MGWCC #328

crossword 3:19
meta 5-10 minutes 

mgwcc328hello everyone, and welcome to episode #328 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. guest constructor month continues, and this week we have ian livengood’s puzzle, “MC-Jobs”. for this week 2 puzzle, ian asks, What two grid entries totaling 10 letters would make an appropriate fifth theme entry? well, let’s start with the four overt theme answers:

  • {“London Fields” novelist} is MARTIN AMIS. i always forget whether he’s the father or the son of kingsley amis. i think the son.
  • {44.5-carat gem in the Smithsonian} is the HOPE DIAMOND.
  • {Drug produced by TV’s Walter White and Jesse Pinkman} is CRYSTAL METH, on breaking bad. remember francis heaney’s brilliant METH-themed AVC crossword? yeah, me too.
  • {“The French Connection” feature} is a CHASE SCENE. haven’t seen it.

with the hint from the title, we can see that steve MARTIN, bob HOPE, billy CRYSTAL, and chevy CHASE all famously hosted the oscars, multiple times in fact. (i actually didn’t know that about chase prior to doing this puzzle.) so we’re looking for another oscars host in the grid, and there’s one at 32a: {The Black Keys genre} ROCK, for chris ROCK, the 2005 host. to complete the meta answer, we need a 6-letter entry that goes with ROCK to make a familiar 2-word phrase, and it’s {Madison Square ___} GARDEN. so ROCK GARDEN is our answer. how peaceful!

i only vaguely remembered that chris rock had hosted the oscars, but there are not too many other choices. stan LEE? (bruce LEE? some other LEE?) jack LORD? bears tight end dante ROSARIO?

tangential reminiscing: in my first ever accepted crossword, two of the fill answers were EMO and COMEDY. i think i had blandly clued them as something like {Comic Phillips} and {“The Importance of Being Earnest”, e.g.}. (one of my favorite plays, in case you’re wondering.) peter gordon, at the time the editor of the new york sun, where the puzzle ran, found the matched pair of clues {Rock genre} for EMO and {Rock genre?} for COMEDY. brilliant stuff. hey, what ever happened to peter gordon, anyway?

fill bits:

  • {Presents with speeches} AWARDS. sly bonus themage!
  • {Show some skin} BARE. i think this clue fails the substitution test. BARE is a transitive verb, so it would have to be {Show, as some skin}.
  • {Air conditioning compound that anagrams to a “Neighbors” star} FREON. yikes. what is “neighbors” and who exactly was helped by the second half of this clue? i amused myself for a few seconds by trying to guess the name. ENFRO? FONER? ORFEN? FENOR? NEFRO?
  • {1862 Civil War battle site} SHILOH. {Gray leader} LEE was not there, since this was a western theater engagement; the confederates were led by albert sidney johnston, who was killed during the battle (making him the highest-ranking officer killed on either side during the civil war) and pgt beauregard. the boys in blue were led by “unconditional surrender” grant. what ever happened to him, anyway?
  • {Wine-producing city in Iberia} OPORTO. as a fan of the uefa champions league (whose group stage starts this week!) i am much more familiar with this town as PORTO, since the club team there (one of the three dominant teams in portugal) is called fc porto. but it’s the same city, which is the namesake of port wine and (perhaps) the country itself.
  • {“The Son of Man” painter Magritte} RENE. love magritte. this is the dude in the bowler hat with an apple over his face.
  • {Entertain, as with good stories} REGALE. a very apt anagram for REAGLE.

that’s all for me this week. see you in the comments!

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30 Responses to MGWCC #328

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    I lucked out on an easy one – going fast, I sent in Rock Garden, thinking Rock Hudson. Ten seconds later, I realized this was wrong, since the theme answers started with last names of hosts that sounded like first names. But checking the list on Wikipedia, I was very pleased to see Chris ROCK. Must be a generational thing – he never occurred to me, just as Rock Hudson probably never occurred to our younger solvers. It would have made a sly trap for unwary solvers if there was, say, a ROBIN and a HOOD in the grid (which might be interpreted as another tribute to Robin Williams) but the real answer was something like Benny Hill (Jack Benny) or one of those Joon mentioned above. Enjoyed it, Ian. Four Stars from me.

  2. Jon says:

    AWARDS threw me off since the theme answers hosted the Academy AWARDS. So I submitted “Rock Awards” as the meta. At least I figured out the key. I even commented that I thought Rock Garden worked better but didn’t put it as the theme didn’t point specifically to garden.

