MGWCC #407

crossword 3:32 
meta about 20 minutes 


mgwcc407hello and welcome to episode #407 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Cityscape”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip that would have made a good sixth theme entry in this puzzle. okay. what are the five theme answers?

  • {Florida street famed for its art deco hotels} OCEAN DRIVE. unfamiliar to me, but i figured it’s a place in miami, and i was mostly right.
  • {University founded by Jesuits} GEORGETOWN. my mom’s alma mater. i was bummed to notice that they didn’t make the field in this year’s march madness; i don’t watch any college basketball any more but i probably would have watched them if they’d been in it.
  • {Area referenced in a Sondheim musical’s title} THE WEST SIDE.
  • {Mayor between Sam Yorty and Dick Riordan} TOM BRADLEY. i didn’t know him (or rather, i had forgotten his name, because i definitely had heard of the bradley effect back in the 2008 election coverage), but he was the first african-american mayor of l.a.
  • {It’s celebrated in the French Quarter} FAT TUESDAY.

so the first striking thing is that all of these refer to particular u.s. cities, and cities are in the title, but none of the clues or answers explicitly mentions the city. so that strongly suggests that we need to connect the answers to the cities somehow. i spent a while trying to connect things to miami, d.c., new york, l.a., and new orleans, without much success. i also tried to see if MARDI GRAS (strongly implied by the FAT TUESDAY answer, and as a phrase more closely associated with new orleans than FAT TUESDAY itself) was important somehow, but it didn’t seem to be.

i had to put it aside and come back to it after solving some other puzzles, and then the aha came to me: the theme answers each have the same enumeration as their cities. OCEAN DRIVE is not in miami proper but rather in MIAMI BEACH; GEORGETOWN and WASHINGTON are both 10 letters; THE WEST SIDE is a 3 4 4 just like NEW YORK CITY; TOM BRADLEY and LOS ANGELES are both 3 7; and likewise FAT TUESDAY and NEW ORLEANS. so we just need to find a 3 5 to match LAS VEGAS. my first thought was THE SANDS, but that no longer exists; instead, the answer is MGM GRAND.

this is a pretty neat meta. it’s pretty darn constrained; there aren’t all that many u.s. cities with interesting enumerations. it would have been nice to see five different ones instead of using 3 7 twice, but there just aren’t many options to choose from while maintaining symmetry, given the need to also pair each city with a notable phrase with the same enumeration.

  • {___ Lobos (“La Bamba” band)} LOS. this gets a bit of a ding for me; it dupes the implied LOS behind the TOM BRADLEY clue. (similarly, i didn’t love the implied NEW dupe between NEW YORK CITY and NEW ORLEANS.) but this is a pretty minor peccadillo. LOS is followed by ANN in the grid, but this did not appear to be any kind of intentional hint. (it would have been amusing to work JELLIES or something in next, but that’s a different theme entirely.)
  • similarly, {Lax with} EASY ON doesn’t look like an intentional hint for new orleans, even though it crosses FAT TUESDAY at the Y.
  • {Knocked up} PREGGO. not a slang term i’m familiar with. to me it looks like a cross between PREGGERS (a slang term i am familiar with) and the tomato sauce brand PREGO.

that’s all for me this week. how’d you all like this one?

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36 Responses to MGWCC #407

  1. Matt says:

    Thanks, Joon — 172 right answers this week.

    A Philadelphia solver pointed out CHEESESTEAKS for that town. Nice, though too awkward at 12 letters for this particular grid.

    • Evan says:

      INDEPENDENCE works for that too. Dunno about other 12-letter towns.

      This was a fun one. Like joon I was temporarily thrown by the LOS, and also by the NYSE, but I got the click once I realized that there must be a thousand things one might more readily associate with Los Angeles than TOM BRADLEY.

  2. Cyrano says:

    Wow I feel guilty and lucky for the second time in the past month. I got the meta, but only because I associated TOMBRADLEY, OCEAN(DRIVE) and THEWEST(SIDE) with Los Angeles. I didn’t know what to do with GEORGETOWN and FATTUESDAY but I just guessed MGM GRAND because it has an LA tie. I knew it wasn’t the correct mechanism. Apparently I’m more lucky than good lately. Wonderful meta.

