How I met the meta?

A place to hang out, get to know other Muggles and discuss everything under the sun.
User avatar
Cindy
Posts: 500
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:39 pm
Location: Matthews

How I met the meta?

#1

Post by Cindy » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:13 pm

I thought this would be fun to talk about. Who remembers how they met the meta? I’ll go first.

I was sitting at the bar at Capital Grille doing a NYT Friday or Saturday puzzle - don’t remember which. A lady sitting next to me said “have you ever done a meta?” I said “what’s that?” And the rest is history.

This was early 2017 I believe and over time, a very short time as I recall, I went to WSJ and printed every one from the beginning. Most I could not solve. But working the grids and then reading the solutions helped me immensely. Then I started subscribing. MGWCC, MMMM......etc. And now I think I have a meta almost everyday of every week. Sometimes two!

Who’s next?

SewYoung
Posts: 257
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:25 pm
Location: Meridian, MS

#2

Post by SewYoung » Wed Aug 05, 2020 8:37 pm

I had been doing the WSJ Daily Crosswords and the Saturday variety puzzles for several years and when the Meta contest puzzles started it was just a continuation of the routine. Now I have added the Monday Muggle Metas to my routine and occasionally others when I run across them.

User avatar
BarbaraK
Posts: 860
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 2:37 pm
Location: Virginia

#3

Post by BarbaraK » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:17 pm

I was a long time crossword lover and also a long time WSJ subscriber. So I was happy when WSJ started their Saturday puzzle, and really thrilled several years later when they started having them every day. But at first, I wasn't too interested in the Friday contest. It just seemed like a gimmick, and in fact I was a bit annoyed that the crossword part of the Friday puzzles were not harder than the Thursday ones.

Some of the metas, especially the first ones, were really obvious. The rest, I didn't give much thought to, and just read about them on Monday. And I never considered sending in the answer to the ones I did know, because why risk getting my email added to who knew what lists just for a chance to win a mug.

But a few months in, there was one that was not really obvious but I did figure out, and I was so pleased with myself that I wanted to be sure I got "credit" by emailing the answer. When the same thing happened again, I started to get hooked. Shortly I also discovered that I could get the puzzles online Thursday evening instead of having to wait for the paper on Friday (and was amazed at my tightwad self being willing to use my own paper/ink to print them:) And there, with the online puzzles, was the discussion board, and I discovered this great community.

I think the community is a big part of what got and keeps me addicted. I learned about MGWCC on that board, and later that year signed up. The leaderboard there had a similar effect - let me feel like part of a community as I started to recognize screen names week to week. (And of course now, there's a place here to discuss any and every meta that comes along. Thanks, Brian!)

Some time in, I got really obsessed and would spend every available moment staring at an unsolved puzzle. Eventually decided that wasn't good for me. I needed a healthier puzzle/life balance and to get a bit more zen; if I get the answer, great, but if I don't that's fine too. Oddly, I don't think it really decreased my success rate all that much to just look at them from time to time instead of obsessing constantly.

User avatar
Al Sisti
Posts: 871
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:28 pm
Location: Whitesboro NY

#4

Post by Al Sisti » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:27 pm

What a great question... I actually don't remember. I think I was in Barnes and Noble where I found a puzzle book where the entire issue was to solve one mystery. I ate that up (my two favorite things are puzzles, mysteries and beer. But apparently not addition), and I went back to see if there were any more like that. There wasn't, but I saw a couple books by Matt Gaffney. I think he was still calling them "two-layer" puzzles? Well, I was hooked; bought all his books, went to Matt's site and joined, read about him and went to sites he recommended and signed up for more. And I love the fact that I can pretty much do a meta every day of the week... and sometimes three in a day.

User avatar
Hector
Posts: 794
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:15 pm
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

#5

Post by Hector » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:27 pm

Don't really remember either, even tho it was a year or so ago. Long time NYT puzzle guy (sparked by a 10yo companion solve with my gramma). Much more recently saw people talking about indie xwords, and in my deluded state figured they must be total crap (like Vox actually is), but also constant references to MGWCC, so I figured, what the hell, and dived into the deep end. I regret it every second of my life.

