MGWCC #635

crossword 4:41 
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #635 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Don’t Even Try”. for this week 5 puzzle, the instructions tell us that the answer is a seven-letter word. okay. what are the theme answers? i really don’t know. there are four ten-letter answers in the grid, arranged in a pinwheel pattern. i rather suspect that not all of theme are theme answers, but here they are:

  • {“Once Upon a Time in the West” actor, 1968} HENRY FONDA.
  • {Activity for a rainy day} INDOOR GAME.
  • {Hit over the catcher’s head, maybe} FOULED BACK.
  • {Causes of tooth loss} DEAD NERVES.

the only thing that seems to be suggesting anything about the theme is the very last across clue: {Devote, as time looking at clues} SPEND. this ought to be matt’s way of suggesting that the meta mechanism is (at least partially) in the clues. that and the title are really are i’ve got to go on, as nothing about the rest of the grid suggests a theme. maybe it matters that each of the four 10s is a two-word phrase or name, but maybe it doesn’t.

what does the title mean? well, to me it suggests looking at odd-numbered letters. ordinarily i would start by looking at odd-numbered squares in the grid, but given the hint from the SPEND clue, i tried odd-numbered letters from the clues first. nothing doing.

okay, back to odd-numbered letters in the grid. oho, what do we have here? the letters in odd-numbered squares spell out EIGHT FIGHT LIGHT MIGHT NIGHT RIGHTS. that surely means something. it’s most, but not all, of the common _IGHT words in the english language, in alphabetical order. SIGHT and TIGHT are missing (unless the final S is supposed to stand for SIGHT?), and less commonly BIGHT and WIGHT. hmm.

well, back to the clues, then. there aren’t any _IGHT words in the clues, but it definitely seems like some of the clues are a little weird, as if there were an extra forced constraint. why does {Dallas-based non-profit Susan G. ___ for the Cure} KOMEN start with “dallas-based”? why is {Legendary pitcher Perry} GAYLORD “legendary”? why does {Oilman Jock of TV} EWING use jock (j.r.’s dad from dallas) instead of j.r. himself, or any of the other EWINGs? hmm, now that i think about it, there may be a dallas connection here—or maybe all of this is irrelevant.

what is there in the clues that relates to _IGHT? well, {Circle that glows} HALO suggests LIGHT, and {“Invisibilia” airer} NPR connotes a (lack of) SIGHT. i can’t really find others, though. maybe “day”, which occurs in both {Activity for a rainy day} INDOOR GAME and {“What a sad day!”} ALAS, suggests NIGHT? i dunno. there aren’t really others like that, though.

i’m just about out of time, and although i feel like i might be close, i don’t have it yet. i’m going to guess a seven-letter word that i can spell from the letters EFLMNRS. NEMESES seems like one that might have nudged matt towards the puzzle title, so let’s go with that.

somebody please let me know in the comments what i missed.

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34 Responses to MGWCC #635

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 149 correct entries this week.

    You were very close on the GAYLORD clue. One clue starts with each of the extracted “1” letters (EFLMNRS). The first letter of those seven answers spell contest answer TIGHTEN.

    • jefe says:

      Ack, forgot the last clue was a meta clue. Nearly guessed TIGHTEN from the missing T from the list of common _IGHTs and the homophone, but went with INSIGHT instead.

  2. spotter says:

    With the “ight” words you have 7 starting letters. E, F, L, M, N, R, S. There is one clue that starts with each of these letters. The first letter in the answers to these clues spell the answer, TIGHTEN

  3. stmv says:

    The EIGHT FIGHT LIGHT MIGHT NIGHT RIGHT S gives us the letters EFLMNRS, as you suspected. If you look at the first letters of the clues, there is exactly one clue starting with each of these 7 letters. The first letters of the corresponding grid entries spell out TIGHTEN, which is the meta answer.

    I had thought that looking at the first letters of the clues was pretty random, and so I was quite surprised when it turned out to be the right thing to do.

  4. Michael A. says:

    I guessed DELIGHT, based on the idea that the last word should have been SIGHT, but the IGHT was DELeted. Not ideal, but I couldn’t get the clues to turn into anything. I noticed that {Great suffering} could be PLIGHT, while {Nominal, as an effort} could be SLIGHT (could also be SLIGHTEST, which is LIGHT + the letters of TESS [59-across] scrambled). {“Agree 100%!”} suggests RIGHT, maybe. And {“Feeling better?” response} could be ALRIGHT? But I couldn’t get those ideas to turn into anything more.

