MGWCC #242

crossword 4:54
meta about 2 minutes (to, um, get it wrong…) 

hello and welcome to episode #242 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Company Time”. i had a strange experience with this one, since it was the weekend of the MIT mystery hunt, which, uh, as you may have heard, ran a bit long. so there’s that. matt did graciously give us an extra day, which i appreciate because it is now wednesday at midnight and i haven’t had time to devote to blogging the puzzle until now.

in an interesting twist, i did this puzzle before mystery hunt. there was a slight technical problem with the beginning of hunt, so the puzzles were unlocked at 2 pm instead of 1:30. having an extra few minutes to kill with nothing to solve, i decided to try to take an early crack at the MGWCC, which came with these instructions: This week’s contest answer is a well-known company with six letters in its name. okay, so what were the theme answers?

  • {Best completely avoided} NOTHING BUT TROUBLE.
  • {TV show set in an alley} BOWLING FOR DOLLARS.
  • {Caribbean nation whose capital is St. John’s} ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA.
  • {Chain of about 2,100 hotels} HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS.
  • {Conductor who has sold over 200 million records} HERBERT VON KARAJAN.

note, first of all, that these are all 17 letters long, necessitating an oversized 17×17 grid. i feel like maybe matt did that quite recently, no? in fact, it might well have been last week, but i have looked at literally hundreds of other puzzles over the last few days, confounding the issue. not to mention my brain is still pretty useless after the hunt, so you’ll have to excuse me if my normally encyclopedic memory is MIA this week.

so anyway, what’s the theme? these people and things have nothing in common, really, except for their enumerations: each one is 7, 3, 7. does that suggest a famous six-letter company? why, yes it does: boeing, which makes the 737 aircraft, not to mention the recently grounded 787 (link contains one indelicate word). i was very pleased to have solved and submitted this 10 minutes before the mystery hunt began in earnest.

… that is, until i realized that what i had entered into the answer box on the submission form was “737” rather than “boeing”. um, oops? at least i didn’t break any kind of streak to speak of, since i had punted the last MGWCC of 2012.

quick notes on the rest of the puzzle:

i don’t believe i have ever constructed a 17×17, so i don’t really know how constrained it is by five grid-spanning themers. but the fill in this one felt pretty uneven, much less clean than the last 17x we saw from matt. at one point i entered four consecutive answers of GHI, ULU, ONA, and EEC. didn’t know the {Italian vermouth often seen on cafe table umbrellas} CINZANO or {Country singer Morgan} LORRIE. i don’t mind {Utah metropolis, casually} SLC even though i don’t remember seeing it in a grid before, but i do think it’s a dupe that SALT is also in the grid, despite the MGWCC in-joke clue {Great ___ March (event led by Mahatma Gandhi)}.

oh well. i definitely didn’t bring my own A game this week, so who am i to complain? but i expect next week’s puzzle will be better.

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53 Responses to MGWCC #242

  1. Matt says:

    250 correct entries out of 307 total this week.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    You might expect another curmudgeonly rant that this was too simplistic, inducing hours of hair-tearing in a fruitless search for something more… Nope. I liked it. I did spend hours looking for a secondary pattern, while muttering, “There’s not one *@!#& thing in common except the word lengths.” My granddaughter finally said, “But Poppy, that’s a pattern, isn’t it?” Aha! – out of the mouths of babes. For those of us who enjoy hair-tearing, this meta fit the bill. The absence of any other pattern DOES constitute a pattern. If Pete M. had set this, we might have seen the themers Allegro con Spirito, Country and Western, Ringing the Changes, uh… Ashford and Simpson, uh… help me out here, guys.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    I wrote 7-3-7 next to each of the theme answers on my solution and still never clued in. Grounded.

  4. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Based on the number of correct solvers listed on the MGWCC leaderboard, I feel like I was the only person on the planet not to grok this meta. Strangely, Boeing was one of the few six-letter company names I could think of offhand, but I couldn’t link it to the answers in the grid and didn’t send it in.

    One thing I did notice, quite useless, of course, was that the first few letters of all five theme answers could take a first name and become a well known person: Chris NOTH, Clara BOW, Adam ANT, Billie HOLIDAY, and Frank HERBERT.

    Of course, the mis-direct with the word “Time” in the title didn’t help either!

  5. bananarchy says:

    Submitted BOEING because it was the only thing that made any sort of sense, but I assumed I had missed something. Mostly it was the “time” in the title that sent me on a wild goose chase.

