MGWCC #814

crossword 4:22
meta 2 min 


hello, and welcome to episode #814 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something”. this week 1 puzzle was eminently solvable without the instructions. what are the theme answers? four across answers in this slightly odd grid (17×15 and asymmetrical) are comic mashups of two acronyms or initialisms. as the title suggests, we need to think about what these letters stand for:

  • {Computerized image of Jill Biden?} FLOTUS JPEG. that’s first lady of the united states + joint photographic experts group. i feel like JPEG must be the one of these acronyms that’s the least well known in terms of what it actually stands for, although JPEG itself is extremely familiar.
  • {Really not wanting to skip the office’s happy hour?} TGIF FOMO. thank god it’s friday + fear of missing out.
  • {Ambitious goal for an up-and-coming entertainer?} EGOT ASAP. emmy grammy oscar tony + as soon as possible.
  • {Rachel Maddow saying “Carpe diem!” to her viewers, for instance?} MSNBC YOLO. microsoft NBC (itself national broadcasting company) + you only live once.

what next? by itself, this isn’t much theme material, so there would be no particular need for an oversized grid unless there were a lot more theme in here. (the asymmetry of the grid is required by the asymmetry of the themers, whose lengths are 10, 8, 8, and 9. but the grid is a lot more asymmetric than it needs to be if that was the only issue.) the key is that each of the 8 theme acronyms/initialisms crosses a down answer that’s a single-letter change from one of the words it stands for:

  • FLOTUS crosses {Can’t look away} STARES (one letter from STATES) at the S.
  • JPEG crosse {Sends to another country} EXPORTS (one letter from EXPERTS) at the … P. this is a bit odd, because i had assumed that they’d all cross at the relevant letter (here, it would be the E), but i guess that would be rather unwieldy grid-wise—you’d need a lot more vertical space between your theme answers to hang EXPORTS off the E in JPEG, as that would drag you down to the 9th row. still, it sticks out because the other seven hidden theme answers do cross at the correct letter of the initialism.
  • TGIF crosses {TV cousin who looks like a member of ZZ Top} ITT (IT’S) at the I. i hadn’t made this connection before, but sure, yeah. those guys have long beards. (except for the one named beard.)
  • FOMO crosses {Prefix meaning “frequently”} OFT (OUT) at the second O.
  • EGOT crosses {Like some tree-lined streets} ELMY (EMMY) at the E. this was my in, because when i was solving the crossword, i was like, “what the hell is ELMY doing in the puzzle?” this could have easily been EMMY (making LASH into MASH) or ELMS (making YAT into SAT).
  • ASAP crosses {Prefix meaning “sleep-related”} SOMN (SOON) at the S.
  • MSNBC crosses {Guest bed, maybe} SOFA (SOFT) at the S.
  • YOLO crosses {Be infatuated with} LOVE (LIVE) at the L.

taking the “wrong” letter from each of these eight answers in order gives the answer ROTFLMAO, itself an acronym (or maybe an initialism; do you pronounce this like “rotful mao” or do you spell out each letter? i don’t know, since i don’t think i’ve ever wanted to speak it out loud). anyway, that’s the meta answer, and although it wasn’t quite what i was doing when i solved it, i was definitely amused by the puzzle. and what a cool idea for a meta—not necessarily the part about what the letters stand for, which is fairly evident, but it’s a lovely touch that each extra down themer crosses the relevant across themer (and almost all of them in the exact right place). the mechanism felt perhaps a little more week 2 than week 1, but i suppose the title does tell you what to look for, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to find it.

that’s all for me this week. i’ll see some of you this weekend at mystery hunt (!! three days left!!)!

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12 Responses to MGWCC #814

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 316 right answers this week.

    This one was extremely confusing and tricky to write, and as you noted, I messed up the P being crossed by EXPORTS instead of the E (I had it correct in the earlier versions but so many moving parts here and the P starts the syllable so….). This puzzle went through about six iterations (including a few different grid sizes) and at some point I changed it there and never noticed it until my tester pointed it out the morning of. Oh well.

  2. Thomas says:

    I griped about EXPORTS in my comment when submitting, but I will say here that this was a nice puzzle. I spent slightly too long trying to rearrange the letters (changed and original) before realizing that oh, right, it’s just actually ROTFLMAO.

  3. Margaret says:

    I saw the changed words pretty quickly but was convinced I needed to do something with the “real” letters (T from staTes not R from staRes etc) for a long time (they anagram to TIMEOUTS!) Then I decided it must be the original letters and still couldn’t see it. Finally my co-solver asked me how I’d ordered them, which was in grid order rather than theme answer order (I had ORFTLMOA) so I reordered them and still couldn’t see it! She finally had to tell me that ROTFLMAO was a thing. I’m sure I’ve seen it but it simply wouldn’t parse for me. 316 answers seems low for a week one so I don’t feel quite as bad about how difficult I found it.

  4. John says:

    Week 2 or even 3-ish IMO. I did the downs-only for heavens sake, w/o instructions, at first. I don’t know how one could possibly get this thinking its obvious enough to glean without a clue. The EMMY/ELMY pair would have been my only chance to see this but with a downs-only approach, solving them was very time distant event and the connection lost. Its a great mechanism, but not a week 1.

  5. Steve Thurman says:

    To be honest, this was only a LOL for me. Which means it was a very nice AHA moment.

  6. Mikie says:

    Cripes, my recent record on Week 1’s is starting to look like my long-term record on Week 4’s!

  7. Hector says:

    This was meta-making firing on all cylinders: fun concept with fun answer, deft construction with nicely inconspicuous crossings. Bravo, IMHO, FWIW.

  8. Barnyard says:

    Terrific and very clever puzzle. As usual with a Week 3, I had no chance.

  9. Jay Livingston says:

    When I finally caught on to the mechanism, it was only few minutes before deadline, and I had only a picture of the grid on my phone — no clues, no prompt, and in fact, I had let the prompt slip from my mind. So I looked at the title, looked at the eight letters but did not think to read them horizontally. So I submitted FLOORMAT, which is something to stand on. And standing ON is practically the same as standing FOR, isn’t it? After all, a floormat is for standing.

    My answer was wrong, of course, but what was that T doing there? The more frequent initialism is ROFL, without the T. Yes, the T is necessary if each themers has to have two key letters. But it’s also necessary if you’re putting a floormat in your grid. So I am wondering if Matt had the anagram in mind.

  10. jefe says:

    I got there eventually, but it took me AGES to see the first part (words off by a letter) and another couple days to see that the changed letters spelled something, even though I had them both written out:


    AND highlighted in my grid. Nope, doesn’t spell anything *facepalm*.

    Also got distracted by all the non-thematic acronyms/initialisms: IRA ISS NYU NCAA GSN RPI SOS ELO ACC IKEA MFA.

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