Meta clues like this one are referring to the word as a word, so we’re not talking about less of something, we’re talking about the word less itself. In this case, half (or 50%) of the word is made up of the answer, ESSES. The surface on this one is remarkably smooth, because the phrase itself is a familiar one. That’s a happy marriage.
- Damon Gulczynski, The New York Times, 4/6/17