MGWCC #794

crossword 8 hours to construct


Matt here filling in for joon, who’s photographing mountain goats in Andorra this week.

Our prompt was: This week’s contest answer is a person often seen on the news whose name is enumerated (4, 6). That was later amended to:

This week’s contest answer, which would have made a logical final theme entry, is a person often seen on the news whose name is enumerated (4, 6).

The idea was: Say one word from each theme entry aloud, and you’ve counted to 7:


I don’t know anyone name “ate,” but borrowing the N from “Evan” we could form a NATE, and then NATE SILVER hopefully sprang to mind. There aren’t really any other famous Nates with six-letter surnames, but many solvers weren’t quite sure. So we had the strange phenomenon of ~97% right answers (before final-hour wild guesses) but even many of those were uncertain. An odd circumstance.

Some solvers also thought that the unusual name AGNETA in the bottom left was confirmation, since AG is the chemical symbol for silver and NETA anagrams to NATE. You won’t believe me anyway but that was indeed a coincidence, unnoticed by me until solvers pointed it out.

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28 Responses to MGWCC #794

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    212 correct entries, I forgot to add, of which just 96 were solo solves.

  2. Richard K says:

    It was fun to recite the number count from the partial entries. Cool idea!

    I was one of those “got it, but not quite sure” folks. It took me forever to notice that each number sound was a complete word in theme entries. (Thanks for the hint in the clue for Ix Chel.) That pretty much narrowed it down to someone named Nate. He sort of fits the title too, as he is known for predictions (“I Guess”) and statistical analysis (“That Counts”).

  3. Mike says:

    Shouldn’t the N in EVAN be the first sound of the next number?

    Earlier entries aren’t, for example, TONG IN THE TOOTH or THAND REEF…..

    • Matthew G. says:

      This gave me pause as well, but I was still able to get there. (Having previously been nudged in a non-solo-solve, to be clear.)

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Aesthetically there’s precedent for it with WANT/TOOTH, overlapping T. In terms of gameplay, it’s a 100% lock once you see it since WANT TOOTH REEF ORFF IVES IX EVAN sounding out 1-7 can’t be a coincidence

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I think the idea is simply that when recited out loud so that their ends blend into each other, the thematic string of words is more or less homophonous with the counting numbers from one to seven/eight. The particular phonemic breakdown isn’t important to this except insofar as it disguises the theme by ensuring that no individual words are homophones of individual numbers.

      However you slice the thematic pattern, I’m afraid I can’t see how TONG IN THE TOOTH or THAND REEF would fit it.

  4. HoldThatThought says:

    Little known fact…

    Nate Silver was the, get this, Jewish quarterback, for the 1905 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. The very player who led his team to a scintillating 142-0 victory over the proud collegiates of The American College of Medicine and Surgery, on a game called off after just 33 minutes of play.

    I imagine that the ACMS boys were “The Flying Scalpels”, or, perhaps the “IV XI”.

    Until this puzzle, I had no idea that this QB guy is “often seen on the news”. I must watch a different station.

  5. Stribbs says:

    Once you convince yourself that the enumerations of the words in the long answers and/or the clues is important, it’s hard to get away from it! Given all the middle ones being (4,4) and all of them having a 4 somewhere… got stuck on it.

    WANT doesn’t really sound like ONE-T to me but I can’t imagine that really blocked anyone.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Once you convince yourself that the enumerations of the words in the long answers and/or the clues is important, it’s hard to get away from it!

      Matt’s additional hint was very helpful in this regard: that the solution (which wouldn’t come with a clue) would make a logical theme entry, made it far less likely that the clues were part of the theme.

  6. Seth Cohen says:

    Didn’t get this one, though seeing only WANT and TOOTH highlighted in the graphic above was enough for me to see the idea. And NATE SILVER was my immediate choice for solution — seems like a solid lock. Great meta!

  7. Dan F says:

    So funny to see TEMPLE OF IX CHEL – I worked for the last couple years with an incredible Broadway performer named Ixchel (Cuellar), who was amused to see her name in the puzzle! But I’d never get this meta because the name is pronounced “eesh-shell”…

  8. Jeff Turnham says:

    While NATE SILVER was the first to jump to mind after seeing the mechanism, it took a while for me to be sure. I ended up reaching out to a kind soul who had already solved just to confirm (gotta protect the streak ;-).

