MGWCC #433

crossword 3:25 
meta 5-10 minutes 


mgwcc433hello and welcome to episode #433 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “One Nation”. this week, matt intriguingly tells us that You must figure out this week’s instructions for yourself. hmm, okay. what are the theme answers? there don’t appear to be any obvious ones, but there is one long central across answer: {“Cat,” “hat,” and “strengths,” for example} MONOSYLLABLES.

okay, fine. let’s look for other monosyllables in the puzzle and maybe we’ll have our instructions. there are many in the grid, and that’s the first thing i tried. but no matter what ordering i used, they don’t spell anything. but the next thing i tried did work: looking for monosyllablic clues. there are ten of them, all in the acrosses. behold:

  • {Sub} HERO.
  • {Mitt} GLOVE.
  • {“The ___”} OMEN. (missed this in my initial writeup; thanks to commenter ajk for bringing it to my attention)
  • {Lodge} INN.
  • {“Ick!”} GROSS.
  • {All} FULLY.
  • {Five} QUINTET.
  • {Let} ALLOW.
  • {___ Turk} YOUNG.
  • {Un-} NON.
  • {___ tree} PEAR.

put those clues together phonetically, and you get: submit the logical five-letter country. what’s that? why, SPAIN, of course, the only monosyllabic five-letter country name. i’m glad that “five-letter” was in the instructions, because based solely on MONOSYLLABLES and the title, i was leaning towards submitting LAOS, which can be pronounced with one syllable or two. there’s also FRANCE and GREECE (unambiguously monosyllabic) and maybe others that aren’t coming to mind right now.

this was a very cool meta. the instructions were concealed just well enough: none of those clues (except maybe PEAR) stuck out during the solve, and the way the fit together in order phonetically to produce the instruction phrase was very elegant.

in the grid, i didn’t know {Melbourne newspaper} THE AGE, and i thought {Prince’s “Look at Me, Look ___”} AT U was a pretty ugly partial. everything else was fine. i enjoyed the beautiful word SEMILUNE and OH, I DUNNO.

two weeks left in september and the metas are getting tougher! how’d this one treat you?

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46 Responses to MGWCC #433

  1. Qatsi says:

    CHAD is the only other monosyllabic country name, other than the three or four you mentioned.

  2. Ephraim says:

    I initially misread the intermediate clue as “Submit logic. All five letter country.” Which didn’t *entirely* make sense, since it seemed to ask for an explanation of why you’re entering a list of every five-letter country. Fortunately I thought it over.

  3. ajk says:

    Note that 19A is “The ___”, which would make it ‘submit *the* logical five-letter country.’ At least that’s how I read it. :)

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 233 right answers this week. And yes, ajk — the THE is in there as well, smoothing out the syntax.

    There are only five one-syllable countries, to my surprise: SPAIN, LAOS, CHAD, GREECE, and FRANCE.

  5. Mutman says:

    I liked it!

    I think Wales would also work, but that whole UK thing confuses me. I’m never sure about sovereignty.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I would think WALES should be accepted, since the UK does refer to its four constituent parts as countries.

    • Thomas says:

      I also thought about Wales, which arguably gets a nudge from “One Nation”/United Kingdom. But Spain is too prominent, and it seemed obvious that between the two, Wales is the one that Matt would figure doesn’t really count.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Three solvers submitted WALES and I reluctantly counted them as correct.

        Wales is unambiguously part of the UK and thus can’t be considered a country in the normal usage of that term. But its Wikipedia page calls it a “country,” so I felt I had to accept it.

        • John says:

          Wait, Ireland isn’t a country? It too is ” unambiguously part of the UK”. If you say yes, i have some mighty mad relatives to introduce you to. :v)

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Ireland isn’t part of the UK, Northern Ireland is. Ireland is unambiguously an independent country.

          • John says:

            OK, the Scots. I’ve got relatives there too. Scotland is both a country and part of the UK. The wikipedia article also states: The UK consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

            I submitted SPAIN because several sources questioned exactly this issue. I just find it interesting, I’m not actually annoyed or anything.

        • Dan F says:

          oops! I was in a hurry, so I quickly scanned some list of five-letter countries and missed Spain.

