MGWCC #312

crossword 2:35
meta DNF3 days 

mgwcc312hello and welcome to week #312 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Reality Bites”. the instructions for this week 4 puzzle ask us for an American university. what are the theme answers? well, i’m not 100% sure, but there are three grid-spanning 13-letter answers:

  • {Spring start} is the VERNAL EQUINOX.
  • a {Warwickian, for instance} is a RHODE ISLANDER.
  • {Its B-side was “There’s a Place”} clues the beatles song TWIST AND SHOUT.

so… i don’t know what exactly is going on here, but it can’t be that complicated because 300 people have already submitted correct answers. after my embarrassing faceplant last week, i’m really hoping to avoid a losing streak.

the title made me think of “virtual” universities, the canonical example being the university of phoenix online. but i don’t see anything else to support that idea.

VERNAL EQUINOX begins with VERNALE, which is an anagram of LAVERNE. i’m not sure why i noticed this except perhaps that TWIST in TWIST AND SHOUT got me thinking about anagrams.

oh, good grief. the initials of the theme answers spell out VE RI TAS. VERITAS (latin for “truth”) is the motto of harvard university, which i should probably know because i went to harvard as an undergraduate and have worked at harvard for the last nine years (and, in fact, am typing this up from harvard’s science center, where my office is located). that said, the motto is not unique to harvard, so it would be nice to have some other disambiguation/confirmation that harvard is indeed the right answer.

let’s see. what could the title refer to? usually it’s at least clear in retrospect. i guess… truth and reality are essentially synonymous, and “bites” could maaaybe be a reference to the letters appearing in bite-sized chunks. either that, or “bites” has no particular significance, and it’s just there because reality bites is a movie.

oh, there’s also this: on the harvard seal, the letters of VERITAS are broken up in exactly the same way they’re divided among the three theme answers:
Harvard University seal
i didn’t look up the seals of all those other schools with the same motto, but this is certainly convincing enough for me.

did i miss anything?

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43 Responses to MGWCC #312

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    This could be my favorite Joon writeup in history. Epic save.

  2. icdogg says:

    LOL joon, I was wondering when you would get it.

  3. Bencoe says:

    I thought joon would find this one really easy!
    I checked to see if there were any other colleges with the motto “VERITAS” and none of them had the same gravitas as Harvard, so I quickly submitted that answer. Only afterwards did Matt point out to me that the Harvard seal splits up the letters in the same manner as the puzzle.
    Solid theme answers, I thought, and good fill besides the GRR/OHO and CTRL/OWIE pairs in the west. The meta was a little easy, but that’s what Matt promised. So, liked it.

  4. joon says:

    what can i say? a tendency to overthink things is one of the most harvard of all harvard traits.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    I’m sure a lot of us appreciated the easy week after getting sacked by Rome. And it was not a total sitter, judging from Joon’s agonies and the slow start on the board. Now, for those who’d like a cryptic challenge, here’s a wonderful and timely clue from Qaos:

    Got back the dodgy midfield? The end of Manchester United (8) _O_ _ _ _ E _

  6. Giovanni P. says:

    WOW. I way overthought that.

    I was so focused on the entries rather than the initials and figuring out the connection between them. I ended up getting a connection to James Woods, as he is a famous RHODE ISLANDER who grew up in Warwick, and was born in VERNAL, Utah. I couldn’t come up with anything for TWIST AND SHOUT, but I had no other ideas, so I went with MIT, Woods’ college.

    How I got last week’s and missed this week’s is beyond me. I can’t keep missing like that if I ever want to win the monthly prize.

  7. Jeff says:

    Baaaaaaaah (headdesk headdesk headdesk)

    The best metas are ones I should have gotten. Bravo, Matt!

  8. VU-Prof says:

    James BROWN did a cover of Twist and Shout. BROWN is in (Providence) Rhode Island. And a quick google search discovered that someone named Kevin BROWN has a song/youtube/something called Equinox. Never even thought beyond that — which is why I so rarely get week 4s, even easy ones.

    • David R says:

      I first went in this direction with “Rhode Islander” but realized it got tenuous real fast. I had the head slap moment when I saw the VER in VERNAL and then the letters came together with the remainder of the theme answers. Similar to Joon it took until the 11th hour for it to come together.

  9. Mac says:

    I guess Matt allowed for more than one correct answer. He gave me credit for Providence College (the only U.S. college with Veritas as a motto that is located in Rhode Island).

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Yes, there were four or five universities with the VERITAS motto (Providence, Drake, a couple others). I decided to take them all, though the “Reality Bites” title was supposed to suggest the VE-RI-TAS division that only Harvard uses. Bites = chunks of letters? That’s where I was aiming.

