MGWCC #239

crossword 4:02 (across lite)
meta nope 

happy new year! unfortunately, due to holiday travel & other plans, i haven’t really had any time to work on episode #239 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, let alone blog it. i’ll put this post here as a placeholder for discussion, but i’m afraid i don’t have any useful insight. i did manage to carve out four minutes to solve the crossword, but the 5-10 minutes i spent thinking about the meta did not yield any flash of insight. i thought this week we’d get another day since tuesday is a holiday, and that would have really helped me, but i guess not.

hope your solve went better!

Evad adds…

When solving Matt’s metas, sometimes it’s hard to know which entries contribute to the meta answer–they’re not always the longest entries in the puzzle (the “theme” entries), and sometimes they’re not even entries at all, but to be found among the clues to the entries. Solving this one, I noticed a lot of animals at first–LIONS, TIGERS and a LEOPARDESS. And looking again at the puzzle’s title “What’s That Sound?” I immediately thought all of these animals ROARED, and since we were looking for a period in American history, THE ROARING TWENTIES became my tentative solution.

The problem with this, though, was what about the other long entries? Do SINGLE HOME SALES roar? How about ESPN THE MAGAZINE or SEMESTER AT SEA? I tried to convince myself that there was such a thing as “roaring sales” and that a gun’s magazine could be thought to roar, but these were long stretches of the imagination to be sure and did not offer the “click” that Matt’s metas consistently offer. The “sea” part of semester at sea definitely roars, though, so I submitted my answer half expecting to be incorrect.

The luck of the Irish was with me this week, though, as The Roaring ’20s is indeed the correct answer. Matt emailed me after my submission and told me to look at entries whose clue numbers were in the 20s, and sure enough, I started to see even more things that roared:

  • 20-Across: [Hyena or puma] – CAT. More roaring animals!
  • 21-Across: [Clapping people] – AUDIENCE. Audiences definitely roar at times, especially if they are on a laugh track.
  • 22-Across: [Word often seen in white] – STOP. As in a stop sign. You can come to a roaring stop.
  • 24-Across: SEA as mentioned above

We then move to the down clues:

  • 23-Down & 27-Down – TIGERS and LIONS, both given sports-related clues to hide their roaring a bit
  • 25-Down: [Theatrical application] – GREASEPAINT. How does this roar? Off to wikipedia my friends!
  • 26-Down: [It may purr like a kitten] – ENGINE, and it may also roar like a lion!
  • 28-Down: [Large groups] – CROWDS. The roar of the crowd is the “smell” transposed with greasepaint.
  • 29-Down: LEOPARDESS also mentioned above, this helped me a lot since it’s of a typical theme entry length

Yet again there were so many subtleties to this construction that I initially missed. I can’t even imagine how hard it must’ve been for Matt to get all these roaring entries in the 20s across and down clues. Those of you who got the meta correct, did you catch them all? Each number from 20 to 29 is covered in either an across or down clue, with no repetition.

Looking forward to another 52 weeks of mind-blowing constructions like this one from Matt!

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47 Responses to MGWCC #239

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    This one kicked my butt for two days before I finally saw the 20s entries that could all be modified with roaring. I kept thinking it had to do with animal homophones and characteristic sounds, as in brae for bray, eke for eek, moo in Omoo, and purr from the engine clue, along with zoo and speak. Which made me think it was the Roaring Twenties, but the connections were too weak, so I plowed on. Maybe that should’ve been speak(not)easy? Our resident genius led us a merry dance like flailing Flappers.
    I’d give this a 5 for the meta’s spatial inventiveness and the level of setting expertise required, but I felt some of the clueing could have benefitted from the Shortzian pencil, i.e. “Bunker buster?” for eng. In a hard puzzle the tricky clue was ok, in the sense of military sappers, but engineer is almost always abbreviated engr. Personally, I would have clued this with something like “Half of a noted couple who split up.” And hyenas aren’t felines, though they’re distantly related to the cat-like civets. Neither pumas nor hyenas roar, for that matter. It’s more of a hiss with the former and a yip with the latter. Not that they’re required to be capable of Roaring for Matt’s theme to work, since they’re only mentioned in his clue. Overall, the meta was executed with great polish, despite the large constraints.

