MGWCC #766

crossword 3:26
meta 5 min 


hello and welcome to episode #766 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Happy Birthday to Her”. i attempted to solve this week 1 puzzle without the instructions, and while i suppose it might have been possible, i was not able to do it, so i eventually peeked. on the other hand, after reading the instructions, it turns out to have been easy enough to solve the meta without doing the crossword at all! anyway, what are the theme answers? the four long acrosses are all made-up silly phrases:

  • {Las Vegas novelist who keeps the plot moving?} READABLE NEVADAN.
  • {Statistics regarding swarm sizes, chirping volume, etc.?} CICADA METADATA. to me, that’s just CICADA DATA. CICADA METADATA would be data about cicada data.
  • {Response to the question: “What tempo are you writing your concertos in lately”?} ADAGIO NOWADAYS. this one was my favorite of the themers.
  • {Your flight to Mecca got delayed or you’ve forgotten all your Arabic over the years, e.g.?} RAMADAN HEADACHE. while there’s nothing saying you can’t go to mecca during ramadan, i think matt might be conflating ramadan observance with the hajj; but those are two different pillars of islam, and they occur at different times of the year. the hajj occurs during the last month of the islamic calendar (dhu al-hijja, which is named for the hajj itself); ramadan is the ninth month, and is observed by fasting during daylight hours, in addition to giving to charity. i wonder if matt didn’t use fasting in the clue because {Doesn’t eat for a reason} FASTS is in the grid.

in addition, two of the longest downs are “bonus theme content”:

  • {Number at Raptors games (and bonus theme content!)} O CANADA.
  • {Michael for whom a unit of electrical capacitance is named (and bonus theme content!)} FARADAY.

all of the long acrosses have two instances of the trigram ADA; the two bonus down themers each have one ADA. so what’s the meta answer? well, my guess was that it was just ADA itself, the name of matt’s daughter, who just turned two. how do i know she just turned two? well, i’ve been blogging these puzzles for more than two years, and i remember mgwcc #662 from february 2021.

so, was ADA the answer? nope. the instructions were actually this: This puzzle’s contest answer is how many years old my daughter turns today, as illustrated in *each* of the four theme entries (i.e. don’t add them up!). oh. so the answer is two, and the offbeat part of it is that no part of the crossword was necessary to get the meta, as you could easily look the answer up on the mgwcc blog if you didn’t remember it (or weren’t around for it). indeed, five solvers submitted their correct answers on the leaderboard at 12:01 pm friday, which feels like it must be a record. (and none of them were erik, so my hunch is they all submitted before solving the crossword.)

happy birthday indeed to young ada! but i will say that even for a week 1, this meta was less than satisfying to solve. i would have been okay with it if the answer were just ADA (but matt already did that two years ago, of course, so i can understand not wanting to repeat that answer). the mechanism pointing to the actual answer of two was pretty underwhelming—and also made the presence of a single ADA in each of “bonus theme entries” an inelegance in my eyes, rather than a bonus.

bits & pieces:

  • {Meeting plans} AGENDAS. i always want to pronounce this word like an ice cream brand.

that’s all i’ve got this week. let’s hear from you—how many of you bothered to solve the crossword before sending in the answer?

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10 Responses to MGWCC #766

  1. Garrett says:

    I solved the grid because I enjoy crosswords, yet I also remembered the previous Ada meta, so I knew the meta answer was two (or three at most). But the pairs jibed with my memory of two.

  2. C. Y. Hollander says:

    What’s with the prize winners for 2022? Have I missed some announcement about that?

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 600 right answers this week.

  4. Margaret says:

    I remembered when Ada was born so I was sure the answer was two, but I found the instructions a little misleading when Matt said don’t add them up. I added the Adas in each row to get two total, so I ended up checking that the answer wasn’t one and that the theme wasn’t just single instances of Ada in multiple places. Whew, that’s a convoluted way of trying to explain how I was confused.

  5. Amanda says:

    Oh my gosh. Dad always said, “Read the directions!” Sorry, Dad.

  6. Dredshlaks says:

    Appreciate the “don’t add them up” clarification after the whole 5K/20K debacle.

  7. John says:

    I thought it was a great Week 1 meta, cute and a fun tip of the cap to Matt’s second.

  8. Mikey G says:

    This was one where I definitely solved the crossword, and without getting too maudlin, I did get a little emotional during this one. I was thinking of the fact that I’ve been meta-solving since Ada was born (mid-’20 – I’m sure many of you go way further back!), remember the puzzle with ADA as the answer, and am honored that we get to share in the joy of Matt’s family through creations like this.

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