MGWCC #810

crossword 3:21
meta 2:30 


hello and welcome to episode #810 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Crave Cold”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a six-letter adjective that I hope you’d apply to this meta. what are the theme answers? six longish answers are made-up alliterative phrases:

  • {Blast loud music at 5 AM from the Colosseum?} ROUSE ROME.
  • {Jab your finger in an annoying person’s side?} POKE PEST.
  • {Get hold of that bird that stole your food at the beach?} GRAB GULL. this is hard to do, but boy would i do it. i hate seagulls.
  • {Gift for a coffee-lover in May?} MOTHER MUG.
  • {River animal that saves the day?} HERO HIPPO. there are a very large number of animal-named superheroes, but not a hippo that i know of.
  • {Sharply and repeatedly criticize general Arnold?} HAMMER HAP.

what next? the title was little help—it’s also a two-word made-up alliterative phrase, but it doesn’t tell you what to do. the key for me was thinking about ROUSE ROME, which reminded me of the alliterative phrase “house and home”. that was precisely the key thought, because each of our theme answers can become a pair of synonyms if we change the first letter of each word to the same letter:


the final step is a familiar one—find a clue among the other entries that could be satisfied by these synonyms. in numerical order, they are:

  • {One’s residence} DIGS… or HOUSE/HOME. this was 1-across, and perhaps i was aided in the meta epiphany by the fact that the first thing i wrote into my blank grid was the incorrect answer HOME.
  • {Lacking in interest and excitement} ARID, or DRAB/DULL.
  • {Talk on and on and on and on} RAMBLE, or YAMMER/YAP.
  • {Irritate} IRK, or BOTHER/BUG.
  • {Bupkis} NADA, or ZERO/ZIPPO.
  • {Laugh-evoking action} GAG, or JOKE/JEST.

taking the first letters of these six answers in order gives DARING, which is the answer to the meta. and now, at last, the title serves as a confirmation step, since you can connect it to DARING by changing the first letter of each word to B.

i thought this meta was outstanding (following on the heels of, i must admit, a few in a row that had left me somewhat cold). it felt quite fresh and fun as a mechanism, and the original theme phrases and clues were amusing. i appreciate that the original themers were all themselves alliterative, even though they didn’t strictly need to be for the mechanism to work, just to nudge solvers in the direction of thinking of alliterative phrases. that’s an elegant touch.

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

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14 Responses to MGWCC #810

  1. Seth Cohen says:

    Didn’t get it, and I love the mechanism, but I’m never a fan of the title being no help. The only clue in most metas is the title, so if you don’t have that, you have nothing. Just a blind search for the rabbit. And it doesn’t matter that the title serves as confirmation afterwards — when you get the right answer in a meta, you don’t need confirmation. But I know that’s my own personal taste. Still a very impressive meta!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      These aren’t supposed to be formulaic. Once they’re all “insert Tab A into Slot B” it gets boring fast.

      • Seth Cohen says:

        You definitely make a good point. But don’t you think there should be SOME clue at the start? Otherwise, isn’t it just trying random things until one of them sticks? I don’t know, maybe the clue here is just “The themers have something in common. Find it.” But there are SO many things to try. I find it more satisfying to suddenly understand the first clue, than suddenly stumble on the right guess.

        But I get what you’re saying. I definitely don’t want formulaic either. I just like something to build from.

        • Conrad says:

          > But don’t you think there should be SOME clue at the start?


          I don’t want to live in a world where solving meta crosswords requires formulaically following steps A, B, and C. Because if that’s all you did: it’s just a crossword. There are thousands of those out there, many are excellent.

          A lot of these types of “make metas more predictable” comments seem (unintentionally) designed to rob the rest of us of “aha” moments.

  2. Margaret says:

    My in was the title which I [incorrectly] thought was HAVE/HOLD but it was still close enough that it made me think to change the first letters of the themers. Hawk’s home threw me off for a little while before I realized it was DIGS not AERIE. Really enjoyed this one!

  3. Mikey G says:

    This was a lot of fun! It’s always fun, but often futile, to look retrospectively and figure out what my “in” was to grokking the mechanism. I can’t remember which one – it might have been ROUSE ROME.

    Next time I get stuck on a meta, I’m calling Hero Hippo to the rescue!

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 451 right answers this week.

  5. Dean S says:

    Actually, the title did help.
    Crave/Cold becomes Brave/Bold ergo “Daring”
    I guess one could solve in reverse by guessing a six letter word for Brave/Bold
    Great job Matt. I love when a title suggests the mechanism and ties in with the answer either with a pun or a double entendre.

    • EP says:

      I thought this was a perfect week 2 level challenge. Once you see the mechanism and come up with the answer, the only doubt is whether that Brave / Bold title could be part of the solution; I agree, Dean, it actually was a very nice confirmation of it.

  6. Mutman says:

    When I saw HAWK’S HOUSE and HOLY HIMALAYANS in the clues, I thought there would be 4 more corresponding alliterative clues.

    But alas, there were not.

    Then ZERO/ZIPPO hit me and the rest was trivial.

  7. Garrett says:

    My solving process was pretty much exactly as Joon described, and like Joon I thought this meta was outstanding.

  8. John says:

    Yes! Really great week 2, which aren’t always as clever since they need to be fairly easy also. 4.5 stars from me.

  9. jefe says:

    The title was absolutely my in – I saw Crave Cold could turn into Brave/Bold and went from there. Ironically, I did not connect DARING back to it afterwards!

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