MGWCC #472

crossword 2:52 
meta 1 minute 


hello and welcome to episode #472 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Team Players”. for this week 3 puzzle of guest constructor month, we have a puzzle by paul coulter, and the instructions ask us to name a sport. simple enough. what are the theme answers?

  • {Suburban chauffeur, sometimes} SOCCER MOM. i have definitely entered the SOCCER DAD phase of my life. and with my youngest starting u5 this fall, that goes triple.
  • {Sporting equipment used for slapshots} HOCKEY STICK.
  • {Place to find picks and keys} BASKETBALL COURT.
  • {Hitter of millions of home runs} BASEBALL BAT.
  • {Yuppie top} POLO SHIRT.

so, five sports. if that’s all that’s going on in the grid, it’s unclear why it has to be 80 words instead of the usual 78, so there’s probably a little more theme somewhere. with a nudge from the title, i started noting how many players play on a team (at a given time) in each of these sports: 11 for soccer (the sport i am watching as i write this blog post), 6 for hockey, 5 for basketball, 9 for baseball, and (i had to google this) 4 for polo. circling those five numbered squares in the grid and reading off the letters in that order gives RUGBY. it’s an interesting choice for a meta about team sizes, as there are differences between the two major formats of rugby league (13 players) and rugby union (15), plus rugby sevens is a fairly popular thing.

i liked this meta fine, but it felt like a week 2 rather than a week 3. i feel like we’ve seen the “grid entries suggest numbers, and then you read the letters in those numbered squares” mechanic a lot recently, so that might have contributed to the speediness of the solve. the crossword itself also offered very little resistance in terms of cluing and fill. well, maybe except for {Neighbor on “Mama’s Family” played by Beverly Archer} IOLA, which doesn’t look familiar at all. that said, it’s week 3 of 5, not 3 of 4, so there’s still plenty of time in guest constructor month to ratchet up the difficulty level.

how’d you all find this one?

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15 Responses to MGWCC #472

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 351 right answers this week, so a little high in the zone for a Week 3 of 5 but still in the zone (531-391-351 are the first three weeks). Next two weeks will be much lower, I can promise that…

    And thanks to Paul, too.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Thanks, Joon and Matt. It’s not a necessary element for solving the meta, but the reason I picked RUGBY as the answer is that averaging the thematic numbers 11, 6, 5, 9, 4 produces 7. Rugby Sevens is played in the Summer Olympics, Rugby World Cup Sevens, Commonwealth Games, etc. (As Joon notes, Rugby League has 13 players on a side, while Rugby Union has 15.)

    I hope no one dropped the actual path at RUGBT. (-: This would happen if you used 8 for polo, counting the horses alongside the human team members. I’m the father of a horse lover, and I did as much chauffeuring as any SOCCERMOM (0r dad,) driving my daughter Neena to the stables daily while she was growing up, and spending many weekends at equestrian events – but I don’t think even she would count the horses as players for this meta.

    • BarbaraK says:

      I started with RAGBY because when I googled, “How many players on a hockey team?” it said 16. When forcing a U into that square wouldn’t work, I read a bit further and learned about the difference between field hockey and ice hockey.

      (Almost everything I know about sports, I learned from crossword puzzles.)

      • Paul Coulter says:

        Thanks for the funny anecdote about your solving experience, Barbara. It did occur to me as I chose the theme answers that someone might have difficulty choosing between ice hockey and field hockey. But two of my female friends who both played field hockey in high school advised me that a field hockey stick is always called just that. In addition to soccer, I also played ice hockey in college. So I can tell you with confidence that ice hockey players always say hockey stick.

  3. Jim S. says:

    I finally made the jump from theme answers suggesting numbers to actually looking at the grid! Took awhile, though – after I couldn’t find a sport that was suggested by the letter of the alphabet matching each # of players, I threaded water for awhile. Impressive (to me) that the fill at the top was solid given that 5 of the first 11 letters were locked in as part of the solution.

  4. Amanda says:

    I always appreciate a puzzle I can solve when weeks 3 and 4 come around. This was one of those ones that I didn’t quite see at first, but as soon as I asked my husband to take a look at it, I saw it. Funny how that happens. Must be a competitive thing. Thanks, Paul!

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Real late solve on my part. I have this weird mental block on puzzles that involve finding letters based on their numbered squares in the grid. Even though it’s a device Matt uses not infrequently, I have this terrible habit of forgetting to try it.

    Here, looking at the number of players per team in each of the listed sports was one of the first things I tried, but instead of going to the corresponding numbered squares, I tried taking the first letters of each of those numbers, averaging them, etc.–overlooking the much more obvious significance the numbers could have.

    It sure was frustrating seeing the leaderboard soar past 200 and then 300, knowing I was missing something simple! I had planned on using RUGBY as a desperate guess anyway, because it was the only common team sport with a five-letter name I could come up with, and I figured there was a good chance the device would involve extracting one letter per theme entry. I finally saw the solution about two hours before the deadline. I facepalmed and sent it in.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I considered making the answer GOLF (with four theme answers in the grid,) but I did want it to be a team sport. While golf can be played in teams, i.e., the Ryder Cup, it’s primarily an individual sport. The appealing aspect about GOLF as an answer was that in addition to those letters filling squares 11, 6, 5, 9, there would have been a second path. 2 halves for soccer, 3 periods for hockey, 4 quarters for basketball, and 9 innings for baseball, adding to 18, the number of holes in a round of golf.

  6. Amy L says:

    I had to use google to find out the number of players in each sport–except for baseball. However, I don’t understand the polo at all. I went to a polo game in India and there were many, many horses and riders on each side.

  7. Abby Braunsdorf says:

    ORR in the fill lead me down some dead ends, as did all the animals in the clues. I finally got my head right, but I was out in the weeds longer than I’d like.

    • Evad says:

      Yes, that and the name of two hockey teams in the clues (Capitals and Sharks) and the anagram-friendly (and unusual) MRS PEEL to PELE.

  8. john farmer says:

    {Hitter of millions of home runs} BASEBALL BAT.

    That got me curious. For the heck of it, MLB + Natl. Assn., since 1871: 291,947 HRs and counting. Add minor leagues, Negro Leagues, college, high school, and Little Leagues, and I guess you might get there.

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