MGWCC #736

crossword 4:06
meta 1:30 


hello and welcome to episode #736 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Back to the Start”. for week 2 of guest constructor month at mgwcc, we have the duo of will pfadenhauer and malaika handa, who have both guested at mgwcc separately. as a dynamic duo, this week they challenged us to find things that often end up where they started. what are the theme answers? there are no long answers in the grid, but there are a few 9-letter downs and a bunch of 7-letter acrosses. the acrosses turned out to be the theme answers:

  • {Falsely vouched on one’s behalf} LIED FOR.
  • {Boxer with a grill} is george FOREMAN. at first i thought this was referring to gold teeth, and thought, “there must be a lot of boxers gold teeth!” but in this case, it’s a grill for cooking things.
  • {Hooded cloaks} MANTLES.
  • {Landlocked nation that is only bordered by one country} LESOTHO. one of three possible answers to this clue, the others being vatican city and san marino.
  • {Addressing, as many a Shakespeare character} THOUING, a word very rarely seen without its partner THEEING.
  • {Firmly establish} INGRAIN.
  • {Ben who’s the most decorated sailor in Olympic history} AINSLIE. i didn’t know this name.

it took me a few glances to notice that LIED FOR and FOREMAN are right next to each other in the grid, as are INGRAIN and AINSLIE. from there, though, it was pretty quick to the next aha, which is that each of these seven-letter answers shares its initial trigram with the preceding themer and its final trigram with the following themer, in a chain that loops (as promised) back to the start: LIE (D) FOR (E) MAN (T) LES (O) THO (U) ING (R) AIN (S) LIE. taking the parenthetical middle letters in order gives DETOURS, which do in fact often end up back where they started.

this is a simple theme, but i can’t remember seeing anything quite like it before. i thought it was very elegantly executed, as each trigram changes quite a bit in meaning (and often pronunciation) in its two uses. on the other hand, i also found this considerably easier to see than the week 1 meta last week. i’ll be curious to see if the overall numbers are higher.

the grid took me a while to fill, as the cluing included a lot of things i don’t know, starting from 1-down: {Like one’s T-Zone, often} OILY. knowing the answer, i’m now a little bit afraid to look up what that means. i enjoyed the clues {Partner in crime?} for THELMA and {Drug that John Lennon insisted did not inspire “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”} for LSD. sure, john. we believe you.

this clue had nothing to do with the meta, despite being meta: {File type sent by MGWCC} PDF.

that’s all i’ve got this week. thanks for the puzzle, will and malaika!

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9 Responses to MGWCC #736

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 431 right answers this week, so right on target for a Week 2 of 5 (last week got 514 right answers.

    Nicely done, Handa + Pfadenhauer.

  2. Wayne says:

    The prompt and the answer seemed a little off to me. Detours in both senses (alternate routes or spontaneous changes of plan) almost never “end up where they started”. They end up somewhere down the road. Still, I loved the mechanism and its overall execution.

  3. Joe Eckman says:

    I got it, but the clues about moving the starting letter to the end to form a new word blinded me to the proper mechanism for far too long. Fun fact: there are 8 entries in the puzzle that I found that can form typical crossword words by doing this (i.e. SLAYER——>LAYERS) and the nomadic letters anagram to SAD SIGNS. My cousin had to steer me away from trying hard to make this dead end work, and focus on the OTHER pattern that I noticed. Once I put the dead end to rest, it fell like a typical week 2.

    • stmv says:

      That was totally my experience (except maybe for your cousin) also.

    • Garrett says:

      I have a friend who got hung-up on this also.

      In my case, as I had a difficult time filling the NW corner, LIEDFOR stuck in my mind. When I got to the {Ben who’s the most decorated sailor in Olympic history} I had to google that. Seeing AINSLIE, I thought, “That’d take you right back to the NW corner!”

      I looked to the left at INGRAIN and thought I knew exactly what was going on.

      I had to defer working on it as I was going out with friends, and did not pick it up again until about 1:15 the next day. I took the time to write them down as I found them, from the bottom up, and when I was done, the answer was right there in the middle of them.

      I liked it.

    • Jon+Forsythe says:

      I got hung up on this as well. I had to get a hint to eventually look at not just the beginning and ending letter (singular) of entries but to look at strings of similar trigrams. For me, this one was harder than last week’s week 1.

  4. anna g says:

    the T-zone is just the forehead, nose, and chin, forming a T shape

  5. Dean Silverberg says:

    Detours never end up where they start. They are an alternate mechanism of going from point A to point B. I got a bit confused because I wanted to answer “Tours” because tours always or at least most of the time end up where they start. You get on a tour bus, you take the tour of the city or whatever, and you end up back where you started at the end of the tour. The mechanism of finding the letters was great and really novel and I’m looking forward to more from Handa + Pfadenhauer. Thank you

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