MGWCC #557

crossword 3:17  
meta 0:00 


hello and welcome to episode #557 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Spell Cheque”. i attempted this week 1 puzzle without the directions, as i often do. what are the theme answers? there’s one grid-spanning entry across the middle: {A crossword puzzle isn’t allowed to have them} REPEATED ENTRIES. and in the lower right, there are four clues (two across and two down) that appear to be ambiguous:

  • {Volume of some drink bottles, in Birmingham (but which one?)} is either ONE LITER in birmingham, alabama or ONE LITRE in birmingham, england.
  • {Ghost, in Manchester (but which one?)} is either SPECTER or SPECTRE.
  • {Very serious, in Cambridge (but which one?)} is SOMBER/RE.
  • {Sword with a curved blade, in Reading (but which one?)} is SABER/RE.

the square in the very bottom right is circled, so my guess is that we had to supply the correct letter in that square. but there appear to be two valid solutions, ONE LITER/SPECTRE crossing SOMBER/SABRE or ONE LITRE/SPECTER crossing SOMBRE/SABER. how to resolve this ambiguity? the key is the reminder about REPEATED ENTRIES not being allowed, because 1-across/1-down is {Arlen ___ (U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who served from 1981 to 2011)} SPECTER crossing {Spanish for “to know”} SABER (i did not know this spanish word, but the crosses were all unambiguous). to avoid a dupe, we can’t use SPECTER again or SABER again, so we need SPECTRE and SABRE, meaning the lower-right square is an E.

this was pretty fun! i almost laughed out loud when i saw what matt was doing. sure, i didn’t know the spanish verb, but it’s cognate to the french savoir, which i do know. but in any event, i just loved the idea of playing around with these alternate spellings, and using the no-dupe rule to disambiguate it.

other bits:

  • {Ernie with two British Open titles and two U.S. Open titles} ELS, with a nod to the theme. in fact, i wonder if this could be the reveal entry for a related theme, since there are words (like TRAVELED/TRAVELLED) which are spelled with a different number of ELS in british and american english.
  • {Color of the 7- and 15-balls in pool}, but not the 5-ball, is MAROON. i don’t know if it’s one of the colors on adam levine’s shirt.

that’s all i’ve got. have a great tuesday!

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9 Responses to MGWCC #557

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 625 right answers this week. Was worried it might be more of a Week 2 but that # says no.

  2. sharkicicles says:

    This might be my favorite Week 1 ever. New mechanism (at least I’ve never seen it before) but still Werk 1-level difficulty.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Agreed. Best Week 1 that I can recall, and the most impressive thing is that Matt found a way to innovate without increasing the difficulty.

  3. John Lampkin says:

    Cluing in regards to the ambiguity of the city/county is brilliantly elegant, or elegant brilliance.

  4. Scott says:

    My favourite puzzle this week!

  5. Jon says:

    I also liked that certain letter combos were repeated in the grid but in different ways.
    LIT, one LITer, sun LIT.
    all for IT, feel IT, eats IT.
    ONEida, ONE liter.
    IDA, oneIDA.

  6. JRS says:

    It also seems to be a strong hint that the title is “Spell Cheque”.

  7. Garrett says:

    I somehow worked down to the SE corner before getting 36A. I started writing in UNCHECKEDSQUARES before I realized it wasn’t going to fit. So then I worked 39D and 40D and kind-of moved on down from there. When I got to the SE corner I realized there was a dilemma there until I recalled SPECTER at 1A and then it wasn’t a dilemma anymore. Fun!

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