MGWCC #418

crossword ?:?? 
meta ?:?? 


mgwcc418hello and welcome to episode #418 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “In the Zone”, by guest constructor byron walden. yup, it’s guest constructor month! for this week 1 puzzle, byron challenges us to name a midwestern U.S. city. what are the theme answers? there are five long across answers in the grid:

  • {“Jeez Louise!”} clues “FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!”.
  • {Harries with hounds} is SICS THE DOGS ON.
  • {Risked needing Alka-Seltzer} is ATE THE WHOLE THING. if you’ve done enough of byron’s puzzles, you have probably noticed that he’s not afraid to push the limits of what constitutes a grid-worthy phrase. this is a very byron answer.
  • {Radio reporter Herb Morrison’s immortal words} are “OH, THE HUMANITY”—reporting, of course, on the hindenburg disaster.
  • {Working against} TO THE DETRIMENT OF.

so what’s the theme? these five answers start with FOR, SICS, ATE, OH, and TO, which are all homophones of even numbers. that part i noticed right away. since i hadn’t written down the instructions (as i often neglect to do on week 1 puzzles), i was not at all sure where to go next; i didn’t think of zip codes and i was unable to make head or tails of the title. but with the actual instructions, it was easy—i just googled 46802 and it’s the zip code of fort wayne, indiana. (as for the title, “zip” is short for zone improvement plan.)

you might have noticed i have ?’s in place of my solving times this week. that’s because i did the puzzle (along with a bunch of other puzzles from thursday and friday of last week) on a plane to washington dc for indie 500, and … i left them all in dc. oops. i feel pretty sure that i was somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes on this one. as befitting byron’s byline, it definitely felt tougher than usual for a week 1, both in terms of the crossword and the meta (although not as tough as his saturday nyt collaboration with the other killer bw, brad wilber!). here’s some stuff i didn’t know:

  • {Velvety fabric} PANNE. totally unfamiliar word to me. well, i know that “panne d’essence” is french for “out of gas” because i’ve played a ton of mille bornes in my day, but i did not know the name of this fabric.
  • {Tom who won gold in Atlanta and Sydney in the 400-meter individual medley} DOLAN.
  • {Chemical company in “Silkwood”} is something like KERR MCGEE. i don’t even know what “silkwood” is, let alone this company. is it … fictional?
  • {Certain bulldog, familiarly} FRENCHIE. is a french bulldog a kind of bulldog? man, there is a lot i don’t know about dogs.
  • {“___ That Bass” (Gershwin song in “Shall We Dance”)} SLAP.
  • {2001 Ja Rule hit} LIVIN’ IT UP.

that’s a lot of stuff for one puzzle, especially a week 1 puzzle. still, i enjoyed the solve. despite five long theme answers, there’s plenty of white space in the puzzle (the word count is only 75, on the low end for a 16×15 puzzle) with many interesting long downs, including six (!) that intersect three theme answers each. that is some fancy constructin’. {Word that becomes a synonym when you put “app” in front of it} LAUD was a fun riddle, and {Exclamation preceding “Get in here and pick up your Legos!”} YEOW made me laugh uncomfortably in a way that parents of similar-aged kids will surely understand.

that’s all i got this week. it was great to see many of you at indie. i wonder who’s on tap for week 2 of guest constructor month?

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26 Responses to MGWCC #418

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    Good Lord (Byron,) that was a beauty (like the night
    of cloudless climes and starry skies.) As Joon notes, it played much tougher than a typical Week 1 – given the title, my early guess was that it would have to do with zones, such as Buffer Zone for the Alka-Seltzer entry. While solving the grid, I looked for Red, End, War, Twilight, Time, Strike, etc. zones, but they zoned out. When the numeric homonyms emerged at the beginning of each phrase, that was lovely as the Maid of Athens. Ere we part, I’d like to say, by Jove, Byron, I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4.5 Rock Stars for a real rock star from me.

  2. CC says:

    Really fun puzzle and meta, and definitely a bit harder than your standard Week 1.

    In my area, it seems you can’t throw a rock without hitting a FRENCHIE bulldog. They’re everywhere, and very cute.

