MGWCC #385

crossword 4:15
meta 1 day, with help 
mgwcc385hello and welcome to episode #385 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Dual Citizen”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt asks us to name a name in recent news. okay. what are the theme answers? well, funny you should ask. i first identified five long across answers that i was pretty sure were all themers:

  • {1998 Spike Lee movie} is HE GOT GAME.
  • {Concerning} AS REGARDS.
  • {City the Navajo call “Yooto”} SANTA FE.
  • {Fundamentally} IN ESSENCE.
  • {“Oh, well”} C’EST LA VIE.

i noticed pretty much right away that these all contain two-letter words that also happen to be chemical element symbols (for helium, arsenic, iron, indium, and lanthanum, respectively). i wrote down the atomic numbers (2, 33, 26, 49, 57, although i had to look up arsenic and indium since i don’t know those off the top of my head). i found the correspondingly numbered boxes in the grid and noticed that it spelled out MIRCH. then i stopped, because that’s not a name in the news.

the next day, andy kravis asked me to look at the meta with him. here is the transcript of our chat:

JP: so there are 2lws
AK: yep
JP: which are also element symbols
AK: yep
JP: so uh
nothing i noticed after that worked
AK: that's precisely as far as i got
JP: great
2 33 26 49 57
those letters in the grid spell out mirch
AK: well
here's something that will help:
there are two more theme answers
JP: interesting
and whatever the symmetrical thing
JP: oh
ill be here
AK: right
JP: very good then
AK: i didn't think to look at those letters in the grid
JP: mirchdo
there is probably a better order than acrosses then downs
AK: number order maybe?
JP: that starts dm
AK: it should start MO
2 is M, 4 is O
JP: oh
increasing atomic number
AK: right
JP: modrich
is that
a thing
AK: that really looks like something
JP: luka modric is a midfielder for real madrid
no h in his name but he is really good
AK: modrich won the 2015 chem nobel
JP: oh well there you go then
AK: that seems
quite good
JP: i think that is the answer
AK: well great
teamwork, dream work
i don't really understand why the title is "dual citizen" but i'll survive
JP: hmm
something about twos
but i guess he didn't want to hint anything about chemistry
AK: ah ok i see that kinda

so yeah, paul modrich is the answer. he certainly is a name in recent news (the nobel prizes were just announced a week ago), and although he’s not exactly a household name, it’s satisfying that he’s in the news for chemistry and we needed the elements to solve this meta. like andy, i’m not exactly sold on the title, but that’s about the only flaw i can find in an otherwise excellent meta. seems tough for a week 3, though—there are plenty of moving parts, and you might not recognize the answer once you have it (andy and i didn’t until he googled modrich).

clues that caught my eye:

  • {Nat. whose second-best chess player is Jon Ludvig Hammer; when he teams with compatriot Magnus Carlsen in events they go by the moniker “MC Hammer”} NOR. okay, that’s a long way to go for NOR, but i laughed.
  • {Teller’s activity} MAGIC. i think i have used this exact clue before. that’s teller of penn & teller, not a bank teller.
  • {2009 movie with 822,614 votes at IMDb} AVATAR. curious cluing decision here. by the time you read this clue, it was probably no longer true.
  • {Actor who reverses to a wanderer} DAMON. hey, i saw the martian this weekend.
  • {Part of a U.S. state capital (but not Carson City)} BATON. callback to last week.
  • {Person who bristles at being called a “spelunker”} CAVER. is the bristling a requirement of the hobby?

that’s all for me. i wonder if we’ll see a gentler-than-usual week 4 puzzle since week 3 was such a toughie. (matt said he was “aiming” for 291 correct answers but there are only 67 as i type this up monday night.) october is a five-week month, though, so who knows what frightening things matt has in store for us halloween weekend…

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51 Responses to MGWCC #385

  1. pgw says:

    Crap, I noticed the element symbols but never got there. Even had the atomic numbers written on my paper. And even looked at the Nobel prize winners in chemistry! Don’t know why I never thought to look at the grid letters with those numbers … grrr.

    • Amy L says:

      I followed exactly the same process. Maybe the trick is to talk it out, with someone else or with yourself. This always seems to work for Joon.

      • makfan says:

        I sure wish I had a friend who enjoyed puzzling things out like these. It can be very helpful. I filled in the crossword relatively quickly but had no idea what to make of it all.

