Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Period Piece”—Laura’s review
In this week’s installment, we are challenged to find a “letter of the alphabet.” The first thing we might’ve noticed is that the themers look to be down entries instead of the more common acrosses, and that that they are numbered. Turns out they are URLs, each of which to I’m adding a period, per the puzzle’s title, and just for fun — because I’m a fun crossword blogger! — I’m linking to the sites indicated:
[3d: Website with “Campus Life” and “Destinations in NOLA” sections (1)]: TULANE.EDU. The website of Tulane University, located in New Orleans.
[4d: Website often mentioned by Amy Goodman (2)]: DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG. Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, an independent, global news program.
[10d: Website with a new section about Brett Kavanaugh (4)]: SUPREMECOURT.GOV
[24d: Website featuring the phrase “Forged by the Sea” (3)]: NAVY.MIL. Today is Veterans Day, and also the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War.
[32d: Lead-up to a Web implosion of the late 1990s (5)]: .COM BUBBLE. Nothing to link to here, folks, just move along … I’ll relate that in the dot-com bust that followed the bubble, my life partner was laid off from four different dot-com startups over the course of a year. Eventually he was all, screw the internet, I’m going to sell beer in a hipster gourmet shop in Park Slope.
- And look, listeners! There’s a revealer: [52d: Connect the ___ (game to play today)]: DOTS
What happens when we connect the dots, in order of how Matt has numbered them? We get a letter of the alphabet: W. As in, I suppose, web? As in, World Wide. These are great finds: theme entries with the right length, each using one of the original Internet top-level domains.
Even if I hadn’t myself recently constructed a puzzle that used Internet top-level-domain syntax as the inspiration for a theme, I would’ve found this pretty easy; on a rating scale of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest weeks, this feels easier than a Week 1. Which is good! This would be a puzzle that I’d enthusiastically recommend to someone who was just starting out to solve metas.
That said, I feel like we need a better unit of scale than “Week 1,” “Week 2,” etc (advance warning: November has five Fridays, so we’re in for a Week 5 soon) to describe metapuzzle difficulty. Metagaffney? Metamatt? Gaffweek? Metaweek? Then we can sit around on the veranda of the country store shooting the shit with the other old timers: “Remember the Puzzle of November ’18? That monster measured 4.8 metaweeks on the Gaffney scale! Blew the roof right off the barn of lateral reasoning, metaphorically speaking!” Granted, Mr. G isn’t the only constructor making metas, but his are the only ones (that I know of; bring it on, metasplainers) that offer an explicit progression in difficulty.
The title of this puzzle reminded me of the awesome web comedy series, Period Piece, and that is where I shall leave you.
This was actually harder for me than I expected, first because I skipped over the DOTS clue when filling in the puzzle, but also because I found what seemed like a plausible alternate solution.
There are exactly five answers in the grid that share the same first and last letters of the domain extensions. Taking them in order of parenthetical number:
Those words, when written top-to-bottom like that, roughly form the shape of an F.
That didn’t feel like a satisfying solution, and it was only then that I noticed the DOTS clue, so it wasn’t hard to get to W from there. Still, it seemed impossible that those five words could be in the grid by chance. Maybe an intentional red herring?
I also originally skipped the DOTS clue and found another letter. In American Morse Code the letter P is represented by five dots.
P in Morse code is di-dah-dah-dit. Or you could write it dot-dash-dash-dot. Five dots in a row is the numeral 5.
(I was WB4KPW until a few years ago)
Not in American Morse Code.
I get that the W represents the Web, but I really wanted there to be a treasure beneath the Big W ;)
That’s a mad, mad, mad, mad brilliant comment!
I like your suggestions for difficulty units. Maybe they could be exponential instead of linear so there are gaffweeks, decagaffweeks, hectogaffweeks, kilogaffweeks, etc.
Pete Muller’s MMMM metas start easy in January and get harder each month. On his leaderboard, you get 1-5 points for solving, depending on the difficulty. I think he calls it the “sweat” rating but doesn’t have any particular name for the units. Yet.
This one felt super easy, but still fun. I think leaving out the revealer would have made for a stronger meta. Usually that last step (or two) is left for the solver to figure out.