MGWCC #460

crossword 3:54 
meta 10-15 min 


hello and welcome to episode #460 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “We Stand Together As One”. the instructions for this week 4 puzzle ask us to find a famous TV character. what are the theme answers? well, it’s not quite clear, but the long-ish answers are chock-full of unusual abbrevations. JMU DUKES (that’s james madison university, and hats off if you knew the nickname; i grew up in virginia and a bunch of my friends went there, but they don’t get a lot of national attention) stood out, as did ACTING GM and CIA AGENTS.

i had the aha moment on the second pass, while noting that the 82-word grid strongly suggests that there’s a lot of theme. and there is! in seven different squares in the grid, two abbreviations meet at a letter:

  • {Colonial Athletic Association team} JMU DUKES crosses {MVP in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013} LBJ at the J. that’s lebron james, not lyndon baines johnson.
  • {Not-very-feared Pepsi rival} RC COLA crosses {Dudley Do-Right’s org.} RCMP at the R.
  • {911 responder} EMT crosses {Org. that won the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize} UNICEF at the E.
  • {Setting for many video games} WWIII crosses {Many a Vietnam vet} POW at the (second) W.
  • {Cloak-and-dagger types, sometimes} CIA AGENTS crosses {Where 100 isn’t an A+} IQ TEST at the I.
  • {Netflix hit, briefly} OITNB crosses {Letters on fashionable caps} DKNY at the N.
  • {Possibly temporary baseball exec} ACTING GM crosses {Chain that sells vitamins} GNC at the G.

that’s well and good (and i’ve circled the letters in the grid), and enough to solve the meta, but did you notice the key point? in each of those instances, the crossing letter stands for the same word in both directions! (hence the title.) in order:

  • JMU james madison university crosses LBJ lebron james.
  • RC royal crown crosses RCMP royal canadian mounted police.
  • EMT emergency medical technician crosses UNICEF, which used to stand for united nations international children’s emergency fund.
  • WWIII world war iii crosses POW prisoner of war.
  • CIA central intelligence agency crosses IQ TEST intelligence quotient. nice use of two different senses of “intelligence”.
  • OITNB orange is the new black crosses DKNY donna karan new york.
  • GM general manager crosses GNC, originally general nutrition center but now branded as just the initials.

taking the letters in the seven special squares in order gives J.R. EWING of dallas. i’m not 100% sure if he was chosen to be the answer because he goes by initials, or if it was just something matt could spell with the letters he had at his disposal. i don’t know what j.r. stands for; it might just be junior. then again, it might also be james something, which would be cool. probably doesn’t stand for james royal emergency war intelligence new general, though. (i also don’t know who shot him, but no spoilers please.)

i liked this meta a lot. it made me laugh, because acpt was this past weekend and there is so much angsting about what you do if two answers you don’t know cross each other and one of them’s an abbreviation. here, matt has gone out of his way to cross two abbreviations with each other—seven times! a few of them might well wreck people in a crossword tournament, too; LBJ/JMU, OITNB/DKNY, and GM/GNC all feel pretty missable for certain demographics.

anyway, that’s all i’ve got for this week. (i’m still running a sleep deficit from stamford.) it was great to see many of you there! looking forward to the week 5 challenge.

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34 Responses to MGWCC #460

  1. Kaille says:

    Joon, congratulations on winning second place at the American Crossword Tournament!

    Wish I could say I fared well on this meta, but I can’t. I was sidetracked by all of the double letters that appeared in the puzzle and I KNEW they had to be red herrings since we had a similar puzzle with LARRY BIRD just a few short weeks ago, but I couldn’t see past them. Oh well – I am looking forward to the first time I can get my streak up to FOUR. :)

    Again, congrats to you and Tyler Hinman!

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 218 right answers this week.

    JR EWING is an ironically amusing (hopefully) answer because the JR stands for *two* things — John Ross, plus “Junior” (he was his dad’s oldest son). Plus I could spell it with the letters I wanted, that too.

    And nice job making the finals!

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    First, congratulations to Joon on his well-deserved second place finish against two titans at ACPT. As for MGWCC, it was another cool idea. Will the meta-master ever run dry? Must be why he capped the series at 1000. Come on, Matt! Surely you have more than that. Well, yeah, I guess you do, since your WSJ metas are generally terrific, too.

    I was lucky this week, hitting on the technique with my second path. From the title, my first guess was that thematic elements would “Stand” together, forming parallel phrases in the DOWN direction. But the clumps of abbreviations drew my attention, and it was quick from there to find the letters standing for the same word.

  4. Jason says:

    I was hung up on all the double-letter answers like RCCOLA and ACTINGGM and never got close.

  5. dbardolph says:

    I got started thinking about abbreviations because Matt didn’t abbreviate “Association” in the clue for 17A. That appears to have been completely irrelevant, but whatever. It got me going in the right direction.

  6. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Best I could come up with was ALF. Oops!

    But is it significant that the Dallas episode in which J R Ewing was shot, leading to the teaser question, “Who shot J R?” first aired March 21, 1980, putting this puzzle just three days off the anniversary?

  7. Chris says:

    Wow, well done Matt on finding abbreviations that cross at the same word. I solved the puzzle without knowing that, but felt the need to comment praise after now reading about it.

  8. David Bael says:

    I’m curious if the extra unused acronyms – TMZ and MMA – were unavoidable. The fact that they were symmetric was a brief distraction to ultimately discovering the solution.

    • Jesse Lansner says:

      I think they were avoidale.

