MGWCC #339

crossword 4:55
meta DNF 

mgwcc339hello and welcome to episode #339 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “All Around Town”. in this brutal week 4 puzzle, matt asks us to identify the two grid entries that can combine to make an excellent fifth theme entry. what are the four theme answers?

  • {“Why would we visit that Great Plains city?!”?} clues “TOPEKA? C’MON!”.
  • {Where to wipe your feet next to the Red River?} is a SHREVEPORT MAT.
  • {Mediocre grade for a student near the Snowy Range?} is a LARAMIE C-MINUS.
  • {Epic successes on Lake Superior?} are DULUTH WINS.

okay, so these are silly two-word phrases where the first word is an american city. in the grid, there are three more u.s. cities:

  • {Largest four-letter city in the U.S.} MESA.
  • {___ Owlz (Los Angeles Angels farm team)} OREM.
  • {City that sounds crazy if you shorten its first vowel} WACO.

so our options seem to be one of those three, plus another entry in the grid. but what’s going on with the theme? well, the theme clues conspicuously omit the states that these cities are in (kansas, louisiana, wyoming, and minnesota), so i strongly suspect that we are supposed to do something with the state names. TOPEKA is the state capital, while none of the others are, so i suspect that we don’t have to do anything with state capitals.

but what are these other words? C’MON, MAT, C-MINUS, WINS. WINS is one letter short of TWINS, the baseball team from minnesota, but no such action is happening in the other three. the title contains “around”, which suggests containers or outside letters, but i don’t see what to do with that. TOPEKA C’MON has TOON “around”, but that doesn’t really go anywhere either. i highly doubt we’re supposed to anagram these long phrases.

“all around town” could suggest the counties that these cities are in. TOPEKA is in shawnee county, SHREVEPORT is in caddo parish (louisiana is quirky like that), LARAMIE is in albany county, and DULUTH is in saint louis county. but these don’t seem to have any bearing on the meta.

it seems significant that C’MON and C-MINUS both begin with the unlikely consonant cluster CM. and if MAT weren’t in there, i’d be intrigued by the fact that all of the other second words are made up entirely of letters that (can) look like other letters when you rotate them 90 or 180 degrees: C can be U (90° counterclockwise), M can be W (180°) or perhaps E (90° ccw), O is … well, it’s O, N can be Z (90° either way) or N (180°), I is I, U can be C (90° cw) or arguably lowercase n (180°), S is S, and W is M or E. and “around” might be a vague hint at rotation. not only that, but WINS (turned around) looks like it might have something to do with MINneSota, which nicely ties in with my first idea. but i don’t know how to rotate the A or T in MAT into something relevant, nor can i figure out how to relate the others to their states.

well, i haven’t got it this week. since my hail mary worked last week, i’ll try another one: WACO ACUMEN, for no especially strong reason. if that turns out to be right… i don’t know. maybe i’ll just retire.

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35 Responses to MGWCC #339

  1. pgw says:

    I always struggle when the title is important to the solve. But I got there eventually.

    The four theme entries consist of a city (or town, if you like) followed by a seemingly random word. The trick is that the second word of each phrase is made up of the initial letters of the states which are “all around” the town’s state. Check it: Topeka is in Kansas, which is bordered by Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

    That makes the answer WACO LOAN, as Texas is bordered by Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico.

  2. Flinty Steve says:

    The answer is WACO LOAN. Each theme phrase includes a word made up of the initials of the states that surround the state that the town is in. Diabolical, but having grown up in Wisconsin I noticed the WI in Duluth’s phrase immediately.

  3. Matt says:

    It was WACO LOAN. The first word of each entry is a city of course, and then second word is formed from the first letters of the states surrounding the city’s state. So TOPEKA C’MON becuase Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska spell C’MON.

    131 right answers this week.

  4. Dan Seidman says:

    You were right about using the states and that “All around” referred to geography. You just needed to extend that to surrounding states.

  5. Justin says:

    Wow. Amazing meta. And thank you pgw for letting me off the hook, I was totally stumped though I was trying (similar to the Tyler anecdote Matt mentioned, without success!) all weekend.

  6. Evad says:

    Since WACO was one of three possible towns (and you might even include TRINIDAD, TX on that list), you still have to like joon’s powers of intuition.

  7. Paul Coulter says:

    I’d exhausted all potential paths that came to mind — this BORDERS ON impossible, I’m thinking. Like Joon, my guess was going to be WACO, but paired with WARN, but I gave it one last try this morning. I finally cracked it after consulting a US map. (I wonder if Jangler needed one.) So far, this was my most satisfying solve of all Matt’s metas. But I enjoy them even when I fail. In the holiday spirit, I think I speak for many of us when I offer Matt our thorough gratitude for the superb entertainment he provides. Five stars, not only for this puzzle, but for the entire series. What will we do after #1000? I sure hope one of our young indies picks up the torch. Of course, you won’t be all that young by then, but how about it, guys? E.A.? Evan? Neville? Andy? Peter?

    • Evan says:

      I’d need to get way better at creating metas. It’s hard enough for me to solve them (I got trounced by this one, though I guessed the right city). But I’d love to add Meta Master™ to my job description.

    • Neville says:

      I think we’re far enough away from #1000 to give a firm “maybe.”

      I know I’ve got a long way to go before I can craft as meaty a meta as Matt does.

  8. Daniel Barkalow says:

    In the irrelevant data category, each of these towns is the seat of its county (or parish), and the name of that county is also the name of a town in one of just two counties in Oklahoma. (But the country of which Waco is the seat isn’t a town on Oklahoma, and none of the others is a county seat.)

