MGWCC #264

crossword 5:51
meta DNF, not even close 

hello there and welcome to episode #264 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “AV Club”. i think i’m officially in a slump. after nearly striking out on last week’s offering, i am once again stumped this week. and it’s only week 3! what’s going on? well, matt challenges us to name a famous fictional character. what are the theme answers?

  • {“Please Read the Letter” singer, with Robert Plant (A)} ALISON KRAUSS.
  • {“The Hurt Locker” director (A)} KATHRYN BIGELOW.
  • {Dorothy Zbornak portrayer (A)} BEA ARTHUR.
  • {Noted Don Giovanni (V)} EZIO PINZA.
  • {She sang at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939 (V)} MARIAN ANDERSON.
  • {First singer to sell a million recordings (V)} ENRICO CARUSO.

okay. so that’s six famous performers: our three A’s are a bluegrass/country musician, a filmmaker, and an actress; our three V’s are all opera singers. what to do with them? i have no idea.

one thing that probably does not relate to the meta: there’s a genuinely ambiguous square at the crossing of 13d {Tinkering Tesla} with 21a {Holy image}. is it NIKOLA/IKON or NICOLA/ICON? tesla’s name can be transliterated either way, and IKON is an acceptable variant spelling of ICON in this sense. (i don’t think it can be used to mean the computer image sense of ICON, or at least, i’ve never seen it used that way.) i’ve seen NIKOLA quite a bit more than NICOLA, so i went with the K. but it was a strange experience.

back to the meta. normally AV club would suggest audio/visual, but the three opera singers are V, not A. and of course, krauss is a musician too. the three A’s are all notable award winners: krauss has the most grammies of any living performer (and second-most of any individual behind only sir georg solti), bigelow was the first woman to win the oscar for best director, and arthur has a couple of emmys and also a tony. so maybe A is for award? i dunno.

what about V? well, they’re all singers, so that suggests voice? maybe? pinza was a bass, anderson a contralto, and caruso a tenor. that’s it, then! just put together grammy oscar emmy bass contralto tenor to get the famous fictional character GOEBCT. easy money!

okay, seriously though. let’s play with the audio/visual idea for a bit. perhaps A has to do with how the name sounds, and V with how it looks? uh…? i might be more convinced of that if there were six apparently unconnected names, but the fact that all three V’s are opera singers is definitely suggesting something (and, somewhat less strongly, the fact that the three A’s are all entertainers also suggests something). the other problem, of course, is that i don’t even see where to go with this reasoning. BEA ARTHUR sounds like it might suggest a B, but neither ALISON KRAUSS nor KATHRYN BIGELOW sounds like much of anything.

casting about desperately now… A sort of looks like an up arrow and V like a down arrow. and all the A’s are in the top half of the grid, and the V’s on the bottom. but i don’t know what to do with this.

okay, i’m going to bed now. perhaps inspiration will strike in the morning, but i doubt it. i’m well and truly addled here.

and i’m back, having slept but without any particular flash of insight. um. deuce bigalow? king arthur? those are both playing cards. does that help?

yeah, i’ve got nothing. let me know in the comments what’s going on here.

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119 Responses to MGWCC #264

  1. ICDogg says:

    The three “A” clues (it turns out “A” refers to “award”) feature a Grammy winner, an Oscar winner, and an Emmy winner. What’s missing is a Tony. The three “V” clues (it turns out “V” refers to “voice”) are a bass, an alto, and a tenor. What’s missing is a Soprano.

    Tony Soprano.

    Very timely.

    • Neville says:

      If you say so! Congrats on figuring this one out; I was completely at sea.

    • Pete Rimkus says:

      Why would “Tony” necessarily be the missing choice among Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy? Lots of different awards out there…
      And, according to Wikipedia (so it’s gotta be true!) Bea Arthur won a Tony in 1966 for her role in Mame.

      • ICDogg says:

        Google “four major entertainment awards” and those are the ones you will generally find. They even use an abbreviation somewhat commonly – EGOT – to refer to the few that have won all four of these awards.

        As to the other question, see David Bael’s comment below.

    • joon says:

      ouch. i actually did get kind of close, then, but it really really didn’t help me to learn, this weekend and entirely by coincidence, that bea arthur won a tony for best actress in a musical.

    • Mark N says:

      Bea Arthur is a Tony winner too. 1966 Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Mame.

      • David Bael says:

        Yes, but the clue specifically referred to her role as Dorothy Zbornak, for which she won the Emmy. The other two award recipients were also clued by what they won the award for. So, I don’t think it negates any of the elegance of this puzzle that she also won a Tony.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Thank you, David. OK, somehow I missed that Bea Arthur won a Tony. Puzzle was written quickly for obvious reasons. If this seriously impeded anyone from getting TONY SOPRANO, then e-mail me for full credit. I don’t see how it could have.

