MGWCC #147

[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/29" plug="mgwcc-147" puzz="" anchor=""]crossword 4:50
puzzle DNF yet again, eked out at the 11th hour[/time_hdr]

so i’ve been turning it over in my mind for 3 days, and i couldn’t solve this one. the 147th episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “What’s in a Phrase?”, asked us to identify a familiar 6-letter surname. no explicit clues in the grid, but here are the four long answers, which have some commonalities:

  • to {Hit it big in L.A.} is to GO HOLLYWOOD.
  • some {Agency programs} are AD CAMPAIGNS.
  • {“Think outside the box”} clues “BE CREATIVE!”.
  • {Plus} can mean IN ADDITION.

in short, i have no idea what’s going on here. in long:

  • each of the four theme answers (at least i think they’re theme answers, although i have no idea, really, if they’re the only four) is a two-word phrase starting with a 2-letter word. but i couldn’t figure out what to do with GO AD BE IN.
  • there are, in fact, 4 long answers. since we’re looking for a 6-letter name, i don’t think we’re supposed to get a letter (or two) from each. but the more i think about it, the more i suspect there’s more theme in this grid, because it’s a 78-word grid with a couple of cheaters (and a few clunkers, like the A FOR/UOMO crossing, and a pair of random numerals, one arabic and one roman), which matt probably wouldn’t resort to for just 42 theme squares.
  • i tried to put the four phrases together as kind of a combined instruction: GO HOLLYWOOD could mean think about movies. BE CREATIVE IN ADDITION almost seems like it could mean something, doesn’t it? fudge one’s taxes? but i have no idea what AD CAMPAIGNS might refer to.
  • i wondered if AD CAMPAIGNS had anything to do with the ADS {Spots on screens} at 20a, but that seemed more like a careless error than a hint, and indeed, matt says he didn’t even notice it. oh well.
  • speaking of things matt can get away with, he’s actually clued STDS as {Unwanted acquisitions, for short}. that is not how it was clued in the gray lady earlier today.
  • vowels! i’ve been burned on vowels a few times recently, so i was fairly quick to notice that the theme answers had 4 Os, 3 As, 3 Is, and 3 Es. does that mean the answer is SUNUNU? i … do not think so. semirandom accumulation of vowels isn’t much of a meta. univocalic phrases might be, but that’s not what we have. (GO HOLLYWOOD comes close, but i’d definitely consider the Y a flaw in that one.)
  • i briefly considered that the central down answer, ALFONSE, might be part of the theme. the clue is pretty out there: {Monsieur ___ (“‘Allo! ‘Allo!” role)}. what the hell is “‘Allo! ‘Allo!”, and why did i just need like 62 punctuation marks to type it? (it’s not alphonse and gaston, which was my first thought, only because i learned it from crosswords and it seemed so weird to me that it stuck.) it occurred to me that maybe the answer is a famous person named ALFONSE, like former senator al d’amato. later i noticed that senator D’AMATO is actually in the grid, at 45d. whoa! how often does somebody with a name like ALFONSE D’AMATO get his full name in the grid by accident? (or is it an accident? maybe it’s part of the meta, though damned if i know how.)
  • there is another 6-letter surname in the grid that is not clued as such: actor gary OLDMAN is your {Pops} at 10d. holy crap, GARY is also in the grid! {Great Lakes city}, 13d. okay, this is no longer an accident.

end of bullet points—i think i am on the verge of a breakthrough. let’s see if i can blog myself through it “out loud” (as it were): perhaps GO HOLLYWOOD is a clue to gary oldman, and AD CAMPAIGNS obliquely refers to the political career of al d’amato. then maybe BE CREATIVE IN ADDITION (or IN ADDITION, BE CREATIVE)? can we combine these names creatively? OLDMAN D’AMATO? vaguely reminiscent of “let’s call the whole thing off,” but that’s just because D’AMATO sounds like “tomahto” (which, by the way, i’ve never heard any native speaker use as a pronunciation for tomato). if you really stretch it, D’AMATO kinda sounds like “the motto,” which might also be related to AD CAMPAIGNS. i like ike? tippecanoe and tyler too? this is going nowhere.

