meta about 15 minutes, with a break for ice cream
hi, folks. the 60th episode of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, "Can't Get There From Here," was a challenging but not killer crossword combined with a cool meta. let's take a look at the "theme" answers (the four 11-letter entries in the grid):
i stared at these theme answers for a while. the first two tie in pretty clearly to the puzzle's title, but what are PUT TOGETHER and FOUR OF A KIND trying to tell us? the puzzle's instructions are, at first blush, pretty unhelpful: This week's contest answer is of no specific length. hmm. and, oddly, there's no across lite file this week (matt says, "I'll tell you why in next week's post"). why is that? there's nothing particularly unusual about the grid that across lite wouldn't be able to handle. could it be that there are multiple correct solutions, like in the famous NYT clinton-dole election puzzle? across lite wouldn't be able to handle that, and it could explain why there's no specific length for the answer to the meta. but everything seemed pretty straightforward, so that line of thinking was ... yep, a dead end.
the other big possibility i thought of for something across lite can't handle is futzing with clue numbering. could that be it? so i went through the clue lists and looked for anything fishy. lo and behold, there are four clues that don't correspond to any answer in the grid: 33- and 45-across, and 28- and 47-down. solving a puzzle on paper, it's easy to miss an extraneous clue in the clue list. (this one time, patrick merrell ... yeah, you know what i'm talking about. and if you don't, i'm not going to spoil it for you.) you might even say that those clues LEAD NOWHERE, or that starting at one of those squares and going in the indicated direction, you'd HIT A DEAD END. what happens when we PUT TOGETHER those FOUR OF A KIND?
it's spelled out for you right there in the clues: enter by submitting any large island. so that's why there's no specific answer length! well, you can pick whichever your favorite large island is. me, i went with sumatra, because it's got a cool name that reminds me of star control II. it's also big (the 6th largest in the world, if you don't count australia).
i thought it was a really cool meta. i'm not sure the "clue" meta will ever be topped, but this is up there with any of the others. but what can i say: i'm a sucker for meta anything. this was a very meta meta, and i appreciated that.
okay, the crossword. it wasn't all that tough: 9 minutes on paper is actually reasonably fast for me. i haven't timed myself on a paper crossword in quite some time, so maybe the fact that i've gotten faster overall is coloring my perception of things, but last week's crossword was certainly tougher. but there was, as usual, a smattering of tricky clues, outright traps, and things i just plain didn't know:
and on that note (is it really a tangent if we never get back to the main thread?), i'll stop. see you next week; i don't know if it will count as the fifth week of july or the first of august. if it's the fifth week of july, gird your loins for a titanic struggle.
July 29, 2009