MGWCC #604

Grid 13:05; Meta: 12 hours  


Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest–“See You Next Year!”–Laura’s review

Hello F(r)iends and welcome to the last post of 2019. Joon is visiting with family, so it is I, Laura — and a few ringers — here to ring out the old year with Mr. Gaffney and all of you. This week our answer is a six-letter word.

MGWCC #604 - Solution

MGWCC #604 – Solution

Let’s start with some themers — looks like we might have to do a little research.

  • [23a: Movie with the line “Since when, Kip? You have the worst reflexes of all time”]: NAPOLEON DYNAMITE
  • [34a: Noted victory for the Tang Dynasty]: BATTLE OF AKSU
  • [53a: Novel first published anonymously as having been written only “By a Lady”]: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
  • [68a: Its founding is noted on Virginia’s state quarter]: JAMESTOWN SETTLEMENT
  • [85a: It proclaimed tolerance for Christianity within the Roman Empire]: EDICT OF MILAN
  • [101a: Pamphlet sent to the Archbishop of Mainz]: NINETY FIVE THESES

First observation: Each of the themers can be associated with a specific year in history:

  • NAPOLEON DYNAMITE was released in 2004
  • BATTLE OF AKSU took place in 717
  • SENSE AND SENSIBILITY was published in 1811
  • JAMESTOWN SETTLEMENT was established in 1607
  • EDICT OF MILAN was proclaimed in 313
  • NINETY FIVE THESES were nailed to a church door in 1517

Second observation: You don’t see 20×20 grids very often. Maybe that means something?

Third observation: I’ve been staring at this long enough; it’s time to call for backup. I started a google doc and invited my group-solve fam to join me. Thus ensued much communal misery and gnashing of teeth. Well, from two of us — turned out, some folks went off on their own and solved the damn thing all by their lonesomes, likely so they could check that final “Solo Solve” button of the year with impunity. That left Jesse and I to flail frustratingly for a full afternoon. What rabbit holes did we tunnel?

Rabbit hole 1: The years point to the letters in their numbered squares.

20 = O
04 = T
7 = E
17 = K
18 = T
11 = A
16 = L
07 = E
3 = Q
13 = P
15 = E
17 = K

OTEKTABLEQPEK = we’re probably on the wrong path. (No! It must be an OTEK TABLE QPEK! That’s where, uh, Klingons serve their traditional feasts of …. Never mind.)

Rabbit hole 2: Wait, the title is “See you next year”, so maybe we have to convert 2004 to 2005, etc.? (SPOILER: Nope)

Rabbit hole 3: What if “see you” = CU, and then the next step is, um, something with that? (SPOILER: Nope, again)

Rabbit holes 4 – 12: Roman numerals? Geography? Famous people associated with the answers who were conspicuously left out of the clues? Addition? Subtraction? Uglification? Derision? (SPOILER: You see where this is going, right?)

Rabbit hole 13: Maybe the years are grid coordinates?

(20,04) = V
(7,17) = O
(18,11) = S
(16,07) = I
(3,13) = I
(15,17) = N

This seemed promising — and it gave us six letters — but we just couldn’t … see anything there.

Final rabbit hole, after which I gave up to go out for dinner and drinks:

“What if the dates are only to order the things and not significant themselves? Why need a 20×20 grid? To fit all the themers? Other stuff? NE corner is terrible — could be better as ELL/LIES instead of ELK/KIEV” [verbatim quote from our notes]

The next morning, our friends had taken pity and left a few clues. I awoke bleary-eyed to drink some coffee and checked my messages to find that Jesse had had a flash of insight in the place where it happens: the shower.

“The grid is 20×20 and next year is 2020. Hm, TWENTY is a six-letter word, but that’s too obvious. Wait, VISION is also a six-letter word that often follows 20 20. And that would fit really well with the title ‘SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!’” [not a verbatim quote from our notes but an imaginative reconstruction of Jesse’s thoughts in the shower]

It turns out that if you map the letters onto the grid at those coordinates, and follow them in grid order (not clue order or chronological order as we had above), you get the answer:

(20,04) = V
(16,07) = I
(18,11) = S
(3,13) = I
(7,17) = O
(15,17) = N

Which is a six-letter word and our answer. And with some … 20/20 hindsight, it all seems very clear.

Excellent job, Matt, and thank you for another fine year of puzzles.

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23 Responses to MGWCC #604

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Laura — 205 correct entries this week. Which is “20” followed by 100/20.

  2. David R says:

    I went down rabbit hole #1 like I assume most did. I also tried adding up the totals of the years and looked at that fill. I finally got to VOSIIN and anagrammed it to VISION, relooked at the puzzle and realized it was based on position. It would have been cool if letter positioning would have been based on chronological year going from most recent to oldest.

