MGWCC #432

crossword 3:41 
meta 2 minute 


mgwcc432hello and welcome to episode #432 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Crack Squad”. this week, matt tells us that he’s looking for a three-letter noun. there appear to be five theme answers:

  • {Got in the air quickly, like a ___} FIGHTER JET.
  • {Useless due to fatigue, like a ___} BRAIN.
  • {Taken illegally, like a ___} RHINOCEROS.
  • {Tough and gritty, like a ___} DETECTIVE.
  • {Without editing, like ___} TV FOOTAGE.

well this is curious: the answers that go into the grid appear to be fill-in-the-blanks that complete a clue for an answer that does not go into the grid. what, then, do we do with the answers to those clues?

well, i didn’t know, but surely the TV FOOTAGE one clued RAW, which is three letters. and maybe DETECTIVE is TEC (although that’s a short form of the same word) and FIGHTER JET is a MIG? i did not know what to make of BRAIN or RHINOCEROS.

only a short time later, though, i realized that the RHINOCEROS clue had to be POACHED, and then it became clear: all of these are various ways of preparing an EGG, which is the meta answer:

  • {Got in the air quickly, like a FIGHTER JET} SCRAMBLED.
  • {Useless due to fatigue, like a BRAIN} FRIED.
  • {Taken illegally, like a RHINOCEROS} POACHED.
  • {Tough and gritty, like a DETECTIVE} HARD-BOILED.
  • {Without editing, like TV FOOTAGE} RAW.

so that’s pretty much perfect for a week 2: not obvious, but gettable and rewarding. i’m not sure the title helps much in forward-solving, but it certainly makes sense in retrospect, since you have to crack the egg in order to eat it. (after preparing it, though, in the case of HARD-BOILED.) i’m not sure if 4d {Conceived of, as a dastardly plan} HATCHED was supposed to be a hint or was purely coincidental, but in light of the theme it certainly makes sense to clue it in a non-egg context.

three clues that caught my eye:

  • {“Mountains Beyond Mountains” country} HAITI. do other people know this book? my wife read it in med school, because she took paul farmer’s class. i didn’t realize it was more broadly known.
  • {Becomes a knight or a queen} PROMOTES. curious usage. only in chess, i think, can this be an intransitive verb.
  • {Go in the direction of} HEAD. now this one i don’t think works. if you go in the direction of something, you HEAD towards it; you don’t just HEAD it. transitive HEAD, to me, can only mean “be the leader of” or “strike with your head” (as a soccer ball).

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you all like this one?

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16 Responses to MGWCC #432

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 386 right answers this week.

    My wife read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” in nursing school, funny coincidence. And then I read it on her recommendation.

  2. Matthew G. says:

    I had the same reaction as joon to the clue on HEAD. It doesn’t quite parse.

    I am not familiar with “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” but I know of Tracy Kidder from another of his books, “Strength in What Remains.”

    Liked the meta. It’s funny that joon’s point of entry was RAW, because I couldn’t figure that one out until coming to read this review (I was also unsure about BRAIN, but I figured it was probably FRIED). It was RHINOCEROS/POACHED that gave me the click, and then DETECTIVE/HARD-BOILED that gave me a laugh.

  3. Ephraim says:

    I really liked the mechanism of fill-in-the-blank clues becoming new clues when filled in. That said, the meta seemed overly easy for week two, as spotting the mechanism instantly exposed the meta answer.

    I read Mountains Beyond Mountains mostly because I like medical stories. I don’t recall where I first heard of it.

  4. Small Wave Dave says:

    Fun and pretty easy. After I got FIGHTER JET and DETECTIVE I was thinking “ACE,” but the rest of the theme clues made EGG obvious. The fact that I’d dined on poached rhinoceros for breakfast helped too.

    Now I’ll have to learn about “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” In keeping with the vibe here, maybe I’ll find that my wife read it in vet school!

  5. Garrett says:

    I spent all the way through Sunday night trying to parse the WSJ contest puzzle, which I did not start until Saturday morning. Was super busy yesterday so I only had this morning to look at the MGWCC. I did not get the linkage described above, and so in desperation I threw out MAN, because I saw FIGHT, BRAIN, RHINO (thinking nose here), DETECT (something you do with your nose, as in detect an odor), and FOOT. It was a Hail Mary due to shortage of time. Nice meta!

  6. ML Perry says:

    Well, I’ll just add my name to the list of folks for whom “rhinoceros/poached” did the trick. I did think of the other words as the missing qualifiers for the clues as in:

    Got in the air quickly, like a scrambled FIGHTER JET.
    Tough and gritty, like a hard boiled DETECTIVE.
    Without editing, like raw TV FOOTAGE.

    And the solution took me days! Ouch! Thanks!

  7. Tony says:

    When I first tried to solve the meta, I made it a lot harder than it needed to be. I thought that each answer would lead to a 3-letter word that would somehow yield a final clue to the answer. At first, I had MIG for fighter jet and CPU for Brain. Then, because of the Star Trek 50th anniversary, I though of McCoy, but that quickly went nowhere.

    Wasn’t until I thought about Hard-Boiled detective that the egg dropped, so to speak.

    Last one to fall for me was Scrambled.

  8. Jan says:

    I read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” even before my husband started working for an organization that raises money for a clinic and educational programs in Haiti. My daughter received it in high school as a book award from the local Harvard alumni chapter.

  9. Andy says:

    I only knew “Mountains Beyond Mountains” as an Arcade Fire lyric. Coincidentally (or not), they also have a song called Haiti.

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