MGWCC #821

crossword 3:21
meta 5ish 


hello, and welcome to episode #821 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Read That Back to Me”. for this week 4 puzzle (but again supposedly pitched at week 2 difficulty), the instructions tell us that This week’s contest answer, which is eight letters long, is a category of people that includes many cartoonists. what are the theme answers? the key one is the last across answer: {Beloved Randall Munroe comic; you really should go check out that strip I linked to in the puzzle e-mail now if you didn’t before} XKCD. matt hinted pretty hard at this, mentioning it in the email, the blog post, and again here in the omega across clue. i got the sense that he really wanted everybody to get this week “2” puzzle this time!

anyway, that comic contains the fake crossword entries AETE, ENI, ORETA, AROE, OINE, AEN, ENTA, and AERAE, and sure enough, each of those is hidden backwards (as suggested by the title) in one of the across answers, including all of the six long acrosses:

  • {Quality of hedgehogs and armadillos} SQUATNESS. not the first quality that comes to mind, but i guess UNCUDDLINESS wouldn’t fit.
  • {Hypothesized dinosaur whose name means “ancient thief”} ARCHAEORAPTOR.
  • {Got back together} RETEAMED. an unlovely entry, to be sure. it’s in m-w but not the new oxford american dictionary.
  • {1990s “SNL” character who was a pastiche of two famed talk-show hosts played by Dana Carvey} CARSENIO. i did not remember (or perhaps never knew) this. self-evidently, it’s johnny carson and arsenio hall.
  • {Sleeping issue} APNEA. stealth short themer here.
  • {Descriptor for some sonnets} SHAKESPEAREAN. also known as just “english sonnets”.
  • {Strong string} TWINE. another stealth short one.
  • {Cabin on a cruise} STATE ROOM.

the first letters of these eight entries spell out SARCASTS, which is another entry that is in m-w but not oxford—i did not know this word. but it means what it looks like it means, i.e. sarcastic people. and it’s a particularly apt answer for a meta about xkcd, which is a self-described “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”.

so yes, definitely easy enough for a week 2 (or maybe even week 1) with the rather heavy-handed hinting. some elements of the construction were slightly awkward, like RETEAMED and the final answer being a not-terribly-familiar inflection of a common word. but kudos to matt for quickly turning a webcomic that came out only a week ago into a funny meta.

i think the reversal mechanic was probably necessary to make the meta work—the options for AERAE reading forward are, basically, HETAERAE and that’s it. not only is that a pretty niche vocabulary term, it’s not a particularly pleasant one. so i think that was a good decision, and then you have to indicate the reversal in the title. in a way it’s surprising that matt was able to spell any kind of 8-letter word at all using this mechanic, because while there are untold options for INE and NEA, the others are much more limited, and the grid does not break symmetry (although the themers do not occupy exactly symmetrical spots).

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

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7 Responses to MGWCC #821

  1. Dusty Gunning says:

    Tried to do it without following instructions-
    I knew Randall had chosen his website name BECAUSE it couldn’t be pronounced.
    There are 8 entries which can’t be pronounced (SPCA, LAX, etc. MRSTS doesn’t count cuz it IS pronounced).
    Those first 8 letters spell…..gibberish.
    Down in flames with that approach!

    Always follow directions.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      I mean…LAX is extremely easy to pronounce…it’s literally a word…

      Sorry, I know that sounds mean, but just trying to be snarky, not mean :-D

  2. EP says:

    Agreed that it wasn’t TOO difficult to find the theme octet…but it wasn’t exactly easy, either. I love the creativity in requiring outside information to solve, although it’s a bit unfair for those stuck with only paper and pen(cil). I failed, though, because I did not believe that SARCAST (S) (or STSACRAS) was a real word; and even if it was, I didn’t think Matt would spring it on us as a solution.

    I’ll put the over / under on this one at 275

  3. Garrett says:

    The hardest part of this one was filling the grid.

  4. Barnyard says:

    Maybe even easy enough for a week 1? If so, I need a different hobby. Clever, imaginative, amazing as always. Easy? Nah.

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