MGWCC #434

crossword 5:18 
meta 3 days 


mgwcc434hello and welcome to episode #434 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Spare Parts”. this week, matt asks us, What famous 1960s movie is hinted at by this puzzle’s theme? well, that’s a little unusual already; normally, he would phrase it something like “The answer to this week’s puzzle is a 1960s movie.” but anyway, let’s move on. what are the theme answers? there are four long answers in the grid, all of which are awkward not-quite-real-phrases:

  • {More than just glimpse} GET AN OVERVIEW OF. okay, this is actually more or less a real phrase, but the clue does not quite get at what it means, at least to me.
  • {Tested the authority figure’s patience} WAS A CHALLENGE. this is definitely a made-up phrase.
  • {“Amen!”} “YOU SAID A TRUTH!”. wow, yeah. nobody has ever said this.
  • {Seriously scolding} GIVING AN OBLOQUY. this is the furthest from actual language, because OBLOQUY is not really the kind of noun you can have one of. it’s kind of like “flak”; you can take flak, but you can’t really take a flak.

anyway, so it took me only a few minutes to work out that in each case, there is a real, in-the-language phrase synonymous with the clue, but one word has been replaced in the grid entry:

  • {More than just glimpse} is GET AN EYEFUL OF.
  • {Tested the authority figure’s patience} WAS A HANDFUL.
  • {“Amen!”} “YOU SAID A MOUTHFUL!”
  • {Seriously scolding} GIVING AN EARFUL.

so this is where i was 5-10 minutes after solving the puzzle: four words suggested by the theme that are all [body part] plus “-FUL”. what 1960s movie does this suggest? well, i definitely didn’t know that. i started looking around at lists of 1960s movies involving body parts, maybe body in the title, maybe full in the title, etc. but i got nowhere, and put the puzzle aside for a couple of days.

eventually, monday night came around and i teamed up with andy, who was at exactly the same stage of (not) solving the meta. we spent some time thinking there was another big nudge somewhere in the grid or clues. andy noted that the central across answer {Like me, back in the day} SUCH AS I was unusual and possibly thematic, but it certainly wasn’t thematic like the other four.

we found I SEE in the grid at 19d and AUDIO at 26d, which could relate to eye and ear, respectively, but nothing that strongly suggests mouth or hand. there are a couple of other stray body parts in the fill: SHIN at 46d and NOSED at 65a. but these didn’t go anywhere either. eventually we gave up on looking for other theme entries in the fill. the grid has a low word count (72, low enough to be a themeless) so it seemed less likely that there was more theme content than just four long theme answers.

the clues did not jump out as being forced or unnatural-sounding, but {Most hackneyed} STALEST does contain EYE (in a homophone for KNEE, no less!) so we scoured the rest of them for hand, mouth, and ear. nope, nothing.

since the theme was not just body parts but body parts plus the suffix -ful, we thought about other words that can take that suffix. the clue for TYPO could have been pretty much anything but it was {Acre for care, say}, and careful is one of the most common -ful words. but in fact that was pretty much the only word in all of the clues that can take -ful.

eventually we gave up trying to find more clues and just went back to looking at lists of famous movies from the ’60s. and one jumped out at me that i had glossed over before: a fistful of dollars, the first film of sergio leone’s “dollars” trilogy (or “the man with no name” trilogy) starring clint eastwood. this is certainly a famous movie, and it is from the right decade (1964), and its title contains a word of the form [body part]-ful. so… it is probably the answer, right? i wasn’t 100% sure, and this one didn’t have quite the “click” i was expecting. but as andy observed, it is a good enough answer that if it’s wrong, he was going to be justifiably angry. so we submitted it and it turned out to be right.

so the ending was a little unsatisfying. i’m not sure if i can put my finger on precisely why, but let me try to articulate it. i was hoping for one of two things to happen: one, that there would be another hint somewhere (in the grid or clues) that tells us what to do or where to go from the [body part]-ful observation (e.g. if there had been an extra theme answer like SOME MONEY). or two, that the answer to the meta would somehow “explain” the theme instead of just being another example of a possible base phrase. but neither of those happened. additionally, maybe 10% of my dissatisfaction is related to the fact that fist isn’t really a separate body part from hand, and fistful in the literal sense is synonymous with handful (though not in the figurative sense of handful in the theme here).

