MGWCC #453 — Friday, February 3rd, 2017 — “Don’t Strain Yourself”

IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:



Somewhat average meta last week, judging by comments. There’s a kernel of a nice idea in there, riffing of the Y’s sometimes vowelness / othertimes consonantness, but perhaps I didn’t find the best interpretation of it. A high # of solvers for a Week 4 (187) got it, though.

Solvers were tasked with finding a six-letter word you might shout when you solve this meta. Armed with that and the title “And Sometimes…” they found just one overt theme entry:

37-A [Question from an irritated person…or a question solvers of this meta should ask themselves six times] = WHAT IS THAT SOUND?

The “six letters” mentioned in the instructions plus the “six times” in the theme clue pushed solvers to look for a letter that appears six times, of which there is only one in this grid: Y. The puzzle’s title hints there as well, since those two words are often seen in the vowel-listing phrase: “A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.”

The six Y’s in the grid (circled in the solution grid above) display the full power of that letter: each Y is a consonant in one direction and a vowel in the other. It’s a consonant in AS YET, NEW YORK, LANYARD, YIN, OH YES, and CAN YOU SEE?, while it’s a vowel in YVES ROCHER, ITALY, POUTY, PENALTY BOX, EASY, and ELY. The first letter in each of those vowel-Y words, in orange above, spell out contest answer YIPPEE! going clockwise in the grid.

Solvers flagged the following imperfections:

a) Some found the clockwise pattern unsatisfying as a meta click, instead of the usual top-to-bottom or left-to-right (either of which would have been very difficult to implement).
b) Some found the answer strange since, while YIPPEE is indeed a Y-word, it doesn’t use the Y in both its incarnations, like YEARLY or YEASTY might. I did indeed consider both of those, but couldn’t find a way to make the instructions work. Though in retrospect maybe YEARLY was a better option, even if the prompt had to be something awkward.
c) On Friday afternoon I had to amend the instructions to stipulate that the answer was a six-letter word. I had considered using YAY as the contest answer (it was too short, though), since it’s something you shout and it uses the Y in both its incarnations. But I hadn’t realized how strong an answer it was even with YIPPEE hiding in the grid; maybe not strong enough to be counted as correct, but certainly strong enough to make someone think it was the right answer. So I sent the amended clues out, which avoided meta unfairness but reduced the elegance of it a little.

So nobody called the meta unfair, but nobody really loved it, either. But a new week and indeed a new month is upon us, so let’s see where it leads.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from among the 187 correct entries received, is Scott Clay of East Fallowfield, Penna. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Scott will also receive a 1-year subscription to Matt Gaffney’s Daily Crossword.


Congratulations to the following ten January MGWCC winners, whose names were chosen at random from among the 163 people who sent in the correct contest answer to each of January’s four puzzles (IVY LEAGUE, OPEL/OLDSMOBILE, KEYSTROKE, YIPPEE). In addition to an almost imperceptible amount of prestige, each will also receive a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set:

Alan Arbizu — San Mateo, Calif.

David Bardolph — Grand Rapids, Mich.

John Cassidy — Staten Island, N.Y.

Russ Cooper — Phoenix, Ariz.

Steve Gadd — Falls Church, Va.

Karen Horn — Centennial, Colo.

Alan Kennan — Fort Collins, Colo.

John Lampkin — Sun City Center, Fla.

Ashutosh Sodhani — Altrincham, Cheshire, U.K.

Seth Tribble — New York City, N.Y.

Congratulations to our ten winners, and to everyone who went 4-for-4 in January.


This week’s contest answer is a nine-letter word, sadly fitting for me recently, that would complete this puzzle’s theme pattern.

Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

Comments are closed.