          • CY Hollander says:

            I wouldn’t go so far as to say that without Bea Arthur’s Tony, I would necessarily have got this one (and I’m not asking for credit), but I will say that her Tony threw me off the right track. My thought process went something like this:

            Hmm, the A’s all seem have to have won awards for the things mentioned in the clues…maybe A is for “award”? Let’s see, Krauss won a Grammy for that song/album…actually they won several, and the singer herself has won a lot more… The Hurt Locker won Best Director, Best Picture, and a bunch more Academy Awards… are all of these things multiple-award winners?

            Bea Arthur won an Emmy for that role…so one Grammy, one Oscar, and one Emmy: is there a theme here? And what about the “multiple” thing? Well, she did win another Emmy, and a Tony, too…hmm, this pattern doesn’t seem to be amounting to much…

        • Andy says:

          It certainly negates *some* of the elegance, especially since Krauss has won Grammys (Grammies?) for a lot more than just her album with Robert Plant.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            So you expected me to list all 28 things she’s won a Grammy for, or to use someone who’s won exactly 1 Grammy?

            Come on.

          • CY Hollander says:

            Yes, that did add to the confusion for me, I think. Not clear whether only the things mentioned in the clues were important or also other awards from the people’s careers, and, if the latter, whether Arthur’s Tony counted.

            @Matt: I wouldn’t expect you to list all 28 things she’d won or to choose someone who’d won exactly one Grammy, but it would have been clearer had you chosen someone with multiple Emmy’s and no other major awards instead of Bea Arthur. Edie Falco might have worked nicely (3 Emmy’s vs 2 of Arthur’s, 0 others, vs. 1, and fits in the same number of boxes in the grid [as usual, the fount of my knowledge is Wikipedia]).

          • Andy says:


            Of course not! But, IMO, it weakens the argument that Arthur’s Tony can be “ignored” since it wasn’t directly clued.


            Edie Falco would be a bit too on-the-nose as a replacement, don’t you think?

    • Debbie says:

      Aha! I was sitting there wondering what the A/V portion of it meant…

      It’s funny because while talking out what AV could mean other than Audio Visual, I said Voice out loud and that’s what got me to Soprano and thus, the answer (since, as you mentioned, it was so timely). And even though I clearly had to know the top portion had to do with awards, somehow I never put 2 and 2 together to make A = Award. Doh.

      Out of curiosity, how many times has a Golden Girl been in the MGWCC grid? I feel like I see them a lot…

      • HH says:

        Matt, as you continue to create crosswords you will soon learn that many of the audience members are wa-a-a-a-a-a-ay too picky. The only joy I still get in this business comes from telling them to STFU.

  2. bananarchy says:

    Was bummed to not get a week 3, but was happy to see that I used pretty much the exact line of reasoning as Joon (which, of course, would usually be a good thing).

  3. Tyler says:

    “Not even close”? You got a hell of a lot closer than I did.

    I thought A and V served more to hinder than to help; I wanted the words to be related. I feel like I would have had a much better chance if they were just labeled A and B or 1 and 2.

    Adios perfecto (which is kinda crap to begin with since I got obscenely lucky in March and screwed up many of these before the scoreboard was put in, but hey).

  4. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    So it had nothing to do with NEO being dead center in the grid? (Did not submit, since obviously nothing supports this answer.)

    If only I could remember Matt’s “What’s missing from this list?” technique. Or if only I knew the facts about all the answer people!

    • Garrett says:

      I don’t know about that, Bob. If you look at Marian Anderson and drop the vowels out of the first name you have Mr. Anderson.

      Neo: You can’t scare me with this Gestapo crap. I know my rights. I want my phone call.

      Agent Smith: Tell me, Mr. Anderson… what good is a phone call… if you’re unable to speak?

  5. neil B says:

    I second the wow. got nowhere and was a choice to guess an AV name which I knew would be wrong. Chose Ace Ventura over Art Vandelay

  6. Evan says:

    Completely stumped here too. I also thought of the A = Up arrow and V = Down arrow angle. Got nothing when I tried making sense of the letters directly above and below the A’s in each theme entry.

    I figured that the answer had to be something to do with sounding out one of the syllables from the (A)udio answers and looking at some combination of the V(isual) answers. Like, the (A)’s give you the first name the (V)’s give you the last name. But I had no idea what to do with that.

    Now looking at the explanation. Wow.

  7. Dan Katz says:

    Bea Arthur won a Tony, and while I realize she didn’t win it for the performance referenced in the clue (which makes it inconsistent with the other clues), I’m still leaning toward “not cool.”

