1952 novel “East of Eden” (7)} JOHN STEINBECK.
  • {With 16-Down, he wrote the 1966 novel “A Man of the People” (8)} CHINUA / ACHEBE.
  • {She wrote the 1976 novel “Henry and Cato” (15)} IRIS MURDOCH.
  • {She wrote the 1872 novel “Middlemarch” (11)} GEORGE ELIOT.
  • {He contributed to the 2014 short story collection “Dark Screams” (18)} STEPHEN KING.
  • {He wrote the 2015 novel “Rogue Lawyer” (26)} JOHN GRISHAM.

to accommodate this set of theme answers, matt has opted for mirror grid symmetry (which is, i think, why the theme answers read down instead of across; left/right mirror symmetry is more pleasing to the eye than top/bottom, because gravity).

so, what’s going on with the theme? these are definitely not all of these authors’ most famous works. middlemarch is, and east of eden is certainly among steinbeck’s most famous works (though still probably second to the grapes of wrath), but the others are very much not. i’m particularly looking at dark screams, which is a collection of horror/gothic stories that doesn’t even have its own wikipedia page, to which king contributed one story. that’s a strikingly obscure choice, given that king has so many super-famous works of his own. so i think something must be going on with either these particular works or perhaps just their titles.

i also don’t know what to do with the parenthetical numbers, which are definitely not enumerations or an ordering. perhaps they’re indices, although into what, i cannot really fathom yet. i don’t think they are pointing at specific squares or answers in this grid by number. they do go up to 26, which makes me think of letters of the alphabet. and even letters of the alphabet combined with authors and books makes me think of the sue grafton series of alphabet mysteries. but that one didn’t even make it to Z before grafton’s death.

what about the title? a palimpsest is a manuscript whose text has been scraped off so that it can be reused for another document. that’s certainly a suggestive title for this crossword. my first thought was that perhaps these works were revisions of earlier works, but reading up on some of these less familiar ones, i haven’t found anything like that to be the case. another thought is that perhaps this grid is the same pattern as a previous puzzle (as if the crossword itself is a palimpsest) and that perhaps the book titles are related somehow. i have this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that i’ve seen a contest crossword called “palimpsest” before (i think by will nediger?) and that the mechanism involved two grids using the same pattern, but a search isn’t turning anything up. in any event, if such a puzzle did exist, i feel reasonably confident that matt would’ve seen it and not reused the same idea.

perhaps there is some wordplay connection between the author and book names. i notice that both MIDDLEMARCH and GEORGE ELIOT are 11 letters; the same is true of STEPHEN KING / DARK SCREAMS and JOHN GRISHAM / ROGUE LAWYER. this breaks down at IRIS MURDOCH (11) and HENRY AND CATO (12), though, and the others are even worse. no, i think this is probably not it.

what if we interpret the book titles as crossword clues themselves? “middlemarch” could be a slighty stretchy punny clue for the common crossword answer IDES. “chesapeake” could certainly clue BAY. “east of eden” refers to the land of NOD in the book of genesis. some of these others are a little more dubious, though. what would “dark screams” be? what about “henry and cato” other than just… NAMES? even “rogue lawyer” isn’t quite a crossword clue for any answer i can think of, although perhaps SHYSTER comes closest. i’m not really sure about “a man of the people” either.

i wonder if the parenthetical numbers are instructing us to go back and look at previous MGWCCs. that would be wild. i don’t think matt would have a january puzzle that required a subscription to the previous years’ puzzles to solve, though. that would be kind of mean to new subscribers. callbacks to puzzles from earlier in the same month, though, are a thing matt has done before.

well, i’m stumped, and now i’m out of time. i’m going to try submitting RECYCLE as a hail mary; it’s seven letters and related to the idea of a palimpsest. that’s all i’ve got. let me know in the comments section what’s actually going on.

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70 Responses to MGWCC #661

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 278 right answers this week.