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

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38 Responses to MGWCC #434

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 121 right answers this week.

    • Todd Dashoff says:

      Other than taking a lot less time than Joon (which will probably never happen again!), I followed the same path and reached the same conclusions. There just wasn’t the “a-ha” I would have expected on a Week 4, and fistful and handful are essentially the same thing.

  2. Al Sanders says:

    I got distracted a little bit by the fact that the four theme entries each related to one of the five senses. But after determining pretty quickly that there weren’t any “NOSEFUL” movies, and that “In the Realm of the Senses” was from the 1970s, I went ahead and submitted “A Fistful of Dollars”. Seemed like it had to be the one, but I was holding my breath just a tad until the answer was confirmed.

    • I got tripped up by the same thing, except the other movie I was considering was “Scent of Mystery” from 1960. I hadn’t heard of it and it didn’t take the -ful into account, but the fact that it was the only movie ever made for Smell-O-Vision and having NOSED at the bottom of the grid made it seem promising.

  3. Justin Weinbaum says:

    See, it took me 3 days to get where joon was in 5-10 minutes. The rest wasn’t too hard, though I agree that I was looking for entries crossing each themer to have some reference to the body part, and a missing one to reference the fist.

    One of my red herrings was wondering if some synonym for a word going with spare “parts” like CHA___NGE in “WAS A CHALLENGE”. But no.

    Lastly – yikes for Friday, it’s a Week 5.

  4. I guessed A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. 3 of the 4 theme answers could be changed to a slightly better phrase “A HARD ___”, specifically “WAS A HARD NUT”, “YOU SAID A HARD FACT”, and “GIVING A HARD TIME” (ok, the first two are not great). But I couldn’t come up with anything for “GET AN OVERVIEW OF”, nor could I relate that to the title.

    Did not see any of the ___FUL words.

  5. Matthew G. says:

    I did think of WAS A HANDFUL right away when I saw WAS A CHALLENGE, but the other -FUL expressions did not occur to me. From the title, I thought the theme might have something to do with making use of less prominent words in the grid — such as articles, pronouns, and prepositions. So I spent a fair amount of time exploring that idea.

    Alas. Time to gun for Team N-minus-1 for the second straight month.

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    “You said a truth” was my entry into the meta, since the __uth already looked like mouth could be substituted there. A different 5 letter synonym might have been better, but there really isn’t a good choice. I agree with the above comments on the rest of the path – mostly a lot of searching through movie names, without the payoff I expected. A fine idea, lacking much pizzazz at the end. 3.5 stars from me.

  7. genefaba says:

    I saw all of the FULs and the center Such as I led me to A Fool such as I.
    I submitted Ship of Fools.

  8. ajk says:

    Got the EYEFUL/HANDFUL/MOUTHFUL/EARFUL bit before even finishing the puzzle, then looked immediately at a list of 60s films and saw Fistful of Dollars. But given that it was week 4 I felt sure I was missing something.
    Went down the NOSEFUL (or SNOUTFUL) path, and also the Scent of Mystery one mentioned by Evan. In the end, submitted Fistful just ’cause I had nothing else. Glad I did. :)

  9. Qatsi says:

    When I first solved the crossword, I was convinced that “YOU SAID A TRUTH” was supposed to translate to “YOU SAID IT”, but couldn’t figure out how to exploit that, and set the puzzle aside.

    I remembered to revisit this puzzle around 20 minutes before the deadline and realized the substitutions were supposed to be MOUTHFUL, HANDFUL, EARFUL and EYEFUL. I spent a few minutes scanning lists of 1960s movies and the closest hit I came up with was MARY POPPINS (with its song “A SPOONFUL of Sugar”), but that was unsatisfying. Finally, I checked a list of words ending in -FUL and noticed FISTFUL, and that’s when the answer clicked.