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Why? She didn’t win it for Dorothy Zbornak, and there’s no famous character named “Emmy Soprano.”

      • Ken / Cazique says:

        Because the list isn’t actually missing a Tony winner.

        (Not sour grapes, since I wasn’t anywhere near this idea, which is actually an OUTSTANDING meta mechanism except for the above flaw).

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          I see the point, but there’s no way to see what’s going on and not enter Tony Soprano because Bea Arthur won a Tony for a role not mentioned. There’s no Emmy Soprano. If anyone really did see what’s going on and not enter Tony Soprano because of Bea Arthur’s Tony Award, then please e-mail me for full credit.

          • Ken / Cazique says:

            I did not think about the mention of the role rather than just the actress pointing specifically to the Emmy. I still think it’s a flaw, if less of one. And just to reiterate that had nothing to do with my not solving it (and was a great meta mechanic)

          • joon says:

            it’s more complicated than that, isn’t it? the fact that all four major awards are represented may well have prevented me from even seeing the entire “which one is missing” mechanic of the theme. obviously it never occurred to me, and equally obviously, i can’t explain the specific reason it never occurred to me.

            that said, i think ultimately it’s defensible because each of the (A) clues pointed to a specific award. but i agree with ken that it’s a flaw.

          • Dan Katz says:

            I agree with Ken and Joon in that the puzzle is consistent based on cluing (as I stated in my original comment), but it’s definitely flawed. I spent a lot of time looking at the Wikipedia pages for Arthur, Bigelow, and Krauss, and if each of them had won exactly one major award, I think it *might* have stood out. But with the Tony for Mame prominently featured on Bea’s page, I don’t think it ever would have for me.

            I’m not saying I would have solved the puzzle if this issue hadn’t been present, and so I’m certainly not asking for credit. But I think it’s a nontrivial barrier to solving, and that’s why I find the puzzle disappointing.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Dan Katz — so you did or did not make the connection to the awards at all, that (A) stood for “award”? If that’s the case, then you weren’t going to get the meta no matter what.

            What I’m looking for is the person who saw the awards idea and was dissuaded from submitting TONY SOPRANO because Bea Arthur won a Tony. I’ve already offered full credit to any such person. If you didn’t get the meta because you didn’t see the awards idea at all, then you weren’t going to get it anyway.

          • CY Hollander says:

            I think you’re oversimplifying the solver’s thought process, Matt: yes, if someone’d already considered “Tony Soprano” as a candidate solution, it’s unlikely that he’d be dissuaded from submitting it because of Bea Arthur’s Tony, but her Tony means that a crucial signpost on the way to finding that solution is obscured (rather heavily, IMHO). I agree with joon and the others that 1) this meta did not cross into “critically flawed” territory (i.e. it’s fair to expect a really skilled solver to get it anyway), but 2) it was nonetheless flawed.

          • Dan Katz says:

            Thank you, CY. We’re in total agreement.

            There is a large range of quality between solvable and elegant. I think it’s reasonable to discuss where puzzles fall within that spectrum; it’s not just about whether people should have gotten “credit.”

      • Debbie says:

        FWIW, I got the Soprano half first, and my mind instantly leaped to Tony Soprano. From there, it was just a matter of making the top half work and I quickly paired off Bigelow-Oscar, Krauss-Grammy, Arthur-Emmy.

        I don’t think Bea Arthur’s Tony made a difference to me since she’s more well known for her television appearances, but maybe I’m just too young to remember her theatre days.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Well, Enrico Caruso also won a posthumous Grammy, and Alison Krauss is apparently a soprano. I suppose I needed to find a Grammy winner who was not a bass, tenor, alto or soprano.

          • abide says:

            Now that’s funny!

          • ICDogg says:

            Would have to be an instrumentalist. Or maybe a rapper.

          • Debbie says:

            Matt, I hope you didn’t read this as criticism, I was trying to say that I was completely unaware of Bea Arthur’s Tony, that finding Soprano was enough for me to figure it out from there, and that I don’t think Tony should have thrown anyone off since she is more well known for TV (–>Emmy).

            Personally I really enjoyed the puzzle and this was the first week 3 I’ve gotten in a long time!

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Sorry, I’m feeling a little like Nathan Thurm in this discussion.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    55 right answers this week. ICDogg explained the idea correctly above.

    Joon, you were so close! You had the A/V meanings nailed.

  9. abide says:

    Well, I learned a lot about opera!

  10. Blanche says:

    Pretty obscure, even to this retired operatic soprano. Kudos to everyone who got this one!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Tony Soprano is obscure?

      • Blanche says:

        Not obscure, but also not a singer.

