MGWCC #739

crossword 4:27
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #739 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “My Cup Runneth Over”. for week 5 of guest constructor month at mgwcc, we have a puzzle from will nediger, who challenges us to find a beverage. all right. what are the theme answers? i don’t know. it’s a curious grid, with no long across answers (a couple of 8s) but a handful of long downs in stacks (an 8-9-10 stack in each of two corners), plus a couple of other 8s. the grid is also 16-wide, which is noteworthy but not unheard of.

the title suggests (to me, anyway) looking at words that might run over the edges of the grid that turn into cups or drinking vessels or beverage names. in that light, i did notice that the consecutive entries AT SEA on the right edge of the grid and AESTHETE on the left edge of the next row contain the shared string TSEA, forwards at the end of AT SEA and in reverse at the start of AESTHETE. that was interesting to me, but i don’t quite know what to do with it.

will’s homeland CANADA is in the grid, clued as {“Come from Away” country}. it’s also at the edge of the grid, and that made me think of the ginger ale brand CANADA DRY. i don’t know what to do with that, either.

oh, this is interesting—i’ve just noticed that the grid contains no instances of the letter I. that is quite unusual and feels like it shouldn’t just happen by accident. wait, there are no L’s, either—a little bit less surprising, but still surprising. every other letter gets used at least once, including rare letters like JQVWXZ, once each.

okay, it probably matters that {Ruptures} BURSTS is in the grid and {Structures affected by bursitis} is a clue (for SACS), since BURSTS and BURSITIS differ only by the insertion of two I’s. are there other things like this? yes, there’s {Bus payments} FARES and {Queen of the fairies} MAB. i should find more of these even though i don’t understand what’s going on yet. there is one more pair with two I’s and a few with I and L:

  • {X} TEN and {Tie-in, often} TOY.
  • {Courses that may have grades} ROADS (great, tricky clue there) and {Recommenders of rest or Rolaids} MDS. “rolaids” does stand out a little here—it definitely doesn’t need to be there for the clue to function in a regular crossword sense.
  • {-speak} ESE and {Elsie ___ Cow} THE. i did think while solving that was a strikingly specific way to clue THE, but it could have just been whimsy.
  • {Square of butter} PAT and {Part of a plait} TRESS.

all right, what are we doing with these six pairs? looking at the grid, i notice that the words that can have I’s and L’s inserted are all across entries in three stacked pairs: BURSTS on top of PAT, TEN atop ESE, and FARES atop ROADS. drawing in the I’s and L’s along the border lines between the squares kind of suggests a cup around two letters in each pair. i guess that’s why I and L were chosen for this particular exercise. but what now?

reading off the letters in the “cups” gives TAESRA, which … is not a beverage. looking at the letters just above each cup (because they “runneth over”) gives MRG, which … is still not a beverage. i do note that the lower right cup has the letters ORANG leading down into it, from the end of TUSCARORA and the start of NGRAM. orange juice (or orange soda, orange crush) is a drink. i don’t know what’s happening with the others, though. DRUM TABS i guess has RUM over the cup, but if there’s something i’m supposed to be seeing in TRESS / BERESFORD, i am missing it.

i feel like i’m pretty close, but there’s definitely (at least) one more step i am not seeing, and my time is up, unfortunately. what’d i miss?

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26 Responses to MGWCC #739

  1. merlinnimue says:

    the cups fill up from bottom to top and spill over to the right – these give 6-letter clues to 3 more words in the grid whose initials when read in cup order from bottom to top spell the answer.

    after all that, i could use a drink

  2. Dan+Seidman says:

    That’s exactly as far as I got. I guessed Three Cups of Tea, which is a book title.

  3. GoClaire19 says:

    I guessed RUM and apparently that’s correct. RUM appears on top of the first block of letters, centered over PAT (and on top of BURSTS). I couldn’t figure this puzzle out and guessed RUM as a Hail Mary with a few minutes left. I figured it must be a visual solve to this puzzle somehow. Still don’t understand it.

  4. Andrew+Bradburn says:

    This puzzle had perhaps the most ‘aha’ moments of any puzzle for me. Hard to believe e.a. got to the end in just 43 minutes!
    1. I see Q, Z, X, J in puzzle, wonder if all the letters are in the grid? No, strange…both I and L missing, has to mean something.
    2. What about the clues? No I,s or L’s in last column of down clues, wow! Ends up only six clues with I’s or L’s in them.
    3. The clues with I’s and L’s each have one word patterned I?I or L?I.
    4. If I remove the I’s and L’s from those words, I get six grid entries: TEN, ROADS, FARES etc.
    5. Those grid entries are stacked two each.
    6. If I add capital I’s and L’s to the grid entries where they are in the clue words, darkening the cell lines, they appear to be tall drinking glasses (now I know I am getting close!)
    7. Letters in the glasses don’t spell a drink, what to do? Go back to the title, ‘my cup runneth over.’ If I start at the bottom and go out and over top of the glass (to the right and spilling down), I get three 6-letter words/phrases, AT MOST, SERENE, ARGUED.
    8. There are three gird entries that could have been clued by those terms, MAX, UNFAZED, REASONED.
    9. Take them in grid order, first letters spell RUM.
    Five stars for Mr. Nediger and a big ‘cheers’ from me!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Agree 100%, this is an astonishing meta. Please make sure you understand it before rating.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Hard to believe e.a. got to the end in just 43 minutes!

      e.a.’s speed is routinely amazing. If he’s on the leaderboard, he’s on top of it. (I actually went back and checked and this was literally true for every week but two [on week #725 (eight-ball) he was #2 instead of his customary #1 and on week #714 (Lake Placid) he must have been busy when the puzzle dropped].)

