MGWCC #549

crossword 2:36  
meta 10 minutes* 


hello and welcome to episode #549 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “I’ve Got Your Number”. for this week 1 puzzle, i attempted to solve this without the instructions, and that did not really work out, although the theme was readily apparent. two long full names are in the grid: 15a {Constructor who wrote the extremely intricate puzzle “Shell Game” here last week} XAN VONGSATHORN (how’s that for meta?) and 55a {Four-time winner of the Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance} LUTHER VANDROSS. in addition, there are six famous mononymous people occupying symmetrical spots in the acrosses:

  • 1a {One-named celebrity whose fashion line is called Global Chic} IMAN.
  • 18a {One-named celebrity whose real name is Gordon Sumner} STING.
  • 33a {One-named celebrity whose debut album was 2005’s “Music of the Sun”} RIHANNA.
  • 35a {One-named celebrity who was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia} SHAKIRA.
  • 50a {One-named celebrity who hit #1 at age 16 with “Royals”} LORDE.
  • 60a {One-named celebrity who’s the vocalist on “Where the Streets Have No Name”} BONO.

okay, so what’s the theme? well, the fact that XAN VONGSATHORN (XV) is located at 15-across and LUTHER VANDROSS (LV) is at 55-across can’t be a coincidence, especially given the title. so it looks like 1a IMAN and 50a LORDE also fit the theme, but the others do not. having noticed all that, i still didn’t know what to do as far as extracting the actual meta answer, so eventually i gave up and peeked at the instructions: Two of this puzzle’s four theme entries are found at 15-A and 55-A. Which two one-named celebrities in the grid are also theme entries?

oh. well, okay. it’s IMAN and LORDE. i guess i was already done.

this is a fun theme. it’s an amusing idea to use xan’s unusual name as the seed for a metapuzzle, and even though roman numeral metas have been done before, this one tickled me. i think it would have been more intricate and more elegant if there had been an actual extraction mechanism rather than just hiding two extra theme answers among a set of red herrings, but that probably wouldn’t have been week 1-easy, and it’s much better to have this one right after last week’s so that xan’s name might still be fresh in solvers’ minds.

i wonder if matt toyed around at all with the possibility of putting somebody like LOUIS XIV at 40-across. or would it have been too clunky to use his roman numeral to just represent the X in LX?

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

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21 Responses to MGWCC #549

  1. MLou says:

    Well, missed this one! I got stuck on xAN and vANdross – thus, I went with imAN and rihANna – having the answers match the clue numbers seemed a bit more thAN I wANted to do for a Week One. Le sigh

    • Jim Schooler says:


      • Puff says:

        Ditto, even explained it in my answer. Feel like this one should go to the committee.

        • C. Y. Hollander says:

          I’m often tempted by same-letter sequences like that when I’m looking for patterns, but practically speaking, I find that most crosswords contain a couple of duplicate three-letter sequences and quite a number of duplicate two-letter sequences as a matter of happenstance, so these aren’t very reliable signifiers on their own.

        • Evil Steve says:

          Oh, come on. It’s week 1, not week Sesame Street.

  2. Jimmy says:

    Welp, that was a failure for me! I got hopelessly stuck on the fact that I wanted the answer to be GARY BUSEY, so I submitted GARY BUSEY. Anyone else fall into this trap?

    • Amanda says:

      I don’t get it. He’s not one of the one-names celebrities in the grid.

      • Matthew G. says:

        I’m choosing to read Jimmy’s comment as a satire on the people who come to this blog every week to provide their tortured defenses of alternate answers.

  3. Bill2RD says:

    I was stuck all the way until Monday afternoon on this one when the Roman numeral tie-in finally occurred to me. Good start to the month.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 469 right answers this week. More like an easy Week 2 than a tough Week 1, but as you mentioned I wanted to get this in while Xan’s name was still in people’s minds.

    I saw the LOUIS XIV et al ideas but thought it was too close to the theme gimmick to use. Looked for a third good theme entry to use but couldn’t come up with anything. As in batting where you’ve got to take what the pitcher gives you instead of forcing it, I thought it’d be better to come up with a more suitable idea instead of cramming a bad third theme entry in. So I liked my solution, of having two one-named celebs as the meta answer, so there are four clicks total for the solver instead of just three.

  5. Mutman says:

    I almost submitted INXS with Lorde, but caught myself in time.

    I immediately picked up on the Ronan numerals. Once you see that, the choices are few. (I, V, X, L)

  6. Giovanni P. says:

    Welp. Three-fourths of a good idea. Submitted LORDE and STING based on one word, one syllable, and the Four mention in the LU-THER-VAN-DROSS. Xan was justified for writing a Week 5 puzzle. My bad.

    Way to end the year on a low note,eh?

  7. David Harris says:

    Took me a bit of time to see it—longer than a standard week 1—but once it popped out, the click was solid.

    I almost made things a bit too tough for myself, as I realized that XV and LV were the ONLY Roman numerals in their respective names. I had a moment of doubt when I saw that there was also an M in IMAN, and a D in LORDE, which messed up my numbers. But my brain finally caught up and realized we only cared about initials—thankfully, the repeated emphasis on “one-named” helped me see that last piece of it.

    Fun opening to the month, and kudos to Xan for his two-puzzle streak.

  8. Mary Flaminio says:

    Good puzzle though I did’t get it. Counting letters in names and almost got there and gave up. Had 14 for three of them. Big rabbit hole I never got out of. DUH!

  9. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I got it from the fact of Roman numeral initials, without noticing that they were appropriately located. I think it would have been nice to have a D or C initial in there as a wrong number, so that the full cleverness would be needed.

  10. Jessica says:

    I got the theme of Roman numerals before getting 55-across. I’ve never heard of Luther Vandross but was able to piece it together knowing that his name had to start with Roman numerals. And I didn’t know IMAN from that clue but again was able to deduce that it had to be a vowel (since I had _MAN) and a Roman numeral. Nice puzzle.

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