MGWCC #317

crossword 3:51
meta 5-10 minutes 

mgwcc317hello everyone, and welcome to episode #317 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Crosswordese Hunt”. i’m glad to be back with you after my sojourn to brazil, but let me offer my gratitude to evad for more than capably filling in with last week’s review. this week, the instructions tell us that we’re looking for an appropriate four-letter piece of crosswordese. what are the theme answers?

well, there sort of aren’t any. the longest answers in the grid are MYSTIC PIZZA, JUSTIFIABLY, QUACK QUACK, and CHIP AWAY AT, but they’re not really theme answers. the only theme-like thing going on is that there seem to be a lot of scrabbly letters. look at that ugly little SW corner, for instance—you’ve got partial I PUT, suffix -ULA, abbreviation TXT, and obscurity CALX all tucked into a pretty straightforwardly fillable 3×4 corner.

in fact, the presence of QUACK QUACK turned me on to the possibility that the grid was a double pangram, i.e. it used every letter of the alphabet twice. there are certainly two of every unusual letter—two Q’s (and K’s) in QUACK QUACK, two Z’s in MYSTIC PIZZA, X’s in Y-AXIS and TXT, J’s in JUSTIFIABLY and {Southwest huts} JACALS. (i didn’t know that last one.)

going through the grid with a fine-toothed comb, however, there aren’t quite two of everything. what jumped out at me first was that there seem to be no E’s, which can’t be an accident—but in fact there is one E, at PHYSIQUE/EAT IT. similarly, there’s only one N, O, and R. (i’ve circled the lone appearance of each of these letters in the screenshot.) since we’re looking for a four-letter piece of crosswordese, we should probably anagram these four letters to something appropriate: ONER (pronounced “1er”), which my dictionary informs me is “chiefly british” for a singular or remarkable person or thing.

this was a fun meta. i don’t really know if it was easy or hard for a week 4—it felt easy to me, but sometimes you just notice things quicker. it might have helped that this is not the first time matt has used the “grid uses every letter except” concept—it was first trotted out way back in MGWCC #6, and matt even referred to it on his blog just last month as an alternate solution to the university meta.

as for the grid: the strain of the construction, requiring not only the double-use of all the rare letters but heavily restricted by the ability to use only one of the ONER letters, led to some poor fill. i’ve already pointed out the SW corner, but there were also some obscurities like {1968 Olympic skiing champ} KILLY, plural names AMYS and WALTS, not-quite-in-the-language phrases AM I UP, ASK IT, and ALL THIS. {Crossword great Alfio ___} MICCI is also a little obscure, even in this crowd, but i wasn’t unhappy to see him in the grid, as an homage to one of the bygone titans of constructing.

anyway, that’s all from me, and that’s all for june. see you next week for a nice gentle week 1.

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70 Responses to MGWCC #317

  1. hibob says:

    what is a oner? I sent in Reno. Think that will fly? how about Nero?

    • Giovanni P. says:

      Probably not, since they aren’t “appropriate” to the theme of the puzzle. joon notes oner is slang for a singular thing, which the four letters were in this puzzle.

  2. Wayne says:

    Is there anything that this guy can’t do in a 15×15 grid? I don’t
    know that there are many constructors who could create a double
    pangram; certainly not one with such clean fill.

    But having done so, I think most would send it to Mr. Shortz, or
    otherwise show off their accomplishment. Not Matt. Matt deliberately
    ensures that it isn’t a double pangram–by placing an absurdly difficult additional constraint on himself–and more to the point uses
    it as an opportunity to wink at people who would admire such things.

    I am in awe.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I don’t think so. A crossword writer’s byline should not be much smaller than the editor’s, and certainly not in font smaller than the clues. Call me crazy.

      • CY Hollander says:

        You’re a veteran constructor whose name is already famous, but I think that for many more people than not—both setters and solvers—the imprimatur of the NYT is worth a good deal, even nowadays. It’s probably also worth bearing in mind that before Will Shortz came along, constructors had no bylines at all.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          That was 21 years ago, and behind other newspapers even then. And the type was extremely small and underneath the grid, probably not one-tenth of the editor’s (which was on top of the grid).

          It’s still behind other papers — there’s no other newspaper I know of where the constructor’s name is smaller than the editor’s (and it’s much smaller).