    I also got distracted for a long time by the point that the clue for 41-across, {“What, me worry?” speaker} contains the letters of AHMET and RORY, each scrambled after a W. So I spent a lot of time looking for other such patterns. But that was before noticing the _IGHT sequence, and the two didn’t seem to fit together in any way.

    I had more ideas on this than I often have on the week 5 puzzles, but I couldn’t get through to a fully satisfying answer. Sigh.

  5. Dan Seidman says:

    I got about as far as Joon. (I also considered whether OCTANE could be related to EIGHT.) So I was one of those who guessed INSIGHT.

    But I want to commend Matt for the grid — it was remarkably clean with that huge constraint.

  6. Hector says:

    A lot of incorrect answers, judging by the leader board, including early ones by such luminaries as e.a., which has me curious as to whether there are one or more tempting traps in this one?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      e.a.’s was just a Hail Mary at 12:01 PM, which he sometimes does as a gag.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Wait—how can you tell from the leaderboard when someone submits an incorrect guess?

      • Jim S says:

        It’s the difference in the count of “Overall” and “This week” names. This Week shows correct entries; Overall shows both correct and incorrect. In case of ties, you may have to manually count the entries at the bottom of Overall.

  7. Chaddog says:

    Adding to the list of potential relatives of the _IGHT words in the clues: Dems’ Rivals = RIGHT.

    But even with all of these, doesn’t get you anywhere. I also submitted INSIGHT as in there was NO END In Sight, but I would have been surprised / disappointed had it been correct. Ok maybe not disappointed ;)

  8. Ale M says:

    I wonder if anyone else came up with SLEIGHT and thought they had the correct answer? Here’s my reasoning:

    All the -IGHT words, then just the solitary S. This suggested to me that the answer was 7 letters, starting with S and ending -IGHT. SLEIGHT is by far the most common word that follows these constraints.

    Also, the two letters used to fill the gap in S _ _ IGHT are L and E which are (drum roll please) the first and third generated words. (The “odd” numbered words, which I thought was taking the mechanism to the next level.)

    The final click for me was how SLEIGHT can relate to the title. When a dexterous person uses sleight of hand, it looks like they are not even trying.

    So, a respectful appeal for SLEIGHT, please. It was a good enough, solid enough answer to make me feel like I had it, to make me stop looking for something else. Thanks!

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Will ask the panel about SLEIGHT and INSIGHT later today. Neither clicks like TIGHTEN but might click enough to not look further.

      • Chaddog says:

        FWIW, I wasn’t lobbying for INSIGHT. It was a Hail Mary guess for me and one which I knew couldn’t have been correct. I spent 2 full days looking for the correct answer while having INSIGHT as a backup.

        But I can see why SLEIGHT provided enough of a click to stop looking (even though it tends to ignore the 61A clue)

      • AK37 says:

        After I found the _IGHT words and an S in the last odd grid square, I had the exact same reasoning, and thought it was SLEIGHT. But after considering the clue for 61A suggesting looking a clues, I knew there had to be more to do, and eventually got to the answer.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I also submitted sleight based on the first part of your logic.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      I was another “sleight”er and in my daze even read 54D as explaining the missing letter (the rest are found by starting again at square 1).

  9. Seth says:

    I didn’t even come close to getting this, but the “S” at the end of all those “IGHT” words seems pretty inelegant. Why not make the grid a little bigger and include “SIGHT” like the others?

    But more importantly, why “-IGHT” words? You could do this mechanism with absolutely any group of words — they don’t even need to have the same ending. I guess seeing the same ending shows you that you’re on the right track, but if all the odd-numbered boxes spelled words (ANY words), that would tell you you’re on the right track. Just spell any words you want, and write the clues any way you want to get the answer you want.

    • damefox says:

      This was my biggest gripe too. It feels like step 1 is to find the six -IGHT words (plus S) in the odd-numbered squares, but then step 2 is just to take the first letters of those words (plus S) and look at the clues. So you’re basically throwing out 4/5ths of the first step for what seems like no reason. Why does IGHT need to be there at all? And why bother not having those letters appear anywhere else in the grid? The jump from step 1 to step 2 felt random, and the careful construction of the grid (which must’ve been a huge pain, since the letters I, G, H, T don’t appear anywhere but the numbered squares) is wasted on a mechanism that ends up not even relying on it that much.

    • Michael A. says:

      I tend to agree with this. Once I found the list of _IGHT words I was sure the pattern had something to do with the meta. And there are enough promising leads to get stuck on that road. But with only the first letters factoring in to the puzzle mechanism (and especially with the random S), it doesn’t feel as TIGHT as other puzzles.

      Perhaps the response is that it helps to confirm the TIGHTEN answer. Except TIGHTEN doesn’t follow the pattern.

