MGWCC #791

crossword 3:12
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #791 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Table Games”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a 6-letter adjective that I hope you won’t think applies to this puzzle. okay. what are the theme answers? well, i don’t know. the longest answers in the grid are LOIRE VALLEY and I’M CALLING IT reading down, and EUPHEMISM and BREAK WIND across. (the latter, is of course, itself a euphemism.) in addition, there are a handful of 8s. but nothing in the clues to suggest what might be thematic. i did notice the clue {What you might put in a safety deposit box} for EMERALDS, which is vague enough that looks like it is trying to clue something else other than just EMERALDS.

what about the title? i have nothing here either. i did notice tennis great rod LAVER hidden backwards in LOIRE VALLEY, and tennis is a game, but not a table game. NILLA wafers are hidden in the same place in reverse in I’M CALLING IT, but that’s neither a table nor a game.

i basically have nothing to go on after looking at the puzzle for a while, so let’s try some of these hints. hint #1 says that an alternate title for the puzzle is “it’s elementary”. i guess that clears up which kind of table we’re interested in: it’s the periodic table. in that regard, the fact that 1-across is PLAT is interesting, because perhaps that suggests platinum. but i didn’t see other starts of elements.

well, time for hint #2: “The first part of six clues are important.” hmm, that’s interesting. the clue {Finer of those who curse on ABC or CBS} for FCC jumped out at me because that’s a weird wording, but i don’t know what to do with “finer”.

oh, hey, look at this: {Aucoin of cosmetics fame} KEVYN. that’s a person, but “Aucoin” = gold coin, and that absolutely must mean something. it may even be something you would put in a safety deposit box. yeah, i think this must be it. let’s see if we can find others:

  • {Aucoin of cosmetics fame} KEVYN. gold coin. this goes with {What you might put in a safety deposit box} for EMERALDS, i’m pretty sure.
  • {Snore or shout, e.g.} NOISE. tin ore, which is {Stuff in a mine shaft} DIRT.
  • {Fey who wrote “Mean Girls”} TINA. irony, which is {Literary device often used humorously} EUPHEMISM
  • {Cara of “Fame” fame} IRENE. carbonara, a {Popular pasta preparation} ALFREDO.
  • {Arne who was Education Secretary from 2009-2015} DUNCAN. argonne, a {Region of France known for its natural beauty} LOIRE VALLEY. i wondered about this clue, since it’s always ARNE in the grid and duncan in the clue.

i can’t find the sixth yet, but circling those five in the grid spells out LEADE, so i think the answer must be LEADEN. maybe that’ll help. the N must be from {Neighborhood next to SoHo} NOLITA, or {Prop seen in Westerns} NOOSE, or {Born with the surname of} NEE, or {Convent resident} NUN, or {Popular lotion brand} NIVEA. hmm. i think i can rule out NUN, but i don’t know which of the others it is. (i’m assuming it can’t be NOISE since that’s already one of the other theme answers.)

well, i kind of got there in time, but now it’s noon and i have to post. it’s a very cool meta—just when you think you’ve seen all the element metas, matt comes up with a new one. i’m sure it must have started with noticing the name “Aucoin”—matt, can you confirm?

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to MGWCC #791

  1. Seth Cohen says:

    Used all 3 hints, got LEDEN, but scrolling through a list of elements for every clue was really tedious, so I just backsolved the A.

    The N is from “Cut one” = Coppertone = NIVEA. Great find!

  2. Seth Cohen says:

    I loved having the hints. I don’t have anyone to work on these metas with, and I almost never get the hardest ones. It felt great to actually be able to work this one out!

  3. Pomona47 says:

    Carbonara took me the longest to spot because I kept seeing Cara as Calcium-ra. Tough but fair meta!

  4. Paul+Coulter says:

    After the Aucoin hint, I literally had to go through all the clues ten times before I came up with five hits. Three on the first pass, then it was much slower. The L was the one I had to back solve. For me, Arne as Argonne was opaque because I mistakenly had Ar standing for Arsenic.
    I loved this mechanism. It was a really enjoyable meta to solve, and I’m all for more hints on tough ones in the future.

  5. Maggie W. says:

    I enjoyed this meta, and I liked the hints. I used two of them, which still gave me a nice “aha,” while pushing me along.

