MGWCC #626

crossword 3:18 
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #626 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Three-Quarter Time”. for this week 5 puzzle, the instructions tell us that the answer is something you may need to do to figure out the meta. what are the theme answers? i actually have no idea. there are six longish ones:

  • {Legendary director Joseph} MANKIEWICZ. he directed all about eve, among other things.
  • {Novel first published in 1847} VANITY FAIR by william makepeace thackeray.
  • {Georgia senator who voted for NAFTA} COVERDELL. didn’t know this guy. his first name was paul.
  • {Connecticut senator who voted for NAFTA} LIEBERMAN. i did know this guy (first name joe).
  • {Event at the Tokyo Olympics next year} BASKETBALL.
  • {Talk Like a Pirate Day utterance} AHOY MATEYS.

i got absolutely nowhere with this meta all weekend, and now it’s noon on tuesday and i’m still nowhere. i haven’t even had an initial aha. i wish i had something to talk about in this blog post, but … some weeks, this is just how it goes.

i guess somebody let me know in the comments what was happening here.

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41 Responses to MGWCC #626

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 175 right answers this week.

    Each of the six theme entries can also be answered with a 4-letter word that has three of the same letter — PAPP, OMOO, NUNN, DODD, EPEE, and ARRR. Those 3/4 letters spell PONDER.

    • Yossi says:

      I looked for alternative answers to the themers. Found DODD, but the alternative I found for COVERDELL was CLELAND. Had I seen NUNN, I may have had a chance.

  2. Yossi says:

    Also a “DNF” for me. The only thing I noticed was that the grid had no U’s. (Also no Q’s but that’s less remarkable.) But never saw a way to, um, “U’s” that information.

  3. Tom says:

    Well THANK YOU! I do not feel such an overall failure at the moment. I figured I was one of the very few who was not going to reach Meta Nirvana but knowing one of the gurus did not as well somehow gives me some solace.

  4. Hector says:

    NANCy LIEBERMAN is one of the most famous women’s BASKETBALL players of all time. Was that just a coincidence?

  5. Jay Miller says:

    The two senator clues beg the question as to who the other CT and GA state senators at the time were and did they also vote for NAFTA. The senators were DODD and NUNN. Aha, 3/4 letters in name are the same. Now on the scent leads us to PAPP, OMOO, EPEE and ARRR as the other alternate answers. Taking the triple letter from each word spells PONDER, the answer.

  6. ajk says:

    I had OMOO, NUNN, and DODD and didn’t see it. Oh well. :)

  7. Dan Seidman says:

    The title made me think of going three quarters of the way around a clock, and look where NINE is — almost at 9:00. And going one further, TEN(D) is around 10:00. And the theme entries are nine and ten letters. And… umm…

  8. Richard says:

    I’m with Joon on this one. Sometimes I’m disappointed when I don’t get one, but not this time. Too much of a leap for me to look for six 4 letter words with 3 letters of each the same. Very imaginative. On to June’s week one!

  9. lilroser says:

    This was so simple, yet so diabolical! SCORING in the center was a huge red herring, which sent me down a bunch of rabbit holes around music and Scrabble…and the 6 theme answers seemed pretty specific and intentional. Especially the Senator clues were so specific that it really threw me off the scent at first. But late Sunday I was out of ideas and said, “I wonder if there was another CT Senator that voted for NAFTA”…and it all fell pretty quickly after that. Glad to get back on the board after coming so close but missing last week!

    • Richard says:

      Yes, that looks to be the entree to the solve – Dodd and Nunn. Not sure that I would have found the other 4, except for maybe “epee”.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Yes, I also looked into Scrabble scoring at first. I got as far as counting up the scores of the first four theme entries (30, 19, 15, 13), but when none of them proved divisible by four, I gave up that line of thinking.

  10. david glasser says:

    Wow, nowhere close. But it’s reassuring when Joon fails too :)

    I have to say, even knowing how it, I’m unconvinced I could find PAPP given “Legendary director Joseph” + a name with 3/4 letters the same. He’s certainly not showing up high on Google searches for ‘director joseph’.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Yes, he would probably be the last one to fall for most, although he’s legitimately a giant in his field. If you got as far as ?ONDER then it could still be two things, but the W is unlikely so it’s just a matter of figuring out the vowel in P?PP.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Yes, he doesn’t even appear on Wikipedia's List of Film and Television Directors. While he’s somewhat notable, he seems to be better known as a theatrical producer; in particular, as the founder of Shakespeare in the Park. However, once I got as far as _ONDER, given the prompt, I could see I was looking for a name that was 3/4 P’s; from there PAPP was guessable (and if that hadn’t worked, there were at most 5 other plausible possibilities).

      Edit: cross-posted with Matt.

  11. mkmf says:

    Awk! At T-minus six minutes I punted an answer based on Emerald being a better answer than Jadeite. Then started looking for better books from 1847 with the same number of letters. Noticed Omoo in passing. Then _finally_ realized that I should check the specific other senators from GA and CT at the time. It ALL fell into place. And the click with the title: fabulous! I missed the deadline by just a couple of minutes but am so psyched. Fun fun fun!

