MGWCC #221

crossword 2:51 (across lite)
meta 2 days 

hello, and welcome to episode #221 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “At the Present Time”. this week, matt challenges us to write a clue for 60-across that completes the theme. okay, so what was the theme? well, there were no clearly-marked theme clues, but the long central across was {How often George pledges to visit his parents when they move to Florida, in a “Seinfeld” episode} EVERY 5 YEARS. combined with the title, this is a nudge in the direction of traditional anniversary presents. and indeed, every multiple of 5 in the grid has a corresponding clue (across or down) containing the material associated with that anniversary:

  • 5a {Used a wood, say} is SWUNG, like a golf club.
  • 10d {He barked at the Tin Man} TOTO.
  • 15a {“City Slickers” co-star of Crystal} is bruno KIRBY, co-star of billy crystal.
  • 20a {The way, in China} TAO.
  • 25a {Seger with the Silver Bullet Band} BOB.
  • 30a {Grand ___ Opry (Minnie Pearl‘s place)} OLE.
  • 35d {Animal often carved out of jade} ELEPHANT.
  • 40a {Ruby of “American Gangster”} DEE.
  • 45d {Lapis ___ (semiprecious stone once called sapphire because of its color)} LAZULI.
  • 50a {Phil who won gold at the Sarajevo Olympics} MAHRE.
  • 55a {Emerald Isle chronicler} is james JOYCE. i’m struggling through ulysses at the moment. i’m hardly one to complain, but would it have killed him to use standard punctuation, especially to indicate who is speaking what lines of dialogue?

anyway, so 60a is NEIL and the 60th anniversary gift is diamond. so we need to write a clue for NEIL that includes the word diamond. the obvious avenue is singer neil diamond, so my submission was {Sweet Caroline singer Diamond}. but if you wanted to go for a nobler, more recently deceased NEIL, you could have dug up a gem like {Astronaut Armstrong who carried a diamond-studded astronaut pin on Apollo 11 that was given to him by Deke Slayton}. RIP, neil.

this is a pretty amazing construction. i mean, i understand that there are some theme answers that don’t have a particularly strong relationship to the gift material in the clue (ELEPHANT/jade is a tenuous connection, for example; OLE/pearl is pretty weak too). but there are 12 (!) theme answers, that have to go at particular numbers in the grid, plus the EVERY 5 YEARS hint across the middle. that is an incredibly constrained grid. and yet the fill is remarkably clean, with only AFP (agence france-presse) wildly unfamiliar. this, my friends, is a tour de force. five stars and a tip of the cap.

odds & ends:

  • {Adams, Grant and Carter} are famous AMYS, not just presidents. although amy carter was a first daughter.
  • {However briefly?} is OTOH, text/chat-speak for “on the other hand”.
  • {Goddess of fertility} is ASTARTE, of various mesopotamian cultures.
  • {Object that inexplicably falls from the sky in cartoons} is a fun way to clue ANVIL.
  • {Noted tennis autobiography of 1986} is MARTINA, presumably by navratilova. had she come out as lesbian before the book? also, was it released before or after I, TINA?
  • {Victorious exclamation} is BOOYA (cue stuart scott). not sure i’ve seen this in a grid, but it’s fun.
  • {How baseball games can’t end} is IN A TIE, unless we’re talking about the MLB all-star game.
  • {Louisiana senator David} VITTER is not the most famous senator around. i hope nobody had too much trouble with the crossing of VITTER and the (unclued) NEIL at the E.

that’s all from me. let’s hear from you in the comments.

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36 Responses to MGWCC #221

  1. Scott says:

    Got this one on Saturday after thinking about it for a day or so. Yesssss!

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    I solve these on Facebook since they come out Thursday night, and this time Matt’s name didn’t appear. It turned out to be an oversight on Puzzle Social’s part, but since there were so many proper names in the grid, I thought this must have significance. With the answer needing to be in the form of a clue, it seemed likely that key indicators would be in Matt’s clueing, so I wrote down all the clues for names. Also from the title, my initial guess was that Matt was going for a twelve days of Christmas theme, then I really thought so when a 5 appeared in the middle square, as in Five… Golden… Rings… But all those odd clues with crystal, silver, ruby, etc. kept popping out from my list, and though the set was wrong, it wasn’t hard to see the pattern. Of course, I felt more than a bit dense that I hadn’t seen the numerical associations sooner. The meta may have been quite easy, but the level of construction was superb. I find it thoroughly impressive that Matt’s standard of excellence is so consistent.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    139 right answers this week, 7 of whom referenced Neil Armstrong Elementary School (taking care to mention that it’s located in Diamond Bar, California!)

  4. Janette says:

    Maybe it was just me, but I saw this theme right away. I spent more time deciding what I wanted for the question then I spent on the puzzle. Unfortunately I never came up with anything particualarily brilliant. I ending up going with “Diamond that made Beautiful Noise”

  5. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Utter fail for me, including the fact that I was thinking of sending in “Heartlight Diamond” as my answer, but didn’t. (Didn’t send in any answer, in fact.) Didn’t, because although Neil Diamond was the first reference that came to mind, I couldn’t come up with any theme to justify it.