    Take the book the author wrote the number of years in parentheses before the title in the clue, and which has the same number of letters as the title in the clues. Overlay the two titles and they will share exactly one letter. So Michener wrote CENTENNIAL (4) years prior to CHESAPEAKE, and they share the C. Steinbeck wrote CANNERY ROW (7) years prior to EAST OF EDEN, and they share the A.

    When you do all seven it spells contest answer CANDIDE.

    • bwouns says:

      Is there a connection between Candide or Voltaire with the Palimpsest concept. I couldn’t find one which is why I didn’t submit right away. I thought I might be missing a step. Like perhaps applying the mechanism to Candide itself somehow. Since there was no year I couldn’t figure out how that could be done.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        No, there was just an extremely limited set of letters to choose from. After 3+ hours of scouring authors’ oeuvres I had just AACCDDEEEIINNNO. Thought it should be at least seven letters for a proper click and was happy to see CANDIDE in there.

    • quizquest says:

      I knew I needed to do something with the years, bc there wasn’t a good reason for them being in the clues otherwise, but I was doing crazy things with the last two digits/grid numbers. Holy shnikes. Great puzzle. It always amazes me that you can build a grid for the fantastically clever ideas. I guess the software helps? I’ve only tried by hand.

    • Bob Geary says:


      At one point I actually ADDED the parenthesized numbers to the years to see what the writers had written then, but abandoned it because some of the dates were in the future. I CAN’T BELIEVE I DIDN’T TRY THE OBVIOUS OTHER STEP.

      And then I just went down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. (My “insight” that the 8D clue “44th of 46” was a hint that the parenthesized numbers referred to US Presidents, for example.)

      This one beat me, but it ALMOST DIDN’T!!!!

      Really wonderfully constructed puzzle, I remain a fan, and resolve to do better!

  2. Dan Seidman says:

    There is a reason the year was included in each clue: subtract the parenthetical number from the year and find another work by that author from the resulting year where you can overlay the two titles for one matching letter. The result is Candide.

    I figured this out at 11:30 today, after spending my weekend trying things like looking through every single previous MGWCC grid to see if there was one that matched this one.

  3. Joe says:

    I tried folding the puzzle on top of itself (like a book) to see if there was anything to be seen when held up to the light. I got nothing. Someone please post a solution! :)

  4. Adam Rosenfield says:

    The 2008 MIT Mystery Hunt featured a puzzled named Palimpsest, which IIRC my team completely failed to solve at the time. But that puzzle clearly has no relation to this puzzle.

  5. Norm H says:

    The answer is CANDIDE.

    Each author has a pair of novels with the same number of letters in their titles, exactly one of which is in the same position. For each author, one of these novels is the one mentioned in the clue. The parenthetical number in the clues is how many year prior the other novel was published. Example: EASTOFEDEN shares exactly one letter (the A in the second position) with CANNERYROW, which was published 7 years prior. This A is the palimpsest, the remnant. Following the same logic for the other authors, in order of grid appearance, yields CANDIDE, which among other interpretations is a novel written by Voltaire.

    I think I have a new all-time favorite MGWCC puzzle.

    This meta absolutely blew my mind. Think about what Matt had to do:
    — Come up with the concept, which is not exactly obvious!
    — Find seven well-known authors with a pair of novels whose titles have the same number of letters.
    — Make sure that among each pair, there is one, and only one, instance of the same letter appearing in the same position.
    — Oh wait, make sure the authors’ names are of the right lengths that they can be placed symmetrically in a grid.
    — Arrange the authors in the proper order such that the same-position letters spell something relevant.

    Gee, what could have possibly gone wrong? Simply brilliant.

    Matt, how long did this take from conception to execution?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      About 7 hours. For the second week in a row I wasted all my constructing time trying to make that same really-cool-idea-that-just-doesn’t-work happen as I did last week so for the second week in a row Thursday night arrived and I had to start over from scratch with a whole new concept. This time I was up until 4:00 AM finishing it (sent it to Tester at 4:07 AM).

      Nothing like the last minute and it worked out well both times (not counting the postponement on Week 4) but on Friday I’m going to write about this really-cool-but-doesn’t-work idea just so I am never tempted to try making it happen again. My white whale, to use another literary ref.

