MGWCC #838

crossword 2:02
meta DNF 



hello, and welcome to episode #838 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, a guest puzzle by Mike Graczyk called “Made in the Shade”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions informed us that we were looking for an 11-letter word. what are the theme answers? the only obvious one was {Word length not present for most crosswords…but you’ll need lots o’ them for this one} TWO. the intriguing wording, and the apparently unnecessary elision o’, caused me to go look for two-letter words in the clues. there were a lot of them, as you might expect, but some of them were quite unusually worded to seemingly include a two-letter word (in the same way that the clue for TWO itself was unusually worded so as not to include a two-letter word):

  • {Certain ER amounts} CCS.
  • {“Hi! Let’s find you your seat!” speaker, perhaps} USHER.
  • {___ en scene (stage setting)} MISE.
  • {She sang “C’est Si Bon” and “Santa Baby”} KITT.
  • {This person proclaims, “Hear ye!”} CRIER.
  • {Company that might service vintage Model Ts} AMOCO. this is definitely a bit odd—normally, pluralizing a one-letter word would be done with an apostrophe, so this looks like the constructor was deliberately attempting to use the two-letter “word” Ts.
  • {When you become a chemist, your rivals might keep an ___ you} ION. that is a long way to go for a pun, but perhaps mike needed to use “an” here.
  • {Toys that are great for building and less great for stepping on} LEGOS.
  • {“___ Gold” (movie this crossword constructor has never seen but is glad exists)} ULEE’S. this constructor has never seen it either, although somebody gave me the DVD many years ago as a gag gift.
  • {___ Park (where the LA Dodgers’ rivals play)} PETCO.
  • {“Here’s your Spanish appetizer bright and early! ___ the morning to you!”} TAPA. again, a long way to go for a pun.
  • {“What am I, chopped liver???”} AHEM.
  • {“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the ___!” (Mo Willems children’s book)} BUS.
  • {“___ se llama usted?” (Spanish for “What’s your name?”)} COMO.
  • {Cut out, as coupons} CLIP.
  • {Common sight within a P.O. box} SASE. here, it would have seemed perfectly natural to me to omit the periods and just write “PO box” (like “ER” in 1-across)—so i’m not sure whether to include this as a two-letter word.
  • {___ buco (dish you might serve with pasta al dente)} OSSO.
  • {Go make small talk (sounds terrifying)} CHAT.
  • {“Ha!” alternative} HEHE.
  • {One might wave at you} RISING TIDE. i don’t think this is a valid clue for the answer, if i’m being honest. a tide does not wave.
  • {“Nobody doesn’t like” her, re her slogan} SARA LEE. i don’t think this is a correct use of “re” either (le mot juste would appear to be “per”), which makes me quite confident that it is thematically relevant.
  • {Many ___ (quite the long time, perhaps since E.T. has seen his home planet)} A MOON. this is an extremely forced wording, presumably to get E.T. in there, so now i think both this and P.O. above are thematic.
  • {“Yeah, I presume us two will just skip this one…”} LET’S PASS. i suppose i can imagine somebody saying this, but it should properly be we two, not us two.
  • {I had some pretty gouda puns for this clue, but they’re just so ___} CHEESY.
  • {Said the baristas, “We really ___ difference!”} MOCHA.
  • {Revise, like a TA might for student essays} EDIT.
  • {Country that declared St. Rose its patron saint} PERU.
  • {Ed who shares his name with Iowa State’s city} AMES.

so that’s, what, 28 clues containing a two-letter word? it’s noteworthy that none of them contain multiple two letter words, but dang, this is a lot and i don’t know what to do with it all. the title also isn’t helping me—well, maybe. it could just be that we’re meant to shade in every instance of these two-letter words in the grid, but to be honest, i don’t want to do that. it seems like a lot of busy work, and it’s so easy to miss them, and if it’s not what we’re supposed to do, then i’ve totally messed up my grid for nothing. so i hope it’s not what we were meant to do.

how about this—i can see some entries in the grid like HITS that are made up of two of our two-letter words (HI + TS). maybe we shade those in? but there aren’t enough of them. in fact, i’m seeing literally only that one.

well, i don’t know, and it looks like i’m giving up. i don’t know if i’m hoping it is or isn’t the shading-all-those-twos mechanism i mentioned earlier. but hopefully somebody will let me know either way.

(Adding this image from Gridmaster J, which illustrates the meta nicely –Matt)

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18 Responses to MGWCC #838

  1. Adam Rosenfield says:



    • David R says:

      My questions were what happened with the other two letter words and you could use SOCHI or ASAHI. I felt like I was missing something even though I got the meta.

    • David Benbow says:

      What about ASAHI (18 across)? I also wasn’t sure if P.O. and E.T. would count as 2-letter words. So close…

      • Wayne says:

        Same. I thought the punctuation was there to eliminate them. Why have periods for those two and not LA, ER, and TA?

