MGWCC #563

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meta 5 hours to write 


Matt here, self-blogging since joon’s internet is out today. We were looking for a five-letter plural noun and our puzzle is titled “More Than One Answer.” There appear to be five theme entries, so we’re probably looking to extract a letter from each one. they are:

17-a. [Try to fall asleep, maybe] = COUNT SHEEP
24-a. [Part of an NFL game] = SECOND HALF
34-a. [Paul Bunyan’s companion] = BABE THE BLUE OX
48-a. [Arrangement with no commitment] = TRIAL BASIS
55-a. [Soon-to-be source of cash for a kid] = LOOSE TOOTH

First insight: the last word in each of these has an irregular plural:

SHEEP = SHEEP (no change)

Second insight: there’s a grid entry one letter off from each of these:


Those taken in order yield contest answer WOMEN, itself an irregular plural. And hey, it’s International Women’s Month, so how do you like that!

4.15 stars. Cute idea but one solver pointed out an inelegance: SHEEP is already plural as used in the first theme entry, so I should’ve gone with BLACK SHEEP or something similar. Also OBELUS in the grid caused some confusion since its plural is the five-letter OBELI. Probably too random to count (it doesn’t really account for the five theme entries, except as a general plural) but I’m going to ask the panel to decide on that today. Didn’t help that the obelus symbol didn’t take in the original PDF so I had to send out a correction about it, drawing extra attention to that entry.

249 correct entries, so a week 3.5 or 4 instead of the intended Week 2/5. Looks like I might need to try for a Week 2 yet again since I don’t want to shut so many people out during Lucky March!

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43 Responses to MGWCC #563

  1. pgw says:

    I liked this one but mainly I am here to spam the comments section with a plug for week two of my copycat project:

    twitter @pgwcc1

    Solution for puzzle 1 is up, puzzle 2 is out, go solve it!

    • sharkicicles says:

      Not to hijack Matt’s thread but I just wanted to say I enjoyed the first one!

      I’m currently 1 for 1 in the PGWCC but only 1 for 3 this month in the MGWCC. Rough last couple weeks for me, couldn’t really get a toehold on this one. The puzzle itself was very good, though.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Spam away!

  2. Chris Stephens says:

    I went with obeli, based on trying to satisfy the plurals of all different types. Coupled with the fact that it was a 5-letter plural of obelus. What’s somewhat frustrating was the women was my hail mary, but after seeing the different plural variants, I was so convinced that obeli was it :(

    • Margaret says:

      I also picked OBELI as the sixth example of a common irregular plural. The five main types were already in the grid as themers, so I went looking for a -i one like fungi or cacti. Lo and behold, there was OBELI and why would Matt have put in such a weird word as OBELUS in a week two difficulty puzzle if that wasn’t the answer? At first I wanted a plural that was a completely different word, like person/people, but I thought the -i ending fit with the other theme answers better.

      I thought of woman/women but that seemed too close to basis/bases to be a really different version of an irregular plural (because I thought we were looking for a sixth version to round out the five already in the grid.)

  3. Eric Klis says:

    Thank you, Matt! I’ll admit I spent a few too many minutes looking at “fake plurals” (for example, TOOTH->TEETH in the puzzle made me look at “MEESE” in the grid and think “is that a fake plural of MOOSE”?” — same with OX->OXEN in the puzzle made me look at “OMEN” in the grid as a fake plural of “OM”) – but the others didn’t work out. Quickly got back on the right path after I gave that up. :)

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Oh yeah, MEESE being in the grid was another odd gremlin. Apparently it’s a humorous plural for either “mouse” or “moose” but not intended by me as a red herring or anything and I’m not even sure I’ve heard of it (sounds vaguely familiar but not something I would have thought of it it wasn’t pointed out and explained)

      • sharkicicles says:

        A møøse once bit my sister.

      • Jon says:

        Meese is close to sounding like “meeces”, which is what the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Mr. Jinks said about mice: “I hates those meeces to pieces!” That’s what my brain goes to whenever I see the name Meese.

      • mkmf says:

        Well, where I briefly got diverted by “MEESE” was early on, when I was looking for more than one grid answer for various clues. While it was not a theme clue, 40A “Attorney General under Reagan” did have a second answer in the grid. William French SMITH was also an AG for Reagan. Couldn’t take it anywhere further, though..

