MGWCC #813

crossword 3:21
meta DNF30 min (with hint) 


happy new year, and welcome to episode #813 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Ring in the New”. i didn’t remember to line up a pinch-blogger, so here i am even though i just got home from vacation last night and haven’t solved the puzzle yet. and it’s week 5/5, so, uh, wish me luck. the instructions tell us that we are looking for a prop often seen on New Year’s Eve shows. what are the theme answers? i don’t really know, but let’s start with the longest answers:

  • {Make more attractive} GLAMORIZE.
  • {“I coulda been a ___” (Brando line)} CONTENDER.
  • {“Retrieve” but not “believe,” for example} ACTION VERB.
  • {Got in the path of} OBSTRUCTED.

what to make of these? i really don’t see anything. these might not be the theme answers, or might not be the only theme answers, but nothing is explicitly thematic, so they’re all i’ve got to go on for now.

well, with time running out and absolutely nothing to go on, it feels like time to use the hint, so i’ll use the hint…

Alternate title for this meta: “Goodbye 23, Hello 24”

hmm. what could this mean? i don’t see a lot of things in the grid that are obviously 23rd in a canonical sequence, like the 23rd president (benjamin harrison) or element #23 (vanadium). what about the 23rd letter? if we say goodbye to 23 and hello to 24, that would be replacing a W with an X. there’s precisely one W in the grid, at the bottom where SWAT meets DOW. yeah, i don’t think that’s it.

what about W in the clues? ohhh, i think this is something:

  • {Wray film menace} APE. but “wray” could become X-ray… although i don’t know what the answer to that clue would be.
  • {Sew up} CLINCH. but this could become {Sex up}, which is an alternate clue for GLAMORIZE.
  • {Bowed out} QUIT. {Boxed out} could be OBSTRUCTED.
  • {BMW creation} CAR. but a {BMX creation} is a BIKE, which is in the grid at 34-across.
  • {Waxes on paper, e.g.} SEALANTS. this could become {X-axes on paper, e.g.} which are LINES (34d).

those are the only five W’s in the clues at all (most clues are on the short side, and this must be why), and the fact that they can all become new words when W is replaced with X is surely not a coincidence. the first letters of the four words we’ve got spell GLOB from top to bottom in the grid, so i’m guessing the answer will be GLOBE, which … sure, i suppose that could be a prop on NYE shows. i haven’t actually watched such a broadcast in, like, decades. but they do show celebrations from different time zones hitting midnight, right?

if it is GLOBE, then {X-ray film menace} would start with E and be somewhere in the grid after the B of BIKE. the two possibilities are EGGS and EDEMA, neither of which i really understand, to be honest. i don’t even know if we’re trying to think of a movie involving x-rays (uh… superman? he is kind of a menace) or whether it’s literally referring to the plastic film that gets developed in x-ray imaging. maybe the latter, and it’s EDEMA? as in, you could have x-rays taken and discover on the film an EDEMA, which is a menace to your health? sure, let’s go with that.

well, i think even if i’d left myself four days, or four years, to do this meta, i wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near it without looking at the hint, so that was a good decision. if anybody figured it out without the hint, my hat’s off to you.

before wrapping up, i must say—this meta is really, really cool. letter substitution theme are nothing new in crosswords, of course, but applying the mechanism to the clues rather than the answers in the grid is a fresh take, and W->X is pretty darn unusual as far as letter substitutions go. BMW and BMX, in particular, both being three-letter initialisms for very different vehicles? that’s a cool find.

kudos to matt for riffing on the 23->24 year change in this way. what a wonderful gift to solvers to wrap up 2023!

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11 Responses to MGWCC #813

  1. Paul+Coulter says:

    I had the same thought about EDEMA as Joon. I also struggled finding anything until I looked at the hint. With it, this was a Week 2, only requiring a few minutes to find the answer. Without the hint, it was a Week 6. For a while, I was convinced the correct path had to do with adding letters at the start of answers, as in “Bring in the New” since Matt didn’t send out his usual email that this mistake had nothing to do with the meta. That would be a truly cruel way to trick us.

