MGWCC #682

crossword 3:33 
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #682 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Minty Fresh”. for this week 4 puzzle, the instructions tells us that This week’s 16-letter contest answer is what you must do to get the meta. okay. what are the theme answers? well, for the third week in a row (!), i haven’t solved the meta, so i’m guessing here, but the first steps are fairly clear:

  • in the center of the grid, 41-across is {Total value of four certain coins} CENTS, which doesn’t really make any cents by itself, but if you include the clue number, 41 CENTS is the total value of the four commonly circulating u.s. coins: the penny (1), nickel (5), dime (10), and quarter (25).
  • the crossing central down answer is 27-down, {You should mind these (and more)} P’S AND Q’S. P and Q are, of course, the first letters of two of those coins. i wonder if it’s important that AND was duped in the clue when it’s part of the answer.
  • {Coin ___ (it’s used with a template)} PRESS is very probably thematic also, but i don’t know how to interpret it yet.

… and that’s all i’ve got. i certainly want to make use of the P/N/D/Q squares in the grid, but there are a lot more than 16 of them (9, 1, 10, and 7 respectively, for a total of 27 such squares). it’s kind of wild that P-N-D-Q all appear in order in P’S AND Q’S itself. of course, none of the other entries have all four (that’s the only Q in the grid, crossing Q-TIP across).

i wonder if the puzzle title is suggesting that we need to make new words using these letters? that’s at least an idea, and could possibly fit with the “template” idea in the PRESS clue. i don’t know how we’re going to get 16 letters out of it, though. there are certainly plenty of answers in the grid where you could replace one of the letters with P/N/D/Q to get a new word. but that feels pretty underconstrained; i’d want the altered word to still fit the clue, and i don’t see any that do that.

there were a couple of clues in the fill that caught my eye, though: {Steep stones} for GEMS feels like it could have been something like CRAGS or CLIFFS if “steep” is used in the literal rather than metaphorical sense, and {Fish often smoked} SABLE definitely made me think SOLE first (which doesn’t fit), since i’ve never heard of smoked SABLE, or even that SABLE could refer to a fish as opposed to a mustelid (turns out to be short for sablefish, which is indeed a fish, but again, not one that i knew of). these would be interesting if the theme mechanic was “the revised entry can satisfy a different clue in the puzzle”.

for that matter, so would {Member of a certain NHL team} SABRE, since that could be 30 other things. (well, almost—some of the team names like wild, avalanche, and lightning don’t really have a singular word for a player on that team.) the ones that start with P/N/D/Q are PANTHER, PENGUIN, DEVIL, and DUCK, none of which are a one-letter change from a grid answer.

just for completeness, it’s definitely worth looking at the entries at 1, 5, 10 and 25 in the grid:

  • {Like some bonds} IONIC crosses {Preconditions} IFS at square 1.
  • 5d is {Ranch worker} COWHAND.
  • 10d {“What ___ that impression?”} GAVE YOU. this is noteworthy because you don’t normally see 7-letter partials in a grid. i’m not sure that means this entry is necessarily thematic, though; it could well just be that this section of the grid is constrained by the theme in some way.
  • {Gertrude’s partner} ALICE. that’s gertrude stein and alice b. toklas.

if there’s something we’re supposed to be doing with those, i don’t see what that something is.

as much as it pains me to punt three weeks in a row, here we are at noon and i have, once again, nothing. i can’t even muster a 16-letter guess, since i’d want it to be something involving COIN A NEW PHRASE and that’s only 14.

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41 Responses to MGWCC #682

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 132 correct entries this week, of which 54 were solo solves.

    Use PSANDQS as a template for the other four 7-letter entries in the grid. The PNDQ squares spell out CHAN/GEYO/URAN/SWER, “change your answer.”

    • pgw says:

      Argh, so much simpler than I tried to make it. I was stuck on the crazy coincidence that just as the clue number for 41a is relevant, so is 27d – there are exactly 27 p/d/n/q squares in the entire grid. Tried various ways of using the grid as a coin press die – if you press it into another copy of the grid, there are 16 of the p/d/n/q letters that map to another letter. Alas, these spelled gibberish (they anagram to FOUR BASIC MARMOTS, among other non-phrases).

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I thought “16 letters” in instructions would be a bigger hint (since four coins), so notice four 7-letter words and done.

        • Chaddog says:

          2^4 = 16…being a f/w engineer put me at a slight disadvantage on this one methinks.

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            I’m not an engineer, but I had the same thought: our attention had been called to one of the unique subsets of {P,Q,D,N}; perhaps it was more than coincidence that there are a total of 16 such.

