MGWCC #126

crossword 8:03 (paper)
puzzle DNF 94 hours

mgwcc126well, it was bound to happen, wasn’t it? i tried, but i couldn’t finish the meta of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest this week. the puzzle, “Halloween Party,” asks us to identify the uninvited attendee at a mysterious halloween party, and the means that we used to rid ourselves of it. got the first part, no problem. the second? no clue.

there are two overt theme answers in the grid:

  • {With 47-down, how to locate the sinister creature} clues TURNTM/INTOLU, which looks like gibberish but can be parsed as TURN “TM” INTO “LU.”
  • {2007 Stephen King movie — or what you must remove to rid yourself of the sinister creature} clues THE MIST.

let’s start with identifying the creature. only one answer in the grid has the letter sequence TM in it: 25d, ATM CARD, clued as {“CHASE” may be printed on it}. if you turn TM into LU, you get ALUCARD. what’s that? nothing in particular (although it googles up suggestively). but there’s another hint: 1a is {Upside-down figures}, BATS. oho, have we got an upside-down bat lurking here? we do indeed. ALUCARD is just DRACULA upside-down, and the count is the sinister figure we’re looking for. that part took me about ten minutes.

but what to make of THE MIST? let me tell you: i have no idea. i’ve spent hours staring at this sucker over a period of 3 days, and i still got nothin’. THE and MIST appear in the grid: THE is part of THE ARTS at 43a, delightfully clued as {Not B.S. material}. MIST is in 29d, MISTAKE, clued as {Slip}. intriguingly, MISTAKE ends with STAKE, which is well-known as a means of getting rid of vampires. but i couldn’t see any justification for chopping off just the MI there. the 27d clue explicitly says you must remove THE MIST, not MI. so i think MISTAKE is a red herring, or at least the STAKE part of it is. THE ARTS does cross MISTAKE, but if you remove THE MIST you’re left with just ARS/AKE bending around a corner. i don’t think that means anything.

i tried crossing out every occurrence of the letters in THE MIST to see if that exposed any light (so to speak), but i couldn’t. there’s also T/HEM broken across two entries in the SE corner, but that didn’t seem to go anywhere either, and there’s no IST nearby.

i tried playing around more with TM->LU. you can turn ATOM into ALOU, which is nice for giants fans, i guess, but they don’t need any more reason to be happy today. TIMER->LIUER and STEM->SLEU seem quite a bit less useful. THE MIST itself has initials TM, which might have some significance, but i couldn’t make any sense out of LHE UIST.

now comes the part where i get a little mean. there is some aggressively bad fill in this puzzle. matt’s a pretty good constructor, so usually awkward fill is a giant blinking sign saying “look here for meta clues.” remember TAG ID in the jailbreak puzzle? well, there’s some of that here. HEMD? YARR? TIPI? (especially since that latter one could easily be TIPS, with IRE changing to SRO.) now, of course, if none of these turns out to have any bearing on the meta, i’ll have just insulted matt’s puzzle for no good reason. but i don’t know, so i’ll leave it in, and blame it on meta fail grumpiness.

okay, i’ve got an hour left. i’m going to finish off this post and see if i crack the puzzle at the eleventh (actually the 94th) hour. if not, well, i’ll send off something lame and you all will surely let me know what i missed in the comments.

late edit: think i got this one. woo-hoo for the 94th hour! if you take the MI off MISTAKE and the S/T from the ends of THE ARTS, you’re left with a STAKE through dracula’s HEART. wow! and the density of theme answers there explains the YARR, and we’ll just let the TIPI and HEMD slide.

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30 Responses to MGWCC #126

  1. Evad says:

    Congrats, joon! Looks like you were very close there at first, just needing to “rid yourself” of worrying about that pesky definite article in “THE MIST.” I spent a long time on this one as well, starting with the obvious MISTAKE, but also thinking it was a Red Herring (wasn’t that the name of the mansion that the Monster Mash party was being held at?). I went so far as to try to remove the 7 letters in THE MIST from the clue for 25-Down (I thought the clue was odd that it had CHASE in caps and in quotation marks and that all 7 letters were buried in there), but got stuck after pursuing a few hopeful leads, finding PIERCE and CYANIDE in there.

    What finally broke it for me was reading sites (like this one), which detail methods of destroying vampires. I came back to STAKE and finally saw HEART crossing DRACULA about where his heart (if he had one!) would be.

    Scary finish to a 5-puzzle month! Thanks, Matt!

  2. Tony says:

    I found DRACULA and STAKE, but totally missed the HEART part. I submitted “Dracula killed with a stake.” If it’s counted as correct, I’m 4 out of 5 for the month, missing only last weeks.

  3. Neville says:

    I read this before the edit, and felt really proud that I got THE one that Joon didn’t. Oh well – I’ll still take “Took me 93 hours, 50 minutes less to solve the meta” :)

    Favorite entry: MARAUD. Can we use this word more often in general, please?

