MGWCC #454

crossword 3:23 
meta 2 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #454 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Period Piece”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to find the last name of a famous person whose full name may or may not be a “period piece.” what on earth can that mean? anyway, matt also adds this note: Arthur Wynne’s historic first crossword puzzle featured a period at the end of each clue. This convention gradually died out over the ensuing decades, but we’re reviving it for this week’s MGWCC. curiouser and curiouser! indeed, every clue in the puzzle ends with a period. so what are the theme clues? six long clues get parenthetical numbers:

  • {Pizza makers may use this dial. (7)} NEAPOLITAN.
  • {The answer to this question will be a no. (6)} HOW OLD ARE YOU?.
  • {Famed culinary fig. (4)} PAULA DEEN.
  • {Where one may find a student apt. (6)} OFF-CAMPUS.
  • {Catholic you knew from Mass. (5)} JOHN F. KENNEDY.
  • {It boasts America’s greatest pop. (10)} CALIFORNIA.

the periods are there to conceal the fact that each of these clues in fact ends with an abbreviation, albeit one that is also a common word. only by interpreting it with the correct full word can one reconcile the clue with the answer:

  • {Pizza makers may use this dialect. (7)} NEAPOLITAN.
  • {The answer to this question will be a number. (6)} HOW OLD ARE YOU?.
  • {Famed culinary figure. (4)} PAULA DEEN.
  • {Where one may find a student apartment. (6)} OFF-CAMPUS.
  • {Catholic you knew from Massachusetts. (5)} JOHN F. KENNEDY.
  • {It boasts America’s greatest population. (10)} CALIFORNIA.

indexing into these bolded words by the number in parentheses (i.e. taking the 7th letter of DIALECT = T, etc.) gives us harry s(.) TRUMAN, whose middle initial may or may not be written with a period, since it is not actually short for anything.

this was a fun puzzle. all those periods in the clues were kind of an eyesore while solving, but it’s a worthwhile gimmick, i suppose. it did not do an especially thorough job of concealing the terminal abbreviations, but it was fun anyway—i feel like this is a pretty new mechanism for a meta. it’s a nice touch that all of the parenthetical indices are greater than the length of the abbreviation, meaning you can’t get the right letter except by expanding the word.

that’s all i’ve got this week. i’ll be away next week, but i am hoping to have the puzzle solved and blogged by the time i leave. if i don’t manage that, i’ll find a capable fill-in. take care!

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27 Responses to MGWCC #454

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks Joon — 409 right answers this week.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    This started out a very good idea. As Joon notes, we haven’t seen this sort of thing before. But for me, the answer was unsatisfying. Truman’s S, which officially stood for nothing, though it was his parents’ tactful recognition of both grandfathers, seems a pretty loose connection to the meta’s technique. Three stars from me.

    I was hoping the answer would be something like, okay this isn’t very good, but CHESTERPENN, if that were the name of a famous person. (Chester, Pennsylvania is a fairly well known place name, home of Widener University and the Philadelphia Union.) Even better if the instructions had ended with an abbr./full word, too. Can anyone think of a real phrase or name that would work this way? Matt, did you have one you tossed because you didn’t think a get-able meta could lead to it?

  3. sharkicicles says:

    I actually backsolved this one from TRUMAN because I originally hadn’t seen the parentheticals. Six theme answers + the periods was a big giveaway to me.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Sorry — the parentheticals were originally not included in the PDF. We sent out a correction around 2:30 PM on Friday but unfortunately a number of people had there time wasted between then. Apologies for the oversight.

      • sharkicicles says:

        Not your fault, Matt- I typically use the Stand Alone app on my iPhone, which adds its own parentheticals to each clue to indicate answer length.

        (Full disclosure: I am a former Stand Alone employee. But I still use the app every day.)

        • Wayne says:

          Then let me take the opportunity to thank you for whatever role you played in that app’s development. I use Stand Alone classic every day. I’ve tried them all, including the newer Stand Alone app, but never found anything that beats it.

          (Remember those halcyon days when Stand Alone and Two-Across were the only crossword apps in the iOS App Store?)