      • Garrett says:

        I loved this puzzle, though I hated it at first, because I could not figure-out what to do with the numbers in parens. Finally I thought the date must be key, and so the number must mean years before, because of the size of them, especially the Grisham one (26). I got a little excited when I got the date hit, and even more excited with the title length match. I went from one to the next and got very excited. As Pannonica shows, the next step is trivial. It is that first big intuition that has to hit you, or you are cooked with this one.

      • Jay Livingston says:

        How much of that 7 hours was occupied in making the grid? And how much in finding books and authors. I can see why you’d choose King and Grisham. They’ve written about 134 books each, so finding an appropriate pair would not be so hard. But Achebe? George Eliot? How many authors did you check out only to discover that they had nothing to contribute? And did CANDIDE come first, or did it evolve out of the letters you were finding in the authors/books exporations?

        • pannonica says:

          “After 3+ hours of scouring authors’ oeuvres I had just AACCDDEEEIINNNO. Thought it should be at least seven letters for a proper click and was happy to see CANDIDE in there.”

          (from Matt’s comment above)

    • pgw says:

      > This meta absolutely blew my mind.

      Mine too, for all the reasons you list, plus the following (to me the most mind-blowing step), which is that you have to (after coming up with the concept):

      — Not immediately reject the idea as hopelessly complex and time-consuming and soldier on!

  6. pannonica says:

    Here are my notes, which may help others more easily visualize it:

    1974 (C)ENTENNIAL
    1978 (C)HESAPEAKE (4)

    1945 C(A)NNERYROW
    1952 E(A)STOFEDEN (7)

    1966 AMA(N)OFTHEPEOPLE (8)

    1976 HENRYAN(D)CATO (15)

    1861 S(I)LASMARNER
    1872 M(I)DDLEMARCH (11)

    1996 (D)ESPERATION
    2014 (D)ARKSCREAMS (18)

    1989 ATIM(E)TOKILL
    2015 ROGU(E)LAWYER (26)

    CANDIDE (1758)
    mAhomet (1741)
    socratE (1759)
    liNgenu (1767)

    So I went with the play Mahomet, published 17 years prior, which was graciously accepted by Matt.

    • I had that moment before I clicked submit when I thought, “What if there’s another step for Voltaire and I need to look for a previous work?” Without a parenthetical number or year to consider I was confident that the answer was Candide.

  7. Paul J Coulter says:

    Didn’t get it, but wow, that’s outstanding!

  8. Will Nediger says:

    The puzzle Joon’s thinking of is one of my subscriber puzzles (“Overwritten”), which was a themeless with the same grid pattern as the previous puzzle, and was solved by writing over top of an already-solved copy of the PDF. The letters that were the same in both grids spelled out PALIMPSEST.

    I still DNFed on this one, though!

    • joon says:

      thanks, will, for confirming that i wasn’t imagining that previous puzzle (which i loved).

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I had vague memories of a palimpsest puzzle as well but my search of “palimpsest” + “crossword fiend” didn’t yield anything. Half the time this happens it turns out to have been a Nediger…

  9. Chaddog says:

    Wow, never would have gotten there. I was certain – absolutely certain – that this involved various alphabets. HEBRAIC spanned CHINUA and ACHEBE (as well as clued as ancient literature, which stood out after reading the definition of Palimpsest). ARAB was next to JOHN STEINBECK. OMEGA crossed JOHN GRISHAM which had (26), which I then took to meaning the greek equivalent of our 26th letter?

    I even saw USAGE as a tie between IRIS MURDOCH and GEORGE ELIOT, possibly indicating USA English and GErman… so that got me looking at numbers.

    What an A-HA this would have provided! Wish I would have gotten there. But once that tempting wrong idea takes hold, I need like a 4 layer Inception-style mind seeding to get off that idea.

  10. mrbreen says:

    “i wonder if the parenthetical numbers are instructing us to go back and look at previous MGWCCs. that would be wild. i don’t think matt would have a january puzzle that required a subscription to the previous years’ puzzles to solve, though. that would be kind of mean to new subscribers. callbacks to puzzles from earlier in the same month, though, are a thing matt has done before.”

