MGWCC #263

crossword 3:33
meta DNF 3 days 

hello there and welcome to episode #263 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Bring Forth the Fourth”. embarrassingly, i was unable to solve this week 2 meta. but hey, a man’s gotta blog what a man’s gotta blog, so here i am anyway. so what’s going on in this puzzle? there are five long answers:

  • {“The Gold Rush” director, 1925} CHARLIE CHAPLIN.
  • {Peter Pan portrayer} MARY MARTIN.
  • {He met a pieman going to the fair} SIMPLE SIMON.
  • {They’re hung on Christmas trees} CANDY CANES.
  • {Nickname of Route 75 in southern Florida} ALLIGATOR ALLEY.

all of these are names or two-word phrases where both words start with the same 3 letters: CHA CHA, MAR MAR, SIM SIM, CAN CAN, ALL ALL. that much is easy enough. but what next? i actually tried to solve this one without the instructions at first. so the next thing i looked at was the title, and aha! i’m supposed to take the fourth letters, the ones right after the repeated beginnings. so i duly noted RP YT PO DE IE, and then i got stuck. that doesn’t spell anything obvious, and if i’m supposed to anagram ten letters, well, it would help to know what i’m looking for. the fourth letters of just the first words spell out RYPDI, which looks similarly unhelpful, and just second words gives PTOEE.

okay. next then—check the instructions. this week, the answer is how some people get while solving metapuzzles. hmm. that doesn’t seem to help. cross-eyed? pie-eyed? there are various letters of those phrases in the anagram fodder, but not exactly what we are looking for.

oh, okay. maybe i’m looking for other words in the grid starting with CHA/MAR/SIM/CAN/ALL. that would put a pretty serious strain on the grid (with 5 long themers already), but let’s give it a shot:

  • {Shoot the breeze} CHAT at 1-across. off to a good start!
  • {Adult female horse} MARE.
  • {Slang} CANT.
  • {Brother-in-arms} ALLY.
  • {Video game series since 2000, with “The”} SIMS.

okay, so yeah, i guess i did solve it. there’s exactly one four-letter answer beginning with each of the three trigrams, and the fourth letters spell out TESTY, which could be how some people get when solving metas. they’re not in order, but anagramming five letters is a heck of a lot more reasonable than anagramming ten, so that seems okay. and, as i mentioned, there are considerable constraints on the grid, with 5 long and 5 short theme answers (all acrosses).

nice puzzle, ultimately. i do think {Ruin} MAR in the grid at 21d is infelicitous. it may MAR the puzzle, but it doesn’t ruin it for me.

well, it’s super late and i just figured this out. i think i’m going to head to bed. how’d this one treat you all? tough for a week 2, no?

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40 Responses to MGWCC #263

  1. Neville says:

    You’ll find that they are in order if you sort the letters by the long theme entries’ appearances, i.e., SIMS goes in the middle with SIMPLE SIMON.

    Tough one for me; didn’t get it until stepping away from the puzzle multiple times. To think this was only week two!

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    It was easy, about right for a Week 2, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt testy while solving one of Matt’s metas. CHAgrinned, MARvelous, SIMple-minded, CANny, and ALL at sea, for sure, but never TESTY. QUIZ-ZY, on the other hand… I agree with Joon about Mar. I suggested to Matt in my comments that MAB/BASKIN might have been a better choice than MAR/RASKIN. Who doesn’t like ice cream, and the inclusion of MAR may have side-tracked some of our less experienced solvers. I know that it confused my granddaughter. By the way, does anyone have a take on what the title means? (added) Oh, of course, fourth letter to complete the three letter repetitions.

    • Ephraim says:

      You use (“bring forth”) the last (fourth) letter of the appropriate answers to spell the meta-answer.

    • Bob Kerfuffle says:

      “Bring Forth the Fourth” sounded to me like a take-off on “Bring on the Fourth,” which is to say, Summer is here and we’re ready for the Fourth of July (OK, not perfectly timed), where the literal meaning was to bring out the fourth letter of the free-standing four letter words which held the answer to the meta.

      I’m a little embarrassed to say I found this one a reasonably simple, Week 2-appropriate meta.

  3. MAR at 21D was actually my in-road to solving the meta, though I agree, it’s a bit of a blemish on an otherwise elegant puzzle.

  4. Ephraim says:

    False leads put me onto the real answer. One try: most theme answers have a vowel pronounced two ways, but the last one fails unless you say ALLIGATOR ALLY. Hey look! There’s ALLY in the puzzle! Another try: CHACHA and CANCAN are dances, so (facetiously) SIMSIM must be the SIMS. Hey, SIMS are in the puzzle too. Any more coincidences like that? As soon as we saw there was one for each theme entry, it all came together. Around 11:52 today.