          I still do MGWCC on dead trees, though. For exactly the reason you mentioned–to make sure that I don’t miss any bread crumbs that Matt’s left for us–and also so that I have something to nervously doodle on while trying to crack the meta.

          • sharkicicles says:

            Thanks, Wayne! I did the Mac OS X port of the original iPhone app, some of the porting from Classic to the new Crosswords, and the networking code for multiplayer. I use Classic every day as well. The guy who runs the company is an absolute treat to work with, by the way.

            (Speaking of the old App Store days, I can’t believe I’ve been doing iPhone stuff for almost 9 years now…)

            I think I’m going to take your advice, though, and do the MGWCC on paper. There’s times I’ve actually taken a screenshot on my phone and printed out the completed puzzle to try to get a toehold in.

        • makfan says:

          I use the Stand Alone app all the time. I usually get up to around 1,000 puzzles and then clean out the completed ones.

        • george says:

          I use the same app and love it. It does have the occasional issues, like the parenthetical numbers issue. I’ve gotten in the habit of looking at the pdf if I feel like I’m missing something, because this is probably the third or fourth puzzle in recent memory which utilized this style.

          The app also didn’t render February’s MMMM correctly for me (it didn’t show the circles). But other than the couple of hiccups, I absolutely love it. It actually impacts which puzzles I solve on a regular basis. When the WSJ lost support, I stopped doing it regularly.

    • Tony says:

      I’m on Android and use the Stand Alone app daily, but for Meta puzzles such as this and Muller, I generally use Shortyz. It has access to standard puzzles such as NYT, Newsday, etc. but also has access to LA Times and WSJ puzzles, including the Friday contest puzzle (which does not contain the Meta instructions and is unlocked for some reason). The other benefit to this app is a setting to hide or show the answer length to the clue.

  4. Bret says:

    Almost overthought this one. Got what was going on with the abbreviations right away but didn’t know what to do with them. Sat it aside, then remembered this was a Week 2 so probably was pretty simple. Was looking for some sort of interaction with the answers.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Technically one you could get without solving, but nobody ever actually does that since you can’t know it ahead of time.

  5. Wayne says:

    Perfect Week 2. Learned some crossword trivia. Learned a lot about varieties of figs and fig recipes. Learned about sales of Coca-Cola and the various regionalisms for referring to carbonated beverages. Slapped my forehead. Solved the meta.

  6. Mutman says:

    Since I originally did not have the parentheticals, I thought, like others, that we’d get 6 alternate answers based on the non-abbreviations. And the meta would stem from that. Learned Coke originated in Atlanta, stuff about figs, etc. But then I checked my email again and the aha moment came.

    Great week 2 meta, Matt!

  7. Matthew G. says:

    I thought of Truman the moment I read the instructions–in fact, I was certain the answer couldn’t be anyone else. In the time between the puzzle’s initial release and Matt’s follow-up e-mail, I had found the letters T-R-U-M-A-N in the clues’ consecutive full words, but their order was too arbitrary. So it was satisfying when Matt sent the corrected PDF and it all lined up.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Yeah — apologies again for that. Shouldn’t happen.

    • Jim Schooler says:

      I totally intuited this one on Saturday morning. Garrett asked me on Sunday if I’d read the email about the parentheticals. I checked it out, and it was a lock. Great puzzle/meta Matt!

  8. Scott says:

    Loved this puzzle.

  9. Jason says:

    I started off in Week 1 mode by just picking the letters from the answer (instead of the clue itself) and came up with IDLMFA which anagrammed to FILM AD. Advertisement? What else could AD. stand for?

    • Jon says:

      I went down this route but once the anagrams didn’t create a famous name, I then used the parentheses on the long form of the abbreviations and got the meta. But the amount of time that it took to get from the 1st part to the second part took me about a day and a half.

  10. Pete R. says:

    I started getting T-R-U-M- … and thought to myself… no, please no…. don’t let the next one be ‘P’

  11. jefe says:

    31D also ends in an abbreviation: Tempe sch. = ASU

  12. Armagh says:

    Not sure Paula Deen qualifies as a “famed culinary figure.” Her racist fall from grace should make her a shamed culinary figure.

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