MGWCC #285

crossword 5:52 + one post-solve google to confirm
meta -2:00, unless you count the post-solve google 

hello and welcome to week #285 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “I See You Got the Promotion”. this week’s instructions inform us that All six chess pieces are in this grid, but one never made it to the eighth rank. Which one is it? the gimmick is that the central row (i.e. 8th rank) of the grid, i.e. contains four two-way rebus squares. in each of them, the down answer contains [PAWN] and the across answer is a different chess piece:

  • {“Papillon” actor Steve} MC[QUEEN] crosses {Dealing with collateral, perhaps} [PAWN]BROKING.
  • {Brian of R&B hits like “Back at One” and “Love Is”} MC[KNIGHT] (this is the one i had to google for—i figured it probably had to be KNIGHT but i’ve never heard of this guy) crosses {Horribly behaved child, in slang} SATAN’S S[PAWN].
  • {First-year player} [ROOK]IE crosses {Namesake of the town in which “Parks and Recreation” is set} [PAWN]EE TRIBE.
  • {___ Rome (pope’s title)} [BISHOP] OF crosses {“It wasn’t my decision!”} “I’M JUST A [PAWN]!”. kind of forced, but what are you gonna do?

just as in chess, these four pawns have been promoted, to a queen, knight, rook, and bishop, respectively. what you can’t do is promote a pawn into a king, which is the answer to the meta.

incidentally, matt did say that all six pieces are in this grid. but the king isn’t in a rebus square—he’s tucked away inside [PAWN]BROKING.

stuff i liked:

  • SOPHIA/LOREN getting full-name treatment, albeit on opposite sides of the grid.
  • {Lovely Rita} is a fun clue for rita MORENO.
  • {Big cactus} SAGUARO. “big cactus” was also one of shaq’s nicknames during his brief tenure with the phoenix suns. and hey, LSU is clued as {Shaq’s alma mater}. two shaq shout-outs!
  • {One of the ABC islands} is BONAIRE, aruba and curaçao being the others.
  • {1990 and 1992 Australian Open finalist Fernandez} is MARY JOE, now a tennis commentator with ESPN. haven’t seen her in a grid before.
  • {“We should have ___ down to wet right many a nipperkin!”–Thomas Hardy, “The Man He Killed”} clues SAT US, kind of a weird and awkward partial. but i like this poem (and the word nipperkin), so i’ll give it a pass. hardy’s mostly remembered these days for his novels, but his poetry is pretty good.
  • {“The only sex symbol England has produced since Lady Godiva,” she said of herself} is somebody named DORS. i want to say diana… yes. okay. i don’t know anything else about her.
  • {Break down after receiving a tough sentence?} is a fantastic clue for PARSE.
  • {Prefix between peta and zetta} EXA. metric prefixes! this one is for 10^18, believe it or not. peta = 10^15, zetta = 10^21. this doesn’t come up too often, but read about ultra-high-energy cosmic rays sometime. these particles of unknown origin have energies in excess of 1 EeV (exaelectron-volts).
  • {Metaphorical preference} is a lovely clue for CUP OF TEA, a lovely answer.

world chess championship update: with 7 games played out of the 12 scheduled, challenger (and heavy favorite) magnus carlsen leads 4.5 to 2.5 over incumbent/underdog vishy anand. carlsen drew first blood in game 5 and then cemented his lead with a win in game 6 with the black pieces. it’s all over but the crying now.

well, that’s all i’ve got for this week. looking forward to the final chess meta, and after that the 5th week challenge.

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42 Responses to MGWCC #285

  1. charles montpetit says:

    Wrong wrong wrong! The answer was ESCALATOR (hidden in the middle diagonal of black squares, of course).

  2. Jason says:

    Rats, that’s what I get for not googling KING OF ROME vs. BISHOP OF ROME.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 477 correct entries this week. Carlsen appears to just be coasting — today’s game, where he had white, was about the most boring game of chess imaginable.

    The credit for the PARSE clue goes to Byron Walden.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I liked this meta, though it was very guessable since the pawn can’t be promoted to a king, as Joon points out.
      If the original clue for rookie “Sweet Slice” referred to cookie, (I assume?) care to fill us in on how this happened?

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Yeah, big apologies for those affected by that. I was cluing PIE, which is how ROOKIE looked in the grid on Compiler, since I used P for pawn.