  6. Karen says:

    Whew! I was worried when I didn’t see my name on the leaderboard (is there anyway to make that searchable?) but I must have looked at the wrong time. Mr. von Karajan is new to me (but I like the name.)

    I’m missing the in-joke re the Salt March.

    • Matthew G. says:

      {Salt March leader} was used in a recent MGWCC to clue GANDHI, which also turned out to be that week’s meta answer.

    • pannonica says:

      I can search those little boxes in Chrome. A little amber bar appears along the scroll margin, a miniature version of how it works on a webpage.

  7. bananarchy says:

    @Karen: I’m not aware of a search function built into the site, but you can press CTRL+F (Command+F on a Mac) in your browser to search the text of any webpage. That’s how I find my name on the leaderboard. Note that it will only search the leaderboard page that you are viewing (“This Week”, “Streaks”, or “Overall”)

  8. wobbith says:

    “with six letters in its name” led me to think that the company must have a name with non-letter character. Yahoo! came to mind immediately, but that’s already been a meta answer. “Company Time” – 7-Eleven! Six letters, and the name refers to the original hours of operation, so time.
    Saw the 7-3-7 pattern and thought of Boeing, but spent waay too much time trying to find support for 7-Eleven. Overthink much? Sent Boeing at the last minute, certain that I’d missed something.

    Beautiful BEA Arthur is another MGWCC in-joke (#231 & 241).
    44 down, ADAMS could have been one too, if clued as “Number 6 of 44” instead of “Number 2 of 44” (#229)

    • Bob Kerfuffle says:

      “With six letters in its name” also led me down another blind alley. There is a name for this — which I can’t recall — of taking letters any number of times from one word or group of letters, which bring one to answer, “How many letters are there in “Mississippi”? as “Four.” (I.e., M, I, S, P.)

  9. abide says:

    Spent 2 days trying to find a connection with no luck. When I saw some of the people on the “correct answer” board, that gave me enough encouragement to keep going and find the 3 letter word in the middle. I spent a good bit of time trying to find something phonetically (but-for-and…Bufferin?) until i noticed, after 3 days, the 17 x 17 and 7-3-7.

  10. Doug says:

    @Karen – Click on “Name” in the Leaderboard box, and it’ll alphabetize the list.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    I think this is one of those metas that I liked better than solvers. I thought it was a cool idea to convey the necessary information merely via the theme entries’ enumerations, but some solvers thought it wasn’t enough of a click. My thought process was: the salient feature of the five theme entries is their 7-3-7 letter pattern, and the Boeing 737 is one of the most famous products of all time.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      I loved it. I spent an hour searching through SEC listings of companies, thinking to myself, “What company fits that same 7-3-7 pattern?” And then slapped myself when I glanced at the Seattle Times headlines…

      • Matthew G. says:

        I loved it too. I was solving it at a weekend ski house in Vermont, explaining how Gaffney metas work to a few friends who are crossword fans but not yet MGWCC-initiated. I did my thinking aloud to show them how I start thinking about a meta, and I suddenly hit upon the answer after I had mentioned that all the long acrosses were 7-3-7 and written that in the margin. They were (un?)duly impressed with me.

      • Elaine says:

        Jeff, that can cause brain damage. No more head slaps!

    • bwouns says:

      Not being an airplane enthusiast, the only Boeing product I consider super familiar (referenced frequently in popular culture) is the 747, which is why I doubted my answer; assuming if Boeing was indeed correct you would have went with that one. I rationalized it, by assuming an 18×18 grid would have been too difficult to construct with these constraints.

    • jefe says:

      The meta was all right, but it didn’t feel like a Week 3 in terms of difficulty (plus, the title was misleading).
      It might’ve been better as a Week 2 with a more direct hint, like “The answer is a company in the aviation industry.”

  12. Todd dashoff says:

    Like many others, I twigged to Boeing reasonably quickly, but kept trying for something “more elegant” for week three. Also, tried to link the “on and on” answer in the middle to the others, since it also had three letters in the middle word and connected two of the five long answers; thus six clues in all.

  13. Cuse says:

    Even after noticing the 7-3-7 pattern nothing immediately clicked, therefore I continued to search for another connection. NOTHING BUT TROUBLE is a Movie, BOWLING FOR DOLLARS was a Game show, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA is an Island nation, HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS provides Lodging, and HERBERT VON KARAJAN was an Austrian. Using the first letters, I unscrambled GMAIL, thus assuming GOOGLE was the well-known company. I even confirmed my answer, so I thought, from 34d ON AND ON, which I assumed was an extra nudge toward GOOGLE by referencing the mathmatical enormity of a google.