  2. Figured it out at the last minute when looking for a good guess to submit. I noticed the “cats” theme (and that they were mostly in the down direction) but wasn’t able to make the leap for a long time.

    Also, a hyena is not a cat. Hyenas are in the suborder feliforms but not in the family felidae.

    • pannonica says:

      Figured I’d let others point out the taxonomic error this time. But just as a matter of being scrupulous, that’s “feliformes,” though the official name is Feliformia.

      addendum: I see the Wikipedia article spells the word “feliforms,” and there is some a LOT of interweb evidence to support it, but that isn’t the spelling I saw in papers and monographs. Perhaps the vulgar spellings have changed over the years.

  3. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    It took me until last night, but I did finally get it, with a full understanding of the meta. (I actually saw “The Roar of the Greasepaint . . .” on Broadway many years ago.)

    But it was the shortest entry, the CAT at 20 A, which clued me in, since the Hyena is not a cat, according to a glance at Wikipedia. Always look for the awkward entry!

    Happy New Year to all!

  4. Aaron says:

    I figured all the entries in the 20’s had to do with roaring, even though I didn’t wikipedia the ones that didn’t immediately pop to mind (“stop” and “greasepaint”), so I felt comfortable with my answer. If anything, I thought the title might’ve been too generous for a Week 4 puzzle, since if we’re talking about sounds, is there any time OTHER than the Roaring Twenties that comes to mind? (The Jazz Age, maybe?)

    Still, beautiful and impressive construction, happy to have closed out the year going for 4-for-4.

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    Bunker buster as in, there was a buster (guy, dude) named eng bunker.

  6. Dan Seidman says:

    I thought the center section was a stop sign, since, along with 22a being STOP, the title hinted at STOP as well (listen to For What It’s Worth). Of course that went nowhere.

    Very clever puzzle — too clever for me, unfortunately.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    I picked an era with all those hep cats, the JAZZ AGE.

  8. Meg says:

    I got a little excited when I found Do RE MI FA SOL LA and TI in the grid…..which of course led me nowhere. The answer finally clicked as I was falling asleep Sunday night. Sometimes an altered state of consciousness can really help.

  9. Mutman says:

    Week 4 kicks my butt again! Nice meta to close out the year, Matt. All of the sports clues had me confused (Lions, Tigers, golf, tennis, basketball perhaps all tied with ESPN?), but it was just a(n) (intentional?) red herring.

    I finally submitted The Depression, because I was depressed for not having grokked the meta.

    Looking forward to a New Year of metas!

  10. Crossword Beast says:

    Hey Matt, gotta love this week-3 echo: !


  11. *David* says:

    I spent Friday looking at the long answers and trying to make headway with what appeared to be theme fill. Last night I took an overall approach and saw all the kitties in there. I was also cued into the title of the crossword and the tentative meta solve fell into place. I then made the connection with the remainder of the fill in the 20s and knew I had it. I don’t want to call it a strategy but I seem to either find the meta in 5-10 minutes or I need to walk away from the puzzle and give it a couple of days before looking for it again.

  12. Al says:

    I kept focusing on the long down entries since the next line after “What’s that sound?” in “For What It’s Worth” is “Everybody look what’s going down”. Finally saw enough things that roared to fortunately hit upon the right answer at the last minute.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Had the same thought as you, Al (“Everybody look what’s going down”), but it didn’t get me anywhere.

  13. Jeff Chen says:

    Brilliant construction! Wow^2.

    I caught the roaring answers pretty quickly, but kept on second-guessing myself with GREASEPAINT. I kept wishing that there were some sort of enormous reference source, a web of information, shall we say, which I could have used to check this.

  14. I also noticed a (very weak) red herring of Detroit sports teams. We’ve got the LIONS and TIGERS in the grid, and the Pistons are parts of an ENGINE. But the nearest thing to the Red Wings would probably be the wingtips referenced in the clue for 46A. Of course, that line of thinking didn’t go anywhere.