    I wanted I ACCUSE to be IACCOCA! (I’m not even sure that’s how Lee’s name is spelled.) That was an issue for a loooong while solving.

    Also: Props for DRACULA being upside down w/r/t the 1A clue for BATS. Genius.

  4. Karen says:

    This makes me feel better for finding it after only fifty hours! I think I went through almost all your steps, both on acrosslite and printed out. Plus trying to take TM out of all of the clues. Once I noticed HEART inside 43A, it still took a while to see the STAKE crossing it.

    Total agreement about HEMD being an odd answer. I love the XOs in the SW corner.
    I’ve seen ALUCARD as a lame alias for Dracula several times before.

  5. jllaf says:

    Thought the fill was tough, but once I got Dracula, which only took a couple of mins, “heart” jumped right out, and I knew “stake” had to be nearby. Didn’t even need “The Mist”, which may have actually helped based on how it threw Joon.
    I like how the cross of “stake” and “heart” forms an actual stake, which goes right through Drac’s heart. Nice job, Matt.

  6. Howard B says:

    Yep, well done, Joon. Persistance pays off.
    Eventually I figured out (or at least fervently hoped) that ‘MISTAKE’ containing MIST, and ‘THE ARTS’ with ‘THE’ both intact were both misleads, since that solving path led nowhere. I then hoped that there was not a hidden cluing aspect, as I didn’t see any promise there.

    Seeing the substring ‘HEART’ located in its anatomically correct place finally led to deliverance from this deep, dark meta. Tough puzzle to get there, too – was feeling a bit HEMD in. Scary stuff. >:}

    ALUCARD ATM Card – accepted at blood banks everywhere.

  7. Matt Gaffney says:

    Joon — nice 94th hour save! The streak is intact.

    Tony — I can only accept entries that have all three elements: DRACULA, STAKE and HEART.

    Neville — thanks, and notice that his HEART is in its anatomically correct place, too (since he’s upside down)

    No one liked HEMD! Harrumph. It’s not something I’d use every week (or every year) but as a once-in-a-blue moon curve ball it’s not so bad. Those circumscribed little corners you want to have a little fun in.

    113 correct entries (those who had DRACULA, STAKE and HEART in their answer). But also eight entries who submitted ALUCARD, STAKE and HEART. I’m disinclined to accept those because of the 1-across hint, but interested in a defense of that answer if any of those eight would care to offer one here or by e-mail.

  8. tabstop says:

    Man man man man. Recognized ALUCARD as a character name and didn’t think to see whether there was any reference to hanging upside down or anything. (And since ALUCARD is generally not eeeeeeeeee-vil, I doubt I’ll get any pity points either, not with the long drawn-out instructions.)

  9. pannonica says:

    I’m assuming this week’s puzzle with contain HAWD (Horn of Africa plateau (var.)) to complement the hair shirt that was HEMD. Ja, ich kenne Deutsch sprechen.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    I got this despite never catching on to the ALUCARD being DRACULA backwards.

    BAT/BELLA/SKYY led me to vampires and I did see DRAC and removed THE MIST.
    Much later, I saw HEART crossing STAKE.

  11. Tony says:

    Matt, no problem. This is all for fun, and, after all, it is your contest.

  12. This puzzle looks great. I was gigging and homeworking all weekend so I had no time to even print the puzzle out, but great job again Matt!

  13. Scott says:

    This was one of the best puzzles of the year. Somehow it all clicked for me in about an hour.

  14. Meg says:

    Sometimes I get the meta just by staring at the grid and relaxing. Things float up. I got DRACULA, the STAKE and the HEART but of course missed the point that they intersect at Dracula’s “heart”.

    Googled Alucard after pondering which to send in.

    On another note, how many ways are there really to kill a vampire? Holy water? The sun? A silver bullet? Out of desperation, I just started with stake and there it was!

  15. PD Wadler says:

    I thought this was a terrific meta. For some reason, I thought the answer was going to be something about a stake through the heart or a silver bullet. When I found STAKE, it somehow just clicked. I was really proud of myself. I feel like a third or fourth-rate puzzler compared to most of you Xword geniuses.

  16. Evad says:

    LOL at the LOLCat, Matt!

  17. *David* says:

    I got the ALUCARD and realized it was DRACULA after Googling it, that was the tough part for me. I first saw that ATOM could become ALOU which was off-base since the TM had to be next to each other and then I thought of bat as in baseball which was next to Bella but I knew I was reaching. STAKE and HEART were just sitting there right next to DRACULA so that part was easy. The xword puzzle itself wasn’t as difficult as a typical fifth week puzzle for me.

    As far as ALUCARD, he is DRACULA but that doesn’t seem to be the point of the meta as in the BAT, so flip a coin.