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    I liked this one a lot. But I can’t give it full marks, since it was so guessable. As soon as I saw the title, I was thinking, “What does 2020 suggest?” 20/20 Vision, of course. This was confirmed by the prompt asking for a six-letter word, and the grid’s six long Across answers. I almost guessed VISION at the ten second mark. But I pressed on, finished the grid, and did the research on the dates. Finding the coordinates wasn’t too hard, and I was pleased that the very apt VISION was the answer. This certainly would have been my Hail Mary had the challenge been tougher. Given the relatively high Week 4 results, I suspect it was a nice holiday gift for some. I agree with David R above about the chronological order – I imagine Matt tried, but it proved impossible. Great year of metas, Matt, and Happy New Year to all.

  4. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I got stuck in rabbit hole #2. The Council of ARLES, which took place the year after the EDICT OF MILAN, seemed to support that approach, but, of course, nothing else did.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Count me as another who went straight to Laura’s rabbit hole #2 and never left. I was sure we had to do something with the next year after each year hinted at–I never seriously considered otherwise. When I hit a wall, I went to looking for other ways to use the next years, not to discarding the premise.

      • Dave Bardolph says:

        Ditto. Figured ARLES couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. Made nothing of the other years, but couldn’t let go.

  5. Garrett says:

    The grid itself was pretty daunting — not only in size but in hardness of clues and/or fill. My family threw a large party for my mother’s 90th birthday Saturday with many people coming from out-of-town. With Saturday shot + WSJ meta to do Sunday I just completed this grid last night.

    I do like the title and 20/20 VISION!

  6. That “See You” = C/U idea was especially hazardous for me since there are exactly six C’s and six U’s in the grid. Quite the coincidence or nasty trap (or both).

  7. David says:

    One extra rabbit hole that seemed *so* promising—the number pairs in each year are all under 26 (b/c none are over 20, of course), so maybe you just translate them into alphabet letters! After seeing that some years translated into common initialisms/acronyms like TD, GQ, and PG, I’m not sure I ever would’ve extricated myself from this without a hint about looking at the grid again.

    Thanks for a year of great metas!

    • I fell into this exact same hole for a couple days before I figured out the correct solution. I was also sure we’d have to add 1 to the years from the title of the puzzle, and TE/GR/RL/PH/CN/OR is a nicer set of letters than TD/GQ/RK/PG/CM/OQ.

  8. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I noticed the years, and that each half of the year was in the range 1-20, and that the grid was an even size, but didn’t think to check what size that was and got stumped at that point (although I noticed that the cells numbered with the last parts of the next years for the dates, in chronological order, had one letter swap off from TATAMI, which at least better than the Klingon table). Upon seeing this post, I was immediately on the right track, and spent a minute solving it the rest of the way before reading that joon took 12 hours to solve it after having the observation that I never had. Goes to show why group solves are so much easier: people differ a lot on which step is hard.

  9. Paul Manaster says:

    What convinced me that the dates must refer to grid coordinates was the observation that all of the dates occurred in the first 2 decades of their respective centuries- the only way they COULD work as coordinates on a 20X20 grid, with a less than 1/3000 chance of being a random occurrence. Having gotten that far, I pursued many rabbit holes (starting in the SW corner of the grid, adding 1 to each year, subtracting 1 from each year) before returning to the first letters I had written down, VOSIIN, and seeing the anagram. Great puzzle!

  10. Steve Blais says:

    This is the second week in a row that I solved the meta, only to find that what would have been my Hail Mary guess was the correct answer. I need to buy some lottery tickets.

  11. David Plass says:

    I, too, had VOSIIN and threw it out.

  12. Will Nediger says:

    I had VOSIAN because I miscounted! Lesson: always check your work.

  13. MM says:

    I added 1 to the last two digits of the years (which made sense since we’d write ‘04 to mean 2004), took the letter in the corresponding white square in that row (5th, 18th, 12th, etc.), and got ANSW_R. Submitted “answer” before finishing the grid!

  14. Lance says:

    I chose rabbit hole #1:

    Three-letter answers in the grid with these letter pairs:
    TOt EKe TAu ELi PdQ ElK

    The extra letters — t e u i d l, anagram to “dilute”. That was my lame submission.

  15. Bill2RD says:

    One of the few (if any) week 4 metas that I’ve solved. The 20×20 grid suggested the year 2020, and the major entries seemed likely to have dates associated with them. So following that trail, I was able to eventually find the letters making up VISION. Good one!

  16. streroto says:

    Guessed the answer reading the title. But could not make the dates work. Should have done the Hail Mary but didn’t feel right. happy New Year all

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I once took a guess at a meta I hadn’t solved, got it right by blind chance, and didn’t feel good about it. Since then, I only submit if I think I’ve solved it.

  17. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I once took a guess at a meta I hadn’t solved, got it right by blind chance, and didn’t feel good about it. Since then, I only submit if I think I’ve solved it.

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