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    At first, I thought the theme was associations with cities that can be abbreviated with two letters (DC for Washington.) So my early favorite was Planet Hollywood, but LA was already represented, and MGM Grand also has an LA connection. It forced me to dig deeper into what uniquely ties the themers, as is appropriate for a Week 3. When I saw the letter count pattern, that was a nice AHA moment. Another interesting new technique that eventually leads to the answer, so I give full marks for that. But I wasn’t convinced, since Las Vegas is in the directions and Matt had avoided using the city’s names in his clues. This caused a lot of scouring for something better, but I ultimately submitted MGM GRAND and felt relieved when it was right. Off the top of my head, something like Raiders might have been better, if we’d been asked for an NFL team. Though on second thought, that’s not unique since Falcons would also work, but I’m sure one of you can come up with one that would have been perfect. 3.5 stars from me.

    • pgw says:

      Not exactly a new technique – we had essentially the same idea 17 weeks ago. Not that it detracts from this puzzle in any way.

      Upon solving, I realized that with a slight relaxing of the criteria, I myself could have been a theme answer – my full name is (5, 10) and I’m from a five-letter city in California.

  4. jefe says:

    Oof, stumped. I only saw the entries as associated with a particular US city, and couldn’t come up with a hotel that did too. Didn’t even consider Las Vegas as the intended city! *headdesk*

  5. Clint Hepner says:

    I took a wild guess with Mandalay Bay, since Chicago use to be a permanent show there. It fit the city theme, but I knew it was too awkward to be right.

  6. Amy L says:

    With little confidence, I submitted TROPICANA since it could refer to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. I thought that was awfully lame and I’m happy to learn here that the meta turned out to be as clever as usual.

    It seems that constructors have the best skills to tackles these puzzles. Maybe I have to start constructing to improve my skills as I don’t seem to be getting any better.

    CONSTITUTION also works for Philadelphia, but it’s much more of a cheese steak city, really. Maybe MUSTARD or PRETZEL for PHILLIE?

  7. Garrett says:

    Derailed by the title, “Cityscape.” I’m thinking of viewing the skyline of a city — defined by tall buildings, or viewing the city from one of those tall buildings. Every one of these cities has an observation deck of some type and most have an observation tower, esp Miami. On the Strip, that’s the Stratosphere. Also, THEWESTSIDE implied Manhattan to me, not NYC per se. But I am from the OC, so what do I know.

    After reading Joon’s write-up I noticed for the first time the South Beach and Miami Beach have the same number of letters. And I learned from working on this that one of the SoBe hotels has a nightclub called TAO.

  8. Mutman says:

    Like ‘jefe’ I saw the city connection, but assumed we were looking for a hotel that implied a city, but not Vegas itself.

    Lamely submitted NY NY on that premise, with little hope. Then thought Stratosphere may be answer because of Sky Needle similarity.

    Never made enumeration connection.

    Alas :(

  9. Daniel Barkalow says:

    This one rewarded my pedantry: I’d written down Miami Beach in my initial data collection, which made the answer much more obvious.

    I think 61A is actually incorrect; wouldn’t AMEX rivals be NYCE (the ATM network) rather than NYSE (the stock exchange)?

    • Stribbs says:

      The clue sneakily refers to the American Stock Exchange, often abbreviated AMEX and with nothing to do with American Express. Of course, the exchange was bought by NYSE a while ago, so the clue is outdated, perhaps…

  10. Dogpole says:

    The Las Vegas strip is not actually in Las Vegas, but rather Paradise, which would make Bellagio the meta. But after a short consider, I went with the more obvious one.

    • Joe says:

      Exactly. Venetian would also work if we were trying to match Paradise, making the meta even more confusing.

      • mrbreen says:

        Noticed the exact same thing. It’s The Venetian, so that wouldn’t work, but Bellagio certainly would. Not that it’s common knowledge that MGM Grand isn’t technically in Las Vegas.