  18. Michael says:

    I only started doing Matt’s puzzles about a month ago and it’s just insane how Matt comes up with these babies week after week. This puzzle was just brilliant. I was only able to get the TURNTM part of the instructions. When I saw ATMCARD at 25D, I figured the TM should be turned into CE, which would give us ACECARD. The clue for 67A (“In spades”) misdirected me to think that the ace of spades was where the hidden answer lay. Of course, the skull commonly seen on the ace of spades is not the sinister creature, after all. And the mist, it turned out, which I thought was somehow an allusion to the semi-transparent effect of a hologram, had to be taken literally.

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Yay, I figured it out before Joon did! But after, oh, about 90 other people. I was at a complete loss for knowing what to do with the TM/LU business and the method of dispatching the unwanted guest. And then boom, DRACULA jumped out at me. (I wasn’t frightened.) And then the STAKE and HEART hit me a little while later.

    I don’t think taking the MIST out as an adjacent MI and a split backwards S/T is very elegant, but the STAKE through the HEART and the ATM CARD -> DRACULA bits are fantastic.

    I, for one, applaud Matt’s proclivity for sneaking German words into his grids. I studied German for 5 years, vs. French for 1 year and Spanish for a summer in grade school.

  20. Matt Gaffney says:

    Endlich liebt jemand HEMD — ausgezeichnet!!

  21. Barbara says:

    Like Michael, I started doing Matt’s puzzles about a month ago …
    My brain gnawed over this puzzle even when I didn’t know it was “mulling.” I got the puzzle itself relatively quickly … but, horrors! … how to TURN the TM INTO LU! … at first, I thought I had clued it in error … but always came back to it … tried replacing the TM from THEMIST into different combos of those letters … then somehow I got turned around by the UTURN … and ended up turning the DUKING into KING TUT with an URN (and, somehow placing him in the URN, like putting the genie back in the bottle, would do the trick) … so, the scary thing about this puzzle is learning that I have to live with my overactively graphic brain!
    Matt – kudos to you and to the other wonders here … you are all inspiring … and I am left with the image of Matt running to all the windows of that haunted mansion trying to escape (I should have known that he’d be more clever and just drive the stake through Dracula’s heart … or at least throw King Tut in his Urn to decay forever)

  22. Benny says:

    I’m with Amy. It’s nice to at least get some kind of reward for choosing German over French and Spanish.

  23. sandirhodes says:

    I started doing Matt’s puzzles around the first of April. Went back and did all the archives. I think that that heavy practice is what has allowed me to accomplish some heavy solving over the past couple months.

    As a German speaker, I’m used to Matt’s language clues. As a chessplayer, I appreciate his Caissa clues. And since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I was able to get this meta quite readily, even before I had filled in the north (the ‘la’ part)!

    I do admit, though, that I missed the anatomical connection in the placement of the answer entries. Another excellent puzzle by Mr. Gaffney!!!

  24. joon says:

    responding to several people:

    1. thanks! i’m tempted to compare myself to dimaggio or ripken, but on second thought, nah.

    2. i didn’t have time to wax rhapsodic about this in the post, for what i hope are obvious reasons, but this really is a fantastically elegant meta. from the subtlety of the BATS hint, to the anatomical placement of the HEART and the STAKE right through it—remarkable work. yeah, the MI+T/S choppings aren’t the most elegant things ever, but frankly, i think the meta would have been solvable even without THE MIST, just based on the placement of the answers and general knowledge of vampire lore. as meg says, there are only so many ways to kill dracula.

    3. you germanophiles! the reason american crosswords (properly) have minimal german is that the average educated american has very little reason to know any german. guten tag, ja/nein, danke/bitte, auf wiedersehn, schadenfreude … edelweiss … fahrvergnügen … i’m running out of ideas. also, i’m realizing that i would probably be even less intelligible in german. either that or i’d have to capitalize.

    4. matt, if lolcats is the new standard for acceptable english usage, then god help us all.

    5. i don’t mind the chess clues. sure, i don’t know most of them, but UZBEK is a pretty cool entry to sneak into a grid (perhaps even at the expense of HEMD). at least it’s not all TAL, all the time.

  25. sandirhodes says:

    joon, nice point, but he’s being kind with the chess clues!!!

    Dzhindzhi, Kosteniuk, Khanty-Mansk (!), Krush, Wijk-aan-zee, are just the tip of the iceberg! FWIW, I had Azeri instead of Uzbek at first. Almost embarrassing!

  26. Abby says:

    I didn’t remember the THEMIST clue and didn’t see it when I went back to finish the meta. :-( If I had, I’d figured it out for sure as I’d considered that as an answer anyway from the words. I thought there was a clue about the second part, but I guess I needed to read it all one more time.

  27. Blackbeard says:

    Perhaps a more legit use of YARR is seen here.

  28. Jordan says:

    Ingenious meta!!!

  29. Mike says:

    Did you notice that 1a (BATS) spelled backwards is STAB?

    This was a good meta!

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