      • joon says:

        it is absolutely helpful to have a second pair of eyes on a tough meta. i highly recommend it. ideally, you’d want it to be somebody who’s at roughly the same solving level as you. it’s much more satisfying when you feel that both partners have contributed to the solution, as it worked out this week with andy noticing the other two theme answers i had missed but me providing the nudge to look at the numbered squares in the grid.

        if you don’t have somebody to buddy up with, then yeah, you could try just talking it out with yourself. there have been a lot of metas i have cracked only because i sat down to write the weekly blog post without having solved it, and said, “well, i don’t know what’s going on here but let me just write out everything i’ve noticed so far.”

  2. Mark M says:

    Yada is not part of an Elaine Benes catch phrase, it was George’s girlfriend….

  3. Evan says:

    Since there were many steps involved here, I’d be curious to know which step was the real stumper for solvers. My guess would be noticing the periodic table connection. That’s what stopped me for a while at first since I wanted to anagram the two-letter words into a relevant name, but once I saw the chemical symbols, the rest fell into place. But I dunno. I could see the next couple of steps (taking their atomic numbers, taking the corresponding letters in the grid, putting them in order) being problematic too.

    Either way, I think this was a great meta.

    • Slow Stumper Solver says:

      Yeah, I’ve been anagramming the twos for the past day. Never got anything better than Sheila Belafane ….. (who must be famous for something?). Funny enough, I thought that Fe=iron a couple days ago, but never followed through on it.

    • KZCondor says:

      Yeah, looking in the periodic table was the only tricky part for me. I probably woukdn’t have thought to do that had I not just composed a meta myself that used a sinilar device. I suspect what tripped many people up was just the large number of steps to get to the final answer, along with the relative obscurity of Mr. Modrich.

    • austin says:

      I had the elements, but didn’t think to correspond them to the numbers in the grid. I even looked up the Nobel winners, thinking the answer would be one of them! cest la vie, indeed.

    • Steve Blais says:

      The hardest part for me was the very first step: noticing that each themer had a two-letter word in it. I don’t know why that took me so long, but once I did, the element/atomic number/number in grid connection followed easily. Then the next hardest part was making sense of MORDICH, or whatever it was supposed to be. Remembering that the Nobel Prize in chemistry was recently handed out led me to Wikipedia, where Paul Modrich was listed as the 2015 recipient. The next hardest part was not dropping my phone on the floor.

      • Evad says:

        I noticed the 2 letters early on, and the “dual” in the title helped confirm that I was on the right track. I hesitated though thinking why use I’LL BE HERE instead of I’LL BE BACK, which to me was a more common “I’ll be” + 4 letter word. (Now I see the H of HERE was constrained by the meta solution.) I also worried that the 2 letter word wasn’t always at the beginning of each theme entry, but it was for most of them. Guess there aren’t any FE ????? entries?

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    81 right answers, so Week 4-5 for sure. Tougher than intended.

    Note that there are no other two-letter words in the grid entries besides those seven.

    You and Andy got the title right: I wanted to emphasize the twos and not the chemistry, since I thought that would make backsolving too easy.

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Sigh. Scrawled at the bottom of my solved puzzle are these letters: MDIRCOH. I saw the elemental symbols connection immediately, and found the right letters, but after a decent amount of time rearranging them I didn’t come up with anything that looked like a name. The fact that the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was recently announced never crossed my mind, or I surely would have checked that list and it would have jumped out at me.

    Agree with joon on the title — the lack of a connection to chemistry eventually persuaded me to abandon looking at the elements.

  6. gifo says:

    I noticed the seven twos straight away, but wanted them to be country codes because of the ‘citizen’. After a couple of days the elements thing dawned on me and the rest followed.

    Interesting that googling “he al be fe as la in” doesn’t yield elements until way down in the search results.

    • Matthew G. says:

      The “FE” gave the elements connection away to me, since it’s so well known as one of the symbols that doesn’t match the English name of the element. Unfortunately, I too quickly abandoned the correct path to the solution when I got the letters MDIRCOH and couldn’t rearrange them to anything that seemed like a famous person.

  7. Rachel says:

    Got the elements. And the right letters. Didn’t find the chemist. Wouldn’t have clicked for me even if I had (even though I can now appreciate that the chemist/element connection is fun)
    I guess I assumed that a week three “person in recent news” would be something clear cut like Pope Francis or Trump.

    I then got caught up in three letters (threes, TLA, trio) and airport codes.

