MGWCC #300

crossword 4:59
meta 2 days 

mgwcc300hello and welcome to week #300 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “You Won’t Miss It”. first of all, congratulations to matt on 300 weeks of MGWCC. that is 30% of his stated goal for the series! it’s a remarkable achievement. second, let’s have a look at this week’s puzzle. the instructions this week tell us that we’re looking for a useful part of your computer.

what are the theme answers? well, that was the first part that was hard. there are no very long answers, and no clues that are overt theme clues. there are a bunch of 9s in the grid. only two of them are across answers, so i figured that YTTERBIUM and LIBERIANS would be theme answers. but i wasn’t sure about the pairs of stacked 9 downs in the corners. and i certainly had no idea what the theme was. YTTERBIUM is element #70, and has symbol Yb, but that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the other answers.

E-COMMERCE and SATIETIES, side by side, were striking. SATIETIES is just all the letters of TIES twice, plus A; E-COMMERCE is CEM repeated (the E an extra time), plus OR. but that didn’t go far with the other long answers.

coming back to this a few times over the weekend, i finally lit upon the actual theme: you can remove 9 (!!) letters from the grid, and the altered answers will still fit the clues. to wit:

  • {Some shouts} are AY(E)S. the E crosses {Concern for Jeffrey Bezos or Bill Gates} (E-)COMMERCE.
  • {Element in the lanthanide series} is (Y)T(T)ERBIUM, or TERBIUM. (curiously, ERBIUM is also a correct answer to this clue!) anyway, the Y crosses {Good surname for someone who lives in Chicago?} GA(Y)LE and the T crosses {Stuffable bread} PI(T)TA. i suppose if you wanted to, you could take the T out of ANTAL instead, but i don’t think maestro dorati would appreciate that.
  • {Hit with “Ghostbusters” goo} is SLIME(D); here “hit” can be the past or present tense. the D crosses {They’re found near joints} TEN(D)ONS. anatomical joints for TENDONS, woodworking joints for TENONS. very nice.
  • {Joe Pesci in “Casino,” e.g.} is a MAD(E )MAN. i haven’t seen the movie. this E crosses {Common communication} (E)MAIL.
  • {Lots of Swedes} are BLOND(E)S, either male or female. this E crosses {Surname in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame} SE(E)GER, pete or bob.
  • {Some stores} are (K-)MARTS. the K crosses {Engaging in romantic activity} WIN(K)ING, and this was the last one i found because i had an error in my original grid, with LINKING here crossing LEX pyke from game of thrones. WEX, that is a tough proper name. anyway, i didn’t love LINKING/LIKING, although i guess you could reasonably say that people in a romance do both of those things.
  • {Many of the them live on the Atlantic coast} clues (L)IBERIANS. this was actually the first domino to fall for me, just because the clue was so strange. the L crosses {Food for a pig, perhaps} S(L)OP.
  • {Put a chair in front of} is S(E)AT, again with the past/president ambiguity of “put”. the E crosses {Jilter, perhaps} EX-FIANCÉ(E), again with the male/female forms of a french word.

anyway, put all these letters together and you get EYTDEEKLE. you have to anagram this, but it’s hardly a random anagram, given both the instructions and the steps taken to reach this point: it’s the delete key on your keyboard. bravo for an outstanding construction!

that’s all for my writeup, and for february. if you’re going to be at ACPT this weekend, good luck! say hello if you run into me some time during the weekend.

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33 Responses to MGWCC #300

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    Rating this puzzle reminds me of figure skating scores – the technical merit is superb and deserves top marks. Arranging all the theme material with almost no bad fill clearly shows great skill. And the aha moment sparkled, with the answer closely related to the theme. But the meta’s solve felt a little stale. Granted the deletion twist is different, but this one-clue-for-two-possibilities technique has lost its zing. And with eighteen entries affected in a Week 4/4 meta, it wasn’t long before the first of them fell. So artistic presentation has to bring the score down to an overall 4 from me.
    Now here’s your chance for a bit of payback to the Pedant’s Corner. I’m putting out puzzles at ACPT on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Please stop by and let me know what you think. I always enjoy meeting others from our group. I’m the tall, white-haired rumpled professor type. I usually sit along the central aisle about five rows from the front. I’ll have a purple MGWCC pen with its cool, squiggly clip (My granddaughter Genna has agreed to lend it back to me.)

  2. Kman23 says:

    I almost just put delete key because of the name of the puzzle…it seemed too obvious though!

    Went with MOTHERBOARD, due to SPACERS in the middle.

