MGWCC #624

crossword 3:56 
meta DNF 3 days 


hello and welcome to episode #624 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Now You Sea It, Now You Don’t”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that This week’s contest answer, which is 13 letters long (count carefully!), is something I hope you have with this puzzle. okay, sounds cool. what are the theme answers?

look, this is where i have to admit an embarrassing failure on my part. i spent a good long while after completing in the crossword having absolutely no idea where to begin. from the title, i was thinking this was definitely going to be a meta based on the disappearing ARAL sea… but as much as i wanted to make that work, it wasn’t going anywhere. so i had to put the down for a few days.

when i came back to it, i noticed that there was, indeed, an explicitly indicated theme answer that i had just not noticed at all (!) on the first pass. here it is: {Ghost ___ (the Mary Celeste, the Flying Dutchman, the Black Pearl…or any of 13 herein)} SHIP. well, knowing what to look for makes it a lot easier to find it! here are the theme answers, all of which can take the suffix -SHIP to make a common english word:

  • {Not really a friend} ACQUAINTANCE.
  • {Guy who builds houses, e.g.} WORKMAN. indeed, WORKMANSHIP is a more familiar word that WORKMAN itself. much like SPORTSMANSHIP, though, i wish there were a good gender-neutral equivalent.
  • {Tricky} HARD.
  • {Future master of a trade} APPRENTICE.
  • {Head honcho} LEADER.
  • {MBA holder, often} ENTREPRENEUR.
  • {Title holder} OWNER.
  • {It’s yellow on a football field} FLAG. FLAGSHIP is the only one of the implicit theme answers that refers to an actual ship—i.e. it’s a compound word rather than a noun with the -SHIP suffix.
  • {Book cover info} AUTHOR.
  • {Sister, sometimes} TWIN. TWINSHIP is probably the least familiar of these words. indeed, wordpress is trying to tell me right now that it’s misspelled. of course, it’s also saying the same thing of “wordpress” itself. you’d think they would have that in their own spellcheck!
  • {Summer worker, maybe} INTERN.
  • {Dues payer} MEMBER.
  • {Typo finder} EDITOR.

the theme answers are a mix of acrosses and downs; i’ve ordered them from top to bottom in the grid by the location of their first letter. and, reading off those first letters, we get A WHALE OF A TIME, which is thirteen letters long. {Monomaniacal captain} AHAB would approve (except that he’s dead, and also fictional).

that was a lot easier once i found the theme hint! so i had a strange experience of solving this puzzle, where it seemed impossible for a few days and then abruptly quite straightforward. it’s an impressive construction, with fourteen theme answers, a few of them quite long, strewn about the grid. it’s a 17×17 grid, so a little larger than a typical crossword, but not hugely so.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you like this one?

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44 Responses to MGWCC #624

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 432 right answers this week.

    I was aiming for there no be no actual ships among the -SHIPs, but neither FELLOW nor FRIEND would fit in the grid, so I wound up settling for FLAG. Consoled myself a little there on the fact that it has a common non-literal meaning as well.

  2. BrainBoggler says:

    Unlike joon, I had seen 85A clue from the beginning and still spent too much time trying to find creative ways to derive famous ship names. Then, after nudged in the right direction, I learned there is a coined term “returnship”. There’s always something to learn with these puzzles, intended or otherwise. Great puzzle, Matt!

  3. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I agree that TWINSHIP is a relatively unfamiliar word, being listed by only five sources on OneLook, two of which are the unreliable Wordnik and Urban Dictionary. It would have been nice if Matt could have made TOWN[SHIP] work instead. But that’s a very minor quibble, and other than that, this was a very nice construction. I suppose that the number 13 was chosen to add to the aura of ghostliness.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Spent about 90 minutes trying to make TOWN work. Seems like such an easy switch from TWIN–>TOWN, but the crossword gods were in a mood.

  4. cyco says:

    Impressive construction, with so many theme answers and yet the meta not being exceedingly obvious, at least not to me. Without the strong hint at 85A it probably would have taken much longer.

    My biggest hang-up was entirely self-inflicted, namely filling out the grid too quickly and therefore making a mess of the NE, so I had FOREMAN instead of WORKMAN. Didn’t catch that mistake until finally putting the themers in order by first letter appearance in the grid and realizing the missing W.