          • CY Hollander says:

            OK, but being honest: who do you think is more famous to the general public: Will Shortz or any constructor you care to mention? Whose name sells more crosswords? I realize that there may be a degree of circularity to that, but at the same time, in the current world, it makes sense for Mr. Shortz’s name to be more prominent then the constructor. I’m not saying it has to be that way—and I can see why it would rankle—but I don’t see it as rankly unfair, either.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            I see no reason why the two names can’t appear in the same type size.

  3. Qatsi says:

    I did this puzzle late last night and didn’t get the meta. I was taking a last look at it at 8:57 am PDT and realized that it wasn’t the multiple rare letters I should have been looking at but the singletons. Unfortunately, by then I didn’t have enough time to cycle through the alphabet and find the letters I needed for the solution. Fail.

  4. Giovanni P. says:

    I noted the right thing (single use of the R, E, N and O), but I discarded that for my initial answer, A TO Z. Right track, but I shouldn’t have gone with my gut feeling on that one. Kicking myself yet again.

  5. Mark says:

    Was the title meant to be parsed as “crossword E’s hunt”? That’s what for me looking for all the E’s in the puzzle, which in turn led me to notice the other singular yet normally extremely common letters…and thus to the answer.

    Or was that just luck?

  6. Al Sanders says:

    I took an interesting path to the wrong answer today. Figured out pretty quickly that the theme answers were red herrings. I looked at Matt’s description of the answer and focused on a “piece” of crosswordese. I thought, “What if it refers to something physical?”. The title “Crosswordese Hunt” suggested a wordsearch type of hunt. I thought, “What if the physical item we’re looking for is hidden in the grid in a form which suggests its physical nature?”. The various BARs came to mind, IBAR, LBAR, etc. I went looking in the grid, and lo and behold there was an “LBAR”, shaped like an L! Cue the music, do the dance, another one in the books :-)! Of course this wasn’t the answer and the true answer is much more elegant, (and I’m certainly *not* suggesting LBAR is a legit alternative). I just thought it was funny that rarely have I felt so confident about a wrong answer.

    I never do very well with the metas that involve some property of the overall grid (sort of a “meta” meta). I’m actually surprised and humbled at how many folks got this one. Seemed brutal to me.

  7. David R says:

    I typically don’t solve “true” Week 4 puzzles, so this was easier then usual. I first tried unsuccessfully to make a connection between what appeared to be the themed answers and a like minded crosswordese fill in the grid i.e. CHIPPED AWAY/CALX. I then noticed the odd fill and the dearth of certain vowels leading to the O and E. A further search turned up the consonants and my head put them together as ERNO, hmm how is that an appropriate answer I thought…

  8. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    I started checking the grid expecting to find something like “NOEL” (no L) but it didn’t take long to see there was only one R. Since ONER is pure crosswordese (unlike Reno or Nero it cannot live outside a grid!), I submitted it without considering the anagram, although I did note in my submission to Matt that there was “also, ONE E, ONE N, and ONE O.”)

  9. icdogg says:

    I entered RENO and it was accepted.

  10. DBraun91 says:

    Got the concept and the right letters, but submitted NERO going by the fact that from top to bottom the singular letters spelled NERO. The ONER (parsed as ONE R) makes a lot more sense with the whole theme in mind. I see my name on the leaderboard, so NERO seems to be acceptable.
    Also, just an observation, I believe this puzzle was released at 3PM on Friday instead of noon, shouldn’t solvers technically still have 3 more hours? I guess thats all moot now since the solution has been released.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon, and welcome back.

    ONER was of course my intended solution, “appropriate” since each of these letters is a oner (unique thing) in the grid. 147 people submitted ONER.

    I also got 46 entries of some anagram of ONER (ERNO, ORNE, RENO or NERO), all of which are frequent guests in crosswords. I counted them as correct for the time being, since there are some people who haven’t heard of ONER, and others who arrived at a defensibly “appropriate” reasoning for their answers (e.g., ERNO Rubik is famous for his cube, and a crossword grid is square) but I’m open to arguments as to whether those alt-answers should be counted as correct or not. If you’d care to state the case for or against here then I (maybe plus the panel) will come up with a Solomon-like decision by Friday.

    As for the grid: I never knew how many words contained an O, R, E or N until now. CALX and all, this grid took a looong time.

