MGWCC #245

crossword 3:44
meta 0:30 

hello and welcome to episode #245 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Initial Public Altering”. the instructions this week tell us that we are seeking the two grid entries which, when combined, would make an excellent fifth theme entry. well, what’s the theme?

  • {Make people address the director of “The Sixth Sense” as “sir”?} would be to KNIGHT SHYAMALAN, instead of M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN. no idea what the M stands for, or even if night is his real middle name.
  • {Famous trial lawyer who’s protected from the wind?} is ALEE BAILEY. interestingly, FLEE is already a word here, but i guess that wouldn’t quite be an initial alteration. (francis lee bailey, jr.)
  • {Backstab a 1990s presidential candidate?} is CROSS PEROT. h. ross perot. a while ago on twitter, i asked this trivia question, which will be easier now that you’re already thinking about this puzzle: what do ross perot, indiana jones, and dr. jekyll have in common?
  • {Somewhat embarrassed T.S. Eliot character?} is HALF-RED PRUFROCK. ha! this is genius. (j. alfred prufrock, and i don’t think we “know” what the J stands for.)

so it’s four people who go by a first initial, middle name, and surname; the first initial has been changed to a different letter and combined with the middle name to form a new word. who else could we do that to in the grid? well, HUBBARD is lurking at 38d, clued as {“Old Mother” of nursery rhymes}, so we just need a word that differs from L. RON only in the first letter… and there it is at 30a: {Monopoly token} IRON. so IRON HUBBARD is the answer.

but wait, you say. IRON isn’t a monopoly token at all! yes, they’ve replaced it with the cat, as of last week. my favorite media reactions to this piece of not-quite-news were this delightfully whimsical exit interview and the onion’s take, which—as is often the onion’s wont—contains some foul language.

recent MGWCC inside jokes, aside from perhaps the KNIGHT SHYAMALAN thing harkening back to the “knight moves” puzzle:

  • {Oracle of ___ (Warren Buffett nickname)} OMAHA.
  • {Network for “CSI,” “Becker” and “Survivor”} CBS.

stuff i liked in the fill:

  • {Will Smith franchise, for short} MIB. an abbreviation, sure, but one i haven’t seen in crosswords even though it’s pretty darn well-known.
  • {Doctored, like documents} FALSIFIED. ooh, fancy.
  • {Laval’s province} QUEBEC. don’t see this too often. also, can you think of a longer palindromic city than laval? i can’t. it puts ada to shame.
  • {“My life is an open book!”} “ASK AWAY!” love this.
  • {Website for the terse} TWITTER. love this too. i don’t tweet that often, but i definitely have the right kind of attention span for twitter.
  • {Frustrate} STYMIE. one of my favorite words. yesterday i ran across “stymieing” in something i was reading (can’t remember what). does that look at all right to you? i was horrified, but it seems to be right (although “stymying” is also listed).

stuff i did not like in the fill:

  • {Author Boyle and golfer Chen} TCS. plural monogram, ouch.
  • {“Look ___ leap” (original form of a common saying)} ERE YE. archaic partial, ouch.
  • {NYC bridge: var.} TRIBORO. variant spelling of a proper noun, ouch.
  • {Surrounded by water} ENISLED. word nobody ever uses, ouch.

in fairness, ERE YE/ENISLED were in the region where stealth theme answer HUBBARD crossed overt theme answer HALF-RED PRUFROCK, and it was an open 3×7 corner to boot. so the constraints were pretty tight down there. looking at it that way, the squeaky-clean opposite corner (the NE) is nearly miraculous.

that’s all i have to say about this one. what’d you think?

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25 Responses to MGWCC #245

  1. klew archer says:

    Really enjoyed this theme. Told Matt I wished the meta could have been B(EA)ARTHUR RANK. Too bad about the IRON token.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Like Joon, I also noticed Matt seemed to be taking a nostalgic (Knight’s?) tour of some recent meta hits in the NE, with Salieri from the anagram of Israeli, Omaha from Oracle of, and Iron from Let’s Run those Numbers. If you recall, Iron was element 26, helping to spell Archimedes. For me, this last puzzle should certainly have made the Orcas list along with Just my Type and At the Present Time. While the other two are well worthy of their nominations, I found Let’s Run those Numbers to require the highest level of composing skill.

    I don’t know how many of the group enjoy cryptics, but there’s a broad overlap with the skills set for solving metas. I mention this because I ran across two sterling & lit. clues in the same puzzle last night. The setter was unattributed, since it was in a collection of Jumbos from the London Times, but I suspect Don Manley. THey were: Runs through some men? (7) Lines on beloved about love? (6) I’ll gladly provide answers and explanations — please ask with a response below.

    • klew archer says:

      Interesting you say that about cryptics, as I am reasonably good at US-style cryptics but not that good at UK-style or metas. Wonder what others will say?