  10. Bret says:

    Pretty much the same solving experience down to waiting a few days to submit the correct answer. I wanted it to be a movie with a title that implied “bellyful” or alternately something that implied smell since that was the only one of the five senses that wasn’t implied in the themers. Also wanted “such as I” to be a themer. I submitted “Fistful of Dollars” with the comment “Hail Mary.”

  11. Shuka says:

    Totally missed this. I focused on: “tested THE authority figure’s patience”. I thought this was a hint towards “an” , as in “tested an authority…”, which is much more reasonable. “The authority figure” must be someone specific, after all. So I decided that the theme answers were just meant to deceive… Then, counting all the “an”s in the puzzle (eight), and the “a”s (half of an an, used only as an “a”) (four of ’em), I submitted 8 1/2.

    But! I also went off on a tangent with WAS A CHALLANGE looking a lot like WALLACH (my favorite from the G, B, and U), so at least I was in the ballpark, no?

  12. dave glasser says:

    Wow, I wasn’t anywhere close. So many red herrings for me – got focused on things like the hidden-but-one-letter NAGANO and WASATCH, or by trying to come up with synonyms for the themes that fit a pattern like SKIM for the first one, or even trying a “make the phrase better” but with YOU SAID IT.

  13. PuzzleCraig says:

    So then was the middle entry intended to give the near-rhyme push from “(A) fool (SUCH AS I)” to “-ful”?

    I have to say that while I got the intended answer, I think “Ship of Fools” should probably get credit.

  14. Amy L says:

    I was torn between “From Russia with Love” and “Thunderball.” (just being snarky)

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Tough crowd…

      • John says:

        What you pull off here, week after week, is stunning. The carping over little details is merely testament to the stratospheric level of expectation of quality you’ve cultivated. A puzzling genius, BEQ, once referred to you as Miracle Matt. Indeed.

    • Small Wave Dave says:

      Yeah, my rejected alternatives were Goldfinger, Cool Hand Luke, and Thunderball.

      (BTW, I’d like to thank Matt for forcing me to google Isla Fisher!)

  15. pgw says:

    joon’s experience confirmed for me what I assumed would be one issue with the puzzle – that if A Fistful of Dollars didn’t leap immediately to mind upon noticing all the [body part]ful words, it could prove tough to find. Luckily, the hard part for me was figuring out the theme idea. Once I had that I immediately thought of Fistful, and just had to check that it was from the ’60s. But I can imagine this one being frustrating if that movie just wasn’t in your mental library, and I’m not sure it would have been too much of a giveaway to narrow the field by, for example, referring to “a Clint Eastwood movie” or something.

    There was also a second problem that I think is contributing to joon’s (and others’) feeling that there was no strong “aha click” – the theme phrases all pretty much end with “a [body part]ful,” and the meta answer is the lone member of the set that begins with that construction. Typically if keyword placement is not critical, Matt will mix it up in the theme phrases so as not to give the wrong impression that the meta answer has to follow the same pattern. My assumption is this is one reason he chose the somewhat odd “hinted at” phrasing for the meta instructions.

    Offsetting these minor deficiencies, I appreciated that Matt was careful enough to maintain consistency in the indefinite articles by finding replacement words that began with consonants or vowels in like kind with the word they were replacing. Thus “an earful” became “an obloquy” as opposed to, say, “a lecture.”

  16. Ale M says:

    I was pretty sure Fistful of Dollars was the intended answer, mostly because the wording of the meta clue said “is hinted at” by the theme, as opposed to just saying “this week’s meta answer is a popular 1960s movie.”

    Nonetheless, I forced some insurance for myself by reasoning that hand=feel (F), eye=investigate (I), mouth=speechify or say (S), and ear=tune (T). F-I-S-T. If I was wrong, I was ready for the appeal!

  17. Jason T says:

    Funny – meanwhile, I put the pieces together crazy-fast, to the extent that I worried it was too easy for Week 4 and wondered if I was missing something. You never can tell!

