MGWCC #666

crossword 4:18 
meta 5ish 


hello and welcome to episode #666 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Play Me or Trade Me”. this was a week 1 puzzle, so i attempted it without the instructions. what are the theme answers? there are six long across answers in the grid, each of them a wacky made-up phrase:

  • {Casual drawing by blues legend Diddley?} BO SCRIBBLE.
  • {Says “pfutter” instead of “putter” or “tree word” instead of “three wood”?} GARBLES CLUB.
  • {Salad green named for the Devil?} SATAN CRESS.
  • {Write a bunch of personal information on a spacecraft’s exterior?} FILL OUT UFO.
  • {Those who create horse sculptures?} PONY CARVERS.
  • {Truck driven by a 3,000-year-old Anglo-Egyptian?} MUMMY LORRY.

this was unexpectedly difficult for a week 1, in large part because it was far from clear how these silly phrases were generated. however, i did get it after thinking about the title for a little while. although that is a phrase associated with sports—in particular, an athlete who has been benched and then demands a trade—in this context, it suggests games, and i noticed that SCRIBBLE is one letter off from SCRABBLE. indeed, each of the six theme answers is the concatenation of two popular games with a one-letter change:

  • BO SCRIBBLE = GO + SCRABBLE, with the G and A changed
  • GARBLES CLUB = MARBLES + CLUE, with the M and E changed
  • SATAN CRESS = CATAN + CHESS, with the C and H changed. although i’m old enough that i grew up playing catan back when it was called settlers of catan, the original game in the catan franchise has been officially known as just catan since 2015.
  • FILL OUT UFO = FALLOUT + UNO with the A and N changed. FALLOUT is the first video game in this theme; the others had all been tabletop games.
  • PONY CARVERS = PONG + CAREERS with the G and E changed. PONG is another video game, of course.
  • MUMMY LORRY = RUMMY + SORRY with the R and S changed

taking the changed letters in order spells out, appropriately, GAME CHANGERS. i suspect the inability to put either of those words in the title of the puzzle is what gave this puzzle the feel of a mid-month difficulty for me. i presume they’re also not in the instructions either, but let’s check: This week’s contest answer is what those who figure out this meta are. yeah, okay, so that’s not very helpful either until after you’ve figured it out.

still, this was a very nice early-in-the-month meta. one solid aha and then a lot of mini-ahas, leading to a very appropriate and satisfying final answer. and i very much enjoyed the wide range of formats and eras represented among the 12 games used for the theme. maybe a tiny stylistic deduction for the fact that FILL OUT is two words and FALLOUT is only one. but that’s a very slight inconsistency.

the crossword itself i found quite difficult to solve, because so much real estate was taken up by these theme answers that i really didn’t know how to parse until they were almost all there. i certainly tried GOLF instead of CLUB at the end of the second themer, and that slowed me down, too. so did putting down ABEL instead of AMOS for {Biblical shepherd} A___. *shakes fist at matt*

my favorite clue in the puzzle was {NASCAR speedsters} for PIT CREW. that’s … nasty.

how’d you like this one?

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17 Responses to MGWCC #666

  1. Tony Zito says:

    Not even close. Far from a week one for me, despite being a game lover (including video games.)

  2. austin says:

    i’m glad matt didn’t let puzzle #666 go by without a reference to satan

  3. Mutman says:

    I was feeling dumb for a while, but SCRABBLE got me going. I’m not too familiar with CATAN or FALLOUT, so that made the theme less obvious.

    But one by one they fell, and I got it.

    Nice work Matt.

  4. Jim S says:

    I did this shortly after finishing the MMMM, and my mind couldn’t be stopped from trying to move letters from 1 word to another in the crazy theme phrases. SCRIBBLE to Scrabble was my first hint, confirmed by MUMMY LORRY. But I couldn’t find a surprising number of games without backsolving – Go, Marbles, Catan, and Careers didn’t come to mind until I knew which letters had to be swapped in.

  5. Adam Rosenfield says:

    SCRABBLE reminded me of the very beautiful MGWCC #156, which wow was apparently almost 10 years ago.

    • MountainManZach says:

      That’s disconcerting. I had quite forgotten until recently that we used to e-mail answers directly to Matt. If anyone else was, like me, attempting lame puns or quips with every entry, it’s a miracle he made it to 666 :-)

  6. MountainManZach says:

    Ugh, can’t believe I missed this one. Even independently thought about go, marbles, sorry, and scrabble, but only the last as the game. Seemed harder than a week 1, don’t they always when you don’t get them?

  7. Laura E-D says:

    Took me a while, but at some point I realized SCRIBBLE wouldn’t be there unless it was a reference to SCRABBLE, and then I was off to the races.

  8. Matthew G. says:

    I’ve been so busy in recent months, I have only even been attempting the early-month metas. And for me, this was the hardest Week 1 meta thatI can recall since I started solving MGWCC a decade ago.

  9. Mikie says:

    Also found this one tougher than a typical Week 1, both puzzle-wise and meta-wise. Had never heard of Fallout or Catan, but they were easy enough to figure out once the others fell into place.

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 571 right answers this week. Perfect for a Week 2, not so much for a Week 1.

  11. Scott Clay says:

    I solved this on an airplane. No internet at that time so I did not submit the answer and I forgot to do so later. So I missed credit for an easy week 1!

  12. john says:

    Yeah, I’m sure many of us long-timers (600+) greatly appreciate the little bit of chewing this Week 1 took. Great meta!

  13. Ah, it’s good to see the true correct answer in the solution grid, BIG BS RIFYVML.

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