    I got as close as seeing the postal codes of the closest neighboring state in WIns and cMOn, but Shreveport is not at all close to Massachusetts.

    • CY Hollander says:

      I got as close as seeing the postal codes of the closest neighboring state in WIns and cMOn, but Shreveport is not at all close to Massachusetts.

      That was my first try too.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        Mine, too, after noticing that all four towns were near state borders (which turned out to be irrelevant.) But it nagged at me, until I finally saw that we wanted W, not WI for Wisconsin.

  9. Mutman says:

    Loved the meta.

    Was going nowhere with this. Convinced there was some anagramming to be done. Wrong. I had drawn a homemade map on the back of my puzzle but that was no help. Eventually decided to Google map the cities and see how that worked out. I ‘backed out’ enough to se the state names and then it all fell into place.

    Nice job as usual Matt!!

  10. ===Dan says:

    I did look at the second part of the theme answers for state abbreviations, but did not go as far as to look for initials. I had the bad idea that the theme answer would be a 10 or a 13, so I was thinking about a hail mary along the same lines as joon. Orem Twangs, maybe. But then I wondered whether the cities were eponymously named, so I came up with EPONYM LOAN as some sort of crazy reveal for the fifth theme answer.

    Some red herringlets were DEWAR crossing EPONYM, LOSES crossing WINS, and CMON + MO –> COMMON (goes with DECENCY). Also ISITOK ends with a state abbreviation.

  11. David Stein says:

    wow. This one really got me. The title had me looking for what surrounded the towns, but I never thought of the state. Oh well, time to start a new streak.

  12. Abide says:

    Clue for the fifth entry?

    “This might be given by a Baylor bailor”

    5 stars.

  13. Shawn P says:

    Like everyone else, I understood that we were looking for a town, but could not figure out what the second words meant. Going through them in my head, I kept thinking (I guess attempting ESP): C’mon Matt!

  14. pgw says:

    I played around a little bit trying to find other possibilities Matt could have used, and there aren’t many. Best I could do:

    SAVANNAH FATS (Minnesota’s long-lost sister maybe?)
    ALBUQUERQUE TACO (though there’s ambiguity at Four Corners)
    DELANO AÑO (a year in the life of Cesar Chavez)

    They get less cluable from there. There’s a near-miss with Colorado that would have been pretty cool – one more N-state on its border and you’d have, e.g., DURANGO UNKNOWN. (Though again with the Four Corners thing muddying the waters.)

    Evad, I also noticed Trinidad as an alternate city in Texas. Also Earle, if you count former railroad towns that have been swallowed up by large cities.

    I liked this one a lot, but then I have something of a map fetish.

  15. joon says:

    oh, that is good. i should have had this—a few weeks ago matt was tweeting about words that can be formed by states bordering a particular state and said “why didn’t i use this for a meta instead of tweeting about it?” it seems those tweets have since been deleted, but i remember.

    • Neville says:

      I also remembered, and that’s how I solved the meta mid-puzzle solve. Thank goodness for Twitter – I think I’d’ve had a heck of a time otherwise!

    • Matt says:

      Yeah, I was anguished over whether to use this after having tweeted. Fortunately the damage was limited — only two people mentioned having seen the tweet who got the meta, since i deleted them quickly. But still, not something I will make a habit of.

      • Jed says:

        I didn’t remember the tweets until just *after* I solved the meta, so no help to me – even though I had favorited them…

  16. Garrett says:

    I came up with this table:
    Topeka + Mo Missouri (cMOn)
    Shreveport + Ma Mass (MAt)
    Laramie + Mi Michigan (cMInus)
    Duluth + Wi Wisconson (WIns)

    Then I drew a line from each city to the next (top-down in the list), then from the bottom of the list going up, a line from Duluth to each state I had the two letter postal abbreviation for. What fell out of this was a form remarkably similar to Idaho, though rotated ~40+ degrees. Waco was the closest to this structure, and when I added Waco in and redrew the base to include it, it looked even more like Idaho.

    Thus, I submitted Waco trinIDad and Trinidad is the only word in the grid with ID in it.

    And here is an interesting little observation… you have a game in each of the four theme fills. In the order they appear: Pokemon, Hearts, Clue, Whist. And Orem Briny yields Ombre (a fast-moving seventeenth-century trick-taking card game for three players that is the ancestor to Euchre, Boston and Solo Whist).

  17. Bob says:

    So this is a stretch, but I was getting desperate.

    Noting that the puzzle was on Black Friday, and that the 18D clue included a boldfaced MORE BLACK FRIDAY DOORBUSTERS, I searched for a shopping connection and found the name of a national retailer within each theme entry:


    Therefore, my 5th theme entry had to be

    Hey, when you shop on Black Friday, you go “All Around Town,” right?

  18. jefe says:

    I got hung up on the error in the 16A clue – it should be [Word usually seen pluralized in crosswords], not “see” (or “word you usually see”, or even just “word usually pluralized”). Since there were other clues referencing common crossword entries, I thought this might be relevant, so, out of ideas, I guessed Orem Ovum.

  19. lilroser says:

    Another fun meta, thanks Matt!

    One thing had me very stuck for a while – LARAMIECMINUS anagrams quite nicely to SIMILAR ACUMEN, and ACUMEN crosses the second A in LARAMIE…this seemed highly unlikely to be coincidental (but apparently it was!)

    After twisting my brain into knots for about 36 hours, I took a fresh look at the puzzle on Monday night after a couple of shots of tequila at dinner (this is not a regular habit, I am traveling in Mexico)…and I cracked DULUTH/WINS in about 3 minutes, and the rest fell quickly thereafter. This shall now be my preferred method of solving end-of-month metas!

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