  3. Aaron Riccio says:

    Someone’s going to have to explain to me why ROCK AWARDS is not an equally valid answer. They’re a thing, and given the hosting positions, it seemed to lean that way.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I hesitated over sending in my entry because of AWARDS in the grid. But I went with ROCK GARDEN anyway because it is definitely a thing, and there is no such thing as the “Rock Awards.” I mean, there are awards for rock music, but nothing actually called the “Rock Awards.” The other four theme entries were too unambiguously things for “Rock Awards” to be the answer.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Point is, you could make a crossword clue for ROCK AWARDS, which would make it a perfectly suitable theme entry, even if it’s not as commonly used as a ROCK GARDEN. The issue here is that the meta is vague (asking only for a ten letter phrase–no specification that it’s a *common* one) and that the other four theme answers don’t have any further connection beyond that first word, so as to explain why GARDEN is a better fit than AWARDS. I didn’t check the rest of the grid, but you might even be able to justify other answers. Which is not desirable, especially for a Week 2, no matter how delightful the rest of the puzzle is.

        • bananarchy says:

          Because ROCK AWARDS is not a thing. By the same logic, ROCK PAELLA would be an acceptable answer. It would be different if the theme answers were wacky, contrived phrases, but in this case they’re all real things. A ROCK AWARD isn’t a thing any more than a ROCK PAELLA is a thing, and therefore neither fits with the other four theme answers.

          • Aaron Riccio says:

            Sort of a moot point, since ROCK AWARDS is being accepted, and I’m clearly not alone on this, but there’s a huge difference between ROCK AWARDS and ROCK PAELLA. (To be fair, given the phrasing of the meta, I’d have accepted that, too, assuming that the person could come up with an amusing clue.)

            The ROCK AWARDS can easily be used to describe the awards given out at the Grammys for the various rock-and-roll achievements (best performance, best album, etc.). You might not refer to it that way, but it doesn’t require some huge leap in imagination to get there. Just think how someone unfamiliar with Zen culture (or knick-knacks) would consider ROCK GARDEN to be equally ridiculous.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            ROCK AWARDS isn’t enough of a thing to be at 1-A in a themeless, or perhaps a crossword entry at all. But it’s enough of a thing, *when you factor in the awards theme of the puzzle*, that I can see people finding this 10-letter answer and thinking they were done. That’s why it’s got to be accepted.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            “rock awards” = 302,000 Google hits
            “rock paella” = 1,410 Google hits

          • bananarchy says:

            Fair enough, Matt. Btw, I wasn’t arguing the point in hopes that the ROCK AWARDS solvers wouldn’t get credit; just interesting to dissect the theme a bit and consider which answers fit, strictly speaking, and which don’t.

          • sps says:

            Please never, ever serve me Rock Paella. Thank you.

          • JanglerNPL says:

            Didn’t they sing the “Carmen Sandiego” theme?

          • CY Hollander says:


            The Carmen Snadiego theme, I’d have said.

          • David Stein says:

            “ROCK AGATHA” 9,250 hits

  4. Jason says:

    I got lucky, as I only saw a bunch of comedians in the theme answers and didn’t read the title properly.

  5. Wayne says:


    – I liked the ambiguity of the title. Was “MC” a reference to “emcee”? 1100 in Roman numerals? There seemed to be a lot of “M”s and “C”s in the theme answers; was this a hint about some sort of alphabetic transformation? Of course, I was reading too much into it; but it was a fun ride.

    – HOPE and MARTIN got me thinking of Dean Martin. Took a while to recover from that. So that was a nice bit of misdirection.

    Not so liked:

    – Cluing MARTIN as a real person destroyed much of the elegance of this puzzle for me.
    – Out of all the people who have hosted the Oscars–even those who have done so multiple times–the selection of these five seemed somehow arbitrary.
    – I got to the solution by spotting “ROCK GARDEN” as the only plausible 10 letter phrase, and then back-solved the meta. It’s difficult to prevent all the through-the-hedges solution paths; even Matt sometimes lets one slip though. But it’s always more satisfying when there aren’t any.

    • makfan says:

      Bob Hope hosted the Oscars so many times it is hard to see him as arbitrary. Billy Crystal was also a fairly regular host in the 90s.