User avatar
FrankieHeck
Posts: 729
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:57 pm
Location: West Virginia

#6

Post by FrankieHeck » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:39 pm

I've only been doing crosswords for a few years. After I started doing them regularly, my Dad gave me some boxes of my mom's old crossword stuff -- binders full of notes, crosswordese, logs of NYT completion times, etc. (She was obsessed.) Among her stuff was a copy of Matt Gaffney's "Gridlock." After I read it, I looked up Matt and found his site. Took a free trial in Jan 2019, and managed to get week 1 and week 2, but not 3 or 4.

But then in March 2019 I stumbled upon PGW's site, where he had posted his second puzzle on 3/19. I didn't solve that one, but I got one of the two he put out the following week, and have been doing them ever since. After finding his site, I discovered the WSJ. Didn't get the first one I tried on 3/28/19...not even sure I saw it before the deadline...but got the hang of it by my second one. Right after finding the WSJ metas, I went back and subscribed to Matt's in April 2019. And started the Muller Music Meta in May 2019.

So it has only been around a year and a half for me, but I got hooked quickly!
Last edited by FrankieHeck on Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Laura M
Posts: 568
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:49 am

#7

Post by Laura M » Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:25 am

I used to do crosswords a lot, then fell out of the habit when having a kid ate up all my time. I picked it back up when the kid was older, and was doing all of the daily (free, online) crosswords I could find. It took me at least a year to figure out that the WSJ actually did publish a crossword on Friday! But... what's a meta? ?

I still remember the first one I solved, the answer was something like "a seven-letter school subject," the grid had "PERFECT SQUARES" across the middle, and the letters ALGEBRA were in the 1, 4, 9, 16, etc. locations in the grid. Pretty basic stuff now but it took me like a day and a half of staring at it! So of course after that, for a year or so I did all of the archived contest puzzles in parallel with the new ones, and started reading (and eventually posting in) the comments section, and found all you great people and pointers to even more metas!

So this has probably been around 3 years of WSJCC (no mug), 2+ years of MMMM, 1.5 years of MGWCC and PGWCC, at a very rough guess. MGWCC is my only subscription, I'd like to do more but I'm afraid I won't have time to sleep! When I retire I'll sign up for everything :-)

User avatar
BrianMac
Site Admin
Posts: 523
Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:45 pm
Location: Connecticut

#8

Post by BrianMac » Thu Aug 06, 2020 11:47 am

My story is similar to others here. I had been doing the NYT daily since about 1997. Around 2015, in preparation for my first time participating in a crossword tournament, I started doing every free crossword I could get my hands on. I started doing the WSJ daily puzzle and really liked it, finding it on a par with NYT in terms of quality and difficulty. For years, I did the Friday puzzle while ignoring the contest piece of it. Sometimes I would devote a few minutes to looking for the answer, but nothing serious. Then one Friday afternoon, I was driving in my car with my family, thinking about the theme entries from that day's puzzle, when all of a sudden I shouted out, "ROCK LOBSTER!" And I was hooked!

I found the WSJ message board shortly thereafter, which turned me on to MGWCC, MMMM, etc. My family has still not gotten used to me shouting out random words and phrases at any time or place during a given weekend. :)

User avatar
Cindy
Posts: 500
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:39 pm
Location: Matthews

#9

Post by Cindy » Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:05 pm

Brian you have reminded me of my first one. And now I know when I started. J Crew! March 2016.

User avatar
Al Sisti
Posts: 871
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:28 pm
Location: Whitesboro NY

#10

Post by Al Sisti » Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:41 pm

My first WSJ was Nov 15, 2015: Scottie Pippen.

User avatar
spotter
Posts: 211
Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:48 pm
Location: SLO, CA

#11

Post by spotter » Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:02 pm

At my first job out of college, a group of coworkers would make copies of the sudoku from the local paper and one of them would always do the crossword puzzle as well. I used to watch him do the crossword thinking crosswords were impossible. But I actually found myself getting better and finding more of the answers, and I realized crosswords could actually be learned! I found USA Today and LA Times crosswords that I could do for free online and got hooked on doing those daily. Then I found that WSJ had free crosswords as well and it wasn't long before I came across the meta. My first solve was "Creature Features" on 5/10/19. I've now found my way to shore on 46 of the 65 puzzles since, with a best streak of 13.

Next I found MMMM and really struggled with Pete's style (however, I'm 8 for 8 this year!) and have since subscribed to MGWCC, started doing MMM, and fill me in puzzles. PGWCC still trips me up and I often don't attempt them.