      • mean old elaine says:

        I was all set to put in PIE, but saw the warning label in time. Pretty funny, Matt. I love it when OTHER people make this kind of mistake!

  4. Evan says:

    After I submitted KING on Friday night, I was terrified that I missed something more devious in the grid. Part of that was because Matt didn’t update the correct entries list until the next day, so I thought I might have entered my answer too rashly. Looking at the P’s in the lower half of the grid, I wondered if they were supposed to represent unpromoted pawns. Notice there are no P’s in the Queen’s, Knight’s, or Rook’s columns (files, in chess-speak), yet there are P’s in several other ones, including the Bishop’s file. So, one crazy way to interpret the meta is that because there’s a P in SOPHIA, that pawn never actually made it to the 8th rank and thus never promoted to a Bishop.

    But if all of that were true, you’d have to think that either PAWN or BISHOP could work, because the Pawn didn’t promote, and the Bishop didn’t end up there. Plus, every other Pawn on the board could be interpreted in the same way. That’s all too complicated, so I just waited until the next day figuring that King was still correct. Thus it was.

  5. Brucenm says:

    Perhaps my mind is less subtle, but I simply saw the various pawns crossing four of the other pieces in the 8th. rank, and saw that the word “king” was spelled out below, and hadn’t yet made it to the 8th. It did occur to me that the king can’t be promoted, but the king can move to the 8th rank in the endgame. So my analysis was more literal.

    I thought the puzzle was terrific.

    There are thoughts that Carlsen has eclipsed, or will eclipse, Fischer and Kasparov and Capablanca as the strongest (human) player in history. He appears to be cruising now. Fischer always insisted that Paul Morphy was the strongest pre-Fischer player.

    I’m hoping for some grand, off-the-charts late-month meta which involves instructions to move e.g. a knight (in a rebus square), to achieve a checkmate, perhaps in two, on a king (also in a rebus square), where the king’s first move is forced (perhaps by black squares) — which would require the square where the king resides to be unchecked. Anyhow just a fantasy, not very elegantly expressed, and probably totally unrealizable.

  6. joon says:

    matt points out on twitter that the puzzle contained two easter eggs in the first and last across entries: 1a (LANCERS) and 67a (ENCHAIN).

  7. Cole says:

    I perhaps overthought this and realized that of all the legal possible promotions, the promotion to a BLACK BISHOP was missing. The Pawn to White Bishop was on a white square, and the promotion to a black bishop would have to be on a black square and hence was impossible in a normal crossword grid.

  8. Maggie W. says:

    Am I the only one terrified that next week is going to contain the 15-letter instructional entry: MATE IN FOUR MOVES ?

  9. Justin Rinehold says:

    Well done on the deceptive/misleading title. I immediately ruled out King because it is the only chess piece to which you would never say the words, “I see you got the promotion.”

    Also, What? The? Rebus? If you’re going to jam 6 letters into one box, shouldn’t they at least be the same letters both across and down? Out of curiosity, what’s the software support for this?

  10. abide says:

    “If you’re going to jam 6 letters into one box, shouldn’t they at least be the same letters both across and down?”

    Not sure if serious.

    • Justin Rinehold says:

      Two parts serious to one part incredulous. The Rebus square was impossible to anticipate, but now that I’ve seen it I can live with the compression. It’s actually kind of cool to squeeze in extra letters or expand beyond the edges of the grid. (On paper, of course. total faux pas on the applet.)

      Using some letters for across and different ones for down, however, is patently absurd. Feel free to do it, just don’t call it a “crossword” puzzle.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Justin, there have been other crosswords with two-way rebuses. I believe the NYT and the AV Club and probably Fireball and/or the old NY Sun ventured there. What is more crosswordy than two words crossing inside a single square?

        • Justin Rinehold says:

          Can you think of any other crazy things that can happen (have happened) to a puzzle? I like these metas, but I want the actual puzzles to be solvable.

          • Maggie W. says:

            Sure: letters in the black squares (Matt’s famed ESCALATOR puzzle), letters along the outside of the grid (there was a themed Saturday NYT puzzle in maybe 2006?), letters along a line in the grid (TIGHTROPE WALKER in a Longo/Blindauer Sun puzzle). I’m sure there are many more.

