MGWCC #545

crossword 3:43  
meta 2 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #545 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Amphibious Vehicle”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a 10-letter animal. what are the theme answers? well, there is a suggestive long entry broken into three 7-letter chunks: {With 36- and 56-Across, famed military signal} ONE IF BY / LAND TWO / IF BY SEA. based on this entry, the title, and the instructions, the next thing that became quite clear was that there were ten animals in the grid, five land animals and five sea creatures:

  • {Beast with a distinctive snout} TAPIR.
  • {Delicious mollusk} SCALLOP.
  • {Whale known for breaching} HUMPBACK.
  • {Fish found in poké} AHI.
  • {It’s known for its leaping ability} IMPALA.
  • {Popular “pocket pet”} GUINEA PIG.
  • {Second-tallest bird} EMU.
  • {Creature for which a Major League Baseball team was named} RAY. that would be the tampa bay rays, originally named the tampa bay devil rays. the team’s 2007 rebranding removed the word “devil” from the team name, and the name now refers primarily to rays of sunshine, although there is still a manta logo on the uniform sleeves.
  • {Quick breeder} RABBIT.
  • {Tiny crustacean} KRILL.

my first thought was that we were going to be taking the first letters of the land animals and then the second letters of the sea creatures, but it turned out to be simpler than that. it’s just the first letters of all the animals, but grouped so that we read off the land animals first (top to bottom in the grid), and the the sea creatures second (also top to bottom). doing so gives TIGER (fittingly, itself a land animal) for the land animals and SHARK for the sea creatures (likewise fittingly). taken together, they give TIGER SHARK, which is a ten-letter animal.

this meta was easy, but i loved it. first of all, it’s great to repurpose the “famed military signal” for puzzle purposes. i was once part of a team that wrote an entire puzzle hunt based on same. secondly, it was a very elegant touch to have the land animals spell out TIGER and the sea creatures spell out SHARK, as TIGER SHARK is one of those animals named for a totally different kind of animal. (also, my daughter’s soccer team last year was named the tiger sharks, so i still have some fondness for that name.)

with 13 theme answers, including some longish ones in those big NE/SW corners, there’s a bit of strain in the fill, but nothing too objectionable. the six-letter partial “LIFE AS we know it” and grammatically dubious franglish plural LE CARS were probably the scowliest things in the puzzle, and neither was that bad.

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

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17 Responses to MGWCC #545

  1. Mary Flaminio says:

    Fell into a trap of 1st letter for land and 2 nd letters for sea. Never got out. Feel pretty dumb. Very gettable.

  2. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I tried the first letters of land animals and second letters of sea creatures in clue order, and it looked good at the start (“CHI..”, hey, there’s a 10-letter animal that starts like that), but then it didn’t work at all. Had to go away and come back before I shook the idea that clue order rather than grid order was relevant.

    • Garrett says:

      Exactly what I did. Then I tried it with the clues for each of those. then I tried it with the implied other words (Sea scallop, ahi tuna, Devil/manta/sting ray, etc). Nothing. So I figured the creatures were a red herring and focused on the meta fill.

      This was the backup signal plan for Paul Revere, using lanterns. I figured the answer had to include the word ‘lantern’. The problem is that an obvious answer — Lantern Fish, is eleven letters. So I switched gears and came up with LAMPrey Eel.

      Now, reading Joon’s explanation I wonder why this approach did not occur to me.

  3. Garrett says:

    I’m rating it 4.5 because the title sucked. Otherwise brilliant

  4. paul coulter says:

    I liked it a lot, too. It’s cool how the answer is a land animal on the left and a fish on the right. For this reason, when TIGER emerged early, and these animals were all on the left side of the grid, I sort of expected the marine ones to be on the right. And it worked that way at first as I solved. But then SCALLOP was in the top central and AHI was on the left. It would have been really cool if Matt had pulled off this trick.

  5. HomeSkooled says:

    Very cool puzzle, but its coolest feature was lost on me since the first thing I tried was anagramming the first letters of the 10 animals in the grid.

  6. Amy L says:

    Really cool puzzle. I wish I had had time to work on it. I memorized the entire Longfellow poem in fifth grade (we used to do that in those days) and can still recite the first three stanzas–which have been going through my head since seeing the puzzle on Friday.

    Listen my children and you shall hear……..

  7. jefe says:

    Happy Birthday Matt!

  8. Bill2RD says:

    Good one. Appropriate for a week 2 puzzle.

  9. Mark says:

    Was distracted by Pippa Pig / Peppa Pig distraction in column 3.

  10. john says:

    Count me among those who thought it great. I thought about the second letter of the sea creatures being significant based on the grid hint, but being a week 2, i checked the first letters initially so it all fell rather quickly.

  11. MLou says:

    Well, first, I had no clue, so I googled “ten letter animals”. That actually pointed me in the right direction since all those creatures listed were two word names! Back to the completed grid – checked the 1 if land animal, 2 if sea animal – gave me too many letters. So, it was just that simple – 10 animals, 10 letters and viola! Thanks – very elegant indeed that the 5 and 5 were land and water creatures as appropriate. Thanks!

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