MGWCC #598

crossword 3:20 
meta 5 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #598 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Get Ahead of the Curve”, a guest puzzle by retiring MGWCC webmaster dave sullivan. (dave is also the webmaster of this blog! i haven’t heard anything about him retiring in that capacity…) dave’s instructions tell us to look for a four-letter course you might take at a 45-Across. okay, what are the theme answers?

  • {Home to Tribeca and Wall Street} LOWER MANHATTAN.
  • {“Marie Antoinette, with shoes”} IMELDA MARCOS.
  • {Pupil’s setting} PUBLIC SCHOOL. this clue is 45-across, so this is doubly related to the theme somehow.
  • {Trayed fare?} PIGS IN A BLANKET. not a deceptive clue, but a cute homophone of “trade fair”.

okay, so the first thing i thought of for a four-letter course was MATH. then i noticed TAN and COS at the ends of the first two theme answers, and SIN in the last one, and thought for sure i was onto something—but i still didn’t know if the answer was MATH or more specifically TRIG. and there wasn’t a strong enough “click” for me either way; i figured there had to be something more, like perhaps the rest of the abbreviated word (sinE, cosINE, tanGENT) showing up somewhere in the grid.

but i didn’t find any of that, and going back to the title, i thought i should probably look at the letter before the 3-letter abbreviations, and … yeah. there’s the T ahead of the TAN curve, the R ahead of the COS, and the G ahead of the SIN. that pointed me towards TRIG, which enabled me to backsolve the I in front of CSC (cosecant), which i had missed in PUBLIC SCHOOL because i wasn’t sure on the first pass whether it was doing single- or double-duty in the theme. (and, i should add, sin/cos/tan are the three “primary” trig functions, and csc/sec/cot are secondary.)

so that’s the theme. straightforward enough, but enjoyable, and all the theme answers are quite nice in their own right. as a little nudge, the central across answer is {Prefix for angle} TRI, a fact i only noticed after solving.

that’s all i’ve got. mostly, i wanted to say thanks to dave for all his work in improving the MGWCC solver experience over the years. thank you, dave!

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25 Responses to MGWCC #598

  1. Mutman says:

    Wow — I thought I cracked this at my dog’s vet appointment today. I’m not one to offer alternate answers, but I thought my logic was sound:

    LOWER MANHATTAN is a Peninsula
    IMELDA MARCOS name is Romualdez
    PUBLIC SCHOOL gives you an Education
    PIGS IN A BLANKET are made of Pork

    Thus the PREP,(course), which should “Get you ahead of the Curve”.

    It wouldn’t be the first time that the title did not clue, but was a result of the meta answer.

    Anyone else go down this path???

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      To me, that seems like a rather tenuous set of associations. If they all represented the same sort of relationship, I think it would be stronger. Also, at least in the U.S., pigs in a blanket are hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough and, while hot dogs can be made of pork, they can equally well be made of beef.

    • Andy says:

      Is half of an island really a “peninsula”?

      It really seems like you just made something up for each one.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon and Dave — 404 correct answers this week.

  3. Jeremy Smith says:

    Saw SIN, COS, TAN. Also saw TRI in the center. Considered TRIG, but that deals with sides and angles of triangles, not curves that are in the title. Considered CALC, but could not justify it, so I went with the generic MATH instead.

  4. Seth says:

    Submitted TRIG after I saw TAN/COS/CSC/SIN, without noticing the letters before those abbreviations. I thought it was kind of a blah meta, because the answer could have been TRIG or MATH. I’m glad the rest of it occurred to me later, to both solidify my confidence in the answer and to solidify the impressiveness of the meta.

    • Jim S says:

      Similar for me. I immediately thought MATH based on the title and instructions, then thought TRIG was a better match. Only then did I see CSC and the others to support my TRIG backsolve. I wondered if perhaps Matt also accepted MATH given the high number of correct answers for a week 3, until joon’s write-up explained the mechanism fully for me.

      • David says:

        This was largely my path on a full backsolve—the clue made me think MATH, but then the title pushed me towards TRIG. From there, I checked to see if the themers had the right letters for TRIG, and when that worked, I figured I was on the right track. The combo of the title’s use of “ahead of” and the placement of the Ts in the first themer got me to notice the TAN placement. From there, I spotted the other curves and confirmed my hunch about TRIG.