  5. Garrett says:

    Not my cup of tea.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    I’m traveling so can’t post more right now but I did upload two solution grids from Gridmaster T. to show the solution. One of the most memorable puzzles in the entire MGWCC series, guest puzzle or not.

    155 right answers, 63 of which were solo solves. Outstanding work, Will!

  7. pgw says:

    A bit unfortunate that there is RUM being poured into one of the cups, potentially spoiling the answer – but otherwise a fantastic two-phase meta.

  8. e.a. says:

    giving this 50 stars out of 5 in proportion with how the constructor somehow stuffed about 10 puzzles’ worth of intrigue and delight into this one grid, without any seams showing. an all-timer

  9. paolo p. says:

    Meta of the year. just so good

  10. Chaddog says:

    Amazing meta, Will! Five stars.
    I did not get it. In fact, I could not even complete the grid without massive amounts of googling, so I did not spend much time on the meta. After seeing the reveal, it is a very impressive construction and great idea.
    Congrats to all the solvers!

  11. C. Y. Hollander says:

    This puzzle blew me away with the multiplicity of the layers that enshrouded the solution and the complex construction they entailed. Most of these meta-puzzles, in my experience—even the difficult ones—require no more than two or three insights to arrive at the solution, but this took many more. To wit (in the order I arrived at them):
    1. The grid contains every letter of the alphabet but I and L.
    2a. With the exception of six words, the clues do not contain I or L either.
    b. Stripping those exceptional I’s and L’s from the clues yields, in all six cases, a grid entry.
    [I was here 100% certain that I was on the right track, which ordinarily would mean that I were in the homestretch, as well, with no further insight required to take the last steps across the finish line. This puzzle was extraordinary in that, no sooner had I unmistakably found the track, than it took a sharp bend and disappeared. It took me a while to find it again…]
    3. Furthermore, each of these grid entries is vertically adjacent to one of the others (so that the six entries constitute three stacked pairs).
    4. Furthermore, in each pair, the letters that were adjacent to L’s and I’s in the corresponding words of the clues are vertically adjacent.
    5. In each case, the letters follow the same pattern: the upper entry has two I’s inserted, with one letter intervening, and the lower entry has an L and I inserted, with one letter intervening.
    6. If one wanted to alter the grid by inserting the I’s and L’s of the words in the clues into the correspondent grid entries, he might employ the amply-precedented technique of inscribing the additional letters in the white squares, but this would lead to ambiguity as to which root letters the implants should be grafted onto. If therefore, to remain agnostic on this point, he instead placed them upon the borderlines between squares, it might strike him that, in so doing, he had essentially drawn the outline of a cup (a significant figure by dint of its hitherto-unexplained mention in the title).
    7. The letters in the three “cups” being fancifully imagined as liquids foaming out of them and “running over”, in each case spell a word or phrase.
    8. The final steps remain of locating the three further entries described by the overflows, taking their initials, and ascertaining their proper order, but these, at last, are of the garden variety that are more or less formalities along the way to the finish.

    This puzzle was amazing. The central mechanism of adding letters to the lines between boxes, rather than the boxes themselves, was entirely fresh to me. The way that mechanism was developed into the conceit of cups running over was creative, satisfying, and, above all, beautifully executed. The amount of constraints that had to be satisfied for this to work boggle the mind, yet they were smoothly accommodated in only 15 more squares than a typical grid, without even sacrificing orthodox symmetry. The cluing was particularly nicely done, as I noticed scarcely anything odd about it before stumbling on the Rolaids/ROADS connection.

    I do have a solitary quibble with the cluing, alas: the crossing of TUSCARORA/ARO, as clued, was well nigh unguessable to one unfamiliar with both the Tuscarora and the phrase “aro/ace”—or, at minimum, the use of “ace” as shorthand for “asexual”. This could have been remedied at virtually no cost by cluing ARO more generously, to give a more broadly accessible hint to its meaning. Even merely contextualizing its domain with a note such as “(LGBT+ term)” would have sufficed, IMO, to make the crossing fair (albeit difficult) to the uninitiated.

    The above (which I point out only because it could have been so easily fixed) not-a-whit-withstanding, I only regret that I have but five stars to give to this masterpiece.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      * ah, of course the term “LGBT” was off the table. Still, “queer” (in the broad sense given at 5/10b, here) would have served in a pinch; alternatively, a more explicitly definitional clue might have been offered.

      • jefe says:

        QUEER was in the grid at 4D, but yeah I did have to look up the crossing

        • C. Y. Hollander says:

          Well, if you consider it infelicitous for grid entries to appear in unrelated clues, you can always resort to the time-honoured dodge, “4-Down term”.

  12. Joe Eckman says:

    Great puzzle! Group solve for the win!
    I wrote in the “missing” i’s and L’s as lowercase onto my printout, and for a bit of time I thought there was going to be a Morse code component. An i on top of an l kinda looks like dot dash dash. And two i’s stacked on top of each other kinda looks like dot dash dot dash.
    Obviously, it went nowhere, but it’s pretty cool that on these late month puzzles, no idea can be dismissed out of hand.

  13. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Did anyone else, in light of the title and the missing letters, spend time looking for a way to anoint a head with OIL somehow?

  14. Hector says:

    This was so much fun, I was almost disappointed when I reached a beverage.

  15. Phil Christofferson says:

    I am baffled at the rating for this puzzle (currently 4.26). How could anyone rate this less than 5 stars? This is an absolute masterpiece, maybe the most clever and intricate meta I have ever seen. Matt’s writeup on his website says it all. An astonishing feat of construction.

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