MGWCC #469

crossword 3:56 
meta 2 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #469 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Here Are the Keys”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt asks us to find a soon-to-be-prominent group of people. there’s only one obvious theme answer: the central across answer {Risky financial practice, or a hint to the meta (not that I’m doubting the creditworthiness of any of the meta answer people!)} SUBPRIME LENDING.

there was also one other curious and clearly relevant clue: 33-down, {Coastlines (note plural!)} SEABOARD. hmm. well, it really seems like the answer ought to be SEABOARDS but it doesn’t fit. i didn’t know quite what to do with that, but i did know right away what to do with the main theme answer: look at all the prime-numbered squares in the grid and go one square below (“sub”). i’ve circled them in the screenshot, and they spell out GUEST CONSTRUCTOR. is that the meta answer? almost!

the instructions ask for a group, so we need this answer to be plural. ahh, so that’s what the plural is doing in SEABOARD(S); the 59 in the bottom row of the grid is prime, so if we extend the grid one square to accommodate the S down there, we get GUEST CONSTRUCTORS, which is the answer to the meta. it also explains the title, which is in no way useful for forward-solving the meta, but that’s okay in a week 4. and matt is getting more meta in his metas—this is a meta about MGWCC itself. (cue xzibit.)

i found this one to be a fast (nay, immediate) solve, but perhaps only because mgwcc #33 was a very memorable meta solve, even eight years later. still, there are over 300 names on the leaderboard, so it couldn’t have been too much of a back-breaker for everybody else. it’s an excellent feat of construction, though, beginning from a word that’s been in the news for the last decade (“subprime”) and reinterpreting it mathematically. the grid is quite constrained—even the R of SUBPRIME in the grid is thematic—and i always marvel at puzzles that involve making extensive use of particular numbered squares in the grid.

i assume this means we are in for guest constructor month in june. i’m excited! i love matt’s metas, and he has a wealth of creative ideas, but guest constructor month always adds a bit of welcome variety. it’s nice to see what crazy ideas other people have about what could be a meta. one thing i can’t remember seeing in previous guest constructor months is a meta by a female constructor. i don’t know if that’s in the cards this year (i assume the constructors and puzzles are already lined up), but hopefully it’s something we might see going forward.

speaking of metas written by people who are not matt: the indie 500 is this weekend in dc, and i hope to see a bunch of you there. in addition to the tournament itself (which is already full, so i hope you pre-registered; if not, there’s always the solve-at-home option), they’ve released a meta suite that you can buy at the link above. i’ll be there this weekend, and i, too, will be bringing a meta puzzle contest for everyone. metas all around!

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30 Responses to MGWCC #469

  1. Scott says:

    I was on the right track but then I got derailed.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    This was another good Week 4, though as Joon notes, it was very much on the easy side. I didn’t mind the extraneous S — this time, it gave away nothing, other than that the answer would probably be plural, which we knew already from the directions. Matt’s take on what to do with a prime numbers theme was excellent. Before constructing my Fireball meta featuring the Fibonacci series, I tried prime numbers, but didn’t come up with anything nearly as good as SUB-PRIME LENDING. The “lending” part of it connects very well to the answer, and the “sub-prime” is inspired.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 315 correct answers this week, so definitely gentle for a Week 4.

    As for the grid: without the surname NGUYEN I’m not sure it’s possible, at least not without some ugly concessions.

    • David Glasser says:

      While I am not personally familiar with either of the clued NGUYENs, it’s one of the most common surnames in the word so it certainly seems crossworthy. If the worry is that it’s too tough, perhaps cluing with a more obviously Vietnamese common name would help, like “Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner Viet Thanh”.

      • Garrett says:

        Nguyen is a very common surname, and sometimes a first name. I have a personal friend whose first name is Nguyen. Here at UCI the campus phone directory has 100 people with that first, middle, or last name.

        According to Wikipedia, Nguyễn is the most common Vietnamese family name. Outside of Vietnam, the surname is commonly rendered without diacritics as Nguyen. So a clue as simple as [Most common Vietnamese name] would suffice.