    I highly suggest y’all check out this gem from 2014:

    Memorable to me not only for its brilliance, but also because it was the first time I collaborated with my sometimes co-solver. We didn’t get the final step, but it was the beginning of a correspondence that has lasted since, well, 2014.

    Loved the puzzle this week too!

    • Dan Seidman says:

      MGWCC #378 was a tribute to Merl Reagle, where Matt published a grid of Reagle’s that had inspired him as part of the instructions for the puzzle. It turned out that Matt’s puzzle had the same grid and you had to find the letters equal to the corresponding ones in Reagle’s grid. For a while I thought this week’s might have a similar mechanism.

  11. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    Ouch. I lost a long streak to this one, and I did spend time overlaying various things on the grid and in the authors’ names. I did look at previous MGWCCs, actually, since it felt worth a try and I got to have fun seeing Matt be all cutesy with #26 and say “Whoa, it’s been half a year already!”

    But I must say I am not digging this meta as much as the other commenters, partly due to sour grapes, but also — the grid has a lot of partials, and it has mirror symmetry (perhaps since it is related to books?) with black squares that make what looks to be a dog or quokka-like shape, and all of that is distraction. There was no need to put in the authors’ first names to make the grid so strained; one could have just had their last names and made a much more pleasing set of black squares and fill, I would guess.

    I am also frustrated because I tried a few things with adding the numbers and a thing or two with subtracting them by moving around in the grid, but set that aside because there were too many possibilities and because the numbers weren’t signed. When I later reasoned that either the years or the titles had to be relevant (and it turned out to be both!), I was reminded a bit of the PAPP/OMOO/EPEE/NUNN/DODD meta where OMOO and VANITY FAIR were published in the same year, so I looked at notable works published in the given years and lo and behold: AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS was published in 1872, the same year as MIDDLEMARCH, and it has 26 letters! I am used to the way cryptic crosswords indicate the length of answers, so I used that interpretation of the parentheses and did not go back to using it as a shift. (That proved to be fatal.) To make matters worse, this pattern continued a bit: THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (18 letters) was published in 1952, the same year as EAST OF EDEN. And IN COLD BLOOD (11 letters) was published in the same year as A MAN OF THE PEOPLE. This felt quite strong, since there are not many extremely well-known literary works with 18 and 26 letters, but it proved to be a blind alley.

    And finally, as far as a palimpsest goes, it feels weird for the erasing and replacement to be in the clues rather than the grid: it is expected that a grid gets filled then erased then overwritten with new things as you iron out mistakes you may have made. I spent quite a bit of time overwriting parts of the grid to try to make topical things (e.g. CUJO overwriting JOJO in the top left).

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Reason for the L-R symmetry was that the usable authors’ names were very restricted and their lengths were unwieldy with regular symmetry, so I would’ve needed to use a secondary number in parentheses between 1-7 to give their placements, which I thought was inelegant. Didn’t realize the grid looks like a cat until someone mentioned it.

      Putting the books’ names in the clues instead of grid was necessary since if they’re in the grid you can just look for plausible 7-letter strings in the seven grid entries in order to find CANDIDE. There were a couple of plausible incorrect answers (PEN NAME and KENNEDY were two) but I thought solvers would be much less likely to do that if they were in the clues. Week 5, so no more information than necessary is best.

    • I can understand being frustrated from spending a long time following dead ends and losing a long streak. But c’mon, “a much more pleasing set of black squares”? There is no way that that left-right symmetry objectively makes the meta worse; it’s just an arrangement of black squares to get the authors’ names to fit symmetrically. (What’s a “pleasing set of black squares” anyway?) And if Matt used just the authors’ last names, he’d have a 4 (KING), a 5 (ELIOT), a 6 (ACHEBE), two 7’s (GRISHAM, MURDOCH), an 8 (MICHENER), and a 9 (STEINBECK) — that likely would have forced him into scrapping symmetry altogether, or finding matching words of the same length that would have been useless. I’d bet money you’d have found that distracting too, maybe even more so.

