MGWCC #576

crossword 3:56 
meta 1 min 


hello and welcome to episode #576 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “At Movies”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a Best Picture-winning film. okay, what are the theme answers? well, there are a ton of entries clued as movie titles:

  • {1982 sci-fi horror film set in Antarctica} is the THING.
  • {2010 action movie directed by Sylvester Stallone} is the EXPENDABLES.
  • {2002 Pang Brothers horror movie remade into a 2008 version starring Jessica Alba} is the EYE.
  • {1993 drama for which 11-year-old Anna Paquin won an Oscar} is the PIANO.
  • {1996 thriller where Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a U.S. Marshal} ERASER.
  • {1980 movie whose title song was a Top-10 hit for ELO and Olivia Newton-John} XANADU.
  • {2001 crime drama set partly in Medellin} BLOW.
  • {2012 Marisa Tomei drama set partly in Syria} INESCAPABLE.
  • {2011 period drama for which Viola Davis earned a Best Actress nomination} is the HELP.
  • {2006 musical drama where Beyoncé Knowles plays a character based on Diana Ross} DREAMGIRLS.
  • {1991 biopic directed by Oliver Stone} is the DOORS.
  • {2018 drama named for the neighborhood of Mexico City that it depicts} ROMA.
  • {2016 drama where Ben Affleck plays a math genius} is the ACCOUNTANT.
  • {2009 post-apocalyptic drama starring Viggo Mortensen} is the ROAD.
  • {2010 crime drama where a gang of thieves tries to steal from Fenway Park} is the TOWN.
  • {1973 classic with the line “I’m telling you that that thing upstairs isn’t my daughter”} is the EXORCIST.
  • {1994 drama in which Sandra Bullock plays a bus passenger} SPEED.
  • {2010 thriller in which Helen Mirren plays a former Mossad agent} is the DEBT.

it turns out that most (but not all) of these movie titles actually begin with “the”. this explains the puzzle’s awkward title, which clearly has a missing “the”. taking the first letters of the titles missing “the”, from top to bottom in the grid (circled in the screenshot above), spells out THE DEPARTED, the 2006 best picture winner that makes a very fitting meta answer to this theme.

it’s absolutely bonkers how many one-word film titles matt has crammed in the grid. by my count, there are 11 real theme answers, 7 red herring theme answers, plus TED which for some reason was clued as {Talk series} instead of the lowbrow seth macfarlane comedy about the stuffed bear. there are probably other fill entries that are also one-word film titles, because probably every word is a film title at this point (well, maybe not RETAG), but not prominent movies that caught my eye.

although i enjoyed the mechanic of the meta and there’s an impressive density of theme, i have to mention that the fill suffers somewhat. in addition to entries like RETAG and RESEE and DERAT, there were some unusual partials like SO HAD, OH BUT, and I AT, plus I SEE dupes RESEE. so there are tradeoffs, but overall i enjoyed the immersive nature of the theme. it might be a turn-off if you’re not a film buff, though, because you’d have to look up a whole bunch of these movies on imdb to see if the titles start with “the”.

that’s all for me this week. how’d you like this one?

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10 Responses to MGWCC #576

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Wow, I got this without ever spotting the answer spelled out in the grid. I just noticed that the word “the” had departed from the answers, thought “Well, it’s obviously ‘The Departed,'” and sent in the answer.

    Solving it that way, I had thought it was inelegant that Matt also included some movies that didn’t have “The” in their full titles. I should have realized Matt would never be so careless!

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    MISER was also a bit of a red herring. Moliere’s classic The Miser has been made into a film several times. Not that it caused confusion, since “the” others were all clued as films.

  3. Conrad says:

    I’m guessing DERAT was a nod to the movie’s ending (with the infamous rat scene), which many movie buffs hated.

    • Jim Schooler says:

      I was thinking of the scene with Leonardo and Jack, and Jack screws up his face to look just like a rat!

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 501 right answers this week.

    Ah, if I’d realized TED was a movie I would’ve clue it that way. Sounds familiar but didn’t see it.

    Got the idea for this one while reading this review at fiend, where Amy amusingly referred to “the dreaded ‘with the'” in a clue.

    • ant says:

      I’m wondering if a more subtle title for the puzzle would have been “At The Movies”?
      The answers were at the “The” movies, and the lack of the “The” in the title certainly called attention to itself (making this a Week 1 vs Week 2).
      The The. I’ve always liked Matt Johnson’s work…

  5. pannonica says:

    Was relieved to see there was no film called X-Birds, especially not a Best Picture winner.

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