okay, any more hidden names in the grid? lots of first names (REY HENRI OTTO ISAAC MOE BRIAN KEN EGON ANNA LON(S) ELI), a handful of last names (MILNE, BOOP, LOM, ENO not clued as such), one stage name (BONO, aka paul david hewson), and even a middle name (SCOTT, of orson card and francis key). let’s see, do any of these match up with hidden 6-letter surnames? the law & order detective is REY curtis, but that’s entirely too weak to be the meta. HENRI refers to tennis player leconte. OTTO and ISAAC didn’t really have last names. BRIAN is director de palma, although that clue also references “al” (not D’AMATO) pacino. hmm, might be something to think about. the other first names are explicitly clued with their corresponding last names (szyslak, caminiti, schiele/spengler, sui, nol/chaney, broad).

oh, wait, BRIAN ENO. duh. anyway, this is definite progress. what the hell do BRIAN ENO, ALFONSE D’AMATO, and GARY OLDMAN have in common? man, i’m frustratingly close here.

ohhhh! initials: BE CREATIVE = Brian Eno, who is creative. AD CAMPAIGNS = alfonse d’amato, who ran campaigns. GO HOLLYWOOD = gary oldman, of hollywood. and … IN ADDITION? hmm. must be ISAAC NEWTON, calculus pioneer!

wow. just wow. that is an amazing meta. so yeah, there were actually 11 theme answers in this grid, not 4. but man, now it’s 2 am and i am going to bed. talk amongst yourselves!

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50 Responses to MGWCC #147

  1. Cole says:

    I saw the names but did not connect with the initials. I also saw MOE and KEN and thought of HOWARD who both had some Hollywood connections.

  2. tabstop says:

    Noticed Brian Eno, but not the other two, and never put it together with BE creative (or with anything else really). Well done Matt. Maybe there’s something to be said for free-writing as a creative exercise after all.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Just 47 correct entries this week, so be proud if you’re one of them and don’t sweat it if you’re not.

    The choice of theme entries was extremely limited as you might imagine. Besides these four the only other one I found was ON POLITICS for Oliver North. But it’s weaker than the four I used because “On Politics” is just the name of a column in USA Today, so pretty obscure.

  4. nanpilla says:

    Got this late last night, after going through a lot of the same gyrations as Joon. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get to sleep until I figured it out. However, my Tinker to Evers to Chance was ENO to D’AMATO to OLDMAN. Then, when I got it – talk about an AHA moment – I was born Nancy Newton! How often do you get your very own meta?

  5. mitchs says:

    Well, I read your thought processes, Joon. And I still don’t understand much of anything. Except that we operate on different planes, and I’m looking up at ours.

  6. sandirhodes says:

    Here’s what I wrote to Matt when answering “Cullen”:

    **
    The puzzle says:

    Go Hollywood
    Ad Campaigns
    In Addition
    Be Creative

    You can also find:

    Gary Oldman (13D + 10D)
    Saga This Week (1D + 28D + 50D) — the ‘phrase’ down the left side (What’s in a Phrase?)

    So, Gary Oldman is appearing in Red Riding Hood (lots of media hype this week — Hollywood Ad Campaign), from the same people (In Addition) as the Twilight Saga movies (Breaking Dawn, the 4th installment is due this fall, which is starting to be advertised), which feature the SWM (22D) named Edward of the Cullen family.

    Now THAT is Creative! (and a bit THALMUDIC?)
    **

    I’m not a fan of these movies — at least I’ve never seen one. But I thought their popularity might be a factor.

    I also considered OSWALD, which I wanted it to be forever, but couldn’t justify it (Oldman’s role in JFK).

    You’ve also got BRIAN (40A) ENO (61A), and EGON (54D, clued Schiele). Hmmm. Vesely, perhaps?? (Eno scored Vesely’s Egon Schiele Excess and Punishment) LOL! Wish I could tie Eno into the Saga series.

    I think I was led astray be words intended to deceive!

  7. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Total Fail for me. Went through many of the same starts noted by joon, but couldn’t carry any of them through half as far as he did.

    I would nominate Matt and joon as the closest equivalent to an irresistible force meeting an immovable object, or something like that. Incredible construction, incredible solve!

    (So now Matt is going to tell me that 150 people solved it!?!)

    (In the time it took me to type – – OK, only 47, but all brilliant. Congratulations, nanpilla et al!)

  8. sandirhodes says:

    Could anyone explain IOO as “+40, written out” to me, please? No clue here.