      I made the same mistake on the title. I got caught up in looking for M and C entries, even though the Meta is rarely that obvious. I had to put it down for a while, and when I came back “emcee” was so obvious that the last names jumped off the page. From there, getting ROCK was easy and ROCK GARDEN followed. I Googled Academy Awards hosts to be absolutely sure Chris Rock had in fact hosted.

  6. Mac says:

    I also hesitated with Rock Garden because all the others had some reference in the clues to kinds of cultural/entertainment things (literature, museum, TV, movie) and so I was looking for music or theatre or something akin. Went with Garden when nothing else worked. Never considered Rock Awards – doesn’t seem like a thing to me at all.

  7. Lorraine says:

    “rock awards” isn’t an “in the language” phrase, where the others are either recognizable names (Martin Amis), things (Hope Diamond) or in-the-language phrases (Crystal Meth, Chase Scene). We were asked for an appropriate 5th theme entry. “Rock Awards” isn’t a “thing” as noted by Matthew G. Further, even if it WAS a thing, the other 4 theme entries have no overt reference to awards, so the 5th theme entry should similarly stay silent on that score. The “awards” connection is in the name “Rock” (as in Chris Rock), NOT in the theme answer itself.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      By your own description, the theme entries are three completely unrelated types of things–proper names, proper objects, and random phrases. I’m not denying that ROCK GARDEN fits, and is more aesthetically pleasing (get it?). But to say that ROCK AWARDS isn’t enough of a thing to fit doesn’t really make sense, and your explanation that AWARDS should be left out of the theme entries because the others weren’t could just as easily cause MARTIN AMIS to be thrown out as a valid entry because it’s the only one that actually clues a person’s name (first in the clue, last in the meta).

      As I said earlier, the issue with the meta is that it didn’t ask for a common ten letter phrase. It asked for a valid ten letter theme entry, and ROCK AWARDS, which can be clued by a crossword clue, doesn’t appear to have any faults, and I wouldn’t penalize people (especially in a Week 2) who found the MC connection but didn’t arrive at the exact phrase that was expected.

      By the way, I don’t want to make this seem more serious than it is, or for the Internet to make it sound like I’m trying to fight. I enjoyed the puzzle; I was just thrown by the explanation of the meta answer. As I see below, Matt’s going to accept ROCK AWARDS as well.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon and Ian. 524 correct entries this week.

    About 30 solvers (I’ll check the exact number when I’m not on my phone) submitted ROCK AWARDS, which will also be counted as correct. True, it’s not as solid a phrase as rock garden, but it’s 10 letters, close enough to being a real thing to be confusing, and the puzzle is about awards.

  9. Daniel Barkalow says:

    When I recognized the theme, I went looking for CARSON CITY. It seems like the perfect answer, aside from the words not actually being in the grid.

  10. Bunella says:

    I was one of the rock awards entries and thankfully got credit for it.

    when I googled MC jobs I was surprised to find out there are a bunch of websites explaining that MC jobs are entry level jobs as in McDonald’s or other fast food corporations. Pronounced Mc as in McMuffin not as Emcee.

    I started out looking for lowing paying jobs in the puzzle but dismissed the idea when my aha moment was the last names.

    It’s funny to read comments and see where other people’s heads were at in solving.

  11. Mutman says:

    Wow! Lots of controversy in guest constructor month. Whoda thought?!?

    Did anyone get that new U2 album pushed out thru iTunes? Great stuff and (I think) a shoo-in to win in next year’s Rock Awards!

    I bet when their tour hits the south, they will really Rock Shiloh!

  12. Aaron Riccio says:

    Also, I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but with CRYSTAL and DIAMOND in the theme entries (and TIN inside another), and MC in the title and NOTCH in the grid, I was wondering if this was going to be a very timely Minecraft-related puzzle.

    ::hint hint::

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    If Matt had asked me to weigh in on whether ROCK AWARDS should be accepted, I would have said no. Classic Rock Awards appears to be a British thing, but the shorter phrase sounds off-base to me.

    I have a great recipe for rock paella. It’s in the Stone Soup book. You might also like my pebble gnocchi.

  14. sandirhodes says:

    Well shoot! If you host SNL, are you not an MC? I found the names as being associated with SNL, so ROCKGARDEN came pretty quickly. I never even checked if Chris Rock ever came back as a host.

  15. Matthew G. says:

    Sandi, I don’t think Bob Hope ever hosted SNL.

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