MGWCC #544

crossword 2:53  
meta 2 minutes* 


hello and welcome to episode #544 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Ballot Boxes”. for this week 1 puzzle ending on election day, i chose to solve it without the meta instructions, as i often do for week 1 puzzles. what are the theme answers? well, there are four long across answers:

  • {“That’s doubtful”} DON’T BET ON IT.
  • {Caprese salad ingredients, often} GLOBE TOMATOES. not sure i’ve heard this term before. i’ve eaten caprese salads, though.
  • {1971 Jackson 5 album, or a hit off it} MAYBE TOMORROW. another unfamiliar one, although in this case it’s easily explained because 1971 is just before my time. carbon leaf’s prequel is pretty good though.
  • {Get, as a magazine} SUBSCRIBE TO.

so these four long answers all contain the string BETO. given the puzzle’s title and timing, i immediately thought the answer was beto o’rourke, democratic candidate for senator from texas. but before submitting, i checked the actual instructions and saw that matt was looking for a U.S. state. okay, so texas it is, but i was surprised to see matt apparently expressing a political preference in this high-profile race. but then i took a closer look at the grid and found four instances of BETO’s republican opponent, TED cruz:

  • {No longer in wide usage} DATED.
  • {Named as a reference} CITED.
  • {Showered with attention} DOTED ON.
  • {Online talk series} TEDX. thing i learned today: TED originally stood for “technology, entertainment, and design”.

so the puzzle is even-handed in a sense, with four appearances each by the two candidates. that’s fitting for a race that appears to be pretty much a dead heat heading into election day. BETO appears in the longer answers, but that is largely unavoidable, i think—four-letter answers are just a lot harder to hide than three-letter answers, so you generally need to hide them in a longer phrase. as an additional consideration, hiding the four TEDs in the longer answers would have been a lot less conspicuous, probably pushing the difficulty level higher than matt typically aims for in week 1. (and for topicality, this puzzle had to run this week.) even harder would be having, say, two BETOs and two TEDs in the theme answers, because then neither one looks like a pattern.

one modification of this idea could have been week 1-easy: have the theme answers all be phrases containing both BETO and TED. in that case, though, i think matt would have had to resort to wacky invented phrases; there aren’t any existing entries matching that pattern in my word list.

that’s all i’ve got this week. i hope everybody eligible exercises {Laura Nyro’s “The Right ___”} TO VOTE today!

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15 Responses to MGWCC #544

  1. sharkicicles says:

    I totally missed the TEDs somehow!

    My first thought was Nevada actually, because BETting is legal there… but BET is a word in DONTBETONIT and split across the other long themes, which would be very un-Gaffneyesque. So then I noticed the O after each BET and put 2 and 2 together.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Also submitted Texas as my answer immediately without seeing the TEDs. And would have been perfectly happy to leave it that way.

      After many years of getting close and falling short, I have a double-digit MGWCC streak. May that bode well for the rest of my hopes for this Tuesday.

    • Mutman says:

      I saw BET before seeing BETO and thought of Nevada too. But that made no sense since (sadly?!?) you can probably bet legally in more than half of these great United States.

  2. aoboboa says:

    Rated this 4.5 stars. Would’ve given it 5 if all four TEDs were going down.

  3. Margaret says:

    Hand up here for also only seeing the BETOs and not any of the TEDs.

  4. CFXK says:

    Only saw the TEDs because I couldn’t imagine Matt not being even-handed about this. But, so as not to waste time, I submitted Texas as soon as I saw the BETOs and then went back and looked for the Teds.

    Agree with aoboboa (in more ways than one) that it would have been nifty if all the TEDs were going down.

  5. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I forgot that “Ted” was also also not Rafael Edward Cruz’s first name, so I looked for CRUZ in the grid rather than TED.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 563 right answers this week.

  7. john says:

    Thought this was a perfect week 1 as well as very timely and even-handed. I too saw Beto but felt for sure Matt would not single out one side in this competitive race. Sure enough, 4 Teds were there too. Maybe more than at any time in my life, the election seems to be on everyone’s mind, so super-topical, super well done. 5 stars.

  8. Silverskiesdean says:

    It never occurred to me that Matt was thinking about the political aspects of this meta. I figured “BETO” was a great name because those of us that don’t follow politics, especially in Texas would not first think it was a name but rather an anagram for “vote” or “veto” with the B changed to a V or something like that. It was only in frustration that I put BETO into search mode and got the answer.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Yeah, even when I didn’t see the TEDs, it never occurred to me that Matt was making a political statement in favor of one side. BETO is just a fun name and very crossword-friendly. I figured that was all it was.

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