MGWCC #805

crossword 2:59
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #805 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “You Built This City”. for this week 1 puzzle, i attempted to solve without the instructions (but without success). what are the theme answers? six across answers in this asymmetrical grid are two-word US cities:

  • {City known for its River Walk} SAN ANTONIO.
  • {City known for jazz and Cajun cuisine} NEW ORLEANS.
  • {City known as the hometown of Elijah Wood, Ashton Kutcher, and Ron Livingston} CEDAR RAPIDS. i certainly did not know this city as such, but at least i’ve heard of it. it’s in iowa.
  • {City known as the home of the Manhattan Project} LOS ALAMOS.
  • {City known for being where Larry Bird played college basketball} TERRE HAUTE. hmm, okay. i am not quite old enough to remember larry bird in college—i know he went to indiana state, which i guess must be in terre haute? the only college i knew of there was rose-hulman institute of technology, which is certainly not where larry bird played college ball.
  • {City known for containing the largest oil refinery in the U.S.} PORT ARTHUR. now here, i didn’t even know this was a US city. there was a port arthur in china that was the site of a key battle in the russo-japanese war in 1904. apparently that’s now called lüshun port in the city of dalian. there’s a port arthur in tasmania. but this clue apparently refers to port arthur, texas, east of houston.

so … what now? nothing obvious with the initials of the cities themselves (SA, NO, CR, LA, TH, PA) or their states (TX, LA, IA, NM, IN, TX again) is jumping out. the city initials do look like they want to be bigrams—the first two letters of a word on their own. maybe that’s it?

yeah, maybe this is it. there appears to be one four-letter entry in the grid starting with each of these bigrams:

  • {Make happy} SATE.
  • {Chuck who coached the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles} NOLL.
  • {“___ Camp” (Oscar-nominated 2020 documentary co-produced by Michelle and Barack Obama)} CRIP. i’ve never heard of this.
  • uh oh, maybe this is where it breaks down. both {Dragon’s hangout} LAIR and {Turner, Condor, or Del Rey} LANA are candidates for LA.
  • {“___ can’t be right”} THIS. exactly what i’m thinking right now, alas.
  • {Spanish for “duck” (the bird)} PATO. and yet, this is exactly the kind of weird entry matt would include if he needed it for the meta mechanism. PATO is also the national sport of argentina, originally played on horseback with a live duck in a basket, but now with a ball instead.

hrm. well, looking at the other letters in those answers, we might have TE LL IP IR/NA IS TO. that starts promisingly, but doesn’t continue promisingly.

all right, with time running out, i’m going to look at the instructions. it doesn’t feel like i should be struggling this much with the mechanism of a week 1.

This puzzle’s contest answer is a six-letter U.S. city. hrm. well. that isn’t helping as much as a thought, but it does make me think i should be looking for one letter per theme answer rather than two. i am also increasingly nervous about the title—i hope i don’t need to look up who founded each of these cities. i’d been assuming “built” just referred to words constructed out of these letters. and maybe it does, but i legitimately don’t know what to do next.

is there some obvious acrostic reading of the six theme cities that produces a city name? yeesh. i can’t remember ever flaming out on a week 1, but that’s what’s happening here. oh well.

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15 Responses to MGWCC #805

  1. jimmyd says:

    Third letter is the states initial… 4th letter is the meta

  2. Dusty Gunning says:

    Given to two-word city answers, I expected the solve to be a two-word city as well. Having grown up in El Paso, it was easy to “reverse engineer” the answer. Not many 6-letter, 2-word cities around…(Del Rio,…)

    Needing to add the state letters leading to 4-letter words was a nice touch. Although Los Alamos NM threw me for a sec

  3. David Benbow says:

    San Antonio, Texas = SATE = E
    New Orleans, Louisiana = NOLL = L
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa = CRIP = P
    Los Alamos, New Mexico = LANA = A
    Terre Haute, Indiana = THIS = S
    Port Arthur, Texas = PATO = O

  4. Astrokurtis says:

    I just made a wild guess of El Paso, as I was assuming that as a week 1 the theme answers alone contained the necessary clues, and the only other 2-word 6-letter city names I could find were Del Rio and St. Paul. The former is small and lesser-known, and I didn’t like the abbreviation.

    I also spent a lot of time looking at the hometowns of all past and present members of Starship. None are from El Paso (or Del Rio or St. Paul, for that matter).

  5. Seth Cohen says:

    Great meta, but easily week 2, or even 3 during a 5-week month. Needed a nudge to get me over the finish line.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 372 right answers, so a Week 2 instead of a Week 1.

    I thought naming each city’s state would be a clear second step, but it was trickier than I’d anticipated.

    • sharkicicles says:


      In discussing this one, what I think threw some people for a loop is that we’re so conditioned to look for postal abbreviations when it comes to states that the lack of, say, Xs in the grid to form TX indicates “don’t go down that path with the whole state thing.”

      That being said, I needed a hint to get this one, but enjoyed it. Didn’t think it was unfair or anything at all.

    • joon says:

      i certainly did write down the states. it’s a perfectly clear second step; i just wasn’t expecting a week 1 puzzle to have a third step. even “find the six fill answers that match up with the six theme answers” is unusual in week 1, i think.

    • EP says:

      You won’t be surprised to see that I agree that this ain’t no Week 1. El Paso was my Hail Mary, 6 letter 2 word city, didn’t bother to submit it…there’s no satisfaction in getting a Week 1 with a prayer, in fact it’s kind’a depressing for those of us with damaged intellects and fragile egos…

  7. Margaret says:

    I sent in El Paso as a Hail Mary after looking up six letter US cities and seeing it was two words like the other cities. Absolutely no idea of the actual mechanism.

  8. Dan+Seidman says:

    I solved it from the last letters, but never noticed that the third letter in each word was the initial of the state. Nice touch, now that I see it.

    • mkmf says:

      I’d originally started writing C(ave) in pen instead of LAIR, and due to my sloppy correction in square 20, I never noticed the second LA_ _ word. I’m sorry I missed getting the click that would have come from seeing how the third letters resolved the ambiguity. Nuce touch indeed.

  9. John says:

    I got this fairly quickly. A>B>C. Weird how mechanisms can elude good solvers and just come to mediocre solvers, like me. I agree that lack of a 2-letter state abbreviation in the solve is unusual and thus created a problem for a number of solvers.

  10. Bob LaBlah says:

    I’d rate it higher except for the ability to guess (google) the answer by simply searching for a two-word six-letter city. Otherwise it’s basically a classic meta mechanism.

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