MGWCC #764

crossword 2:32
meta DNF 3 days 


hello and welcome to episode #764 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Eat, Drink, and be Meta”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that This week’s contest answer, which is 11 letters long, is what some meals finish with. all right. what are the theme answers? eleven across answers in this 11×17 grid are clued as food items:

  • {Potato pancake} LATKE.
  • {Creature that’s eaten in soup in Southeast Asia} SNAKE. this entry would not normally be considered food, but it’s clued as a food, so i’m including it.
  • {Cold-water food fish of the Arctic} CHAR.
  • {Food that’s rarely swallowed} GUM. i wouldn’t consider this food either—you don’t eat it, making it more like a toothbrush or a cigar or mouthwash to me—but again, the clue says we should.
  • {Japanese noodles} SOBA.
  • {Chewy candy} TOFFEE.
  • {Birthday treat} CAKE.
  • {Rice-shaped pasta} ORZO.
  • {It’s used to make borscht} BEET.
  • {Sundae topper} CHERRY.
  • {Food served with buffalo sauce} WINGS.

in addition, there are two food-adjacent across clues that are not actually themselves food: {One way to dine al fresco} PICNIC and {Bothers persistently} EATS AT. finally, the last across entry (the omega across, as matt called it in his writeup of last week’s puzzle) is the only overtly thematic answer: {Liquid ___ (you’ll need to go on one for this meta)} DIET.

what does this mean? i’m at a loss so far. i like that there are 11 foods in the acrosses (and 0 in the downs), because that echoes the instructions. just taking their first letters doesn’t produce anything (ten consonants and only one vowel is not a promising ratio); taking their last letters might actually be suggested by “finish with” in the instructions, but that doesn’t give much either (EERMAEEOTYS).

what could the liquid DIET clue be suggesting? in a cryptic clue, “liquid” might suggest anagramming (and not just because any keyword could suggest anagramming); but i couldn’t get anything interesting out of anagramming the 11 last letters (TEAM EYESORE? EYES A REMOTE?). it could be suggesting something like adding water or H2O, either in a semantic sense or a syntactic sense, although i don’t see what that’s doing.

hmm, TOFFEE is only one letter off from COFFEE, which is a liquid. oh, and you can go LATKE to LATTE. maybe we’re word-laddering every food into a drink? yes, i think that’ll work:

  • CHAR to CHAI
  • GUM to RUM
  • SOBA to SODA
  • CAKE to COKE
  • ORZO to OUZO
  • BEET to BEER

the changed letters spell out THIRD COURSE, which is the meta answer.

this is a very nice meta! it took me a while to see it, but in retrospect, replacing foods with drinks is what a liquid DIET entails in a semantic sense. i didn’t know what to make of it, but what actually got me there was thinking about possibilities for the final answer, and i wanted to incorporate the drink part of the puzzle title, so i was thinking about various types of after-dinner drinks. i couldn’t think of an 11-letter term for after-dinner drinks (the postprandial equivalent of “apéritif” would be the less common “digestif”, but that’s too short anyway), but both coffee and sherry popped into my head as candidates, and they were both hiding there in the 11 acrosses i’d already highlighted.

frankly, i’m relieved to have gotten it, even at the eleventh hour, after a poor showing last week on a somewhat straightforward week 2 (at least, if it was not entirely straightforward, the tricky part came after the part that i missed, and i’m pretty sure i would have gotten it if i’d ever made the key aha in the first place).

speaking of meals, it’s almost time for lunch, but i’ve got to shovel some snow first, so i’ll be off. let’s hear from you in the comments!

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12 Responses to MGWCC #764

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 480 right answers this week, so this was the missing Week 2 and on Friday we’ll be back to normal with a Week 4.

  2. PJ says:

    I had SAKE for COKE at first and would have preferred WINE to WINES since the other ten are singular.

    But really I’m proud to get a Week 3 even if it is a Week 2.

  3. Garrett says:

    Like Joon, I was thinking about an after dinner drink of eleven letters. I don’t often do this, but I’m occasionally in the mood for a cup of black coffee, which is eleven letters. So that was in the back of my mind. As I was filling the grid and got TOFFEE, I noticed how a one-letter change would yield COFFEE.

    When I later read the revealer clue at 65 Across, I quickly put my eyes on the top row and immediately saw LATKE/LATTE, and off I went, solving the meta in minutes.

  4. Mutman says:

    Interestingly, it wasn’t the revealer that revealed it for me. It was the puzzle’s title.

    Eat, then drink!

  5. Dredshlaks says:

    I wanted the answer to be CHEESE PLATE but alas, we’re not in France.

  6. Karen says:

    The “liquid diet” hint led me immediately to notice that there were grid entries one letter off from coffee, sherry, beer, latte, etc. But I had boba and sake and was missing some, so it didn’t spell anything. Also I was convinced that the 11 columns and 11 letter answer should match up, with one letter from each column. Only when that did not work, did I read the puzzle title again. I had failed to notice that the entries I was changing were all (clued as) foods before the change. After that it was easy to find the others and shift to soda and coke. So I found the title very helpful.

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