MGWCC #824

crossword 5:12
meta DNF 


hello, and welcome to episode #824 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “It Takes One”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions asked for a five-letter part of the body. what were the theme answers? five across answers span the grid:

  • {1856 Walt Whitman monograph} LEAVES-DROPPINGS. boy, this took me a long time to piece together, because i really, really, really wanted it to be LEAVES OF GRASS. i’ve never heard of LEAVES-DROPPINGS and i had to look it up post-solve to see if that’s actually the title or if there was some kind of thematic transformation involved. (it’s the actual title.)
  • {Label co-founded by Dr. Dre} DEATH ROW RECORDS.
  • {Airy treats} HOSTESS TWINKIES.
  • {1978 historical miniseries with Tim Curry in the title role (NOTE: only use this entry once)} WILL SHAKESPEARE. not familiar with this show, and again i looked it up afterwards to see if this was the actual title (again, yes). i also don’t know what to make of the parenthetical note—with five theme entries and a five-letter meta answer, i was only planning to use each one once anyway.
  • {Golf tournament whose current champion is Rory McIlroy} THE SCOTTISH OPEN.

so, what is the theme? my first ideas involved EAVESDROPPING and maybe HEATHROW, but i don’t know exactly what to do with that. i’d love to associate a body part with each of the themers, because of the instructions, but i don’t see how to do that other than maybe ear for EAVESDROPPING.

what about the title? i don’t exactly know what to do with it either. it could refer to body parts that you only have one of, or it could refer to the trigram ONE, or maybe just the letter I. i don’t really see how to apply any of these ideas to the actual theme entries.

all right, so what about that parenthetical note? it suggests that there’s some kind of wordplay that we could theoretically apply twice to WILL SHAKESPEARE. it does contain HAKE (a fish), PEAR (a fruit), SPEAR (a weapon)… oh, and i guess EAR, which might be relevant. for that matter, WILL and SHAKE are also right there.

what about WINK in HOSTESS TWINKIES? that is an action you can take with specifically one of your two eyes, so i like how it ties in with both the title and instructions. hmm, i think this might be something—you can SHAKE a leg and HOP on a foot. i don’t know exactly what to do with LEAVES-DROPPINGS or DEATH ROW RECORDS—THROW is in the latter (maybe with one arm or one hand? or your voice, but that’s not exactly a body part).

i’m on very uncertain ground here, but if we want the first body part with which to perform the relevant action, then we definitely have __E__ because WINK is certainly an action of the eye. SHAKE could be a lot of things (but probably hand or leg) and HOP is likely to be leg, foot, or maybe toe? i really hope we’re not supposed to just take OPEN from THE SCOTTISH OPEN, because that could also be eye or whatever (mouth, maybe ear in a metaphorical sense). a five-letter body part with E third is CHEST, and that’s my best guess right now. THROW could be hand for the H. i don’t know exactly how we’d get the C or the S. there are body parts associated with DROPPINGS but i’m really hoping that’s not where we’re supposed to go.

it’s not the cleanest mechanism, and i might also be totally wrong, but this is the best i’ve got. is this right?

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18 Responses to MGWCC #824

  1. David Glasser says:

    I have no idea what’s going on but I really want the phrase “The Scottish Play” to be relevant.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 257 right answers this week.

    You were on the right track: each of the five theme entries conceals an action you take with one of a bodily pair:

    EAVESDROP with one EAR
    THROW with one ARM
    WINK with one EYE
    SHAKE with one HAND
    HOP with one LEG

    Then find an entry including that part:

    EAR in (N)EAR (not SHAKESPEARE, per that clue hint)
    EYE in (D)REYER
    HAND in (G)HANDI
    LEG in (E)LEGY

    That spells NUDGE, which you do with one contest answer ELBOW.

  3. Yossi Fendel says:

    The bizarro entry GHANDI was my way into this one.

  4. David Benbow says:

    You’re on the right track, Joon.

    EAVESDROP —> EAR* —> Near
    THROW —> ARM —> Unharmed
    WINK —> EYE —> Dreyer
    SHAKE —> HAND —> Ghandi
    HOP —> LEG —> Elegy

    NUDGE —> Elbow.
    * but EAR is also in WILLSHAKESPEARE, so we only use it once.

  5. Dean S says:

    I thought the “only one” clue in Shakespeare meant you shake with your hand but also shake your booty. Pick only one. Anybody else?