  18. PuzzleCraig says:

    It took me forever to see the theme. I thought the juxtaposed “INITIATE” and “GOES PAST” were meant to suggest using the beginning of the theme entries, but that they went past the mark. Thus something like “GOT AN O”. Once I had reduced the end parts to their (not useful) initials, the actual meaning of the theme clicked with me.

    But when I couldn’t see an immediate theme, I Googled two lists of the top 100 films of the 1960s, merge them together, and familiarize myself with the top 50 to look for possible theme ideas (like Sound of Music, do-re-mi, etc.).

    I was hung up for a long time on the theme possibly having to do with characters: “character profile”, “character biography”, “character witness”, “character assassination”. I wanted Six Characters in Search of an Author to have been a 60s film – it wasn’t – but Five Characters in Search of an Exit was a Twilight Zone episode from the 60s. :)

  19. CFXK says:

    Given the clever construction, the less than enthusiastic reception, and tortured solving reflected in the comments, perhaps “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” should also be an acceptable answer to the meta. Could I sweeten the deal and convince Matt to accept that answer for a few dollars more?

  20. PuzzleCraig says:

    And my last comment should be read backwards. (I.e. first I thought it had to do with characters, then I made the list of movies, then I stumbled into the theme.) I tried to edit it but missed the window.

  21. Abby B says:

    I got it without too much hassle, but went back to see what else might work. There are several movies that copied the “Fistful of…” after that came out, but only a few of other body parts come up (handful, headful, heartful)- and none nearly as well-known.

  22. Jim S says:

    My experience was close to Qatsi. I saw SUCH AS I and the fact the the ‘A’ in YOU SAID A TRUTH could be replaced by that ‘I’ and after dropping RUTH it became the more familiar YOU SAID IT. I then figured RUTH was part of the SPARE PARTS in the title and tried to make the trick work for the other themers. Alas, no dice.

    Nice puzzle. I fell into my standard week 4 “nothing jumps out and there aren’t many people submitting correct answers, so why waste my time” mantra, but I think this was more gettable than most week 4s for me – I definitely saw “earful” while trying to figure out what the hell OBLOQUY could be, so the jump may have existed if I hadn’t psyched myself out. Oh well.

  23. tabstop says:

    I had taken “hinted at” along with the fact that the long answers (except the third one) would be … mostly-reasonable … crossword clues to try to re-solve those clues for different answers. That took a lot of time, but didn’t really give good results.

  24. Scott says:

    I never even came close to getting the meta. It makes me wonder if I really am as brilliant as I think I am!

  25. Annie says:

    Did no one else ponder “The Miracle Worker “? Deaf,dumb,blind and sign language. Ear, mouth,eye and hand. I thought it was spot on but no clincher to satisfy. On to week five!

  26. Norm says:

    Am I the only one who went with zombies and THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? Fail. :(

  27. M Sharp says:

    Hey, I got it right. Go figure. I liked it, but I do wish that there had been an aha moment w/ the answer instead of a “…I guess?” There was a Definite aha moment with the trick, though, so I’m not disappointed.

  28. Amanda Hoffmeister says:

    Lots of overthinking here! I was very suspicious of how easy it seemed. Half the time, I can barely figure out the week two.

  29. Adam Thompson says:

    I didn’t get this one. I submitted “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” (so close!) based on the phrases
    Get a good look
    Was a bad look
    Giving an ugly look
    but I knew that was forced and skipped a whole theme entry.

  30. ===Dan says:

    I found some hidden women’s names in the theme answers: SACHA, HALLE, AIDA, INGA, RUTH, but got nowhere. The movie of my life hasn’t been made yet, but my name was hidden in 25A (dead center).

  31. Garrett says:

    Like Dan, I got caught-up with all the embedded names (and next to the H in Halle is Allen), but got nowhere with it. I kept thinking it was odd that they all had A or AN (GET AN, WAS A, YOU SAID A, GIVING AN) and I started to think those phrases were superfluous, and the remainder could just be the answer to the clue. But then, taking those away made a couple of t he clues wrong. This then led me to write down the first parts and focus on them. It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that I was able to think of other endings, beginning with MOUTHFUL. I had trouble with the WAS A one, but when I got it it took me only a minute to remember the movie.

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