MGWCC #456

crossword 4:11
meta 5 minutes, with andy  


hello and welcome to episode #456 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Multiply and Be Fruitful”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a fruit. simple enough. what are the theme answers? rather unusually for a crossword, the long answers run down rather than across. here are the six theme answers:

  • {It’s usually 15×15, as it is today (go ahead and count!)} MGWCC GRID. no need to count; it’s a standard 15×15.
  • {Job interview papers} UPDATED CV. not sure this really hangs together as a lexical unit, but okay.
  • {Connecticut-born gunsmith} SAMUEL COLT.
  • {The River Walk is there} SAN ANTONIO. you know what’s also there? the {Mission completed in 1744} ALAMO. that seems to be unconnected to the meta, though.
  • {Turning the car around to head whence you came} is GOING BACK.
  • {Woody Allen movie of 1987} SEPTEMBER. not familiar with this one.

about the meta: before i had even opened the crossword, andy kravis sent me a message saying he wanted to discuss the mgwcc when i got to it, so i worked on it with him from the get-go. well, not quite; i solved the grid myself and made a few observations. since i’m lazy, and we solved this over gchat, i will just paste the conversation here:

AK: hey, will you let me know when you solve the mgwcc for this week? i have the meta down to the 1-yard line and can’t quite punch it in

JP: oh
i haven’t looked at the puzzle yet, will print it out now

AK: cool beans

JP: ok
did the grid
i have some numbers but not quite an extraction

AK: me too

JP: i might not be at the 1 yd line but in the red zone for sure

AK: i thought i had the extraction mechanism
but it didn’t go quite as planned
so i’m wondering if maybe one of my numbers is wrong
do you have 5 numbers?

JP: it feels like there should be six

AK: ok

JP: there are six long downs

AK: i wasn’t sure whether to count MGWCC GRID

JP: five of which clearly associate with numbers
and then SAN ANTONIO
which might be 7

AK: i have the number for that

JP: as it is the 7th largest city

AK: area code is 210

JP: oh
sure, ok
then maybe it’s QUINCE?
i dunno

AK: oh that’s interesting

JP: QUINOA, is that a fruit?

AK: QUINCE is 15
in spanish

JP: i’m basically looking at 225=Q and 210=N

AK: and also a fruit
how did you get those two letters

JP: 225 is the last letter inthe grid

AK: oh my god

JP: 210 is one row above that

AK: hahaha

JP: CV = 105 should be the U at the end of row 7

AK: that was not my extraction mechanism
but that absolutely is it

180 is the end of row 12 = C
but i don’t get how september is E

AK: 30 days in september
end of row 2

JP: oh okay

AK: all multiples of 15

JP: i had sept = 9
we got this

AK: i also found extra multiples of 15 throughout the grid that were red herrings, so i’m glad you figured out the extraction

JP: (that was in the past tense)

AK: i thought it was those numbers divided by 15
and then whatever letter was in that numbered box
which, not counting MGWCC GRID, gave me MEACH

JP: yum

AK: haha
OLEAN is also area code 585
which is 39×15
box 39 is a P
so i figured maybe i was supposed to ignore COLT 45?!
that seemed bad

JP: it was bad

AK: well that’s a relief
thank you

JP: yw

so that’s basically it. in a little more detail: each theme clue/answer suggests a number which is a multiple of 15. (some of the suggestions are stronger than others.) to wit:

  • {It’s usually 15×15, as it is today (go ahead and count!)} MGWCC GRID. 15×15 = 225.
  • {Job interview papers} UPDATED CV. CV in roman numerals is 105 = 15×7.
  • {Connecticut-born gunsmith} SAMUEL COLT invented the colt 45 = 15×3.
  • {The River Walk is there} SAN ANTONIO. as andy informed me, the area code for san antonio is 210 = 15×14.
  • {Turning the car around to head whence you came} GOING BACK, aka doing a 180 = 15×12.
  • {Woody Allen movie of 1987} SEPTEMBER which hath 30 days = 15×2. i don’t love that SEPTEMBER much more strongly connotes 9 than 30.

anyway, if you number the squares in the grid from 1 in the top left to 225 in the bottom right (every square, not just white squares, as suggested by the clue for MGWCC GRID), then all of the squares that are numbered multiples of 15 appear in the rightmost column. reading them off in left-to-right order by the placement of the theme answers gives QUINCE, which is both a fruit and, as andy pointed out, the spanish word for “fifteen”. so that is a very good meta answer.

