MGWCC #628

crossword 3:29 
meta 5 min 


hello and welcome to episode #628 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “A League of Their Own”. for this week 2 puzzle, the instructions tell us that the answer is a team in the National Football League. okay. what are the theme answers? they’re all sports teams:

  • {English Premier League team whose fans sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at games} LIVERPOOL. excellent start—my favorite men’s soccer team! i’m excited about the imminent return of the premier league (tomorrow!), with liverpool needing only another game or two to clinch their first league title in 30 years.
  • {With 26-Across, Major League Baseball team that holds Sausage Races during the sixth inning of home games} MILWAUKEE / BREWERS.
  • {With 46-Across, National Basketball Association team owned by the estate of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen} PORTLAND TRAIL / BLAZERS. it’s a little funny to see the team name broken up this way instead of PORTLAND / TRAIL BLAZERS, but you can only do what the grid allows.
  • {With 62-Across, National Hockey League team that lost the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017} NASHVILLE / PREDATORS.

what do these teams have in common? this took me a while. eventually i had to come at it from another angle, using the title and instructions. why do the instructions (and all the theme clues) say “national football league” (and english premier league, etc.) instead of the ubiquitous (and unambiguous) initialism NFL? aha! that turned out to be the key. each of these team names contains, in order (but not consecutive), the abbreviation for its league: LIVERPOOL is hiding EPL, MILWAUKEE BREWERS contains MLB, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS contains NBA, and NASHVILLE PREDATORS contains NHL. so the meta answer must be an NFL team that contains the letters NFL in order, and it didn’t take me long to think of the ATLANTA FALCONS.

what a terrifically interesting meta! i certainly appreciated it as a sports fan, but also just as a fan of wordplay. i’m not going to go through and count, but it seems very surprising to me that matt was able to find examples of these in each league, let alone ones that fit symmetrically into a crossword grid. off the top of my head, i can’t think of any other teams that fit the theme! for example, there are plenty of other hockey teams that contain N, H, and L, but none of the others are in the right order. the NBA only has, i think, one other team that even has those three letters, and the A in MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES is in the wrong place. so i view the existence of this puzzle as a fairly miraculous occurrence, and i’m grateful that we got to reap the benefits of that miracle.

the grid is a beauty, too. the word count of 74 is quite low, and to accommodate the central 13 we have big corners with stacked long downs in the northeast and southwest. ROCKY III is terrific stuff, and i liked seeing PALO ALTO in the grid instead of just PALO or ALTO clued as a fill-in-the-blank. it was a little surprising to see BEE and HIVE in the grid but not clued together. the juxtaposition of actress ALIA shawkat and ALIAS also tickled me. there’s a bit of clunky fill like REL and EELY, but overall this was a delightful solve. five stars, for sure.

how’d you like this one?

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22 Responses to MGWCC #628

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    I’m with Joon on Liverpool. I’ve been a supporter since I started playing soccer in the 60s and my jersey collection goes back that far. I liked this meta’s technique a lot, except for the slight inconsistency with Liverpool. The football club Liverpool FC does have a team nickname like the others, so it should really be LIVERPOOLREDS. I understand of course that it took a lot of skill just to make all the lengths work out for theme answers, so it’s only a small ding.

  2. pgw says:

    I too was pretty blown away by the fact that this puzzle worked at all, let alone allowing for symmetry! The kind of thing that sounds too audacious to even try, and then it works beautifully – must have been a rush for Matt when he saw how he could pull it off.

    5 stars for sure.

  3. David Plass says:

    Pretty clever. Definitely required Googling; this meta was not my preferred category of “the answer physically lies in the grid/clues”. I needed to trawl the entire list of NFL teams to find the one.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      So my general rule for any Googling required in a meta is that it should be “limited and focused,” i.e. the solver should know exactly what they’re looking for and it shouldn’t take much time. This one passes that test, and I think it even created a fun little series of aha moments en route.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 405 correct answers this week.

    I noticed atlaNta FaLcons just randomly upon seeing it somewhere, so went looking if there were any others. None in the NFL, so checked other leagues, and to my astonishment, there is exactly one team that works for each of the Big Four leagues. Wanted an MLS team for the fifth but there isn’t one. My tester suggested looking at the English Premier League, and holy cow — exactly one there as well.

    Then I thought, surely someone in the trivia world has noticed this? But none that I could find via Googling or anything else. I was worried that the first 10 entries I got on Friday would be “This was an answer in Learned League last month!” or a Sporcle Quiz or something, but turns out not to be the case.

    I would be very interested to know if anyone has noticed this quirk before. Please e-mail me if you can find evidence of it.

    • Bill2RD says:

      I got Atlanta Falcons right away, but I must be an idiot because I could not figure out how to post the answer. There was no usual link to your puzzle site in your email on Friday and I did not see any other emails over the weekend.

      Hope you are feeling better.

    • Susie says:

      This was one of a few very easy ones for me because I noticed this phenomenon years ago (except Liverpool). atlaNta FalCons are also in the NFC (would work if they were in the AFC). If I’d only started the puzzle earlier…still couldn’t have beat those super fast solvers! It was amazing that you got it all in a 15×15.

  5. Charles Stevens says:

    Took me way too long to get this. First thought was “Liverpool, Milwaukee, Nashville, Portland… L, M, N… P. Missing an O. Oakland Raiders? But… they’re the Las Vegas Raiders now and boy that would be a crappy meta even if they weren’t”

    Glad I held off on submitting that one!

  6. pamela feiring says:

    I got this by sheer luck. Looked at title and remembered the movie. The team in the movie was something Peaches. Atlanta? Looked up NFL team for Atlanta et voila. A correct answer from wrong-headed thinking.

  7. AndrewTex says:

    You need to lear to love live!

  8. Tom says:

    did not Get this, but it is A work of beauty

    Find your ingenuity FrustratiNg at timEs.


  9. Karen says:

    I didn’t come anywhere close on this one. 50 down clue “Minder of cattle” with the answer “rearer” didn’t make any sense to me. I thought it was pointing to the Cowboys, and looked everywhere for other clues but found nothing similar. I ended up guessing Seahawks just because the Paul Allen estate owns it too. I usually get week 2 metas, am frustrated with myself for not seeing this one.

  10. Tony says:

    I came up with The Falcons almost immediately once I got the gist of the meta. I used Google to verify. It just seemed right, given the F and L in the team name.

  11. Jay Miller says:

    An interesting factoid: If you allow for defunct teams the Muncie Flyers and the Frankford Yellow Jackets also work. The Yellow Jackets actually won the NFL championship in 1926.

  12. Mac says:

    Totally fanned! Three odd aspects of the grid captured my attention:
    1) As Karen pointed out, rearer is an odd word and an odd clue. Cattle are usually raised, not reared, in my world.
    2) “Ipray” and “iget” would usually be avoided in the same grid, I think, but here they are practically next to each other.
    3) The almost word ladder of “ala” and “alia” and “alas” and “alias” caught my attention and dragged me down a big hole.
    All that in a Week 2!

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