    Nothing. I hate losing. :(

  8. Dan Seidman says:

    Spent a lot of time looking for something that “dual citizen” could apply to, like the clue for “CIAO” that referred to two countries (though it really referred to the languages). It took me too long to notice that all the 9-letter answers (and the 7-letter one) had two-letter words. Noticing “FE” finally put me on track. Glad I tried circling the numbered squares in the grid or I would have been one of those who got the letters and not the answer.

    • Wayne says:

      Same. Except I never spotted the elements. I am doubly (dually?) ashamed, since I spent the entire week studying the periodic table because I’m tired of getting burned by it at Sunday trivia night.

  9. Ale M says:

    I first noticed “dual” clues with repeated capitalized words that all could have been worded less awkwardly, containing:

    20A: Knock-Knock
    43A: Ocean-Ocean
    44A: China-China
    42A: Hammer-Hammer

    Take the first letters of those double words and you get KOCH-KOCH. In other words, the Koch brothers, who have been very much in the news recently with Bernie Sanders blasting them, plus one of them just released a book. Their seed money started Citizens United. Since there has been a lot of political debate recently about corporate funding of candidates and the power they wield, etc., it seemed like such a “duh, of course” answer.

    What sealed it for me was remembering the documentary that came out recently. It was called “Citizen Koch.” So that was my answer: Koch (or the Koch brothers). Dual Citizen.

    Also, the method of hiding the answer was related to the answer itself: Dual words in the clues for a dual answer: the TWO brothers Koch, who are usually referred to as a set: the Koch brothers. That’s so meta.

    By the way, a Google news search using the “recent” filter turns up 26,600 hits for “Modrich” and 91,400 hits for “Koch brothers.”

    I’ve never appealed before for an alternate answer being accepted, but I want to for this. A handful of MGWCC puzzles in the past have been solvable from the clues alone, with no input from the finished grid, so this is not new territory. The only four clues with capitalized repeated words yield the answer, without any iffy leaps.

    I’m appealing! (And how do I do that?)

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      You just did. It’s interesting, I must say. Let me ask the panel for a decision.

      • Ale M says:

        Thanks, Matt! I will respect the panel’s decision, and thank you for your awesome puzzles week after week.

    • Evan says:

      I’m not on Matt’s panel, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but your solution is definitely creative. The only other repeated word pair I could find in the clues was in 35D [“See you when you get back”] and those are uncapitalized.

      The problem as I see it, though, is that it doesn’t explain why Matt would pick only four three-letter answers to hide the meta, and put the relevant letters in KOCH out of order. It doesn’t seem like enough theme material to justify those decisions. That said, I can’t deny the interesting connections you made to arrive at your answer.

      My 2 ¢.

      • Ale M says:

        Thanks for the 2c. The KOCH out of order didn’t bother me because anagramming first letters of a word group is a Gaffney staple.

        I actually thought most of the relevant clues were bunched together so more people would notice the anomaly for a Week 3. I don’t think Gaffney puzzles in the past that are solvable from clues alone relied on the relevant clues being tied to longer answers, but I would have to check.

        In fact, I thought ALL FOUR relevant clues leading to the same length answer (3 letters) strengthened the argument, not weakened it. It’s one more thing to prove they were an elegant set.

        • mrbreen says:

          I love this alternative answer, but also find it a bit shaky. There are at least two other dupes in the clues, and for those curious as to what an “all clue” puzzle looks like, check this out:

          23 relevant words all corresponding to symmetrical answers (including the long ones).

          Still, very cool alternative.

          • Ale M says:

            Thanks! The two other dupes in the clues are not capitalized, though. The four capitals were the only reason I investigated further that early in the solve.

            More than anything, I think it raises an interesting question about when one is sure enough that the answer you found is actually the intended meta answer. In the past, I have made the mistake of submitting something that involved too many leaps, but I honestly didn’t think so this time, not with the recent “Citizen Koch” documentary providing the final “aha.” It’s just an unfortunate group of coincidences that put me in a place where I thought, “This has to be it.”

            And I loved that John XXIII puzzle for sure! I actually thought there might be an extra “aha” that I had missed (something I have done with correct submissions before). I wondered if the corresponding grid entries ELI-NOR-ATL-SEA were going to relate to the Koch brothers somehow, like businesses in Seattle, Atlanta, New Orleans, and whatever ELI would be. (A Yale building?) But then I thought, “Don’t let the crazy take over.” :-)

        • Vraal says:

          I’m not on Matt’s independent panel either, but:

          a) Very creative. I love it and how you applied the title.

