MGWCC #506

crossword 3:31 
meta -3:31* 


hello and welcome to episode #506 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Head Count”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt asks us: What six-letter word, found somewhere in this puzzle’s clues, characterizes its theme entries? well, what are the theme entries? although they are not strictly all of the longest entries in the grid, there are 8 two-word phrases with initials A.V.:

  • {Title role for Jim Carrey} ACE VENTURA.
  • {One who served tours in Iraq, e.g.} ARMY VET. cute to have this crossing NAVY PIER at the Y.
  • {Words before a big reveal} AND VOILA. i’m a little more used to seeing this frenglish phrase as ET VOILA, but sure.
  • {Word-for-word, as a translation} AD VERBUM. i’m not sure i’ve seen this latin expression. it’s certainly inferable enough.
  • {Underground bunker requirement} AIR VENT. not how i would have thought to clue this entry.
  • {Yet another reason to buy} ADDED VALUE.
  • {Actor who was the subject of decades’ worth of death hoaxes until he actually died on January 26th, 2016} ABE VIGODA.
  • {Strong alcohol, such as brandy} AQUA VITAE.

so what’s the meta answer? the octet of theme answers can be said to be an “A.V. 8”, or AVIATE. and sure enough, that word is in the clue for TARDIS at 51a, {“Doctor Who” machine that can both aviate and travel through time}.

although i’m listed as a featured artist in the byline, i had no involvement in the construction of this puzzle, except to suggest the answer. i was talking with some people about last tuesday’s nyt puzzle, where the theme was five D.V. entries and the reveal answer was DEVIOUS. the partial homophone struck me as a little odd, so i mentioned that it would have been nicer to see eight theme answers with the reveal of DEVIATE. matt took that as a starting idea for this week’s meta, and here we are. i think he chose a very nice set. i’m not sure if it makes any sense for me to give a star rating to the meta mechanism, since it was sort of my idea. what did you all think of it? certainly it seems to have been easy enough as a meta (500+ right answers, high for a week 2), and i thought it was certainly a nice touch to include the answer in the clues.

bits & bobs:

  • {“Things that didn’t happen for $1,000, Alex”} I BET. you have no idea how often i see versions of this snowclone where the dollar value is $500, even though it’s been 15+ years since that was a value on a jeopardy! board. $1000 is a good choice.
  • {Letters on monuments in Italy} SPQR. the senate and people of rome, except in latin. that left-hand section with this and AD VERBUM was quite a latin lovefest.
  • {Words before gain, lose, or reason} STAND TO. somewhat awkward 7-letter partial here, but i enjoyed the zeugma in the clue.
  • {Color of the 7 and 15 balls, in pool} MAROON. this clue reminded me of an ingenious meta that i mostly missed but lucked into a right answer anyway.

that’s all i’ve got this week. your thoughts?

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9 Responses to MGWCC #506

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon, for the writeup and the idea. I’ve often wondered what the contribution is of the “feat.” constructor since that byline style has emerged over the past few years, and now I get it a little more. In this case, maybe not quite enough for a co-author credit, but too much to not get a mention.

    • BarbaraK says:

      I didn’t understand what the feat. meant and was afraid that it was a part of the meta that I was missing.

  2. Tony says:

    I was hitting a brick wall until I decided to look at the instructions and title one more time and decided to count the theme entries. Until then, I was just reading all the 6-letter words. Finally saw there were 8 TEs with AV and instead of an AHA moment, it was more of a D’oh! moment.

    Fun puzzle to solve.

  3. Margaret says:

    Gosh, I saw this one almost instantly, making me feel better about my absolute fail on the week one!

  4. mlpdyer says:

    Well, I was worried – seemed way too easy, clever, but easy! Then, I checked the right answers – already over 500, so I reasoned that my answer was correct.
    I started looking for some sort of audiovisual clue – thinking that a week 2 would have some sort of cryptic clue – reversal maybe…took a while to see 8 theme answers instead of 6! Then, it all made sense.
    PS – I then tried to use the answer in a reversed form in a sentence…not such words, really!

  5. Jon says:

    I got it right when I saw aviate in the clue; but I completely missed that it sounds like AV-8 and that there were 8 A-V- fills in the grid. I can’t believe I didn’t put 2 and 2 together. Makes the meta make even more sense. Duh!

  6. Garrett says:

    I figured that the word had to have an A ahead of a V and be six letters. Aviate was the only one that fit that bill.

    And then there was this kicker: AQUA VITAE. If you take away AQU you are left with AVITAE, which turns into AVIATE by moving the T right one place!

    I went to grab my iPhone to submit my answer, and there was a message there from a friend who said they had submitted that answer already and was not on the leaderboard after quite a long time.

    So I texted another friend and shared that tidbit with him. He texted back that AVIATE was the correct answer, and just be patient! And he added what I had missed, that the sound is the same as in the phrase, “I could have had a V8!” I thought that was pretty cool!

    One minor nit to pick: VOILA is French but AND is English. Should be ET VOILA. Other than that, all the fill seemed clean to me, and I did enjoy the puzzle and the meta.

    • Garrett says:

      Actually, what he texted was AV 8 — get it? I interpreted that as “a V8.” I was just talking to him (JJL) about it, and he said that he had meant it as 8 AV pairs, and had actually not thought of it in the context of a V8 juice. He got a kick out of that!

    • pgw says:

      “And voila” is a phrase commonly used by English speakers, and “voila” has been in common English use for centuries. Calling this a nit to pick is like criticizing a French speaker for using the phrase “faire du camping,” which really is how they say “to go camping.”

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