MGWCC #763

crossword untimed
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #763 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Not for Nothing”. i solved this crossword in a post-mystery hunt haze, and i have almost no memory of doing so (nor did i remember to time my solve). so i just solved it again, and … well, i’m actually no closer to solving the meta. but let’s go through it and see what happens. the instructions tell us that This week’s contest answer, which is 7 letters long, is what I hope you’ll find this meta to be. all right. what are the theme answers?

there are no long entries in the grid (a couple of 9s), but the last across answer is interest in light of the puzzle’s title: {Numeral that resembles a letter} ZERO. it resembles a capital O, of which there are 18 in the grid. that’s not an unusually high or low number, nor is it particular noteworthy in light of the fact that we’re looking for a 7-letter answer.

what else is there? {Painter of Paris cafés} MANET certainly caught my attention, as the very similar MONET could fit the same clue with an O instead of an A, and the ZERO clue has told us to be on the lookout for O’s. the weird partial {___ health (sick)} IN ILL contains a hidden NIL, which is synonymous with zero; likewise {Open, as a suitcase} UNZIP contains ZIP and, hmm, i actually thought there’d be more, maybe NONE or NADA or ZILCH. i guess there’s {Poachable food} EGG, although not a goose EGG. ZIP isn’t especially well hidden in UNZIP.

might we replace the ZERO synonyms with the letter O? doing so gives IN ILL -> IOL, which is nonsense; UNZIP -> UNO is at least something, but not something in this puzzle.

maybe “not for nothing” means we’re supposed to ignore the O’s entirely. i can see that doing so would turn OINK at 13d into INK, another grid entry (at 23a); and TRIO at 15a into TRI (53a). but most of the O’s aren’t like this.

what about the numeral 0 itself? there are seven clue numbers with a zero, so that’s interesting in light of the instructions. they are:

  • 10d {Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”} NIA.
  • 20a {Feels healthy} IS WELL. another weird, weird answer, right on top of the antonymous IN ILL. given the “not” in the title, maybe this is relevant. of course, NIA doesn’t have an antonym.
  • 30d {It’s “1300” in military time} ONE PM.
  • 40a {Suffix with Brooklyn} ITE.
  • 50a {Humorist Bombeck} ERMA.
  • 60a {“Is there more to this story?”} AND.
  • 70a {Open, as a suitcase} UNZIP. we’ve already looked at this clue, of course.

okay, so even though there are seven of these, i’m thinking this isn’t it.

back to the O’s in the grid. maybe we’re supposed to substitute one of the various words meaning ZERO (or perhaps the word “not” itself, as hinted by the title) for an O and get something intelligible out of it? one reason i’d like to do this is that i don’t see any other reason 9a {City near Palm Springs} INDIO is in the grid. i’ve never heard of that city. then again, there’s another entry i’ve never heard of at 1d {“Yo soy Betty, la ___” (Colombian show that an American show was based on)} FEA either, and that section of the grid doesn’t even have any O’s.

having said all that, i don’t see anything promising happening along these lines. so, after all that, aptly enough i suppose, i’ve got nothing. i have to throw in the towel. i suppose i can make a wild guess like NO SWEAT and hope it’s right.

what’d i miss?

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26 Responses to MGWCC #763

  1. Gerd Chambers says:

    There are also seven clues that have literal Hundreds in them 1A, 16A, 17A, 52A, 30D, 52D, 57D. But what to do with that? I’m with Joon.

  2. jimmyd says:

    There are seven clues with double zeros… that’s all I got…

  3. Adam Rosenfield says:

    Seven clues have the digits 00 in them:

    1A FIAT [2300 automaker]
    16A MIAMI [City whose skyscrapers include 1800 North Bayshore and Panorama Tower]
    17A ASTEROIDS [Classic Atari 2600 game]
    52A PERSIA [Greece’s enemy, in “300”]
    30D ONEPM [It’s “1300” in military time]
    52D PASSGO [Collect 200 dollars, perhaps]
    57D CLUB [“The 700 ___” (show once hosted by Pat Robertson)]

    Convert the first digit to a letter (A=1, Z=26) and convert the 0’s to O’s to make new words: WOO, ROO, ZOO, COO, MOO, BOO, GOO.