      • Adam Rosenfield says:

        I can’t speak for Mike or Matt, but I agree, it’s slightly inelegant here. There are 6 extra 2-letter words in the clues (AL, AS, AT, EN, RE, TO) that aren’t used in any of the 11 5-letter words for extraction, so it’d have been better if those weren’t present in the clues.

        The only ways to decide between SOCHI or ASAHI (for HI) is the fact that the theme entries are symmetrically placed, and that only SOCHI makes a word for extraction.

        • That’s not correct, though. All 28 of the two-letter words are used in the grid in symmetrical places (AL and EN start and end AL ROSEN; AT ends CHAT; AS starts ASIA; RE ends CURE; TO starts TORO). You exclude the two-letter words from those entries and you still end up with the letters of CHIAROSCURO left over.

          It’s true that you can spell out CHIAROSCURO from just 11 of the 16 entries (actually you can do it with just nine entries, too, if you take AL ROSEN but leave out the crossing Down answers), and ASAHI is maybe a tad distracting if you figure out what to do. But given the constraints of filling in those sections and the fact that the key answers are all symmetrical with each other, that didn’t bother me.

          • Adam Rosenfield says:

            Ah thanks, I see now, and re-reading Mike’s post makes more sense.

            The way I solved the meta involved just finding the 11 5-letter words, without shading anything in. That’s sufficient to come to the answer using only 22 of 28 2-letter words. The actual meta construction has more constraints that I didn’t see, using the other 6 2-letter words, but those extra constraints don’t add anything new to the answer extraction.

            • Mikey G says:

              I will definitely concede this point, for sure!

              To be honest, I actually love a lot of the discussion on this one for those reasons. It’s been really cool to see how people approached it, and I would read a book (seriously) that would just be filled with solved meta puzzles with commentary on how puzzlers tackled them.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks for pinch-hitting, Mike! This one cleared the center-field fence with ease.

    245 correct entries, 161 of which were solo solves.

  3. You basically had it right, to find the two-letter words in the grid — but they’re all helpfully found at the starts and/or ends of 16 symmetrical entries (seven of them Across and nine of them Down).

    The leftover letters in those entries (the ones that aren’t part of the starting and ending two-letter bigrams) spell out CHIAROSCURO.

  4. Mikey G says:

    The end effect here was intended that a solver would realize that by shading some squares, treating them as black squares, a multitude of 2-letter words would form as a result; the other two of the “big three” standard rules of crosswording, symmetry and connectivity, would remain. The shaded letters of CH IA ROS CU RO (literally “light-dark”) would spell out the meta answer, which would be “made in the shade.”

    The sequential epiphanies were meant to be finding a bevy of 2-letter words in the clues (many shoehorned awkwardly into the puzzle), realizing that many of these are clustered in symmetrical places in the grid (N, NE, center, SW, S), and musing that shading in certain letters would cause all of these 2-letter words to appear organically as 2-letter entries.

    This was probably the fourth or fifth attempt at making the grid. With all the fill and then getting all the clues to match up, I’d estimate 8 to 10 hours or so went into construction.

    What seemed to be the lingering questions by my taciturn eavesdropping (can you eavesdrop with your eyes?): What’s up with all the “red herrings”? Why do only six 2-letter words matter? And how does that relate to the title or the answer to the meta?

    I knew this was a possibility and kind of liken it to what Matt has called “hiding behind the back door.” If the scavenger hunt takes you across the entire house, and you find me behind the door, congrats – you found me! However, if you think to check the back door initially, you took a shortcut…but you found me anyway! Everybody wins.

    It is not a guarantee that a solver will solve the way the constructor intends, and that’s part of the joy of creativity and resilience. I do recognize that does short-circuit some of the intended elegance, but that’s squarely on me, so apologies if that took away any of the refinement of the conundrum or truncated your experience.

    Ultimately, a huge thank you to Matt for the honor in letting me guest-construct (he suggested the “lots o’ them” addition to the TWO clue, which I thought was brilliant) and a thank you for solving! Looking forward to crack the upcoming Week 4!

    Mikey G

  5. Mike W says:

    Additionally, the “al” from al dente and “en” from mise en scene created an additional clue for the “ros” in Al Rosen in the center of the puzzle. Very elegant!

    • David Benbow says:

      This actually works for ALL the key entries and, if you shade them, it uses all the “extra” two letter words exactly once. Very cool!

  6. Steve Thurman says:

    After coming up short on several recent metas, I was quite pleased with myself when this one all came together for me. Nicely done, Mike!

  7. Dave Andre says:

    VOTER in the shown grid should be VOTED, no?

  8. Barnyard says:

    Since neither the word nor the concept of CHIAROSCURO was known to me, the title shed very little light on the solutionoscuro. I did however have an enormous collection of two letter words before I threw in the towel. Ingenious puzzle.

  9. John says:

    Yeah it was a very impressive idea and construction, but a little too much meta material. I hear echoes of my feelings in some of the other comments: Does E.T. count? Si? St? And there were so many it just didn’t feel like it could lead to a solution, in spite of the “lots o’ them” admonition. As stated though, very well done.

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