MGWCC #171

crossword 4:12
puzzle 0:15 

greetings and welcome to the 171st episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Building Locks”. this week, the instructions ask for the missing member of a familiar sextet. the theme clues:

  • {Drive insane} is PUSH OVER THE EDGE. also something you might do if playing king of the hill with U2.
  • {He voiced Timon in “The Lion King”} clues NATHAN LANE. i did not know that. i didn’t even know there was a character named timon.
  • {Get under control} is BRING TO HEEL.
  • {Game related to Truth or Dare} is HAVE YOU EVER. i do not believe i’ve ever actually played truth or dare. at a teaching retreat once i did play “never have i ever”, which i can only assume is a relative.
  • a {Ragtag band} is a MOTLEY CREW (not crüe).
  • {The sextet in question} are the 6 SIMPLE MACHINES, with the 6 in the grid crossing 6 PM.

so the last word of each of the first five theme answers is a simple machine minus the first letter: wEDGE, (inclined) pLANE, wHEEL (and axle), lEVER, and sCREW. who’s missing? why, the pulley, and that’s our answer. and since i can’t think of a phrase ending with the word ULLEY, i guess it was always going to be pulley.

it’s a pretty nice meta. i can’t remember ever seeing a simple machines theme before, and it warms the cockles of my physics teacher heart (although i haven’t taught simple machines, or even really discussed them since 7th grade). it’d be slightly more elegant if we could do something with the truncated letters WPWLS, but … what are you gonna do?

fill roundup:

  • {One of four in a row (!) Roger Federer hit against Juan Monaco on Tuesday} is an ACE. i was watching that contest, if you can call it a contest (monaco won only three games all match). i spent saturday puzzlehunting instead of watching tennis, but i did take a brief break to watch the critical moments of the insane federer-djokovic match. i don’t know what to say that brian phillips hasn’t said better, so … i’ll just leave it at that.
  • {“Devil in a Blue Dress” author Walter} is MOSLEY, an author unfamiliar to me. i guess carol moseley braun spells it differently? anyway, this answer looks like a mash-up of mos eisley.
  • {“Awesome, dude!”} is SCHWEET. never seen that in a crossword, i’ll tell you that. i’m not sure i’ve seen it in the wild either, but it sounds a little bit like something a teenager might say in 1994.
  • {Exclamation in an Irving Berlin title} is “OH, MOLLY”. hmm, this one’s also unfamiliar. apparently the song is called “molly o! oh, molly!”. well, now you know.
  • {Super Mario Bros. alter ego (two words, all consonants)} is MR. L. yikes, the crossing of the L here and MOSLEY was a little dicey.
  • {He won an Oscar for playing Louis Pasteur} is MUNI. no idea who this is; let’s see… apparently paul MUNI, who played the title role in 1936’s the story of louis pasteur and also the 1937 best picture the life of emile zola. apparently he specialized in portraying 19th-century frenchmen—talk about typecasting! well, i memorized best picture winners for jeopardy/sporcle purposes, but not best actors (or even the actors in best pictures, apparently). anyway, this seems pretty legit despite it being so long ago. nice backup cluing avenue for MUNI.

that’s all for me. i’m slightly puzzled out due to the aforementioned puzzle hunt over the weekend, but i’ll see you in the comment box.

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13 Responses to MGWCC #171

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    374 right answers this week. I accepted ULLEY (which 8 people submitted) as correct, since it’s semi-plausible that the idea might have been to send in the truncated version.

    Also, note that there are five Fridays this month, so Week 2 is going to be a little easier than in a four-Friday month.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    I wonder how many participants would like to see somewhat harder puzzles in Weeks 1 and 2. I know it’s hard to please everyone, and I’m sure we all appreciate the enormous time and effort Matt put into this, but personally I’d like to see some middle ground between these and the killers at month’s end. For instance, this would have made a nice mid-level meta if we weren’t told the group of 6’s identity. And an even better toughie if we didn’t know that we were looking for a group or its missing member. But as always, congratulations to Matt on fine execution.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    Hakuna Matata, Joon. With two little kids, you will know Timon soon enough.

    I struggled to solve the SW corner of the puzzle. Once I finally did that, the meta was easy enough.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Paul — the metas early in the month aren’t supposed to be especially difficult. The changes you suggest would make the puzzle appropriate for about Week 4 of a five-Friday month like this one, and certainly not desirable for Week 2.

  5. Scott says:

    I doubt that I could have solved this puzzle if Paul’s ideas had been incorporated.

  6. Gavin says:

    So, where do I take my WPWLS for recycling?

  7. pannonica says:

    “Hear those lonesome WhiPpoorWiLlS…”

  8. Norm says:

    And, here I was sure I was missing something, and Joon was going to come up with some amazing disclose of where the missing letters came from …

  9. Matthew G. says:

    Like Norm, I solved this meta immediately but I kept putting off e-mailing in my answer because I was sure there was some deeper meaning to the excised letters. Guess it shows how much we expect of Matt, given the consistent elegance of his metas.

  10. Mark M. says:

    5 Fridays this month? Great, just f’in great.

  11. Jbeck says:

    Particularly elegant when you notice that all of the truncated simple machines are complete 4-letter words (which I hadn’t).

  12. Howard B says:

    Nicely crafted meta. And I am just as relieved that my guess of L at the MOSLEY / MRL crossing was ultimately correct (Moral victory there). That one was mean :).

  13. Karen says:

    Huh. MOSLEY is a familiar name to me. Oh, that’s right, he’s also done some sf.

    I sent in ULLEY. I read the instructions as ‘the missing element of the series’. But it actually says ‘the missing member of a familiar sextet’. And I even re-checked the instructions.

    I don’t want harder early month puzzles. I still remember starting out, probably on a week 3 puzzle, and being really lost on the meta.

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