        5 stars from me.

    • Jon says:

      This is brilliant and should be a valid entry if people entered it.

      I didn’t enter an answer this week – not even a guess because I got distracted by work/delayed trains/Brussels news and didn’t enter a guess – because I couldn’t get out of the association that the hotel name had to allude to a specific city. Bellagio is a city name next to Lake Como in Italy; the Palazzo wasn’t specific to any particular city; Paris is the name of the city. For a moment I thought the Stratosphere Casino & Hotel might be the answer but it’s technically not on “the strip” as it’s in Las Vegas and all the rest of them are in Paradise, NV. I thought the Stratosphere was maybe alluding to Seattle but its tower design isn’t a direct copy of the Space Needle; so I moved on.

      Had I noticed the enumeration aspect of the themes, I probably would have been led astray by Miami Beach. Since Matt was so specific with it being Miami Beach and not just Miami, then you would think he’d be just as specific since the Las Vegas strip is actually in Paradise, NV. Thus the Bellagio. So I’m kind of glad I couldn’t get out of my initial mindset.

  11. Jonesy says:

    I got the correct answer but the “THE WEST SIDE” and NYC feels really inelegant to me. NY NY is only informally called that… The city’s official name is just “New York, New York” I get this is being very nit picky but Matt has set the bar high for himself!

  12. Tony says:

    Friday was not a good meta day for me. I confused myself and sent in the answer to Matt’s WSJ puzzle to the MGWCC site and forgot about this one.

  13. dave glasser says:

    Nice! I figured the weirdness of THE WEST SIDE must be relevant somehow…

    My favorite wrong angle was thinking about last month’s final puzzle and wondering if these were all the same square on city themed Monopoly boards. Ocean Drive is in fact the Boardwalk of the Miami Monopoly. Of course that was unlikely to work for TOM BRADLEY…

  14. LuckyGuest says:

    Matt must think I’m a moron for submitting “Four Seasons,” but there was a connection (kind of). I got the city thing, after noticing that he’d cleverly not mentioned the city in any of the clues, but now there were three aspects to be coalesced: 1) a hotel on the strip that implied a city, 2) a connection between the 5 themed cities, and c) determining that the city implied by the hotel met the criteria of the connection. I started looking at the hotels to get a city and eventually saw that “Four Seasons” (to me) implied “Newark,” because that’s where Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons started. Then I saw that the five themed cities showed up on a list of “states’ most populous cities that weren’t their state’s capital,” (except for that pesky Washington DC), and discovered that Newark also fit that criteria for New Jersey. Voila! But, alas, wrong! Done in by “the connection.” Unfortunately, by my logic, they also have the Cliff Klaven connection; i.e., “where are six places that have never been in my kitchen.” Anyway, kudos to Matt and the solvers. Me, I’ll keep on plugging.

  15. Peter W says:

    Ah, now it makes sense! This one flummoxed me. I got stuck going down the rabbit hole of CBS police procedural spin-offs.

    CSI: Miami
    CSI: Cyber (set in D.C.)
    CSI: NY
    NCIS: Los Angeles
    NCIS: New Orleans

    Of course, the original CSI took place in Las Vegas (and the original NCIS was in DC as well). Figured I had to be onto something…

    • tabstop says:

      I was here for a while, until I decided that “name a hotel on the Strip whose name suggests Las Vegas” was a bit too indeterminate. Wasn’t until I sat down and really thought about “why Fat Tuesday” that it clicked.

    • mnemonica says:

      I was there, too, for a long while. I thought maybe the city landmarks were in the shows’ title sequences (and *one* Vegas hotel would be in “CSI”), and I spent a long time watching opening credits from various seasons to try to prove that.

      This is one of the few times I’ve been able to give up my initial wrong guess. Usually, I just spend all weekend trying to make it work.

    • Deepak says:

      Also, they appear in the grid in the order of premiere date of the shows! That locked me in hard on the wrong path. This is one of the strangest coincidences, really.