    • Giovanni P. says:

      If I may chime in Matt, I think only the first of those alternate answers has at least some weight to it in terms of the “appropriate” qualifier in the puzzle’s instructions, so I don’t think full credit should be given.

      On the other hand, submitting even one of those shows people grokked the key part of the meta, so I’d vote for giving them at least partial credit. Win for the week, not for the month perhaps?

      • Maggie W. says:

        I didn’t get to put in effort until about 11:40 today, found the letters, sent in NERO, which were the letters from top to bottom and the only word that sprung to mind immediately, and two minutes later thought, “wait, that’s neither crosswordese nor appropriate.”

        I’d be very happy with being ineligible for prizes but keeping the win in my overall tally. :) I think my argument for this one is less compelling than my argument was for that “Kosher” circle puzzle in August 2012, so I suppose it fails that test.

    • DBraun91 says:

      I noted below how I arrived at NERO. Read from top to bottom the letters spell out NERO. NERO has 364 appearances in the NYT per xwordinfo. I suppose by the definition of crosswordese being something that is rarely seen in everyday conversation/common language NERO may not be so great. It was hard for me to even consider anagramming after circling the N, E, R, O in that order, effectively arriving at a pretty common 4 letter crossword entry.

    • Debbie says:

      Putting in my two cents here – in my brain (though this may be wrong), Crosswordese is any short word that shows up far more often in crossword puzzles than in real life. So by Debbie’s Definition, any of those 4 should count. Plus, if a solver made it to the E, N, O, R stage they got the gist of it.

      If we wanted to get picky on my probably-not-that-accurate definition, I’d say that even then, ERNO, ONER, and ORNE should all count, and perhaps NERO could be left off.

    • Wayne says:

      @Matt, you can calculate a word’s “crosswordese factor” similar to the way you calculated the celebrities’ Shortz Factors in that [excellent] Slate article a couple of years back. ONER is clearly crosswordese. (As @BobK said, “Unlike Reno or Nero it cannot live outside a grid!”.) ERNO is arguably a close second. The other three, less so.

      But that aside, the “appropriate” in the meta prompt makes ONER the only acceptable answer. And it’s appropriate for two reasons: the one you intended (descriptive of its constituent letters), and the one you didn’t (“one R”).

    • hibob says:

      I sent in Reno, and no offense to the people who live there, but I talk about that city about the same amount I speak of Nero, mention the inventor of the Rubik’s cube by first name, or climb Mt. Roen. I get that oner is a really sorry word that lives in crosswords and has the word one to start it. But I vote to leave all the variations in because people obviously grokked the meta and I haven’t got a final week in about a year. I won’t stop solving if I get bumped off though.

    • CY Hollander says:

      I agree that “appropriate” points to ONER, so I’d favor being strict about that if I knew that one knew the word. On the other hand, as you point out, not everyone has heard of ONER, and I’m not sure that “appropriate” is a strong enough hint to prompt someone to start looking for an anagram he doesn’t even know about. Since there’s no way to know whether a given solver had ONER in his vocabulary or not, I’d go with the compromise option suggested by Giovanni P., as you’ve done before.

      • mrbreen says:

        I’m a relatively young (early 30′s), solver and I’ve seen oner in grids more times than I care to count. Matt’s metas have had solutions in the past that were completely new to me (Estonian Kroon, Daniel Inouye), but that in and of itself did not prevent me from solving them. Had I not known oner, and recognised that multiple words could be made from NERO, I would have used an anagram program and figured out which was the most appropriate. The solution to these metas often come from a narrow list of plausible options (think LIAM and NEIL from a year ago – maybe not the best analogy, granted), and figuring out what best satisfies the intent of the puzzle is one layer of the onion.

        • Maggie W. says:

          I actually did plug NERO into wordsmith.org/anagram before submitting it, but it doesn’t yield a single one-word anagram. I would have had to have given the anagramming more thought to come up with ONER.

    • Garrett says:

      Personally, I think Orne is just as obscure as oner, because I had never seen either of them until I started doing crosswords. Even more obscure is noer — I’ve seen that in some crossword somewhere. So I think there has to be something that locks it, and we have two candidates for that. The first is the order they appear from top to bottom, which yields Nero. That seems such a patently obvious thing that I submitted it, with a comment of all the other versions that I could think of. The second is the intended oner, which goes with the four one-of-a-kind letters. But then would the not be referred to as oners rather than oner?