      I did think it was a little odd after figuring this out that, technically, you don’t need to solve the grid itself to get the meta. But that didn’t detract from what I thought was a very neat set of finds on Matt’s part.

      • Alex Bourzutschky says:

        What I was suggesting with the author names was that one could find new ones: Charles Dickens’s “The Battle of Life” (1846) to “A Christmas Carol” (1843) could have given you a T, Michael Crichton’s “The Lost World” (1995) to “Jurassic Park” (1990) gives you an S, Anthony Burgess’s “Napoleon Symphony” (1974) to “A Clockwork Orange” (1962) gives you an O, etc. That way the authors’ surnames have lengths that pair up except for the one in the center. It was a bit more difficult than I expected to get these pairings, so it is impressive that the construction fit them in in the order they are here. But I did restrict myself to extremely well-known authors; I am sure I could have found enough letters to spell out something literary in 7 entries with symmetrical author surnames.

        I will tone down my criticism somewhat, as I had Great Expectations for this puzzle — I thought it was the white whale that Matt was describing above. For something that Matt put together in a hurry the night before, it is impressive. And I suppose I am spoiled with newspaper crosswords where it is uncommon to stray from 180-degree symmetry. A pleasing set of black squares is one that you don’t notice!

  12. Amanda Hoffmeister says:

    I’m a week 3-er at best. I figured the numbers had to do with the alphabet because they went up to 26. Didn’t get anywhere after that.

    • Garrett says:

      That thought crossed my mind, too, but the clue that had (26) would have meant a Z somewhere, and there was no Z in the grid.

  13. Jsolomon1999 says:

    How did you all figure out that the numbers in parentheses meant years prior? Or even years at all? I was one of those looking at those numbers as sequence in the Hebraic alphabet.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      For me, they were more confirmation than prompt. “Palimpsest” prompted me to look for other titles by the same authors that could be construed as written beneath the given titles in some way. SILAS MARNER/MIDDLEMARCH was the first of the thematic pairs to catch my eye, by dint of the letter string “MAR” that both fortuitously contain.

      Seeing not only that the two titles contained the same number of letters but the number of years between their publications was the same as the number of years given in the parenthetic hint was strong evidence that I was on the right track, becoming exponentially stronger with each entry pair that fit the pattern, which made it very helpful in solving the puzzle despite not being my way in.

    • streroto says:

      This was the click for me, actually. I had been trying the alphabet angle, and after a day of getting nowhere, I noticed the dates in the 5 themer clues. I thought hey I wonder if there is some relationship between the dates and the parenthetical numbers. From there it was smooth sailing.

      Once I had the meta I spent a bit of time trying to see if there was anything else, and found L’Ingenue as did pannonica (though I did not find the other two). Based on Matt’s responses above, it seems these are just coincidental.

      A brilliant puzzle!

    • Stribbs says:

      For me it stood out that the years of publication were in all the clues. Then I focused on Chinua Achebe as Things Fall Apart was the clearly most famous work; seeing that it was from 1958 made the 8 click as a gap in years right away.

    • Norm H says:

      At first, I thought the parenthetical numbers referred to the nth book by that author. But at least one of the authors didn’t write as many books as the corresponding number, so that didn’t work. I also tried titles with those number of letters, but I ran aground quickly. The fact that the clues always included the years kept sticking in my craw, so eventually it took me to number of years prior.

    • ajk says:

      a) the years seemed superfluous, so probably there for a reason, b) the title suggested reworking older things. I danced around a few other meanings for the numbers before the year thing hit me.

      Having said that, I identified all the prior works (except I had The Green Mile for King) and then got stuck and was persuaded it was a dead end. :) It wasn’t until I got a helpful nudge or two that I realized I’d be on the right track all along.

  14. Dave says:

    Loved it!

    Question about the Crossword Fiend page: Once you rate a puzzle, the link to rate it just says “rated.” Is there a way to see what rating I gave it, and/or change it? I think I accidentally gave it a 3, trying to give it a 5, because the average went down after I hit submit. (I was using an iPhone, and I scrolled up to “5 stars” but I think maybe it hadn’t yet registered the change when I hit submit.)

