MGWCC #808

crossword DNF
meta 5ish? 


hello and welcome to episode #808 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Follow the Instructions”. for this week 4 puzzle, we have guest constructor ben chenoweth instead of matt at the helm, and ben challenges us to find an eight-letter word. what are the theme answers? that was, by some distance, the most difficult part of this meta, but there were 8 answers where the first letter stood alone, followed by a word (or in some cases an abbreviation, but not a full initialism):

  • {Mr. T’s group} A-TEAM.
  • {June 6th, 1944} D-DAY.
  • {Higher degree typically awarded on the basis of a substantial portfolio of compositions} is a D.MUS., a degree that, well, i’m sure it exists, but i have never had occasion to think about one.
  • {Range of the multimode optical fibre spectrum that transmits with wavelength 1260 to 1360 nm} O BAND. uh oh, we’re veering further into totally obscure territory. whatever O BAND is, it doesn’t google well and doesn’t have its own entry in any dictionary i can find.
  • {Form of radiation hypothesised by French physicist Prosper-Rene Blondlot in 1903} N-RAYS. oh no. no no. unlike D.MUS., which is at least a thing, this is not a thing. it was very briefly thought to be a thing, over 100 years ago.
  • {Display technology found in Kindles} E-INK.
  • {Skier’s transport to the summit} T-BAR.
  • {Part that failed causing the Challenger disaster} O-RING.

unless i’m missing something, the meta is just taking these letters in order to get ADD ONE TO. that’s eight letters, but not an eight-letter word; however, they define the nine-letter word INCREMENT. uh, that’s not the answer either, since it’s nine letters, but maybe INCREASE? i don’t know. i feel like ADD ONE TO is a bit too specific for INCREASE (although ADD ONTO would probably be good enough for a crossword clue, and ADD TO certainly fits).

i don’t know. i guess INCREASE is my answer… but i’m honestly hoping it’s wrong. ideally there’d be another layer here that makes the answer click much more firmly. like if we were supposed to add 1 to all the theme clue numbers and then take those letters? that’d be cool. but i tried that, and got TOSASKM_, with a blank at the end because O-RING is actually the highest-numbered clue in the grid. so that’s not it.

while i’m being honest, i didn’t much enjoy the crossword, because it was full of things that made me frown. in fact, i could not complete the puzzle without googling, which … is not a normal occurrence for me. in addition to wildly unfamiliar theme entries like O-BAND, D.MUS, and N-RAYS—the latter of which crossed BRAND at the N, which would have been fine if BRAND had not been clued as {South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, also known as Dollar ___}—i was never going to get the crossing of {German hip-hop band whose debut album was entitled “Made by Desire”} ATNA with {Actor ___ Gross, known for playing Adam Greene in the ABC sitcom “Ellen”} ARYE at the second A of ATNA. that’s just wild. there were other, i think, even more obscure entries that actually did come in via crosses, like {Lydian solar deity wrongly conflated with Attis in 19th-century scholarship} ATYS (!!).

the obscurities were probably the least fun thing about the puzzle, but i’m also somewhat at a loss to explain the numerous violations of usual constructing norms: duplicate entries (ORBS and ORB), long partials (DAYS OF), very limited connectivity in the grid, a high word count (82), and the clue {Embezzler’s worst nightmare} that doesn’t seem to numerically agree with its answer AUDITORS. normally, when i see a meta crossword that violates one of these rules, my first assumption is that the violation is related to the meta, but i don’t know if that applies here. (i acknowledge that there are difficulties in keeping the word count down if your theme is eight entries that are all only 4–5 letters.)

so i’m not sure what else to say. ben, i’m really sorry for the negative review, but i didn’t enjoy the puzzle. i sincerely hope there’s an extra layer to the meta mechanism that i never found, and that makes all of the stuff in the grid i’ve been griping about totally worthwhile. if there is, please do let us know in the comments.

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8 Responses to MGWCC #808

  1. pannonica says:

    DAVY (D DAY)
    MUSE (D MUS)
    LINK (E INK)
    BOAR (T BAR)


    • Garrett says:

      I got these:
      TEAMO (A TEAM)
      MUSE (D MUS)
      FRAYS (N RAYS)
      LINK (E INK)
      WRING (O RING)

      I did not get (and still don’t) these:
      DAVY (D DAY)
      BRAND (O BAND)
      BOAR (T BAR)

  2. Karen says:

    I struggled a lot to finish the grid. Although I’m old enough to remember ARYE Gross, I wasn’t confident of the T in ATNA, and the band was so obscure I didn’t find it in Wikipedia. But Blotnot was, so I found the N-rays and confirmed BRAND.
    On the other hand, I liked this meta, because I realized quickly what “ADD ONE TO” indicated. I’ve struggled with the metas this year, so was grateful for one that played easy for me.

  3. Abide says:

    The mechanism is solid, but the grid execution would have fared better as a 17×17 to eliminate the obscurities. Due to Matt’s time crunch there may not have been a test solver involved.

  4. TimF says:

    Ditto on the googling, and the ORB/ORBS.
    I got hung up on the self-reference “BenChen71” – first off, “Who??” (Oh! Duh, the constructor, apparently), and then “Why??!!”

  5. Seth Cohen says:

    I also submitted INCREASE first (by email), with the same caveats as Joon, but when I didn’t see my name in the list, I went back to the grid, and saw the next step. As others, I really like the mechanism, but the grid was touuuuggggghhhhhh. Actually, the fact that it was so strained made me almost sure there had to be more than just ADD ONE TO. I’m glad there was!

  6. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I got there by noticing W-RING and L-INK and F-RAYS and finding TEAM-O while looking for S-TEAM (surely three answers that share all but the first letter with a theme answer can’t be coincidence– the sort of thought I often have, incorrectly). I was pleased to see in the stats that it only took me 32 minutes longer than BenChen71.

  7. Richard K says:

    At first I thought I should just “add one to” all the single letters in the theme entries by shifting them one letter forward. That gave me BEEP OF UP. It seemed so unlikely that a one-letter shift would yield anything readable, I thought that had to be significant. After some unfruitful twiddling, I finally noticed ATEAM and TEAMO, which steered me in the right direction.

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