          2) After the Great-Milliliter-Debacle-of-Exactly-89-Weeks Ago-That-I’m-Still-Not-Completely-Over, Matt hasn’t made randogramming a staple. At least, not for any but the simplest of them where it was very obvious what letters you had to play with.

          III) When Matt doesn’t use the ostensible theme entries, his “staple” out of sheer fairness is to either stars relevant clues, or (in the case here where you’d have to hunt down those clues) he’d star some other entries that hint the method, or else have some prominent centrally-located or around-the-border entries that scream to use doubled proper nouns or capital letters in some fashion. None of that was done here.

          • Ale M says:

            a) Thanks!

            2) ME TOO. 89 weeks ago I had a compelling argument for “teaspoon” because I had two sixes as “boxcars” instead of “twelve.” (I did not appeal; this is my first appeal.) As for randomgramming, taking the first letters of only four words — where the letter you must anagram is highlighted by the fact that it is capitalized — puts it in the “non-crazy” category.

            III) Fair point. My only defense is I made the broad assumption that MGWCC puzzles on rare occasions can be solved from the clues alone.

            Thank you for the comments!

    • pgw says:

      I noticed the same stuff in the clues that you did. Anagrammed them as HOCK, and never thought of KOCH. I may not be paying enough attention to the news lately …

  10. Jed says:

    I got obsessed with the “dual citizen” loanwords in the grid – and there are a lot.

    Far too far down that rabbit hole to ever solve this one, but thanks to Matt for the extra laugh by leading me to the wikipedia article about calques. It contains the following sentence.

    Calque is a loanword from a French noun …. The word “Loanword” is a calque of the German word Lehnwort.

    Go home, English. You’re drunk.

    • Lance says:

      I got 100% distracted by the foreign words in the grid (IBIDEM, CIAO, C’EST LA VIE, SANTA FE…), and the fact that several of the clues drew particular attention to them (or to their alternate spellings–both the clues for CIAO and SELES, as well as SANTA FE, pointed out that the spelling, or name, of the answer is different in a different language). With that red herring, I never got anywhere close to the chemical symbols; it wouldn’t have been the first time that Matt had hidden answers outside of what look like “theme” entries.

      I’m a little disappointed in myself, but also a little disappointed in the puzzle. “These have two-letter words in them” is a really easy thing to overlook, and “Dual” in the title isn’t much of a help there–and ended up, for me, just reinforcing the “multilingual” thing.

  11. Jim S. says:

    I somehow got this – I noticed the 2 word answers and locked on there on Saturday. I first spotted the 5 across theme answers and anagrammed the 10 letters to Leif Haanes – he’s a real person, but thankfully not recently in the news. I also googled “presidential candidates Santa fe” only to find that Marco Rubio attended college in Santa Fe. I thought perhaps the themes were describing words – Wikipedia has a quote from him about his parents leaving Cuba that contains “essentially” but that seemed tenuous at best.

    Laying in bed Sunday morning, the elements came to mind and it fell pretty easily from there. Great puzzle!

  12. MountainManZach says:

    Yeah, I went down a completely wrong path and couldn’t shake it. I found pairs of crossing answers that shared a category. I was nudged in the right (read: wrong) direction by the callback to last week and the reference to two in the title: there are two places in the grid where answers with “city” in the clue cross. There’s also a cross for clues with “movie” and “singer”, and a place where a French word crosses a French phrase. And of course 4/5 crosses I found occur on what I assumed were theme answers.

    In moments like these, I totally understand why people believe conspiracy theories.

  13. xyzabc174 says:

    Ugh. I took this one step further and thought the answer was “Sancar” because he shared the Nobel Prize with Modrich (who is a US citizen), but Sancar is an actual “dual citizen” (US and Turkey), and that made everything fit (including the title).

    • Slowpoke Rodriguez says:

      I believe Matt usually gives full credit for things like this, and if you indeed put Sancar, it seems unlikely you put him for any reason but what you’ve given, so the proof is in the pudding. You should prolly contact him.

  14. Amy L says:

    I looked at the list of element symbols and thought maybe there is a famous name that contains a two-letter part that is an element. There are lots of MOs and ALs, but AL was in the grid. I checked to see if Xi (president of China Xi Jinping) is an element. I was stuck on this for a while.

    And because we were asked for a NAME in the news, I wondered if it could be a horse, a lion, a NASA mission. Definitely more like a week 4 or 5 for me.