    • Evad says:

      Hi Dave, no there’s no way to see what you rated it (unless asking here for me to check and I happen to notice your comment). I have updated ratings in the past since the default of 3 is a common mistake.

  15. Silverskiesdean says:

    I believe this was the most incredibly brilliant and elegant meta I have ever seen. I can only repeat what everyone else has said or is thinking. I can only add that I am proud to be a part of your club and that you have allowed me to partake of your wonderfully elegant “2-layer mental-floss puzzles”. Thank you thank you.

  16. Seth Cohen says:

    I’d like to request that PENGUIN be accepted as an answer:
    1) The black square design screams penguin. This could be seen as an example of a palimpsest, where the grid is being reused to overlay a penguin.
    2) Penguin Random House is the publisher, or the parent company of the publisher, of all the books.

    I know it doesn’t explain the numbers in parentheses, or why these specific authors or titles were chosen, but come on…the penguin in the grid is clear as day. And Penguin is the publisher. It fits.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t even submit “Hail Mary” guesses, because making a lucky guess at the answer doesn’t feel like solving the puzzle to me. Would it really be satisfying to be officially recognizing for “solving” a Week 5 puzzle by submitting a wrong answer that doesn’t make sense of half the clues you were given?

  17. Silverskiesdean says:

    I agree with you Mr. Hollander. Also if Matt is going to the trouble of writing such a wonderful Meta which I’m sure took time, I owe it to him but mostly to myself to work at it and get the answer by hopefully doing a lot of thinking about the puzzle at hand. Also, I’d rather not get hints from others and intuit the answer at the last minute as opposed to possibly not getting it because of how good it feels when I get the answer on my own. When I started, I could do Week 1 and maybe Week 2 puzzles. Now I do Week 3s (sometimes) and Week 4s (sometimes). It’s amazing the learning curve involved when you think about the ways in which you solve the puzzle. You can really get better at it and I look at it like learning how to think. It’s a lot of fun!

  18. Bill2RD says:

    Great construction! I got the connection between years and previous books early on, but it took me until Monday to make the final leap to the shared letters. I think that this was the first week 5 meta that I’ve solved.

  19. Mike Nixon says:

    I applaud the elegance of the meta, and it’s deviousness being a Week 5 and all, but still think having to turn to Google to get the solution (presuming one doesn’t have the oeuvres of all 7 authors memorized, of course) is, well, inelegant. I’d rather know that the universe of possibilities is at least on the page in front of me, in the grid or the clues or some combo thereof. JMHO.

    • Matt has said for years that using Google to help you solve a meta is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. So why is it a weakness of the puzzle if you need to use it? I couldn’t name most of the authors’ books off the top of my head either, but the relevant book was listed right there on each author’s Wikipedia page (or with Stephen King, it’s more easily found on the Wiki page of his bibliography).

      Is it just that navigating away from the puzzle page annoys you? I’m genuinely curious, because a lot of people still seem to think using Google on a meta as “cheating” when it isn’t.

      • joon says:

        let’s not conflate two separate issues: whether googling is cheating and whether the fact that a meta essentially requires looking a bunch of stuff up to solve makes it less elegant and/or satisfying. the answer to the first question is definitely no; as you say, we got it straight from the source. but the answer to the second is a matter of opinion. (my opinion happens to be yes.)

        • Sure, it’s a matter of opinion if needing to look through Wiki or whatever resources on Google makes a meta less satisfying. If it meant forcing solvers to do deep dives into super-obscure websites to find the relevant info, then I’d fully agree. I just think we shouldn’t be discouraging Matt or other constructors from writing metas that ask solvers to use Google or Wiki (within reason); there are a lot of good metas that would never get written if the expectation is that the answer should be entirely gettable from the puzzle page.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            My usual line on this is that any Googling required by a meta should be “limited and focused” meaning there’s not much of it and the solver should have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for (i.e., no wild goose chases).

