MGWCC #839

crossword 3:18
meta ??? 



hello, and welcome to episode #839 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “One More Time”. for this week 4 puzzle, the instructions informed us that we were looking for a one-syllable word. okay. what are the theme answers? there are no explicitly marked theme answers, but i am pretty sure we’re supposed to be paying attention to double-letters in the clues, because there are many clues that appear to be strangely worded so as to include a word with an unusual double-letter (powwow, hajji, seqq, exxon, divvy, etc.) indeed, there is a clue containing a double letter for almost every letter of the alphabet:

  • {Public health expert Aaron Buseh’s focus} EBOLA. i don’t know who this is, and neither do you (unless you already googled him while solving this puzzle). he was a liberian-american professor at the university of wisconsin-milwaukee who passed away in 2017. he doesn’t have a wikipedia page and is not mentioned or cited anywhere in the article for EBOLA itself.
  • {Where to adopt a tabby} SPCA.
  • {Half a soccer field, roughly} ACRE.
  • {How a politician may suddenly resign} IN DISGRACE. this clue is worded fairly naturally, but it would also work just fine without “suddenly”.
  • {Steelers general manager Khan} OMAR. i don’t know who this is either, but i guess football fans might.
  • {Welsh winger Giggs} RYAN. i do know who this is, but non-soccer fans probably don’t.
  • {Order from a court, as to withhold evidence} WRIT.
  • {Stadium where Torii Hunter played some games} SHEA. hunter never played for the mets—and indeed, never even played in the NL. so while it’s true that he did play some games at SHEA, it would only have been a handful of away games in his career. it’s pretty clear he’s only mentioned in the clue so as to include the rare double-i bigram.
  • {Hajji’s land, in poetry} ARABIA.
  • {Quick points for Tim Henman or Tom Okker} ACES. i sure don’t know who tom okker is either, and i watch… a lot of tennis. (indeed, i’ve got wimbledon on as i write this blog post.) okay, well, apparently he is a dutch player from the 1970s, which could explain it. he had a fine career in both singles (reaching #3 in 1974) and doubles (winning two majors), so maybe i should have heard of him.
  • {Willy Wonka prop} CANE.
  • {Not as common} RARER.
  • {Spinnaker, for example} SAIL.
  • {“The Disappearance of Shere ___” (film shown at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival)} HITE.
  • {User of terms like et. seqq, v., and SCOTUS} ESQ.
  • {Patricia in “The Passage”} NEAL.
  • {Word after test or vacuum} TUBE.
  • {They divvy up the dough after litigation} SUERS.
  • {Powwow holders} TRIBE. it’s perhaps worthy of mention that there is also a double-w, kind of, in {One of Snow White’s pals} DOC. but none of the others are split across two words, so i think we’re only supposed to use the powwow one.
  • {It merged with Exxon in 1999} MOBIL.
  • {1985 movie title often used by cruciverbalists in puzzles} ELENI.

so that’s 21 of the 26 letters, with the only exceptions being ff, oo, rr, tt, and yy. absent the instructions, i think it would be straightforward to submit FORTY as the answer, since, you know, that’s a common word spelled out in alphabetical order by the missing letters. (fun fact: it’s the only integer whose english spelling has all its letters in alphabetical order, thanks to the magical disappearance of the u from “four”.) however, it’s decidedly not a one-syllable word.

so what are we supposed to do now? we haven’t made use of the title yet. is there something we are supposed to do “one more time”? are we supposed to make triple letters somehow? the grid itself has no double letters, let alone triple. perhaps we’re supposed to look at 40-across (CLONE) or 40-down (CORE), both of which are one-syllable words, but i don’t love that there’s an ambiguity there. of the two of them, CLONE is thematically apt, so it looks like the better choice, but the click is not very satisfying here. if CLONE is the answer, why is the prompt “a one-syllable word” instead of something clearer like “a five-letter entry in the grid”? and why “one more time” instead of a title with a stronger click (like, i don’t know, “make mine a double” or “beside myself”)?

maybe one more time means we’re supposed to look at ways we could include ff, oo, rr, tt, and yy in the meta? yy in particular is very constrained—off the top of my head, only poet omar khayyam and skyy vodka are coming to mind as options. and OMAR is, of course, in the grid, with its clue providing the ee as mentioned above. but there are countless options for ff, oo, rr, tt, so this mechanism seems way too underconstrained to be the intended solving path.

i am leaning towards just submitting CLONE and hoping it’s right. but i actually kind of hope it isn’t, and i’m missing something, because otherwise i’m not entirely satisfied with the puzzle. i just can’t shake the feeling that if it is CLONE, the prompt and/or the title would or should have been different.

that’s all i’ve got, i guess.

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11 Responses to MGWCC #839

  1. ajk says:

    Look at the first letter of the grid entries clued by those clues (this was pointed out to me)

  2. Margaret says:

    I never even came close except for knowing that GIGGS had to be thematic somehow, no possible reason to clue RYAN that way otherwise. OTOH, I was positive AHIMSA was thematic too. I was suckered in by the large number of proper names in the grid and how Shere Khan could be created using Shere Hite and Omar Khan, and Tori(i) is there twice, and how Ryan and Neal could become Ryan O’Neal with One More Letter… So yeah, I was flailing wildly.

  3. Mike says:

    I did not see (ha!) the same thing Joon missed until it was pointed out to me post-submission, so I submitted SEE, given the letter in box # 40 and it being the only version of that sounded-word to have a double-letter.

  4. John says:

    Wow. Amazing amount of work here. The title was great as an ‘in’ for this meta. My brain was not. One nice thing about getting older is you always have that excuse. A 5 from me.

  5. Richard K says:

    I got stuck at the same point that Joon described, except that I missed the HH at first and came up with FROTHY. I tried the first letters in alphabetical order, then across and down order. Finally started circling them in the grid, and that did the trick.

  6. Jsolomon1999 says:

    I answered DEUCE because FORTY “One More Time” is forty-forty, or DEUCE in tennis, nudged by the tennis clues at 33 and 38 across.

  7. Jon says:

    1A soccer ACRE
    2D Willy CANE
    6D common RARER
    7D Steelers OMAR
    13D Torii SHEA
    14A Spinnaker SAIL
    17A suddenly INDISGRACE
    18D divvy SUERS
    19A vacuum TUBE
    23D Disappearance… HITE
    26D Aaron EBOLA
    27D Exxon MOBIL
    31D puzzles ELENI
    34A Powwow TRIBE
    38A Okker ACES
    44A Hajji’s ARABIA
    46A Passage NEAL
    49D tabby SPCA
    51D withhold WRIT
    57D Seqq ESQ
    61A Giggs RYAN


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