  15. Abide says:

    I saw the twos but only half were recognizable element symbols. Title seems pretty obscure. I think if instructions had said a recent Nobel prize winner, the difficulty level would have been right.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I think that’s a fair suggestion. If the puzzle had nudged at the Nobels, but not at chemistry in particular, you would have had a discrete group in which to find the obscure name but still no obvious way to backsolve.

  16. Garrett says:

    Well darn! I had arrived at the point where I had AL BE HE AS IN LA and new that had to be the key, but for some reason my brain just did not come up with the idea of looking at the periodic table. Instead I was anagramming them — to no avail. Nice meta!

  17. ajk says:

    — raises hand for “chemistry professor that failed to get this meta”

    lol shame on me. :)

  18. Coreen says:

    OK, so I noticed the chemical symbols worked hard to make some sense of it all weekend to no avail. How come I can’t find a buddy to commiserate with, too??? No one I know does the MGWCC. WAH!!!!!!!

  19. Norm H says:

    This one drove me nuts.

    I immediately took the correct first step of identifying the seven 2-letter words. And, boy oh boy, I did everything possible with those 14 letters, to no avail. Eventually, I just started thinking of people in recent news (US presidential candidates, sports figures, etc.) and remembered that the Nobel Prizes had lately been awarded. So, I inadvertently took the correct fifth step of reviewing the Nobelists. Aside from the Belarussian author, the only one that triggered any mental recognition was Modrich, for exactly the same reason as Joon — it made me think of Luka the soccer player. Meta solved…right?

    Wrong! I failed to take the required second, third and fourth steps — recognizing the 2-letter words as element symbols, tying the elements to their atomic numbers, and finding the grid letters corresponding to those numbers. Thus, I passed right by the good Dr. Modrich with nothing more than a thought of European football.

    Very nice work, Matt.

  20. Scott says:

    I was close. I just didn’t put it all together on Friday and then I got distracted and never got back to it.

  21. Munch says:

    I also got stuck on the KOCH clues. What really struck me was that the clueing needlessly repeated words when the could have been clued and typically are clued differently. Most of the time SEA is clued they are not both China examples. Hammer mentioned the same person twice in a clue. Knock Knock , a very atypical way to clue ELI. Ocean could have been clued with any other city, but Ocean city seemed intentional.

  22. Jonesy says:

    i’ll posit another alternative:

    the first step of finding chemical elements (in any order):
    Be: Beryllium
    Al: Aluminum
    La: Lanthanum
    Fe: Iron
    He: Helium
    As: Arsenic
    In: Indium

    Taking the first letter of the elements – with Fe / Iron making this a week 3 instead of 1/2 (in the order above, it goes line by line but otherwise requires anagramming) gives BALI HAI – which obviously is a well-known thing. Then it’s a question of recent news… quick google search for just ‘bali hai news’ gives a news story (admittedly obscure) about 50-60 journalists suffering from food poisoning at a Bali Hai restaurant in California in August 2015… the food poisoning (chemistry / science related) connection, along with the dual citizen title (bali = indonesia, hai = japan, on top of the obvious 2 letter ‘dual’) made it seem like too much fitting perfectly together for it to be coincidental… the news story & overall concept are definitely lower on the ‘fame’ scale than typical but it just seemed too perfect…

    i even checked the 2015 nobel prize winners but used the wrong 7 letters! (obviously used various anagrams of BALIHAI)

  23. PuzzleCraig says:

    Count me as another person with a chemistry background (M.S. Ch.E.) who absolutely did not see the relation to the elements.

    I found RIMES and SPELL on opposite ends of the grid and tried to use the words in the grid that were homophones of letters of the alphabet as well as the single letters in some fashion, leading me to V (VIE), B (BE), C (SEA), MTA, MG(s), TBA, OOO, and IMO, and just basically having no clue what to with that from there.

    I think “dual citizen” was terribly misleading.

  24. Abby says:

    I couldn’t get past the across theme words seeming to spell a message. Dumb for this late in the month, I know, but I didn’t get much time to look at it.

  25. pj says:

    I, too, was flummoxed by the title. This was a week 5 for me; I haven’t missed a week three in a year or so. I kept looking at the many references to languages/ nationalities in the clues, along with foreign language words. It seemed too deliberate. But they were all red herrings! I never saw the two-letter words, and the title kept me on the language trail. I have a buddy I work with, but he is out of he country, and we communicated by email only. I remarked to him, though, that we would have gotten it if we could have talked it out. Not sure if we would have got it in a “month of Sunday’s,” though.

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