MGWCC #697

crossword 4:05 
meta 0:30 


hello and welcome to episode #697 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Further Diminishment”. for this week 2 puzzle of TENTH MONTH, the instructions ask us: Which entry in this grid is the hidden sixth theme entry? well, let’s start with the five non-hidden theme entries, the long across answers:

  • {“Don’t try to talk me out of it”} “THAT’S MY DECISION”.
  • {County library or city police department, e.g.} PUBLIC ENTITY.
  • {Midwestern town named for the country of origin of many of its founders} BELGIUM, ILLINOIS. never heard of it, but i am familiar with both belgium and illinois.
  • {Cover on Graduation Day} ACADEMIC ROBE.
  • {One whose absence is required} PERSONA NON GRATA.

so the first thing i noticed was MICROBE in ACADEMIC ROBE and LICE in PUBLIC ENTITY. aha! it’s about hidden parasites!

it is not about hidden parasites.

however, noticing MICROBE got me to notice MICRO, and combined with the title, i had it figured out: the theme answers contain, in order, the first five metric prefixes for the negative powers of ten (i.e. the ones less than 1), in order: DECI (10^-1 = one tenth), CENTI (10^-2 = one one-hundredth), MILLI (10^-3 = one one-thousandth), MICRO (10^-6 = one one-millionth), and NANO (10^-9 = one one-billionth). the sixth would have to contain PICO, the prefix for 10^-12 (= one one-trillionth), and there it is in POP ICON. so that’s the answer.

i very much enjoyed this meta, as it tickled the part of my brain devoted to scientific nomenclature and terminology. i think the small prefixes are a little less well known than the large ones, and this certainly extends to the answer, as tera- is relatively common because people are familiar with terabytes as a unit of data storage but pico- gets rather less play.

other bits i enjoyed from this puzzle:

  • {“The Red-Headed ___” (second-best of the 56 Sherlock Holmes stories, per Conan Doyle himself)} LEAGUE. i remember and remember liking this story! apparently conan doyle preferred “the adventure of the speckled band”, which … i do not remember.
  • {Putting Arnold on a course} PALMER. needless but cute misdirect here with “putting”.
  • {Jaguar that Enzo Ferrari is said to have called “The most beautiful car ever made”} ETYPE. i approve of an interesting clue used to liven up a dull entry.
  • {Annual crossword award} MERL and {Another annual crossword award} ORCA. the former is awarded at the acpt in honor of the late great merl reagle; the latter is (was?) a feature right here at diary of a crossword fiend. sam donaldson has undertaken the responsibility of awarding and writing up the orcas as a labor of love for a decade; i am curious to see if anybody else will take up the mantle now that sam has announced that he’ll be stepping back. *touches nose*

also of relevance: matt clarified on the blog post for this puzzle that there won’t be an overarching meta-meta for TENTH MONTH, just that all of the themes will be related to or inspired by the number 10 (including this one, of course, based on powers of ten). that’s good to know, because i was totally lost trying to figure out the connection between MOZAMBIQUE and POP ICON (and in fact, was a little surprised because i was expecting this week’s answer to also have ten letters). so we can relax on the meta-meta idea and just look forward to three more cool puzzles.

that’s all i’ve got this week. what’d you all think?

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13 Responses to MGWCC #697

  1. Mutman says:

    I enjoyed the appropriate week 2, but Joon, though your write-up is current, it looks like you posted the grid from week 1.

  2. sharkicicles says:

    I did the exact same thing with MICROBE and LICE at first.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      And don’t forget the RAT in 62A . . . it’s enough to make a person submit 15D – PEST as the answer, see the correct answer too late, and spend the rest of Friday afternoon feeling like a moron . . .

  3. Jim S says:

    I originally had PERSONANONYMOUS for the final theme answer and thought maybe we’d be reversing words in the theme answers to satisfy the clues. That got me locked onto ANON as well as MICROBE temporarily, but nothing panned out for the other theme answers and the metric prefixes jumped out pretty quickly. Nice meta!

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 612 right answers this week. Those who submitted on Sunday did so on National Metric Day (10/10).

  5. Seth says:

    Ok everyone, challenge: once all the October puzzles are out, try to figure out a meta meta between the answers, even though there isn’t one. You’ve heard of backsolving…now we get to do backconstructing!

  6. Daniel Barkalow says:

    It’d have been funny if the instructions were: “What to submit: the entry in the grid entry that is the hidden sixth theme entry.” No idea how you could use FEMTO, though.

    • Wayne says:

      I sent a FEMTO clue to Matt in the Comments box. I’m going to be sad if he doesn’t mention it in the write-up, because I was pretttttttty pleased with myself.

  7. Garrett says:

    I noticed MICRO first, then NANO, and going back up saw MILLI, then right then wet looking for PICO and found it right away (where I thought it was). You see, while solving the grid I had guessed that 15A was going to be POPIDOL, but as I was filling things in, I realized it was POPICON and that stuck in my mind.

    I did not get to this until Sunday because I was busy Friday and working on the WSJ and Saturday Stumper, Saturday.

    I thought the WSJ grid was way easier to fill, while the meta was harder, whereas the MGWCC grid was difficult to fill, and I had the meta in a flash.

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