"Cooking By The Numbers" May 28, 2021

A place to discuss the weekly Wall Street Journal Crossword Puzzle Contest, starting every Thursday around 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. Please do not post any answers or hints before the contest deadline which is midnight Sunday Eastern time.
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Post by steveb »

hcbirker wrote: Mon May 31, 2021 12:18 am
Jeremy Smith wrote: Mon May 31, 2021 12:11 am I failed to solve this, and the biggest reason is the extremely large red herring of using only the 7 Roman numerals to begin each and every clue.
I solved it after abandoning that ENORMOUS red herring. I had a very hard time ignoring it, but finally decided it was just window dressing.
I never noticed that, but I think it's pretty cool. I would call it a hint rather than a red herring.
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Post by JRS51 »

Well, I was amazed when I realized there was only one I, V, X, L, C, D, and M in the entire grid
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Post by Richard »

Did not get it.

I spent some time on it but not as much as I would have liked. We had our first holiday party in many many months today so not much time today.

I did see the Roman but did not make the connection.

I do think it was an amazing construction.
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Post by sharkicicles »

That clue thing is nuts. I did not notice that until it was pointed out on Fiend comments.
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Post by Limerick Savant »

Lest this puzzle prolong my perturb
It was ‘bout to be kicked to the curb
Then It served the reveal
Like a fabulous meal
With a taste that was simply soup herb

Initially I found myself cooking up a rabbit stew with all the ones I chased around the grid. Then I caught the significance of the final clue and spied the sequence of V through D in the longest across answers but still couldn’t make that work either and began to overthink the “by the numbers” hint in the title and still was stymied. As my busy weekend wore on I figured it was going to be another one crying in a Guinness served up by Isaac. At about 20 minutes before deadline I picked up the paper one last time an it hit me that I was missing 2 numerals in the sequence: I and M. Once I saw them there in the first and last answers the rest was easy. Strangely enough 29D had me searching a rabbit hole for a way to make “oregano” work much earlier in my process. Only after finding the full sequence of Roman numerals did I realize that those were the only instances in which they appeared! Kudos to Mike Shenk.
Last edited by Limerick Savant on Mon May 31, 2021 1:52 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Softie »

The clue pattern is amazing. I didn't notice it.

I don't think it was a red herring, per se, more of a nudge to notice how those letters were mostly absent from the grid. I didn't notice that either.

ROMAN was a good way to signal what kind of numbers we were talking about, but alas. I didn't notice it.

Not only did I stay on the ship this weekend, I was stuck in the elevator in just a towel trying to get back to my stateroom.
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Post by ajk »

FWIW the clue thing was my entry into the Roman numerals (because apparently I was daydreaming when I filled in 66A). So not entirely unhelpful. :)

Went from there to noticing that each numeral appears in the grid only once. Briefly considered DILL as an ingredient that could be made using only Roman numerals, but suspected that was too simple. After a kindly nudge that indeed, there was a better answer, it didn't take me too long to get the true meaning of '*by* the Numbers'

Also noticed post-solve that they are in the grid in ascending order of value--I suppose perhaps to indicate the order of letters? Seems like regular top to bottom would have accomplished that anyway, but what do I know. :)
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Post by mheberlingx100 »

I saw the Roman numerals in order on the long clues first. Tried a few options (above, below, both sides) until I game up with REGAN. That led me to realize I was missing the first and last numeral.
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Post by CallMeShane »

Frequency analysis can solve this meta without understanding the mechanism.

The solitary 'I' screamed for attention. That a 15x15 grid would have a single I by happenstance is risible.

Hypothesis #1: the letters surrounding the I formed the answer. (From the BY in the title). No.

Hypothesis #2: the important property of the I is that it is a singleton. Are there any others? Why yes, a remarkable number of them. And ALL of them have a modestly lower than expected frequency. Notconclusive, but suggestive. Do they form a word? Not even in Klingon. Back to the BY from the title. Any words or parts of words by taking the letter following the singletons? Curiously like English, maybe like Nutella. How about the letter before the singletons? ... And voila!