    • S. Blais says:

      I think the reason for the “only one” instruction is that EAR also appears in this theme entry. But you’re only supposed to use it once, to get SHAKE, otherwise your keyword would be WUDGE.

  6. Dan+Seidman says:

    I eventually got this, but there was more ambiguity than usual. At first I thought the title only referred to how the body part was hidden in the grid, and I thought it was OPEN before I noticed HOP. So I was looking at OPEN ARMS, OPEN EYES, SHAKE A LEG, DROP ARMS, etc. Once I figured it out, there was a strong click, though.

  7. clonefitz says:

    I knew the key would be interpreting the NOTE in the clue for 55 across. I made an observation that sent me permanently down a path of no-solving. I believed that the crossing entry at 5o down was a hint (III – roman numerals). I took this to mean that the One in “It Takes One” was the roman numeral I. I saw that all five long across entries had exactly one “I” total among the rows directly above and below, with the exception of 55 across – whose only other occurrence of an I in an adjacent row was in the (supposed) hint at 50 down, thus (I assumed) the need for the special note in the clue for 55 across. I spent all weekend trying to figure out how the five themers could “take” the I, and of course came up empty. Now having seen the solution, I have to admit this was a very clever meta, nice job Matt!

  8. John says:

    I got the middle three but just couldn’t see EAVESDROP (got stuck on DROP) or HOP. Its almost embarrassing to admit that. When you’re unsure if you are on the right track though, its easy to dismiss initial findings if they don’t pan out right away – just a coincidence – which indeed happens all the time. Its a great meta, and a weak fail on this solver’s part.

  9. joon says:

    oof, okay. cool idea, but i’m going to stand by “not the cleanest mechanism”. WINK and HOP involve, by definition, one eye and one leg (or foot). the others are all, to varying degrees, fraught. you can definitely SHAKE with both hands, THROW with both arms (like an olympic hammer throw, a judo throw, or really throwing anything heavy), and especially EAVESDROP with both ears, unless you’re listening in by specifically putting one ear against a door. add in the ambiguity about whether hopping involves a leg or a foot, throwing with hand or arm, etc., and then whether the relevant action in THE SCOTTISH OPEN is HOP or OPEN, and you’ve got a few too many degrees of freedom for my liking.

    even at the very end, you could nudge somebody with a finger or a hip or a shoulder or a forearm or the back of your hand, couldn’t you?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Hmm, see your point but I think they were OK. I just Google Image Searched “handshake” and scrolled through over 100 pics without seeing a two-hander. Webster’s specifically mentions only the elbow in its definition of “nudge.” I might say “heave” if I used two arms instead of “throw”; thinking of baseball, football, almost always one-armed. Eavesdrop is a little fanciful but you do angle the head to get one ear as close to the speaker as possible instead of positioning both equidistantly.

      • Gideon says:

        I asked ChatGPT what you nudge with, and the answer was mainly the elbow or the shoulder. The 5 letter length decided it.

        Also I solved without the single body part angle, only understood that aspect afterwards with help.

      • Katie+M. says:

        I google image searched “eavesdrop” and almost all of the pics showed people using one ear.

    • Alex Bourzutschky says:

      At the end, that’s why the prompt specified 5 letters. Is there another 5-letter body part to nudge width?

      • joon says:

        oh, this is a good point. in my head the 5-letter stipulation had already been applied to get the letters of NUDGE and i was not thinking about its role in limiting the body part as well.

  10. Paul+Coulter says:

    I got the idea in a weird way, a hint I’m sure Matt didn’t intend. The title “It Takes One” made me check out the answers at 1A & 1D. 1D MOLT had me thinking it might involve shedding the exterior of theme words. The first one LEAVESDROPPING gave me “eavesdropping,” which was more or less the intended action that maps to EAR. Then I found the others, though they don’t follow the same shedding pattern. I didn’t notice until after I’d submitted what the title actually implies – that each body part is one of a pair, and you do the action with one of them. Which wouldn’t work for EAT in DEATHROWROECORDS, since you only have one mouth.

  11. Mikey G says:

    A perilous rabbit hole for a bit:

    The entries whose square contains a 1 (1, 10 – 19, 21, 31, etc.) kind of spell a list of 5 words:


    The first, of course, is a proper name, but I was worried that would be relevant! Seeing the WINK and the HAND (albeit one an action, one a different body part) was my in.

    Fun one! Now getting ready for the Week 4!

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