misgivings about SEPTEMBER aside, i have to say that this puzzle is a {Fine example of its type} BEAUTY. it’s a very original idea—i don’t think i have ever seen somebody number every square of a crossword. (i’ve seen it in other puzzle types, of course; spirals, for one, have every square numbered.) then on top of that, to fit six theme answers that pick out very specific squares and read off the perfect answer… well that is just very very good. this is my favorite MGWCC in quince a while. five stars, easy.

notes from the clues and fill:

  • {Most notable of all births in Stuttgart in 1770} HEGEL. i mean, this is probably true (he seems to be the only one with a wikipedia page to fit the clue) but that is still a weird way of cluing somebody.
  • {Denver John} ELWAY. clever.
  • {___ giraffe (tallest land animal on Earth)} MASAI. the masai are an ethnic group of kenya and tanzania; i don’t know if they are notably tall, but one of them, david rudisha, is history’s greatest middle-distance runner and a 3-time world track & field athlete of the year. the giraffes are also interesting—previously, the masai giraffe was thought to be a subspecies and giraffes were considered a single species, but only a year ago there was a taxonomic shakeup due to new DNA evidence. now Giraffa is a genus and the masai giraffe is its own species.
  • {BK is part of it} NYC. is BK a standard abbreviation for brooklyn? i don’t know that i’ve ever seen it before. i was thinking british knights, the shoe company.
  • {The real Mr. Peanut} is a fun clue for george washington CARVER. no monocle or cane in any of the images i could find of him.
  • {Google charts} NGRAMS. that is a nice fresh entry.
  • {Man missing his art?} STU. cute.
  • {Hipster facial feature} STACHE. is it the stache itself that is hipster, or just referring to it as a stache instead of a mustache? i feel like goatees are more hipster than staches, but i’m not especially au courant on hipsterdom.
  • {Literally, “my master”} RABBI. i always thought this meant “teacher”, but maybe both are true.
  • {Southern Tier city} OLEAN. “southern tier” is a new one for me. apparently this refers to the area of new york state that borders pennsylvania.
  • {YouTube alternative} VIMEO. this is also quite fresh.
  • {Basic course number} IOI. i’ve never been especially fond of this style of answer, where I and O stand for 1 and 0. this isn’t much of an answer, but the international olympiad in informatics is a thing. many years ago, my second cousin was on the south korean team for it, i believe.

that’s all i’ve got. how’d you all fare this month?

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42 Responses to MGWCC #456

  1. Icdogg says:

    I went down a rabbit hole involving PLU codes from which I never recovered. Oops.

  2. dbardolph says:

    Nice. Permit me to describe the long and involved rabbit hole that led me to MANGO. By GOINGBACK to MGWCCGRID #(15 x 15) 225, from SEPTEMBER of 2012, right there at (SAMUELCOLT) 45-across – MANGO. I didn’t love it, since it ignored SANANTONIO and UPDATEDCV – just hoped there were connections I just wasn’t seeing.

    • Debbie says:

      I also went back to puzzle #225, and spent three days trying to decide what to do once I got there! Never made my way out of that rabbit hole…

      • dbardolph says:

        Glad to know I wasn’t alone down there.

      • Asdanf says:

        Hmm, instead of going back to #225 I tried going back to #105 (CV updated) or, err, forward to #605 (Update #DCV). Thankfully neither was from SEPTEMBER, so I didn’t actually look at them long.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon –164 right answers

  4. Mike W says:

    I had no clue. My Hail Mary was the word “Date” in 33-Down just above the multiplication fact (D = C * V). A coincidence that had no elegance whatsoever.

  5. Amanda says:

    Being a lady of class and elegance, I thought BK referred to Burger King.

  6. Matthew G. says:

    I got Absolutely Nowhere with this. I tried all kinds of multiplication, but never thought to look for 15s outside of the first theme entry. I was fixated on 7s, instead — every year in the clues contains at least one seven, and then there were other references to seven, including John Elway’s uniform number, July (the seventh month) and September (month with seven in its name). Never got back to the 15s.

    I saw a number of things I was sure were meta-related but proved not to be. Among other things, I was certain that IOI would not stand in for 101 in an arithmetic-related meta unless it were relevant. But it wasn’t.

