MGWCC #424

crossword 2:40 (across lite) 
meta 15 minutes 


mgwcc424hello and welcome to episode #424 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Name Game”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt gives us this instruction: You will feel like one of these if you solve this week’s meta. curious! what are the theme answers? there are six full names in the grid:

  • {“This Is Spinal Tap” director} ROB REINER.
  • {Cartoon character voiced by Mila Kunis} MEG GRIFFIN. from family guy.
  • {Actor once knocked out of the World Series of Poker by Doyle Brunson} MATT DAMON.
  • {TV character whose middle name is “Stanford”} GREG BRADY. from the new england patriots.
  • {Eponym of one of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average} WALT DISNEY.
  • {Longtime carpenter on “This Old House”} NORM ABRAM. fun fact: if you start to google his name, autocomplete helpfully wants to fill in “norm abrams”. but yes, his name is in fact norm abram.

what do all these names have in common? not all that much, but after a couple of quick dead ends (looking for entries that rhyme with these names, several of these people have equally- or more-famous relatives, MEG GRIFFIN contains EGG, etc.), i noticed that all the first names are short forms of common (anglo-saxon) first names: robert, megan (or sometimes margaret, but in this case the character’s name is megan), matthew, gregory, walter, norman.

key observation #2 came shortly thereafter: the truncated ending of each name is in the grid, except with an additional letter in front in the place of the nickname. in order:

  • {Green, to a Grenoblois} VERT has the -ERT from ROBert REINER.
  • {Thorpe or Poulter} IAN has the -AN from MEGan GRIFFIN. also, so does {Bolted} RAN, which is rather inelegant; see below. also also, i don’t know who IAN poulter is. (apparently a golfer.)
  • {Use your choppers} CHEW has the -HEW from MATThew DAMON.
  • {Brexit voter, perhaps} is a timely clue for TORY, which has the -ORY from GREGory BRADY.
  • {Antonym for “neath”} O‘ER has the -ER from WALTer DISNEY.
  • and {Bolted} RAN has the other -AN, this time for NORMan ABRAM.

as you can see, it’s not great that there are two -ANs, but it’s pretty obvious which one goes with which name, because in this order they spell out VICTOR, the meta answer. if you tried it the other way, you’d get VRCTOI (which actually might be what you’d feel like if you submitted that, but isn’t the solution).

other than the extra -AN, i thought this was a really neat meta. the grid contains six medium-long and six more short theme answers, which is why it’s an 80-word grid with a couple of cheater squares that don’t at first appear like they need to be there. but the theme is both cleverly executed and well concealed, with a couple of nice “aha” moments.

i wonder how much freedom matt had to choose letters from the meta. there are plenty of common first names with standard short forms, but many of them aren’t fully contained in the original name or aren’t at the start, e.g. you can’t use BETH or LIZ for ELIZABETH or MIKE for MICHAEL or JENNY for JENNIFER. still, it feels to me like this wouldn’t have been too tough to build without a dupe stem, so that’s a relatively major flaw in an otherwise sterling meta.

there’s only a bit of junk in the grid; RESAT caught my eye, both as an ugly answer and because i didn’t like the clue {Did an usher’s job}, which seems to me like it should clue RESEATED. RESAT should be the past tense of RESIT, not RESEAT.

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

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24 Responses to MGWCC #424

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 177 right answers this week.

    I can’t quite recall the deal with the double -AN, since I made this one maybe a month ago. I don’t know if I thought it wasn’t a big deal since the placement is obvious (not great, if that’s what I thought), or if I couldn’t get another -AN letter to work, or what. That doesn’t seem likely, since someone pointed out PHIL(IP) and RIP as an example. Or could I just not have noticed it? Don’t remember. Oh well. But you’re obviously correct on dinging it there.

    I’m not at home at the moment but I’m curious to check my notebook later. I’ll update later on here if I find anything illuminating.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    I saw the shortened names quickly, and sent in the answer “Name on a Short List.” I was happy with it, given what was going on that week in politics, but I hadn’t noticed that “Name” was in the title. Once I did, I realized that Matt would never make his answer a dupe. Eventually, I saw the intended answer, which is a lot better than mine, of course. Four rising stars from me.

  3. Ephraim says:

    I noticed the shortened first names right off, but went from there to attempts at anagramming the absent endings. Fortunately that was such an abject failure I didn’t spend long on it. Then HEW caught my eye and everything was clear.

    Nicely done despite VRCTOI.

    • Kaille says:

      Ephraim, I did exactly the same thing, although I wasted much of my weekend on the endeavor. I did spend a little time looking around the grid for the rest of the shortened names, but obviously that went over my head. I don’t know what it is about the third week, but I’ve yet to solve one.

      On to week four!

      • Matthew G. says:

        I got the correct answer, but only after I first spent a fair amount of time (1) anagramming the omitted name endings; and (2) rearranging them to try to sound out a word phonetically. It seemed to me like “ORY AN” and “ERT ER” and various other combos sounded like potential endings of words describing a person you could be. E.g., –ian or –er. Then I saw the -ORY in TORY and got back on track.

  4. pgw says:

    I loved this meta, thought it was brilliant, and wasn’t all that put off by the duplicate -ANs. But if you’re looking for a way to clean that up, you could find someone named Barb and then get the R from RARA; or an Alex, using this obscure word I just found.