    Before that, I ran into a tempting red herring: An alternative answer to BREAK WIND could be PASS GAS, and an alternative to EMERALDS could be PASSPORT. And you might find GAS in a mine shaft and see a PORT from San Francisco. I thought this must all be going somewhere, but it was not!

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 301 right answers this week 216 of which were solo solves.

    The N comes from [“Cut one,” more delicately] where Cut One becomes [Coppertone = NIVEA] in the grid. Admittedly a slight cheat, but it was such a nice find that I shoehorned it in. Would ding the meta .25 were I rating it myself for that but I liked it too much to resist. Put the two words in quotes to at least give it the semblance of being a lexical chunk, and you do have to add a space for SNORE to become TIN ORE, so that softened the outlieryness of that as well.

    Much divisiveness on hints, which I did not expect. I figured they’d be an unalloyed good that solvers who didn’t care for them could ignore, but some solvers found the temptation to use them too strong. If I stuck with hints in the future, might go with a schedule where the first one is released Saturday at noon, the second, Sunday at noon, and the third Monday at noon. Many positive comments about hints as well tho.

    • Scott says:

      Excellent idea about the timed release of hints. I vote for that!

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      What I disliked about the hints was less that you gave them altogether than that, despite calling them optional, you accorded “full credit” to solutions that used them.

      As I’ve said before, I’d much prefer that you treated your hints the same way you treat everyone else’s, so that using a hint put a solution in the “group solve” bucket. To me, that just seems logically consistent, and it would presumably reduce the temptation to use the hints, as well, for those who would prefer to resist it.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      Matt, coppertone was my favorite! Didn’t think it was a cheat at all. So slick.

    • I was luckily able to find LEADEN without the hints, but count me as one who really likes the idea of hints for late-month metas, however you choose to do them. More people getting to the final answer is always good, even if they need some help getting there.

      If people self-report how many hints they used, then that could be useful data as well to show how tough the meta was.

    • EP says:

      I cannot imagine why any reasonable person would object to the hints. If you don’t like them, ignore them — does it bother you that much that they help less capable solvers enjoy tough metas? If I’m missing something here (happens a lot), please enlighten me.

      And, if you are an elite solver, it gives Matt more freedom to come up with constructions that are really off the charts tough, without worrying that they might be too difficult.

      • PL Chem says:

        I definitely would love for there to be hints for MGWCC, even if they were posted after the deadline like with Muller’s Monthly Music Meta. It is more fun to figure it out with hints than to just read the solution!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Sorry, joon — forgot to reply to your question. I had the idea first (replace chemical symbols with full element’s name to get something else) before having a specific one in mind. Tried the obvious ones off the top of my head as proof of concept before going further and I thought I had seen the name “Aucoin” somewhere so looked it up and there it was.

  7. Mutman says:

    I thought this was a great meta. Definitely needed the hints and got the mechanism immediately. I’m pretty good with the periodic table, so it wasn’t real hard to find the other 5 clues, but it wasn’t easy either. Many elements qualified.

    I’ve gotta believe “Cut one” was the inspiration for this puzzle. Great find!

  8. Mme says:

    Having time-delayed hints has been a successful innovation over at the muggles forum. A nice side effect is that it seems to have reduced the practice of seeking “nudges” from folks who have already found the solution, and so the leaderboards give more accurate info about who’s solved a puzzle & how difficult it is.

  9. Richard K says:

    I had a pretty good sense that the meta would involve the periodic table, and I had begun looking at clues (tipped by “Aucoin.”) I did end up using all three hints, gladly, to help me narrow down my search, since so many clues began with chemical element symbols. (“Fey” eventually nailed it down for me.) I liked having the option of using hints, especially since my Week 3 / 4 / 5 (and even 2) solving has grown a lot shakier over the years.

  10. Ale M says:

    I assumed we were being led to NOOSE because of the clue that began with WHAT. “W” is the symbol for TUNGSTEN, so I was thinking WHAT = TUNGSTEN HAT, which is also common in Westerns. Never saw the intended solve thru COPPERTONE, but luckily TUNGSTEN HAT led me to the right answer anyways!

  11. John says:

    Bad weekend to have plumbers in my house for 2 days. I not only didn’t get the meta, i forgot about the hints. Knowing it was the periodic table would have been a huge help, but sheesh, not sure i would have sussed the mechanism being in the clues. Just a fantastic idea!

Comments are closed.