    I had no illusions of being perfect throughout 2017, but I gave this one my all so that I could at least start the year with a 10-week streak. No such luck.

    In the end, my desperate guess was “strawberry,” because 15×15 = 225 and the average strawberry has more than 200 seeds on its outside.

    • Kaille says:

      Matthew G, I did much of the same. The IOI/101 had me stumped for quite a while, as I too thought it had to be significant. There were a few IO combinations in the grid, but I eventually gave up. Then I looked at the clues more closely and fixated on those with the years in them. Surely they HAD to have something to do with the meta. Wrong again. I did at least go to the trouble of numbering every square in the grid – so I did something right. Gave up late last night and didn’t bother sending in a guess.

      Even if I had had the smarts to focus on the long answers (I did see the CV, but let it go), I don’t know that I would have thought to look up San Antonio’s area code.

      Great puzzle & meta.

      I am so impressed by all of you that seem to solve these almost effortlessly! I hope I will get there one day, but after almost a year of doing these and only having 20 solves under my belt, I don’t know that I’ll ever be good at it. But it is great fun.

  7. Joe says:

    Another red herring that ended up being my hail mary, if you take the letters in all the squares (1×1=1, 2×2=4, 3×3=9, … 8×8=64) with numbers that appear in the grid, you end with an anagram of APRICOTT.. I figured maybe one of the T’s could be omitted for some reason so went with that.

    • kaes says:

      I did the same thing! After a lot of counting and multiplying of other things in the grid, and focusing on IOI = 101 for far too long, APRICOT(T) was the best I could do…

    • Carnage says:

      Another APRICOTer here. Rationalized the extra T away thinking that 1×1 is a square, not a grid?

  8. Wayne says:

    @joon I think those entries you didn’t especially like (the clue for HEGEL and the answer IOI) were deliberately awkward, in order to call attention to themselves. “Words intended to deceive”, as our RABBI says. We knew we were looking for numbers. And there were some numbers sticking out like a sore thumb.

    They definitely led me astray.

    Very elegant meta!

  9. Mutman says:

    Too many closes calls for me. I thought the ‘cinq’ was the key and we were looking for multiples of that. 5×9 (September) gives 45 (Colt). 5×21 (U-turn instead of 180, U being 21st letter) = 105 (CV). 5×45 yields 225, the grid clue. Couldn’t reconcile San Antonio though. Had the 7 too. Even 10 for I-10 running thru it.

    Well done. Wish I could have phoned a friend!!

  10. Paul Coulter says:

    When no mathematical technique worked for me (and they rarely do, I’m so left-brained) I focused on bananas. The clue for ANN seemed pointlessly long, unless there was a word like Bunch that needed to be in there. Then there was “Sometimes SPLIT bit for pea.” I strained to find much else along these lines – banana BALL, banana LEAVES, and Woody Allen also made a movie called Bananas. In my sinking banana boat, it became my last second (banana) guess. Matt drove me bananas this week, but I have to hand it to the top banana of the meta world.

  11. mpstable says:

    fantastic concept and execution on this one, Matt.
    i got painfully close. got all the other five but couldn’t get past 9 for september and went down a rabbit hole of factors for all the numbers and the corresponding numbered squares in the grid. i ran out of time and submitted banana as a random 6-letter fruit, forgetting that very early on in the process i’d thought of quince after seeing the Q in cinq and meant to write it down. i even went to wikipedia to confirm it was a fruit. oops. not the first time i’ve submitted a wrong answer after having guessed the right one. it’s a worse feeling than making zero progress on the puzzle.

  12. Jon says:

    I had IOI being the binary for 101, which apparently is 5. This lead me to SEPTember being 7, not 9 (or 30), KAPPA was 10, UNI is 1, etc etc. This being the 4,5,6 (456) puzzle, I thought we had to count up to 15 and then that would lead to the spelling of a fruit. But that lead me down a rabbit hole to nowhere, especially since 101 is 5 in binary and then there was already CINQ for 5.

    Then I tried to see if CORNU and NGRAMS were leading me to Corn (u) and (n) Grams so I searched for other words that you could take the lead or tail letter off of and still have a word (minus the plurals). That also lead nowhere.

    Multiply and BE Fruitful made me look at all the fruits that started with the letter B and tried to backsolve for that. Nope.