        Nice meta, and elegant. I am definitely curious what % of solvers tried MATH, and what % of TRIG guesses has spotted the mechanism.

    • Garrett says:


      I like that the preceding letters spelled trig, taking out the uncertainty of math being an answer

  5. Jon says:

    I found this one slightly harder than my solving friends. In fact, I had to get a couple of subtle hints because I hit on the aha moment of tan, cos, & sin. For me, while the eventual answer checks out & there’s no doubt left that that is the answer, getting there was difficult for a few things that weren’t as elegant as Matt usually makes his metas. For instance, we’re prompted to find a 4-letter HS class but the hidden things in the long answers are 3-letters long (I was searching for 4-letter tests (“ahead of the curve” suggested test-taking & grades to me; not math) like the LSAT or GMAT or PSAT. Also, tan and cos are at the ends of their long answers while the other 2 are hidden inside them. I only got on the right train when I was told to associate “curve” with a HS class. My mind went to Statistics for mean, average, and mode. I saw “ATTA” in the first long answer as possibly being a letter arrangement of a bell-curve & searched for other such letter arrangements (AMA & CSC in the 2nd & 3rd long answers). When I couldn’t find such a formation in the 4th long answer, I saw ARC in the 2nd long answer & started looking for ‘arch’ or other arc related words. That’s when my eye saw COS and TAN. I had to backsolve & Google to find what preceded the I stood for as I totally forgot that cosecant was a thing. And so my last slight ding was that all 6 of the trig function were involved; just 4 out of the 6.

    But all of those inelegances are super small.

  6. Wayne says:

    Nice grid and meta. My only quibble is with the prompt. The course name–at least in my high school–is “Trigonometry”. Maybe the prompt could have said “…answer is a familiar course you might take…” That would cryptically clue that the meta answer is an informal name for the course. Since this is a week 3, the “four-letter” hint isn’t really needed.

    Loved the shout-out to Cosecant, the neglected middle child of the trig family of functions. (“Why can’t you be more like your big brother Sine?” “Mommmm, stop judging me!”)

  7. PJ says:

    I had a small pause because the sine function is maybe the only curve most people think of when it comes to the trig functions. The cosine looks like the sine function but is offset by 25% (or pi/2 radians) of the sine wavelength. The tangent and cosecant graphs can be intimidating to many because they are discontinuous.

    That said, I love math metas.

  8. Gene Faba says:

    Given the title, Get Ahead of the Curve, I couldn’t imagine the long down “Get Behind” not being important. It was when I got behind the trig abbreviations, I found TRIG. So I got it as Behind and not Ahead.
    Thanks, Dave

  9. PhilB says:

    Finally got the Meta today after going down rabbit holes on first look and coming up empty.

    Biggest red herring for me was the Trayed Fare clue. I’ve learned to notice odd clues and answers and that really stood out. In reverse order it sounds like ‘Fair Trade’ and there was a homonym clue elsewhere. Went looking for other two word examples and came up short.

    Then I noticed that “setting for a pupil” intersected with OSIRIS, which has IRIS in it. Thought perhaps the meta answers would ‘curve’ away from the long acrosses.

    As always seems to happen, I got the answer in minutes after coming back to the puzzle today :)

  10. Jim Schooler says:

    A lovely grid and meta. 5 stars for me. And thanks for all your hard work on Matt’s website Evad!

  11. john says:

    I was the exact same as Seth except never solving for the preceding letters at any point, yet i felt extremely sure TRIG was right. MATH would have been an impossibly weak week 3 answer, so i never considered it. Its been 40 years since i took a math class and have studiously avoided it at all costs since. i literally got this because of remembering the names on keys of scientific calculators, SIN COS TAN. I too didn’t know the forth but since I had to google those terms anyway, when i found CSC while looking under Trig Functions on some website, it all came together nicely. In the 5 minutes of math i could handle looking at, it appeared the functions were related to triangles so i didn’t understand the title and its reference to curves.

    And yes, thanks Evad! I hope we’ll continue to see you in these pages as a solver.

  12. sharkicicles says:

    Thanks Evad for all the work!

  13. Steve Thurman says:

    Having taught Trig for 12 of my 32 years in education, it’s hard for me to think of the course in terms of curves. It is, after all, the study and use of triangles. Still…fun solve.

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