    • pgw says:

      Phil(ip)/rip is obviously better than either of those. Dan(iel)/riel is also cromulent, if a bit oscure. Sam(uel)/Tuel (surname of a backup quarterback) and then Rory instead of Tory. Etc…

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      BARB for (RARA/TARA) and DEB for TORAH were on my list, but no famous enough Barbs or Debs (sorry, Deb Amlen!)

  5. Amy L says:

    I was sure it was family related: All in the Family, The Family Guy, Walt Disney family movies, Brady Bunch TV family. But I could not figure out what family Norm Abram could suggest, so I looked elsewhere and found the answer. Now I know what Norm’s wife and house (that he built himself with his father) look like.

    I did feel victorious when I got the answer. I haven’t gotten a Week 3 in a while.

  6. Joe says:

    I got stuck too much on the “game” part of the title and noticed that last names were shared by some famous game show hosts. Meg Griffin – Merv Griffin – Jeopardy and Wheel, Greg Brady – Wayne Brady – Let’s Make a Deal, Rob Reiner – Carl Reiner – People Will Talk and Keep Talking. Couldn’t get anything definitive or well known enough for the other three and got stuck on that route.

    I always screw up week three puzzles because I expect them to be more intricate than they are. Shortened names was the thing in common? Completely passed by that since I figured there’d be a higher first step to take.

    Good meta, although not as elegant as some others.

  7. Alan says:

    Missed it…..but still like where I went. Took all the missing endings…..then subtracted out the letters that were in the surname. Rob(ert) Reiner left me with ‘t’. Matt(hew) Damon game me ‘hew’ by the way. Anagrammed the remaining to get ‘Another W’…FTW! Well….not right…so…FTL.

  8. wobbith says:

    Got this eventually, but I was led astray for a while by the bizarre, contrived Matt Damon clue “Actor once knocked out of tHE World Series of Poker by Doyle Brunson” . Red Herring? Anybody else?

  9. Garrett says:

    Like Ephraim, I noticed the shortened first names, and tried anagramming the absent endings. Similarly to Alan, I looked to complete the shortened first names with letters from the surname, figuring the missing letters would anagram into something. I was pretty much stopped cold by Matt Damon because nothing in the surname helped, until I remembered that Matteo is the Italian form of the Hebrew name “Matthew.” This, of course, led nowhere. The idea of picking-up the missing letters from other words did not occur to me.

    Did anyone notice that NORMABRAM can split as Norma Bram? This made me think of Bram Stoker.

  10. Richard K says:

    Very elegant! I didn’t get this answer, but I was close to submitting “Name Droppers” because of the letters dropped from the first names. Alas, I didn’t think of finding those chunks in other entries. I did notice that all six names had the same metrical pattern — stressed, stressed, unstressed — and that HAD to be meaningful, especially since there were three more names just like them in the clues. Very excited to look up the name for that metrical foot . . . So now I guess I feel like an antibacchius.

  11. Small Wave Dave says:


    Yep, BRAM caught my eye too; didn’t lead anywhere, obviously.

    Disappointed I failed at this one. Went down some of the same rabbit holes as others of you (including the FAMILY connection that wasn’t).

    My main downfall was getting hung up on what “game” was relevant–lots of clue references to baseball, hockey, football, golf, poker, but (to me) most notably chess.
    Saw QUEEN smack dab in the center of the grid; its clue was chess-based, as was FARSI’s.

    Then is saw robREINEr (French for queen) and norMABram (a faerie queen from Shakespeare) and that launched me on a weekend of fruitless googling. Even dAMON (Biblical king; did he have a queen??) had me distracted.

    I did notice the shortened first names, wrote down the full versions, cogitated unproductively, and never spied the missing endings in the grid.

    It was a fun puzzle. Seems like it shouldn’t have been that tough, but with just 177 right answers, maybe I don’t feel quite so obtuse.

  12. TNGal says:

    Did anyone go the game route?
    Rob Reiner crosses with the game Bloop at “O”
    Meg Griffin crosses with the game Ween at “N”
    Matt Damon crosses with the game Aero at “A”
    Greg Brady crosses with the game Slay at “Y”
    Walt Disney crosses with the game Redder at “D”
    Norm Abram crosses with the game Eamon at “M”.

    These letters anagram to “Dynamo”

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    What you might feel like? Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. I found pecAN, casHEW, filbERT, hickORY … and two dead ends.

  14. sharkicicles says:

    Doing enough of these I’m pretty sure Matt clued this on purpose, but if he didn’t it’s still pretty cool.

    I googled each name to see what the longer version was (i.e. is Meg Griffin Megan or Meghan?) and one thing I noticed is that Greg Brady didn’t give any results for Gregory. But if you add the middle name to the clue you get a ton of hits for Gregory.

    • Mutman says:

      And then there was the episode where they tried to trick Peter into thinking he was getting a party thrown for him (he was hiding a tape recorder under the bed and eavesdropping on his siblings). Marcia exclaims “Why whatever do you mean Gregory!” Greg then rebukes her for sounding staged ….

      I’m a Brady Bunch junkie ….

  15. AK37 says:

    Haven’t seen it mentioned here yet, by Matt or otherwise, but the answer VICTOR, used in a different context, is a name that can be shortened, to VIC. Another superb touch.

  16. jefe says:

    I got it, helped by the memory of the recent shortened animals meta.

  17. Andy says:

    Another minor inelegance (though it can hardly be called that): Meg Griffin’s name isn’t short for “Megan.” It’s short for MEGATRON:

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