  16. LuckyGuest says:

    Peter W: Yes! That was my exact first rabbit hole…

  17. Scott says:

    I followed the same logic as Cyrano with the LA connections. Right answer via wrong thinking. Well, I will take the win! Thanks Matt!

  18. Mike W says:

    Here’s a potential clue to address a different city length (6,4) – Convention center that spans Interstate 670 – Bartle Hall in Kansas City, MO.

  19. Joe Eckman says:

    Matt, is there a particular 9 letter word that you had in mind to replace “cityscape?” Crossword?
    The meta fell into place pretty quickly after focusing on the cities that the clues and answers inferred. I am learning to dismiss ideas that take too much finagling to “kinda” work. This week, I spent only minutes trying to make Sands try to relate to answers other than George and Ocean. Ditto for making Boy work with George and Tom. In weeks prior, I may have gotten hopelessly stuck chasing after a lost cause…4 stars for me!

    • pgw says:

      I counted the letters in cityscape and Staunton hoping for that extra little bit of elegance. If all of the theme entries could have been people associated with the cities, the title “cityfolk” would have really worked nicely.

  20. Mike says:

    Like Paul Coulter I was thrown off because “las vegas” was in the instructions, but none of the clues had the city name, sort of like the answer can’t be in the clue rule. I don’t know if substituting “well known gambling ‘strip'” for the city name would have made it harder or easier, but it would have given it a pleasant symmetry.

  21. slubduck says:

    I never looked for hotels that implied LV, since it seemed obvious to me that too many of them were associated with LV to single out one. Then I was stuck thinking about the city abbreviations, SoBe (South Beach), DC, NYC, LA, NoLa ….. which made me figure the intended 6th city had to be either ATL or KC ….. nothing came from it. Also noticed the grid had partials of the first word (or syllable, or abbreviation) of many cities (LOS, ikNEWit, NYse, PHILo, GNAWlins, DEEcee, etc.) which doubled down (oh the pun of it) my search for a hotel which implied a city usually associated with its abbreviation. Finally spent many eons focusing on the “neighborhood within said city” aspect, as 4 of the 5 theme clues definitely suggest a particular neighborhood (SouthBeach, Georgetown, WestSide, FrenchQuarter ….. nothing fit here for Bradley-LA), so I submitted Treasure Island, which is indeed a defined ‘neighborhood’ or at least ‘section’ of the city of SanFrancisco. Meh, I knew it was wrong, but there’s so much going on here in “almost-a-connection-land” that I was dying for anything to latch onto. I’m sad to have missed the “entry length = city length” thing, which is good for a valid meta, but I truly feel this one as a weak connection, since MGM Grand isn’t truly synonymous with LV, other than it’s letter length, whereas each of the existing 5 themers are very much synonymous with their cities regardless of their letter length.

    • pgw says:

      > MGM Grand isn’t truly synonymous with LV, other than it’s letter length,
      > whereas each of the existing 5 themers are very much synonymous with
      > their cities regardless of their letter length.

      I respect that you feel that way, but I disagree. First, the MGM Grand is a monstrously garish spectacle – one of the largest and most ostentatious hotels in the world, perpetually filled with drunk idiots, second-rate entertainers, seedy grifters and “high rollers” (i.e. people who are desperate for their money to be noticed) – I can’t think of a thing that is more quintessentially Las Vegas.

      The above, though, was mostly tongue-in-cheek. The real point is that each theme thing is just a thing that is associated with a particular city. The word-lengths thing is doing all of the heavy lifting in tying this together as a theme that I thought was both straightforward (once seen, which was by no means easy) and elegant. But reasonable folks can differ and move on to week 4 …

  22. Ale M says:

    Didn’t get this, but I thought I had it with this:

    TOM BRADLEY –> Either the L.A. KINGS or Tom Bradley’s RODNEY KING association


    So, what Vegas Strip hotel? —-
    EXCALIBUR, the themed hotel based on Camelot, realm of KING ARTHUR. And their current show is “Tournament of KINGS.”

    And the puzzle title? CITYSCAPES? I thought the final click was “City’s CAPE.” Don’t kings wear capes?

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