  12. Mutman says:

    I enjoyed this and also got it rather quickly. By habit, I usually l look for pangrams, and the singles jumped out at me.

    I thought the ‘appropriateness’ of the answer lied in both fact that oner is crosswordese and that is also can read as ONE R, as there is just one R in the puzzle.

    Nice work Matt!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I just meant that the ONER letters were oners in the grid, which I found amusing. Didn’t notice the ONE R thing until a few solvers submitter ONER spaced as ONE R.

  13. icdogg says:

    My case for RENO is simply that I see it lately in every other puzzle I solve. Since I see it in crosswords far more than the other anagrams, I submitted it.

  14. Pat Coffin says:

    After seeing the Zs, Qs and Js and just one E, the solution was clear. I sent in NERO because that is the order in which they appear in the grid. I hope you decide to accept that in the end. If not, no biggie. I’ll still know that I solved my first week 4 and would have had all 4 weeks this month had I accepted my gut instinct on French. I solved the puzzle on the flight back from our vacation in France, so I thought it an improbable answer, even after spotting the French words :-(

  15. Gwinns says:

    I was distracted for two days by the fact that two of the longest answers, MYSTIC PIZZA and QUACK QUACK, had their beginnings (MYST and QUA) elsewhere in the grid. As those two words seemed crosswordesey, I got stumped for a long time.

    Finally noticed there was only one E (off of the same “Crossword E’s” thought as Mark up above), and thought that I was on the right track thanks to Jean-Claude KILLY crossing with FIST, which seemed ridiculous when it could so easily be KELLY and FEST.

    Even then, it took me until 8 minutes before the deadline to think of looking for other letters that only appeared once. Snuck in just in time. Phew!

    Also really loved the meta answer, since ONER is possibly my least favorite word of crosswordese, right up there with ETUI, which I still refuse to believe is a real thing.

    • SLO DIDDLY says:

      Etui is a very real thing. I saw one in Michael’s (the craft store) last week.

  16. Jon says:

    Oner should be the only acceptable entry. “Crosswordese” obviously hints that the answer will be a bit if language that one would only see inside a crossword puzzle. Reno & Nero & Erno can all be found in use outside of a crossword puzzle.

    • Evad says:

      My thought too. Which of those four anagrams would really send Amy’s Scowl-O-Meter into a spin?

    • Crossword Beast says:

      Total agreement, only ONER should count as correct. All the others are not sufficiently “appropriate,” especially considering that this is an end-of-the-month puzzle.

      Matt, if you had thought of creating a near-double-pangram with the only singleton being the letter R (ONE R), might you have gone with that?

      Bob

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Seems like more fun to go with four letters instead of just the one. Plus just one R could conceivably happen by chance — not very often, but not clearly enough that the meta wouldn’t need more click.

  17. Bencoe says:

    Cool puzzle; the single “E” and multiple scrabbly letters alerted me to the trick pretty quickly. I feel like ONER is definitely the most “appropriate” piece of crosswordese, given the singularity of the letters.
    The strange fill seems like a necessary constraint of a puzzle which is a double pangram except for the common letters E,N,O,R. Probably helped some people spot what was going on.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Yeah, I’ve made a triple pangram and a quintuple one but a double-pangram minus 1 E, R O and N was tougher than the quintuple. Scan a paragraph of text for words 3+ letters that don’t have one of those four and see what happens. Like for this paragraph we only get BUT, THAT, WHAT and THIS.

      • Bencoe says:

        The way I looked at it, the overabundance of crosswordese in the fill was especially appropriate given the theme.

  18. Lance says:

    I submitted erno but wasn’t completely satisfied with its elegance. It was the most crosswordese-y of my anagrams (I overlooked oner). I figured there was a deeper angle that I missed and logged in to see the “cubes” that I couldn’t find. I’d be surprised if a majority disallow the alts.

