MGWCC #510

crossword 4:08 
meta 1 minute 


hello and welcome to episode #510 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “The Winner’s Circle”. for this week 2 puzzle, the instructions tell us that we are looking for a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. NOTE: For an interesting reason I’ll tell you about next week, this week’s contest deadline is Tuesday at 11:59 and 26 seconds PM Mountain Time. that is indeed interesting. what are the theme answers? five answers spanned the full width of the 17×17 grid:

  • {Words after “Get off my lawn”} YOU WHIPPERSNAPPER.
  • {Sport of the biennial race called the Patrouille des Glaciers} SKI MOUNTAINEERING. that is not a sport i have ever heard of, but it sounds pretty cool (and difficult!).
  • {Subject of the “Golden Girls” episode “Rose Fights Back”} AGE DISCRIMINATION.
  • {2004 Prince album} THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE. i don’t know this album, but i’m pretty sure the fourth sequel to it is a vonnegut novel.
  • {Tusks on male narwhals, e.g.} SEX CHARACTERISTIC. we visited the smithsonian natural history museum in december, and there’s a whole room there dedicated to narwhals. they’re absolutely fascinating. typically only males grow the tusk (the long spiral tooth that looks like a horn), and furthermore, it’s prominently asymmetric—that tusk is the left-sided canine. in very rare cases, the right canine also grows out for a double tusk. the tusks are strong but surprisingly flexible—they had one there you could pick up and hold.

anyway these entries have very little in common other than their length and enumeration: all are (3 14). but that in itself is suggestive; combined with the title (“circle”) and unusual deadline, i quickly came around to the idea that it was in honor of pi day, march 14 (that’s today, assuming you’re reading this today). in eastern time, the deadline is 3/14 at 1:59:26 am. the decimal expansion of pi starts 3.1415926, so that is eight digits’ worth of agreement.

so what’s the answer to the meta? the only super bowl-winning quarterback with enumeration (3 14) is ben roethlisberger of the steelers. i have to admit to some distaste for him as a person and a meta answer, which soured the puzzle for me. he is in some sense the most notable entry fitting the theme. if you don’t want to reuse THE from THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE, then there are very few other plausible options. maybe COX COMMUNICATIONS, one of the largest cable providers in the country, but that’s very regional and there are probably plenty of americans who have never heard of them. THE WHISTLEBLOWERS, 2002 time magazine person of the year, would have been reasonable (taking THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE out of the grid), but it was usually THE WHISTLE-BLOWERS in the magazine, which kind of ruins it as a theme answer. GAS CHROMATOGRAPHY is a scientific procedure, but unfortunately so is ION CHROMATOGRAPHY.

i’m not seeing any good ways of avoiding roethlisberger, so maybe this is the best that could be done. i wonder if matt considered this grandmaster, far from a household name but at least you could find him on a list of the world’s top-rated chess players.

that’s all for me this week. how’d you like this one?

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20 Responses to MGWCC #510

  1. Matt says:

    Thanks, Joon — 407 right answers this week.

    I did not think of Ian Nepomniachtchi! Probably not usable anyway, though he is the fourth or fifth most interesting chess player in the world these days.

  2. Scott says:

    I missed this easy one. I focused on Pi and ended up with a Hail Mary entry of Plunkett because the first two letters look like PI.

  3. sharkicicles says:

    With circle and Pi day and 3-14 I answered Mark RyPIen because as far as I know he’s the only super bowl winning QB who’s name contains Pi.

    • Matt says:

      I’ll ask the panel about this one.

      • Matthew G. says:

        I usually am skeptical of alternative answers, but I think the panel should give this one consideration. Unlike most alternative answers, it does account for each component of a meta: the instructions, the title, and every theme entry. It drew a different inference from the theme entries than the intended answer, but a reasonable one. And as someone else pointed out, it’s not as though the instructions asked for a sixth theme entry (if it had said that, then Ben Roethlisberger would be the objectively better answer).

        I say this with no horse in the race, as I submitted Roethlisberger.

        • sharkicicles says:

          Thanks Matthew for explaining better than I could! FWIW I considered Ben, but figured the 3-14 enumeration was a weaker link than having to get the Pi answer from the title and the instructions which clearly pointed to Pi Day.

  4. Seth Canetti says:

    I answered Tom Brady. I locked into looking for the next two digits of pi (since the instructions went out to 3.1415926), and his unique 5-3 super bowl record fit the bill. Whoops!

    • Justin says:

      I have to admit, this is intriguing reasoning. But my guess is the puzzle has to be self-contained, not dependent on extra info like the submission time.

      • Seth Canetti says:

        Someone with a better memory (or more time to go through all the previous puzzles…) can confirm, I think there have a been a couple of exceptions where something in the write-up or instructions hinted at the answer?

        Ben is clearly the better answer. Perhaps the instructions could have tightened up to “Which Super Bowl quarterback would have made a good 6th theme-entry”, but then maybe it is week 1 easy, especially if he’s the only quarterback with 17 letters in his name.

        • Evad says:

          There was a pretty famous one that only a few of us solved which involved taking numbers from the clues and parsing the mystery story that went along with the puzzle and taking each of the “nth” words in order to spell out some instruction. I kind of remember it had to do with a deserted or haunted island and someone was beheaded maybe?

  5. Martin Davis says:

    Argh, I took Brady too, because the 5 themed answers matched his 5 rings. I even looked at a list of Super Bowl winning QBs while I was digging through digits of pi and trying to match letters in the grid.

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    Love the Pi Day tie-in — as an MIT alum, I must hang my head with shame for missing it. In race mode, I noticed snapper on the first, and immediately thought of the Patriot’s old logo – a Minuteman snapping the ball. Since we’re dealing with Superbowl winning QBs, this made me think of Brady. Now, what other five letter QB starts with B and has won the Super Bowl? Brees, of course. Checking the last line, I saw character in characteristic. Green Bay’s logo is an alphabetic character, and Starr won the Super Bowl, so I immediately submitted Brees without finishing the other three theme entries. I thought it was so cool Matt had found five logos he could hide in phrases and five Super Bowl winning Quarterbacks, probably all five letters like Elway, or maybe not – could be Rypien or Rogers – that would spell another!

  7. Jack Sullivan says:

    I completely missed PI day and wandered about chasing rabbits. A 17×17 grid —must be Joe Theismann from SB XVII. Or Tom Brady from 2017. Or Drew Brees of the SAINTS. Or ELI Manning . Or Joe Montana. Or maybe the only Mountaineer (WVU) QB, Jeff Hostetler.

  8. Eric says:

    My rabbits emerged up as partial anagrams within the theme answers, e.g. Hostetler within THESLAUGHTERHOUSE. Ditto for Griese, Manning, Starr and Rypien.

  9. Scout says:

    I agree with Joon that, other than having his name fit the pattern, Roethlisberger doesn’t deserve the honor of even being an answer in the grid, much less a meta answer.

  10. Kettlebadger says:

    Seconded on the Mark Rypien one. He’s the only quarter back with pi! And pi day! And 3.14!

  11. Jason says:

    I never made the Pi reference. To me it was just seeing all the 3/14 answers and then find a quarterback that fits.

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