    • Evan says:

      That was kinda how I got it. I looked up the Duran Duran singer’s name on Google and found out it was SIMON LE BON, so I started looking for other answers in the grid to match up with the other theme answers. Couldn’t see anything obvious for CHARLIE or MARY, but when I saw SIMS in the southeast corner I scanned up and saw CHAT sitting in the opposite corner. That’s when I knew what was going on.

      It’s cool how Matt Gaffney’s metas have that “you know it when you’ve got it” feels to them — although I’m sure many people can attest to getting the right answer without knowing how they did it.

  5. Gwinns says:

    I immediately saw that the theme entries were each two words starting with the same three letters; I also tried to spell something using the 4th letter of each of those words, but got nothing. I never noticed the other words starting with those three letters.
    Instead, I decided to look at the clues for those 5 theme entries. The 4th letter of each theme clue gives GEEYK, which anagrams to GEEKY. And I would argue that “some people get” quite geeky when solving metapuzzles. (A trip back through the discussions of Matt’s metas on this forum backs me up!)
    I didn’t feel 100% solid on the answer—For one thing, I thought that GEEYK was too close to GEEKY; it should have been spelled correctly or required more anagramming than just transposing the two last letters—but the answer seemed to fulfill all of the requirements of the puzzle: it used the theme clues, fit the title, and fit Matt’s description of the answer.
    What do people think? Is it a valid alternate solution?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      7 people sent in GEEKY. I will ask the panel for their opinion (though one of the 7 GEEKY people is a panel member!) but I’m leaning against. It’s an odd coincidence I agree, but that the letters actually spell GEEYK is too weird. Additionally, it doesn’t address the repeated trigrams, which are prominent and obviously important (in retrospect, if you didn’t notice them)

    • Jeff M says:

      Fell into the GEEKY trap myself…I would love to be able to to say with a straight face that it should count, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    274 right answers this week.

    Agree 100% on MAR. The fatal thought process was: “It’s unlikely there are any other words in the grid starting with CHA/MAR/SIM/CAN/ALL, so I’m just going to do a quick visual scan instead of using the CC repeated strings function.” Not the end of the world, but I would have changed it if I’d seen it.

  7. Wayne says:

    I went down every blind [alligator] alley that joon did. I also wasted a lot of time trying to make a phrase by adding a fourth letter after each of the triplets (CHA_MAR_SIM_CAN_ALL_). I came seriously close to submitting DOPEY TRIPE, but came up with the right answer at the last minute.

    What a relief! I hate getting knocked out in Week 2.

  8. Jeff G. says:

    I was getting a little testy when Father’s Day arrived and I was still stumped by a Week 2. The MAR going down on the left caught my eye and it finally clicked – glad it was there.

  9. Danny says:

    This one was a tricky Week 2 for me. I spent a considerable amount of time working out anagrams of those fourth letters that follow the 3 letter strings, probably a combined 2 or so hours over the course of two days. Then I decided clear the grid on Across lite and resolve, slower, reading all of the clues twice. Type in “CHAT” at 1A, and say “Oh, okay, then”. Finish the grid, 30 seconds later I have my answer.
    Really nice misdirection, but overall perfect difficulty for a Week 2. Everything right there in plain sight. Fun solve!

  10. ant says:

    Did anyone submit a DIS- DIS- answer (such as DISAPPOINTEDLY DISCOURAGED)? With CHA/SIM and CAN/ALL being symmetrical, and DIS symmetrical to MAR, I spent some time thinking that might be the meta, before finding MARE.

    • Abide says:

      I saw the trigrams pretty quickly, and was looking for a symmetrical
      DIS DIS without luck. Then noticed MARE, and spent two days thinking about a symmetric for NEIN. NEITHER NEIGHBORHOOD was about the best I come come up with. Pulled out TESTY this morning. I was definitely testy all weekend and yesterday.

  11. Alex Vratsanos says:

    I completely missed the connection between the title, the repeated initial threes, and the related 4′s… after such an easy week 1, I hadn’t been anticipating something this deep. Full disclosure, my submission was “Very Verbal”.

    As for GEEKY, I agree with you, Matt, I wouldn’t accept it- the order didn’t match, it sounds like it was completely unintended, and most importantly, the clues (from which GEEYK came from) really had nothing to do with the meta itself.

  12. Pete Rimkus says:

    Definitely a tougher Week 2 than usual…and I failed in grand fashion.
    I saw only 4 of the additional CHA/MAR/ALL/CAN words, missing SIMS altogether.
    So that made me think that there was something special about SIMPLESIMON.
    So then I tried to use the title, and grabbed the fourth letters in both SIMPLE and SIMON.

    Hey, some people get PO’d when solving these, don’t they?

  13. Amy L says:

    I’m ashamed to say I didn’t come close to finding the answer. I thought the answer would fit the pattern and I wanted to submit CRUCIVERBALLY CRUSTY even though I knew it couldn’t be right. I was stuck on July 4th and couldn’t get beyond it to find any other fourths. I sure failed this testy.

