MGWCC #577

Grid: 7:58
Meta: 30-60 minutes collaboratively  


Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest, #577: “It’s a Start”–Laura et al’s review

Note to the Fiend community: Joon is in France with his family watching the Women’s World Cup, so Laura is subbing for the next two weeks with the collaboration of her meta-solving (and general fun-having) group, the Solid Puzzle Friends.

This week’s contest answer is an 11-letter word.

MGWCC #577 - 6.21.19 - Solution

MGWCC #577 – 6.21.19 – Solution

Theme answers:

[18a: “Hold on”]: GIMME A SEC
[24a: Common prom expense]: TUX RENTAL
[32a: Third highest-grossing film of 1972 in the U.S.]: WHAT’S UP DOC? (The first and second highest-grossing movies that year were The Godfather and The Poseidon Adventure. Fourth was Behind the Green Door [a pornographic film] and fifth was Deliverance. 1972 was a very strange year for moviegoers.)
[42a: “The Breakfast Club” and “Mean Girls,” e.g.]: TEEN MOVIES (The Breakfast Club was the 16th highest-grossing film in the U.S. in 1985; Mean Girls was 28th in 2004. Many Gen-Xers use The Breakfast Club’s characters as a personality-test proxy; for example, Laura (INTJ) is an Allison/Brian.)
[51a: Longtime co-host of the late Stuart Scott]: RICH EISEN (Scott and Eisen were anchors on ESPN’s SportCenter)
[60a: Costs for landscaping, maintenance of common areas, etc.]: CONDO FEES

The first thing we noticed here is that all of the themer entries include a word that has been shortened to just its start (hence the puzzle’s title), like so:


So if we just take the first letters of each of those missing parts we get OETAAM which is … um … okay, let’s try something else. A common MGWCC move is to relate some part of a word or partial word suggested by the themers to corresponding entries in the grid, and that’s what’s going on here: if we add a letter to each missing ending, we get an alternate answer for the other entry on that row, like so:

[17a: Enclosed body of water]: BASIN → POND
[26a: Give a makeover to]: ALTER → REDO
[29a: Went very quickly]: SPED → TORE
[44a: Stein contents]: BEER → LAGER
[48a: Parched]: BAKED → ARID
[62a: Lowest acceptable amount]: LEAST → MINIMUM

Taking the added letters in order we get PRELIM, which is the start of PRELIMINARY, which is an 11-letter word and our answer and also one way to gloss the puzzle’s title, “It’s a Start.”

Lots of fun almost-pairs crossing each other in here, including BEGAN/BEGAT, EVITE/EVITA, CONDO/KONDO ([50d: Joyful Marie]) and GIMME/GIMEL. And if you think that didn’t inspire us to start writing our own ABBA parody song “Gimel! Gimel! Gimel!” then you don’t know us very well.

Well, as Joon would say, that’s all for me us. How’d you like this one?

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18 Responses to MGWCC #577

  1. Mutman says:

    I saw the first step.

    Then noticed ‘no end’ in the grid, which describes said words above.

    ‘No end’ was clued by ‘CEASELESSLY’ which is what I submitted.

    Clearly not the intended answer, but, IMO, a carry plausible answer.

    I’ll let the gods decide.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    I liked this quite a lot, but I thought some were stronger than others. Gimme a second, Tuxedo rental, Condominium fees, and Richard Eisen are all legit(imate) in their own right, while Teenager movies and “What’s up, doctor?” are not.

    • pgw says:

      I don’t think the idea was to make the whole phrase work with the longer version of the word – just “what is this shortened word, that appears in this phrase, short for?”

      I thought it was a great puzzle. Great writeup by Laura and friends too.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I wasn’t suggesting this was Matt’s idea. But it would have elevated the concept tremendously if he could have made them all work both ways. A good meta, in any case.

  3. MarkR says:

    I thought this was fun, with a satisfying click. Very nice construction. The numbers suggest it played more like a week 4, which is a bit surprising, though it was kind of tricky.