            I think this one passes that test; both “palimpsest” and the years suggested time, so a reasonable theory is that those parenthetical numbers are years, and checking a specific author’s bibliography is limited and focused enough to my mind.

            I might also add that googling should be “rare,” since it’s not something you’d want a lot of metas to require. But for a Week 5 where it opens up a lot of possibilities I thought it was OK.

            • Alex B. says:

              I take it this means we won’t ever see a repeat of MGWCC 35

            • ajk says:

              This is pretty much what I said to someone who asked about Googling. Good to know I was quoting you properly. :)

            • Mike Nixon says:

              Agree 100% with Matt, and hey, he makes the puzzles, so he makes the rules. Was not intending to imply “cheating” at all, just that my preference is not to have to separately look things up as part of the solve.

  20. jefe says:

    Ah dang, that was gettable. I’d pulled up lists of the authors’ works, my initial thought being that we had to look at their works immediately prior. That didn’t work and I didn’t get a chance to revisit the puzzle.

  21. john says:

    I understand what joon is saying somewhat. In my more colloquial rendering: i don’t care for metas that feel like a lot of homework. However this was a stunning construction. I know how it all came together and still, ala Norm H, can hardly believe it worked. If you got the nudge about what to do with the parens, you didn’t need to Google a lot. If you were fishing, perhaps so. This is right up there with his very best, IMO, and i have been doing them from the start.

    • David says:

      Disagree. You need to Google to get the *exact same list of works* that Matt used.

      I don’t enjoy this kind of meta, where the answer isn’t in the grid

      • Lance Keigwin says:


        I accept that googling is sometimes necessary. That the solution is entirely dependent on googling over and over, and not mostly on what is presented in the puzzle, is disappointing.

  22. Jon Forsythe says:

    Until I found the correct route I thought for sure the meta answer was going to be a pirate book or author who wrote about pirates as – to me – the grid looked like a skull and cross bones.

    In the end, a brilliantly tough meta & one I wouldn’t have gotten with my group solving pals. But I do find some solace that I was 4 weeks into the new year with solo solves up until this week. Usually on years past I’ve had to given up on the solo solve goal around week 3 of January.

  23. PatXC says:

    Feeling a bit like the blind squirrel finding an acorn. I don’t think I’ve ever solved a week 5 meta before, but this one took me far less time than many week 2s and most week 3s. After checking out the numbers in parenthesis for a bit, I noticed the dates in all of the theme clues, and the rest fell in place. Maybe 30 minutes at most. As with most later weeks, if the meta doesn’t click, no amount of trying gets me out of rabbit holes. Small victories! Great meta!

  24. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    It’s especially painful to miss this one as what I wrote in the entry for “A Man for the People” describing the books in my spreadsheet was ” Things Fall Apart (1958) much better known. ” followed by a summary of A Man for the People. If only I’d more closely looked at the years and noticed their difference of 8, I would have been on the right track! It seems this was a great foothold for many of the solvers. For all my whining in previous posts, I do think this foothold is fortuitously week-5 difficulty. There have been some puzzles in the last few months that were unexpectedly easy or hard, but this whole month was very good from a calibration standpoint.

  25. john s says:

    I feel that this is more like a puzzle hunt type puzzle instead of a meta crossword puzzle. I was able to solve it fairly quickly, especially for a week 5, mainly because the solution seems pretty obvious if you think about it like a puzzle hunt. Afterwards, I realized that the crossword wasn’t even needed at all. The only information it gives are the author’s names, but you could just get them from the theme clues without even doing the crossword at all. I don’t think it’s out of the question for someone to just look at the clues, see the theme entries, and look up the authors and figure out the solution all while never even touching the crossword. And since you already have to look up the authors to solve the puzzle, just looking up the works mentioned the clues is basically the same thing. With all that said, I enjoyed this puzzle very much during the solve, but in retrospect I don’t think it’s a very good meta crossword puzzle at all.

  26. David Glasser says:

    My trick for solving Week 5s seems to be “fail on Week 4 so it’s not like it actually helps your streak”.

  27. Jim S says:

    Congrats to Matt and family on their great news this week!

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