    I was ready to take a wild stab at “quince” since I saw that it was a fruit and was the Spanish word for 15 and the “15×15” was in the hinted clue. That’s when a friend made me realize that “multiply” could refer to “multiples” as in multiples of 15 and that led me to the 225, 105, 210, etc.

    This one took me until late Monday to solve and I was quite happy for a quality week 4 challenge. Great job, Matt!

  13. Dan Seidman says:

    I never noticed the mapping to the righthand column, but I did notice a lot of multiples of 15 so figured it had to be quince. I think I was nudged there by the presence of CINQ. Didn’t get San Antonio, but the grid size, CV and Colt-45 put me on the right track, and from there I figured out September was for 30 and going back for 180.

    • Katie M. says:

      Same here. I got all the multiples of fifteen and knew that quince is both fifteen in Spanish, and a fruit. I also thought maybe cinq was pointing to a different language. So I felt confident about my answer, but wondered how people were supposed to get it if they didn’t know Spanish.
      I’m glad to read about the really elegant part I missed. Amazing!

      • Mutman says:

        Knowing Spanish was not necessary for the solve, but rather just an added aha! at the end.

        And I know some Spanish but still failed!

  14. ===Dan says:

    I’m always so impressed about how elegantly all the pieces fit together, and this puzzle is no exception. I’m almost exclusively and early-week solver, but I still follow the others with their explanations and comments. This month I got stuck trying to make sense of roman numerals, such as CC or CCI for 3D, and even the non-standard IC for 10D.

    I am not sure I’m getting the precise way the theme answers fit together. I can see a (Samuel) Colt _is_ a 45, going back _is_ a 180, a (literally) updated CV is 105, and San Antonio _is_ 210 in a particular context. Then the grid “isn’t” 225 but only numbers 225, although the parenthetical in the clue addresses that. But September “isn’t” 30 but only numbers 30, and the clue doesn’t indicate the month per se. In each case there is an association (to specific multiples of 15) that is clear and unambiguous, but maybe I was looking for the wrong kind of consistency. I’m not saying any of this makes the puzzle a bit less elegant, but I’m wondering how the pieces actually fit together.

    • Alan Matson says:

      Dan….reading left to right..MGWCC 15×15….in the grid….15 down–15 across–Q
      Updated CV (105) 7×15…7 down–15 across U
      Samuel Colt (45) 3×15—3 down–15 across….I

      Etc for NCE

      FYI…in ratings…This one goes to 15!

      • ===Dan says:

        Thanks, Alan
        I understood where all the multiples of 15 came from, but I had questions about how consistently each clue indicated the particular number, as I described above. Was the intention just to have any sort of association, or is there a more formal consistency I’m missing?

        • pgw says:

          As I think is often the case with folks who either struggle with or are dissatisfied with Matt’s metas, what you seem to be doing is seeking to make the theme entries obey a strict “rule” of the sort that can be generalized outside the context of the meta. The rule here is self-contained and simple: each theme entry has a strong association to a number that is a multiple of 15. That these associations are in a few cases somewhat different from one another may make the theme seem a little vague at first, but as you continue along the path that ends up leading to the solve you keep getting more confirmation that you’re on the right track. That you can make strong associations to multiples of 15, in a 15×15 grid one of whose theme entries explicitly refers to those dimensions, and that the extraction mechanism suggests as the meta answer a fruit that literally means 15, is all more than enough to make the whole thing hang together quite nicely in the end.

          Your mileage may vary but in my opinion if you can let go of any preconceptions you may have about what a puzzle’s “rules” are supposed to look like and treat each puzzle as an opportunity to discover a new kind of rule (maybe one you’ll never encounter again!) you’ll solve more late-week metas and have more fun in the process.

          • ===Dan says:

            Thanks, pgw.
            I led off showing admiration for how neatly it all fit together. I was asking whether there was a way in which the kinds of associations had some formal pattern that I wasn’t seeing, not asserting that I thought there should be one. And my question has been answered.

  15. Doug P says:

    Aha! I guessed QUINCE only because I knew the Spanish word for 15. But it didn’t “click,” so I knew I was missing some element of the meta process. Very nice, Matt.

