MGWCC #747

crossword 5:57
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #747 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Admixture”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a decade of the 20th century. what are the theme answers? well, i don’t know. it’s a truly bizarre grid, 33 wide by 13 high for some reason, with no symmetry and large swaths of the lower regions devoted to black squares. the only long answer is 43a YEAR OF THE RAT, clued as {1972 or 2020, say}. that could certainly be a theme answer, since it’s at least somewhat related to the instructions, but it’s far from obvious what to do with it. (i do think it suggests that the 1970s are probably not the answer, because otherwise it would be a weird inelegance that a year from the answer decade is mentioned explicitly in the clue for the longest answer in the grid. however, i would otherwise be interested in the ’70s, since tom wolfe nicknamed it the “me decade” and that would be a compelling jumping-off point for a meta.)

the one known theme answer is 86d: {Number of entries whose locations in this grid were deliberately chosen} SIX. so that’s interesting. my first thought was that they all had clue numbers in the same decade, and are all related to a 20th century decade (kind of like the roaring twenties puzzle from ten years ago that i didn’t figure out). and for all the weirdness of the grid, the clue numbers do go up to 101, so there’s equal opportunity to put six theme answers into any given decade. however, looking at the clues by decade didn’t really produce anything that jumped out at me.

what else is there? well, the title: to me, it really wants to be reparsed as “ad mixture”, or even perhaps “A-D mixture”. so we could look at answers that have A and D in them; unfortunately, there aren’t six of them. there are four with AD together (BAD, DEAD, ADDS, and ADZE), four more with A and D in that order but separated (FALL DUE, AVID, AID, and ABODE), and two more with D then A (SODA and DRAT). “ad” also appears explicitly in the clue for 59a BIZ {Word with show or ad}. i suppose this could be a hint that we’re supposed to think about the ad BIZ, like clio award winners or something? but historical clio award winners aren’t famous enough (or easily look-up-able enough) to be the basis of a meta.

i will say that even thinking about the letters A and D makes me want to guess the ’80s, since that’s a homophone of A.D.’s, plus there are things like ADDS/ADZE that are making me think about homophones.

the title, however, doesn’t suggest homophones—it suggests anagramming. maybe we’re supposed to add the letters AD and anagram. but to what end? and what do the grid locations of the entries have to do with it? i suppose it doesn’t absolutely have to be about clue numbers—it could be location in the grid in some geographical sense. i’d feel better about that if i could identify the weird grid shape with the dimensions of something familiar like a map of the u.s. or some such.

i noted the little section where YOYO sits on XBOX, crossed by the striking and unusual APTERYX. do i know what to do with that? no. do i think it might be meta-related? maybe. neither of those X’s is the one necessitated by the theme entry SIX at 86d.

time is now ticking down and i haven’t got any good ideas—just the usual grasping at straws like homophones of letters (17d PEA, 60d ZEES, 84a TEES, 51d ELS, 67d YOU) or numbers (WON), or NATO alphabet (95d ECHO), or roman numerals (5d AVID is VI inside A-D). i’m just going to guess the 1980s and see what happens. you’ll have to let me know in the comments what i missed.

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to MGWCC #747

  1. Six answers are anagrams of their clue numbers plus two other letters:

    2D: TOWED –> TWO + ED
    4A: FAROUT –> FOUR + AT
    10A: THANE –> TEN + HA

    But the extra A or D in each answer is included in those anagrams based on whether it’s an Across or Down answer. Like for 4A, that makes the key letters FOURA plus a leftover letter. So in grid order:

    4A: FAROUT –> FOUR + AT –> FOURA + T
    10A: THANE –> TEN + HA –> TENA + H
    2D: TOWED –> TWO + ED –> TWOD + E

    The leftover letters spell THE ADS, or parsing it differently, THE A.D.’S = the ’80s.

    Good last-minute guess, Joon!

  2. I felt this was an ingenious meta with some *really* nasty red herrings:

    There are four years mentioned five times in the clues (1900, 1972, 2008, 2020 is mentioned twice) and all of them are the YEAR OF THE RAT. If that happened with one or two years, then whatever, but for every year in the clues to fit that description seemed impossible to be just a coincidence.

    Jane AUSTEN famously wrote SIX novels (two published posthumously), and the fact that the clue mentioned an unfinished one felt really suspicious. I spent a while trying to figure out how the grid or the clues might be hiding those six books. (And the clue for END OF STORY being [“That’s all she wrote”] seemed like a big flashing red light about Jane Austen. Oof.)

    But like I said, super-cool meta when you see how it all works.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Wow — that’s a 1/144 chance, but completely unintentional (the two in the clue for YEAR OF THE RAT don’t count).

      • I went down the Jane Austen rabbit hole, too, in the very beginning because of ENDOFSTORY and THATSALLSHEWROTE. I also spent a little time on the idea of a mixture and saw FALL-OVER-OVER-DUE OVER- DUE-DUE-TIME. Such a brilliant construction full of fun and consternation on the way to the solution.

  3. Mikey G says:

    This reminds me a bit of TEAMMATE a while back, where I got the majority of what I needed but couldn’t glom onto making it all work in the end.

    My floundering for most of Saturday got some clarity in the evening. “Okay, Mike, here’s what’s up:

    1. The title needs to be relevant.
    2. You need to find those six entries, obviously.
    3. Why in the world does the grid look like this?”

    If I had to guess, I would’ve thought some grid art would’ve made it look like the Titanic when all was said and done, though that was a stretch.

    I’m not sure how it occurred, since first I thought about adding the number in: I think 6-Down would make MIXERS (REM + SIX), and I figured something was up with the A-D portion. (That never occurred to me whatsoever during a puzzle titled “Ad Campaign” about a year ago or so.)