    Thanks.

    Also, nice clues for 1A (SCOTT), and 54A (EAU)

  9. *David* says:

    I saw Alfonse D’Amato which was actually what broke half of the meta for me right away. I then looked for other names and found Brian Eno. I then found a Ken Scott who was a famous record producer but then stalled and decided to try and connect with the theme answers. The AD was right next to Alfonse so I put together the initials and the politics which was the next critical break. I then knew my Ken Scott was wrong and found the rest with ISAAC being left out with no last name partner. I first tried to fit him in with an N as in Isaac Noone couldn’t find any other fill that worked and reread my last theme fill that needed to be used and realized that the last name would be the meta answer. Despite all these steps I actually got the meta in about five-ten minutes which felt pretty good.

  10. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    @sandirhodes – You say, No clue here, but there was a clue. In fact, it was clue 60, and 60 + 40 = 100.!

  11. Al Sanders says:

    Awesome meta, it actually clicked for me reasonably early. Alfonse D’Amato was the entry point for me. It was great fun as I kept discovering more names. “Hmm, Oldman was an actor, oh wait, there’s Gary! Hmm, Brian’s whose last name starts with an E, only see Eno, Wow! there’s ENO in the grid!” Lots of fun.

    Joon, when I saw on FB last night that you hadn’t cracked it yet, I had full faith in your pulling out another under the wire solve!

  12. Peedee says:

    I couldn’t get past the fact that if you added the last letter of the longer theme word to the two-letter word, you got a three letter word: BE + E, AD +S, GO + D, IN + N. I was just sure that had something to do with the meta. Joon, I stand in awe of your deductive ability. And everyone else who figured it out.

  13. peechy says:

    bet this will break the record for fewest correct answers

  14. Al Sanders says:

    Also, this was another one where the title didn’t help until after the fact. “What’s in a Phrase” evokes “What’s in a Name” so Phrase=>Name. Brilliant.

  15. Evad says:

    I got this right without noticing that the phrases referenced the people whose initials were at the beginning of each phrase. Finding ALFONSE D’AMATO in the grid and noticing that his initials were AD were enough to set me on the right track. I was impressed with the meta even before reading here that the phrases connected to the person, so I’m super-duper impressed now.

    MG MAESTRO anyone?

  16. Jason Feng says:

    I went through all the clues and red herrings and in the end I submitted TAYLOR just because. It didn’t help that the first theme answer I got was GO HOLLYWOOD.

  17. joon says:

    aww, geez, everybody. thanks! *blushes*

    seriously, though, it definitely helps me that i have to blog this thing every week. not only is it powerful motivation to keep hammering away at a tough meta the whole weekend, but actually sitting down to write the post with the meta unsolved has been enough to crack it for me at least 3 or 4 times now. when you blog a puzzle, you look at all the clues and answers and you pick out things that are odd or striking, or surprising connections between different elements of the puzzle. you (or at least i) also examine the architecture of the puzzle and see what the constraints on the construction might be. and all of that is exactly the kind of thinking sometimes needed to unravel a knotty puzzle.

    peechy: not even close! the game has changed since then (in particular, matt’s solvership has grown by an order of magnitude), but three years ago in MGWCC #8, only 14 people cracked the meta, and i wasn’t one of them.

  18. Jeffrey says:

    I sent in WILSON. Anyone want to guess why because I can’t remember.

  19. Matt Gaffney says:

    Yeah Joon — but there were only about 200 MGWCC solvers then. Per regular solver, this is probably the lowest.

  20. Karen says:

    I was hampered by an incorrect grid…I saw that Alitalia lasted 1946-2008, and didn’t bother checking the other airlines, what were the odds of two airlines starting and ending the same year? I figured it was a weird rebus, somehow the HOL from Hollywood had fallen out of my grid. None of those first/last name combos would have struck a major chord in me though, except for Brian Eno. Nice puzzle, Matt.

  21. joon says:

    jeffrey: maybe related to charlie wilson’s war, which is HOLLYWOOD and CAMPAIGN-ish?

  22. zifmia says:

    I stared at the four theme answers getting nowhere.

    Then the three names in the grid jumped out at me and I was sure I was almost there, and then…. (crickets) …. nothing.

    Is it April yet?

