MGWCC #760

crossword 5:30
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #760 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Word for Word”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that this week’s answer is something you’ll be if you get the meta. okay. what are the theme answers? i don’t know. it’s a big grid (19×19), and the only explicitly indicated themer is the last across answer: {Year the crossword puzzle celebrated its 100th anniversary; or, where to find the meta answer} MMXIII. that’s 2013 in roman numerals. what does it mean that that’s where we’re to find the meta answer? i don’t know.

my first thought was to check the mgwcc archives for 2013. i didn’t really think it made sense to look through 52 puzzles for anything that stood out, but since the 100th anniversary of the crossword was in december, i thought i’d at least look at the puzzles from december 2013. i did find this puzzle which i had missed the first time around since i often take this week off from blogging the mgwcc, and it’s a tour de force, but i don’t see that it necessarily has anything to do with this week’s puzzle. i also found another puzzle called “word for word”, coincidentally also a year-end puzzle but from 2021, not 2013. it’s a beautiful meta, and although it does have the same title as this week’s puzzle, i don’t see what else it has to do with anything.

what else can it be? i suppose we could look at entries 20 and 13, although writing it as a roman numeral definitely suggests that we should interpret MMXIII as “two thousand thirteen” instead of “twenty thirteen”. 20-across is {Nightmare} ORDEAL, and there’s both a 13-across {Gag} JOKE and a 13-down {One corner of a Monopoly board} JAIL. neither of those seems to point to anything. but both {Nightmare} and {Gag} are one-word clues, so maybe we’re supposed to be looking at one-word clues again (as in the 2021 meta of the same title). it can’t hurt:

  • {Gag} JOKE.
  • {Nightmare} ORDEAL.
  • {Just} RIGHT.
  • {Youth} KID.
  • {Evil} BAD.
  • {Urgent} DIRE.
  • {Brainiac} GENIUS.
  • {Ardor} ZEST.
  • {Taxi} CAB.
  • {Higher} UPPER.
  • {Pic} PHOTO.
  • {Dry} XERIC. this one is striking—that’s a very common clue word and a very unusual answer word.
  • {Fourfold} QUADRUPLED.
  • {Labor} WORK.
  • {Wise} SAGE.
  • {Object} ITEM.
  • {Quest} MISSION.
  • {Idle} LAZY.
  • {Zeal} ENTHUSIASM. this is also interesting, since all four of ardor, ZEST, zeal, and ENTHUSIASM are synonymous.
  • {Khaki} TAN.
  • {Moniker} NAME.
  • {Region} AREA.
  • {Saharan} HOT. okay, definitely ringing alarm bells here—saharan would more commonly clue dry, rather than just HOT. something ought to be going on with this and XERIC.
  • {Compete} VIE.
  • {Xanthous} YELLOW. another weird word starting with X! i’m starting to think maybe there’s a chain.
  • {Videotape} FILM.

okay, this is definitely something. there are 26 one-word clues, one starting with each letter of the alphabet, and their 26 answers also start with A-Z once each. but what’s the next step? sorting them alphabetically by clue or by answer, presumably, but nothing jumps out at me either way. i suppose Gag => JOKE and Nightmare => ORDEAL are a starting point, but i’m not sure what i’m supposed to see there either. chaining the letters in order from there doesn’t spell anything out that i can see. weirdly, P is a fixed point due to Pic => PHOTO.

well, i got kind of close, maybe, but at the last minute, and now i’m out of time. oh well. let me know in the comments what i missed.

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12 Responses to MGWCC #760

  1. Chris S. says:

    This was my (halfway) solving process exactly, and also my stopping point. I could not figure out what to do with the 26 one word clues and answers, and sorting through the 2013 puzzles did not help me at all.

    • Mutman says:

      Same — and for the record, it is a week 4 meta.

      I went back to that 100 anniversary puzzle in 2013 and saw the answer was KING ARTHUR. I was convinced we needed to cipher those letters with the ‘key’ in this puzzle. But it only gave gibberish.

      I’ll see what the sages have to say …

  2. Mike says:

    The 26 pairs of words were key.

    When you alphabetize them by the clue-words, the 1st letter of each of the grid-entry words spell CHAMPION when you work backwards from T (20) to M (13).

    moniker name
    nightmare ordeal
    object item
    pic photo
    quest mission
    region area
    saharan hot
    taxi cab

  3. Adam Rosenfield says:

    If you write down the cipher key using the mapping from first letter of clue to first letter of answer, you get this:


    Then if you read that from the 20th letter (T) backwards to the 13th letter (M), you find CHAMPION there in the ciphertext.