    I think I saw FAROUT first and then TOWED and was like, “Jackpot!,” especially with the two “theme” entries, I guess you could say.

    And then.

    And then.

    And then 48 hours of madness. I had the string of 12 letters, saw the proliferation of As and Ds, but never thought to remove them – only that they might direct me in a certain direction from the grid from those letters. I had to vacillate back and forth between, “Are these 12 letters relevant? Are the added numbers relevant? Both? Neither?”

    This became a group-solve in the midnight hour for me, like TEAMMATE did, and I don’t think retroactively I ever would’ve seen it.

    Incidentally, I did see DEATHS (what my brain cells experienced during anagramapalooza) and DADA HAS A DATE, but I needed assistance getting across the finish line. But I managed (my birth decade, no less).

    Lowest solo percents since Matt started revealing those:

    Three-on-Three Matchup: 15%
    Don’t Look Up!: 21%
    What Side Are You On?: 34%
    Couples Only: 35%
    Easy as ABC: 38%

    I think this might break into the Top 5, perhaps!

    Great meta, as always – now time to listen to ’80s music all day, so business as usual.

    • Ale M says:

      I thought of the Titanic too (and the iceberg in the SW corner!). And the Titanic sank in 1912 which was (drum roll) also the year of the rat, so that made for a fun day in that rabbit hole!

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Indeed, it places 3rd, per your numbers and Matt’s (51/157 = ~32.5%)!

  4. pgw says:

    Great meta.

    I meant to hail-mary the 80s, just based on it being the decade in which I grew up and was first exposed to pop culture and whatnot, but I forgot to actually do so. Since I had zero ideas at all (other than the vague sense that “A.D.” might be involved), it’s probably for the best that I didn’t.

  5. Katie says:

    Never got it, and my last-minute Hail Mary guess was wrong too. It really looked to me like the highly weird grid must have been clueful somehow, but if I’m reading Evan right, it wasn’t. So what’s with the grid? Is it just that there was no better way to place the entries in a standard grid?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Correct — getting END OF STORY, YEAR OF THE RAT and DAY N NITE at 41-D, 43-A and 90-A was extremely restrictive

  6. Louis D says:

    Look at the 8th row of the grid. Is it a coincidence that this is the only row which contains exactly the numbers x0-x9? I thought about submitting 1980’s as a hail mary based on this alone, but I didn’t even do that because I thought there was obviously no way that the whole meta was simply to notice this one thing (which as it turns out it wasn’t).

  7. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 157 correct entries this week, of which 52 were solo solves.

    I wavered on “Admixture” making “the 1980s” be too guessable. Apt title so wanted to use it of course…from submission comments it looks like there weren’t many who did so (single digits) but could have been more that just didn’t mention it.

  8. Mikie says:

    Double you, oh, double you.

  9. MountainManZach says:

    I nearly never do the WSJ but did this week because I was jonesing for a Friday Gaffney puzzle. It definitely helped prime the right idea! I probably would’ve gotten there a lot slower otherwise. DAYNNITE was just too weird of an entry to be there by accident

  10. Thomas says:

    The only thing I saw that I thought might be something was that the Atari 2600, mentioned in 77A, was released in 1977. So I looked for other clues that could be linked to the year of their number—RuPaul (61A) was born in 1960 and nothing else was even close.

  11. Jay says:

    Matt—why the strange shape for the grid (blank lower right)? At the beginning I thought it might be a map, especially with the NY at the bottom.

  12. LuckyGuest says:

    I thought the SE piece was a silhouette of a dog on its back feeding itself grapes. Kinda tells you where my head is/was/probably still is. Great meta; congrats to the solo solvers…

  13. Mutman says:

    Matt. Subtract one from the solo solves. That’s me. I’m notoriously poor at remembering that piece.

    My suggestion would be to have the developer code the page so the radio button is not prepopulated. Then give an error and message to answer it before the submit.

    At least I know you’d get a correct answer from me each week.

    Great meta btw. I needed help from my team, but not too much :)

  14. Meta - World Peace says:

    I really wanted to do something with the leftover letter pairs but didn’t see the AD = Across/Down step. Instead I ADded the six intentional entry numbers together to make 190. That led me to send in the aughts which all have the form 190x.

  15. anna g says:

    i got so so stuck on 10d’s TROT being right next to 28/29a having GALLOP run between the two of them, placing an L in the black square to complete the word. obviously that didn’t pan out

  16. markhr says:

    I followed a particularly weird red herring. Pondering the YEAROFTHERAT entry, I noticed several entries that could be related to zodiac animals:
    Pig STY, Dog TROT, Snake PIT, Tiger MOM, Rat TRAP. Five entries, plus Cat NAP, because although Cat isn’t in the Chinese zodiac, it is in the Vietnamese one. All those entries couldn’t possibly be coincidental, I thought, and proceeded to waste way too much time on that vein. (Don’t tell me Matt doesn’t purposely put red herrings into these grids.)

    Finally a kind soul gently redirected my attention, and after I stared at YEAROFTHERAT intently for a bit, the number anagram jumped out at me. I eventually made it home after my scenic side tour.

  17. Wayne says:

    I figured the answer had to be of the form THE ___S, so subtracted those letters out and what was left was a bunch of As and Ds. I figured there had to be a louder click.

    It’s too bad that the only two letters that would work for the meta also had to do double duty for “Across” and “Down”, since that let me skip the step. Stupid english.

  18. Squonk says:

    I got all the way to THE ADS, but I interpreted it as looking at the “ADS”. There are two grid entries that could be pronounced that way, ADDS and ADZE, at 72 and 79 respectively. So I answered the 1970s.

Comments are closed.