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I think there are two reasons relatively few Americans tackle British cryptics. One, you have to do them for a while before you become familiar with the references and abbreviations. Two, the difficulty of the cluing is generally set at a much higher level. For instance, I enjoy the flawless technique with with Cox and Rathvon construct their specialty puzzles, but like most American cryptics, the clues are so simplistic I usually complete all but a few before I fit them into the grid.

        • Paul Coulter says:

          Here are some vowels for the & lit. cryptic clues, as DannyBoy requested:
          Runs through some men? (7) _I_ _ _ E _
          Lines on beloved about love? (6) _O_ _ _ _

          • Paul Coulter says:

            Here are the answers to these &lit. clues:

            Runs through some men? (7) PIE(R)CES &lit.
            Lines on beloved about love? (6) P(O)ET+RY &lit.

            The first is quite straitforward, being a reasonable definition of pierces, along with R for runs contained
            in (game) pieces. The second might be trickier for Americans. Lines refers to the rail system, which is
            railway (RY) in Britain rather than railroad (RR) in the US. And love, meaning zero, is contained in pet,
            meaning dear. The whole thing paints a lovely picture of one kind of poetry. By convention, the ? in British
            cryptics can represent “for instance,” as well as offbeat definitions.

          • Christopher Jablonski says:


            I solved the first one thinking it was a double definition. PIERCES means runs through, and some men’s names are PIERCES. But this &lit stuff makes my head spin.

            R to represent “runs” seems incredibly arbitrary. This is why I sometimes hate cryptics.

          • Andy says:

            “R to represent “runs” seems incredibly arbitrary.”

            Think baseball (or more likely, cricket).

  3. Wayne says:

    Let me be the first to say it: Accurately following directions is part of the game. “L. Ron Hubbard” is not an acceptable answer.

    (And “hey you kids, get out of my yard”. And other things that curmudgeons say.)

  4. Matt says:

    590 right answers this week, a Week 2 record.

  5. pannonica says:

    TRIBORO is barely a variant for the bridge name – it’s the way it appears on all the road signs, unless they’ve gone and changed them to reflect the “new” “official” name, Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Bridge – so I wouldn’t say it’s impugnable.

    • joon says:

      okay, good point. perhaps if the clue had been {NYC bridge, informally} then i wouldn’t have batted an eye.

    • Debbie says:

      Agreed with pannonica, nearly everyone spells it Triboro (because we’re lazy New Yorkers? Not sure). Though I suppose it’s technically a variance of Triborough, no one actually uses the full spelling.

      No one I know calls it the RFK Bridge – too new, and people hate change, especially when it comes to proper nouns.

    • klew archer says:

      Insisting on the terminal -UGH does seem a little schoolmarmish, similar to insisting Staten Island be called “Richmond.” Although I see that they finally changed that in 1975.

  6. DannyBoy says:

    Sorry, I meant to post this in Paul Coulter’s queue, but they’re not making it easy to delete… I agree about American style cryptics. They’re either ridiculously easy or they have many unsound clues and I don’t often bother with them. As a native Dubliner, I much prefer the Times, Guardian, and Independent puzzles that I can do online. I’ve cracked your first clue, still working on the second. I’d appreciate another hour before you post the answer. Wouldn’t mind a letter, though. Maybe just a vowel, please.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I stopped doing American cryptics for exactly the reasons you say (either too easy or too clumsily written). But I also cannot really do the British ones because as an American I lack the cultural fluency. The sad result is that I do no cryptics anymore.

  7. Joan says:

    Respectfully, there are a lot of words nobody ever uses in real life that appear in crossword puzzles. “Triboro” is not one of them; it’s a common alternate spelling. “Enisled” seems to appear often enough. As long as we can abbreviate Personal Computers, and pluralize it to PCS, there’s nothing wrong with TCS. In short, I liked all Matt’s fill and thought “ere ye” was especially cute and original, although quaint.

  8. *David* says:

    Kanakanak is I believe the longest geographical palindrome and is a neighborhood in a city in Alaska.

  9. HH says:

    ■{Author Boyle and golfer Chen} TCS. plural monogram, ouch.
    ■{“Look ___ leap” (original form of a common saying)} ERE YE. archaic partial, ouch.

    I often strive to put things like these in my puzzles. When all the answers are “normal”, solvers get complacent.

  10. ant says:

    paul @ 6:41p
    FU – and I mean that in the kindest way.
    I would actually love for Matt throw in a cryptic twist in a future puzzle (a week 4 or 5, perhaps?).

    I am, however, surprised that not one of the regular blog contributors offered up a “clue” for the new theme entry. I expected at least a few “Wrinkle Out a Scientologist?” type of comment…but I guess the Gaffney Inversion Principle is in full force and effect…

    • Joan says:

      I sent in to Matt, along with my answer, something like “Take the wrinkles out of an old lady.” Or maybe it was “an old lady’s dress.”

    • CY Hollander says:

      At the risk of sounding ignorant: what, prithee, is the Gaffney Inversion Principle?

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