          • Coreen says:

            Wales is listed as a country and a nation by several sources so I thought it could be the answer; I opted for Spain thinking Catherine of Aragon might be a clue to help choose between the two possible answers.

        • CFXK says:

          Why Matthew, it profits a man nothing to give his crossword soul for the whole world… but for Wales?

          (with apologies to Robert Bolt’s Sir Thomas More)

  6. Kaille says:

    Wow, surprisingly, I got the meta, but via a different route. Among the grid answers, I found MONO, TWO, TRI, QUAD, and QUINT. So, I looked for a 5-letter monosyllabic nation: SPAIN. I was sure I was wrong because it just didn’t feel right to me, but I submitted it anyway. The correct way to find it was much more elegant! My first week 3!

  7. Matthew G. says:

    I eventually figured out the theme and submitted the correct answer, but not before spending a long time on one of the most profound red herrings I’ve ever stumbled into with a MGWCC.

    In addition to MONO- in MONOSYLLABLES, there are five other numerical prefixes hidden in the grid: SEMI-, TRI-, QUAD-, QUINT-, NON-. Compounding this problem, the cardinal numbers matching almost all of the prefixes can all be found spelled out at various places in the clues: “Half,” “One,” “Four,” “Five,” “Nine” (only “three” is missing). I finally accepted that this was truly a coincidence, but man, it was hard to believe it!

    • Garrett says:

      Yes, I noticed this same thing. That delayed me in getting to the real trail.

    • Abby B says:

      I couldn’t get over this. At all. Totally screwed me up.

    • Abby B says:

      “Various places” is a vast understatement. Every clue that begins with a spelled out number (5A, 43A, 63A, 44D) has a corresponding prefix in the puzzle. The others are less well-covered, but those are far too strong to look coincidental. :-(

      • Matthew G. says:

        Yeah. That’s why I call it such an unprecedented red herring. I’ve gone down rabbit holes before, but this one never felt like a rabbit hole. I was sure it was the first insight to the meta until I stumbled upon “Sub” “Mitt” and shouted an expletive on the subway.

  8. Tyler Hinman says:

    I’m actually curious if WALES would have been accepted. I nearly submitted it before seeing SPAIN and deciding it was safer.

    Happy I got this quickly, as I didn’t have time for it until Monday.

  9. Paul Coulter says:

    At first, I thought it was the entries/defs. that both were monosyllables. This produced: MITT LOGIC TURK UN TREE. I could see I was on the right track with the country homophone at the end, and was trying to make it sound something like Mythologic Tyre Country. Eventually, the penny dropped and I included all the monosyllable defs.

    I do agree with Mutman, Matthew, and Tyler that Wales should get credit. The Welsh definitely consider themselves a country, both historically and presently. Just recently, I enjoyed watching their football side’s impressive performance in the Euros.

  10. Mutman says:

    I have a soft spot for Wales, since I live in Bala Cynwyd, which is near Bryn Mawr college (a crossword standby) both of which names are Welsh.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    John —

    Continuing from above: Scotland isn’t a country either, as evidenced by their independence movement. I guess I could’ve been crystal clear with “independent country” in the instructions, but I think “country” is clear enough on its own. But I hadn’t seen that Wikipedia calls Wales a “country” following the official UK usage of that term, so I thought I had to accept those three. But Wales, like Scotland, is not officially recognized by any countries outside of the UK, has no embassies abroad, is not a UN member, and so forth.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Of course–as pointed out above–England, Wales, and Scotland all compete in international soccer as separate countries, which distinguishes them from all other sub-national entities around the world. That lends some support to making a limited exception.

      What makes a “country” gets dicey when you get permissive. On the one hand, the countries of the UK are called “countries” by those who live in them, but if my understanding of British law is correct they are not sovereigns–they have only the devolved powers that the UK parliament willingly cedes to them. On the other hand, U.S. states are true sovereigns as a matter of U.S. constitutional law, and yet they aren’t called “countries,” so nobody would submit MAINE to this meta and think it a valid answer. Except somewhere out there there is probably a states-rights crank who would love to take up that fight!

