MGWCC #774

crossword 13:42
meta 0:00 


hello and welcome to episode #774 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “A Little Off”. i believe this was the week 5 puzzle for march, even though it came out a day late on april 1. the instructions tell us that we’re looking for a five-letter word. okay. what are the theme answers? let’s go through them. it’s only a 13×13 grid, right? how many themers can there be?

  • {Bugle hall} TAPS. huh? oh, this is actually a bugle Call.
  • {Run a can on} SCAM. what? oh, i get it, this is supposed to be run a cOn on.
  • {“Thick” company} IBM. thick? no, wait, it’s the old IBM slogan “thiNk”.
  • {Coal attempt, often} SLAP. wha? oh, okay, it’s actually a Goal attempt.
  • {Tide on the street} TAXI. you see what’s happening here, right? every single clue has one letter that needs to be changed. this one is Ride on the street.
  • {Posture comment} MAA. pAsture.
  • {Crack unit} KILOMETER. Track.
  • {Farm stricture} STY. strUcture.
  • {Sweep for a while} NAP. sLeep.
  • {Lulu greeting} ALOHA. luAu.
  • {Shore for Margaret} PEGGY. shorT. i would’ve liked to see “it’s” at the start of this clue.
  • {Where many loft} YMCAS. lIft.
  • {Decay} LURE. decOy.
  • {Get out of the sub, say} COOL DOWN. suN.
  • {Pluralized “it”} ARE. “iS“.
  • {Ski’s color} AZURE. skY.
  • {Plate’s P} RHO. platO‘s.
  • {Boat with docks} NOAH’S ARK. dUcks. although you’d think waterfowl would have been just fine in a 40-day flood.
  • {50% of sects} DREI. secHs, i.e. 6 in german.
  • {Bond’s events} TOURS. bAnd’s.
  • {Fixture near an open} FRYER. oVen.
  • {Stove in Hollywood} ALLEN. stEve. he’s a fixture near the open.
  • {Leaven for a drink} TEA. leaveS.
  • {Brat’s milieu} SEA. bOat’s.
  • {Where mink is produced} DAIRY FARM. miLk.
  • {Nobel liquid} INK. noVel.
  • {Magazine with styli} ELLE. stylE.
  • {Pay ___} THAI. paD.
  • {Book a course, in a way} ATE. Took.
  • {Gave faith} RELY. Have.
  • {Ocean loner, so to speak} SAND. lIner. this is a tricky clue even after you fix the letter!
  • {Pound of reproach} TSK. Sound.
  • {Slinging ring king} ALI. sWinging.
  • {Math} PAL. matE, although math can be your friend too.
  • {Spa creature} SPONGE. sEa.
  • {Waller’s unit} STEP. walKer. thought fats waller, as a musician, would have considered both half-steps and whole steps to be units on a scale.
  • {Puts in Boots, say} CAT. puSs.
  • {Elf feller} AXE. elM, though you could cut down an elf too, i guess. good thing gimli and legolas were pals.
  • {Supernatural dead} MIRACLE. deEd.
  • {Words about something you regrew} I’M SO SORRY. regreT.
  • {Spot for socking} BATH. soAking.
  • {Builders of many Mexican sides} MAYA. siTes.
  • {30 days after Marco} MAY. marcH.
  • {Small follow} LAD. fEllow.
  • {Decide on an art} PLAN. aCt.
  • {Pest alternative} EURO. pesO.
  • {Amy of five large bodies} GREAT LAKE. aNy.
  • {Shine, nowadays} YOURS. Thine.
  • {Align on a television screen} MORK. aliEn.
  • {Big bosc} CZAR. bosS.
  • {Ride-maker’s shout} WHEE. ride-Taker’s.
  • {Block in Paris} NOIR. blAck.
  • {Is two} ASUNDER. iN.
  • {Foil turner} HOE. Soil.
  • {Breyer’s products} DRAFTS. breWer’s.
  • {“McAn Girls” writer} FEY. “mEan”.
  • {Ivan is part of it} ASIA. iRan.
  • {Tome to give up?} LENT. tIme.
  • {One of the hearth that’s low} TREY. heartS.
  • {Drink sold by the card} ALE. Yard.
  • {Oiling} ILL. Ailing.
  • {Successful scout} AHA. sHout.
  • {Belted} RAN. bOlted.
  • {Prefix with print} MID. pOint.

the changed letters, in order, spell out the message CONGRATULATIONS YOU HAVE SOLVED THIS WEEK’S META THE CONTEST ANSWER IS YAHOO. but what’s the next step?

… i kid. congratulations! you have solved this week’s meta. the contest answer is YAHOO.

this was a curious combination of a very difficult crossword (even once you see what’s going on, it takes a while to figure out what letter to change to make the clue work) and an entirely straightforward meta for week 5. it makes a nice april fool’s puzzle. i’m glad this wasn’t ACPT puzzle 5, because boy did it take me a long time to solve even though i could tell exactly what was happening. this puzzle landed in my inbox shortly before i did ACPT puzzle 5, in fact, but i didn’t print it out and solve until i got back home from stamford. overall it was a very fun solve, and i appreciate how it nestled into the liminal space of a march week 5 and an april fool’s week 1.

what’d you think of this one?

