MGWCC #782

crossword 4:04
meta DNF 3 days 


hello and welcome to episode #782 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Hear, Here!”. i’m back this week, remembering to blog the puzzle—i’m afraid the recent lack of a weekly schedule has contributed to my inconsistency in this regard. sorry about that! anyway, for this week 4 puzzle, a guest construction by the great patrick berry, the instructions tell us that only that the answer is a four-letter word. okay. what are the theme answers? there are four long across answers in the grid:

  • {Rules governing the flow of computer data} NETWORK PROTOCOLS.
  • {Adele ballad featuring the lines, “It was just like a movie / It was just like a song”} WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. not one of the adele songs i’m familiar with—it’s one of her singles that charted but didn’t hit #1 (peaking at #14 on the billboard hot 100).
  • {Group with lots to show?} BOARD OF REALTORS.
  • {Conflict whose peace was mediated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905} RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR. that would be the treaty of portsmouth, for which teddy won the nobel peace prize.

what do these have in common? nothing obvious, certainly. the instructions are little help—it seems likely we’ll be able to somehow get a letter associated with each theme answer, but how that will happen is still quite opaque. what about the title? it certainly suggests homophones—both because the two words in the title are homophones of each other, and also because “hear” itself can denote a homophone in the cryptic clue sense. there are various words in the themers that have homophones (WE/WEE, BOARD/BORED, RUSSO/ROUSSEAU), but neither NETWORK nor PROTOCOLS does, so it can’t be quite as simple as that.

oh, hmm. NETWORK contains TWO, and PROTOCOLS contains TO. that’s promising. TWO/TO also have another common homophone, TOO, which i bet we’ll find in the clues or grid. okay, let’s check this out:

  • NETWORK PROTOCOLS. TWO/TO. TOO is not in fact in the grid, but it is found at the end of the clue for EAT, {“You can’t have your cake and ___ it too!”}.
  • WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. EWE/YOU, with YEW at the end of the clue for CONE, {Fruit of a yew}.
  • BOARD OF REALTORS. OAR/OR, with ORE at the end of the clue for HAUL, {Transport, as ore}.
  • RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR. SO/SEW, with SOW at the end of the clue for OATS, {Wild things to sow}.

taking the first letters of the answers to those extra clues gives ECHO, a very apt answer both from the standpoint of matching the title and the puzzle’s mechanism itself. it’s a very elegant mechanism, as you would expect from a patrick berry puzzle. there aren’t all that many great candidates for triple homophones that are short enough that you could hide two of them in a theme answer, which is why we ended up with a 16-wide grid to accommodate RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR. (the symmetric NETWORK PROTOCOLS could just as easily have been NETWORK PROTOCOL in a 15×15.) the third homophone always occurred as the last word of its clue, which was an elegant consistency that reduced the amount of combing you had to do once you knew what you were looking for. that kind of care put into the meta is a nice touch.

one thing that made the hidden homophones harder to spot was that their pronunciation in the context of the full theme answer was rarely the same as their stand-alone pronunciation. only OAR in BOARD OF REALTORS and SO in RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR were phonetically unchanged.

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

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16 Responses to MGWCC #782

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks joon! 245 right answers this week, and thanks to Patrick for the meta!

    • Mikey G says:

      A day of fighting produced nothing except tenuous red herrings. Then picked it up during night 1 around 12:30 am and saw the SO/SEW almost immediately. Confirmed the rest and off to the races.

      Pretty well-hidden! Saw TWO immediately but no other numbers but should have thought homophones. I wonder if RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR was also what I was leaning into, since it was the 16 that necessitated the grid size.

      Beautiful, elegant puzzle!

  2. C. Y. Hollander says:

    The brevity of the hidden phrases that this puzzle hinges on makes it significantly harder, since the significance of any given phrase will not be apparent unless and until one considers it in tandem with its homophonous mate. I’m reminded of MGWCC #665 (whose solution was “top hat”), though by the numbers, this one seems to have played easier overall. Even with the title’s virtually explicit allusion to homophones, it took me a long time to find the right path.