  3. Mutman says:

    Wow! I struggled mightily with this Week 1.

    I just wasn’t getting it. Maybe because the words were so short and non-descript, it took me a while to catch on. I kept thinking it was some blank_THE_blank theme, since the themers and title followed that pattern.

    Great start to GCM!

  4. Jim S. says:

    Really hard puzzle for me to solve, but I caught on to the meta concept early enough that it led me to “SICS” for the hound theme answer. I still have blank squares all over my grid – top middle and bottom right – but got all 5 themers so the meta fell pretty quickly for me. Whew!

  5. george says:

    oof! I’m by no means a master solver, but I at least am pretty consistent with the first half of the month. But this one foiled me. For some reason I just could not see it. I got stuck on “the” in the theme answers and title, and while I didn’t love the answer I came up with, it at least fit and was singular, so I went with it. All the answers had “the” in the middle of their answers. The puzzle title was called “in the zone”. Switch the emphasis from “zone” to “the”, ala “in THE zone” (like a zone of the’s), ok, odd, a theme around the word “the”, but why not? Let’s see. Straight to wikipedia to look at a list of midwestern cities, there is a single one on the list which has the word “the” in it, Lake in the Hills, Illinois. Oh well.

    Also, just a quick note Joon, I think the correct answer is Fort Wayne, instead of Fort Worth.

  6. Brian says:

    Fort Wayne, not Fort Worth. Oops just saw George beat me to it.

  7. Matt Gaffney says:

    387 right answers this week, tough for a Week 1! Thanks for doing, Byron.

  8. sps says:

    Silkwood was a movie about a whistleblower at a nuclear facility (I’m guessing that was Kerr McGee, but I wouldn’t have remembered that) and starred Meryl Streep and Cher. Didn’t someone win an Oscar for the movie?

  9. Byron says:

    For all the youngsters like Joon who weren’t around in the early 70’s, here’s the classic Alka-Seltzer ad where
    ATE THE WHOLE THING came from.

  10. Nancy Schuster says:

    The way I read the theme answers was:
    ZIP (love in the entry)
    2 (because there are 2 to’s in the last entry.))
    That gave me Omaha, Nebraska’s zip code, 68022!
    I still think it’s plausible.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Wow, Nancy, that’s an awesome find. How remarkable that it came out to such a major Midwestern city. I would have said you should get credit, except your solution ignores the 4 homonym.

      • Nancy Schuster says:

        I thought of that, Paul, but I figured the use of ZIP for ‘love’ was giving us a bigger and straightforward clue to what we were to look for.
        Also, there was no way to justify having two “to”s in the last entry except to use them both.

    • joon says:

      well, it’s not an orthographic theme; it’s a homophone theme. so “two” isn’t in TO THE DETRIMENT OF twice. it’s just in there once, at the beginning.

  11. Norm says:

    Sheesh. I was expecting something much simpler. Each of the theme answers had a “the” and the title did too, so I went went with Olathe, Kansas. C’est la vie.

  12. Tony says:

    “OH THE HUMANITY” was also immortally uttered intrepid reporter Les Nessman when WKRP did the famous Turkey Drop.

    • Kaille says:

      And who can forget the Seinfeld episode “The Pothole,” where Newman screams “OH THE HUMANITY!” as he drives his mail truck over a sewing machine and his mail truck bursts into flames. LOVE!

    • CC says:

      “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

  13. makfan says:

    First week one miss (I think) that wasn’t due to being too busy to get to the puzzle. I’m kind of mad at myself because this morning on the train to work I was actually saying the answers to myself and looking at lists of cities in the Midwest to try and find something. It never clicked that they sounded like numbers. Nice puzzle nonetheless.

  14. Astrokurtis says:

    First week 1 in a long time that I missed. I got stuck on Cincinatti due to the love of Pete (Rose) and the WKRP link with Oh the Humanity. I couldn’t make the other clues fit and also fell into the trap of thinking that week 1s don’t often involve word play.

  15. Jim Schooler says:

    Did anyone else notice the intersection of 21A FORThe love of Pete and 6D LIL (as in Wayne)?

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