MGWCC #816

crossword 5:10
meta 0:05 


hello, and welcome to episode #816 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Elite Eight”. this week 3 puzzle was intended as a week 1 puzzle, so i solved it without the instructions. what are the theme answers? seven across entries are u.s. cities with one letter missing:

  • {The Sunshine Skyway Bridge crosses it} TAMA BAY. okay, so no, not exactly all u.s. cities, since this is supposed to be TAMPA BAY, which is a body of water, but not a city.
  • {City on the Niagara River} BUFF(A)LO.
  • {Nob Hill’s city} SAN FRAN(C)ISCO.
  • {Birthplace of Dianne Wiest and Ellie Kemper} (K)ANSAS CITY. i’m guessing the missouri one.
  • {Fell’s Point’s city} BALTIMOR(E). never heard of fell’s point, but matt’s original from maryland, so he probably has local knowledge of baltimore.
  • {“Sister, Sister” city} DET(R)OIT. never seen this show.
  • {“___, we have a problem”} HOU(S)TON.

right, so rather than u.s. cities, we have NFL teams, or rather, NFL team locations, or really, the geographic parts of NFL team names. taking the missing letters in order gives PACKERS, which i guess is the meta answer. i can only assume the packers were one of the 8 remaining teams in the NFL playoffs at the time matt wrote and sent out the puzzle. i don’t actually know if they’re still alive (but i’m sure one of you will tell me).

as a meta, this was certainly easy enough for a week 1—there was one extremely obvious thing to do (look at the missing letters) and that was the only step. as a crossword, i really did not care for it. the reason is that the theme answers aren’t things, and it’s not really fun entering nonsense strings into the grid. maybe BUFFLO comes closest to being clueable as a thing—something like {Archaic greeting from an avid fan?}—but the others just don’t work.

the problem is that the across answer is only weakly checked—even once you figure out the theme, you still need to know every single down answer to fill the grid in correctly. so for example, if you don’t know how to spell the name of {Actress Ronan whose first name rhymes with “inertia”} SAOIRSE, maybe you think SARIRSE might be right (“sa-RER-sha”?), and then DETRIT is not any more or less intelligible than DETOIT; neither one is the actual answer to the across clue.

the situation is not quite as bad as that, because the final answer to the meta is the last level of checking, and once you get there, you can tell that the answer isn’t going to be PACKEOS. but that’s several levels removed from filling in the grid. as a crossword qua crossword, this was a slog. the northeast corner held me up for a long time, because FARSI, FLIPS TO, LINOCUT, and ONE-TON all cross two theme answers in a place where there is known to be a letter missing somewhere in there. in particular, the clue {Tosses, as a football} for FLIPS TO was impenetrable to me for quite a while, and it didn’t help that most of the non-theme across answer {Political consultant Mary who’s married to James Carville} MATALIN in that area was also blank for quite a while. just a tough, tough corner. i’ve heard of this mary but could only remember that her surname started with M. (and it’s good that i did, because the M crossed MUNRO, another rather tough proper name, albeit one that i knew—h.h. munro is the author who used the pen name saki.)

that’s all i’ve got for this week. i would guess (and hope) most of you liked this more than i did.

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4 Responses to MGWCC #816

  1. cyco says:

    I liked it a bit more than, you, joon, while agreeing that it was easier than expected even for a week 1. Though not *that* easy, since it took me an embarrassingly long time to notice the some of the misspellings, but then it was smooth sailing.

    A neat detail to the theme, which constrained it significantly: each of the seven locations is not just the home of an NFL team, but specifically 7 of the 8 teams still competing in the playoffs at the time of the puzzle’s release: Bucs, Bills, 49ers, Chiefs, Ravens, Lions, Texans. The 8th team being of course the Green Bay PACKERS, who have since lost to San Franisco. This answer set could only be valid for about a week, so that’s pretty cool.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 592 right answers this week (against 3 incorrect) so a true Week 1.

    I was looking like a genius with 10 minutes left in the Packers-49ers game. But not after that.

  3. Garrett says:

    Perfect week 1.

  4. John says:

    Really late post, but i have to say i liked it. The random missing letter was tough to suss at first but that makes this a fine week 1, imo. If the meta itself is on the exceedingly easy side, its nice when the puzzle is rather chewy. Plus, i’m glad we got a prognostication from Matt on the biggest weekend in football viewing land. Much more fun than the championship weekend or SB Sunday, imo.

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