            However, this line of reasoning was a little undermined by one of the 16 being the empty set, which, unlike the others, does not have a value in cents corresponding to the number of a box in the grid.

        • Barry says:

          Why do you have to change your answer if (a) you have it already or (b) you haven’t got one? Using down clues only is a bit of a departure from your usual theme entries. I’m a bit down on that.

      • Paul J Coulter says:

        That’s what got me, too. I was convinced the 27 P,N,D, Q squares had to be significant since this entry crossed the 41CENTS theme answer. I tried every way I could think of to use these 27 squares, but nothing worked, of course. In the end, I submitted Count Your Pennies.
        It uses the Mint pun of the title, but I realize it doesn’t account for the nickels, dimes, and quarter.

      • Robin says:

        And now I’m thinking “Four Basic Marmots” is a great band name! :-)

  2. Domini says:

    We’re at the same place! I did a Hail Mary of “Coin Operated Meta” can’t wait to see the clever mechanism and what “template” I should’ve used!

  3. Jeff M says:

    Friday: 🙄
    Saturday: 😑
    Sunday: 😵‍💫
    Monday: 😡
    Now: 😥

    Nice one.

  4. Stribbs says:

    Wow, I got stuck in two rabbit holes, being sure that the value of the coins was important and that the high number of P’s in the grid meant the count of each letter mattered. Kinda guessed CHANGE was part of the answer but couldn’t reverse solve it with that assumption.

  5. mpstable says:

    hopefully my blind stab in the dark “hear the penny drop” at least helped someone unlock the Great Minds achievement.

  6. Tyler Hinman says:

    There were 27 total of PNDQ and PSANDQS was 27-Down. Not even remotely relevant??? Unreal. I had no chance.

  7. Toast says:

    So many red herrings.

    In addition to the 27d mentioned,
    MINTY FRESH is another &#!@ isogram, made from two 5-letter words.
    There are 16 different first letters of 5-letter words in the grid.

  8. Laura E-D says:

    Wait wait, so the existence of words like biPoD and NePal and PoNycars had nothing to do with it? I have two pages of notes with the appearances of P, D, N and Q in the grid…

  9. Scott Clay says:

    Nice. I now think that I should have gotten this.

  10. Martin Davis says:

    I got hung up on the large number of alliterative clues. It couldn’t figure out how to work with them.
    And on the eight 3×5 subsections of the grid- really wanted to extract two letters from each somehow.

    • david glasser says:

      Yeah, the alliterative clues (especially with S) were distracting.

      I also kept staring at `Coin ___ (it’s used with a template)` and thinking “well, WORD PRESS is also used with a template”….

    • Wendy Shank says:

      YES on the alliterative (consonant-clustering) clues. Sheesh.

  11. Wendy Shank says:

    FRISCO! Top left! So clearly San Francisco and the other THREE operating mints will be contributing to the answer. (and there’s Telluride for CO, and Sabre for NY…) 4 letters from each of 4 mints… anagram anagram anagram. : l

    And yes at some point I circled every P, N, D & Q on the grid and counted up the change.

    Oh the minutes and hours we sacrifice to this idol…

  12. John says:

    Yeah, the 41. CENTS seemed like it was important, as did the fact the 27 coins matched the number of the eventual “template”, although nothing came of that either. I would have liked more of a nudge as to what the template was, assuming PSANDQS was a very big ask, IMO. However everything is fair game in the end-of-the-monthers so I have to say this puzzle was really very good, in conception and construction. 4.5 stars from me.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Well, I thought the coins in PNDQ being the template + the clue for coin PRESS would do it.

  13. Dan Seidman says:

    My hail mary was DON”T SUBMIT UTOPIA. Well, it wasn’t exactly wrong.

  14. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    Count me as yet another one who played with the 27 P/N/D/Q entries for days. I tried to “turn on the dimes”, as if I were a pony car. I noticed that there were 16 letters that lay between two P/N/D/Qs in entries (counting the duplicates in PS AND QS) but those letters did not anagram well.

    I also had a fun time looking up old coins: I learned about the Buffalo nickel, which fit well with the SABREs. And considering the victor at Vicksburg to be Lincoln instead of Grant suggests a penny. But this pattern did not lead to 16 letters. Another blind alley was associating NOELS with 25 and TOE with 10 or 5. Among the clues, there were exactly 16 words that appeared twice; I thought it a bit odd that the two Netflix shows were explicitly called out as on Netflix, and how only two shows’ clues included “show” while the third used “series.” Other notable words that appeared twice in the clues were “certain”, “beast”, and “named.” There were also 4 words that appeared 4 times each: “like”, “and”, “for”, and “to”.