I'm hooked and this forum only worsens the addiction! I can't seem to get anyone in my personal life onto them so it's nice to have cyber friends to share the experience with!

User avatar
MajordomoTom
Posts: 665
Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2019 12:09 am
Location: St. Louis, MO

#12

Post by MajordomoTom » Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:56 pm

been a long time subscriber of the WSJ, back to the mid 1980s. Very infrequent crossword solver (various sources).

Last Nov, picked up an issue and said "let's do the puzzle". Was a Tuesday. Then, on Friday, picked it up and said "that was good, let's do another one". And was "hey, what's this 'extra' bit?

And ... then bought Matt G's book and it was all down hill since then.
"Lots of planets have a North", the Ninth Doctor.

User avatar
Al Sisti
Posts: 871
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:28 pm
Location: Whitesboro NY

#13

Post by Al Sisti » Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:20 pm

spotter wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:02 pm
...and I realized crosswords could actually be learned! ..
That's a great point. At our Zoom meeting this week, I was asked if I do crosswords as fast as I can write; the implication being that I'm somehow supersmart. I answered sheepishly that, yes, I've gotten to the point where answers come pretty quickly... but what I didn't do was to address the implication that I'm somehow smarter than average (I felt like a jerk when we were done when I remembered that I had left it unsaid). But the point was that crosswords can indeed be learned. There is a baseline of words and clues that show up quite a lot, and answering those becomes pretty straightfoward, and the better puzzles (and the editors of the better ones) try to minimize requiring knowledge of arcane information for a grid word. But for the ones we here talk about -- metas especially -- you get used to a kind of "lateral thinking;" in essence, jumping past the obvious first thing you might want to answer in a real life setting, and go to a second/third option for what the constructor might be getting at. One example I always liked is like this: "1A Flower seen throughout the midwest." The "straight thinker" runs through milkweed, black-eyed susan, magnolia... whereas the lateral thinker might not spend a second thinking along that line, instead would be thinking of "Mississippi," "Ohio" and other rivers (noting a second pronunciation of "flower"). So no, I'm no smarter than the next solver, nor does my brain work any faster... but I have learned to use and hone my lateral thinking ability... and it's funny how often that works.

User avatar
Meg
Posts: 636
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 1:41 pm
Location: St. Petersburg, FL

#14

Post by Meg » Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:26 pm

I found my first MGWCC submission email from 2009. I had been doing crosswords and cryptics for decades and wondered if there was anything online. Did we have Google back then? I was deliberately looking for something crosswordy. In 2016 I started doing the WSJ meta 2 months after the infamous Margaret Cho puzzle. For weeks I felt like someone NOT in on the private joke. And I knew who she was! The comraderie in the comment section was delightful and the metas were (and still are) sometimes easy and sometimes quite challenging. I’m so glad to be part of this community!

Schmeel
Posts: 67
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2020 2:38 pm

#15

Post by Schmeel » Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:40 pm

I'm pretty new to crosswords, at least in English. When I was growing up we used to have family get-togethers over the weekend and we'd solve a weekly cryptic crossword - in Hebrew. My siblings and cousins would race to figure each clue out. I got hooked, and continued solving the puzzles, on and off, throughout the years. Even when I didn't solve them I tended to clip them from the newspaper and save them for when I had the time and was in the mood to.

About a year ago I took a bunch of puzzles with me to solve during long bus rides on a work outing. An English-speaking co-worker took interest in the puzzles and I explained the various methods required to solve the cryptic clues. "You'd enjoy WSJ metas," was the response I got. "Huh?"

The following week she brought a solved grid to the office, told me to look at the name of the puzzle, at the solved grid, at the clues and figure it out. It must have been in the beginning of July - the puzzle was "The Fourth Man". At the end of the day I stared at it for about 45 minutes, and then it clicked. "I got it!" It was a great feeling. I've been hooked on the WSJCC since. I'm not keeping score but as of then I've probably been stumped by a couple of handfuls of puzzles. I haven't solved other metas, other than Muggle Meta Mondays that I now look at too. Time is limited!