      • Alex Bourzutschky says:

        I’ve never been a television-watcher or a filmgoer, so Tony Soprano is quite obscure to me. To be fair, crosswords use actors, actresses, and screen characters so often that this is a major handicap.

        This puzzle was, however, a wonderful one. I did notice the omission of a soprano, but my mind did not jump from that to The Sopranos for the reason above. (Nor, of course, did I know that there were exactly 4 great awards in that area.)

  11. Paul Coulter says:

    Very tough meta – ouch! Do I feel a bit testy now? Not really, but definitely not too swift. I’d love to hear from our brilliant friends who cracked this, detailing their approach to analyzing such an opaque challenge. Its remarkably impressive how our leaders solve Matt’s most impenetrable tests time after time. As a biologist my first thought was Artery and Vein, but I knew Matt wouldn’t rely on such specialized knowledge. I stuck mostly to straight Audio Visual routes, this being Week 3.
    I actually thought I might have something with Bass, Alto, Tenor, but I never took the next leap of the missing Soprano, and had it as BAT. Then I couldn’t make it work out with Grammy, Oscar, Emmy. I noted that Bea Arthur had also won the Tony, but didn’t think of it as a missing element, either. The meta is sublime, of course, and I have no problem with the TONY’s fairness, but one slight quibble is that Marian Anderson was really a contra-alto. A few facts I learned along the way – the 3 classical singers are all stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but none of the first 3 are. Carafes were marked A and V in the medieval period, for Aqua and Vinum. Decorative items during England’s Victorian era were often inscribed AV, for Albert and Victoria. And there are two kinds of strabismus (squinting) patterns, A and V for how the eyeballs orient… which is how I felt after staring at this all weekend. CURSE YOU, GAFFNEY – foiled again.

    • Bob J says:

      I was thrown momentarily by the fact that the initials of the first three theme entries are circular (AK to KB to BA and back), so I’m glad I gave up on finding any meaning in that. [Matt – coincidence, or intentional red herring?] With the low number of correct solutions by Sunday I gave up trying to think of a fictional character with initials A.V. (Art Vandelay?) After putting this down while half-awake Monday night and re-reading a story on James Gandolfini I finally had the “D’oh!” moment – how many times have I heard the word ‘soprano’ in the past week? I think the fact that Bea Arthur also won a Tony drops the consistency from 100% to 95% at worst, so no complaints from me, particularly given the timing of this puzzle. Thanks Matt!

    • wobbith says:

      The first thing I noticed was that all 6 were winners of at least one of the four major awards. Pinza won a Tony for South Pacific, Anderson and Caruso both were awarded lifetime achievement Grammys. So I was stuck on that for a while.
      Also pondered the AK-KB-BA thing, the lack of a V in the grid, and HUR at 7 down with BEAARTHUR made me wonder if the meta was something like last week’s.
      Finally decided that the As were most notable as awards winners, and the Vs as opera singers, so though it seemed improbable, A=Award and V=Voice. But which award for Bea Arthur, and which voice for Anderson? Spent, okay, hours, trying to make something out some combination of G-O-E or T-B-C or A-T.
      Finally went back and read the clues, and it became blazingly apparent to me that the award Matt was referring to for Bea Arthur was the Emmy (and I totally disagree that this tainted the puzzle in any way – I simply read the clue again, and had perfectly fine “aha!”). Took a brain break. Came back, looked at the list of 3 awards and wrote down “Tony”.
      Looked at the list of voices and had my second Aha!/du’h! moment in 2 weeks.

  12. Justin Weinbaum says:

    This was totally fair… nice meta Matt.

  13. Evad says:

    I sort of followed joon’s reasoning on the audio and visual thing after noticing the first three names had an unpronounced letter (the second S of KRAUSS, the W of BIGELOW and the A of BEA). But I struggled to bring that idea to the Vs–I reasoned that I was looking for names that had a letter that was pronounced and not seen (the opposite of the top 3). I read somewhere that EZIO is pronounced “et-sio” and figured there was my T. That left the last two and I back-solved from WATSON that the N went with MARIAN (maybe pronounced “mary-ann”?) and the O from ENRICO or CARUSO, which both ended in an O, which was a bit promising.

    I join Tyler in the “lost-my-streak-this-week” camp. Good company to say the least!

  14. BrainBoggler says:

    Didn’t solve this one, but I saw a small (most likely, coincidental) connection — 23-a BAT gives the order of voice parts — Bass, (contra)Alto, Tenor — of the singers. Just didn’t think to do anything with Soprano and hadn’t/wouldn’t have made any connection to Awards for the A’s. Still a great puzzle.

