MGWCC #728

crossword 3:24
meta 0:30 


hello and welcome to episode #728 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Scale Down”. my apologies for forgetting to blog last week’s puzzle (and thanks to matt for filling in!). the three-hour shift in deadline somehow had the effect of throwing me totally off, as i spent tuesday morning thinking “i’ve got plenty of time to figure out and blog this week 5 puzzle” and then after lunch, i totally forgot to come back to it. oops. beautiful puzzle though, and i really wish i’d figured it out.

anyway, for this week 2 puzzle, we were told that the contest answer was something you might do while solving a meta. what were the theme answers? the only explicitly indicated themer was the final across answer: {Crossword great Henry…or one of eight you’ll need to catch the meta} HOOK. i believe this marks the third installment in the henry hook tribute series at mgwcc, and matt has frequently mentioned how henry (who passed away in 2015) was a role model of his. henry has been on my own mind of late, as i’ve recently taken over what used to be one of henry’s regular gigs making sunday crosswords for the boston globe.

anyway, how does the meta work? well, based on the connection of HOOK, the title, and the word “catch” in the clue, we’re talking about a fish HOOK. (“scale” as in fish scales, and “down” because they’re below the surface of the water. it’s a bit of a stretch on both ends, but i enjoyed the double-barreled pun.) the eight HOOKs in the grid are the eight instances of the hook-shaped letter J, and indeed we go “down” from each one of them to look at the letter right below the J. they’re all circled in the screenshot above, and the letters below them spell out FLOUNDER, which is both the name of a fish and (as a verb) something you might do while solving a meta. i hope you didn’t flounder too much with this week 2, though, as it’s a fairly gentle mechanism.

eight J’s is way more than the usual number (between 0 and 1) you’d expect to see in an average 15×15 grid, so even if you didn’t immediately make the HOOK = J connection, there was plenty in the grid to tip you off, especially with some of the not-usually-seen-immediately-following-J letters occurring in FLOUNDER. i’ve seen JFK in grids many times, but never JFK AIRPORT. J-LO is a frequent guest in the grid, but rembrandt van RIJN and J.D. POWER less so. and i’ve heard of {Six-time “St. Elsewhere” Emmy nominee} ED BEGLEY JR, but only from the simpsons.

other bits and bobs:

  • {Spox Psaki} JEN. not only have i never seen “spox” as a shortened form of “spokesperson” before, but this clue is quite recently out of date; psaki’s last day as white house press secretary was friday, the same day this puzzle came out. her successor is karine jean-pierre. i also thought it was a little odd not to cross-reference this clue to J-LO, since it partly dupes that, but it’s not a big deal.
  • {It covers the spread} JAM JAR. ehh… it does contain the spread, but that’s not the same thing as covering. the other piece of bread on your PBJ sandwich covers the spread.
  • {Jazz pianist Blake, and hypothetical others} EUBIES. yeah, if you have to resort to pluralizing a very unusual proper name in your grid, you might as well take this tongue-in-cheek cluing angle.
  • {“May you ___ in hell!”} ROT. now here’s a clue you probably wouldn’t see in a newspaper crossword, but henry hook would’ve enjoyed it.

that’s all for me.

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4 Responses to MGWCC #728

  1. Amy L says:

    I really enjoyed this puzzle. I noticed all the Js as I was solving, so it was easy to find the answer, which gave me a good laugh.

  2. ddlatham says:

    Definitely enjoyed this week’s contribution. I was briefly puzzled because I read the clue for 70A as saying that entry was one of eight you’ll need, but actually it’s just a name for them. 70A itself is not one of the eight. Like many weeks, I was so focused on on the fill that it didn’t even occur to me how odd it was there were so many J’s until I went looking for them.

    • Garrett says:

      That is why I do a letter distribution if after filling the grid nothing leaps out at me. These Js stand right out. I use three steps:

      1. List unused letters
      2. Count the vowels
      3. List the remaining used letters, and count them one at a time.

  3. Norm H says:

    Not hard, but so clean. The dual meaning of FLOUNDER is wonderful. And I’m always amused to see my initials in a grid — in this case, at 28-A.

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