    Perhaps if I had spent more time on Saturday on this I might have crawled over the finish line — in the last few hours I kept asking to myself why 5-D/21-D/24-A/30-A were not COWHERD/EDO/RANTED/RODS, since ETO isn’t an entry I see often. This change would have swapped in a D for an N, so that suggested further to me that I had to do something special with the locations of the P/N/D/Qs in the grid. Of course, I should have connected this whole line of reasoning with my initial raised eyebrow at U S GRANT as an entry (and similar but lesser suspicion towards SPEWERS). I seized on the first step of last week’s meta immediately, but it turns out that this one was quite similar in the end.

  15. Maggie W. says:

    I thought this was notable for the number of tempting rabbit holes to go down. 41-CENTS suggested coin values were important. “Mind your PS AND QS” (and more) suggested there were multiple Ps and Qs (and Ns and Ds) that were going to come into play, likely in the grid. And there’s plenty to do with just those two ideas, alone or in combination, many of which could fairly be described as using a template to mint coins.

    I’m still curious whether “What GAVE YOU that impression?” is supposed to itself be thematic! (A coin press gave me that impression, thank you very much.)

  16. Paul M says:

    Here’s a line of pursuit that definitely did not aid in solving the meta: mint marks on US coins. There’s a P (Philadelphia) but no Q…I was somehow convinced that it must be a key anyway. DNS

  17. Hector says:

    Getting CENTS to land at numbered square 41, and finding PNDQ (in order!) in the crossing PSANDQS — [chef’s kiss emoji].

    Also, while (or maybe because) I can relate to the frustration, I have to say I’m a fan of the meta DNF report genre.

  18. Jon Forsythe says:

    Week 4s and 5s are game for any hiding strategy. I think what threw most people off the path was that because so many of us were focusing on more relevant numbers (1, 5, 10, 25, 41, 16, & 27) that it was hard to see what we were supposed to focus on the 7-letter entries. So the logical solving path flow wasn’t quite clear.

    If anyone if also hooked on Cracking the Cryptic’s Youtube channel, there was this amazing video by the sudoku setter Clover where she expertly talks about logical flow in solving sudokus. While in retrospect the solve path of this meta is clear, the setting of the puzzle stymied some of the best meta solvers out there. But perhaps logical flow is more for week 1 to week 3 puzzles & after that all bets are off?

    I ended up getting the aha moment about 15 minutes before the deadline & only after a LOT of subtle hinting by my solving circle. Took a lot of mental work to forget the numbers & focus on 27D being a template to apply to the other 7-letter entries.

  19. oldjudge says:

    I thought it was a great puzzle and was surprised it played as hard as it did, especially after we had a similar methodology the prior week. The 27 threw me off for a while also. The third relevant clue was 13D and I kept looking for 13 of something that might lead to the answer. My Hail Mary was going to be MAKE CENTS OF IT ALL

  20. Mikie says:

    Well, now I know that the “whoosh!” sound I heard was this puzzle going right by me. Counted up the PNDQ squares, got fixated on the IO of IONIC as maybe being a 10 as in cents in a dime and the NIC as maybe being the beginning of a nickel, caught the template hint (as a numismatist, I might nitpick that coin presses use dies, not templates, but whatever) but got nowhere with it. Sneaky meta, but fair.

  21. Norm H says:

    Interesting rabbit hole: I got “coins” from the hints that Joon and others picked up, and I also noticed that SABRE was more completely a Buffalo SABRE. That led me to buffalo nickel, which then had me chasing my (head and) tail trying to find entries to which words like wheat (penny), Mercury (dime) and bicentennial (quarter) could be added. Um…no.

  22. Lee Sammons says:

    The faces on the four coins are the four faces on Mt. Rushmore, except it’s the wrong Roosevelt. So I submitted “Trade FDR for Teddy.” I figured it was wrong, but amusing.

  23. Jason T says:

    Worked for me, but it was an act of will to stop making the 27 P/N/D/Q entries work somehow. But in the end, I just really focused on the word “template” in the “coin press” clue – asking myself what that could mean, and how it could work. When I pressed the coins on those 4 7-letter answers, I was shocked that it worked!

    But the big takeaway for me is: how on Earth did you notice that the phrase “Ps and Qs” happens to contains the initial letters of all 4 coins – in order, no less! Was that the find that spurred the meta, or did the find come after the coin press idea?

  24. Jed says:

    I spent the weekend remembering poring over state quarters to solve MGWCC #52…

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