          • bananarchy says:

            I see your point, but remember that “solvable” means something different to every solver. Good constructors and editors (like Matt) will never make a unsolvable puzzle in the strict sense of the word (i.e. one for which a definite solution could never be found). Rather, the solvability will depend on the experience of the solver. I remember thinking that NYT Saturdays were unsolvable when I began solving, but now, after a bit of practice, it’s unusual for me to not finish a Saturday. Matt generally increases the difficulty of both the meta and the puzzle itself over the course of the month, and I thought the difficulty (of the grid/clues) was just right for a mid-month offering. Challenging? Yes. Unsolvable? No.

          • joon says:

            Good constructors and editors (like Matt) will never make a unsolvable puzzle in the strict sense of the word (i.e. one for which a definite solution could never be found).

            actually, by far my favorite puzzle of the ~100 i’ve solved this month fits this description. i won’t spoil it by saying which puzzle, though.

          • Justin Rinehold says:

            I actually thought Matt was using chess notation to shorten words in the 8th rank/row (e.g. McQueen to MCQ, Rookie to RIE) which would have been thematically awesome! But it would literally never enter my mind that a crossword puzzle would have an entry containing an R that goes sideways and a P that goes down.

            Seems to violate the definition of “crossword,” which is why I called the puzzle unsolvable. Of course if I was good enough to fill in the surrounding clues, I might have been among the 500 or so people who figured out what was going on..

          • bananarchy says:

            joon, I think I know which one you mean. There are many puzzles (Schrodinger puzzles, two-way rebuses, the puzzle you’re referring to, etc) that don’t have solutions that can be neatly represented in a filled grid. I argue that those aren’t unsolvable since, regardless of what goes in certain squares, the solver won’t have any unanswered questions once they’ve finished. That’s different than, say, being totally stumped by every clue in an unfair corner.

      • mean old elaine says:

        Amy is giving chapter and verse, and I just wanted to chime in. Actually, the cool ones with dual-purpose rebus squares are some of my favorites. Wasn’t there one that used opposites? (As in, black for Across, white for Down)?

        That’s why I solve on paper most of the time, although PuzzAzz does work pretty well.

  11. Adam N says:

    MRS. PAUL’S fish sticks were new to me, as was AFK (away from keyboard). Sort of surprised me thought that AFK has never appeared in a NYT puzzle. What? The “palindromic” part in the POOP clue helped me a lot. I’ve never heard of SATAN’S SPAWN or “I’M JUST A PAWN!”. Does anyone say that???

  12. Eduardo says:

    Searching for that “king” I found it in the clue for “references” (noun?) as “speakings of,” clearly not in the eighth rank. I know, I know, weak…but it helped me soldier on.

  13. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Sorry, I was out all day.

    Seems like everybody on the planet except me got the right answer, so let me explain:

    The PAWN/QUEEN, PAWN/KNIGHT, PAWN/ROOK and PAWN/BISHOP squares were obvious. So was the KING, after a little searching, but of course he doesn’t participate in promotion one way or the other.

    So where would the answer lie? Aha! There were at the start eight pawns on either side, and only four are accounted for. So maybe this was one of Matt’s devious ploys: At 17 A, REGNANT can refer to a QUEEN; at 34 A, ST MALO was a BISHOP; and at 62 A, IVANHOE was a KNIGHT! So where is the unpromoted PAWN? It had to be 10 D, the SERF, so that is what I sent in as my answer. And no one else even considered this possiblity??

    • pannonica says:

      Ooh, that’s good.

    • mean old elaine says:

      Matt said ‘the’ piece, so even though I was bothered about the other pawns, too, I went with the obvious.
      Too smart for your own good, eh?

    • Alex Bourzutschky says:

      I noted all those, but I interpreted ST MALO as a rook (walled city => castle). I did some handwaving to say that PRIOR (from A PRIORI) was a bishop. I couldn’t find any kings other than the KING, however. The chess world also likes to maintain that “piece” implies “non-pawn” or, in casual analysis contexts, “minor piece.”

      I wouldn’t say that there are eight pawns at the start. There are sixteen. I liked how the eighth rank could be from the top or the bottom, but it sadly isn’t both, so we can’t have pieces on both sides of it (unless we’re many-worlds believers).

    • mrbreen says:

      I settled on King immediately, but thought maybe I was missing something and went down the same path Bob described. Ultimately, I was reassured of my original answer because of the specific wording of Matt’s instructions and the fact that, in my experience a Week 3/5 generally plays like a Week 2/4.

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