  15. Eric Prestemon says:

    I think Bea Arthur having won a Tony is a small concern, but Marian Anderson not being an Alto is a bigger one. (“Alto” seems to be a singing part, not a voice description…and there are 7 standard voice descriptions, not four). If both sets had more clearly been three things out of a set of four, it would have been easier to spot the “there’s one missing” idea. (I only got it by pondering for quite some time if there might be a relevant fictional character named Tony, and stumbling upon the answer that way.)

    • ICDogg says:

      That’s actually an interesting point. Marian Anderson was usually referred to as a “Contralto”. And certainly there are other possible vocal ranges like “Baritone”. But I’ve generally thought of a four part chorus as consisting of Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, where those who had an in-between range would sing whichever part they could handle.

    • pgw says:

      Anyone who had the displeasure of being in elementary school choir has heard of the set of four vocal parts soprano-alto-tenor-bass. A contralto is the female voice range best suited to singing the alto part (and including a mezzo-soprano instead, which many vocal quartets do, might have been too suggestive of the final answer.) This was a tough, but fair, meta in my opinion. No one doesn’t think of Bea Arthur as primarily a TV actress (and hence potential Emmy winner.)

  16. pgw says:

    I got this right under the wire. Got as far as Joon had, noticing Grammy/Oscar/Emmy and Bass/Contralto/Tenor, a couple days ago and it didn’t click. Also started down pretty much all the same wrong paths (and others besides.) Not sure what made me get it this morning but it somehow fell into place.

    There was an added elegance, too – one of the vocalists (Pinza) won a Tony, and one of the award-winners (Krauss) is a soprano. Not sure if that was intended but it’s cool.

  17. Anne E says:

    Woo, never would I have gotten this! I got the Bass/Alto/Tenor part quickly (being an enthusiastic choral singer myself), but… wait for it… this is how pathetic I am regarding pop culture… I’d never heard of Tony Soprano. Yes, it’s true, even with all the obituary coverage (none of which I read).
    I don’t agree that “contralto” messes up this meta. Contralto or mezzo-soprano are just polite ways of not saying “alto”, which for reasons totally beyond my comprehension seems to be a four-letter word when it comes to referring to solo classical-music singers.

    • Blanche says:

      Not “polite,” merely accurate. It’s quite simple: voice classifications for soloists are distinctly different from those for choral singers.

  18. *David* says:

    I was kind of close I went with:

    Marian-Kennedy (also called Honor)
    Enrico-I couldn’t find anything but thought it must start with an E

    Left with GOETHE, and his famous opera which was FAUST which Ezio preformed wink-wink and fit the AV concept. I did think A=Award and V=Voice but not sure how it tied into the answer.

  19. John says:

    I think this would have been more of a week 3 if the clue had been: The full name (or first and last name) of a famous fictional character. Then there would have been some clue as to the possible lack of association between the A and V categories. Award/Voice is a completely unknown pairing outside this puzzle, so most solvers are never going to guess the two are going to have nothing to do with one another, ‘AV Club’ implies there is an association between the A and V, but there isn’t. I guess I agree with Tyler that the AV thing (a well-known associated pair) hurts rather than helps.

    It is a neat meta though, a timely tip of the hat to a great character, but feels like a week 5. I’m gonna miss the man behind Tony Soprano.

  20. David Stein says:

    Well I wasn’t close on the A. I thought about V as voice but Marian Anderson is a contralto.

    Oh well.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      See Anne E’s comment above.

      • J. T. Williams says:

        I disagree with Anne E’s comment suggestion that contralto and mezzo are synonymous with alto. Voice fachs for solo singing do not necessarily line up with traditional SATB choral voicing for a number of reasons. For instance, mezzos frequently sing either Soprano 2 or Alto 1 when in a choir, and baritones often go between Tenor 2 or Bass 1. I have sung in many choirs where true contraltos sang Tenor 1 (and countertenors sang Alto 2). For that matter, as a baritone myself, I have sung Tenor 2, Bass 1, and Bass 2, as the need presented itself. I don’t know whether Marian Anderson ever sang with a choir or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to learn that she sang soprano, alto, or even tenor at times.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          But if I’d used a non-operatic singer then the meta would have been prohibitively difficult. I don’t know music/vocal theory but the CONTRALTO/ALTO distinction seemed to have enough wiggle room here that, as with Bea Arthur’s Tony Award, I don’t see how it could have diverted anyone from getting the meta if they’d seen the key idea in the first place.

          • Andy says:

            I don’t think anyone’s arguing that Bea Arthur’s Tony or Marian Anderson’s actual vocal classification would have diverted anyone from getting the meta if they saw the key idea. Just that it may very well have prevented people from seeing that key idea in the first place.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Sounds too theoretical to me, sorry.