  3. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    I found this to be a wonderful puzzle. My mom and I started it on Sunday and got sidetracked by the extra “the” in 64A. Ytterbium happened to be one of the first entries in the grid that I got, and I immediately noted that terbium and erbium worked (since the table is still mostly in my head), but it wasn’t until Monday that we took the deleted letters beyond the Y and T. We also made that error with WEX.

  4. John says:

    OMG. i saw the substitution in the NW corner immediately, but there were 3 substitutable letters, YTT. That formed the word ERBIUM across and GALE, ANAL, and PITA going down. But because ANAL didn’t work, I figured it was a coincidence and never went back to that well. Gah!

    Great puzzle, Matt!

  5. Garrett says:

    I did not get this meta, but was close in a way. I was very bothered by the glaring error in the spelling of pita as PITTA. After considering the title of the puzzle, I started thinking that we were supposed to remove the IT from words that have that in them, then use the remaining letters to perform an anagram. I reasoned that the extra T in PITTA was there because it was needed for the anagram. After considering all the ways I could slice and dice those letters (ptanusdoneome) I finally concluded this was the wrong approach and was back to eyeing YTTERBIUM for the nth time (because it shares a T with PITTA) when the clock finally ran out. The meta is very clever and I am sorry not to have gotten it. Well done.

    Now, a few fun things to share with you about some of the anagrams I noticed in ptanusdoneome.

    Both mouse and notepad are in there, leaving only an extra ‘n’.

    For want of one ‘T’ we have “Don’t Tase Me” with various extra letters.

    It anagrams into Psuedo Meta leaving ‘non’ letters.

    It anagrams also in to Toad Mouse and “And So On…” leaving various letters.

    But it perfectly anagrams into the inane phrase Peanuts Mooned.

    • Barb says:

      Pitta isn’t an error, it’s a very common spelling in other parts of the world. This was the first of the letters I noticed, followed by the tendons/tenons pair. And as Joon says, the Iberians/Liberians jumped out, too. Actually, my first thought while solving was that Liberians could have been Libertarians with tar removed. And that’s a thing no one would miss. No offense to my brother, who happens to be a Libertarian (their politics are somewhere to the far right of the Tea Party,) but to my way of thinking, no one would miss them, either.

      • I also thought of adding TAR to make LIBERTARIANS—with that being able to drop letters from YTTERBIUM to make any of Yttrium, Terbium, and Erbium, I thought that this might be going the direction of Matt’s blood type puzzle, with letters getting moved between answers, but I couldn’t make anything else quite work like that. I also couldn’t find a good reference saying that there were in fact a lot of libertarians living on the Atlantic coast.

        Fun fact: all of the elements Yttrium, Ytterbium, Erbium, and Terbium were named after the town of Ytterby, Sweden, where they were all discovered.

  6. Jason says:

    Had a feeling it was one of the keys but when I couldn’t get it I just went with the whole KEYBOARD.

  7. ===Dan says:

    E-commerce
    E-mail
    K-mart
    EEK! A mouse! (I brushed aside ex-fiance as a two-letter prefix.)

    And SPACErs was way too overt, even alongside (c)issy SPACEk.

  8. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Paul Coulter must have meant that the construction is super(b).

    You can find some 12D:SATIETIES here :-)

    —N(D)E

  9. Matt says:

    Thanks, Joon. 170 right answers this week.

    Paul –

    Schrodinger squares have been done a lot which is why I don’t do them anymore unless I find a new twist, but I don’t see how you can argue that *erasing* letters isn’t a new twist.

    I got this idea from David Steinberg’s Dec. 12, 2013 NYT (the ERASERS one). I thought his concept was extremely clever (nominated it for Crossword of the Month on my blog) but that it could have been improved by making it a Schrodinger, since in his the with-R answers didn’t match their clues. So I waited a couple of months for the puzzle to fade from memory before doing this one (the CotM nomination probably didn’t help it fade)

  10. Keenan says:

    How in the world do people solve these? Have you all just done so many that you know the various tricks/ways to hide a meta answer? I stared at this for a few days and never even considered taking letters out. Sheesh.

    • Howard B says:

      Ditto. Amazingly, each week I get worse at finding the meta ;).

    • Mutman says:

      I have done over 100 of these now — not sure how many I have actually solved. This was probably my easiest meta of the week 4 class.

      Was it easy? Well, the ‘escalator’ puzzle of yore was somewhat similar. When I read the review back then, I was stunned, amazed and throwing palms in front of Matt’s donkey as he rode into town. I probably would have thought the same with this puzzle, had MGWCCs been brand new to me.

