Metas & Mega-Metas


A meta crossword puzzle provides the ultimate “aha” moment for a solver. First popularized by Matt Gaffney (who runs a great weekly contest), a meta challenges the solver to come up with a single answer somehow hidden in the puzzle.

Hints to the answer can come from the title, the theme entries, the clues, or the grid.

If I’ve done my job as a constructor, once you get the meta, you’ll know it. If you’re thinking, “Hmmm…maybe this is it,” you probably haven’t found the meta yet!

Metas are well-suited to contests, since it’s hard to cheat on a meta. An obscure crossword clue like [Nickname for President Van Buren, from his birthplace] can be answered in a second using Google (“OLD KINDERHOOK”), but you can’t do the same for a meta. While googling is considered cheating (to some) in solving a crossword, googling is encouraged in solving metas.

As described in the Contest Rules, the meta answer for each puzzle will be a reasonably well-known song, band, album, or something else music-related. Metas will usually reflect my musical taste, which is pretty varied. The answer will usually be reasonably well-known to me, and hopefully to you too. If it’s not, it will definitely be accessible via a web search.


A mega-meta is like a meta in that it challenges a solver to find a hidden theme in the clues, answers, titles, or metas from a group of puzzles. It’s like a meta, except you’re not just searching for a pattern in one puzzle, you’re searching for it across puzzles. The final puzzle of the year, released on the last Tuesday of the year, will provide a strong clue to what to look for in the past year’s puzzles to solve the mega-meta.

Puzzle clues marked with (***) indicate a connection to the mega-meta. Solvers are given a chance to guess at the mega-meta before getting the information in the final puzzle, and awarded extra bonus points for doing so. Because the reward is so large for getting the mega-meta before the final puzzle, there may be some tricks designed to throw solvers off the track. Consider yourself warned. Click here (SPOILER ALERT) for the write-up on last year’s mega-meta (and here for the 2015 mega-meta).

I personally love solving metas even more than standard crosswords and have found constructing them equally fun. I hope you enjoy solving these.