MGWCC #489

crossword 3:25 
meta 5 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #489 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Marks of the Beast”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a famous literary work. it’s far from clear what the theme answers are, as there’s only one long answer in the grid, the central {Diminishing punctuation} SCARE QUOTES. however, that suggests that we should look at the clues that contain quotes:

  • {Character who should’ve said “I made up my mind”} HAMLET. that is a very strange way to clue this entry.
  • {“To take,” for one} VERB.
  • {“The Life of ___” (2016 Kanye West album)} PABLO.
  • {“The old man”} PAPA.
  • {“And thus…”} ERGO.
  • {“Rid Myself of ___” (2016 Swain song)} YOU. not familiar with this song or singer (band?).
  • {Alba of “The Eye”} JESSICA. i know the actress, not the film.
  • {___ & the Gang (band with the hit 1986 album “Forever”)} KOOL. i know the band, not the album. is that the one with “celebrate”?

it’s a bit of a change-up here, and i know people sometimes miss this when it happens (and i also know a lot of people don’t like it when matt does this), but the answers aren’t the important thing here: the clues are. what happens if we take all those words in quotes and string them together?

  • I made up my mind
  • To take
  • The Life of
  • The old man
  • And thus
  • Rid Myself of
  • The Eye
  • Forever

what does that mean? you can google it if you don’t recognize it. it’s a quote, and scary one at that, from near the start of edgar allan poe’s the tell-tale heart (end of the second paragraph). and that, of course, is the meta answer.

that is an appropriately spooky answer for the puzzle released on friday the 13th in october, but man, it’s tough for a week 2, isn’t it? definitely feels more like a week 3 to me. “i made up my mind” is certainly a striking wording considering matt had complete freedom there to make up any phrase he wanted to, so that was a big hint. the others were better concealed; “the life of” PABLO was a particularly deft touch, i thought. overall, i liked the meta a lot; it’s right there staring you in the face, but still feels like a fresh way to hide a key quote.

i’m not sure what to make of the title. “marks” referring to quotation marks, sure. “the beast”, though? it fits with the spooky overall vibe, but beyond that, if there’s some allusion going on, i don’t get it. (in the singular, the title would refer to the number 666, but that number, or any satanic reference, doesn’t seem to play into the meta mechanism.)

i’m running a bit behind this morning so that’s all i’ve got time for. how did you all like this one?

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32 Responses to MGWCC #489

  1. sharkicicles says:

    Loved this one. Tough to get a toe in, but a fast solve after.

  2. Amanda says:

    Didn’t get it. I got halfway there but I couldn’t get past “The old man” “And thus,” and trying to make The Old Man and The Sea fit somehow. Great puzzle!

    • wordsmix says:

      Amanda, I went down the same track and submitted the same answer.
      The justification could be : All the other usage of quotes in the clues are valid. For “Old man”, “and thus” , they were not required — which is the definition of scare quotes.

      If you extrapolate Old man and thus … gives Old Man and the Sea :)

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 290 right answers, so either a tough Week 2 or an easy Week 3. Friday the 13th dictated it be Week 2.

    Took quite a while to find a good quote. The HAMLET clue is a bit stilted, true, but you should’ve seen the contortions required for the first few quotes I considered.

    The movies are “Life of Pi” and “Life of Brian” no ‘the’ but Kanye did the trick.

  4. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Impossibly tough for me, and I felt more and more stupid as the list of correct solvers continued to grow. I was put off by the specification of the answer as “a famous literary work.” Sure, that pinpoints it as something between Gilgamesh and Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

    Best I could do was note that the grid would have been a pangram if it had a “Z”, and as it happens, Z is a reasonably famous literary work. (Hey, it was made into a movie.). Didn’t submit though, since there was nothing to support it.

    Another marvelous meta!

  5. Joe says:

    Good puzzle, took me a while but I got it. Was expecting it to be The Inferno based on the title.

  6. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    I had an unfortunately busy weekend and knew that it would come down to a brief sprint on Tuesday morning. But the only grid elements that stood out to me were SCARE QUOTES and that there were a lot of 6-letter words (number of the beast?), so I went to the clues, looked for quotes, and Googled a bunch.

    While I too tend to miss clue metas more than grid metas, I certainly don’t dislike them; a crossword can have poor clues and a good grid and vice versa, so a “puzzle within a crossword puzzle” should be able to use both.

  7. hibob says:

    (and i also know a lot of people don’t like it when matt does this)
    I only don’t like it when I forget that he does it sometimes and I forget to look in the clues.

    • Matthew G. says:

      My sense is that clue-based metas bother people only in the very rare case when solving the grid has zero relevance whatsoever to getting the meta (such as the infamous MGWCC #178). I enjoy being taken for a ride looking for the answer in the grid and finding within it a slight nudge toward the clues, as happened here.

  8. Matthew G. says:

    I think that the “Beast” of the title has no particular relevance other than to modify “Marks” in a way that is creepy, and thus fits SCARE QUOTES. But there’s a nice anagram, at least: “Beast” rearranges to “Beats,” echoing the story’s famous final line:

    “Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

  9. ajk says:

    Figured out to look at the clues with quotes, and to look at the words in the quotes. But then nothing. Oh well. :)

  10. Jim S says:

    I took “scare quotes” literally and only looked at “To take”, “The old man”, and “And thus…”, ignoring those clues that had phrases that required quotes. Didn’t lead far enough, unfortunately.

