MGWCC #724

crossword 3:27
meta 2:00 


hello and welcome to episode #724 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “So Many Letters”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that the contest answer is a well-known publication. what are the theme answers? well, there’s only one long answer in the grid, {Technology used by internists} MAGNETIC IMAGING across the center. that looks a little weird without either “nuclear” in front or “resonance” in the middle, but i’ll allow it.

so what is the theme? well, the two instances of MAG in MAGNETIC IMAGING, along with the instructions, suggest that we are looking for a magazine. the title further suggests that there are a lot of them, and indeed, the grid is absolutely chock-full of MAGs. how many? seventeen of them, to be precise, all reading either across or down. (i checked fairly carefully and i’m pretty sure there aren’t any on the diagonals, though it’s certainly possible i missed one; there is one stray GAM, i.e. a reversed MAG, in 23-across GAMBA.) since seventeen is itself a magazine, that’s the meta answer.

it’s striking to compare this meta to last week’s, as both involve stuffing the grid with many instances of the same trigram (in fact, very similar trigrams, with ARM last week and MAG this week sharing two out of three letters). like last week’s grid, this grid suffers somewhat in terms of fill quality, with somewhat weird entries like AGANA, the former name of guam’s capital (now called hagåtña), the variant spellings DEMAGOG and MAGICK, and the somewhat arbitrary {Megalomaniacal statement} I’M A GOD. so this was another situation where the crossword part of the contest suffered a little bit from the constraints of the meta.

i did enjoy the northeast corner, free of MAGs and thus able to support interesting entries such as the {Genus for onions and garlic} ALLIUM. as genus names go, that’s one that i’ve heard and used in actual conversation (about cooking), so it gets a big thumbs-up from me. {What many Americans will do today} PAY TAXES was also quite apt for a puzzle sent out on april 15—indeed, so much so that i assumed it would be thematic. (form 1040 is a well-known publication!)

as far as the actual meta goes, this felt easier than last week’s in that the trigrams we were looking for were always ordered and in a line, but i suppose it’s easier to miss entirely what you’re looking for, as last week’s had ARM itself in the grid, clued suggestively with respect to the theme, and this puzzle didn’t. it’s also a little funny that the mechanism leads to the answer simply by counting the number of instances of MAG, which is both less complicated but somehow less obvious than extracting letters from the crook of an ARM.

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

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24 Responses to MGWCC #724

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 474 right answers this week.

  2. Jim S says:

    Got hung up briefly on MAMA and AMA appearances due to the top middle grid “hints”. Didn’t last too long, but long enough to exercise multiple highlighters last week.

  3. TimF says:

    Thought all those Gs in the grid had to mean something, thanks in part to GIGI… maybe if there were 17 of them, “GQ” would have been the answer (Q being the 17th letter of the alphabet). Somehow never noticed the MAGs from that rabbit hole!

  4. Mark says:

    Hear me out: “Publication 17” is another name for the (well known) document outlining the US tax code and this puzzle was released on April 15th…which is tax day in the US. Which I thought was brilliant until it was wrong. Considering 100MM households file taxes, I thought it was a timely puzzle!

    Any chance for an alternate answer here? :-)

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      But why MAG, then?

      • Mark says:

        Wordplay / Double meanings? I dunno, I mean I saw 17 mags and thought Seventeen but then made the tie into April 15th. Overthinking for sure but defensible in my opinion.

        • C. Y. Hollander says:

          Well, that you considered the intended solution [on the intended basis] before going with your somewhat-esoteric alternative surely constitutes a compelling defense of the latter, overthought as it may have been.

    • BarbaraK says:

      That’s a great answer. And for those who were never teenage girls, probably much better known.

    • Thomas says:

      I think “Publication 17” is brilliant. For CPAs.

  5. Margaret says:

    I saw all the MAGs and also all the GOs and also all the locations, so I was positive it was National Geographic Magazine. It had the nations for National. Everyone calls it NatGeo and how do you pronounce GO? Gee-Oh. Plus I take donations for our local library used book sale and what do people most want to donate? Old NatGeo mags (“so many issues!”) Really strong click for me. Oh well.

