MGWCC #792

crossword 3:18
meta 0:30* 


hello and welcome to episode #792 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “State of Disarray”. for this week 1 puzzle, i attempted to solve without the instructions. did i succeed? you be the judge. here are the theme answers:

  • {Paragon} BEST EXAMPLE.
  • {4% in Wyoming or 5% in Wisconsin, e.g.} SALES TAX RATE.
  • {Mariner’s tool} NAUTICAL SEXTANT.
  • {August 12, 2023} NEXT SATURDAY, or at least it was when the puzzle came out. at this point, we would call it “this saturday”.
  • {Can’t move on from} FIXATES UPON.

beyond that, there’s only one meta-adjacent answer, and it’s only notable in the sense that it rules itself out from being meta-relevant: {Largest U.S. state (and not the state referenced in this puzzle’s title!)} ALASKA.

so these all contain anagrams of the letters of TEXAS, and i certainly was going to just submit TEXAS as my answer, but before doing so, i did confirm with the puzzle instructions… and no, it’s not just TEXAS: This week’s contest answer is a four-word slogan I’ve disobeyed with this crossword. well, that would be DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS, which was originally used in an anti-littering campaign on texas roadways but nowadays is an all-purpose declaration of texan identity.

so i certainly would not ever have gotten this right without the instructions, but maybe i should have from the ALASKA clue. i definitely noticed while solving that it said “not the state referenced in the puzzle’s title” instead of “not the answer to the meta”. i thought the wording was a bit odd, but not odd enough to give me serious pause about whether the answer was just TEXAS or something more complicated involving TEXAS.

in any event, i think it’s a very cute meta. the hidden anagrams are evident enough for a week 1 because of the X, and with “state” in the puzzle title, the other four letters immediately present themselves. the cute part is matt’s cryptic reinterpretation of the slogan into a wordplay mechanism. it’s a bit of an unusual meta in that it more or less demands to be backsolved—you have to think of the meta answer and then it’s obvious how it works, rather than being able to go in the forward direction from the theme to the meta answer through a logical process of steps.

that’s all for me. i might or might not be able to blog next week’s mgwcc since i’ll be traveling—but if i can’t, i’ll attempt to line up a substitute. have a great week!

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3 Responses to MGWCC #792

  1. Mikey G says:

    Totally random musing on something that I liked.

    I’ve read before on discussions about whether crosswords (that is, an individual crossword puzzle) should be timeless or whether they should represent a key moment in history. For instance, if I wrote a puzzle in 1993, is it my job to make sure that puzzle still seems fresh and lively in 2023? Or is it okay if that represents a sort of time capsule of the zeitgeist of the moment? Who’s to say what puzzles will look like in 2053? (I hope my dad jokes will remain timeless, haha.)

    I’m waxing philosophical for a bit, and I would actually love to solve older crosswords from, say, decades past (I think I stumbled upon the first-ever Sunday NYT online from the 1940s, and I maybe got a tenth of it in a half-hour). But I know I’m likely up for a challenge!

    Even so, I liked the fact that NEXT SATURDAY was time-sensitive, soon to be this Saturday, and then a random Saturday in times past. When I first saw that clue (after grokking the meta), I was like, “Oh! Is this date special?” (If my beloved Cubbies play, of course it is!)

    A breezy meta to start off the month, as Week 1s should be. Thanks, Matt!

    • EP says:

      The ‘timeless’ aspect of crosswords hits on one of my pet peeves: I frequently get collections of puzzles published in book form (like NY Times Super Sunday Puzzles, volume **), and many of the clues have answers that very much depend on the time context. Why in the world do they not put the DATE on those things?? The date that the collection was published helps a little, but you can’t really rely on it.

      To his credit, Matt does put the date on the MGWCC metas. Is there a reason that others don’t?

    • sharkicicles says:

      So, this actually goes to a post I’ve been meaning to make on the other crossword forum… I found out recently the old Games Magazine archive is all available on the Internet Archive. Been doing a large-size puzzle from issue 1 and there’s definitely a difference in cluing and answer selection that doesn’t quite feel dated (even after 45 years) but it’s definitely… different.

      (P.S. GO WHITE SOX)

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