  14. KJ says:

    Am I the only one to submit Johnson & Johnson? It fits the 7-3-7 pattern, and spelling it requires just six letters/characters (some repeated, and counting the ampersand as a letter/character). It was admittedly a stretch to call a character a letter, but once I latched onto it, I couldn’t let go of it!

  15. Jim Schooler says:

    I did notice the 7-3-7 pattern and thought of one of my favorite mixed drinks “7 and 7”, hesitated for a day, then realized that “Seagrams” has only 6 unrepeated letters and enthusiastically sent that in, but later did not see my moniker on the leaderboard. Ugh!. Then yesterday I rethought the 7-3-7, and immediately thought of Boeing, the manufacturer of the stalwart of many airline fleets around the world, and re-sent “Boeing,” which apparently was not accepted.

  16. Flinty Steve says:

    I took the “Time” in “Company Time” to mean that I should pronounce 7-3-7 as 7:37, which was the moment when Boeing clicked for me!

    • This is me. Flailing about this morning (Wednesday), I looked at the title again and thought to myself: “Okay, does a company have any relationship to the time seven thirty-seven? Seven … thirty-seven. Aggggggh.” I had been saying seven-three-seven since Friday, whenever I had a moment to ponder the puzzle.

  17. Mutman says:

    I too liked this meta. I immediately picked up on the 7-3-7 but it took me two more days to see it as 737, and thus Boeing.

    Since I live in SE Pennsylvania and grew up a few miles from the helicopter plant, I would have felt shame had I missed it.

    Nice work Matt — I have renewed confidence for week 4!

  18. Cole says:

    Saw 737 and thought BOEING very early on but assumed I must be missing something particularly the TIME reference in the title and never ended up submitting.

  19. lhj says:

    I got stuck on Johnson and/& Johnson too but decided that it wasn’t “fair” to count the & as three characters to fit the pattern but only one to fit the 6 letters – and Matt is always fair, right?

    So I went a completely different route. I took the middle entry to make “noon” (on and on) because of “time” in the puzzle title. Then I looked at where the hands of a clock are at noon and got “guns” (snug backwards) and tried to find a 7,3,7 gun manufacturer. Couldn’t find one (and never made the Boeing connection either.)

  20. Bob says:

    Thats what I did. I saw Boeing immediately and spent the next three days saying CURSEing trying to find something better. I finally gave up and sent in Boeing with an “oh well”. I was pretty surprised to see my name s little later.

  21. Norm says:

    Matt, re your 2:03 comment/question, maybe it comes from all those years of having to “show your work” as well as the answer? have to admit it feels weird to me to send in answer when i know i haven’t really solved the meta. for example, was pretty sure it had to be THE JOKER the other week, but I only had the across/down and never saw the diagonals, so i didn’t want to submit it. Maybe I’ll change my username to “just call me quirky” if it’s not taken. ;-)

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      My view on that is that it’s my job to guard against guessing, not the solver’s to forgo a guess. So if you get around whatever anti-guessing measures I’ve taken, by sheer luck or by getting part of the way to the meta, then full credit.

  22. joecab says:

    A number of us on Joon’s MIT Mystery Hunt team were diligently working on this week’s MGWCC Friday while waiting for the (delayed) start of the hunt to take off.

  23. Chris P. says:

    I really enjoyed this one. I found the solution to be quite elegant in its simplicity.

  24. Aerion says:

    Yep, we had a couple people on our team attempting this puzzle during the Technical Difficulties at Mystery Hunt, too. Didn’t solve it before the puzzles were released, then took another look on Monday before flying back home.

    I’d like to think that if JetBlue had 737s instsead of A320s, I might have figured it out. … At least my previous long streak had already been broken by the Roaring Twenties puzzle, so this one didn’t do so much damage.

  25. Noam D. Elkies says:

    What a wasted opportunity to have both KISSIN and HERBERT VON KARAJAN(!) in the same puzzle and not clue the former via pianist Evgeny!

    Here’s one Ev.K./HvK collaboration.


  26. Howard B says:

    This one took me a loooong time to land. I managed to overthink this one several different ways despite noticing the 17×17 size, without stopping to ponder, “Why would Matt take the time to write a larger puzzle?” Once I cleared my head and focused on the 17s, the answer became clearer.

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