MGWCC #829

crossword 6:15
meta about 30 min 


hello, and welcome to episode #829 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “You In or Out?”. i’m back in the blogging saddle after i was away on vacation last week (and forgot to line up a replacement—sorry to matt and fellow fienders!). huge thanks to ben for capably filling in for me last week, when i didn’t even get a chance to look at the crossword, let alone solve the meta. anyway, for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions told us we were looking for an eight-letter word describing most meta-solvers. what were the theme answers? there were no obvious themers in this oversized (19×19) grid—no long answers, and nothing was explicitly tagged as thematic. but one clue jumped out at me during the solve: {Across the ___ (where some words change their spelling)} POND. combined with the title, that led me to notice the inclusion of seven (not eight, as i was certainly expecting from the instructions) answers that are spelled with a U across the pond but not here in the states:

  • {Foodie’s concern} FLAVO(U)R.
  • {Refuse to let go of, as a grudge} HARBO(U)R.
  • {Vermilion or violet, say} COLO(U)R.
  • {Thoroughness} RIGO(U)R.
  • {Gives props to} HONO(U)RS.
  • {Hint that it’s time to clean the litter box} ODO(U)R.
  • {Mists} VAPO(U)RS.

let me tell you, i spent quite some time scouring the grid for the nonexistent eighth themer, including some time trying to convince myself that DECOR is spelled DECOUR in britain (it isn’t, of course). but anyway, here we are—seven theme answers. but what’s the meta answer? it’s not FHHCORV, that’s for sure.

the next step, which took me a while even after i had stopped looking for the eldoradoan eighth themer, is to notice that changing the single O in each of those answers to OU makes the crossing entry into a valid new entry:

  • {Eleven, in El Salvador} ONCE becomes OUNCE. this was clued as spanish 11 instead of the common english word, i assume to avoid duplicating AT ONCE elsewhere in the grid.
  • {Feature of “delay”} LONG E (where, of course, i initially tried LONG A—curse you, matt!) becomes LOUNGE.
  • {Preventive injection} FLU SHOT becomes FLUSH OUT—a very clever and elegant find.
  • {Across the ___ (where some words change their spelling)} POND is doing double duty as a theme answer, as it becomes POUND.
  • {Hook & ladder attachment} FIREHOSE becomes FIREHOUSE.
  • {Find a way to get by} COPE becomes COUPE.
  • {Clump, as of clay} CLOD becomes CLOUD.

finally, we then have to find one more entry in the grid whose clue could also work for each of our seven new answers:

  • {Room in the board game Clue} STUDY, but also LOUNGE.
  • {Unit of weight} TAEL is kind of old-school crosswordese, but forgivable in this case because it’s doing thematic work. but for OUNCE or POUND? turns out to be OUNCE, as we’ll see.
  • {Rainy day sight} UMBRELLA, or CLOUD.
  • {Common currency} DOLLAR. here’s POUND, which disambiguates TAEL.
  • {Sporty car} IROC, or COUPE.
  • {Expel} OUST, or FLUSH OUT.
  • {Chain specializing in sandwiches} SUBWAY, or, it turns out, FIREHOUSE subs. i was not familiar with this chain—turns out there isn’t one in massachusetts! but they have many locations in new england, and many more in the mid-atlantic in matt’s neck of the woods (and also where i grew up), so perhaps i should have been aware of it.

taken from top to bottom in the grid, these spell out STUDIOS—but that’s only seven letters, as we had only seven themers to start with. it’s also not an adjective describing meta solvers… but we can do the O -> OU trick one more time to get STUDIOUS, which is the meta answer.

this puzzle is practically the platonic ideal of a good week 3 meta. a nice idea to base a meta off of, then an ingenious and elegant transformation, followed by some clue-hunting in what is often the last step, but then one more twist right at the end for a highly satisfying conclusion. i loved it. i will admit that i was surprised that the final answer turned out to be so close to the 1-across grid entry STUDY (which also factored into the meta), but in the service of such an elegant mechanism overall, i’ll let that one slide.

what did you all think?

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14 Responses to MGWCC #829

  1. Adam Rosenfield says:

    Red herring: I found that adding a U to SEZ to make SUEZ for an alternate answer for URALS [Range between two continents], which I wanted to make the missing U at the end of STUDIOUS, but it’s not an O->OU transformation and it didn’t fit with the grid order.

  2. rjy says:

    “this puzzle is practically the platonic ideal of a good week 3 meta”

    Hear hear!

    I commented to Matt in my submission that I thought this was the perfect Week 3 puzzle, with a terrific aha with the final twist. And having just rewatched the movie “The Prestige”, that last bit of the solve was “the prestige”, for those who might recall the concept. Really great, Matt!

  3. Garrett says:

    Great meta. My one minor nit is that I I wish the O garnered from (Expel} OUST, or FLUSH OUT could have been an across clue between Sporty car and sandwich chain.

  4. Steve Thurman says:

    Just an excellent meta! I too spent time on DECOR, especially since it created the entry, TREATFOUR, which seemed to be…something.

    I’ve learned that one of the advantages of watching out-of-town baseball games is that you see lots of commercials for non-local chains. We don’t have a Firehouse Subs nearby, but I’ve seen lots of ads for them.

    I agree, Joon. This puzzle was ingenios!

  5. Mike says:

    I never found the O/OU thing (it’s possible I had POND filled in from Across clues and never read it?) so I was flummoxed to find 8 Us in the puzzle and the clues for 4 of their Across entries (STUDY URALS UMBRELLA SUBWAY) could match another grid entry when adding a U to them (LONGE SEZ CLOD fIREHOSE).I spent a fair amount of time to no avail trying to figure out the other 4 (although a Down, I came closest with the idiomatic “Preventive Injection” and ONCE).

  6. Joe Ross says:

    I prefer



    73D ON RADAR – One way to detect an enemy

    which is still in LEFT to RIGHT grid order.

  7. dbardolph says:

    So close. I failed to make the FIREHOUSE sub connection, and I couldn’t figure out what the hell a FLU SHOUT was… Put it away, and never managed to get back to it. Great puzzle.

  8. Dredshlaks says:

    I was close. Had 6 of the 7 letters right but thought Firehouse was something a cat might sit on. There’s no way I would have recognized it as a sub chain.

  9. Richard K says:

    I had to Google Firehouse Subs, thinking maybe it’s not a West Coast thing, only to find out there’s one a few miles away from my house. Will have to try it some time.

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