  23. Jeffrey says:

    Rechecking my grid, I had circled the 3 AAs, including in ISAAC! The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous was Bill WILSON. Nice job by me solving a different meta.

  24. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Moreover, each of the four theme names crosses its long theme phrase once, and doesn’t meet any of the other three phrases.

  25. Eric Maddy says:

    OK, here’s what I came up with:
    I took the two-letter portions of the four themers (GO, AD, BE, IN). Anagrammed those letters into BOGIE AND. Concluded that the correct answer was BACALL, which is not only a “familiar six-letter surname”, but “Bogey and Bacall” is an in-the-language phrase, which fits the title.

  26. DNF. Sent in BOEING (anagram of GO BE IN; poor AD gets left out). I noticed a lot of names in the grid, and I even noticed BRIAN ENO and thought “Hmm, that’s an odd clue for ENO”, but I couldn’t put the rest of it together. Never heard of Alfonse D’Amato or Gary Oldman, which made it that much harder to see.

    Another thing I noticed pretty early on was that there were a lot of double letters in the grid, but they don’t spell anything. The double letters in across answers spell TACLOCATAO, and the ones in the down answers spell EODWONON (which anagrams to ONE DOWN O). I looked at 1D and say SAGA THIS WEEK but couldn’t make anything from that.

  27. Neville says:

    Jeffrey, I figured you got WILSON off of BRIAN (Beach Boy or SF Giant – your pick).

    Congrats on another 11th hour solve, joon!

  28. SethG says:

    I was thinking MT RUSHMORE could work, but none of the top 100 NFL rushers were MTs (Michael Turner is 101st). No UP Country stars. There’s never been a DO supreme court JUSTICE, and the highest ranking current federal judge is Diarmuid O’Scannlain. Good luck with that one.

    Best I could do was Alan Thicke at MIDNIGHT, for about a week, in 1983.

    I saw ALFONSE and D’AMATO, saw AD in ADS, TRIADS, AD CAMPAIGNS, and ADORERS, saw more. And ION was in there, so I was trying to play with What’s (in) a Phrase and (IN)(AD)(DIT)(ION). That did not work.

    Very nicely done, sir.

  29. Abby says:

    I got it- and pretty quickly, though late because I started late. I kicked around the theme words, then noticed Alfonse D’Amato. I have on several occasions noticed a lot of double letters and names in Matt’s puzzles and it’s never gotten me anywhere, but I found Brian Eno and Gary Oldman. Wasn’t sure what to do, so I stepped away to take care of something else and realized the theme words matched up with the names I’d found in initial letters and meaning.

    I compulsively extract all the words from the grid (don’t worry, the computer does the work), so it was a simple matter to double check for any other possibilities. The only word in the whole thing that starts with N is NOONE. Like Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, or like NO ONE as it’s clued. Either way, not six letters and not a match for ISAAC (or ION or IOO either).

    The only Isaac N_____ that was reasonably famous that I could think of was Newton. Didn’t much care for “Addition” for him, but arithmetic is math, and I’m sure he could add too, besides, you know inventing calculus or whatever.

    And thus I survive another month! But will I beat the one in five odds to win? Don’t count on it. I’m far less lucky than good in MGWCC! :-) It’s an honor just to be nominated.

  30. otis says:

    @nanpilla, I got a meta for me when Matt got his new cat. It is quite a fun addition to the aha moment of the meta!

  31. pgw says:

    Proud to have gotten this one. My solve was similar to Joon’s, though as usual he thought more like a constructor than I ever would have.

    One nice piece of misdirection – not sure if it was intentional. In addition to the theme answers there were two other two-word phrases beginning with two-letter words in the fill – NO ONE and OY VEY. I tried for a while to make something taking one letter from each of the resulting six phrases, or something like that. No luck there, obviously.

    I mentioned to Matt that I thought it would have been slightly more elegant to have clued D’AMATO in a way that did not reference Al himself. “Tyson’s trainer” would have done the trick. But that might have made an already murderous meta even more difficult.

    It also would have been more elegant if the creative B.E. had a six-letter last name, but I can’t find anyone fitting the bill. Yes, the options for the theme are surprisingly limited. Best alternative I could come up with was SO DRAMATIC for Sean O’Casey, but I don’t think that’s a very idiomatic phrase.

  32. Jeff says:

    I anagrammed PHRASE = SHARPE, and was hoping it was a Rex Parker reference, until I remembered he has no E in his name :-(… that’s as far as I got.