  15. pannonica says:

    so… uhm… did anyone else guess PROHIBITION?

  16. Matt Gaffney says:

    149 right answers this week, high for a week four.

  17. Mutman says:

    If Matt had been adventuresome, he could have made it a 19×19 grid and tossed Nathan Lane, Ellen Degeneres, Elton John into the 90s clues and … oh never mind.

  18. Joan says:

    I think I intuited this answer more than getting it logically. Definitely needed the “sound” clue. Saw all the cats and then the “roaring” clues finally, except STOP but never noticed they were all in the number 20’s. Oh d’oh. Thought I surely missed something by not making a connection with the long answers. I think the Roar of the Greasepaint finally did it for me. Hesitantly submitted my answer. Love the puzzle now that I see I got it correct! Matt, your ingenuity never fails to impress.

  19. Scout says:

    Should have gotten it from the clue for engine since it made me start singing “Little Deuce Coupe”–“She’s got a competition clutch with four on the floor, and she purrs like a kitten till the lake pipes roar”.

  20. ===Dan says:

    The title, along with “speak” and “audience” made me think about homophony. And all those cats (including the purring engine) made me think of “The Era of Good Felines.” Error, that should have been. (I kept thinking about the roar of the greasepaint, but didn’t make the connection to the other virtual roars or the twenties. I did find an dead-end anagram to PAGENTRIES too, which was fun.
    Lots of fun!

  21. ===Dan says:

    (I even included ENG, the Siamese twin, as indirect support of my cat theme.)

  22. Scott the caddie says:

    I thought the “greasepaint” was a reference to the Detroit-based rock bank KISS, after seeing two Detroit sports teams… ESPN the magazine was founded in 1998, the year KISS got back together. The lyrics to the song “Can’t Shake It” seemed to refer to some late-90’s fads, an era when home sales also boomed. I couldn’t get anything but the late 90’s out of this puzzle. I can’t wait to see your solution explanation, Matt.

  23. Jason says:

    I was going to take a wild stab at the Roaring Twenties without knowing why, but felt guilty about taking a wild stab at the Joker last week without fully knowing why.

  24. jefe says:

    Argh! The title led me to think of the Roaring Twenties, but I couldn’t find the justification, so I didn’t submit. I was hoping there were 20 S’s , but there were only 19.

  25. Lance says:

    I figure this was a difficult puzzle to construct, probably had to be reworked several times before it all fit. You should consider my blind guess of Reconstuction as a pitiful alt answer :)

  26. David Stein says:

    I enjoyed this one. The Meta came to me in my sleep, which happens to me occasionally. What puzzled me (and still does) is the answer GEL for the clue “product.” Can someone explain that to me?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Hair gel is often called product by hair stylists.

      My turn for a question: can one of the two-star raters enlighten me (anonymously is fine) on what they didn’t like? I understood that last week some people thought THE JOKER was too obvious, but this week I haven’t heard a negative peep about the meta, neither here nor in private e-mails or submissions comments, so I’m rather mystified. Someone demystify me, please! It’s not that you didn’t like the puzzle that bothers me, it’s that I don’t know what you didn’t like about it that bothers me. TIA! I gots to know.

  27. Evad says:

    @David – a stylist might ask you if you want some “product” in your hair – it’s a synonym for gel in salons.

  28. Abide says:

    I didn’t rate the puzzle ( I rarely do) , and I totally whiffed on the meta (didn’t even guess) but aren’t there some 20s clues here that don’t roar (GEL, CHIS, LIT)? Not saying that warrants a two star, though…

  29. Howard B says:

    Impressive construction. Missing the meta only disappoints myself, but takes nothing from a fine puzzle :).
    Broke my streak here, with the STOP, GREASEPAINT and CROWDS references lost on me, since I never did connect the other themed answers to make sense of it all.
    Never did recover from the long “theme” answer red herring this time.
    Until next month…

  30. Patrick L says:

    Haven’t rated this yet – thought the meta was very clever, even though I didn’t get it. Based on the meta construction alone I’d say a 5-star rating is well deserved.

