MGWCC #531

crossword 3:18  
meta 0:10 


hello and welcome to episode #531 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Friend of Rin Tin Tin”. for this week 1 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a breed of dog. okay. what are the theme answers? there aren’t any especially long answers in the grid, but there are four 9s:

  • {Helping to get out of jail} SPRINGING.
  • {Holds} POSSESSES.
  • {Little Rockers, for instance} ARKANSANS. “little rockers” is a demonym i haven’t heard before, and i’m inordinately amused by it. that should definitely be the name of a rock & roll-themed saturday morning cartoon.
  • {Italian director given an honorary Oscar in 1995} is michelangelo ANTONIONI.

what do these have in common? well, in addition to being nine letters, the middle three letters are the same as the last three: SPR(ING)(ING), POS(SES)(SES), ARK(ANS)(ANS), and ANT(ONI)(ONI). this matches rin tin tin, from the title, so that pretty much has to be it. is there a dog breed that fits the same pattern? why yes, the chihuahua. so that must be it.

note that none of the four theme answers could code for CHIHUAHUA in a cryptogram (because the H appears as the 2nd letter in addition to the 4th and 7th)—nor could any of them code for any of the others. still, the letter pattern was fairly apparent, and there aren’t a great many other entries that fit this pattern. there are several other ___INGING words, but it’s best to have only one of those. also a handful of ___GINGIN entries, like BARGING IN or LOGGING IN. and there’s one other canine-adjacent one in my word list, in addition to RIN TIN TIN and CHIHUAHUA. anybody want to guess? i’ll give you candy.

the crossword itself was tougher than usual for a week 1, i thought. some of the sticky bits:

  • {Creature known for slowness} SNAIL. yup, i had SLOTH here.
  • {Gelato brand named for gelato’s creator} TALENTI. i didn’t know this at all. apparently the inventor was named bernardo buontalenti.
  • {Paul who is Jason Bateman’s father-in-law} ANKA. how about that! is there a word for paul’s relationship to justine, then?
  • {“There Goes Rhymin’ ___” (1973 album)} SIMON. never heard of this either, but i suppose it’s apt. apparently it’s by some other singer named paul.
  • {Hardly a star} NO-NAMER. i could not figure out why it wasn’t just NO-NAME. i don’t think i’ve ever seen it this way.
  • {65 for 9-Down, e.g.} AGE. 9d is former starbucks chairman howard SCHULTZ, and i have no idea why we might care about his age.
  • {Double wedding?} BIGAMY. this one didn’t land for me.
  • {1993 role that earned Laurence a Best Actor nomination} IKE. until looking it up just now, i thought this might be sir laurence olivier and IKE eisenhower. 0 for 2.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you like this one?

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31 Responses to MGWCC #531

  1. HomeSkooled says:


  2. Big Cheese says:

    I got it, but I have to admit that I was not confident. While CHIHUAHUA fit the basic structure of the 4 clues, I always get nervous with Matt’s Puzzle when my answer doesn’t come out in some Cryptogram format.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 415 right answers this week.

    For some reason this played like a Week 2/5 instead of my intended Week 1/5, so I’m going to course-correct this week and run a real Week 1/5. The pattern hit a blind spot for many solvers — there were even at least two solvers who got the very tough Week 4 last month but who missed this one.

    • Barbara Hartwell says:

      Can’t tell you how many hours I spent on this and came up empty. I feel pretty stupid but I’d definitely say at least week two difficulty.

    • Bill2RD says:

      It took me until late Monday afternoon to get this one. Definitely tougher than most week 1’s, although the grid wasn’t particularly difficult.

    • Brian Hattenbach says:

      Just curious, what is your target for a week one puzzle? That everyone gets it? Thanks.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Week 1/5 as here, pretty much everyone should get it. Zero incorrect fine with me. Week 1/4, a few should miss it but not many.

        This had only 415 right answers, with 32 incorrect. Those are Week 2/5 numbers. First Week of Dec. 2017 had 592 right — that’s more like it.

  4. tabstop says:

    I don’t know if this would have helped make it easier/more Week 1-ish, but I did have a moment of “why didn’t the directions say ‘would make a good fifth theme entry’?”.

    (I originally had more words in that sentence, but I figured I shouldn’t pass up the chance to put four punctuation marks in a row.)

  5. Marty D says:

    Little rockers are people who live in LittleRock.

  6. Mary Flaminio says:

    Had the theme but just couldn’t get it. Now I feel really dumb! Great puzzle.

  7. Bill Katz says:

    “There goes Rhymin’ Simon” contains Kodachrome – one of my favorite Paul Simon songs!

  8. Did anybody take the CHOW CHOW train all the way to Wrongville? I didn’t but I almost did.

  9. Jon says:

    Generally when the information need to solve the meta comes from outside-the-grid knowledge, that makes the meta harder to solve. That’s my theory as to why this played like a week 2. I think of week 1 meta difficulty as all you need to solve the meta is info from the grid.

    I don’t know dog breeds at all, so I had to scroll through a dog breed webpage to get the answer. Thankfully Chihauhau starts with the letter C so I didn’t need to scroll to far. Although the amount of breeds that starts with the letter A is astonishing.

    • MattG. says:

      I’m not much of a meta solver, but have come to also use this take as a barometer. In recent puzzles, I compare this most to CARNATION, for which I pulled up a list of flowers, as I did a list of dogs this weekend. I think that was a Week 2.

  10. JRS says:

    Yes, I submitted Chow Chow, absolutely convinced it had to be correct, ignoring the preceding letters in the theme entries.

  11. ab says:

    Count me in the ones that flailed around a long time before finally getting it. Don’t know why I didn’t get the theme more readily, but I think it was a lot of weird-looking fill distracting me.

  12. Jim Schooler says:

    I got to SPRINGING and couldn’t get past remembering my Scruples, a Springer Spaniel, who lived to be a ripe old age of 17.

  13. Heidi says:

    I saw “kansan” and assumed it must be Toto, who was a Cairn Terrier, and a contemporary of Rin Tin Tin. Oops!

  14. CFXK says:

    I get this. I like it. But I think it is flawed.

    Rin Tin Tin is the NAME of a dog, the breed of which is German Shepherd.

    It seems to me that the meta answer (given that the meta clue is “friend of Rin Tin Tin,” which is the name of a specific dog) is a breed of dog for which there is a famous dog whose name fits the criteria. The sequence of the solve should have been identifying a dog whose name (not breed) met the criteria (middle three letters matched the last three letters) and then naming the breed of the famous dog who had that name. The clue pointed to the unique feature of the NAME of the dog- not the breed.

    I kept looking for the name first – in order to identify the breed. I don’t think I was mistaken in doing that. I think the puzzle was mistaken.

    • David R says:

      The title of the crossword is not part of the meta solve, it can sometimes nudge you in the right direction or be understood after the meta is solved. In this case it is just noting the double three letters at the middle/end and in a dog’s name.

  15. Noam D. Elkies says:

    “slow” shouldn’t appear in the clue for “sloth” because it’s from the same root (originally “slouth”, cf. growth, length). So SNAIL is a much better answer.

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