  33. Mike says:

    Normally I get oh-so-close when I don’t solve it, but this time I wasn’t even in the ballpark. So I feel a little better.

    Was I the only one who sent in SHORTZ?

  34. Matt Gaffney says:

    pgw — that’s a good point, if I’d had a better option besides D’AMATO I would have used it so all three last names would have been clued to someone other than the person referenced. I didn’t know about the boxing trainer but not sure he’s well-known enough.

    Also notice the theme entries are almost symmetrical — the two pairs of long ones, plus ISAAC/BRIAN, OLDMAN/DAMATO and ALFONSE all work, but ENO/GARY were different lengths so that wasn’t quite a coup. But at least those two are in symmetric corners.

  35. Theseus says:

    The Google machine sent me astray. Saw Alfonse D’Amato and Ad Campaigns were a match, but then I tried to connect Al to Hollywood. Google said Al had a cameo in “The Devil’s Advocate” starring Al Pacino (who was once directed by BRIAN DePalma). Got sucked onto the labyrinth…. there are precisely 23 A’s and 23 O’s… obviously this has chromosomal implications….
    Spent a lot of time musing over the title. Tried to get help from a SHERPA or a SERAPH.

  36. abide says:

    Loving this thread. My anagram was “Be a dingo”—> BARKER

    Superb meta.

  37. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I had Gary Oldman days ago, and Alfonse D. soon thereafter. But the rest of the theme names hid from me until last night, when the gentlest hint from another solver made everything else tumble. Hadn’t really noticed the ENO, and was fixated on 6-letter names.

    I hadn’t noticed the thematicness of the post-initial words in the theme phrases. Super elegant! I did catch that each phrase was crossed by its corresponding name, but BRIAN being shorter and not a last name kept me off the trail for so long.

  38. sandirhodes says:

    @Bob, et al: When I said ‘no clue,’ I meant *I* had no clue what the clue meant! LOL But thanks, it makes sense. And I’ve even seen that cluing before!!!!!!

    As a midwesterner, I’d heard of some politician named D’Amato (only because that was a crewman’s name in a TOS Star Trek episode with Lee Meriwether), but didn’t know his first name. I did, however, briefly consider ‘Capone’ as an answer — I think that was ‘Alphonse’ though.

  39. Abby says:

    Matt, I would’ve used director Joe D’Amato- or isn’t he (in)famous enough? I’m an Italian exploitation connoisseur, so I can’t tell from here. :-)

  40. Karen says:

    I spent way too much time failing at this one. But in searching for an answer, I learned more about…Betty Boop, the Book of Eli, the Devil’s Advocate, the I (heart) NY ad campaign, Law & Order, Ghostbusters, famous people named Henri, Moe, Ken, etc, and finally “The Contender”, in which Gary Oldman plays a senator who is compared (by at least one reviewer) to Al D’Amato. The character’s name is Runyon, so that was my Hail Mary answer.

    I had to read Joon’s explanation twice to get the initials thing, but now that I finally understand it, it’s brilliant! There were just too many other names in the grid for me to get there. (and I don’t know who Brian Eno is, but I intend to find out.)

  41. Matt Gaffney says:

    Abby — I have to admit, now that I think about it, that I’m not sure I even went looking for another D’AMATO. Not sure why.

  42. Meg says:

    I expected to groan last week, when the meta was so easy. I’m groaning now, having fallen for SUNUNU. I wonder how many went for the vowel sequence. Was it just a coincidence or a deliberate red herring? Sigh. On to April!

  43. Matt Gaffney says:

    Altoona, knock it off.

  44. pgw says:

    And “Monsieur Alfonse” *is* well-known enough? :)

  45. Matt Gaffney says:

    Not really — but there was no better ALFONSE, amazingly.

  46. rmac says:

    Somebody needs to add the “Matt Gaffney” tag to this post. Just ’cause.

  47. joon says:

    thanks, rmac. just added it.

  48. Jed says:

    More comments than correct answers…. :-D

    Definitely in my all-time meta top ten.

  49. sps says:

    Agreed, Jed—awesome meta. Joon, can I rent your brain for one end of the month meta, kinda like Being Joon Malkovich?

  50. Neville says:

    Comments > Correct entries.

    WIN.

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