Fourth Wheel

· By Wendy Walker · Published 2023-08-27T04:01:17.437Z

Meta Prompt
The meta answer is seven letters long.
I use this puzzle's metanism frequently when trying to solve meta puzzles, but usually it goes nowhere fast. This one, I hope, will be a happy exception.
Checking for previous play data...

Leaderboard (updated hourly)

  • Abide solved at 0:46 on 8/27/2023
  • Hector solved at 4:45 on 8/27/2023
  • benchen71 solved at 5:07 on 8/27/2023
  • Schmeel solved at 11:35 on 8/27/2023
  • boharr solved at 13:40 on 8/27/2023
  • JM solved at 14:15 on 8/27/2023
  • Meg solved at 14:21 on 8/27/2023
  • Cindy Weatherman solved at 14:58 on 8/27/2023
  • woozy solved at 15:59 on 8/27/2023
  • lbray53 solved at 16:16 on 8/27/2023
  • KayW solved at 16:29 on 8/27/2023
  • hoover solved at 16:44 on 8/27/2023
  • MatthewL solved at 16:50 on 8/27/2023
  • michaelm solved at 17:01 on 8/27/2023
  • heidi solved at 17:17 on 8/27/2023
  • imontoo solved at 17:46 on 8/27/2023
  • SamKat9 solved at 17:58 on 8/27/2023
  • Dow Jones solved at 18:21 on 8/27/2023
  • merlinnimue solved at 18:50 on 8/27/2023
  • DrTom solved at 20:16 on 8/27/2023
  • rjy solved at 21:00 on 8/27/2023
  • CPJohnson solved at 21:12 on 8/27/2023
  • BrennerTJ solved at 22:48 on 8/27/2023
  • hunkra solved at 23:01 on 8/27/2023
  • Cindy Heisler solved at 0:31 on 8/28/2023
  • ReB solved at 0:51 on 8/28/2023
  • Berto solved at 1:44 on 8/28/2023
  • HeadinHome solved at 1:50 on 8/28/2023
  • Darth solved at 2:49 on 8/28/2023
  • kurtalert solved at 13:33 on 8/28/2023
  • BarbaraK solved at 13:51 on 8/28/2023
  • I K Snamhcok solved at 14:51 on 8/28/2023
  • ajk solved at 15:28 on 8/28/2023
  • Sharkicicles solved at 17:36 on 8/28/2023
  • Tyrpmom solved at 21:09 on 8/28/2023
  • Laura M solved at 22:09 on 8/28/2023
  • Gutman solved at 22:15 on 8/28/2023
  • whimsy solved at 23:32 on 8/28/2023
  • Mwoychick solved at 23:38 on 8/28/2023
  • Pair O Ducks solved at 3:17 on 8/29/2023
  • Steve M solved at 3:23 on 8/29/2023
  • THC solved at 10:49 on 8/29/2023
  • JHSeeman solved at 14:15 on 8/29/2023
  • Philip Chow solved at 8:01 on 8/31/2023
  • Anita and Steve solved at 23:21 on 9/1/2023
  • Tane solved at 4:19 on 9/2/2023
  • SJ solved at 8:14 on 9/2/2023
  • Katiedid solved at 13:56 on 9/2/2023


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  • Hector 🤓6:08 · 2023-08-27T04:59:47.197Z
    Nice!.Took me a while even after solving to discern the exact mechanism that excludes extra "fourth wheels" (have to be third letters). Thanks!
    • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-27T15:52:01.001Z
      Thanks, Hector! Yes, other solvers are getting hung up on that, too.
    • benchen71 1s · 2023-08-27T05:09:42.357Z
      My solve was complicated by the 4-letter words that can be formed by adding a letter in the first position (eg. ENT25AHumanoid tree created by Tolkien[---] -> SENT42DDistributed, as gala invitations[----], EAT45AChow down[---] -> SEAT78AWhere the usher escorts you at a wedding[----], TOE73ASomething you can stub or tap[---] -> OTOE37AOklahoma Indian[----] and ONE76A"A Chorus Line" finale[---] -> TONE71A"I don't like your ___"[----]). But once I got all the 3-letter words laid out in order it didn't take me too long! Fun puzzle, Wendy. :-)
      • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-27T15:52:12.528Z
        Thanks for solving, Ben!