  19. David Stein says:

    Well as someone who submitted ORNE, I’ll speak up in defense. I missed the word appropriate and submitted without a second thought. It saw it later and realized ONER was better. But to me ORNE and ERNO
    are both crosswordese and submitters obviously grokked the meta. It is sort of like when the directions ask for a clue and solvers submit the entry. Technically wrong, but right in spirit. But do with me as you will! Amazing Puzzle

    • John says:

      Yeah, i am another ORNEer. It is such obvious crosswordese i don’t think i hesitated a moment, and i can’t remember ever seeing or having heard the word ONER. I guess it is better if you take it as meaning what people purport. However Joon’s lookup and my own show that it means special or significant (a remarkable person or thing), not actually a singleton, which is not the same as singular.

      It doesn’t matter though. I was and am still blown away by the construction feat. That is why i do, and love, Matt’s puzzles.

  20. Paul Coulter says:

    Because of the title, which I did interpret to mean crossword Es,I concentrated for a long time on that single E. Eventually, I found four places where an E could replace a letter – ale/ages, Kelly/fest, tel/welts, and Cale/Tet. The letters they replaced are ixia, which is indeed a word, but more in the category of obscure than crosswordese. And this didn’t explain the single E at physique. Then I noticed that there also was a single O. Both are very high up on the Etaion Shrdlu scale, so that had to be significant. Then it was a simple matter of grid checking to find the single R and N. Well done, Matt. The double pangram (- ONER) more than makes up for the iffy fill. This must have been a bear to build. 4.5 stars from me.

    • Ben Vincent says:

      My solving experience exactly. I spent at least an hour on the ‘replace letters with E’ track since the CALX / TXT change was so inviting. Lovely work as always, Matt!

  21. peedee says:

    I got as far as realizing it was a pangram, and I noticed there was only one R. Then I decided all the Cs and Is had to mean something. Dammit. I wish I thought as creatively as some of the rest of you guys!

  22. Dan Seidman says:

    I found this one really difficult — I looked at it many times over the weekend and finally got it last night. Once I had the letters, I figured ONER was the only anagram that was appropriate, but I feel like it used to be used a lot more. I wonder if older solvers know it better than younger ones.

  23. Jim Curran says:

    I submitted ORNE, after dismissing RENO and NERO as “non-crosswordese”, because one will occasionally see those words in everyday language. Not so with ORNE. I also checked the Cruciverb DB and saw that ORNE was used frequently enough to be a good choice here. Frankly I did not consider ONER, being quite satisfied with ORNE as my answer. Good one Matt, and I got one of my few Week 4 solves!

  24. Abby B says:

    Not only are those the only four letters that occur once, but there’s no other frequency that only four letters have (7 letters show up twice, for instance). Only thing that’s make it neater is if the four oners were symmetrical in the grid, but Matt probably lost enough hair on this one as-is.

  25. hirschho says:

    I also concentrated on the E and saw that there was chain from the E that spelled etui in a cup shape. I was so proud until I saw my answer was incorrect.

    David

  26. Noam D. Elkies says:

    For the record: Matt’s TRIPLE_PANGRAM ran in the NYTimes on 14 November 1998.
    Peter Wentz broke this record with a 16-column QUADRUPLE_PANGRAM in 17 November 2011. I can’t find Matt’s QUINTUPLE_PANGRAM; by his own admission this one is close but not quite.

    Back in the Maleska era (5 August 1984) there was a special double pangram by Vaughn Keith: normally a 21×21 double pangram would not be remarkable but here each letter appeared twice consecutively (reDD_foXX, omar_khaYYam, haJJi, etc.).

    Yes, it must be much harder to stuff a double pangram into a 15×15 grid and use only one each of letters as common as E OR N. Much harder than this, for instance.

    Thanks,
    —NDE

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Ha — in my mind I had completed that quint pangram successfully. Oh well.

      I wrote a puzzle for Washingtonian that month with phrases where a W had been replaced with an O. Can’t remember any of them right now, though.

  27. - kip - says:

    I saw the single E O R pretty quickly, but needed to work backwards since “crosswordese” is not my strong suit. Consulted wikipedia which provides a moderately lengthy list of words they consider to be crosswordese – saw ORNE listed, looked back at the grid, found that one lonely N, figured I’d solved it, and quickly entered before thinking it fully through. (bad idea – need to quick doing this!!!)

