MGWCC #802

crossword 2:39
meta 0:45 


hello and welcome to episode #802 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Animal Instinct”. i tried this puzzle without the instructions and it wasn’t that hard, although the grid was pretty chewy with unusual entries. what was the theme? there were no overt theme entries, unless you count {Pathetically low-quality, like a few entries in this grid; but nature is both imperfect and ruthlessly efficient, so you might say this is actually thematic} SAD at 1-across. but a whole lot of answers contained the string DAM:

  • {Cheese that’s good in quiche} EDAM.
  • {Samuel ___ (brewery)} ADAMS.
  • {Matt or Johnny} DAMON. hoo boy, there are a lot of other possible surnames for famous matts and johnnys.
  • {Classic Pontiacs} GRAND AMS.
  • {The Grande ___ Potomac (nickname for reality TV star Karen Huger)} DAME OF. never heard of this person, and turning up my nose at the awkward 6-letter partial.
  • {“How ___ I at this!?”} BAD AM. pretty not bad at all, actually, but i can understand the constraints on the grid.
  • {“Really helping me out here, bro!”} U DA MAN. this took me a while to piece together (and then parse), but i actually kind of like this entry.
  • {Heavy metal band formed after Pantera broke up} DAMAGE PLAN.
  • {“My Cup Runneth Over” singer, 1967} ED AMES. i know him only from crosswords, but back when i started doing crosswords regularly in the late 00s, i felt like he came up (full name) a whole bunch.
  • {Fruit often used in preserves} DAMSON PLUM.
  • {Japanese toy that sharpens dexterity} KENDAMA. never heard of this.
  • {Largest city in the Netherlands, for short} ADAM. i guess a-dam, short for amsterdam? anyway, ADAM is just a common enough entry as the name, but it would dupe ADAMS.
  • {___ Touch (car-detailing service in Orlando, Fla.)} DA MAGIC. even worse and even longer partial!
  • {Korean for “burden”} BUDAM. hoo boy. this is a korean word that i do not know, and i’m willing to bet i know more korean than 99% of you.
  • {Salvatore ___ (noted Italian-born crooner)} ADAMO. never heard of this guy either.
  • {Makes slightly wet} DAMPS.

so yes, a lot of that is pretty clunky, but the overall effect is that the grid has a DAM constructed across it, separating the two opposite corners by blocking off the whole positive diagonal. given “animal” in the title, i suspect we are meant to be submitting beaver, as that is the animal known for building dams. indeed, the instructions tell us that This week’s contest answer is the animal you must become to solve this puzzle. that might be overstating it, but sure.
tim the beaver
i have mixed opinions about this meta. i appreciate, at least on a theoretical level, matt’s creativity in turning the grid into a beaver dam. i do wish the DAM entries had been smoother—there were a whole lot of obscurities required. at no point was the grid unfillable, even when two obscurities crossed each other, because the diagonal DAM pattern was quite evident after a while. but it was still kind of a slog even though the grid was only 10×10 and asymmetric.

that’s all i’ve got. how’d you like this one?

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6 Responses to MGWCC #802

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 534 right answers, so this was the missing Week 1 and we can go back to Week 3 on Friday as scheduled.

    Despite being just a 10×10, this one took a looong time to write. Began as a 15×15, then gradually whittled it down to a 10×10 as the largest (barely) possible iteration of the idea.

  2. Adam Rosenfield says:

    I wasn’t quite sure whether the intended answer was going to be BEAVER (who builds the dam) or some kind of fish like salmon (because the DAMs in the grid kind of resemble a fish ladder that fish use to climb over dams), but BEAVER seemed like the better answer.

    I do appreciate having my name in the grid twice (or 3 or 4 times, depending on if you count ADAMo and bADAM) :P.

  3. John says:

    I liked it a lot once i sussed the idea Matt was going for. Week 1 is a perfect time for a visual effect like this. I don’t like looking for meta material prior to completing the grid (probably a mistake) so i didn’t notice the surfeit of DAMs. This made the clunky grid even harder, but that was essentially the puzzle’s only difficulty this week so it added to the fun at the end of the day, for me.

  4. Margaret says:

    Ed Ames is very famous to those of us of a certain age! Along with his beautiful singing voice, he was Mingo on Daniel Boone and was extremely well-known for his hatchet-throwing ability (see his appearance with Johnny Carson lol.)

    I’m still not sure I needed to “become a beaver” to solve this puzzle, but I submitted the right answer without too many qualms.

  5. CC says:

    A KENDAMA is… well, if you’ve ever seen any variation of a “catch a ball in a cup” toy, that has a string attached to both the ball and the cup, this is like that, but has up to 3 “cups” (or concave) portions and a rod that you can try to catch the ball (which has a hole in it) on.

  6. Jerry says:

    I kinda thought the answer was COW. A DAM is a female farm animal (Cow Horse). Given the difficulty, I HAD A COW!

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