    Those words become alternate answers to other clues in the grid. In grid order:
    6D [Sound made by some birds] – TRILL / COO
    13D [Sound from a farm animal] – OINK / MOO
    26A [Shout from a fan in a stadium] – OLE / BOO
    29D [“Cousin” of a croc, hippo, or rhino, in a sense] – GATOR / ROO
    41A [Where you might find a koala or wombat] – OUTBACK / ZOO
    59D [Slimy stuff] – OOZE / GOO
    61D [Film directory John] – DAHL / WOO

    Read the first letters of the original answers of those clues to get the meta answer TOO GOOD.

  4. Wayne says:

    I thought I fell in every rabbit hole in this garden, but joon mentioned a couple more that I missed during the hours I spent stumbling around. The thing I loved (i.e., hated :smile:) about this meta is that even when I was on the right track, it looked like yet another sequence of seven letters spelling gibberish. At first.

    Pretty tough for a week 2, but that max value of 26 pointed so strongly towards an alphabet cipher, that my mind kept coming back to it. So fair enough.

  5. Seth says:

    I think this is the first time I’ve gotten one that Joon didn’t. Probably because he was severely handicapped from the puzzle hunt. Whatever, I’ll take it!

    Remarkably, I never chased any incorrect rabbit holes. Saw the hundreds while solving, and it just went smoothly from there. The only thing I tried that wasn’t right was taking the letters in the boxes that corresponded to the hundred number (e.g., 2300 –> 23 –> I from INK). But I quickly realized that was wrong.

    Great meta!

    • Rob (Berto) says:

      I went through all the same thought processes as Joon, and the one you tried (Seth).
      I couldn’t let go of the clues with ‘00s in them, nor the fact the highest was 26, but stared at the letters rather than adding the two capital letter Os…
      I received a great nudge “You’re 1900 close!!” and immediately everything fell into place.

  6. Mikey G says:

    I wonder if the 7 00s in the clues were meant to emerge more immediately to me than they did. Once I saw it, I was like, “How did I not catch that?” At first, I was all about the Os in the grid and, of course, catching NIL and ZIP.

    Brilliant puzzle. I have said before these are art, and I stand by that.

    TOO GOOD indeed!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Thanks Mikey. Yes, I thought it was important to both 1) have the ZERO clue nudging solvers toward the zero –> letter O conversion, and 2) have those -00 clues be the only clues with numerals in them.

  7. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 302 right answers this week, 220 of which were solo solves.

  8. AK37 says:

    What I’d really like to know is, was anyone bold enough to submit “2000 7004” as their answer, and if so, was it accepted?! (Yes, I understand this is 8, not 7, and is all numerals, not letters, but still…)

  9. Jeff M says:

    Great puzzle, but was stuck on the ROO conversion until I just picked the hippo et al clue…can anyone explain how that makes sense?

  10. Steve Thurman says:

    Quite proud of myself for getting this one. Also there were a couple of clicks which is always nice.

  11. Jon says:

    I had to ask for a nudge to solve this puzzle. Definitely harder than a normal week 2 puzzle. Maybe a week 4 in difficulty?

  12. John says:

    Nice meta, but not really a Week 2, IMO. Saw the 7 “00” clues but floundered on how to proceed.

  13. jefe says:

    I got there eventually, but the title was very unhelpful. I fell in all the traps joon did, and then some. Given that O’s were important, I couldn’t help but notice all the O’s in the grid. Since we’re equating 0’s and O’s, why not equate 1’s and I’s, which there are also a ton of in the grid?

    (several attempts to make binary code from the grid failed, as did desperate attempts to make morse code, before I saw the seven 00 clues. even then, I had several miscues before using A1Z26 on them)

    • Wayne says:

      Same. Mechapuzzle has helped me crack the meta in the past. But this time it, I got distracted by its screaming about the unusual number of I’s (21 vs the more typical 12).

  14. Tom Bassett/ MajordomoTom says:

    I had the double zeros, I had the “up to 26, so that’s letters”, and then I face planted.

  15. David says:

    Late to the game but I got stuck in the NE corner with the weird INDIO crossing with OINK. You change the O to an A and that gives you INDIA INK. So I spent the rest of my time looking for places I could substitute As for the Os and got a few: TAPS, GAME, APT, RENATA, ATTA, RASA. Didn’t really recover from that though in retrospect, I should have recognized it was a dead end

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