      • CY Hollander says:

        Yeah, at first I wondered whether you’d accept any university with that motto, but once I realized how the title fit, I figured you wouldn’t. That’s a piece of the meta that only fits with the right answer and none of the wrong ones, so it’s fair to expect the solver to keep looking until he finds something that fits all the clues. You’re more generous than I’d have been.

      • spongeamy says:

        Janeane Garaofalo was in Reality Bites and graduated from Providence College.

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Six solvers sent in an alternate solution so remarkable that I think I have to take it: the only letters not in the grid were JFK, and there’s a JFK University in California.

    This is especially bizarre because I’ve always had plans to do a reverse letter-bank meta like this one (i.e., the meta is spelled out not by the letters used in the grid, like the NOSFERATU or PORTUGAL metas, but by the letters absent from the grid) but have never gotten around to it. And now one happened serendipitously.

    • CY Hollander says:

      How would that one fit the title?

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Hmm, good question.

        • About The Same says:

          At the risk of sounding mean, one could argue that JFK meets the “Reality Bites” title since it’s hardly a respected university that does very much for its graduates in terms of reputation, etc. My experience is limited to its law school. Hired one. Not likely to do so again. Reality bites.

      • Bencoe says:

        The “reality” of the puzzle is that J,F, and K were “bitten” out of the grid? I realize this is stretching…

        • Jon says:

          That was my reasoning/line of thinking. The inclusion of Z, Y, X, W, V, and Q made me see if there were any unused letters. When I noticed the JFK missing I didn’t stop to ask if this was just a coincidence so I submitted it right away. So though I got credit, I really wish I had figured out the VE-RI-TAS.

          • charles montpetit says:

            Same here, except for the regrets. I was totally convinced that JFK was the answer, especially since the small grid seemed to call for an analysis of the letters used in it, as with the Scrabble puzzle (#100) and the 100th anniversary puzzle (#290). Plus, as Matt just pointed out, this was a totally new type of meta, which I believe is what he strives to achieve every week. Hence the lack of regrets: I’m totally glad that we six solvers spotted a wholly different meta hiding in the same puzzle (this has got to be a first), and kudos to our host for being kind enough to accept this.

            Oh, and about the title: if, as Matt says, we are to think that “Bites = chunks of letters” in the Harvard solution, well, doesn’t the very same interpretation fit the JFK solution, i.e. “Bites = left-out letters” (smaller bites)? That certainly was my thinking, and notwithstanding Joon’s wild guess, I believe that “Reality” is only thrown in there for the purpose of the pun…

          • CY Hollander says:

            @Charles Montpetit: it’s one thing if you want to contend that the JFK answer is a satisfactory solution to the meta (though I’d disagree), but I doubt many besides you would consider it equally satisfactory to the actual solution. I consider it a much worse solution for several reasons:

            1) It connects to only a single element of the puzzle—the letter count. This is not at all typical of MGWCC puzzles, which tend to have at least a couple of layers to them.

            1a) In particular, it makes the three grid-spanning entries theme entries almost entirely irrelevant.

            2) It fails to explain the title:
            a) I don’t see how “bites” can mean “left-out letters” except at a tremendous stretch.
            b) Throwing in another, unrelated word simply to complete an existing expression, makes the “wordplay” so weak, at this point, as to be virtually non-existent, IMO.

            In contrast, the actual solution uses both halves of the phrase, as well as the theme answers. If you consulted a Latin dictionary (here’s one), you might be surprised to find out that “reality” is one translation of veritas, so that’s hardly a wild guess.

    • OSXpert says:

      I found JFK and then almost submitted Harvard because Harvard was JFK’s alma mater, but then went with JFK university anyway, which turned out to be ok, i guess.

      You could kind of say that the JFK-less pangram was in service of the Harvard answer.

    • jefe says:

      If missing letters were the key to the meta, you’d ask for a president, not a university, and also provide some hint to look for missing letters. Additionally, JFKU doesn’t have any sort of notability, and more importantly, it’s referred to as JFKU, or JFK University, never JFK by itself (unlike Harvard, which can stand alone).

      If JFK had been a Rhode Islander born on the vernal equinox and got bit by reality while Twist and Shout played, then John F. Kennedy University might work.

  11. Bencoe says:

    Also re: the construction:
    Having the two long down answers AMAZEMENT/UPHEAVALS connecting and crossing all three theme answers was a very nice touch.

  12. Archie says:

    Considered Drake University, because their mascot is a bulldog, but went with Harvard because placement of letters correspond to positions in Harvard seal.
    Also, I believe there is a social movement in Nova Scotia that originated at Harvard (or vice-versa) called Reality Bites (according to Google).