    • Mikey G says:

      It is so obvious when you know the answer is CHAMPION that you see that in that list. I had that scrawled on the top of my page for at least a day-and-a-half and couldn’t get it. It just wouldn’t emerge. (Of course, when you don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t sparkle as much, especially being backward.)

      I was on team KING ARTHUR as well. I figured the 2013 reference had to have something to do with it, even though the FLAPPER puzzle (which was so amazing, Paolo!) was carefully constructed in referencing previous puzzles. But even though I couldn’t shake it, I kept going down that garden path.

      I hopped on a group-solve Zoom call on Sunday night, where nothing materialized. Then, looking at that list again around 1:30 am Monday morning, I suddenly saw that. And I’m like, “Well, that can’t be a coincidence.”

      And, then, of course, T = 20, M = 13. And I was like, “Aaarrrggghhh!” Almost had it solo, but I was just so glad to crack it (especially with a Week 5 on the horizon).

      I’m guessing 32 solos. Major props to those who got this on the first day as well!

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 147 right answers of which just 27 were solo solves.

    I didn’t intend for the final step to be so difficult although I must admit that Consigliere warned it could be. I just put 2013 in Roman numerals because it’d have been awkward to use Arabic numerals in the grid. I thought the upside- down CHAMPION would stand out much more than it did — figured many would get it just from a quick scan of those 26, but it was much more hidden than it appeared.

    That was obviously Week 5 so we’ll just aim for some easier fun this Friday.

  5. David Benbow says:

    If it took JanglerNPL 45 minutes to solve it, I knew I didn’t have a chance. One Jangler minute equals about 20 of mine. It’s still amazing to see the solution.

  6. John says:

    Did anyone else get sidetracked by the fact that the 2013 puzzle had ELMER in the grid and this week’s had ELMERS? I started going through other puzzles of 2013 thinking other words were going to be there. Much ado about nothing, its now obvious.

  7. Joe Eckman says:

    Great puzzle Matt! I had the answer written backwards (plus 18 more letters) written at the top of my page since Saturday and never saw it.

  8. Jon says:

    ZGVBXQJULRTWNOIPMAHCDFSYKE disguises the hidden word so well.

    I had to get a nudge from a friend to finally see the hidden word. I mean, who thinks to reverse their cypher? EKYSFDCHAMPIONWTRLUJQXBVGZ makes it easier to notice.

    But I will say I did wonder if the backwards, reverse, or upside-down ordering from 20 t0 13 was perhaps cluing an adjective or a descriptor that we might have to include with CHAMPION. So the click wasn’t quite there. Especially since you could have stumbled upon MGWCC only a few weeks ago & you wouldn’t exactly be eligible for a 52-week 2022 streak to be a “champion.” Wouldn’t such a meta be more appropriate for the last meta of the year?

    Though I do wonder if this meta were used as a week 2 meta if we might have spotted the hidden word faster. “Well, it’s a week 2 so it can’t be that hard.” Perhaps them we might have tried looking closer at this string ZGVBXQJULRTWNOIPMAHCDFSYKE? Perhaps it being a week 4 puzzle made us expect a more intricate mechanism?

    I do know that I thought some sort of usage of the cypher was going to be the mechanism. Especially with LETSSLIDE in the middle across location, which might be a clever nod to a Caesar cipher.

    I will add that before I noticed that were were 26 one-word clues, I thought the mechanism was going to be to find word pairs that were close synonyms of each other.

    Saharan -> HOT and Dry -> Xeric felt related.
    Brainiac -> GENIUS; Wise -> SAGE
    Urgent -> DIRE; Evil -> BAD
    Gag -> JOKE; Youth -> KID [as in “to kid” being a synonym of “to joke.”]

    But when I couldn’t make other pairs work I noticed the alphabetical nature of the words. And then spent 2 full days trying to decode past MGWCC solved grids.

    Quite a good example of a SAD meta.

  9. Mikie says:

    Glad I wasn’t the only one to have the one-word straight text and ciphertext strings written out on the page for over a day without seeing CHAMPION in the latter. Drives me nuts when I know I have some headway in the right direction but can’t close the deal. Oh, well.

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