MGWCC #227

crossword 3:35
meta 0:10 

hello, and welcome to episode #227 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “It’s Terribly Simple”. this week, matt challenges us to name a Dr. Seuss book that would have made an excellent theme entry in this grid. okay, so what’s the theme?

  • {Entree on the kids’ menu} MAC AND CHEESE.
  • {Went without clothing} RAN AROUND NAKED.
  • {“And there’s more…”} NOT ONLY THAT.
  • {Became distracted from one’s task} GOT OFF TRACK.
  • {Talked things over} HAD A DISCUSSION.
  • {Monocausally} FOR ONE REASON.

it’s as plain as day: each theme answer (like the title) is a three-word phrase whose initials spell out the first word. what beloved dr. seuss book fits the theme? why, it’s hop on pop. yes—easily solved. and nicely done!

i thought this was a very elegant theme despite being simple enough for a week 1. RAN AROUND NAKED feels a little arbitrary, as does HAD A DISCUSSION (why not DRINK? DISAGREEMENT? DOUGHNUT? DISCECTOMY?). but the others, by and large, were nice finds, as is the answer.

as for the fill, i have to confess, i blew through the 17×17 grid so fast i don’t really remember any of it. looking at it after the fact, only SNOOK {Colorful Caribbean fish} seems unfamiliar. i guess i didn’t know NECTARY {Flower organ} either, but it kind of makes sense even if it looks like it should be an adjective. i can’t really remember if 94 words is a high or low word count for a 17×17 puzzle. probably about average, i’m guessing.

your thoughts?

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18 Responses to MGWCC #227

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    How Original – Wonderful!

  2. Took way longer than it should have for me. I noticed early on that they were all 3-word phrases beginning with a 3-letter word, which narrowed it down to Fox in Socks or Hop on Pop, but that seemed like I was still missing something. Finally noticed that the last words started with the last letter of the first word after way too long.

  3. Matt says:

    396 correct answers this week. HOP ON POP was the seed entry, and then it worked out extremely well as the meta answer, too, since a) it’s a member of a discrete, familiar group (Dr. Seuss books) that’s neither too large nor too small, and b) it’s a fun group, evoking pleasant memories of childhood for most.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Pleasant memories galore! Between your meta and Pete’s lovely stroll down memory lane, it was a most enjoyable weekend. And now in tribute, this quatrain:

      If I ran Matt’s contest
      I know what I’d do -
      I’d give us an anapest meta or two,
      Then turn it to Zulu, Basque, or Urdu!

  4. Wayne says:

    A Goldilocks puzzle; neither too hard nor too soft for Week 1. Juuuuuust right!

    I almost got lost in the weeds, because I spotted a false pattern in the theme answers:


    Fortunately for me, HADADISCUSSION didn’t have one of those, so I realized I was off track pretty quickly.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Re: Goldilocks, that was my reaction to the difficulty too. A lot of Week 1 puzzles are so easy you don’t even have to pause. This one required just enough of a moment studying the grid to be perfect.

    • joon says:

      HAD A DISCUSSION has D-a-D. if you think about it, the theme actually requires such a sandwich. it could easily have led you (correctly) to HOP ON POP without grokking the full idea.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I noticed the Dad while solving, also the Ma of Mac and Cheese and the son of For One Reason. Quite a nice family Matt’s given us.

      • Plum says:

        And that’s exactly how I solved it. But if the third word had to start with the last letter of the first word, isn’t noticing this pattern pretty much the same as grokking it?

      • Andy says:

        @Plum: Not quite, because you’re missing the “middle initial” aspect. Suppose “HOP WITH POP” was also a Dr. Seuss book. It would fit this pattern, but not the theme.

  5. J. T. Williams says:

    And I was so proud of myself for finally getting a meta right after completely whiffing on the last THREE (blood type + Fireball + MMM). FORTUNATELY there is another characteristic that all six theme answers share with one and only one Dr. Seuss book: the beginning pattern of CVCVC, and with the same vowel. I decided that “terribly simple” was Matt’s way of saying not to overthink it. BLEH!

  6. Perfect week one. Just the sort of thing to show someone who has never seen a meta before. (Though I’m just guessing; maybe even this is too hard for the average crossword solver.)

  7. For 17x’s that I’ve written, 98 is my max. That said, I think there was a 17 at the ACPT one year that had 100 words; I suspect due to the relative paucity of that grid size, there isn’t a accepted standard as there is for 15s.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    I can’t find my themestorming paper right now, but the ones left on the cutting room floor included THE HUMAN EYE (somewhat weak), IT’S THAT SIMPLE (duped the THAT from NOT ONLY THAT so I wound up using a modified form as the title) and one other I can’t recall at the moment. I decided to make it a 17×17 because there were a total of 6 or 7 usable/decent possibilities so I figured we’d just use them all comfortably in 17 instead of cramming only 5 into a 15×15.

    After coming up with the theme entries I decided to do one final check of every three-letter word to make sure nothing was missed and you can imagine how excited I was to discover that MAC AND CHEESE works.

  9. jefe says:

    Ah! I didn’t see the “3-word phrase whose first word is the initials of the three words” bit, but I did see that the first word was always 3-letters long, and that the next letter formed a 3-letter palindrome, which is a consequence of the actual meta, and only Hop On Pop fit that pattern. I was hesitant though because some phrases started with 5-letter palindromes.

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned yet that Hop On Pop is subtitled “The Simplest Seuss for Youngest Use”. The use of “simplest” here and “simple” in the puzzle title confirmed it for me, though if you fully grokked it I suppose you wouldn’t have needed further confirmation.

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