MGWCC #448

crossword 3:49 
meta 1 day, if i’m right 


hello, i’m back. thanks to matt for filling in for me last week while i was on vacation, and thanks to dave for filling in for matt. anyway, here we are—welcome to episode #448 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Next, Please”. for this week 5 puzzle, matt tells us only that the contest answer is five syllables long. okay. what are the theme answers? i’m going to assume it’s the four long acrosses:

  • {Road salt, sometimes} CALCIUM CHLORIDE.
  • {First of a Brady bunch} SUPER BOWL XXXVI. that was back in 2002, when tom brady won the first of his four (… and counting) super bowl rings with the patriots.
  • {“What is the answer to 4-Across in this crossword?” et al.} TRICK QUESTIONS. because there’s no 4-across; since 1-across is five letters, the next across answer is 6a.
  • {Cairo convergers} MISSISSIPPI OHIO. this is tricky, because we’re talking about cairo, illinois, at the southern tip of that state. but we’re also weirdly just not using a conjunction in this answer. it’s just the names of two rivers stuck together.

this is kind of a weird meta unless i’m missing something, but i feel like i’m missing something. anyway, here’s what i’ve got: calcium and chlorine (the element whose ion is CHLORIDE) have atomic numbers 20 and 17, respectively. mississippi and ohio are states #20 and 17, respectively, by order of admission to the union. so that makes me think the answer is just 2017, which is five syllables long if you pronounce it as “twenty seventeen” as suggested by those theme answers. certainly that would be an appropriate answer for a puzzle timed as this one is. (happy new year, by the way.)

but what about SUPER BOWL XXXVI? i mean, if you want to arbitrarily split that up you can get get XX (20) and … XVI (16). oops. is that what “next, please” refers to? and what about TRICK QUESTIONS? i mean, “questions” might connote the number 20, but it’s second rather than first, and there’s nothing to suggest the 17.

however, i really have nothing else, so if the answer isn’t 2017, then i don’t know it. somebody please let me know what i missed. i’ll be a little bummed because i don’t think i’ve ever been stumped two weeks in a row (but i could be wrong), but if that’s what’s going on here, so be it.

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26 Responses to MGWCC #448

  1. ConvolutED says:

    I had the same problems with those two theme entries when I submitted, but I think I figured them out later. For the Superbowl game, the final score was 20-17. For TRICK QUESTIONS, the initials are T.Q., which are the 20th and 17th letters of the alphabet.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 198 right answers this week.

    The final score of Super Bowl XXXVI was 20-17, and the initials of TRICK QUESTIONS are T.Q., the 20th and 17th letters.

    • Todd Dashoff says:

      Just for my curiosity, Matt, did you whip this up when your other puzzle proved not to work, or did you have it handy? I’m trying to figure when you could use this puzzle other than at the end of the year, but you supposedly had something else ready with which to torment us.

  3. Ephraim says:

    I didn’t see the connection for TRICK QUESTIONS until a friend pointed it out ex post facto. None of us here saw the connection for SUPERBOWL XXXVI because we all got hung up (just like Joon) on XX XVI looking like 20 16.

  4. dbardolph says:

    I started down the right track, but went looking for “nexts.” Next element after Calcium? Scandium got me nowhere. Next states admitted to the Union? Another rabbit hole. Only after I realized that chlorine was atomic number 17 did the light go on. Confirmed the score of Super Bowl XXXVI and I was there. Twenty seventeen – “next” year.

  5. LuckyGuest says:

    Wow… bravo, solvers and bravo, Matt! And *almost* bravo, me… I did write down 20 & 17 for the first, second and fourth theme entries, but I never made the actual connection. And “Trick Question” being the 20th and 17th letters? And the tie-in to “Next” year? Genius. So really, Matt, did you come up with this puzzle at the last minute; literally on the only remaining day you could have used “Next [year] = 2017”? Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

  6. Thomas says:

    Ah! Didn’t get the T.Q. connection, but I saw the rest of it. As I noted in my entry, the nudge that got me there was seeing that the next town north of Cairo is Future City.

  7. Wayne says:

    The T Q felt unsatisfying to me, because–unlike the other theme answers–it didn’t use the semantic contents of the answer. If T.Q. was a valid abbreviation for Trick Questions (as Q&A is for Question and Answer) then it would’ve clicked.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      tough qrowd!

    • kaes says:

      Agreed! I found the other three connections pretty quickly, but had to let it sit for a day or two until I could convince myself that T.Q. was the last one, since it felt less clear than the others. I thought I must be missing something about “questions.” I’ll admit I was also skeptical that Matt could have whipped up such an elegant 2017-themed puzzle in one day, especially after fixing the original puzzle… but I shouldn’t have doubted :)

  8. Kali says:

    You FINALLY put my name into a puzzle and I miss the meta. Thanks.
    (Happy New Year!)

  9. Stephen McFly says:

    Based off the number of correct responses, where did this end up ranking difficulty wise? Is Week 3 accurate?

  10. sharkicicles says:

    Meant to send in “Happy New Year Matt” as the answer but got caught up with work.

  11. Lance says:

    Thank heavens for Hail Marys. (And that “succedaneum” lost my mental coin flip; it’s a five-syllable Scripps Spelling Bee winning word that means “something that comes next”.) I was getting nowhere, because I was looking for things that came next (I searched wordlists for things starting with SC, the next element after calcium, and ending with ILLA, the next states after Mississippi and Ohio). I also focused a lot on “trick questions”, because I couldn’t get *anything* out of it–to that end, I very much agree that “its initials are TQ” is a particularly tenuous connection. Not my favorite meta, I’m afraid, but at least it’s behind me and nominally successful.

  12. Jason says:

    I hope you don’t have to resort to this next year as 20/18 connections are rare.

  13. Daniel Barkalow says:

    It took me an embarrassingly long time to come up with a five syllable phrase clued by 20 17. When I looked at the center column for ideas, I was amused by “ORCS ON ICE HINT”. One does not simply figure-skate into Mordor, but that’s not a useful hint.

    If you were looking for a fifteen-letter answer instead of a fourteen, the singer of Westside would have worked.

  14. Jon says:

    Entries 1,3,&,4 all work as the 1st word has a connection to 20 & the 2nd word has the same connection to 17 (atomic number, letter of the alphabet, order of admission to the USA as a state) but the same can’t be said for the 2nd theme answer. Did that bother you Matt?

    I tried checking other 20/17 combos (chronological order of Presidents of the USA; same for VPs of USA; humans to go into space; etc) but the only think close was POTUS. 20th prez is Garfield & 17th is Johnson. GARFIELDJOHNSON IS 15 letters long but a Google search for anyone famous by this name came up short. And even if it did, I think it would make the meta answer very obvious.

    Question for Matt, what other lists did you scour for possible entries?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      The one that came close was Malia and Sasha Obama, who are 18 and 15 now but will be the perfect 20 and 17 in two years.

      • Mike W says:

        This is somewhat obscure, but fits as a suitable clue – “Top 2 finishers in the 2007 NASCAR race at Chicagoland”. Tony Stewart (20) and Matt Kenseth (17).

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