MGWCC #746

crossword 2:46
meta 5:00 


hello and welcome to episode #746 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Our Retorter Is on the Scene”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a five-letter word. what are the theme answers? first, there are the five long answers, which each get a parenthetical number in the clue:

  • {See what each other thinks about, as a movie (5)} COMPARE NOTES ON. it works, i think, but dang, that’s an awkwardly worded clue.
  • {Accidentally thought to be, as one identical twin for another (4)} MISTOOK FOR. this one too—”for” is used in the clue in the exact same sense as it appears in the answer.
  • {Bellini’s “Norma” or Rossini’s “La Cenerentola,” e.g. (1)} BEL CANTO OPERA.
  • {Vanilla-flavored drinks (3)} CREAM SODAS.
  • {With “The”: “Family Guy” episode guest-voiced by David Lynch, Sanaa Lathan, and Gary Cole (2)} SPLENDID SOURCE. never heard of this, but okay. it’s the title of one episode of a tv show.

the next step is strongly suggested by the title: each of these themers contains a “playground retort” of the type commonly clued in crosswords simply as {Playground retort}: ARE NOT, IS TOO, CAN TOO, AM SO, and DID SO. but what now?

well, there are five more themers, each with a weird playground-y taunt for a clue. these could each be ingeniously riposted by one of the hidden playground retorts. in order of the parenthetical numbers:

  • {“You could never make it to the top of that climbing wall!”} clues STOP, but the retort to this could be CAN TOO (1).
  • {“Despite your claims, you never actually made it made it across that rope bridge without help from your mom!”} LIAR; the retort could be DID SO (2).
  • {“You’re not smart enough to be in second grade!”} IDIOT; the retort could be AM SO (3).
  • {“Your haircut ain’t cool enough for this section of the playground!”} DORK; the retort could be IS TOO (4).
  • {[In a mocking tone] “Your little brother and sister have gotten so afraid of that tiny mouse under the picnic table!”} EEK. this is the most outlandish of all the playground clues, and in particular the “have gotten” is a weird construction necessitated by the avoidance of duplicating the ARE of ARE NOT (5).

taking the first letters of the extra themers in (1)-(5) order spells out SLIDE, a fixture on the playground where all this witty repartee is presumably taking place.

this was pretty straightforward as week 3 metas go, but i suppose week 3 of 5 is meant to be easier than a typical week 3 of 4. i enjoyed the repurposing of the somewhat tiresome “playground retort” crosswordese in the service of a meta mechanism. BEL CANTO OPERA in particular is a great find (and i wonder if noticing CAN TOO in there was the seed of this meta); SPLENDID SOURCE somewhat less so, but there can’t be all that many DID SO options.

the grid was … well, it was okay. a lot of the space was taken up with the theme, and in particular the bookending 14s necessitated big chunks of black squares in the corners. the two nonthematic 8s A LOT TO DO and NO WORD ON both felt rather ungainly, but those (along with SEAT PAD) each crossed three themers (more if you count STOP and LIAR as themers), so were understandably constrained.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you all like this one?

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13 Responses to MGWCC #746

  1. Derrick Details says:

    I really thought I was missing something when I submitted – thought maybe SLIDE was an instruction to use to find the ultimate answer – but I really enjoyed the mentally imagery of the puzzle and how the title + clues + answer came together to form a scene.

    • Mikey G says:

      This was pretty much me as well. It was kind of fun to imagine all of the meta content taking place on the playground in one scene, but I was just worried that SLIDE wasn’t also a retort, and if that were implied or if that was an instruction. But it makes sense.

      It definitely does fit the prompt!! Fun one, though I have some trepidation that we have Weeks 4 and 5 to brave through!

  2. Margaret says:

    I wrote down
    and noticed the first letters could be anagrammed to SLIDE but it took me a long time to actually find the mechanism to get there. And when I did, I still didn’t feel a click, the slide/playground retort connection wasn’t strong enough for me. I finally had to have a friend confirm it for me. I enjoyed seeing the various pieces come together (I spent way too long trying to make idiot, eek etc answer the long theme answers with the numbers.)

  3. John says:

    This was an obvious-enough meta solving progression that i felt pretty good submitting SLIDE although i didn’t connect the word with anything in the theme or title. It would have been nice if the title could have reinforced the answer somewhat. I enjoyed all the theme material and the solve a lot though. Great Week 3!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      The “Retorter” in the title was supposed be a reference to the hackneyed crossword clue [Playground retort] for AM SO, CAN TOO, etc. But if that clue was unfamiliar then I can see how SLIDE would’ve seemed a little random. I did include “playground” in the of the clues to emphasize that aspect but again, if you didn’t know that exact clue then maybe not helpful.

  4. Wayne says:

    I liked this well enough. Only two of the five extra themers referenced a piece of playground equipment. The click might have been slightly louder if all five did. Like maybe if the mouse was over by the tire swing instead of under the picnic table?

  5. Garrett says:

    It took me way too long to notice the retorts in the primary themers. I spotted CAN TOO in BELCANTOOPERA first, then DID SO in SPLENDIDSOURCE, then the rest. These all fit the secondary themers’ clues well, and i ordered their answers as Joon showed. Like Derrick, I was looking for another step, because no click in SLIDE. I finally thought that a slide is a hallmark playground fixture, just like the playgroundese used in the meta.

    I thought the grid was tough to fill, not knowing the last themer.

    I liked the meta.

  6. Todd Dashoff says:

    I would have solved this a lot faster if I had noticed that the title said “Our retorter” and not “Our reporter”. Need to learn to read slower….

  7. FrankieHeck says:

    I noted the clue numbers for the taunts, but in my rush to solve and submit, I accidentally grabbed the wrong number for the L, which gave me SNIDE. Any other word would likely have led me to check my work, but all seemed copacetic. Lesson learned. I promise to savor the Week 4.

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