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I submitted Drake because Harvard is too boring and obvious. Didn’t look at the actual school seals, just read the Wikipedia bit on “Veritas” educational mottoes:

    • CY Hollander says:

      That’s why I submitted CUTTLEFISH a few weeks ago—but how’d you interpret the title this week?

  14. Amy L says:

    I looked up the Wikipedia list of schools with VERITAS mottos and didn’t think Providence College would be the answer because it’s not a university. I was dithering between Harvard and Drake but as soon as I clicked on Harvard’s website and the seal appeared, I knew it has to be the answer.

  15. Ale M says:

    I came up with Harvard, but in a way completely independent of “veritas.” Consider:

    Vernal equinox = FIRST day of spring
    Rhode Islande = FIRST of the original 13 colonies
    Twist and Shout = FIRST Beatles album song

    Several universities lay claim to the “first university,” but I went with Harvard. Also, Steve Zahn (cast member of the movie “Reality Bites”) went to Harvard. Finally, I solve something the wrong way and I’m still right!

    • Tim H. says:

      Rhode Island may have been the first state to declare independence from the British, but Delaware is far more famously “the First State” based on when it ratified the Constitution.

  16. J. T. Williams says:

    Surely I can’t be the only one who came up with George Washington University? I think I have a better argument for GWU fitting the theme than JFK even!

    • CY Hollander says:

      What is it?

      • icdogg says:

        …still waiting…

        • J. T. Williams says:

          Sorry, it was a very long day yesterday, and by the time I got home after 11, posting my solution just wasn’t going to happen. (I also forfeited my Learned League match, and I would say sorry Neville, but we would have tied, so I’m guessing you probably forgive me :D )

          Okay, so here is my reasoning and how I got to George Washington University, which I would argue merits at least serious consideration as an alternative answer.

          I started out with what seemed to be three theme answers in the long acrosses. I considered whether AMAZEMENT and UPHEAVALS could also be theme answers, and/or GULCHES, VOIDS, and ENIGMAS, but those weren’t going anywhere. I did notice the lack of F, J, and K, but I didn’t connect those to a university. So then I considered the title. The movie did nothing for me, so I thought about each word. I thought about “Bites” as little pieces, or parts, or — FOOD!

          And now that I thought about it, EQUINOX sure did sound like a restaurant. And Google confirmed that it was indeed a noted restaurant, with a few noted locations, especially Portland and DC. Well ISLANDER sure seemed like a restaurant too, and in fact there are noted ones in Warwick (of all places!), Mercer Island, and DC. Now I was starting to think that there might be something to DC, especially when I noted that ISLANDER in DC was at ONE Dupont Circle! But SHOUT restaurant appears to only be in Atlanta (at COLONy Square!), and I was momentarily stymied until I found that TWIST is a restaurant in —-where else? DC, and on Dupont Circle as well! And sure enough, Equinox was also connected to Dupont Circle. And on further reflection, Reality could certainly refer to the location of the restaurants, that is the Reality of the Bites!

          All that was left was to look at a map, and sure enough, all three restaurants were in the same general location of DC, right along with George Washington University (Georgetown, which I also considered, was in a different part of the city, as was American University.) And for a final touch, a meta involving Washington DC and George Washington seemed quite appropriate for the Memorial Day weekend too.

          Respectfully submitted.

  17. J. T. Williams says:

    My work computer is blocking this site and I don’t want to try to type this out on my iPhone. I’ll post my answer, reasoning, and argument for consideration late this evening when I finally get home. Wonder if Matt has ever had a puzzle with TWO unintentional metas before?

  18. Spencer says:

    Like Joon, TWIST AND SHOUT had me thinking about anagrams, and after I twisted AND SHOUT into THOUSAND, I was so sure I was onto something that I wasn’t ever going to get back on the right path.

  19. Paul Wadler says:

    Yale’s motto is something like Lux in Veritas and since VERNAL EQUINOX contains LUX, I struggled between Harvard and Yale as the Meta (I had no idea how “Reality Bites” fit either.) I ended up sending in Harvard. My reasoning was, as a Harvard alum, if the correct answer was Harvard and I missed it, I would be more upset if I didn’t submit Harvard than if it turned out Yale was the answer.

  20. SLO DIDDLY says:

    Saw VERITAS right off, but the only handle I could find to pick one of the schools with that motto was RHODE ISLANDER. Didn’t submit Providence College because it didn’t have that click you can expect when you get Matt’s answer. The alternate answers (generously accepted) have plausibility, but you feel stretch instead of click.

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