MGWCC #453

crossword 2:24 
meta 1:30 (without instructions) 


hello and welcome to episode #453 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Don’t Strain Yourself”. for this week 1 puzzle, i solved without the instructions, so let’s just get right to the theme. what are the theme answers? here are the five long across answers:

  • {Exxon option} DIESEL FUEL.
  • {Show deference} GENUFLECT.
  • {They believe what they want to believe} WISHFUL THINKERS. WISHFUL THINKING is a much more natural-sounding phrase to me, but this is okay.
  • {Airline headquartered in Cologne} LUFTHANSA.
  • {Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, etc.} GULF STATES.

as you can see from the screenshot, these entries contain five of the six permutations of the letters FLU, missing only FLU itself. i was all set to just submit FLU itself as the answer, but i did check the instructions and found that matt wanted a nine-letter word, sadly fitting for me recently, that would complete this puzzle’s theme pattern. nine letters? in that case, it must be the long form INFLUENZA. hope you’re feeling better, matt! it’s definitely flu season. luckily nobody in our house has come down with it this year (we’ve all had our vaccinations) but there’s been an evil gastrointestinal bug going around that has laid up various family members at various times, including each of my daughters twice (or possibly it was two different strains).

bummer that it was (probably) inspired by matt getting the flu, but i liked this meta quite a lot. it has a little more bite than a typical week 1 (i might have expected to see the three relevant letters circled in the grid), but it’s still quite accessible and gives a nice aha. in particular, there are very few options for the UFL theme answer; other than GENUFLECT and its in(u)flections, i see only MOUFLON sheep and CAMOUFLAGE as viable options.

the grid is fairly ambitious, with those big corners and a word count of only 74. it’s the kind of pattern you normally see with a central 13, where the black squares bracketing the central themer are generally accompanied by a row of three more blocks right above or below. here, i thought the grid pattern worked … pretty well. i enjoyed a lot of medium-length fill like ANSWER ME and I DOUBT IT, but overall the strain on the grid was showing in some of the awkward short stuff like intersecting partials HAS A and OR SEE, uncommon plural SHEENS, and YALE U, which matt acknowledges with the clue {Ivy League school, in crosswords but not really anywhere else}.

that’s all for this week. stay healthy out there!

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14 Responses to MGWCC #453

  1. joel lipman says:

    I feel flu-ridden more aptly fits the instruction.

  2. Mutman says:

    I found this rather tricky for week 1, but then it clicked.

    My friend mentioned that the combos start in the 1st, 2nd, 4th etc spots in the themers leaving the 3rd to be meta answer, as INFLUENZA is.

    Avoids an answer like FLUMMOXED from being correct.

    A little more elegant than I first thought!!

  3. Jason says:

    Thank goodness it wasn’t AFFLUENZA.

  4. Ephraim says:

    Meta took me much more than 1:30 because I tried so hard to overthink this one and almost submitted FLU-RIDDEN before seeing that INFLUENZA was a better choice.

  5. joon says:

    my strong suspicion is that matt accepted any 9-letter word containing FLU.

  6. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Apparently Matt was feeling generous in his recovery.

    I considered FLU-RIDDEN, but not INFLUENZA, but submitted neither, because I thought the instructions called for an adjective, and that Matt would have specified a “hyphenated word” if that were the case.

    So I went with FLUSTERED, adding the comment, “Surely not FLUMMOXED,” and Matt accepted my answer as correct.

    • Garrett says:

      I submitted the same. I kind of went, “strain…, stressed… hmmm… flustered.” Then later I thought about it as a strain of flu, and influenza hit me. Too late by then.

  7. Jim S says:

    I typed “fluridden” in the box, auto-correct wanted to add the hyphen, and I said “Wait, what?” It seemed like a great fit as an adjective, but I didn’t want to take a chance on a grammar issue (is a hyphenated word a single word? Don’t know…). Influenza took a few more minutes to come up with but I got there and it was obviously along the same lines and a single word. Glad Matt accepted any 9-letter word with FLU – seems more fair that way.

  8. ===Dan says:

    I submitted the right answer but felt compelled to mention BIOFLUIDS in the comment.

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