      Didn’t matter to me, though, since I never even got close on the meta.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Feature, not bug! I was trying to put in as many as I could to mask the 7 relevant spaces.

  9. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I missed just enough of the crossings that it looked like random letters. Somewhat embarrassingly, though, it looked to me like random letters that prompted me to Google “Who shot J.R.” but I didn’t send anything in when I seemed to still have the Q from AQI/IQ TEST and didn’t notice the E from UNICEF/EMT (since UNICEF is not normally pronounced as a bunch of letters, unlike the rest of them). As far as nearly-right things go, JRWINQG really looks unpromising.

  10. Mutman says:

    Got the meta by seeing the crossing technique. Was waiting for today to see what I missed.

    Great job Matt!

    (And congrats to Joon too!)

  11. Dan Seidman says:

    There was one other crossing of two acronyms: IQTEST crosses AQI at the Q. So you did have to use just the ones where the word was the same.

  12. Jim S. says:

    Congrats Joon.

    I got lucky, as I decided to give it one last try instead of reading in bed last night. Wow, talk about luck! As I was transcribing various initialisms, I mistook LBJ for the president, which led to “Conrad Bain is in the puzzle”. Lo and behold Baines and Bain intersect at the ‘B’!!!! And that was my big breakthrough even though it was wrong and not involved.

  13. BarbaraK says:

    There is an eighth square where two abbreviations cross – the Q in IQTEST and AQI. So the first answer I saw was JREWINQG – close enough to see the answer, but I knew there had to be some reason to skip the Q. Took a few more minutes to realize that in the others, the initial stood for the same word, but the Q has different meanings. Then I was really impressed!

    • Abby Braunsdorf says:

      You missed the C at ABCs and GNC, though I guess the former just stands for “C”. (I’d ruled out III because it’s neither an acronym nor an initialism.) At least that was my first pass too before I saw that R was royal both ways and took out the strays.

  14. Jon says:

    I’m surprised people submitted without seeing that fact that the crossed initialisms crossed at a point where the spelled out word was the same. How then could you rule out AQI crossing IQ or IOS crossing WWIII? For me, the aha moment was when I looked up what RC stood for in RC Cola and realizing that was the same word for RCMP.

    Good meta. I can’t wait for the week 5 one.

    • tabstop says:

      How you rule out AQI/IQ (or at least how I did it) is by deciding after you get J and R that the answer is JR Ewing, and you go looking for the last five letters without actually going through the grid thoroughly.

    • jefe says:

      Because you get JREWIINQG, and you can hand-wave the 1st I (in III) away because it doesn’t stand for anything, and I thought the Q was a bug.

      Extra-wowed now that I know they stood for the same things across and down!

  15. ajk says:

    Went from chasing double letters to acronyms to intersection of acronyms fast. Got stuck for days being confused about how some intersected and some didn’t, while missing that GM and IQ were relevant. Even typed out all the words of the acronyms (early on) and still missed it.

    Just before going to bed last night took one more stab, realizing that I hadn’t examined the clues carefully. That went nowhere, but eventually I hit on the same-word-both-directions idea and then it didn’t take long. At least I made use of the extra time (though with some guilt as I didn’t have the ACPT excuse. :))

  16. LuckyGuest says:

    Man, my rabbit holes hit me quick and stayed with me for miles! Noticing “DESI” as a grid entry and “Lucy” in a clue, I started looking for famous partnerships (“we stand together as one”) from names in the clues and grid. I had some close ones, but not enough. Then I took the title to mean “many actors have [stood together] to play the same TV character.” The obvious place to start was Dr. Watson… and there was [Lucy] LIU (grid), Dudley [Moore] (clue), Martin [Freeman] (clue), [Dom] Aiello (clue)… but again, not enough. Finally, as I was about to hang it up, I expanded the abbreviations and WHAM. Whew. Awesome meta.

  17. Garrett says:

    I think it was an awesome meta, too. Congrats to the ACPT finaliststs!

  18. sharkicicles says:

    Great puzzle! And congrats Joon!

  19. Matthew G. says:

    When I saw the title and the instructions, I _really_ wanted the answer to be VOLTRON. I was all set for the clues to refer to different colors of robot lions that then “stand together as one” humanoid robot.

    I reached the correct answer, but not without some disappointment that there were no robot lions.

    In all seriousness, great meta!

  20. Small Wave Dave says:

    Took a couple days to get my mind unstuck from double letters.
    RCCOLA, CIAAGENTS, ACTINGGM, & ATTEN gave me CAGT, so I thought “DNA” and maybe the answer was a character from one of the CSI shows. After all, those amino acids stand together as one molecule don’t they? Well, more like a gazillion different ones so forget that.

    Can’t even remember how I got to looking at what the abbreviations stood for, but seeing LeBron James/James Madison made for a splendid aha moment!

    Fun puzzle, and I also enjoyed watching the video of the ACPT Final. Congrats Joon and Tyler. Gave me aspirations of participating someday!

    • ajk says:

      Proteins are polymers of amino acids, nucleic acids (DNA/RNA) are polymers of nucleotides (ACGT). /chemistry pedant. :)

  21. Scott says:

    Another one I should have gotten but failed to do so.

  22. joon says:

    that’s two different people in this thread who have congratulated specifically me and tyler… but not dan. do you guys know something i don’t know? did dan test positive for EPO? ;)

    anyway, thanks!

  23. Amanda says:

    I’ve been doing these for almost a year and this was my favorite puzzle yet. Very satisfying aha moment!

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