    • Susie says:

      My mind also went there first. I thought about the stacks and stacks of National Geographic in my grandmother’s basement. Really, so many issues!

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I feel that people often overestimate the significance of the repetitions of short letter strings in these meta-puzzles. In a puzzle with 19 G’s yielding (if I count correctly) 31 digrams beginning with G, that eight of these should happen to be GO is fairly unremarkable. Consider that there were very nearly as many GA’s and GI’s in the puzzle (seven each) and you made nothing at all of the latter.

  6. Matt B says:

    My puzzle is titled “So Many Issues”, not Letters. The clue for the central down entry is “Stomach issue” and somehow had nothing to do with the meta. I don’t understand how I was supposed to know to ignore that. Is it normal for there to be blatantly fake hints?

    • Mark says:

      Magazines have issues too. Monthly issues, weekly issues, etc.

      • Matt B says:

        Yeah mark I understand that a word can have different meanings. What I’m asking is, when a key word from the title of a puzzle is used in a clue (and a central one at that, crossing the only recognizable theme answer in the puzzle), isn’t that generally a sign to pay attention to that clue/entry? I get that different puzzles will have different paths to the answer but I don’t understand how I was supposed to know to ignore what would have otherwise clearly been a clue; can anybody besides mark explain it to me so I don’t fall for it next time

        • Flinty Steve says:

          Well . . . not comforting, but you can always read this on Matt’s site:
          “Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.”

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            I rather suspect that the ‘issue’ of “Stomach issue” was not “intended to deceive”, as Matt G. has said more than once that he does not intentionally salt his puzzles with red herrings, and the clue itself is not particularly strained or contrived. I believe it was just an unfortunate coincidence that the clue using a word from the title happened also to correspond to a central entry in the grid, and that had Matt G. noticed this, he would have rephrased it.

            @Matt B., I can’t give you a way you should have known to ignore a coincidence like that a priori. I agree with you that it appears very likely to be significant and is worth following up on. However, I do believe that I can nonetheless offer a reasonable answer to the question of “how [you were] supposed to know to ignore what would have otherwise clearly been a clue”: because it was leading nowhere.

            If it’s a clue, there should be a follow-up clue to find or step to take; if it’s a coincidence, naturally, there should not be. Thus, the longer you go without finding the next step, the more you ought to revise your assessment in favour of “coincidence”, rather than “clue”. That doesn’t mean that you should entirely abandon the possibility that it’s a clue, but only that you should keep an open mind to the alternative possibility of a theme mechanism that doesn’t involve it.

            (Of course, if your initial assessment was that a coincidence like this was 100.0000000% likely to be a clue, then virtually no amount of subsequent evidence to the contrary would be able to shake it, but clearly that would have been an overestimate.)

  7. Susie says:

    I’m glad I waited until Sunday (for the Easter solve badge), because I only saw 16 MAGs on Saturday, so thought it was the teen music magazine “16”. I noticed the 17th on Sunday and then worried all day about what else I missed before finally submitting.

  8. Mac says:

    I got sidetracked by the clue on 54D. As far as I can tell, Magog is not “one of a pair of Biblical cities.” And of course there is a very famous 5-letter answer for that clue – – Sodom. Matt has used this approach before – where he purposely gives inaccurate answers to clues. Anyway, I never emerged from that particular thread.

    • pannonica says:

      From Wikipedia’s (somewhat confusing, to me) page:

      “Christianity’s interpretation is more starkly apocalyptic: making Gog and Magog, here indicating nations rather than individuals, allies of Satan against God at the end of the millennium, as described in the Book of Revelation.”

  9. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    Did anyone else feel that the fill may have been better (and the size more thematic, at the risk of being too obvious) if this had been a 17×17?

  10. merlinnimue says:

    i guess i put all my puzzling skills [citation needed] into finding the afikomen so this meta was a combo breaker for me… ah well gg to you actual smarties

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