        Then I caught on to the plurals in the theme answers (which was a very nice click), and like Margaret below, I thought OBELI was a sixth example of various plural forms and stopped there and happily entered.

        I managed to skim only enough of Matt’s explanation (i.e. not completely spoil the solution method), so that I still had the pleasure of searching for the last four one-letter off entries. They were nicely disguised. Best of both worlds. And the relevance of the answer to the month is a nice touch too.

        • jefe says:

          I saw the same thing with MEESE and SMITH.
          Another entry that works: [October’s place on the calendar] = TENTH, but could also be SECOND HALF.
          Couldn’t find any others, but there were a couple clues that could have been for multiple words, and a few entries that were clued unusually (e.g. HIS as the plural of HI).

          It took me all of three days to realize the long entries all had irregular plurals, but I didn’t have enough brainpower left to notice the off-by-ones (also guessed OBELI).

  4. Matthew G. says:

    I for one thought Matt calibrated this perfectly to be easier than last week’s–unsurprising, since I got this one but not last week’s–and so I’m surprised that it wound up with fewer right answers. I’m a bit puzzled how it could have played harder. As joon noted last week, there was nothing to clue the solver in to looking at antonyms; this week, conversely, both the title and the instructions told the solver to focus on plurals. This one certainly felt like a week 2 to me at least!

  5. Joe says:

    Got the right answer but stumbled across a weird coincidence on my way; there are exactly five clues that have more than one example contained in it, (i.e., “UCLA and MIT’, “slide and swings”, etc.). If you take the first letters of those five answers, you get, ordered in the grid, BLUES. It disregards the themers so I knew it couldn’t be right but it was gonna be my hail mary if I didnt come up with anything else.

  6. john says:

    Hmm, i didn’t get the second step, but if you are counting obeli, i think my answer of heros is just as valid if not more so. It also is an irregular plural as noted in Grammarly:

    If the singular noun ends in ‑o, add ‑es to make it plural.

    potato – potatoes

    tomato – tomatoes


    photo – photos

    piano – pianos

    halo – halos

    So add in the fact the grid had it spelled a different way and the title: More Than One Answer, fits perfectly. Just sayin.

  7. Asdanf says:

    I got tripped up on the large number of irregular plurals in the fill:
    Haloes (halos)
    Obelus (obeli)
    Solos (soli)
    Lynx (lynx)
    Eel (eel)
    The last two are stretches, but sometimes there are stretches. The bigger problem is that they don’t spell anything together, and that they ignore the theme, but five of them were too hard to ignore.

  8. Garrett says:

    I was attracted to submitting OBELI because it fit the bill so well, but as Matt said it did not account for the five grid entries.

    I did see ox/oxen, half/halves, but what got my attention is that the clue [Soon-to-be source of cash for a kid] would work just as well for LOOSE TEETH as for LOOSE TOOTH, so I submitted TEETH. No lock at all — just a flyer. Later on, I realized that OX, HALF, and TOOTH had to be changed to be plural, but SHEEP was already plural and it is five letters, so I figured that was probably the answer. Hence, I was surprised to find reading this there is another layer. I’ll have to try to remember that gig sometime in the distant future when it shows up again. I’d say that’s pretty subtle, but then so many people got it maybe not.

    • David Harris says:

      The first few “find this elsewhere in the grid” metas drove me batty, as it’s not something I expected—not something either of us failed at, just not something we knew was on the table. But now that it’s in your quiver, you’re much more likely to be able to spot that mechanism when it next comes back, just because it’s something you know you can try.

  9. Thurman8er says:

    Enjoyed this puzzle…actually solved the meta…but really just dropped by for the inevitable Monty Python reference.

  10. ===Dan says:

    I submitted OBELI. I had reservations, but the advisory that it would be an easier puzzle made me more willing. Still, it seemed too superficial. I guess week-1 would ask for a grid entry, so I thought it would be possible. When I saw MEESE after the fact I wondered if that could be the real answer, but it’s not a “word.” Even Mr. Jinks said “meeses.”

  11. MM says:

    My answer was “geese” since it’s one letter off of a grid entry (like the rest) and an uncommon plural.