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25 Responses to MGWCC #774

  1. C. Y. Hollander says:

    boy did it take me a long time to solve even though i could tell exactly what was happening

    I had a similar experience. This puzzle reminded me somewhat of an Acrostic, which starts off more difficult than a crossword because the answers don’t usefully intersect off the bat (correctly answering one clue doesn’t immediately shed light on the others), but becomes easier as one goes, as the other strands (the quotation and the citation) become fleshed enough to provide their own guidance to the letters.

    I really enjoyed this take on the meta-puzzle genre. Instead of the usual casting about for a hidden theme, we got an overt theme changing the nature of the crossword puzzle itself. Inspired concept!

  2. Jeff G. says:

    I loved this one! 64 mini metas each with a nice Aha moment. Provided several hours of entertainment as I would get stuck, walk away, and come back to figure out a few more. Great how it all came together in the end. Well done Matt!

  3. Joe Eckman says:

    What a fun puzzle! And YAHOO can be an interjection and also a noun one might use to refer to a person who is “a little off.” Brilliant!

  4. Margaret says:

    I’m on vacation in Joshua Tree with no access to a printer so I decided I would skip this one after seeing that there were so many changes to the clues. Wish I had done it now that I see there was a clue that referenced my nickname which I have had to explain about a MILLION times in my life (my nickname is Peggy, short for Margaret obviously.) Looks like it was a fun April Fool’s Day puzzle!

  5. Wayne says:

    Am I the only one that created an extra step for themselves by changing [Belted] to [Melted]? That’s also a perfectly good clue for RAN.

    Of course, that yields YAHMO. But then I just applied the puzzle’s off-by-one mechanism to get to YAHOO. It never even occurred to me that there was a more direct route.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I’d argue that “Melted” is not really synonymous with RAN. Melting denotes a change of phase from solid to liquid; “running” the characteristic motion of liquids under the influence of gravity, so, while the former may well be the immediate and requisite precursor to the latter, the processes are distinct.

      • Karen says:

        True but at least in some situations it would be natural to use either word. Frosting on a cake will run if it gets too hot, for example. That’s what I thought at first, and backsolved once I knew what letter I needed.

  6. A neat extra is that I think the title works just like the clues and hints at the answer too: “A Little Off” –> “A Little Oaf.”

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Cute! but if that was indeed Matt’s intention, “Little” doesn’t work very well for the double entendre. “One off” would have worked a little better from that perspective, IMO.

  7. milobela says:

    3 for 3 baby!! Man I should have started doing these metas ages ago. This is fun!

  8. Daver says:

    In 2D I substituted sTinging instead of sWinging, as in float like a butterfly…had to fix during second stage.

  9. EP says:

    This was very disappointing for me, and not because I didn’t successfully solve it. I suspect most shared Joon’s experience, you suss out what’s going on, and still struggle to complete the grid. I’m disappointed because I did stick with it and eventually get the grid right…but then couldn’t handle the tedious chore of listing the letters that had to be substituted to give the right clue. I made numerous little errors and ended up with gibberish, eventually deciding that there was another mechanism in play.

    Oh well, I’ll take partial credit for getting that grid.

  10. Susie says:

    I came close to not finishing after not understanding what we were supposed to do and only getting YMCA (many loft there, as well as lift). Then I got a text from a friend who was on her way to visit. Several words were misspelled and it took me a minute to decipher, which made me realize what was going on with the puzzle. I enjoyed it. Made the grid solution more fun and the meta solution easier – which is usually where I fail.

  11. Daver says:

    Question: we all found solving the grid to be a challenge. Was it just as hard to make up the clues that followed the mechanism? I found myself amazed that Matt could do this, but having never created a puzzle, I wonder, was it as hard as it seemed?

  12. Paul M says:

    I solved it all correctly until the final down clue, “Prefix with print”, which I solved as MIS, assuming it was a single correctly worded clue with an ironic and thematically appropriate twist. If I’d bothered to check the final across clue I would have seen my error, but this way, the entire meta solution was one letter off, which made some sense, and I hit on “Yahoo” as the only sensible solution.

  13. Dredshlaks says:

    Gratified to hear that others solved it like me. I realized what was going on right away, chipped away at the clues until I got enough to start seeing the message. Of course I found the last three clues the hardest to translate and by then I knew I only needed the last five for the meta answer. Got it in just in time.

  14. Adam Rosenfield says:

    This is the second time that YAHOO has been the answer to the meta: it previously appeared in MGWCC #191.

    (Though to be pedantic, that answer was technically YAHOO! with the exclamation mark, while this one is just YAHOO without the exclamation mark. So it’s not exactly the same.)

  15. Todd Dashoff says:

    I’m curious how many solved it on paper (or on a device that lets you mark off the problem letters, and how many (like me) had to solve the grid online, save it, then print it so I could list the changed letters and read the meta message. This did help me catch a few errors I had in the original guessed changes, like Get out of the SUN/TUB and BOLTED/MELTED, even though the grid itself was correct.

    • John says:

      I always solve on paper dating back to when a group of us took our own copies of the puzzle to a restaurant for lunch and did it together. I realized what was going on fairly quickly and put the letter in question to the left of the clue. No sorting necessary.

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