  16. LuckyGuest says:

    Oh man. So I found (most of) the multiples of 225, but somehow got off that. I noticed [American] BEAUTY, MAC, ADAM [‘s apple] and that got me started looking for “Apple”-related entries (yeah, APPLE was my incorrect submission). there were so many: “The apple” is a prominent theme in the Gillmore Girls; Johnny Appleseed was from OLEAN; NYC is the Big Apple; HEGEL wrote about “The Apple of Eden;” [Apple] MARTINI; [Apple] DOLMA; [Apple iPad] PRO… even NFC is a standard used by Apple, and CLOSE.BY is an app available at the Apple Store. In fact, there were, yeah, 15 such “Kevin Bacons.” And looking at the title for corroboration, I see MULTIPLY… where the result is a Product… and so many Apple products? Anyway, awesome meta… kudos to the solvers, and an apple for the RABBI, Matt Gaffney.

  17. Garrett says:

    I could not figure-out what to do with the 6 long, downward fills. They looked like they should be theme fill, but I could not figure-out what to do with them, so I started looking for something else. When I was solving the puzzle, I noticed QVC and UpdatedCV and thought that was an odd (perhaps) coincidence. After looking at the grid for a while, I came up with this list of Roman Numeral pairs: CL/LC, VC/CV, ID/DI, IL/LI and IM/MI

    And these one-off ones: CC, CI, DC, VI and XI. Also interesting is that there are exactly 10 Cs and 10 Ls. I was fully down the rat hole (or At Sea :-)

    My favorite clue in this puzzle was [Man missing his art?]. My least favorite fill was CORNU.

  18. Chip says:

    I hadn’t noticed this before, but the earlier comments have helped me notice that the digits in both 456 and 1770 add up to 15. So perhaps that’s why the weird-seeming clue for HEGEL. I’m glad to know there are others who collaborate with friends via textversations to solve; I could not have done this by myself. I loved this one!

  19. Dogpole says:

    I thought quince at the one minute mark; 6 letters and beginning with q, but never had an a-ha, and refuse to guess. I’ve read the blog and I’m still not convinced I know why this is right and it’s not (say) papaya or banana. Just count me as a non-convert on this one I guess.

    • pgw says:

      really? you read the part about all the theme entries suggesting multiples of 15, and that the grid squares corresponding to each of those multiples of 15 contain, in order, the letters Q, U, I, N, C, and E, and that the word quince means fifteen, and you don’t see why that answer is non-arbitrarily correct?

      • Dogpole says:

        Yes, really.
        The whole “you only need to solve the first one a see how many six letter fruit start with q” was like one where you don’t actually need to solve the puzzle.

  20. ASB says:

    Fair puzzle, I just wish the 15-related click for SAN ANTONIO and particularly SEPTEMBER had been as strong as the other four. Totally agree with Joon that September seems to suggest 9 much more than 30. I never considered anything other than 9 all weekend, so I was stumped. Maybe ESPNFILMS? (don’t ask me to figure out the rest of the fill)

  21. Scott says:

    Very well done. I didn’t get it but I do like the result for many reasons. I spent 90% of my time playing around with puzzle #456 and looking at the factors that can multiply to get 456. Never got any further. Still a 5 star puzzle!

  22. Thomas says:

    Never got anywhere close on this one. Only posting to point out that QUINCE as fruit/fifteen was also a feature of MGWCC #325:

  23. David Samuel Glasser says:

    Was I the only one distracted by the fact that SAMUEL COLT’s clue matched last week’s pattern? With MGWCC GRID and GOING BACK I was pretty focused on trying to do similar archaeology on other entries but got nowhere.

  24. Pete Rimkus says:

    I had an email conversation with another solver that was similar to Joon and Andy’s, but here’s the (significantly) condensed version:

    Me: I got nothing. You?
    Other Solver: I got nothing too.
    Me: Oh.
    Other Solver: How about now…got anything yet?
    Me: Nope, still nothing. You?
    Other Solver: Still nothing.
    Together: Let’s go ask SoAndSo for a clue since he already solved it.


  25. Amy L says:

    I bet no one who worked this crossword (or constructed it) has ever even eaten a quince!

  26. rvkal says:

    Wow, I got the right answer, mostly just from the title, but my reasoning was totally off. I really wanted to multiply three by five to get QUINCE, and there was CINQ right at the end of the puzzle. Couldn’t find TROIS or TRE or DREI, but googling numbers in languages turned up a giant list including SAM or SAN for three, and GO for five. With those threes and fives right at the top of theme entries, how could it be anything else? (Even though that left me a lot of loose ends in other theme entries.)

    Totally lucked out this week, but I’m not giving it back.

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