  5. Jeff M says:

    I only found 10/13 in my first pass…then consulted this (newly-discovered, quote helpful!) web site to complete the meta:

  6. Reid says:

    I kind of stumbled into the trick and almost discarded it. The first “ship” word I noticed was “friend” in the clue for acquaintance, so I went looking for others in the clues, but didn’t have much luck. It didn’t occur to me to look for them in the answers themselves, but then INTERN jumped out at me.

    I still wouldn’t say the light bulb had fully turned on for me, as i figured there was no way there were 12 more words like that in the grid, but it was at least flickering, and slowly but surely i found them all.

    It’s an interesting meta because with the hint, it probably was easier than a normal week 3, but without the hint, it’s almost impossible. I wonder what kind of hint could have been given instead that would have been just right?

  7. Mike says:

    It fits more with a general nautical theme rather than with SHIP specifically, but I couldn’t help but fixate on the fact that there were seven C’s (“seven seas”) in the grid, and since ACQUAINTANCE had 2 of them, there were exactly 13 words with a C in them. But those 13 words gave me gibberish when I tried to formulate an answer out of them. I wonder if this was the warning alluded to in the directions.

    And as a bonus, I have now also had the same Echo & The Bunnymen song going through my head constantly for the past 4 days….

    • Wayne says:

      Damn it Mike!

    • Lou says:

      Glad to see I wasn’t the only one led down this path! I interpreted 85 across to mean that something was missing from the names of ghost ships and that filling in the blanks left by removing the “C”s would lead me somewhere, such as first letters. As the warning goes, “Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.” Well, Matt, was this intentional? If so, well played!

  8. Garrett says:

    I do not understand the ordering. As Joon presents it we have a mixture of down and across fill. Basically, this feels to me like a letter jumble that needs to be assembled. I spent way too much time on this meta and was not in a mood to deal with that. I got as far as seeing HALF and so submitted Half Of The Meta because that is what we had to pick out, as SHIP is the given other half.

    It was not a whale of a time for me. (tosses list of Ghost Ships into the trash).

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      In order of first letter — see the circles letters in Joon’s diagram above

      • Garrett says:

        Okay, I see now. I had written all of the across words down first, then all of the down ones, in order. ?‍♀️

      • joon says:

        yes. another way to think of it is ordered by square number:

        17 WORKMAN
        18 HARD
        21 APPRENTICE
        28 LEADER
        42 OWNER
        52 FLAG
        60 AUTHOR
        61 TWIN
        62 INTERN
        63 MEMBER
        64 EDITOR

  9. Tyler Hinman says:

    Filled the grid on Friday. Read the clue at 85A late Sunday. I can’t believe I’m not the only one!

    • joon says:

      omg. i also cannot believe i am not the only one!

      on my printout, the last across clue was shuffled off into its own column, so i’m using that as my excuse.

  10. Susie says:

    I feel like a cotton headed ninny muggins! I easily found the 13 ships, but had a heck of a time putting them together. I got the HALF, followed by gibberish. Then TIME and more gibberish. Never occurred to me to go from top to bottom. Or maybe it did and I was too tired to think of A and OF as words. Great construction and a fun grid. I knew that it had to be easier than I treated it.

  11. Streroto says:

    I was a bit perplexed by the “count carefully” warning, since I had the mechanism the meta worked perfectly to 13 letters. This perplex anyone else, or at least give pause?

    This was thoroughly a enjoyable grid and meta. I did spend a while trying to figure out how to turn ENTREPRENEUR into ENTERPRISE, ie a ship…but that went nowhere.

    Thanks as always Matt for a very pleasant diversion from that other thing on our minds.

    Stay well, all

  12. Clint Hepner says:

    As an interesting dead end, MEDITERRANEAN has 13 letters and looks like you can anagram it to A … TIME, but the left over letters don’t make anything interesting to fill in the “…”.

    I also got a little hung up on the 7 Cs in the grid. I assume that was just a fun (if not intentional) easter egg.

  13. john says:

    I am very deliberate and literal-minded. I needed a hint from a friend here because the salient clue mentioned 3 actual (well, at least legendary, if not real) “ghost ships” and then: or any of 13 herein. This seems to unequivocally be asking you to find 13 other ghost ships, or something related to ghost ships at least. In fact, of course, there are no ghost ships in the meta whatsoever. Everyone here seems to have jumped right past that though and found the answer easily upon seeing this clue so i’ll chalk it up to my obtuseness, but it felt like a bit of inelegance somehow.

  14. Mutman says:

    Silly me thought it was a bit inelegant that the ‘W’ was used in the partial ‘WARSHIP’.

    I should know better!

