MGWCC #795

crossword 7 hours to construct


Matt here filling in for joon, who’s skydiving in either Slovenia or Slovakia this week (he told me but I always get those two mixed up).

Looking for a six-letter adjective you might apply to some contest crosswords last week. The three long theme entries each began with a verb whose “I” becomes an A and then a U in the past and past perfect tenses:


RING/RANG/RUNG the doorbell also works, as do SING/SANG/SUNG like a canary and SPRING/SPRANG/SPRUNG for dinner. They down clues work as well there, with SWIM/DRINK/BEGIN becoming SWAM/SWUM/DRANK/DRUNK/BEGAN/BEGUN in the same way. Not that these down clues had Hit…Set…Let… verbs which are usable for any of the three relevant tenses.

That puts the letters IAU in mind, and six clues contain those three letters consecutively in each of their six possible permutations. In grid order, those spell contest answer QUAINT, which uses those same three vowels consecutively.

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20 Responses to MGWCC #795

  1. Mike says:

    Loving the hints on appropriate weeks.

    One friendly suggestion on them — a few line breaks before the text starts. I think it will help readability on phones.


    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Hating the hints on difficult weeks! The tough puzzles are the ones I look forward to: if handicapping every puzzle to the level of about Week 3 (326 solvers on the leaderboard this week) makes an improvement, what ever was the point of making puzzles tougher to begin with?

      I suppose the answer to my question is that the self-motivated solver who wants a tougher challenge can freely deny himself some or all of the hints to get the challenge he craves, but that comes at the risk of his ranking (on the leaderboard and for the year-end prizes). I’ve noted before that it would seem to me both logical and preferable to count solving with a hint from Matt like solving with a hint from anyone, i.e. in the “group solve” category. Like the current approach, that would theoretically leave the choice to the solver, while practically posing him something of a dilemma.

      In correspondence, Matt’s brought up the possibility of putting solving with official assistance into a third category of its own, a logical compromise, if it’s convenient to implement.

      • Evil Steve says:

        Agreed, and this puzzle seemed a strange one to give hints on. Honestly felt like a week 2 to me – very direct line to the solution.

        I wish Matt would start beating us up a little more. Would love to see single-digit solver count puzzles again.

        • Matthew G. says:

          I think that hints are fine and make the contest more engaging, and that those who don’t want extra input should just not open them.

          That said, I also thought this was a surprising puzzle to give hints on, and also surprising to be run as a week 4. I thought it was easier than this month’s week 3 by a country mile.

      • LuckyGuest says:

        Yeah, that was my question to Matt as well. A couple years ago now, I decided that solving (or not solving) these metas myself was a lot more meaningful/rewarding than running up a healthy streak, so I vowed not to request or accept any nudges (and in an email conversation with Jeffrey Harris/Jangler, his position was that anything – including “keep going in the direction you’re going” – was a nudge that should keep a solver from claiming a solo solve).

        But here was, and is, my question to Matt: when a meta’s creator offers a hint (versus a gaggle of people in a Zoom session or PMs), sometimes it’s prefaced with “This one is playing harder that I thought, so here’s a hint: ‘The original title was …’ ” Does that count as a nudge? In a way, no, because he’s saying “In retrospect, I probably should have done this to start with.” But this one is different… these were legitimate nudges, not to clarify or edit what was originally published, but to make solving the puzzle easier. Although I originally called it a solo solve, I added a caveat with this very question. I didn’t hear anything back, but the more I think of it, these were legitimate hints (that I didn’t *have* to open if I didn’t want to), and therefore, I think his opinion– and one with which I agree – might be that I shouldn’t have counted it as a solo solve.

      • Disagreed; I really don’t see how the hints are a problem other than it’s just a little different than how MGWCC was done before. More people having a shot to get the aha and reach the answer is good, even if they need some help to get there. If you strongly prefer the tougher weeks and don’t want to use any hints, then great — avoid them as you see fit and let others use them as they wish.

        Matt can figure out how he wants to tally submissions as either solo solves or group solves, and whether he wants people to report how many hints they used if any. Personally I think it would be good if solvers told him how many hints were needed if only as data that might show how tough the meta was. But how the hints affect the leaderboard or year-end prizes isn’t something I’d worry about at all. (Are year-end prizes even a thing anymore? I don’t think I’ve received any year-end prizes for a little while now despite being on a long streak, and that’s fine with me — I just enjoy doing the metas.)

        • Amanda says:

          I agree with Evan. Single-digits are only fun for up to 9 people. Most of us aren’t in it for the leaderboard or prizes, but to find that aha moment.

