MGWCC #457

crossword 3:36
meta 3 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #457 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “High Numbers”. i tackled this week 1 puzzle without the instructions, as is my wont (in some months). what are the theme answers? well, there appears to be just one: {Feat that’s only been recorded four times in NBA history (and never by our meta answer, though there’s an amusing story there which I’ll post on the blog next week)} QUADRUPLE-DOUBLE. that’s an intriguing clue, and i’m looking forward to the amusing story.

anyway, a quadruple double is when a player records double-digit (i.e. 10+, or i guess 10-99 if we’re being pedantic) figures in four of the five main statistical counting categories in the same game. it’s generally points, rebounds, assists, and then either blocks or steals; off the top of my head, i know hakeem olajuwon had one such game (with blocks), and david robinson too (also blocks). i think alvin robertson, an otherwise so-so shooting guard of the 1980s who happened to be a steal maven, had one of the other games. i don’t know the other one. on a related note, a month ago the warriors’ draymond green recorded 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals… and only four points. it’s the first time in NBA history a player has had a triple-double without points as one of the double-figure categories. green actually had five blocks in that game, too, for maximal statistical weirdness.

anyway, the grid had an unusual number of double-I words (LII, SKIING, WII U, SHIITE), and that’s a pretty rare combination. combine that with the central answer and i was pretty sure i was on the right track. circling all double-letters in the grid (as in my screenshot) revealed four each of BB, II, RR, and DD. BIRD happens to be the last name of two basketball legends, larry of the NBA and sue of the WNBA. based on the clue for QUADRUPLE-DOUBLES, i’m guessing we want larry, but let’s have a look at the instructions before submitting: This week’s contest answer is a famous NBA player of the past or present. okay, larry bird it is. by the way, it turns out sue bird also never had a quadruple-double; the only woman to have recorded the feat in the pros was debbie black of the ABL (predecessor of the WNBA) in 1996.

this was a fun puzzle for basketball fans, though no basketball knowledge was required (indeed, the meta’s use of QUADRUPLE DOUBLE was a crosswordy twist on the hoops definition). how’d you all like it?

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24 Responses to MGWCC #457

  1. sharkicicles says:

    i accidentally backsolved this one- before solving, I was curious to see who had made a quadruple-double and the article I found online had the Bird story. Immediately saw the BBIIRRDD and done.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon. Just 404 right answers this week, which is definitely a Week 2/5 instead of a Week 1/5 level. So I’m going to do a truer Week 1 this week.

    To ruin the surprise. Per Wikipedia:

    Bird sat out the entire fourth quarter. After three quarters, head coach K. C. Jones informed Bird that he was one steal away from a quadruple-double and asked if he wanted to stay in the game. Bird declined, saying that he “already did enough damage.”[97][98]

  3. Mike W says:

    I got fixated on Jerry West as the answer – he is the model for the NBA logo with uniform number 44 (quadruple – 4, doubled). What a fail to not see the double letters!

    • Jim S. says:

      I was stuck there for awhile too. Add to it that he was a guard (hence a dribbler) and I went down a wormhole trying to figure out was his link was to Boston University or another Terrier team. I had all the doubles written out and said “Dang, it sure looks like it should be Bird but he was 33 not 44”. Finally realized there were 4 of each double letter to seal the BIRD answer for me.

  4. Wayne says:

    I nearly didn’t get this one. I saw the double-IIs, and convinced myself that they meant ELEVEN, and so took forever to see the other doubles. That’s on me; MCNABB stuck out like a sore thumb, so I should have realized earlier that it was thematic. I nearly submitted Isiah Thomas, based on his jersey number. I still don’t know what the puzzle title is alluding to.

    This morning, I had to resort to desperate measures, namely asking a friend to mock me for not solving it. (“You’re going to kick yourself when you see it.”) That always does the trick. When it comes to solving, shame and humility can be as important as a good eraser :-)

  5. Amanda says:

    Matt, can you explain the title for simpletons like me who didn’t solve a week one? Pitiful!

  6. Amy L says:

    A sports meta? I was sure I would never get it. To me, Joon’s second paragraph is total gibberish. I looked up quadruple double, then looked up famous NBA players. Then despaired because it was all so foreign to me. Then I noticed all the double Rs and Bs and took it from there. Larry Bird is one of about three basketball players I’ve heard of. It was so nice to get a “sports” meta. Very neat.

  7. Scott says:

    I absolutely was shocked after submitting my answer that it was incorrect. Quadruple double made me think 42. The answer for 42A was CARR, so I submitted the NBA player ANTOINE CARR. This was an easy solve and matched what one would expect for a week #1. I think we need to put this one to the judging panel!

    • Ephraim says:

      But CARR was in the grid, which the meta answer isn’t unless explicitly clued.

      • Dan Seidman says:

        Also, there were other players named Carr (M.L. and Austin come to mind). I guess if there were “an amusing story” related to quadruple-doubles and one of the players named Carr it would be acceptable.

    • David says:

      Um, if you really think that deserves to go to the judging panel, I have a feeling you’re going to be absolutely shocked again.

  8. JeffP says:

    I was momentarily sidetracked because a quadruple double has actually been accomplished 5 times in the NBA (by 4 different players). Usually I treat mistakes that aren’t corrected as hints to the meta. Fortunately, Bird was so obviously the answer once found that I forgot all about the misinformation!

    • dbardolph says:

      I had the same issue. Since I believe almost everything Matt says, I did some digging. There appears to be some question about Hakeem Olajuwan. Thanks to some post-game diddling of the record of the game on 3/3/90, somebody gave him a tenth assist. So depending on your source, he either did it once or twice.

      • Jack Stanley says:

        I thought the answer was Clyde Drexler. I absolutely missed the BB, II, RR, DD, etc. There is an interesting story about Drexler. He was supposed to get a Q-D, but video replays took away one of his assists. Oh well.

  9. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I started by noticing the high number of Bs in the puzzle, then that there were a lot of BBs (suitable for basketball), then I noticed other double letters starting with D and R, and thought of Dr J. When there weren’t any Js in the grid, I knew it was the other player from the 1983 computer game that’s about half my lifetime exposure to basketball. Actually, I remembered the Bs and found the Is, but I was already thinking about Larry Bird be that point.

    Anyone else notice that the letters are in order by first doubled appearance in the clue answers? I thought that was a nice touch.

    Definitely thought this felt qualitatively like a week 2 instead of a week 1, in terms of what you might have to care about.

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