        • HeadinHome 🤓3:49 · 2023-08-28T01:51:30.758Z
          Yup - me too.. AFTER about three other really interesting possible mechanisms half worked!
        • boharr 2s · 2023-08-27T13:41:12.717Z
          Fun one. Thanks, Wendy.
          • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-27T15:52:25.224Z
            Glad you solved! Thanks, Bob!
          • Meg 4s · 2023-08-27T14:22:24.506Z
            Thanks, raccoon and opossum lover. That was a good challenge!
            • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-27T15:52:40.104Z
              Thanks, Meg! Glad you solved!
            • lbray53 5s · 2023-08-27T16:19:29.348Z
              I missed HOPE64DIt springs eternal[----] for HOE1AWeeding implement[---] and used OTOE37AOklahoma Indian[----] for TOE73ASomething you can stub or tap[---] and TONE71A"I don't like your ___"[----] for ONE76A"A Chorus Line" finale[---]. That gave me LUSOOTE which anagrammed to LOSE OUT. I should have been more critical of that. I now see that the "third wheel" made the fourth letter. Fun stuff.
              • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T00:33:29.018Z
                Thanks for solving!
              • MatthewL 🤓5:31 · 2023-08-27T16:51:46.179Z
                Nice one. Had the general idea, seeing all the 3 and 4 letter words in the grid, but the nudges helped focus my thinking. Thanks for the puzzle!
                • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T00:34:15.771Z
                  Glad you enjoyed it!
                • michaelm 🤓7:30 · 2023-08-27T17:04:11.007Z
                  A +10 from me. Thanks for the fun puzzle, Wendy. Great stuff!
                  • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T00:34:26.090Z
                    Thank you very much!
                  • imontoo 2s · 2023-08-27T17:49:15.422Z
                    Fun! One of my go-to methods when trying to solve metas. Thanks for the puzzle!
                    • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T00:35:34.450Z
                      Always -- you see a couple that work and you think, aha! That's gotta be it! But then you don't see anymore.
                    • SamKat9 🤓3:24 · 2023-08-27T17:59:55.818Z
                      Nice! I had the right idea, but nudge implying that 3rd letter is added helped me. Thank you for the puzzle!
                      • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T00:35:46.890Z
                        So glad you solved!
                      • merlinnimue 🤓4:22 · 2023-08-27T18:56:42.545Z
                        very cute... as a usual fifth wheel i latched on to the metanism easily... i'll have to try and remember the methods you geniuses jump to so easily
                        this puzzle was phenomen-phenomen-phenomenal
                        • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T00:36:18.210Z
                          Just remember that this metanism RARELY works in real life! Thanks for solving!
                        • DrTom 🤓6:43 · 2023-08-27T21:06:32.075Z
                          I guess I'll have to change my name to Supertramp because I "Took the long way home". I started out noticing all of the three letter words that had VERY similar 4 letter counterparts...and that is where the train started to derail. I guess I should have been suspicious when I got one of them OTOE37AOklahoma Indian[----] and TONE71A"I don't like your ___"[----] that could have gone either way, but I tacked that up to perhaps an error in proofing (silly me, whose puzzle was this, proofing error, NOT LIKELY). Had I looked I probably would have seen more like SEAT78AWhere the usher escorts you at a wedding[----] and SENT42DDistributed, as gala invitations[----], and I HOPE64DIt springs eternal[----] I would have gone..."hey, wait a minute there are some with the new letter in exactly the same position!" Unfortunately I needed the nudges to tell me that. I still struggled because I was doing it in an Excel spreadsheet, not the Grid and I jsut took the letters and ran them through an anagram solver that, unfortunately only returns single words. Finally I did it by sight and got ONE76A"A Chorus Line" finale[---] PLUS which of course made all kinds of sense, but when Crosshare told me "WRONG" the old PLUS ONE76A"A Chorus Line" finale[---] on an invite came to mind. Nice mechanism and nice fill.