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Panel voted 3-2 against accepting OBELI as an alternate answer. Not quite enough of a connection to theme entries there, but it was a close call.

    • Brian says:

      I also submitted “obeli”; it seemed to fit the pattern of irregular plurals established by the theme answers, and to be about week 2 difficulty, so I didn’t look further. Oh well…

      It’s also a bit ironic that a puzzle titled “more than one answer” does not accept an alternative answer to the meta…

    • Paula says:

      Is there any other 5-letter irregular plural in the grid? I’m just saying that noticing that can cause one to stop looking further, and may seem like the right answer. Also, how is the title related? What is the connection there?

    • Psumcoleman says:

      I will need to accept the vote, but I would suggest that obeli fits this week’s theme more closely than bittersweet fit last week’s theme. In fact I was really worried that my submission of bittersweet last week wasn’t correct while I was absolutely positive that obeli was correct this week. Oh well…3 out of 5!

    • Bob D. says:

      Damn. Take it to the Electoral College!

  13. Jack Sullivan says:

    I thought I was on the right track with near anagrams: blue ox/obelus (s for x); half/elah (e for f); loose/solos (s for e). But sheep/sweep didn’t really work and there was nothing for trial or basis.

    The answer dawned (sixth try, at least) minutes before the deadline. I think I was solver 245 out of 249.

  14. I almost submitted OBELI and also noticed that Matt’s second email regarding that clue did not include his usual disclaimer that the clue was not meta related. I also felt that there could be “more than one answer” to the meta. I did ultimately find my way to the correct answer. This was a fun one.

    • Laura E-D says:

      Yes, I noticed this as well! It just didn’t click enough to submit, but I thought it was very odd Matt didn’t include the disclaimer.

      • Margaret says:

        I didn’t include this in my long comment above, but this absolutely played into my certainty that obelus/obeli was the answer, that Matt didn’t make his usual disclaimer.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Hmm, this OBELUS thing is a most unusual case.

          Without the PDF issue and subsequent correction on the clue, I would agree with the panel that this was close but that there’s just not enough to push OBELI over the edge as an alt-answer. But the existence of the correction, and the slightly-different-than-usual language in it, does complicate things.

          Let me re-confer with the panel and report back here tomorrow. I mentioned the OBELUS clue in my writeup here but didn’t think it was relevant enough to mention (much less emphasize) in my note to the panel, but from comments here I see that more than one person noticed the slightly different language in the correction and thought it meant something, which I can now see the logic behind more clearly.

          How strange that a totally unrelated issue (that the OBELUS symbol in the clue didn’t make it to the PDF because it’s an unusual symbol) that has nothing to do with the meta managed to complicate things so much.

          • jefe says:

            I also noticed the omission of “this error is not meta-related” as well as that the clue would have been perfectly fine without the symbol itself as part of it.

  15. Mutman says:

    I think Obeli misses the intended meta completely.

    Funny how it has ‘divided’ the crowd, including the judges :)

  16. Ben says:

    With apologies to other commenters here, I would vote against accepting OBELI as an answer. The meta that Matt laid out is perfectly in line with his usual style – a five-letter answer derived from five theme entries that each produce a letter. OBELI is another example of an irregular plural, sure, but there’s nothing else in the grid to distinguish it. (And I don’t see the PDF mix-up as relevant to puzzle itself, for that matter.)

    FWIW, I couldn’t crack the meta and didn’t submit anything, so this isn’t meant to be self-serving!

  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    After much thought, and reading all the comments both here and from e-mails and comments sent with submissions, and after conferring with a couple of wise crossword people, I’ve decided to stick with my and then the panel’s original decision to not accept OBELI as an alternate answer to this puzzle.

    I realize that it’s a close call and that there are several mitigating factors involved that push OBELI closer to acceptance, but in the end I felt it was too arbitrary an answer to accept. With 437 puzzles to go, I need to guard against expanding the range of acceptability of answers, and I believe that taking OBELI here would go too far in that direction. That may sound theoretical, but I’ve already received a number of “If you’re accepting OBELI, then how about my answer of…” notes on this puzzle.

    I know some solvers will be upset by this (and that some would have been upset if I had wound up accepting it) but I think this is the best of a not-great set of choices here.

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