          • mrbreen says:

            Perhaps true. I thought A/V might stand for award/voice after noticing the EGOT between all of the A clues, but that didn’t seem useful. Actually thought to myself: “I just learned that Bea Arthur won a Tony,” while listening to a podcast about James Gandolfini.

            The ultimate explanation of the solution seems fair to me though, for all the reasons mentioned above. Kicking myself for this one.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Even if it’s true, *there was a specific mechanism guarding against that*: the award was won for the move/TV show/song used in the clue title. If that prevented someone from getting the meta, then they didn’t get the meta.

          • mrbreen says:

            I completely agree. That’s why I’m pretty pissed at myself.

  21. abide says:

    Duly impressed that “Tony Soprano” is the dual missing element from two well-known quartets. Even more impressed that Matt could grok that meta idea and produce a quality 17×17 in roughly a day (assuming he sleeps).

    But I was never close on what the A and V actually stood for. (artery/vein; aries/virgo; across/vertical; the arrow thing; etc).I think spelling “Award” and “Voice” out would have garnered a more reasonable Week 3 success rate of around 150. But I think we all enjoy seeing some of those perfect streaks broken!

  22. Dan Seidman says:

    I went through auricle/ventricle, amps/volts, and a few others before deciding awards and vocal registers was the most likely, due to the people clued. But I don’t know enough about music to be able to equate bass/contralto/tenor to “everything except soprano”. I kept trying to make GOEBCT work.

    Still, a very elegant and timely puzzle — congrats to those who got it.

  23. Pete Mitchell says:

    I totally pulled a Hinman on this one, getting it at the last minute for mostly the wrong reasons, and not believing it was right when I sent it in. Do I only get half credit for that? :)

  24. Tony says:

    Total guess for me that panned out. With James Gandolfini doing last week, I threw Tony Soprano out there after seeing the singers.

  25. Tony says:

    LOL, Matt. I am humbled to have my name as part of the answer for the week. I wish I was as famous as Tony Soprano. I’m just a stay-at-home dad in the Akron, OH area.

  26. Anne E says:

    LOL, my four-letter-alto comment was totally tongue in cheek! Believe me, you can’t be a choral singer without hearing on and on and on what soloist singers consider their voice parts to be. We have a countertenor in our chorus right now (who sometimes sings alto and sometimes tenor), and don’t even get me started on baritone vs. bass or people who want to be called coloratura sopranos. But, IMO, I thought alto was clear enough as far as this meta went. Not that I, in fact, got that meta!

  27. Garrett says:

    The meta went completely over my head.

    One thing I found to be most curious about the grid is that there is not a single ‘V’ in it.

    And I am curious if anyone else was struck by the unusual number of names in this grid? Besides the six theme names, there were 16 others:


    And, if you looked at some of the non-name answers, a number of them contained embedded names, such as:

    Pam (in SPAM)
    Oona (in SOONAS)
    Ara (in ARABY)
    Nicol (in NICOLA)
    Rene (in RENEW)
    Gray (in GRAYED)
    Max (in CINEMAX)
    Ari (in ARISEN)
    Cash (in NOCASH)
    Edsel (in EDSELS)

    • Pete Muller says:

      I noticed the lack of V’s too …and also that the first and last letters of the first three entries formed a chain:


      Seemed very unlikely that both were coincidences but they were

      Great puzzle Matt – I felt soundly (and fairly) trounced this week -and on a music meta too!

      Don’t let the gripers get you down


  28. Howard B says:

    Wow, that is an original meta concept, I have to say.
    This one is about a week 8 for me. Did not grasp any part of this meta, and given an infinite amount of time and caffeine, would not have discovered any part of it. I don’t know award winners, didn’t connect the letters to anything, and didn’t have the base knowledge of the subject to even take a baby step here. Humbling.
    Will come back strong next week though!

  29. Cole says:

    I saw bass, contralto and tenor and have to admit that I would never have thought that soprano was the missing element.

  30. Jeff G. says:

    Tough meta for a week 3, but I don’t feel too bad about getting stumped, at least I’m in good company. :-)

  31. Jeff says:

    I, too, was stuck at GOEBCT.

  32. Jared says:

    Ugh so close but so far. I had Tony written down several times because it was well represented in the list, so while in my mind I never considered it “in” I certainly would never have considered it “out” either.

    However, I’ve been writing SATB sketches all week at work so I definitely should have gotten it from that angle. Considered soprano but my brain never made the leap to the character. I guess “Sopranos” will always be a section of the choir to me. Matt, how come your music metas always stump me?? It’s embarrassing!

  33. Scott says:

    Not even close for me either. Was this the 6th Friday in June 2013?