                          • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T00:36:46.714Z
                            Glad you got there in the end, Dr. Tom! Thanks for solving!
                          • ReB 3s · 2023-08-28T01:02:05.016Z
                            Very tidy now that I can see that the fourth letter is added to the space between the second and third letter of the three letter starters, which also restores the symmetry that I wasn't finding originally. I got distracted by words formed by additions to the first position: OTOE37AOklahoma Indian[----], SENT42DDistributed, as gala invitations[----], SEAT78AWhere the usher escorts you at a wedding[----]. Well done.
                            • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T11:25:06.623Z
                              Well done, Bob! Thanks for solving.
                            • Berto 🤓4:28 · 2023-08-28T01:48:57.012Z
                              I got hung up on looking for “wheels” akin to the Pandora’s boxes from a few weeks back. Went back to basics and suddenly a list appeared. OSLUNEP didn’t look quite right, but aha - in order of the three letter words, voila! Thank you WW!
                              • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T11:25:38.566Z
                                Aha, indeed! Thanks for solving.
                              • HeadinHome 🤓3:49 · 2023-08-28T02:08:24.768Z
                                I was just SURE the “wheel” referred to O’s!! In one progression, you kept adding an O to the mix of letters until you had 4… like tOe, OtOe, OtOOle… so was I supposed to come up with a word that added to all these letters without scrambling them, and including at least one more O/wheel? Hmm… now that’s a challenge for a bunch of muggles… anyone? Well of course that’s not the meta, because it would need to be way more than 7 letters… so how about that odd clue “go ON and ON, often in mONotONe”? FOUR on’s? Now that is suspicious. There are a ton of ONs in the grid… why? Also there are a lot of ONEs… and several clues contain “one,” “one’s,” “once.” And the on/one entries in the grid are almost always in a cluster with T’s. Is there a configuration that is repeated 7 times, and in each there’s a fourth letter hanging out in the same position in the configuration? Sent all this to Wendy, showing her the math, and she kindly told me to stop thinking so hard… just look for 3’s that get a fourth, and always in the same position. (Which is kind of what I was doing, but way too fancy.) Fun challenge, and I got several good meta ideas along the way!
                                • benchen71 1s · 2023-08-28T03:54:12.071Z
                                  I look forward to seeing these metas in due course!
                                  • HeadinHome 🤓3:49 · 2023-08-28T08:35:06.225Z
                                    Some day when I quit my day job??
                                    • benchen71 1s · 2023-08-28T11:10:02.479Z
                                      That hasn't stopped me. ;-)
                                      • DrTom 🤓6:43 · 2023-08-29T03:54:16.271Z
                                        If you'd like to start with a MEOW, we are a LOT27AFate[---] more flexible about "rules". We even allow punny fills (allow it, heck we almost insist on it!!!)
                                    • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-28T11:26:22.709Z
                                      I felt a little guilty putting you through all that, Wendy!
                                      • HeadinHome 🤓3:49 · 2023-08-28T23:03:42.094Z
                                        Pretty sure that’s not your fault! It’s my thing to overthink.
                                      • ajk 🤓8:35 · 2023-08-28T15:32:57.956Z
                                        Hand also raised for being distracted by all the Os
                                      • I K Snamhcok 7s · 2023-08-28T14:53:01.083Z
                                        Very nice! Though I didn’t immediately catch on to the “same position” aspect and initially submitted the ridiculous answer of TOPLESS!
                                        • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:26:20.819Z
                                          Haha! Hmmm ... wonder if that could be a metanism somehow ...
                                        • ajk 🤓8:35 · 2023-08-28T15:30:30.170Z
                                          Needed today's nudge, which I shall blame on the beer festival I went to yesterday (even though, ahem, I worked on the puzzle for quite a bit before that). :) I was hung up on looking for quartets initially, and then the table image had me looking for letters surrounding a central letter, etc. Very fun stuff in the end, thanks!