    Like Howard B I couldn’t get past the long entries. The first thing I saw was ENGLISH hiding in the first 7 letters of SINGLE HOME SALES. That led nowhere (or rather led to too many anagramming possibilities), but then I saw country codes for Singapore (SIN), Spain (ESP), Greece (GRE) and Canada (CAN) in each of the 4 longest entries. I discounted LEOPARDESS and SEMESTERAT[SEA] due to lack of symmetry. I cobbled together a lame rationale related to declaring independence and submitted American Revolution.

    The phrase SINGLE HOME SALES just had a forced quality to it. I had heard of SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES and SINGLE HOME BUYERS, but SINGLE HOME SALES sounded like it was engineered to hide a meta clue – enough for me to assume that ESPNTHEMAGAZINE was also a themer.

    I might be tempted to deduct a star or two if I feel a puzzle is unfairly difficult – but my thoughts on fairness are continually evolving. I was burned by Erik Agard’s PIZZAMARGHERITA and at the time thought that was an unfair tactic. I figured, the more elaborate and deliberately misleading the red herrings become, the more time I’ll end up losing on wild goose chases. I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time a MGWCC puzzle has used full puzzle-length red herrings?

    But maybe any red herring should be considered fair game, as long as it doesn’t click louder than the actual answer. I can’t blame Matt for trying out new ways to make these puzzles challenging, as long as there’s a satisfying correct answer – and this week there definitely was. I will admit that I’m getting tired just thinking about future wild goose chases, but the time I spend on these puzzles is ultimately my choice. I’d be curious to know what other solvers consider to be a ‘fair fight’ – is there a line? And what would be an example of crossing that line?

  31. Pete Rimkus says:

    “…unfortunately, due to holiday travel & other plans, i haven’t really had any time to work on episode #239 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, let alone blog it…”

    Will someone please talk to Joon about his priorities?

  32. Ben Bass says:

    Another impressive meta that I didn’t get. Happily, these categories are not entirely mutually exclusive.

  33. Joan says:

    Patick L: I, too, went on lots of wild goose chases. I found AMAZING hiding in ESPNTHEMAGAZINE. Where you found ‘country codes’ I found many two-letter P.O. codes for states; so I wanted to say “War Between The States” as an answer. I also found musical notes, do, re, etc. The clue “sound” led me to change MISC to MISS and GNUS to NEWS (sounds like). I saw “SPEAK” and wanted to find a “speakeasy” which would make use of the “sound” clue and let me use Prohibition as the answer. Ultimately, I let my dreams work on this one and left it alone for long periods. I don’t know if these are all ‘red herrings’ from Matt or if it’s that the clues were so well-hidden, however obvious once you know the answer. Some of these may, no doubt, be meant to deceive and lead us astray. Sometimes with a Week 4 puzzle, I just toss it aside and say, “I don’t have time to do this.” I think this one was totally fair, one more challenge being that the clues are usually written across and are long; this mixing-it-up made for different and more difficult brainwork.

  34. Amy L says:

    Great puzzle. Initially, I thought the “O” in the center of the grid was a clue. Could the answer be Space Age? I looked for confirmation of that but didn’t find it. I kept coming back to ROAR of the Greasepaint. Then I found nine other things that roar: ETNA roars when active and GNUS probably roar (if a hyena is a cat, then gnus roar). Ten roaring things x 2 makes twenty.
    So I got the answer but now that I know where the 20s come in, I appreciate the puzzle much more.

  35. Elaine says:

    Oddly enough, when I put in GREASE PAINT, I did think of that old play/musical, but I hadn’t written down the hint for the meta as I generally try to do, and nothing jumped up and took me by the ears and shook me really hard (which is about what it takes for me to cotton onto a metapuzzle…) so I have to be content with solving.
    Today is my official Holidays Are Over! Whew!!! Day.

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