    Did find it odd that the last long answer never was used in the meta …

    Well done!

  15. Hector says:

    It’s a great meta: ghost SHIPs. Might have made a great week 4-5 meta without the final across clue — which like joon I also didn’t notice, maybe because I didn’t need to consult it in solving.

    I also wondered if the Sartre line TODOISTOBE, which is the only long entry not directly involved in the meta, was meant to highlight the relation between things you do or are engaged in (entrepreneurship) and things you thereby are (entrepreneur). That works for a lot of the themers but not, e.g., hardship or flag-ship.

  16. Silverskiesdean says:

    MATT: I figured out how to put in town instead of twin:

    TWIN to TOWN
    BEEN. to. BETA
    OWN. to OOT
    DECS. to DENS

    I didn’t know how to transfer it in puzzle form

    • Grump says:

      I think TWINSHIP is less obscure than OOT or RENTE, so I’m not sure this makes the cut. But I applaud the valiant effort!

    • joon says:

      INTERN and EDITOR are theme answers—you can’t touch those. the fix, if there is one, would have to involve a totally different grid layout.

  17. pannonica says:

    Noticed that OPAQUE anagrams to PEQUOD if you replace the A with a D. Similarly, TITANIC could be derived from the string in acquAINTANCe swapping an A for an I. Then I ran aground in the shoals; no way there were 11 more.

  18. Jay Miller says:

    What I was confused by was the wording in the parentheses on 85A (with three proper ship names listed and then …or any of 13 herein). The wording seems to imply that the “13 herein” are proper ship names. Why were those names necessary at all, or if they were included, shouldn’t “or any of 13 herein” been outside the parentheses?
    What really misled me for a long time was that there are lots of grid entries that fit GHOST_____(ant, twin, author, editor, etc.)

    • Dave says:

      There are thirteen “______ship” words (“membership,” for example), but the “ship” part of each word is unseen, like a ghost. They are, therefore, “ghost ships.” That’s how parsed it.

      • Jay Miller says:

        Dave-I agree, but why the proper names for the ships? Why even put the names in? Was Matt worried that solvers would not be able to solve Ghost ___ otherwise? Makes no sense to me.

        • jefe says:

          The three named ships are part of the proper clue for SHIP. The “13 herein” refers to the figurative “ghost” “ships” – instances of the word “ship” that don’t physically manifest themselves in the grid as part of the meta.

  19. Tom says:

    did not make the move to shore on this one, but now that I’ve seen this discussion, very elegant and have more appreciation for these metas than before.

  20. Diana says:

    Nobody is gong to read this two days after the fact, but sometimes it helps to say it out loud. Therapy. I didn’t get it.

    Because of that helpful hint at 85A or whatever it was, I spent a lot of time looking for ghost ships. The Joyvita, the Octavius (or was it Octavian? I don’t remember now)!I lied in bed at night reading about ghost ships. Because the clue clearly says “13 herein”.

    It wasn’t all time wasted because Ghost Ships are interesting. If I go on Jeopardy, I hope a category is Ghost Ships so that I can put my knowledge to use.

    • jefe says:

      The “13 herein” doesn’t refer to literal “ghost ships”; it refers figuratively to “ghost” “ships” – instances of the word “ship” that don’t physically manifest themselves in the grid.

  21. Travis H. says:

    I liked the meta but was put off by the reference to violence against children at 77A…

  22. jenna sais quoi says:

    confession: i sent in a total guess based on the title/answer prompt and got it right. probably the first and last time that will ever happen for me.

  23. Tom Burnakis says:

    I must also admit I was sure ARAL SEA would be there somehow, just because it is disappearing and it is SUCH a common crossword word. But then I got hung up on:

    So, I started doing things like

    I tried then to link the clues letters or the answers letters to some anagrammed word, but got complete gibberish of course. I completely glossed over 85A, answering it and moving on in my usual panicked, gotta-solve-quick-more-time-to-figure-meta, mode.

    When I finally DID go back and redo the puzzle (for the fifth time, three in an Excel SS, two on paper) and really READ 85A (try #5) I of course recalled the 13 letters comment and knew this was related. A quick, and cursory, search showed no famous Ghost Ships, but a comment by a colleague about ownership gave me the AHA! Then I looked and the list of DO/BE’s almost laid it out completely for me as I finally got my SHIP together and added that to each. I was late to arrive at the finish, but I’ll take 85% of the credit since without the word ownership echoing in my mind I’d have never circled back.

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