    • Matthew G. says:

      It definitely played as a Week 4 for me, but now that I see the answer I share your surprise that it didn’t play easier for me and others. I had the second halves of the words right away (though I parsed the end of TEEN as AGE rather than as AGER), but never figured out what to do with them despite trying lots of avenues. How I failed to make the connection with the other words in the same row is beyond me–especially since I noticed that MIN could relate to LEAST.

  4. Margaret says:

    On the left side of the puzzle, the first word was shortened, and on the right side, the second word was shortened (I thought), meaning that it was EisenHOWER rather than RichARD. Even though I knew it had to be Rich because that’s a well-known shorter version, I couldn’t give up on the Eisenhower thing because of the DDE above it, I just kept slamming my head into that wall.

    And then I couldn’t make the leap to adding a letter to the leftover bits, I was so distracted by the anagrams and almost anagrams of the shorter bits like EDO/ODE, also the similarities of the three-letter words like ODE/ADE or ODE/ODD or ABE/ADE or ABE/ABA… Such excellent red herrings! Good puzzle!

  5. john says:

    I think i may have gotten it if not for all the red herrings. Most have been mentioned here, including the gimme/gimel stuff, the Eisenhower/DDE connect, the fact a good number of the secondary word-parts were within other answers (sec-ond (kondo), tux-edo (ode), teenage (begat). Too many rabbit holes.

  6. Myelbow says:

    This one clicked for me at the very last minute–the closeness of the MINIUM fragment to MINIMUM was what finally unlocked it. I thought this was a very satisfying puzzle that with a fair but nicely elusive mechanism.

    • David Harris says:

      Same entry point with MINIUM/MINIMUM—unlike with the shorter fragments, this extra letter possibility jumped out, and having LEAST right next-door made that connection gettable, eventually. Like others, I then started running the entire set of clues for other examples, before seeing POND and realizing that Matt (thankfully) made things easier for us by keeping things on the same row. Must’ve been an extra hurdle for construction, but the effort was seen and appreciated!

      I don’t think anyone else mentioned the potential red herring of stuff like ANON in the grid. Since we had 6 themers but an 11-letter answer, I was thinking maybe there would be 5 other entries in the grid that were also shortened, to make a full set.

      I had also flagged a few other clues that seemed worded to allow for additional answers, in case those ended up being the theme trick—like maybe I’d have a USG string as the alternative for DDE, especially with “Prez” in the clue. That clever clue for NOTES which was also worded perfectly for TESTS, the open-ended Harrison Ford clue, etc. Again, glad the mechanism didn’t ultimately require too much hunting.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        Like others, I then started running the entire set of clues for other examples, before seeing POND and realizing that Matt (thankfully) made things easier for us by keeping things on the same row. Must’ve been an extra hurdle for construction…

        I think that constraint made things easier for Matt, as well. Otherwise, he’d have had to monitor all the rest of his clues for possible overlap with any derivative of any of the theme endings (e.g., bond, fond, one-d, tour, torc, hard, lard, anger, etc.).

  7. Garrett says:

    Was it just me or was this grid hard to complete for you too?

    I agree about all the rabbit holes.

    I did get as far as OETAAM and just put it away to think about later, but never got back to it.

    • Jim Schooler says:

      My rabbit hole was noticing GIMMEASEC making a down turn at the first M and spelling GIMEL, and GIMEL taking a left turn at the M and spelling GIMMEASEC. I thought “That’s got to mean something.” It didn’t.

      Nice puzzle and meta though!

  8. TMart says:

    I didn’t realize until after I was done that the synonym entries were all on the same row as the shortened answers, so I actually went clue by clue to find them and made this one a lot harder than it should have been. Excellent construction.

  9. Hector says:

    It didn’t hit me until I was almost done that the entries corresponding to the themers were the other entries on the same row in the grid; that’s pretty impressive!

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Laura — 214 right answers this week.

  11. David Hanson says:

    Finding ODE and RAD in the grid, but no other anagrams of the endings threw me off. But, as usual, when I see the intended answer I say “yeah, I should have had that”

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