    • Matt Zinno says:

      I also spent a long time thinking that the answer was going to fit the pattern. But all I could think of was how I felt, STUPIDLY STUCK. And I knew that if it was going to be something like that, it would be a more common phrase. Then I remembered ALLY, and that broke it open for me … with about an hour left before the deadline.

  14. Mutman says:

    First off ixnay on the eekygay.

    I had the puzzle solved and figured I had the meta grokked when I saw the threes. I figured I’ll just take the fourth letters, all ten of them, and rearrange them. So I shelved it til Monday only to find out that tippor-eyed was pretty lame and there was no answer down this path.

    So on Tuesday morning I finally wrote out the thee letter words on paper. Once done I saw ally then sims and the rest fell into place.

    And I for one was feeling a bit testy on this!!

    Nice week 2 Matt!!

  15. Dave Taube says:

    I did the same as Alex and Amy and submitted Frantically Frazzled. I thought that we were supposed to come up with a two word phrase with each of the words having identical first three letters.

    • mrbreen says:

      I think if the answer were to be a another two word trigram, it would have to be “hidden” in the grid, as there would be just too many possibilities. Plus the instructions made no mention of finding a 6th theme entry.

      21d tripped me up briefly, as it left me with the letters TTYS, and as such I briefly considered Talk To YourSelf. Saw Mare a couple minutes later, and got it sorted out.

  16. Pam says:

    I wanted to submit metally challenged, because that’s what I was.

  17. joon says:

    i guess i didn’t explain this very fully in the writeup, but here’s why i thought this was tricky for a week 2. it’s clear what’s going on with the long theme answers, but then the natural first thing to do with the title is exactly what i (and apparently several others) tried and failed to do. and it’s far from obvious that it’s not what you’re supposed to do, just because there are plenty of things you can do with ten letters, all reasonably common, well-balanced between consonants and vowels. so you can spend an awfully long time going down that road without ever realizing that you were supposed to do something else. so it seems more like a week 3 to me.

    but these are fairly arbitrary gradations of perceived difficulty. for me, a week 1 is so obvious you can hardly fail to see it. in week 2, you can generally see what is going on, but then you have to work out 1 extra step to get the meta. that’s what this puzzle would have been if the answer had involved fourth letters of the long theme answers themselves. in week 3, you often need to think outside the box (and in weeks 4-5, almost always); going back to the grid for short theme answers in this one felt like a week 3 move.

  18. Joan says:

    My best shot, because I usually miss the answer when the clue is involved was Geeky, which I thought was pretty close, but probably not right, even though many solvers do appear geeky.

  19. jonesy says:

    in defense of Joon’s “trickiness/week 3″ theory – 260 or so correct does feel a little low for a week 2, no?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      274 is on the low end of normal for a Week 2, I’d say. More like 350 would’ve been average.

  20. Scout says:

    Meta solvers don’t get nearly as testy as my husband waiting to go on a bike ride with me while I tried to anagram “rpytpodeie” into some kind of answer. Fortunately saw “chat”, then “mare” then got the meta before I missed the ride!

  21. wobbith says:

    I agree with joon. I further complicated things for myself by trying to anagram all 15 “fourth” letters. “PRETTY”-something, and something-”EYED” seemed promising, but there was just nothing there.

    By 11:30 this morning I was mighty frustrated, (though I wouldn’t say TESTY, exactly).
    So I started over. Re-solved the puzzle in AL and printed it because my hand-solved copy had become a terrible mess of annotations and circles and arrows, plus I thought maybe I’d find something odd that I missed the first time through (no joy).

    Then I did something that I find often helps meta-solving in some way or another, and should have done on Friday…listed the themers, in block letters, on graph paper.
    The next logical thing seemed to be to write the trigram next to each themer.
    Then what? Finish them off with the 4th letters from the grid, I guess. So,


    And there it was, a simultaneous Eureka!/D’oh! moment, with 17 minutes to spare.

    Most definitely spent more time thrashing through this one than any other week 2.

  22. icdogg says:

    I liked it. Just about the right difficulty for me.

  23. Evad says:

    Hand up for an attempt to anagram the fourth letter of each word of the theme entries. Glad I didn’t notice the GEEKY letters in the clues before I stumbled upon the four-letter entry connections to the theme patterns or I’d be pleading my case to the judges as well!

  24. mean old elaine says:

    Hmph. I did the F– F– thing (because of the title, and it IS Week 2, after all, so it should be obvious, right?) I thought of a Really Appropriate F– F– phrase, too. Didn’t I, Matt?

  25. Charles Montpetit says:

    This was one instance where coming back to the puzzle after some time off helped a lot. When one does so, CHAT is highlighted by default at 1-across, as if to say, “Look *here* you fool!” Granted, I still had to come back twice before it hit me, but it did do the trick an hour before the deadline…

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