  34. Paul Melamud (Vraal) says:

    I thought this was an elegant solve despite the ambiguity of contralto vs. alto and given Bea’s Tony award came up in my Google searches. What made the assignments unambiguous to me was that the song/role in the clues paired with the person in question. It actually took me awhile of blinking to think about “what’s missing”, I went the GOEBCT route for awhile first, I admit.

    Another false path that had me for awhile was that several of these names had good phonetic-letters or even pairs in them: B.R.-thur. Kathryin Big-L.O. N. Rico Caruso. Not all of them (Alison Krauss = L.S.-on Krauss???), but I did try to pull those letters into the mix without any confidence because I couldn’t figure how A/V worked into it (A = audio = phonetic, V = video = visual like “en” = “N”?)

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but did anyone else notice something fun about Matt’s title? The American Values (AV) Club Crossword contest came out and he even mentioned it just above the week’s puzzle. I was betting all along that was part of his inspiration for creating it and I thought it was really well hat-tipped.

    Perhaps I would have considered choosing an alto as opposed to a contralto or someone other than Bea Arthur that hadn’t won a Tony, but really, that’s just hindsight, it wasn’t a speed bump on the solving path.

    So yea, I enjoyed it Matt, and the timeliness with James Gandofini was such a nice touch.

    • Garrett says:

      Yes, I tried to figure out the AV Club reference in light of the blog post as well (for a while).

  35. Amy L says:

    I’m still hoping the answer really is ALEXEI VRONSKY.

    Perhaps the clue could have been “a famous fictional TV character.” That might have made it closer to a week 3 puzzle.

    I didn’t begin to crack it. I’m always amazed at how obvious Matt’s answers are, once revealed. Matt, were you surprised that most of us found it so difficult? (perhaps the reason so many got testy)

  36. Alex Vratsanos says:

    Even though I didn’t come close to getting this, it was a better puzzle than my AV Club (NYT May 6, 2012). Week in and week out, you amaze us all, Matt… I wouldn’t be surprised if you won the Margaret Farrar award again next year.

    (Speaking of that, I enjoyed seeing her in Patrick Berry’s puzzle this past weekend… and as luck has had it, I will be a co-author of this Sunday’s NYT puzzle.)

  37. Matt Gaffney says:

    Edie falco as a themer in a puzzle whose meta answer is Tony Soprano? Nope.

    • abide says:

      I humbly submit another great meta solver–longest streak ever– Lt. Columbo (PETER FALK), who won five Emmys and thankfully lost two Oscar nominations.

      For a pure alto, I submit BIRDSSAXOPHONE(14), tongue firmly in cheek.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Oh, I see. Yes, point taken. Still, that was just an example; there were other possibilities. (abide’s Peter Falk is a good one). I expect you’d have gone with one of them had you noticed.

    • Jason T says:

      If you wanted to stick to three women in the top half for elegance’s sake, and needed to stick with nine letters for the symmetry, there still remain the options of Jane Wyatt, Hope Lange, Jean Marsh, and Carol Kane – none of whom won a Tony according to the gods at Wikipedia. There’s also Helen Hunt, but her Oscar win might also complicate matters. But all of this would have robbed us of the pleasure of seeing another Bea Arthur appearance in the puzzle!

  38. Jason T says:

    For my part, after many many false starts, many of them listed above, I wandered through Wikipedia trying to see what any of the names might have in common. When I noticed that Alison Krauss was a Grammy winner and put that fact together with Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win, it occurred to me that Bea Arthur might be an Emmy winner. I Googled to confirm that fact, and happily never came across the fact that she’d also won a Tony, so even without noticing the connection with the clues, there was no confusion in my mind. At this point, the missing Tony jumped out at me (the famous four awards), and it suddenly occurred to me that that could well be the first name of a famous fictional character. So then, figuring that A= Award, I turned my mind to the Vs. Well, in my Googling, I’d already learned that Marion Anderson was a contralto, so figuring that V might = Voice, and Wikipedia helpfully gave me the bass and the tenor. I had about five seconds of “Hm, what’s missing here?” till I thought of Soprano and had that delightful Aha moment. Lovely work, Matt! Though I concur that this didn’t feel like a Week 3.

  39. Dave says:

    Not even close. Matt, I think this was an absolutely brilliant puzzle. Good job!

  40. Meg says:

    How many times has Matt used the “which one is missing” concept in the meta? A whole bunch! Of course I missed it completely. I got as far as Joon did and was focused entirely on 6 letters that would spell a name. So I think it was a totally fair meta and I really wish I had made that one small but oh so important leap. The good news is I have learned to get over it.

