MGWCC #579

crossword 2:32 
meta 0:05 


hello! i’m back from france, and very grateful to laura for filling in for me on blogging duty while i was on vacation. welcome to episode #579 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Cold Open”. i typically try to solve week 1 puzzles without peeking at the instructions, but matt changed things up on us this week by putting the instructions into the puzzle title. so, uh, there goes that. anyway, the instructions this week are to name a city in the news. okay, what are the theme answers? five across answers in this 13×13 grid are clued only by a year and either (S) or (W):

  • {1980 (S)} MOSCOW.
  • {1964, 1976 (W)} INNSBRUCK.
  • {1994 (W)} LILLEHAMMER.
  • {1928 (S)} AMSTERDAM.
  • {1998 (W)} NAGANO.

these are, of course, olympic host cities corresponding to either the summer or winter olympiad of the years indicated. taking the first letters of these in order gives MILAN, a city in the news as it was recently announced as the co-host (with cortina d’ampezzo, which had previously hosted the 1956 winter games) of the 2026 winter olympics. “cold open” is a fun title for this theme, incorporating both the idea of winter olympics and taking the first letters of the theme answers.

let’s talk about the grid for a minute. with only five short-to-medium theme answers, it’s quite sensible to go with a smaller grid. however, i found that the fill was distractingly rough in places. the NW corner had {Where you’ll hear a lot of talk} AM DIAL, which is interesting, but there was also the six-letter partial DO UNTO, unwieldy plural DUSKS, and foreign possessive À TOI. that’s clunkier than i’d like for a simple theme like this one. elsewhere, ALLS was clued as {“___ Well That Ends Well”}, which is pretty much how you have to do it, but ENDS itself was also in the grid at 41d—another distraction. they could have been clued as {“___ Well That [41-down] Well”}, and similarly.

having said that, this is a fairly open grid layout, with nice big corners in the NE and SW that matt pulled off very nicely. i also enjoyed the clue {Gene proven to influence entertainment choices} for SISKEL. overall, i’ll give “cold open” four stars.

speaking of cold open, that was also the title of puzzle #1 at last year’s boswords, which was saturday night live-themed. this year’s boswords is only a few weeks away (and will not be SNL-themed). will i see you there?

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10 Responses to MGWCC #579

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon and welcome back. 544 right answers this week, but also 47 wrong answers, which shouldn’t happen on a Week 1. Most of those were TOKYO and BEIJING. I meant this to be a gimme but it played tricky for a number of solvers.

    I had a request to start putting the instructions at the top of the AL file so those who printed out from there would have them handy, but then I heard from people who, like Joon, solve the Week 1’s without instructions so I’ll stop doing that now.

    • Jeffrey Harris says:

      In other news, Monday NYT puzzles will now put the Across and Down clues in separate files. ;)

      FWIW, Pete Muller puts the instructions in the copyright field, which also appears when printed, and can be resized in the program to only show the year (or not at all).

    • Mike M. says:

      Why print the AL file when there’s a beautifully typeset PDF available? And with the instructions prominently displayed in a box underneath ther puzzle, no less.

      • Jim S. says:

        I solve in AL then only print if I feel there’s something I need to highlight, circle, etc. I do find it handy on the MMMM to have the instructions right there on the solved printed page; with Matt’s, I always need to handwrite the instructions on those occasions when printing is required. Just my experience.

  2. Jim Schooler says:

    Nice and tight meta.

  3. Garrett says:

    I noticed that there were 4 winter olympics mentioned (Innsbruck was mentioned for two years), while only twice for summer olympics. So I felt we were looking for a venue that had held summer once before, with an upcoming date, which would put it in the news. Tokyo fits that bill, and that is what I sent in.

    How many others did that?

    • Scout says:

      I sent in Tokyo, too. It seemed like it fit, it was a week 1 and I wasn’t looking for a second step. I got focused on getting on the board early instead of taking my time. Oops.

  4. Jim S says:

    My main hiccup was that I heard about the Rio Olympics bribery scandal shortly before solving the puzzle Friday. When I realized that Matt couldn’t possibly have spun up a puzzle that quickly, I checked the themers and found Milan right away.

  5. jefe says:

    I didn’t notice the first letters either, nor had I heard the Olympic news, but given the title, I figured they must’ve recently announced the Winter host and it was a quick google from there.
    (Thanks Matt for accepting Milan-Cortina.)

  6. Sarah T says:

    Thanks for the mention of Boswords, which I had never heard of although I have always lived in the Boston area and my family name is Bosworth. I would indeed love to see you there, but we’re a bit housebound these days. So I signed up for the Solve at Home packet, and the puzzles from the last two years. Those who can’t attend might want to know about the other ways to participate. Just follow Joon’s link.

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