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            Well, if it’s not about the leaderboard or the prizes, why not just release the hints after the deadline? That would let you find your aha moment at your leisure and yield better data about the meta’s toughness, too (to Evan’s point).

  2. David Benbow says:

    The hints definitely helped. I found the 6 theme entries before hint #1 was released, but then got stuck trying to find uses for hit, let, and set (the first words in each of the clues for the 6 themers). Surely that was no accident!

    Great puzzle, as usual.

  3. Seth Cohen says:

    Got the IAU quickly but couldn’t figure out what to do with it until hint 3, from which all I really needed was “Look at the clues, silly.” Very happy to have that little nudge!

  4. John says:

    I didn’t get that all three tenses worked in the grid. I also got hung up on the fact that the clues for the themes used Hit, Let, Set, twice each. These are “Highly Irregular” verbs as their spelling remains constant through tense progression. Between the title and the repeat use i was convinced the meta solve veered away from simple tense to this new angle. A lot of time wasted trying to make something of that. Now i see that the use was to make all tenses work – Wow, brilliant. I used all three clues. Needed every one of them. As a (very) old MGWCC solver it feels like a bit of a cheat. But i’ll get over it. It was more fun to get it than not.

  5. Dean says:

    I got the answer but I’m not sure of the reason for the down irregular verbs. The across ones were enough to get the Ring/Rang/Rung idea.It actually led me astray because the answer was 6 letters long so with three across and three down, I assumed each contributed one letter to the answer. Was that written as a diversion. However that leads to a question. I noticed that the respective down clues and the corresponding across clues began with the same irregular verb. That is to say:
    16A/2D: Hit
    I was diverted by that for a while as well. Especially since the past and past perfect of these are all the same. Was that to call attention to the downs? At this point, I had 9 themes.
    I can only thin that good literature as in good art allows the viewer or reader to sometimes see things that was unintended by the writer or artist. This may be an example of great literature. When I got the idea, I definitely got the click we all look for except for Jangler who probably clicks constantly. I didn’t even notice the answer had the UAI theme until I began to write this.
    Great meta Matt

  6. Norm H says:

    I immediately saw all six themers, as well as their multi-purpose clues. But I slammed into a brick wall after that.

    Here’s what I tried before the clues arrived:
    — Other irregular verbs that started clues: Do, Give, Have, Give (again), Drink (a dupe if you chose the present tense for 25-D) and Born. That’s six, so it felt right, although the fact that five are present tense and one is not (born) rankled a bit. Dead end.
    — Words with I, A and U — in that order, given Matt’s clue for TENSE. Because the answer was six letters, I figured the pattern would be I_A_U_ or _I_A_U. All I got was ICARUS , so that petered out pretty quick.

    After the hints arrived, I looked for more clues with “strange syntax/wording”. Nothing really caught my eye except Total (seemed oddly specific for AMT), Passing… for ASSIST (why not just use Pass?) and I authorize… for UNDO (my only correct catch).

    As it turned out, it was Clue #2 that I most failed to heed. I just never saw the I/A/U combos. I should have, though, as I did think to myself that the use of Maui was ill-timed given the recent fires there. I see now why it was needed.

    So, a very nice meta but a bridge too far for me. Well done, Matt.

  7. Paul M says:

    The Lucy Liu clue was my passageway to the solution. I stared at that awkward group of words for a few minutes. Putting aside the fact that it’s a pretty obscure way to get to ALEX, the syntax would have been so easy to clean up by using “played her” instead of “acted as her”…I knew there must be a reason. It later occurred to me that a clue like “Lucy Liu action film role of 2000 and 2003” would have satisfied the theme without the awkwardness, and probably would not have set off my meta radar. So thank you for that, Mr Gaffney, and I’m curious if less clunky alternatives were considered and rejected as a courtesy to solvers.

  8. rjy says:

    Matt’s elegance with these puzzles rarely fails to impress. I hadn’t noticed earlier, but to see today that the clues had all 6 permutations of the three letters… wow! Those extra constraints he puts on himself as a constructor are often quite remarkable. (oh! and like Dean above, I also missed that QUAINT had those same three letters… really great)

  9. Chaddog says:

    Great puzzle, Matt! On a more serious note, is Joon ok?

  10. Adam Levine says:

    Getting mixed up between Slovenia and Slovakia sounds like the beginning of a meta!

  11. Dave says:

    Has anyone ever described a contest crossword as “quaint”? Seems unlikely.

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