    A couple of extra-puzzle factors also affected this one’s difficulty for me. That it was by a guest constructor made it somewhat more difficult inasmuch as I found it harder to judge the anomalousness of suspiciously-worded clues. On the other hand, the early returns of the leaderboard reflected a puzzle relatively more difficult to more accomplished solvers than to less accomplished ones (i.e., normally, when a puzzle has been solved by relatively few in the first day, a concomitantly high proportion of those early solvers will have badges attesting to streaks; in this case, though relatively few had solved it early on, relatively many of those were badgeless). Noting this made me focus harder than I otherwise would have on meaningful substrings of the longest Across entries, as one of the most common mechanisms used in Week 1 puzzles. Valid or not, this reasoning aided me toward the solution.

  3. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Incidentally, in my opinion, for what it’s worth, while the heer (an archaic unit of measure) is far too obscure to have made a good component of the puzzle itself, it makes a perfectly suitable third homophone to complete the title’s echo of the theme, an elegant touch. Nicely done, Mr. Berry!

    • pgw says:

      There’s also journalist/pundit/tweeter Jeet Heer.

      And there’s this guy – – who would have made a good (though obscure) bonus entry.

      Like others, I found this one elegant (no surprise for a PB joint) and I had nothing on my first attempt but it jumped out at me when I came back to it. (I suspect one reason for this was that my first solving attempt was on a computer while the second was on paper where I could see all the clues at once.)

      5 stars

  4. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    I entirely missed that there were 2 of them in the theme entries because I began my homophone search in the clues. “Yew”, “sow”, and to some extent “ore” had stood out quite a bit, so when I went looking at the grid I only needed to see YOU, SEW, and ORE to confirm the pattern. Of course I should have gone back and asked myself why such long entries were needed, but I was too buoyed up by the successful solve (and distracted wikisurfing the Russo-Japanese War). I appreciate the elegance.

    It surprised me as well that few of the early solvers had badges — the title was much more helpful than in most week 4s.

  5. jefe says:

    I got it from noting that [Fruit of a yew] was a suspiciously bizarre clue, then seeing YOU and TWO and SEW and their corresponding clues. With EC?O I figured I had to be looking for an H, found HAUL/[…ore] bOARd.

    Did not realize the triple homophone part till now; glad there was more to it!

  6. David Bael says:

    I liked the added homophonic flourish of having both HAUL and OATS involved in the solution. Perhaps Patrick is a Hall & Oates fan?

  7. TimF says:

    Oops… I never read the email that told us the lack of some apostrophes and commas was a typo and not meta-related. I was positive that such blatant omissions in a P.B. puzzle meant something. Obviously they didn’t… Curses! Foiled again!

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I thought the same for a moment, but when I realized that the omitted characters were apostrophes and quotation marks, I thought I had better check the PDF (and, in the event, Matt’s follow-up e-mail) to make sure that it wasn’t just some conversion artifact. I’ve had my share of headaches caused by one application (I’m looking at you, Microsoft Word!) auto-converting my s and s into shapelier but non-ASCII apostrophes and quotation marks that some other app failed to recognize.

  8. Bob J says:

    The clue for 8d. ORR begins with H, the same letter that OAR/OR/ORE map to for the meta. Coincidence? Orr maybe knot…

  9. John says:

    These puzzles depressingly show the limits of my brain to change course once i’ve latched onto what i think is undeniably a toe hold. In my case it was : WE/WEE, BOARD/BORED, WAR/WORE. I could not move beyond those to start looking for the hidden words. I was all set to call BS and then i see it was a really fine meta, i couldn’t get out of my own way.

    • John says:

      And i should have known there was elegance to it since it was a Patrick Berry puzzle. One of my favorites and finest.

  10. ===Dan says:

    I thought something was up with the WWW in 29A after I realized that 18A could allude to the https://….

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