    I was also slightly distracted by the multiple uses of “on” in 1D and 61A, with “LOSTON” looking a bit like “Boston”, which led me to chase down some potential letter swapping (“ASS” being prominent in the SW had me wondering as well).

    Perfectly gettable meta, just couldn’t pull it off.

  11. CFXK says:

    I am a week 1 and 2 guy. Probably because of my chronic deficiencies in the “grit” department, I often stop working on the meta if a promising path doesn’t open up to me after a not-very-long-time. Pathetic, I know. This meta, however, was an easy, readily obvious and quick solve for me. So learning that for some it skewed to a week three makes me pause and reassess my pitiful meta-solving abilities, thinking that maybe I shouldn’t give up on week 3s so easily – maybe I need to employ some TRUE grit from now on. Then again, we’ll see if I have the grit to stick to that decision once Friday comes along….

    • ajk says:

      I have solved metas from all levels (including week 5s) and been totally stumped at all levels except week 1 (including this week :)). There is certainly a correlation between week number and my odds of figuring it out, but it’s far from perfect.

      Totally worth trying!

  12. Margaret says:

    I don’t necessarily dislike the meta being hidden in the clues rather than the grid but I do feel like we’ve had these rather a lot recently? I know my reaction to seeing only one long answer was Oh no, ANOTHER one hidden in the clues? That said, it took me way longer than it should’ve to think of googling the quote considering that I had all the quoted parts written down on a piece of paper and still stared at it blankly for a couple of days. My Hail Mary was going to be The Raven considering it’s October (Halloween) and Friday the 13th and “scare” and “beast.” Glad I realized it was a different Poe!

  13. Tony says:

    I don’t do well with metas that have us look at the clues, but they are certainly fair game. I might have gotten this one if I had finished solving before today.

    Only one of this type I got was from a few years ago (forget the MGWCC #) but the title was “Clues are Clues” which was a huge tip off to look at the clues to figure out the meta.

  14. Amy L says:

    It took me a long time to know what to do with those quotes. Finally, I thought to string them together, but I was again at a loss. I thought of “Crime and Punishment” or Camus’s “The Stranger,” and couldn’t think of a book where someone kills a one-eyed person. Finally, I went to Google and the answer popped right up. I don’t understand the objection some people have to using Google. Did some of you solvers know the quote was from “The Tell-Tale Heart” straight off?

    • John says:

      Immediately, but i love the story and it has always been a favorite. Sort of like Hemingway’s A Way You’ll Never Be, the writing itself is somewhat disjointed to give you more of a POV of being in a mad or mentally-affected person’s state of mind. Brilliant, IMO.

  15. Mutman says:

    I thought the only legitimate scare quotes were used for “the old man”. Researching ‘mark of the beast’ tells me the beast will rise from the sea.

    Thus my answer “The old man and the sea”.

  16. jagoandlitefoot says:

    Regarding the title – my thought was that in some fonts, opening quotation marks (“) look like tiny sixes.

  17. peedee says:

    I thought this was a great meta. This was the very first time I was one of the first 10 to solve it! Hooray for me!

  18. LuckyGuest says:

    I personally like the “clue metas,” although I don’t recall having seen them in play until Week 3 or 4 (not to say there haven’t been earlier ones). Besides giving me the opportunity to solve a second puzzle, I’m always amazed at the genius involved in not making “clues in the clues” stick out like sore thumbs.

  19. ===Dan says:

    I did look roughly at the quoted clue words, but nothing clicked. My hail Mary was accidentally close, based on the many _quoted_ scary “nevermores” in the Raven.

  20. Norm says:

    I knew I should have asked my English teacher wife for help …

  21. Wayne says:

    I was pleased to get this one, since I remembered to do the thing I so often forget: Look for awkward clues. 7D was my foot in the door; there is just no reason to clue YOU that way (obscure song from an obscure band) unless it was thematic.

    I remember there was one MGWCC that was possible to solve without even doing the grid. Folks who complained then had a legitimate argument. (I didn’t agree, but I got their point.) But as long as there is some part of the meta solve in the grid–as is the case here–then it’s all good.

  22. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I found it quite remarkable that the Q in the center square divided the grid into completely separate sections. With answers to clues with quotes in them starting with H, Y, J, and K, I really wanted it to be “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, but that was really not turning up.

  23. Garrett says:

    This puzzle would have been a pangram were it not for the absence of the letter Z.

    I was really thrown for a loop by the Marks of the Beast title. Since the mark of the beast is 666, marks of the beast must be multiple occurrences of 666. And lo — in the NW and SE there is a three-stack of six-letter fill each, and crossing them another set going down. I went down this rathole for quite a while.

    So then I refocused on the SCAREQUOTES thing and went back to looking at the clues. I’m trying first letter of each quoted string, then last, then sixth (back to the marks of the beast again). Nothing.

    Finally I wrote out all of the answers in the grid, then all of the quoted strings. That was it.

    • dbardolph says:

      That was almost exactly my process. The stacked sixes had me for quite a while, and then the first/last/sixth letter thing. And then the headslap moment when I strung the quotes together.

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