      The random S is why I thought DELIGHT was a reasonable answer. Since IGHT was missing from the last word in the list.

  10. AaronF says:

    I got hung up on ELSAlvador and INDOnesia being on top of each other and couldn’t get away from Don’t Even Try cueing COUNTRY without TRY, i.e. without the ends of country names. Didn’t get any further.

  11. MarkR says:

    I submitted NOTHING as my answer. For the EIGHT FIGHT LIGHT group, I tried matching each one to a word in the GRID. I thought OCTANE matched with EIGHT (octane has eight carbon atoms), HALO matched with LIGHT, INKY with NIGHT, GOP with RIGHT, and NOEND with SIGHT (“no end in sight”). That gave me OHIGN. With a bit of a stretch I matched NOL with FIGHT (military coup) and TUDE with MIGHT. That gave me OHIGNNT, which anagrams to NOTHING. That even seemed to match with the title, Don’t Even Try.

    I actually felt pretty good about the answer. But TIGHTEN is probably a bit more elegant.

  12. Tom Burnakis says:

    OK, so I got this one with a LOT of difficulty. The first step was amazing, i.e. I was truly amazed I found it. But from there it was a slog. I first came up with TONIGHT because I (1) felt it had to be an EIGHT word (2) the “indicator clue” said I had to spend some time looking at clues and I spent TONIGHT doing that and it was an “IGHT” in order (if I was going EF, LMN, R (with an S on the end). But I realized that could not be it because NIGHT had already been used.

    So I restarted and back solved for what had been an early idea of mine TIGHTER. Here I have to question why others feel the META “threw” away the mechanism because as I back solved and started getting TIGH, I KNEW I was on the right path, the word HAD to be in some “IGHT” format to fulfill the constraints.

    As it turns out I was wrong in my pursuit of TIGHTER (though I loved the logic, “If I do not even try to SPEND I am TIGHTER”), the pursuit did lead to the correct answer about 95% of the way through – well that and a brick to the side of my head.

    Put me down as loving this simply because I never have gotten a 5th week before and I’m going to open something nice and probably Italian to have with supper tonight in celebration.

  13. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    I spent awhile working with the long entries themselves, as it was notable that one could make DIALED BACK instead of FOULED BACK, as well as DEAD-ENDERS and ENDER’S GAME instead of DEAD NERVES and INDOOR GAME. But nothing made sense with PETER or FONDA, sadly.

    One of the wackier ideas I had while looking for the second step was taking the odd _IGHT words, “EIGHT LIGHT NIGHT S”, and then looking around for a 7-letter spelling of “Hanukkah”. But I used the nudge from 61-A soon enough.

  14. Garrett says:

    my comment about this puzzle is that the construction was just exemplary and magic. I feel that there should be two grading systems, one for the constructor who magically makes an incredible thing like that and one for the satisfaction of the people who solve the puzzle so as a solver I give this thing a two but is a cow Calit2 to the Incredibles suck at constructor of the puzzle I would give that a five star

  15. Silverskiesdean says:

    I was stuck for three days after getting the EFLMNRS (did that by heart) since I thought about it all weekend. I got that part pretty quick. I finally decided that thinking like a writer, it took a lot of work to fit those letters (31 of them) into the grid. There was probably nothing else he could do in the grid to manipulate it. So, that’s when I thought, maybe he did something with the clues, since with a full grid, and empty clue set, he can manipulate them anyway he wants, which is what put me onto the answer. I know I’m bragging a little, but I’m pretty proud of myself and when I got the answer on Monday, I had a great “click” moment.

  16. Domini says:

    I’ll make a case for “insight.” The bottom corner has two “end”s. There are 7 “end”s in the puzzle total, including the phrase “NO END.” The “s” was hanging alone without an end; therefore, there was “no end in sight.” AND the title clicks because people stop trying if there’s no end in sight and would tell someone new to the task “don’t even try.” That was enough to keep me from going forward. I still like my answer :) But obviously TIGHTEN is better as all the letters are contained in the puzzle. Shrug. You win some; you lose some.

    • Codiak says:

      Yep, I went with INSIGHT for all those reasons, too. My only source of doubt was that it was a little strange jumping from what I thought was a rock solid four word phrase “NO END IN SIGHT” to the seven letter word “INSIGHT”, but I figured if I was going to be wrong, it would be because there was a subsequent step I failed to spot, not that all those coincidences were actually just coincidences. Bummer.

  17. Dan says:

    I thought the -IGHT had to be part of the solution along with the lone S so I scoured the clues for a 7-letter synonym for “no end in sight” with no success.

  18. David Hanson says:

    Well I followed the instructions and didn’t send in an answer.

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