                                          • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:27:40.453Z
                                            The image is from a wedding Mark and I attended in June -- distantly related to the "Plus One" answer. That's me in the mushroom dress, next to Mark. Mark's handsome son is in the back row near us.
                                          • Laura M 🤓5:18 · 2023-08-28T22:10:36.135Z
                                            I don't think I've ever tried this mechanism! Needed all the hints to apply it correctly.
                                            • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:28:37.883Z
                                              I assumed that everyone used it, but when he was test-solving Abide said that just because I used it, not everyone did. And of course he was right!
                                            • Mwoychick 🤓10:19 · 2023-08-28T23:41:41.462Z
                                              Took me a long time to see it even with today's hint! Thanks for the puzzle, Wendy!
                                              • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:28:47.946Z
                                                So glad you solved, Mark!
                                              • whimsy 🤓10:55 · 2023-08-29T00:00:07.275Z
                                                Whew! You had me quite stymied for some time, Wendy, and I really needed that second story, but that was fine since I do like quirkiness! Couldn't discover the order mechanism and had to brute force the answer from the letters; anagram solver wasn't going to work since it was a 7-letter answer, not 7-letter word. Even afterwards, I had a tough time back-solving for the order. But wow! The 3-letter words were all symmetric and you doubled back to them to provide the order! So intricate and just a dandy puzzle! Thanks a bunch!
                                                • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:29:27.834Z
                                                  It's all about symmetry, right? So glad you solved!
                                                • ReB 3s · 2023-08-29T01:02:18.369Z
                                                  Just thought to look at the second nudge, which I hadn't looked at before. It certainly would have made my life easier if I had...
                                                  I really like how you phrased your nudges as anecdotes, it was quite refreshing and entertaining.
                                                  • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:34:14.692Z
                                                    What's weird is that I was trying to come up with the usual nudges and the idea of doing a little story just came to me. I tried to come up with a follow-up story for the third nudge about how to put the letters in the correct order but it just wasn't working. It went off on a clumsy tangent about how the waiter presented the bill to the Muggles and they noticed that their food and beverages were listed in some kind of weird order ...
                                                  • THC 🤓3:36 · 2023-08-29T10:50:09.380Z
                                                    Thanks, Wendy!
                                                    • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:34:36.002Z
                                                      Thank you for solving!
                                                    • kurtalert 🤓4:25 · 2023-08-29T13:02:39.647Z
                                                      Enjoyed this, thanks Wendy!
                                                      • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-08-29T14:34:50.690Z
                                                        So glad you solved, Kurt!
                                                      • Sendhil Revuluri 🤓3:05 · 2023-09-03T17:37:05.608Z
                                                        Loved the puzzle, still completely confused about the meta! (I should make that into a keyboard macro because I feel like I say that often.)
                                                        1. If someone could explain the meta for n00bs such as myself, I would appreciate it.
                                                        2. Where do I look for nudges?
                                                        Thank you!
                                                        • Wendy Walker constructor · 2023-09-03T21:06:00.590Z
                                                          Hello and thanks so much for asking! The nudges and the "reveal" are on the Muggle Forum at The trick was to find 3-letter words in the grid and turn them into 4-letter words in the grid by adding a letter in the third position. Those added letters, when arranged based on the grid order of the 3-letter words, spell out the meta answer, PLUS ONE76A"A Chorus Line" finale[---].
                                                          • Sendhil Revuluri 🤓3:05 · 2023-09-04T07:18:02.092Z
                                                            Thank you!