      But the extra letters in certain answers did touch off a big red flag. Keeping with the theme, I eventually found all 9 letters and thus the meta. I have to say the experience of prior metas was certainly a big advantage.

      Great work again, Matt!

    • JustinR says:

      I feel the same way 2-3 times a month, Keenan.

      Garrett, I too was thrown by pitta. I thought it was just another misspelled word in the fill (gismo and debilitator come to mind).

      I like what Matt’s done the last two weeks, though. Last week was a gem, and it’s enough to keep me going through the deluge of current events-themed puzzles he’s produced of late.

    • makfan says:

      I do think solving puzzles regularly makes you better at thinking outside the box. I was able to solve week 1 and week 2 metas early on, just from solving the NY Times for over 2 years. I remember when the idea of a rebus just wasn’t on my radar; now when I am having trouble fitting in what seem obvious answer, I look to see if a rebus is in play.
      Similarly, with the Meta puzzles you have to open your mind to all sorts of tricks. Missing letters, words that can be extended, clues that tie together, etc.
      My trouble is that if I don’t get some idea right away, I tend to put it aside and forget to go to it with a fresh perspective.

  11. Bri Nebulae says:

    Did anyone else try to remove the “T” in the lower right corner? TKOS becomes KOS and ITO becomes IO (the moon of Jupiter that Galileo passed by in 1995).

    I figured this was unintentional since there were enough letters otherwise to spell DELETE KEY.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Yeah, that actually made me wonder if I had filled the puzzle out wrong and there was an H somewhere (to spell “the delete key”).

  12. Jeff G. says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this one, excellent execution fitting in 9 (extra) letters. I noticed the extra t in pita, then the extra e in Seger. The others were well hidden. Win(k)ing was my favorite. Well done Matt!

  13. Wayne says:

    Liked it okay. I’m deducting a star because I was able to solve it without fully grokking the meta. I saw the Downs in the NE and SW, and the Acrosses for the others. And then I was halfway home. I never even noticed that the crossing clues also worked.

    I’m not sure what Matt could have done to keep me from taking the shortcut. I assume that TKOS/KOS was there to try to nudge me along the right path. From joon’s description, the scenic route sounds very pleasant. Ah well…

  14. Jim S says:

    Dang! Took it too far. I spotted a bunch of letters that could be removed, but there were so many that I figured there must be one, and only one, in each row and column. Trying to spot 15 had me reaching way too much and I never dialed it back enough to see the right answer. Solid offering, Matt.

  15. Bunella says:

    Garrett, I was looking at the IT as well. Never got close to the real answer. LOL I’m not sure I understand it even with the explanation but I’m only doing metas for about 2 months now.

  16. Amy L says:

    In answer to Keenan, I have no idea how they solve these, especially the ones who do it so quickly. I could only think that a useful part of your computer is the function key you press that solves metas–a key I can’t find on my computer. Or maybe it’s a secret combination of keys. I’m sure the fast solvers have downloaded the program and are keeping it from the rest of us.

  17. charles montpetit says:

    I had WIN(E)ING instead of WIN(K)ING (crossing E-MARTS), along with AY(E)S, MAD(E)MAN, BLOND(E)S and S(E)AT, so I figured the answer was simply the E key, which coincidentally was the only key I ever needed repaired on my keyboard. So close!

  18. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    I barely had time to do the grid on an extended weekend, and there was essentially no chance that I could ever have gotten the meta.

    But one simple-minded question, re 69 A: If you SEAT someone, don’t you put a chair behind him, not in front of him?

  19. BrainBoggler says:

    I ran out of time on this one while awaiting a last-minute revelation and then getting too busy to return in time. Anyway, I had a strange feeling the answer was going to be keyboard-related and got stuck in this mindset after seeing GAPE rearrange to PAGE (considered it “up” since at the upper part of the grid), LAT rearrange to ALT, and CES rearrange to ESC, not to metion SPACE(rs) in the center. Since some of these key names were created by SHIFT(ing) the letters, I would have submitted SHIFT as my answer, despite not quite being in line with the puzzle title.

    Perhaps these red-herrings were actually subtle hints to narrow the intended answer to the keyboard, rather than some other part. IC now…I think. Great puzzle, Matt!

  20. Adam Thompson says:

    I noticed ACE, KING and TEN in the center and symmetric locations and went with CARD.

  21. Sheep1234 says:

    [Disappointing audience population] , (N)ONE
    [Apple product], (I)MAC
    [Unspecific amount], (C)LUMP
    [Fix], (E)MEND

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