Puzzle #2 Solution and Puzzle #3, “Do the Math” – Plus a Bonus Puzzle!

Last week’s instructions asked for a person from Eastern Europe, and it was easy to see there were plenty of Greek letters in the finished grid (highlighted in blue below), including the two cardinal-crossword-sin 2-letter entries in the NW and SE corners:

So was the answer as simple as “Greek?” Nope. Put those Greek letters in grid order – “ΠΙΚΤΟΓΡΑΜ” – and then transliterate back to the Roman alphabet and you get “PIKTOGRAM,” which looks and sounds suspiciously like an English word. Next, apply the “pictogram” concept to the grid’s three longest entries HANGMAN GALLOWS, HORSESHOE and DO NOT ENTER SIGN, in order:

The result looks a lot like more capital Greek letters, spelling out ΓΩΘ, which you can then transliterate back to the Roman alphabet to make answer GOTH.

A few solvers pointed out that the Goths weren’t entirely from Eastern Europe, which I’ll confess was a somewhat vague understanding that I only “confirmed” with pretty minimal research before running the puzzle. It turns out that the Goths’ origins appear to be Scandinavian, and their eventual spread was all over the continent.  Along the way I think there was a period when they were largely centered in what we would traditionally call Eastern Europe (from Poland down to the Balkans, basically) but my prompt was potentially confusing; I should have left off “Eastern.”

Here’s a bit of very unintentional bonus theme content. When you look at the entire grid above, the long entries highlighted in green somewhat resemble the Greek capital letter Xi (Ξ), which though it is not the typical transliteration for our letter X is pronounced how we usually pronounce X. X, of course, is often used as a shorthand for “cross,” as in “xword.”

It didn’t occur to me until well after I constructed it, but this puzzle owes a clear creative debt to an old MGWCC. Like I said in week one, I’m just copying the master …

I was pretty happy with myself for getting all that theme stuff in there and ending up with a reasonably filled grid, though I do apologize for the very lame partials IS TAN and IS WARM. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m not afraid of a little janky fill if it helps me get to something I think is a good meta.

68 correct answers before deadline this week (and one who saw it this morning.) That’s nearly twice last week’s total, which I think reflects that this one was a bit easier, and I hope also reflects a growing audience. Keep spreading the word! Puzzle #3, entitled “Do the Math,” follows. As always, you can either download the .pdf below, or click on the link for the .puz file which is shared from Google Drive.

003_dothemath (link to .puz file)

The answer to the metapuzzle is a body part. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, April 1 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

To keep up with the puzzles, follow me on Twitter @pgwcc1 or, if email is more your thing, follow the blog. I have also been informed that RSS feeds are still a thing and that you can get one from this blog by following the instructions here.

LATE UPDATE – BONUS PUZZLE! The puzzle above may be pretty challenging. I’ve decided to go ahead and also publish a second puzzle, “Bitter Sweets,” which ought to be significantly easier. But as I think will become clear as you’re solving it, that’s not really why I’ve decided to run it now – it’s been in the pipeline for a while, and recent events made me feel like it may be now or never. So, enjoy! The answer to the metapuzzle is a famous person. You can submit your answer to both puzzles in the same comment, or submit separately; your choice. I don’t think there’s much chance of confusion between the two answers but just to be precise, please go ahead and make clear if your answer is for the bonus puzzle by including the word “bonus,” which is not otherwise involved in either meta solution.

003a_bittersweets (link to .puz file)

Puzzle #1 Solution and Puzzle #2, “I See …”

For our first crossword we had a puzzle titled “Crosswords” with an uncomplicated (but not easy!) meta that played around with the name of the genre itself:

Near the center of the grid is a 4×3 cross, with an empty square in the middle. The instructions asked for the letter that belongs in that square. The answer was U, like so: there’s a (visual) cross between 7-down JACKASS and 58-down MARE, and a (hybrid, aka) “cross” between those two things (in senses other than how they were clued) is a MULE. Similarly, a “cross” between 42-across WAGON and 43-across TRUCK is an SUV. Enter those two “crosses” in the squares of the grid’s cross, and the empty square (where our two crosses cross) will contain a U.