Frequency analysis does not usually work with metas, but every now and then it provides a crucial insight.
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Post by Gman »

I noticed the single occurrence of I,V,X,L,C,D and M and remembered seeing an I as a single word in the clues. This led me to notice that ALL the clues started with Roman numerals, which caused me to forget the single use of each in the grid and to spend the next hour or so analyzing all the permutations and number of uses of each Roman Numeral in the clues. After seeing the number of early solvers and the low star rating, I concluded that I must either be an idiot, OR I was overcomplicating things. I asked my daughter to look at the grid and tell me what she saw as a pattern related to the Roman Numerals, and ten seconds later she said, "OREGANO." This led to me to conclude that I should drop the OR in my prior conclusion and go with AND.
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Post by Ben B »

We were hung up on finding the answer within the clues for a long time, after we noticed they all started with Roman numerals. It was only after noticing the single X and I in the grid that the possibility of finding an answer in the grid became our focus. The title word “by” the numbers gave the final clue. I’m not sure I would be solving these on my own. My puzzle loving son provides the inspiration and I provide the determination to solve these. Lots of fun. And amazed every week by Mike and Matt.
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Post by BethA »

Why does EVERY SINGLE clue start with a Roman numeral??? It was tedious, and I was skeptical, but I thought maybe if I added them all together, something would pop out. I brought up the calculator on my iPad, and guess what was there! A long stream of numbers adding up to 1000! As in Thousand Island Dressing. Oh boy...

My first try was looking around or by the Roman numerals in the grid, but did not do so carefully or methodically enough to realize that was the right track. Circled back after the detour above.

Enjoyed having a real subject, “cooking” to think about in the background, rather than just “a 6-letter word”. Both Dan and I thought it would be in our wheelhouse, as we enjoy watching Food Network shows. (Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, Giada, Delicious Miss Brown).

Great puzzle!
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Post by Plymouthrock »

Finding that Cheers video as brilliant at this meta.
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Post by KayW »

This is one of those times where ignorance (or obliviousness) was bliss - I never noticed the first letters of all the clues as I was solving, so I zoomed in on the grid. Someone pointed that out to me afterwards. Truly remarkable!
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Post by Joe Ross »

CallMeShane wrote: Mon May 31, 2021 6:13 am The solitary 'I' screamed for attention. That a 15x15 grid would have a single I by happenstance is risible.
Shane said "risible."

I'd link a Monty Python's Life of Brian clip, which implanted it within my vocabulary, but it's NSFW (and unmasks the low level of maturity I mistake for 'high humor').
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Post by JaneGummy »

I found the correct answer via a different route, not as clean but I made it work. By the numbers made me see the words twenty and one in the grid. Twenty one in Roman numerals is XXI. checked the clues, there was one clue that started with a single I, 57 A gave me OR. Three clues started with X, 37 down gave me EG, and I found ANO by the TWENTY. I doubt it was intentional to have an alternate solve path, but it got me home.

The core t mechanism was obviously much more elegant.
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Post by higgysue »

Why would Mike take the time to make every single clue start with a Roman number if it had nothing to do with solving the puzzle? This one almost did me in. The colors and calculations on my page were impressive. More impressive were all those clues. I only got this one with a few hours to spare!
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Post by Bob cruise director »

I noticed the one I immediately but then dove down a couple of rabbit holes that included embedding Aunt in 62A into Taunts in 47A and trying all sorts of useless gyrations with the grid numbers. And then there were the letters squeezed between two O's
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Post by CPJohnson »

higgysue wrote: Mon May 31, 2021 7:44 am Why would Mike take the time to make every single clue start with a Roman number if it had nothing to do with solving the puzzle? This one almost did me in. The colors and calculations on my page were impressive. More impressive were all those clues. I only got this one with a few hours to spare!
I thought the initial letters of the clues were meant to point you to the one-occurrence Roman numerals in the grid.
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Post by SReh26 »

For A-1, originally I had COILS instead of JOINS, so that threw off the order of roman numerals, and sent me down a rabbit hole of oils, eggs, yeas, tea, tan and agent. Twenty was another rabbit hole... I converted it to XX, which hinted at gold medal flour. AONE made me consider that ATEAN (in ateandran) could signify 18, or XVIII. That led nowhere. Someone told me ROMAN was significant, but I just doubled back to TAN, YEAS, XX, links together, and cooking and considered durum semolina, or just DURUM, could be the answer, but ALAS, no.

My only correct move was asking for more than a few more nudges. Then I finally saw it. By that point I couldn’t even enjoy or take true ownership for solving it. The fact that every clue is a roman numeral is a thing of great beauty and finally gave me that smile and glow for which I come here.