                                                        Weeding implement
                                                        1. 1A
                                                          Weeding implement
                                                        2. 4A
                                                          Descriptor for a fun party
                                                        3. 8A
                                                          Beverage that is distinctly not top-shelf
                                                        4. 14A
                                                        5. 15A
                                                          Idris in "Hijack"
                                                        6. 16A
                                                          He played King Henry II in "The Lion in Winter"
                                                        7. 17A
                                                          Cooking spray brand
                                                        8. 18A
                                                          Longtime senator from Nevada
                                                        9. 19A
                                                          Wall bracket
                                                        10. 20A
                                                          San Antonio mission
                                                        11. 22A
                                                          Where the sun rises
                                                        12. 24A
                                                        13. 25A
                                                          Humanoid tree created by Tolkien
                                                        14. 27A
                                                        15. 29A
                                                          Monopoly foursome, in short
                                                        16. 30A
                                                          Conceal, as a magician might
                                                        17. 33A
                                                          Invite to one's home
                                                        18. 37A
                                                          Oklahoma Indian
                                                        19. 38A
                                                          Don't change a thing
                                                        20. 39A
                                                          Religious splinter groups
                                                        21. 43A
                                                          Go on and on, usually in a monotone
                                                        22. 45A
                                                          Chow down
                                                        23. 46A
                                                          Prince Harry's autobiography
                                                        24. 47A
                                                          Ana or Claus
                                                        25. 48A
                                                          Starting from square one
                                                        26. 50A
                                                          "Once ___ a time"
                                                        27. 51A
                                                        28. 53A
                                                          Crabbe or Goyle, at Hogwarts
                                                        29. 54A
                                                        30. 57A
                                                        31. 58A
                                                          K-pop group
                                                        32. 60A
                                                          Agree to serve another hitch
                                                        33. 62A
                                                          "That's not good"
                                                        34. 65A
                                                          Groups with a common goal
                                                        35. 69A
                                                          Louis ___, author of many Westerns
                                                        36. 71A
                                                          "I don't like your ___"
                                                        37. 73A
                                                          Something you can stub or tap
                                                        38. 74A
                                                          Belonging to Fudd
                                                        39. 75A
                                                          NYSE debuts
                                                        40. 76A
                                                          "A Chorus Line" finale
                                                        41. 77A
                                                        42. 78A
                                                          Where the usher escorts you at a wedding
                                                        43. 79A
                                                          Toy poodle variety, for short
                                                        1. 1D
                                                          Air filter type
                                                        2. 2D
                                                        3. 3D
                                                          Columnist Bombeck
                                                        4. 4D
                                                          Poet and musician Gil Scott-___
                                                        5. 5D
                                                          Soccer cheer
                                                        6. 6D
                                                          Off-Broadway awards, for short
                                                        7. 7D
                                                          "Look what I just did!"
                                                        8. 8D
                                                          Russian seaport
                                                        9. 9D
                                                        10. 10D
                                                        11. 11D
                                                          One with a very limited life expectancy
                                                        12. 12D
                                                          Tummy trouble
                                                        13. 13D
                                                        14. 21D
                                                        15. 23D
                                                          Kind of spoon with drain holes
                                                        16. 26D
                                                          Grad students, maybe
                                                        17. 28D
                                                          Hardy heroine
                                                        18. 30D
                                                          What friends formed during COVID
                                                        19. 31D
                                                          Razor name
                                                        20. 32D
                                                          Water bird with a haunting cry
                                                        21. 34D
                                                        22. 35D
                                                          He played Neo in the Matrix franchise
                                                        23. 36D
                                                          Drive away (but not like a couple leaving for their honeymoon)
                                                        24. 40D
                                                          Guitarist's gadget
                                                        25. 41D
                                                          Drop ___ (a cheeky prank)
                                                        26. 42D
                                                          Distributed, as gala invitations
                                                        27. 44D
                                                          Per person
                                                        28. 49D
                                                          Spider's creation
                                                        29. 52D
                                                          Stay the ___
                                                        30. 54D
                                                          City where Van Gogh painted
                                                        31. 55D
                                                          Passed out cards
                                                        32. 56D
                                                        33. 59D
                                                          Student's ___ (statistician's tool)
                                                        34. 61D
                                                          Ode or limerick
                                                        35. 63D
                                                          Baker Spunkmeyer
                                                        36. 64D
                                                          It springs eternal
                                                        37. 66D
                                                          At the summit of
                                                        38. 67D
                                                          "The kissing disease"
                                                        39. 68D
                                                        40. 70D
                                                          Alleged spoon-bender Geller
                                                        41. 72D
                                                          Israeli pop star Kirel