MGWCC #730

crossword 4:37
meta DNF3 days 


hello and welcome to episode #730 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Just Putting It Out There”. for this week 4 puzzle, we are told that the contest answer was a famous athlete whose name is 12 letters long. okay. what are the theme answers? there are six long across answers:

  • {Sciencey type who’s running behind? (11)} LATE PHYSICIST.
  • {Composer who’s only inspired by scenic overlooks? (12)} VIEW SONGWRITER.
  • {Jokester who just sits around all day? (14)} IDLE COMEDIAN.
  • {Artist who likes to depict hellscapes? (11)} DEMON PAINTER.
  • {Politician whose office sink barely works? (12)} TRICKLE SENATOR.
  • {Novelist who moonlights as a crossword constructor? (15)} THEMING AUTHOR.

so what’s going on here? each themer is a two-word phrase where the second word is a profession. in addition, the clues have parenthetical numbers. based on the wording of the instructions, it seems likely that the number is the length of the name of a notable person in that profession, since we’re looking for a 12-letter athlete. but what does the first word have to do with it?

certainly, IDLE COMEDIAN suggests eric IDLE of monty python fame (and a few notable non-python projects). but there aren’t famous physicists named LATE or songwriters named VIEW or anything like that. THEMING AUTHOR called to mind ernest HEMINGway, who shares that six-letter substring with THEMING. on the other hand, there’s no senator named RICKLE- anything.

oh, but look—the T in THEMING is the last letter of ernest, so the full name ernesT HEMINGway (15 letters) contains THEMING. that must be relevant. and vermont senator paTRICK LEahy (12), the current president pro tem of the senate, contains TRICKLE. this must be what’s going on here:

  • LATE PHYSICIST (11) = nikoLA TEsla, i guess. i’m not sure i would call him a physicist—either engineer or inventor seems a more apt description of tesla’s work.
  • VIEW SONGWRITER (12) = steVIE Wonder.
  • IDLE COMEDIAN (14) = davID LEtterman. so eric IDLE was just a red herring.
  • DEMON PAINTER (11) = clauDE MONet. i thought of him originally, because his name is a near-anagram of DEMON. (i also thought of physicist james clerk maxwell, because he devised a famous thermodynamic thought experiment called maxwell’s demon. but that turned out not to be relevant.)
  • THEMING AUTHOR (15) = ernesT HEMINGway.

so this is definitely what’s going on. but what’s the next step? i would think we would extract a letter from each of these themers to make a new 6-letter word, which we would combine with the prompt in the instructions (12-letter athlete) to solve for the meta answer. this might require looking elsewhere in the grid for an answer that connects to each of our six famous people.

33-down TALES is an anagram of TESLA, and that’s interesting, but there are no 9-letter entries, so LETTERMAN and HEMINGWAY have no anagrams in the grid.

i also looked for entries that might use the “extra” letters in the person’s name (e.g. niko/sla for nikoLA TEsla, or ernes/way for ernesT HEMINGway) but didn’t find anything. another idea i had was to use the initials (NT, SW, DL, CM, PL, and EH) but nothing there, either.

what about the title? i don’t exactly see what it has to do with the part of the theme mechanic we know about so far—maybe it’s a very indirect allusion to the fact that the first theme word is just “out there” in plain view in the person’s full name. or maybe it suggests we should be doing something with the “out there” bits, i.e. the outer parts of the names that we haven’t used yet: NIKO/SLA, STE/ONDER, DAV/TTERMAN, CLAU/ET, PA/AHY, ERNES/WAY. again, though, i don’t know what to do with any of that.

or maybe “putting” is an inflection of putt, rather than put, so we’re looking for a 12-letter golfer. the only notable 12-letter golfer i could find with any six-letter string of interest reading across their first and last names was ARNOLD PALMER, who has an OLD PAL. although that’s an interesting find, it’s a little different because OLD PAL is two words rather than one (and the space is also in the same place as in ARNOLD PALMER—though it’s still pretty cool because neither OLD nor PAL bears any etymological relation to any part of ARNOLD PALMER). but it might be a worthwhile guess if i don’t find anything better in the next few hours.

let’s take another look at the grid. we have a 17×17 grid, which might just be because the theme answers themselves occupy 14, 14, 13, 13, 12, and 12 squares, which is probably too much to put into a 15×15. on the other hand, it does feel like there could be extra theme material hidden in the short fill.

oy vey, i have found it, and this was not obvious: there precisely six two-word clues:

  • {Not traditional} ODD.
  • {Shore wall} LEVEE.
  • {Drably lifeless} DULL.
  • {Celebratory meeting} PARTY.
  • {Panamanian “Later!”} ADIOS.
  • {Encumbrances, homewise} LIENS. this clue should probably have drawn my eye earlier, since “homewise” is a made-up word.

these clues have the same initials as the six people in the theme: NT, SW, DL, CM, PL, and EH. taken in theme order, the first letters of the answers to these clues spell out OLD PAL, so the answer is indeed our old pal ARNOLD PALMER.

well, i got there eventually, but it was a workout. how’d this one treat you?