    As soon as I entered, I realized those same letters could anagram to Reno and Erno and Nero, and thought, with all the possibilities, there must have been a two-step process that I’d missed; there must be something in the grid that should have alerted me as to which one to choose. Once I saw NERO going north to south in the grid, I thought that surely was the correct answer since Matt’s metas so often, and so elegantly, use the theme entries in order top to bottom. Kicked myself all day for not entering NERO, then was so pleasantly surprised to see myself on the leaderboard Saturday afternoon.

    Now, I can see that ONE-R is an even better answer yet! And that one wasn’t even on my radar. Poetic justice I guess!!

    Whatever the decision is on acceptable answers, that puzzle was a beaut!

  28. Cole says:

    {Like David above} I saw that there was only one E and started looking around that area of the puzzle and noted that there was an ETUI if you connected some letters but never noticed the single ONR.

  29. Scout says:

    I found the four letters E, N, R, and O. Unsure of what actually counts as crosswordese, I went to Crosswordese.com where the author has an archive of crosswordese words. “Orne” was listed, but not “oner”. I figured it fit all the criteria and submitted it. I interpreted “appropriate” as that it had to fit the theme (not be a word in the grid like “calx”), not that the word has to fit a tighter definition recognizing that each letter is “singular”. So, of course, I think you should accept it. And I also told everyone that I had solved a Week 4 puzzle and how proud I was for doing that since I rarely get Week 4 puzzles, so if you give me credit for it and then take it away–well, it’s not quite the disappointment of hitting the crossbar in a shootout, but close.

  30. Amy L says:

    I saw the single letters and anagrammed them to RENO, but I didn’t think that was up to the usual week 4 quality. Then I thought ONER and I knew it had to be right. I think only ONER should be accepted.

    As for ETUI, if you have any interest in historic needlework, you would know the word and have seen a picture of an etui or even an actual one. (I know historic needlework is not the most popular subject, but then again, I do crosswords.)

    I thought AMYS was great fill.

  31. joon says:

    to me, ONER (and ERNO and ORNE) are crosswordese but NERO and RENO aren’t. but that’s just my opinion. if there’s one thing everyone can agree on about crosswordese, it’s that nobody can agree on what constitutes crosswordese.

  32. jefe says:

    I caught on to the theme pretty quickly post-solve, had the letters, figured it was probably ONER, but was unsatisfied. I did a full letter count for the puzzle to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, googled “oner crossword” to see its usage in prior crosswords, and was more-or-less satisfied and submitted. Didn’t particularly care for all the crosswordese in grid or the meta, which was also too easy for a week 4. It also came too soon after Matt discussed doing an unused letters meta.

    My thoughts for puzzles like these, where there is one intended “best” answer (oner, harvard, secondary colors) but unintended partial answers (erno etc, providence college etc, primary colors), aside from avoiding them, would be to give half-credit to the lesser answers, or alternatively double-credit for the best answers for the sake of drawing weekly and monthly winners.

  33. Brucenm says:

    That’s the sort of meta where I’m astounded that anyone is able to figure it out and I’m totally in awe of anyone who does. (Maybe it’s not a “sort” of meta at all, just a particular one.) It’s a type of thinking that seems to be totally beyond me. If I had read the explanation in advance, I would have thought — There’s one that will fall flat — no one will get it. I remember there was one where that almost happened, (though I forget what it was), and I didn’t think it was as imponderable as this one. I wish I could figure out the deficiency in my own thinking, and maybe I could train myself to do something about it. Some of those I don’t get, my reaction is — Interesting, maybe I could have figured it out if I had really thought it through; others I find totally impenetrable.

  34. SLO DIDDLY says:

    N

  35. SLO DIDDLY says:

    Not having made it past noticing the scrabbly nature of the puzzle I’m probably not qualified to weigh in on the “appropriateness” of the various combinations of O, N, E and R; but while they are all crosswordese, oner has the “click”. I’m still smarting from week 1 though. The answer had to be Heather Locklear but I never submitted it because I couldn’t find any link to an H which would give the “eathers” a “click”. Ultimately it’s the click, not the prizes, that we play for.

  36. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I think the main challenge on this one was rejecting appropriate four-letter pieces of crosswordese that weren’t sufficiently good. I came up with A TO Z quite quickly, and, when I didn’t get credit for it, came up with ONE E. It would have been much easier if it had asked for “an appropriate four-letter crosswordese word” as a hint that the various descriptive phrases aren’t the most appropriate possible answer.

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