MGWCC #768

crossword 3:48
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #768 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Second Look”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that This week’s contest answer, which is 10 letters long, is what you’ll need to use to solve the meta. all right. what are the theme answers? there are five answers split across multiple cross-referenced entries in the grid:

  • 1-Across: {With 65-Across, prized piece of porcelain} MING / VASE.
  • 36-Across: {With 37-Across, Italy’s leader from 1878 to 1900} KING / UMBERTO.
  • 51-Across: {With 63-Across, viewed a second time, as a film} SAW / AGAIN.
  • 9-Down: {With 2-Down, eight elite schools} THE / IVIES.
  • 12-Down: {With 22-Down, The New York Post’s famed gossip column} PAGE / SIX.

it does seem likely that these are the theme answers, rather than the longest grid entries (LIVE REMOTE and UNCLOGGING), both because it’s unusual to have more than one split entry and because having five pairs fits with our search for a ten-letter answer.

okay, so… what now? the title does suggest looking at the second words in each of these pairs: VASE, UMBERTO, AGAIN, IVIES, SIX. what should we do with those? my first thought was that the IVIES starts with IV, the roman numeral for 4; and SIX, in addition to being a number itself, also contains IX = 9. but the other answers aren’t doing much on the roman numeral front. yes, VASE starts with V, but AGAIN containing a lone I and UMBERTO containing a lone M are even less compelling. (even though the king was actually UMBERTO I.)

SAW AGAIN looks like it could be a clue for RECUT. that’s kind of cute, but the others aren’t doing anything like that. (though the odd partial {“___ my teeth on wedding rings” (Lorde line)} I CUT caught my attention.) MING VASE is an anagram of VEGANISM, and this is a very nice anagram—but again, the others don’t have any kind of useful anagrams.

stepping away for a minute from those theme answers, i noticed that there were a lot of clues that seem to point to other answers than their actual answers in the grid. {Ed McMahon’s signature call} is surely HERE’S JOHNNY, but in the grid it clues HIYO. {Book or body part} is typically SPINE, but here it’s APPENDIX. {Appearing to be} appeared to be SEEMING, but here it’s LOOKING. {Teammate of Bird and Parrish} suggests MCHALE, much more than the actual grid answer of AINGE. this could easily be nothing—after all, those clues are correct—but it caught my eye. (possibly less interestingly, {Brady kid who moves into the attic} is GREG, but if my research is right, the answer could also be MARCIA from the same episode. i have certainly never seen the episode in question.) if there were any kind of more obvious connection between the implied answers and the themers, i’d be interested, but here it appears to be a dead end.

getting back to said themers… i’m now thinking about what it might mean that there were two KING UMBERTOs; the first was the one who ruled in the years specified by the clue, but the puzzle title suggests that we think about KING UMBERTO II, who ruled in the mid-1940s. SAW AGAIN is such an odd phrase, and there is in fact a horror movie franchise whose installations (including SAW II) are occasionally seen in crosswords. but i don’t know what i’d do with MING / VASE, THE / IVIES, or PAGE / SIX, none of which have, uh, sequels. and it doesn’t really explain why the answers are split in the grid.

i do think there have to be extra themers hidden throughout the grid, either five or ten of them. it’s an 80-word grid with some really unusual fill. and i know the theme occupies ten entries, but none of them are long and they’re not symmetrically located, so they could have gone anywhere.

all right, i’m out of time and i don’t really have … anything, so i guess i have to give up. let me know in the comments what i should have seen.

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11 Responses to MGWCC #768

  1. Mikey G says:

    I’ll let someone else take the reveal, but I’ll just say that I thought this one was extremely clever. Matt, you still have such ingenious ideas in the tank!

    Also, joon, I absolutely love your write-ups each week. Keep on puzzling!

  2. Stribbs says:

    Got it right at the end…

    If you go in order by the number of the first clue of each duad, the second words are


    The bigger step is noting that “See 1-Across” -> “See MING” -> Seeming, which is an alternate answer for the clue for LOOKING. With those you get

    LOOKING (vs. seeming)
    CHAFE (vs. seethe)
    UNCLOGGING (vs. seepage)
    EXPLORING (vs. seeking)
    SLIDE (vs. seesaw)

    First letters of the two sets spell VISUAL CUES. I did have to use an anagrammer and backsolve to figure out the source of the order…

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I got hung up for a while on LCUES’ being an anagram of CLUES, which seemed a very likely half of the solution, though I couldn’t figure out a way to justify the ordering of those letters. The slightly embarrassing thing about this is that I had arranged the sets of corresponding entries in the correct order to yield
      all along, but was so focused on making CLUES work that I didn’t notice for a rather long time how nicely VISUA would lead into L.

    • DCBilly says:

      So, “in order by the number of the first clue of each duad” is the ordering mechanism, right? It’s all I could come up with.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 201 correct answers, just 104 of which were solo solves. So closer to a Week 4.

  4. Andrew Bradburn says:

    I got very close — saw the see + first part of split clue phrases. Since the first letters of those five words are an anagram of CLUES, and the two-part clues were the key to solving, I submitted SPLIT CLUES. Granted, “split” is not a great indicator word for an anagram, but couldn’t think of a more accurate five-letter one that also meant “in two parts”. Oh well. Very nice meta!

  5. Joe Eckman says:

    I quickly got part 2 (add “see,” find the alternate answers.) But I was stuck for days because those alternate answers anagram to CLUES. The gravitational pull of “clues” was too strong, and I tried in vain to extract another 5 letter word that would make sense (bonus clues? Extra clues?). The only way I solved it was to ask my solving team for help. The logic of the order of the letters only came to me by anagramming and backsolving. Clever puzzle Matt! Thanks!

    Aside- the best solvers must have that instinct to quickly move on from a dead end (even a promising dead end).

  6. John says:

    Amazing meta. I got the duads but never would have thought ‘See 9-Down’ would be to nudge you to SEETHE. That’s a huge leap as that cluing is just de rigueur for split entries. Very impressed so many picked up on that. 5 stars from me.

    Although looking at joon’s write-up SEEMING is right there. That might have been the root of finally getting this tough meta.

  7. Kettlebadger says:

    Loved this as a repurpose of a Thursday NYT theme-like puzzle!

    Had CLUES but was lucky enough to stumble out of that rabbit hole.

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