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29 Responses to MGWCC #730

  1. pgw says:

    I got as far as having arnie as my hall Mary based on essentially the same reasoning as joon – never did get the confirming step. Then I forgot to submit until what my phone told me was the very last minute – I think it still said 12:59 pdt, but it might have clicked over to 1:00 before I actually clicked the button. Not sure if it’ll be counted, but I don’t really deserve it anyhow …

  2. Mike W says:

    Great puzzle. I offered a different answer – Ichiro Suzuki – certain MLB HOFer. I saw the mechanism for the six theme answers and concluded I needed to find an answer in the grid for which I could generate a famous athlete using the same method. After several hours of evaluating answers to no avail, I found 67-Down OSU.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I was inclined to rule out entries that were names or abbrevs rather than common words, since the theme answers all started with common words. But if I had eyeballed OSU longer, I might have also submitted Ichiro Suzuki! The “Putting” in the title pointed towards golfers, though.

  3. C. Y. Hollander says:

    It’s a bit of a shame that this complicated puzzle could be so easily short-circuited via the title hint, “Putting”, along with the letter count. IMHO it would therefore have been better to leave the letter count out of the prompt.

    • Mark says:

      I considered the same, but looking at the solver count confirms this as week 4 territory. I think this would be a week 5 without the prompt. That said, as soon as I saw the title I figured the answer was either Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer. I never did get step 2 but only Arnold Palmer worked with step 1.

    • Jim S says:

      I was clueless – stuck on EVAN Birnholz and the crossword constructor theme clue. But I keyed on “putting” in the title and there are a bunch of options. Arnie and Jack may be the most obvious, but Babe Zaharias, Eldrick Woods, Justin Thomas, and Jordan Spieth are just a few others. Tiger, Justin, and Jordan are big names recently, but Babe is generally in the conversation of greatest female athlete ever. Plenty of worthy golfers to choose from so it was far from a gimme (pun intended).

    • anna g says:

      this is exactly how I solved it – there was no way I was gonna find the two word clues (was there anything in the puzzle that pointed to them as a solving avenue?) so I just googled “famous golfers” after seeing “putting” and got the right answer

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Agree, I should have either left out the “12-letter” stipulation or changed the title

  4. Dave says:

    Definitely didn’t see the six two-word clues and I don’t know why those would have stood out to people. Thought about Arnold Palmer but didn’t submit it for the same reasons as Joon (and because I don’t see the point of a Hail Mary when there’s no longer an MGWCC pen and notepad on the line 😀). I also found Payne Stewart, which contains NEST.

  5. Tyler Hinman says:

    Didn’t see the two-word clues and was never going to, since Step 2 has essentially nothing to do with how Step 1 worked. I’m bad enough at these things without the mechanism changing midstream for no compelling reason.

    Fortunately, though, I worked with my old pal Rob and our prayer was answered, so that’s another cheevo off my list.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Well my thought was: what do you extract by noticing that e.g. DEMON PAINTER leads to clauDE MONet et al.? Has to be either a) the full name (i.e. CLAUDE MONET), the leftover letters (i.e. CLAU ET) or the initials (e.g. C.M.). I thought the initals would seem the most likely, and then only used six two-word clues to make them stand out (plus I didn’t go out of my way to aim for good syntax on those six, again to make them stand out). Week 4, I think quite fair there.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        I wouldn’t say it “has” to be one of the three you mentioned. I considered outer letters (C, T) and inner letters (U, E) (both prompted by the title’s “out there”) before resorting to initials. I hadn’t originally thought initials to be likely, because they felt duplicative with the theme entries, the second initial of each name being included in the corresponding theme entry.

  6. MMe says:

    The second-step method for getting from pairs of words to single letters seems to be where most got stuck, or stuck the longest, which is a little odd because it’s a very business-as-usual meta method. Maybe we were focused on how to get *twelve* letters? (Or as Tyler said, maybe looking for a second step that drew more on distinctive aspects of the clever first step?)

  7. mrbreen says:

    Count me among those that considered Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Payne Stewart as potential answers. And I enjoyed the extra difficulty in tracking down the 2nd step. That was perhaps a more satisfying click than sussing out the original Aha. Well done!

  8. Maestrolarry says:

    Since the instructions called for a “famous athlete,” I was sure there must be some well-known Kenyan marathoner named Injafa Moussa, or some such name, since that fit the pattern so elegantly.

  9. Ale M says:

    I’m wondering if Patrick Leahy could be considered a valid answer since (check Wikipedia) that name also comes up as a famous athlete.

    Also, did anyone else get stuck trying to find an athlete for 45D (“NOTED”) since it related to the instructions?

    Great puzzle though!

  10. C. Y. Hollander says:

    DEMON PAINTER (11) = clauDE MONet. i thought of him originally, because his name is a near-anagram of DEMON.

    I thought of Piet Mondrian originally, because his name is a near-anagram of DEMON PAINTER.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    I still want EGRETATHLETE to clue WaynE GRETsky. Was I the only one?

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