It still takes me a while to solve the grid, and I'll admit I need to google American political, cultural and sports clues more often than I'd like. Often googling is necessary to solve the meta too. Every so often I'll solve a weekday crossword just to practice - a Monday-Tuesday puzzle takes me about 25 minutes to solve, and I can pretty much solve those without google these days. There's a learning curve and I'm pleased to say I'm learning. At least I don't have problems with the clue "____ Aviv"!

User avatar
BarbaraK
Posts: 860
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 2:37 pm
Location: Virginia

#16

Post by BarbaraK » Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:46 pm

Meg wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:26 pm
I found my first MGWCC submission email from 2009. I had been doing crosswords and cryptics for decades and wondered if there was anything online. Did we have Google back then? I was deliberately looking for something crosswordy. In 2016 I started doing the WSJ meta 2 months after the infamous Margaret Cho puzzle. For weeks I felt like someone NOT in on the private joke. And I knew who she was! The comraderie in the comment section was delightful and the metas were (and still are) sometimes easy and sometimes quite challenging. I’m so glad to be part of this community!
I'm surprised that an MGWCCer waited so long to start doing WSJ. I assume Matt told all of you that he was doing puzzles there? I'd have guessed that all the MGWCC subscribers would start WSJ right away.

User avatar
Meg
Posts: 636
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 1:41 pm
Location: St. Petersburg, FL

#17

Post by Meg » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:31 pm

BarbaraK wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:46 pm
Meg wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:26 pm
I found my first MGWCC submission email from 2009. I had been doing crosswords and cryptics for decades and wondered if there was anything online. Did we have Google back then? I was deliberately looking for something crosswordy. In 2016 I started doing the WSJ meta 2 months after the infamous Margaret Cho puzzle. For weeks I felt like someone NOT in on the private joke. And I knew who she was! The comraderie in the comment section was delightful and the metas were (and still are) sometimes easy and sometimes quite challenging. I’m so glad to be part of this community!
I'm surprised that an MGWCCer waited so long to start doing WSJ. I assume Matt told all of you that he was doing puzzles there? I'd have guessed that all the MGWCC subscribers would start WSJ right away.
One meta a week was enough. Sometimes even that was too much. For awhile I stopped doing the week 4 MGWCC because I would get so obsessed that I wasn’t getting my homework done. Back then I didn’t have any solving buddies. Meta solving is ever so much better now!

User avatar
oldjudge
Posts: 425
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2019 4:16 am
Location: Pasadena, CA

#18

Post by oldjudge » Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:01 pm

I got to crosswords fairly late in life. As a kid I loved math puzzles and had several books of Sam Loyd puzzles that I used to work on. In high school I competed on the math team (yes, we really had a math team). In fact, the highlight of my high school “athletic” career was a playoff against Stuyvesant HS for the N Y City championship. I was probably at least fifty before I started doing the NYT crossword. I was good on Monday, Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday, rarely Thursday and Sunday, and never Friday or Saturday. After a while I got bored and frustrated and just stopped. I was always a subscriber to the WSJ, but I rarely did the crosswords. In late-2017 I tried my first WSJ meta and won a mug a few months later and was hooked. However, I didn’t do any other metas till late last year when I signed up for MGWCC. Since then I have gotten deeper and deeper into the quicksand that these metas are. Between the thrill of the puzzles and the friends I have made on the board I have been spurred into doing more and more puzzles. I’m retired so I have plenty of time, but I have added M4, PGW, Fireball, and whatever other extra puzzles come along. I have gone back and done all the PGW puzzles since the beginning and have started doing puzzles out of Matt’s books. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t for the wonderful people on this board I probably never would have gotten as involved as I have. Thank you all.

User avatar
BarbaraK
Posts: 860
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 2:37 pm
Location: Virginia

#19

Post by BarbaraK » Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:10 pm

oldjudge wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:01 pm
...
In high school I competed on the math team (yes, we really had a math team). In fact, the highlight of my high school “athletic” career was a playoff against Stuyvesant HS for the N Y City championship.
Oh, my! Another math teamer! My senior year, I made the county-wide team. Missed my high school graduation because the big regional meet was the same weekend.

Every time I think I couldn't be any surer that this is my tribe, something else pops up. Love this group!

User avatar
oldjudge
Posts: 425
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2019 4:16 am
Location: Pasadena, CA

#20

Post by oldjudge » Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:19 pm

In the spring of my senior year I was the high scorer in NY City math team completion. Much to my dismay, a horde of groupies did not follow.

Post Reply