    I don’t see them mentioned above, but what seemed like extra convincers were:
    * His company being FiveThirtyEight which is very similar to the mechanism
    * The mentions of “counts” and “enumerated” in the title/prompt given Nate is a statistician/pollster.

    Perhaps both of these were just happy coincidences?

  9. Lance Keigwin says:

    I went down a devilish path.

    The last letters of theme answers, when added to partially spelled numbers in the subsequent theme answers, resulted in numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11. Homophones or not.

    TOO, TH + REE, F + OR, F + IVE, S + IX, EL + EVAN

    A final answer that would make theme #1 work eluded me. The “K” in IWANTYOUBACK was a killer. But wait…how about that contrived clue for NFL? “Where a K might make a PAT”. Sigh.

  10. Mikey G says:

    My biggest win on this was being able to abandon Roman numerals sooner than later. I realized, or at least hypothesized, that the reference in the IX clue was simply to isolate the IX as a word and not assume that IXCHEL was the whole word.

    Unintentional Easter eggs: even better!

    • Adam Rosenfield says:

      The “penultimate word” part of the cluing was also what keyed me into using just IX as a word and not a Roman numeral. Some cursory googling told me that the preferred spelling is generally “Ixchel” as one word; two words are also acceptable, but that’s less common.

      The fact that Matt used the less common spelling of something that’s a bit obscure (it doesn’t have a Wikipedia article) was an important clue.

  11. John says:

    Who is Nate Silver?

    Interesting idea, though pretty crazy difficult imo. I had no idea what to do with the title but its a pretty good hint in retrospect. I still think its a highly rated effort.

  12. Henry T says:

    NATE MENDEL, one of the members of the band Foo Fighters, an inductee into the rock and roll hall of fame. Wonder if anyone guessed him. Certainly better known than Nate Silver in some circles.

  13. Richard K says:

    I was diverted for a while by the appearance of LONG I and LONG O in two of the longer theme entries. Thought maybe the crossing entries of BIOTA and I QUOTE would be significant . . . but, no.

  14. Silverskiesdean says:

    I thought this:
    Wan T+=1
    OO TH+=2
    REE F+ =3
    Or F+. =4
    Ive S= =5
    Ix El- =6
    Evan =11
    IX+9. =9
    And finally, the name in the news:
    X Æ A-Xii which gives you a 10 and 12. If you count the spaces, they do add up to (4,6). Anybody else? Matt, what do you think?

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Counting the spaces as characters and breaking the resultant string in an apparently arbitrary location strikes me as prohibitively strained.

      Spaces are conventionally used to demarcate names in text, but they do not belong to the names, as witness that where names are elsewise demarcated (as in forms with individual fields for individual names), spaces are omitted.

  15. Silverskiesdean says:

    Also, I didn’t really know which number was left. If it was eight, there was “Kate Holmes”, “Kate Hudson”, “Kate Warner”, “Nate Naylor”, “Nate Garner”.
    If you accepted “Atilt” as , then the next was nine. If you accepted the IX as 9, the next was 10 and so on. I just didn’t get the click on this one.

  16. Bob LaBlah says:

    Had the hint been “a name that alliterates to (4,3,5) from a TV show” I might have had a chance — Nate the Great from Ted Lasso. But Nate Silver? Yeah, it’s true I know the name but he’s hardly a household name (in my household, anyway). I really like the mechanism though. Too bad it was not a Nate I could name. And it had to be Nate, taking the N from Evan. Also, I was thrown by the Ixchel — I found it only ever referenced as a one word name but the clue indicated we needed to chop it in two. Ok, for Matt I’ll do that.

  17. dave glasser says:

    One thing that stymied me a bit: the relevant word from each theme entry was either the last word, or a word that was “referred” to by a word in the clue: relatively explicitly for IX and EVAN, but even WANT was clued via a lyric that seemed specifically chosen to include “second”.

    So I was stuck for a while assuming the relevant word of the meta answer had to be the last name…

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