MGWCC #645

crossword 3:03 
meta 2ish 


hello and welcome to episode #645 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Historical Figures”. for this week 2 puzzle, guest constructed by mollie cowger, the instructions tell us that we are looking for an eight-letter name. what are the theme answers? the four longest across answers all had *ed clues:

  • {*TV show with the catchphrase “Book ’em, Danno”} HAWAII FIVE-O.
  • {*It might hang over your head} LIGHT FIXTURE.
  • {*Stonewall era LGBT rights activist who co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries} SYLVIA RIVERA. this is a name i didn’t know, but was happy to learn about.
  • {*Pulitzer-winning “Brokeback Mountain” author} ANNIE PROULX.

what’s going on here? well, my first thought was the correct one, that all of these seemed to contain a bunch of roman numeral letters. in fact, looking closer, each of these theme answers is two words (treating the hyphenated FIVE-O as a single word), and each word contains a consecutive roman numeral:

  • HAWAII FIVE-O contains II (2) and IV (4)
  • LIGHT FIXTURE contains LI (51) and IX (9)
  • SYLVIA RIVERA contains LVI (56) and IV (4)
  • ANNIE PROULX contains I (1) and LX (60)

the next step is to locate the squares in the grid corresponding to those numbers. read off in the same order above, we can spell out the name of the roman emperor TIBERIUS. that’s an apt answer for a roman numeral meta, and the title is also *chef’s kiss*, as it can refer to tiberius himself and also to the idea of a roman numeral (“figure”) itself.

this meta was great, almost the platonic ideal of a week 2 meta. once you had the aha, you didn’t arrive at the answer right away, but the only remaining steps were clearly indicated. SYLVIA RIVERA, containing LVI and IV, is an especially nice find; i wonder if noticing that was the seed of the meta. i would have found the puzzle about 10% more elegant if a different numeral had been used for the repeated I instead of repeating the IV, but that’s a minor detail.

apparently this is mollie cowger’s debut puzzle, but you wouldn’t know it, because this is a nice grid. at only 74 words, it’s fairly open, even with four long theme answers and seven more letters required to be in certain places in the grid. the clue {Negative space?} for DARKROOM was quite brilliant. i hope we’ll see more from mollie in the future!

that’s all for me. how’d you like this one?

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9 Responses to MGWCC #645

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 544 correct answers this week, which is about perfect for a Week 2/5.

    Pretty great debut, agreed. Not sure I’ve even heard of anyone’s debut crossword being a meta before. Thanks Mollie!

  2. david glasser says:

    This took me an extra three days due to not seeing the Ls in LIGHT and SYLVIA…

    The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is a great organization that folks should know about!

    • Jim S says:

      Ditto, but the L in PROULX also escaped notice for me and when I finally spotted an L, I only spotted THAT one. I reviewed the words, didn’t see anymore Ls, still had a pile of random letters, looked again, “Oh, another L”, reviewed the words, getting closer but not there yet, “Oh, look, a third L!” Great meta.

  3. Mutman says:

    Feeling week 2 dumb today. Nothing guided me to the Roman Numerals .

    I took a stab with history’s latest villain, COLUMBUS, since it was Columbus Day weekend and he is an historical figure.

    • e.a. says:

      in what sense is columbus history’s latest villain?

      (also, this was an incredibly good puzzle and i look forward to more from the constructor)

      • Mutman says:

        With statues being removed for various reasons across the country, Columbus’ history was being recounted (he has a prominent statue in Philadelphia). Aside from his conquests, he is known for beating, raping, torturing, killing Indigenous peoples. Not good.

  4. David G says:

    Terrific puzzle and an even better Meta solution. The LX in PROULX really signaled to me that I should be looking for Roman Numerals. Identifying the Numerals in SYLVIA RIVERA ended up being much trickier than I’d like to admit (only saw the LV and IV) and I completely skipped over the I in ANNIE PROULX. This gave me TIBEFIS(?) but I was almost certain the Meta answer was gonna be TIBERIUS from the first 4 letters. So a closer examination of the theme entries finally helped me figure this one out. Hell of a debut, Mollie!

  5. Alex B. says:

    Great puzzle Mollie! Looking forward to your next one.

  6. Mollie Cowger says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Joon! I’m a semi-regular Crossword Fiend lurker – figured I should pop out of the shadows today to say hello. I’m so glad folks enjoyed the puzzle.

    I agree about the slight inelegance of the repeated IV – I toyed with a few options that avoided it, but all yielded theme sets that I was less satisfied with, so I took the hit.

    Noticing the LVI & IV in SYLVIA RIVERA was indeed one of the very early steps (possibly the first, but I don’t remember for sure) in coming up with this theme set, and I’m very happy I was able to feature her name.

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