    I’m amazed by the brilliant solvers who got to the answer before the hint came out. Matt, did your test solvers get this with or without the hint?

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon! Especially since you solved while vacation-lagged…

    233 right answers this week, of which 119 were solo solves.

    Thanks to everyone who solved the metas this year! Got some new things planned for 2024 so don’t touch that dial…

    Also: a bunch of people’s streaks have gotten messed up due to entry system issues here (my fault, not Webmaster’s), but they’ll all get settled by this Friday so please let me know if you have any issues then (lost a streak when you shouldn’t have, anything like that).

  3. Mikey G says:

    Yeah, I love letter substitutions (I love all crossword themes, haha), but the W to X thing was so original and added a bonus layer to it.

    I would’ve loved to get this without the hint in retrospect, so anyone who even came close to that, major kudos!

    Thanks for another incredible year of metas, Matt! Onward to ’24!

  4. Mutman says:

    Great meta! Once I saw the hint, it took me a while to get my brain from thinking the O in box 23 and A in box 24 played a role.

    Then the X & W clicked. I actually googled xaxes and saw some song or whatnot from World of Warcraft. Thought VERSES was alternate there. But plowed thru regardless. X-axes is so much better!

    Well done Matt!

  5. clonefitz says:

    I would not have solved without the hint. With the hint, I had considered the meta fairly early on, except for some reason I thought 23 and 24 were V and W. Couldn’t make that work either in the grid or in the clues so I pursued other mechanisms. Then this morning as I was staring at it, I realized V and W were not correct and went back and – voila, there it was. Nice puzzle! As I suggested with my submission, an alternate title could have been “Happy Newt Year”

  6. Margaret says:

    I definitely needed the hint but I must say that my first thought was that W-> Y was because it was in neW Year! That couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? (it could) (it was) And then I saw Wray->X-ray and Waxes->X-axes but I couldn’t figure out a good answer for X-ray menace so I decided it must also have been a red herring. Thank goodness for my co-solver who saw the other Xs and realized it must be GLOBE (even though neither of us understood the E part.)

  7. Pomona47 says:

    I definitely needed the hint, but 23 -> 24 as W -> X clicked pretty quickly after that.

    As a veterinarian, I can say that both EGGS and EDEMA make x-rays more difficult to fully interpret. Nerd time for anyone who’s interested: edema is the buildup of fluid in the tissues; radiographs can only distinguish between five opacities (metal, mineral, soft-tissue/fluid, fat, gas) so having fluid in between soft tissues makes everything the same opacity (color) and it’s harder to find lesions beyond the edema. Eggs in the coeloms of birds and reptiles just push all organs out of their normal orientation, and the shells being mineral opacity are brighter and can cover up the soft tissues of the organs they are superimposed over. Most people are familiar with bird eggs, but look up turtle or tortoise x-rays with eggs for an example of just how crowded things can get!

    Great puzzle and it was very on-theme for New Year’s Eve and Day.

  8. David Glasser says:

    Anyone else notice that you can read LANG and SYNE in L shapes, the latter right in the middle of the grid?

  9. Adam Rosenfield says:

    The path I got stuck on (before the hint) as that there were several answers where you could change a couple letters to get an alternative answer, and a few of those changed in interesting ways (where the clue meaning changes):

    [Part of a pound] could be PENCE instead of OUNCE
    [“Shoot!”] could be DARN/DAMN instead of DANG
    [Sew up] could be STITCH instead of CLINCH
    [Plain, in Spanish] could be PLANO instead of LLANO

    Plus some weaker options, like BIKE -> LIMO, ACTIONVERB -> ACTIONWORD, and even ones that don’t keep any letters the same (ACE -> TEN, DOW -> AVG, etc.). But none of these make any sense with their crossing entries, and they don’t have anything to do with the title.

    Once the hint came through, that cleared things up.

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