38 solvers entered the correct answer. I don’t have a baseline to compare that to, of course, but feedback suggested it was tough, and I was surprised by the number of incorrect answers. There weren’t a lot of duplicate wrong answers but a few solvers submitted Q because the grid had at least two of every other letter. Rest assured, folks – though I do like it when a grid achieves pangram status, I won’t hang a meta on that thin a hook. Anyhow – maybe I should have led off with an easier one; I went with this one because it plays around with the “crossword” format (and name) in a way I liked.

Without further ado, on to puzzle two. Your mileage may vary on whether you find it easier than this one, but I think it’s unlikely to leave many people at a complete loss for where to begin, which this one may have done for some. Like last week, you can either download the .pdf below, or click on the link for the .puz filed which is shared from Google Drive.

002_isee (.puz file link)

The answer to the metapuzzle is a person from Eastern Europe. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, March 25 at 11:00 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

If you want a reminder when future puzzles come out, follow me on Twitter @pgwcc1. If you’re not on Twitter, you can “follow” the blog itself and you’ll get email reminders instead.

Oh, and one last note – you may have noticed last week’s puzzle had “clues by Kate Washington.” That’s my sister, who sometimes helps me with writing clues since that’s not my favorite part of the process. In so doing, she also serves as a kind of test solver and collaborative editor, all of which I’m very grateful for. (I should note here that last week’s cluing snafu was my fault, not hers – she wrote a clue for 65-across that I decided to change, and it was my “improved” clue that was wrong!) Kate’s a writer whose work you can find all over the place, including in the restaurant reviews for the Sacramento Bee. She’s on Twitter at @washingtonkate.

Intro and Puzzle #1 – “Crosswords”


If you’ve found this site this early on, it’s likely you’re a solver of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest – if not, you should immediately leave this poor man’s imitation and visit the real thing – and you may have noticed that this site is obviously named in homage. I’m PGW (my initials) on Matt’s leaderboard; PGWCC = PGW’s Crossword Challenge.

I’ve long been an avid crossword solver but when I discovered Matt’s metapuzzles many years ago, I was immediately hooked by the extra layer of challenge and the consistently creative ways in which he exploits the form. Eventually I started messing around with creating my own. Ultimately Matt published my first crossword (you can find writeups of the solution here and here) and he’s been nothing but encouraging as I thought about publishing more. (I’m not the only one – see e.g. Pete Muller’s excellent Muller Monthly Music Meta, whose creator also acknowledges having been inspired by Matt.)

At this stage, there’s no grand structure – no contest with prizes, no attempt to make puzzles get progressively and predictably more difficult as the month goes on as Matt does, and no year-long mega-meta like Pete’s. I’ll publish puzzles every week or two, and publish the solution a week or so after. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow @pgwcc1 so you’ll know when a new puzzle has dropped. (For a little while I’ll also keep spamming the Crossword Fiend comments section.) The puzzles will always be free.

But enough introduction – you are here to solve. The first puzzle, entitled “Crosswords,” is below, as a .pdf which you can download and print out. If you prefer a .puz file you can solve using Across Lite or some other app, here is a link to download it from Google Drive. (This platform won’t let me upload it.)

The answer to the metapuzzle is the letter that belongs in the empty square near the grid’s center. Submit your answer using the contact form by Monday, March 18 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll post the solution, and a new puzzle, next Tuesday.

Good luck, thanks for visiting, and I hope you like the puzzles!

Update: an astute solver has pointed out that an earlier version of the puzzle was published with an erroneous clue for 65-across. It’s fixed in the version above; there’s no effect on the meta. Rookie mistake!