  41. Mike W says:

    After many false starts, I finally had the aha moment on Monday afternoon. The false starts included the Phantom of the Opera (just couldn’t get a ghost or phantom from Krauss, Bigelow, and Arthur), the Joker (using Deuce Bigelow, King Arthur, and not much more), and the Wizard of Oz (Alison Krauss contains “lion”, Kathryn Bigelow contains “tiger”, and Bea Arthur contains “bear”, but no luck with the three singers). On Sunday night, the Award/Voice revelation came. On Monday, I was describing my thought process to my son when it struck me – Krauss won a Grammy for the clued song, Bigelow won an Oscar for the clued movie, and Arthur won an Emmy for the clued role – only missing a Tony. I knew that Caruso was a great tenor and Pinza a great bass – I asked my son to look up Anderson to see if she was an alto – the Google entry of contralto was close enough to conclude Tony Soprano.

    Matt, thanks for a consistently fun and challenging treat at the end of every week (especially when you do this at no charge to us as solvers).

    • ICDogg says:

      Alison Krauss contains “lion”, Kathryn Bigelow contains “tiger”, and Bea Arthur contains “bear”

      Oh, my.

  42. earl says:

    sweet meta- i didn’t get it but it seemed totally fair to me. also seems like there’s an inordinate amount of whining going on

    • CY Hollander says:

      constructive criticism ≠ whining

      But the fact that Matt has accustomed us to such a high standard that a relatively small flaw like this one comes in for such criticism is the greatest testament to his skills as a constructor. I’m constantly amazed at how Matt manages to come up with fresh and fair meta-challenges, week after week. That very consistency is why I don’t bother making comments like that for the most part—if the puzzles are fresh, the compliment would still grow stale—but now I’m thinking I should mention it more often.

      My hat is off to you every week, Matt. (but I still think that Bea Arthur was a poor exemplar of Emmy.)

  43. wobbith says:

    I’d like to make a few last points here, most of which have been mentioned above…

    1. Matt has been providing us with marvelous challenges, free of charge, every single week for five freakin’ years, even when he is on vacation.

    2. Many of us really look forward to Friday because there will be a new challenge from Matt.
    I know I do.

    3. Matt whipped up this 17×17 tribute puzzle/meta to James Gandolfini in about a day.
    How awesome is that?

    4. If you agree with points 1 & 2 above, you should take a pledge to not ever post here in a manner that makes Matt feel like Nathan Thurm.
    Nitpicking a free service.
    Doesn’t that usually result in the free service being discontinued?

    5. Seriously…
    All Hail Matt Gaffney!

    Any seconds?

    • ICDogg says:

      Well, yeah… I don’t see the problem. The puzzle seemed perfectly cromulent to me.

      (But seriously) I love these puzzles, and (except for the easiest ones) I feel clever when I solve one.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I do appreciate that wobbith, but I don’t ever invoke 1) because a) I do get compensated for this, from the Tip Jar and also from books + apps and b) solvers invest both their money and more importantly their time and energy into the puzzles, so I feel a strong duty to make them fair and fun. If there’s a disconnect there, which is going to happen on occasion because these get intricate and one small detail can derail a meta, then both solvers and subsequently I will get a mite tetchy. And Nathan Thurm will often make an appearance when that happens.

    • Jeff G. says:

      Well said, I’ll second the motion. Keep the great stuff coming Matt!

    • Joe says:

      Yes, definitely. A big, huge ditto from me. And I didn’t come close to cracking it. Thanks for articulating what I’ve been feeling while reading the comments today. The meta is brilliant. So is Matt.

    • Joan says:

      Amen to that!
      Great puzzle. Didn’t get it. Testy again.

  44. mean old elaine says:

    Well, I never stood a chance, and besides i have a perfect losing streak to maintain. but i did enjoy seeing you get clawed up there, matt sorry! schadenfreude!

  45. Abby says:

    I hit on the Award/Voice thing before I got the diagram filled in and then got to GOEBCT after checking the V’s. Hmmm. Printed it out to look at later.

    Didn’t get around to it, went to bed, and thought it through again. Bingo. Took me a couple more days to get back to the website to send it in, but (and this has worked for me before), thinking over the theme and theme words without the distraction of the rest of the puzzle got me there.

  46. Delightful meta challenge, which I figured out, albeit not within the time limits, even with the Bea Arthur ambiguity. This is the sort of puzzle that gets me excited–thank you, Matt.

    A voice teacher and professional classical singer, I have always considered that alto=contralto, just as cello=violoncello and piano=pianoforte. The longer forms seem to my ear a little more formal and, increasingly, old-fashioned. But from the comments here, it seems others’ usage differs from mine.

    A bassoon and a contra-bassoon, however, sound an octave apart.

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