MGWCC #769

crossword 3:29
meta 5 min* 


hello and welcome to episode #769 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Easy-Peasy”. for this week 4 puzzle, the instructions tell us that This week’s contest answer, which is eight letters long, is what you’ll need for a successful solo solve. all right. what are the theme answers? it’s a very unusual grid, with maximal symmetry and no long answers, but with a nudge from the title, there are four pairs of four-letter answers that cross at a P or a Z where switching P with Z would make both entries into valid entries:

  • in the northwest, 2d {Wrangler maker} JEEP / 16a {Get rid of} DROP becomes JEEZ / DR OZ.
  • in the northeast, 5d {GAMES Magazine feature} QUIZ / 19a {Former South African president Jacob} ZUMA becomes QUIP / PUMA.
  • in the southwest, 51a {Expert} WHIZ / 52d {Sixth letter} ZETA becomes WHIP / PETA.
  • in the southeast, 54a {Southwest people} PIMA / 54d {Irritant} PEST becomes ZIMA / ZEST.

okay, the next step is that each of the eight new words thus formed is an alternate answer to a different clue in the grid:

  • the new 2d entry JEEZ could be the answer to {“Holy Toledo!”} ZOWIE.
  • the new 5d entry QUIP is a {Witty remark} EPIGRAM.
  • 14a DR OZ goes with {Noted Senate candidate in 2022} RUBIO. this clue was definitely something of a giveaway—sure, RUBIO was up for reelection in 2022, but he’s been in the senate for a while, so the fact that he was a candidate in 2022 is not all that noteworthy in context.
  • 19a PUMA goes with {Wild cat of the Western Hemisphere} OCELOT.
  • 51a WHIP goes with {Part of an Indiana Jones costume} HOLSTER. this was a curious way to clue HOLSTER, as well. it’s true enough, but certainly HOLSTER isn’t the first thing i think of (FEDORA), nor really even the second (WHIP). so this was another helpful nudge.
  • 52d PETA goes with {It’s represented by a bunny} EASTER. i did not know this, but the logo for PETA does prominently feature a bunny.
  • 54a ZIMA was a {Citrusy drink} LIMEADE. i’ve never had one, so i did not realize it was citrusy.
  • 54d ZEST is also the {Outer part of an orange} PEEL.

taking the first letters of the answers to those eight other clues, in numerical order by modified grid entry as above, spells out ZERO HELP, which is the meta answer. like the meta mechanism itself, it goes from Z to P (but not the other way around). so i like it as a meta answer even though it falls a little short of having dictionary nature.

i had the essential idea of this meta basically right away, and found the letters LRHEPOEZ in the grid not long after that, but didn’t have any way of ordering them. nevertheless, looking at those eight letters and the instructions, i “knew” the answer had to be ZERO HELP. but i didn’t want to submit it before figuring out the exact ordering mechanism, which i have only just done while writing up the blog post. i’m relieved that there is a logical ordering that puts the letters into the correct order to spell the answer, because even though it is possible to just anagram them into something that fits the instructions, it’s less satisfying. the first few orderings i tried (grid order, then separating out acrosses from downs for both the modified entries and the alternate-clue entries) did not produce anything intelligible.

this felt much easier to me than last week. the title told you exactly what to look for, and the Z’s in the grid were fairly evident. i guess it’s also true that the “other clues in the puzzle can be satisfied by these modified entries” part of the mechanism was also used last week, so perhaps it was fresher in my mind—especially since i couldn’t actually solve last week’s meta, so i was reading matt’s writeup of it just seconds before starting this one. at any rate, the first part of the mechanism felt original. i wonder if this is a meta that began with a title and then followed from there.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you do with this one?

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3 Responses to MGWCC #769

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 280 correct entries this week, of wich 197 were solo solves.

  2. pannonica says:

    I was pleased to discover that the first letters of the relevant clues could be anagrammed to spell PINCH and WOW.

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