MGWCC #654

crossword 3:22 
meta 0:30 


hello and welcome to episode #654 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “It Was Forty Years Ago This Week”. for this week 2 puzzle, the instructions ask for a song sung by John Lennon. the title of the puzzle, of course, refers to the 40th anniversary of lennon’s 1980 assassination, which was just observed last week. what are the theme answers? the three grid-spanning answers are all three-word phrases with initials LSD:

  • {American Heart Association recommendations} LOW-SODIUM DIETS.
  • {Fail to follow through on a promise, e.g.} LET SOMEONE DOWN.
  • {Soldier Field and the Shedd Aquarium are on it} LAKE SHORE DRIVE in chicago.

by itself, that would be enough to solve the puzzle, but there’s an extra hint (or several) near the bottom of the grid: 61-across is {___ row (area of this grid that illustrates the song title)} TOP. what’s in the top row?

  • {He and Barbra hit #1 with “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”} NEIL. that would be NEIL diamond.
  • {“Chicago” and “Shanghai Noon” actress} LIU. that’s lucy LIU.
  • {First name of the author of “Guns, Germs and Steel”} JARED. that’s JARED diamond.

so we have lucy in the top row between two diamonds. the answer to the meta is, of course, lucy in the sky with diamonds, a title whose nouns have initials LSD and is widely believed to have been written about (and perhaps during) an LSD trip, though lennon always denied it, saying the song was inspired by a picture his then-preschool-aged son julian had drawn and called “lucy in the sky with diamonds”.

this certainly felt like an easy enough meta for a week 1. i suppose it’s an anniversary puzzle, so it more or less demands to be slotted into the calendar whenever the anniversary arises. even for those solvers less familiar with the beatles catalog, this seems pretty easily googleable. i liked the diamond/lucy/diamond hint at the TOP of the grid (the closest a crossword grid has to a “sky”), as it elevates the standout correct answer to the only possible correct answer (as there are plenty of other beatles songs associated with LSD, admittedly somewhat more weakly), in addition to being an elegant constructing touch in its own right.

other bits & pieces:

  • {Words before saying your phone number or e-mail address} I’M AT. okay, i guess. i think i would have preferred {Words before “the Pizza Hut” or “the Taco Bell”}. this was one of a rather larger than usual number of partial phrases in the grid (O COME, I SAW, A BLUE, ODE TO, I SAID). it was a little distracting, if i’m being honest.
  • {“Understand?”} SEE. a mild further distraction is that this dupes I SAW.
  • {Alternative to Pringles or Cheez Doodles} FUNYUNS. now this is a fun entry i don’t ever think i’ve seen in a crossword.

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

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13 Responses to MGWCC #654

  1. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Definitely Week 1 difficulty level: the number of solvers was only five shy of last week’s 725, which Matt said was an all-time record!

    Part of what made it so easy was the explicit directive to examine the top row. There was room to adjust the difficulty level by adjusting the explicitness of that hint, but probably would be hard to calibrate.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 725 right answers this week, same as last week.

  3. Jim S says:

    Heh, I saw the clue for TOP and didn’t even bother to look at the long theme answers containing LSD… Made it a little more subtle than a typical week 1 but still was easier for me than a typical week 2. I loved their placement in the “sky” – nice touch!

  4. Garrett says:

    I liked the 61A clue a lot.

  5. sharkicicles says:

    I’m at the Pizza Hut.


    I’m at the Taco Bell.


    I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

  6. Mike says:

    Thanks! Now I’ve got THE COMBINATION PIZZA HUT & TACO BELL! going through my head the rest of the day….

  7. jefe says:

    I see e.a. submitted correctly at 12:01…
    The email came in at 12:01…

    Did he solve the meta from the first 3 clues only??

    *mind blown*

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      disappointing he needed the full minute, to be honest. perhaps he’ll bounce back next week

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        Like jefe, I received the e-mail at 12:01. Assuming the same was true for e.a., you needn’t be disappointed!

  8. EP says:

    There was one other rather elegant touch in this construction: ‘lucy in the sky’ first appeared on the Sgt Pepper album, and the first line of the title song starts ‘it was 20 years ago today’. I was in college when that album dropped (yes, I’m ancient), and that line was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this meta.

  9. Emily Woodard says:

    I got JARED by filling in the down answers and did not realize until just now that it was for Jared Diamond. When I looked at the top row answers for the theme my mind went to the jewelry store Jared which would be full of diamonds. He went to Jared!

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