  12. Dave says:

    This one was easy for me. I’m always on the lookout for clues that are phrased so that they might have multiple answers (“director Joseph” vs. “director of ‘All About Eve'”). Then, each of the two senator clues has only one possible alternative answer, which can be easily googled. The similar pattern in Nunn and Dodd could not be a coincidence, so I knew I’d found the key. Omoo and epee are crossword staples, and Joseph Papp is fairly well-known. Tada.

    • David Plass says:

      “I’m always on the lookout for clues that are phrased so that they might have multiple answers” — this is exactly the opposite of me! I am such a rule-follower that I *never* look for alternate answers!

    • Garrett says:

      I’ve never heard of either Joseph.

  13. Paul Coulter says:

    I was in a deep rabbit hole of “_ _ _ _ time” expressions that had three of the four consecutive letters of theme answers. Mark time, tell time, call time, make time. For the changed letters, this produced R _ T _ CK. Couldn’t make the other two work, of course, but every time I tried to think of a different path, I kept coming back to this. “What are the odds four of the six work, but it’s meaningless?” I had to wonder. My Hail Mary guess would have been RETACK, but I knew it was wrong, so I didn’t submit an answer.

  14. Pj says:

    Didn’t come anywhere close to solving this, but did submit a guess…just because. My fellow solver reminded me that the main character in Vanity Fair is Becky Sharp. Ergo, I submitted Be sharp! Very satisfactory wrong answer!

  15. jefe says:

    I initially wanted BASEBALL to be an alternate answer for BASKETBALL with a letter-deletion mechanism, but once I looked up the other senators things fell into place pretty quickly.

  16. Excellent puzzle. One tiny little ding: 5 of the 6 themers follows the pattern XYXX, but the last one is YXXX instead. I mistakenly assumed that the last one was intended to be RARR, which didn’t affect my solving, but I snarked to Matt that I didn’t think pirates would say RARR—that’s more of a Chewbacca expression.

  17. Jeff M says:

    Argh. Literally. Thought pirates said, “Argh.” I sit corrected.

  18. Dave Bardolph says:

    I was momentarily distracted by ARE at 2-down. Wasted some time looking for other homophones for the alternate answers before I confirmed the spelling of ARRR and the letter pattern sunk in.

  19. Paul Manaster says:

    I arrived at the answer in a bit of a weird way… my rather plebeian cultural mindset led me initially to “Homer” for 12-D (Bacon lover of note), but after I’d solved the grid I went back to that and started looking for other clues with alternate answers and found the two senators. If not for Homer Simpson, I probably would be reading the solution with a big “D’oh” right now. Great puzzle!

  20. Mutman says:

    I thought alternate answers were possible, and then finally realized the senators would confirm or reject that. Seeing NUNN and DODD put me in track. OMOO fell, then EPEE. And while PAPP did not show on my first Google search, trying PAPP and WOWW got me there.

    Great meta, and my first 5 for 5 (ever?)!!

  21. JJ says:

    I suggested on the comment form that I’d have preferred Wally PIPP to Joseph PAPP in terms of name familiarity (lots to none); perhaps Pipp could have been paired with MATTINGLY in the grid to make NYY First Basemen.

    (MATTINGLY is not quite the same length as MANKIEWICZ, so AHOYMATEYS would have to lose its last letter.)

    • pannonica says:

      Never heard of PIPP; Joseph PAPP was practically a gimme after sussing the senators and (correctly) guessing OMOO was ’47. Then came the logical EPEE and finally the anomalous ARRR.

  22. Charles Stevens says:

    The mechanism was similar to the recent “MLK” meta iirc: clues with hidden answers that lead to the meta solution. This (much harder) puzzle absolutely wiped the floor with me. I tried to make it about hockey somehow given that it’s a three-period (quarter?) sport and some of the answers led me there (TEND goal, SCORING, OTS), but good gravy was I off. I tip my cap to Matt and the smart solvers who got there.

  23. Seth says:

    Oh god. Never would have seen this in a million years. Way way too big of a leap for me.

    The central SCORING had me thinking it might have to do with music, and the fact that each themer was paired in its row with a four letter word got me stuck for an bit, especially since the first themer row could give you WITS END (phonetic end of the themer + three of the four letters in the other word).

  24. Omniart says:

    The first answer was HADJ. Three-quarters of HADJ is HAD. The clue for 21-Down is Had! Its answer is ATE! That sounds like EIGHT! Three-quarters of EIGHT is SIX. 6-Down is AHALF! Half of SIX is THREE. 3-Down is DEN! That’s three-quarters of the letters in TEND! So obviously the first letter to the solution is T.

    P.S. I did not solve this one.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I suppose you never noticed that the first answer was, in fact, HAJJ. That would be easy to overlook, given that the crossing entry for the ambiguous third letter was the first name of someone not all that famous.

  25. Adam Thompson says:

    I got the answer from realizing the two senator clues could both refer to two people.

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