        If you are looking for a famous (or infamous) Nguyen, here is one:

        Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was the president of South Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. He was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), became head of a military junta, and then president after winning a scheduled election. He established rule over South Vietnam until he resigned and left the nation a few days before the fall of Saigon. — Wikipedia

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I didn’t mean it was a difficult entry, just that if it didn’t exist then this theme would have been very tough to implement. You really need a ?GU?E? up top with the 2,3,5 cluster of early primes and there’s nothing else but NGUYEN.

    • pgw says:

      It’s doable with 4-letter entries in the upper left, e.g. here

  4. Garrett says:

    I almost had this one. But first I was thinking that sub-prime was an allusion to a generation below the ones who are reaching their prime, and went to all kinds of lengths to back-solve that.

    Then it hit me that sub-prime could indicate letters below prime numbers. For some reason it did not occur to me this indicated a row below, and I’m looking at the letter below the primes and coming up with UTEPOA in the first row. This idea hit me this morning, and deciding this was “not it” I tossed a hail Mary in the last few minutes.

    The timing was not very good for me this weekend. I did not get the grid until late Saturday afternoon, and with an evening engagement I only had time to solve the grid. I poked at the meta for a while on Sunday, and after exhausting the various rat holes set it aside, hoping for inspiration after sleeping on it. Monday was pretty much a lost day due to BBQ obligations (welcome ones!) and Tuesday was a busy work day after three days off work. I got up early this morning so I could spend some more time looking at it, and after a bit the real direction I needed came, but not exactly right. Alas.

  5. Amy L says:

    I wasn’t even going to try this (prime numbers??) until I saw so many people had solved it already, and I found the answer right away. Thanks, Joon, for explaining how the final S gets there.

    What’s the story with 18A? Matt couldn’t come up with a good clue?

  6. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I found that NW corner tougher than the meta. Didn’t quite need to use the 6 meta-related cells to get a foothold, but it was close. I did determine that my guess at extraction was giving a sensible result from the rest of the grid before I was sure of anything in that corner.

    • Garrett says:

      I had a lot of trouble in that corner, as well. I got the corners in this order: NE, SW, SE, then finally NW. I’m always confusing TOILES with TULLES, and ONIONS wasn’t coming to me. Never heard of Scotty or Dustin. Did not want to google anything because so far I had not. But I did finally get it when I hit on ILLBET and TNTS.

  7. dbardolph says:

    I liked this one a lot, even if it was easier than the average Week 4. Or possibly because it was easier. It’s really unusual that my first idea turns out to be the right one. Thanks for making me feel smart, Matt.

  8. Bunella says:

    I’m not crazy about guest constructors month. I’m still trying to figure Matt’s thinking and now I’m going to have more???? Oy! Please be gentle.

  9. CFXK says:

    Was especially impressed that the spanner not only clued the “who,” but also the action being taken that will confer upon the group its prominence: Matt “lending” MGWCC to the guest constructors.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The Indie 500 meta suite of puzzles includes one or more constructed by women, so it’s not as if there aren’t women making meta puzzles already. Would be great to see some in a guest constructor month here!

  11. Will Nediger says:

    So elegant!

  12. Matthew G. says:

    I got the meta quickly, but I still don’t understand the title. Joon says something “explains the title,” but I’m not sure what he’s referring to. Can someone explain?

  13. austin says:

    i was distracted by the side-by-side dupe of SEA at 33D and 34D for a while, i thought it wouldn’t be there without a reason.

    luckily, fresh eyes the next day let me see the answer.

    • joon says:

      oh yeah, i was going to mention that. plus the COSTA in the grid duping “coastlines” in that clue.

    • ajk says:

      This is the only thing on my initial list of ‘things that seem odd’ which turned out to be irrelevant.

  14. Anne E says:

    Boo hoo, everyone forgot about my Jane Austen meta a couple years ago during guest constructor month! OK, BEQ did most of the work, but I did get a co-author credit… :-)

    • joon says:

      ouch! i did forget, and i’m sorry. :( please forgive my forgetitude.

      i am still hoping we see more metas from women going forward, though, even if you’ll always be the first.

    • Norm says:

      That was a good one. I was almost able to get my wife [such a fan] interested in crosswords with that one — and it was solely due to being around her that the meta hit me so quickly. Thanks [to you and BEQ] for a good time.

    • Stephen McFly says:

      Is there a way to access this crossword?

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