      So I understand Matt’s reluctance in accepting WALES even though I think it is the fair call.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Puerto Rico is in the Olympics but no one would call it a country. As with Scotland, if it was a country it wouldn’t have an independence movement. Sports isn’t the best marker of political acceptance due to cases like this. But I see your point and don’t disagree with your comment.

    • Garrett says:

      I had Wales on my list of monosyllabic countries. But when I finally got the instructions, I thought it odd that the word logical was in there. I decided this must be a hint as to how the country should be chosen — since two fit. Spain is obviously a country, but there seems to be debate out there about Wales, so I decided on Spain. It was the only reason I could see why “logically” was in there.

      However, Wales certainly considers itself to be a country. Check-out this article:

      • Matthew G. says:

        I took “logical” to refer back to the sole theme entry in the grid, “MONOSYLLABLES.” I.e., out of the many five-letter countries, submit the one that is logical in a puzzle with a theme of monosyllables. So that alone doesn’t rule out Wales. Of course, Spain is the safer choice for the separate reason that its status as a country is unambiguous.

    • John says:

      OK. No embassies, no ultra-national participation : No real country-hood. That makes sense. I still think one of my ancestors would want a good donnybrook over the whole thing. (I have no idea whether my Mullins and Murphys came from the North or the Republic)

  12. Jason T says:

    I was trying to figure out why this meta made me so unreasonably happy – and then I realized it was because the whole find-the-instructions aspect reminded of the wonderful old GAMES Magazine Hidden Contests. On some level, I think I half-expected the message to end: Fie / Vent / Tree / Swill / Win / Nag / Ames / Tea / Shirt.

  13. DSB says:

    I tried to make something out of the monosyllable answers, rather than the clues. Good learning experience. Debated about sending in France or Greece as a stab in the dark, but decided worthier opponents deserve the prize, just in case I got lucky. Could have made it easier on myself and just figured it out from MonosyllableS. “S” standing for Spain.

  14. Garrett says:

    My solving experience…

    After trying everything I could think of to make something out of the grid, I started looking for monosyllabic words in the clues. I was underlining them. When I got done I notice there were more in the across clues than the down ones. So, I started with the across ones, and when I got to mitt (and now this is the third time I have looked at these clues — once for the solve, once to underline, and now to look for *something*) I said out loud “submit,” and fell asleep.

    It wasn’t until the next day in the afternoon (Monday) that I got lodgeick — because I was busy with work all day, and still a bit later that I added the All to get logical. And getting country was a bit of s mental strain!

    I too liked this meta.

  15. Norm says:

    Ah, yes. Another week when I come to find out what the heck was going on and can barely even understand Joon’s explanation. I thin Matt ought to offer a half-price option for those who are “week 3 and above challenged.” JK. Love the puzzles, and I’ve learn when to give up banging my head against the wall in the second half of each month.

  16. Crypdex says:

    I mangled the phonetic instructions and ended up with “submit the logical five-letter entry” at first. The title nudged me towards countries and I got SPAIN – but then had a second pass over the instructions, spotted my error and felt much better about things.

    Interestingly, I spent maybe 10 minutes on the meta this Week 3 but floundered for days before working out EGG last week. Bizarre.

  17. Joe says:

    I’m very disappointed when there are ambiguous answers to a meta. Spain, Wales, and Tchad are all workable answers. If you don’t know, Tchad is the spelling of Chad in one of it’s official languages, French. And since Spain is Espana in it’s official language, I think that Wales and Tchad are both more logical answers than Spain.

    • CFXK says:

      Not so fast. If you are going to use official languages, then you need to the use the de jure (Welsh Language Measure of 2011) official language of Wales, which is Welsh (Cymraeg). In this official language, the country is Cymru – which is two syllables.

      By your reasoning, then, Tchad is left as the only logical answer.


    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Joe: I think you’re joking around, but if not: you really expect when I ask for a “country” I mean something other than the country’s name in English?

      • Matthew G. says:

        I’m sure he’s joking too, but now I’m curious how many countries are monosyllabic in their own official languages. The only ones I can think of for sure are France (France) and Chad (Tchad).

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