    The grid was so full of proper names, first, middle, and last, from so many fields, with so many dates attached! I looked up years of birth, years of death, years of accession, obviously nothing fit.

    Another brilliant puzzle from Matt, way over my head!

  6. Neil Diamond was the first thing that crossed my mind when I saw what 60A was before I grokked the meta. It wasn’t too hard to figure out once I wrote down all of the clues/answers for the multiple-of-5 clues, although that didn’t happen until Monday night since I was busy all weekend.

    I went with “Diamond often heard in the 8th inning at Fenway Park”, which anyone who’s been to a Red Sox game should easily know.

  7. John says:

    Sent in a clue referencing Neil Diamond. It *never* occurred to me that it could be another Neil but with ‘diamond’ worked into the clue. Extra credit for those that did the out-of-the-box thinking.

  8. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    I would probably not have gotten this meta in the time I was able to allocate to it if it were not for seriously focusing on the title, which started me down one path (presentation, as an award or medal) then another (gift giving). Once the line had played-out on all the former avenues, I refocused on gift giving (and why I did not go there first I can’t explain). Once I focused there, EVERY5YEARS leapt out at me in terms of significant wedding anniversaries. I immediately remembered seeing wood, silver, gold and tin in the clues, so I excitedly scanned all the clues, making a list of the gifts embedded in certain of them, then realized all the bases were covered up through diamond. Suddenly, the feeling of a complete “lock” hit me and I submitted my answer with less than 10 minutes to spare.

    After submitting, I reviewed them all again, and was just *blown away* by the realization that the number of the across or down clue containing the every-five-years-gift was the actual anniversary. Perhaps I should say gobstruck.

    I don’t know which adjective to use, so here are a few that are all appropriate for this puzzle and its meta: astounding, fabulous, stupendous. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it was nonpareil. It was definitely *****.

    Congrats to the solvers that got the meta, and to Matt for the awesome puzzle!

    @Joon — your solving times always amaze me, too. Thanks for the excellent write-up.

  9. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    Forgot to add that my clue submittal was:

    Diamond who celebrated the 40th anniversary of “Hot August Night” at the Greek August 11th & 16th, 2012.

    I liked the alternative references to Neil Armstrong posted here!

  10. ===Dan says:

    I saw “the present time” and a very large number of names in the puzzle, and could not get anywhere past “‘Superman’ actress Noel ____.” But I knew she is a two-el Neill so I never sent it in. There also was no sense in which this clue could complete a set.

  11. *David* says:

    My solving process was that I figured that it must be connected to some relationship in the cluing since the answer was a clue. I figured it would be every five clues based on the “theme” answer. I then saw the first clue that seemed ridiculously over the top for the Grand OLE Opry, that’s a gimme, why that Minnie Pearl stuff. I saw the same type of cluing for Lapus LAZULI another common crossword fill with unnecessary verbiage in the cluing. The PEARL and the SAPPHIRE then put me on the right track with a Google to confirm the other anniversaries. Fun meta to solve.

  12. Cole says:

    Got trapped by obsessing on the somewhat misleading crossing answer and figured that the I in NEIL was crossing with INAT[IEEXCEPTINTHEALLSTARGAM]E and could not figure out an appropriate clue.

  13. Pete M says:

    Had I grokked the meta on Friday, I probably would have gone with “Diamond who’s heard on a Boston diamond”. As it was, I didn’t get it until after the Neil Armstrong news, so that was fresh in mind. Nice to see others shared this thought process. :)

  14. Karen says:

    I focussed too much on the across clues–looked at the five multiples, also every fifth clue, and the fifth letter of each clue–and came up blank.

  15. Don Lloyd says:

    I now have to cut a hole in the floor to allow my jaw to drop even further than it already had. Checked in here this morning feeling quite proud of myself that I had found five (count ‘em, 5) theme entries of wedding anniversaries keyed to clue numbers 20 – 60, only to discover I had completely overlooked seven other theme entries! Gobsmacked is putting it mildly.

  16. Howard B says:

    Had a day to solve this, and since I simply do not know most of these anniversary materials (just a sad knowledge gap that I should soon amend), and so never could quite make the connection with the related materials. I only knew 5s were involved, and did suspect clue #s were involved, but that was all. That said, this is amazing – I love it.

  17. I spent way too long trying to horseshoe a reference to one of my favorite NEaL Stephenson books, The Diamond Age, into my meta answer, but I gave up and went with the singer.

    What does it say about me that I didn’t even think for a second that the AMYS clue was about US presidents? I hope it’s just that I do crosswords.

  18. Annette Otis says:

    I wonder if 1 across CAKE is intentional since you typically eat a frozen piece of your wedding cake on your first anniversary although it is the answer and not part of the clue….

  19. jefe says:

    Argh, these metas always seem so simple in hindsight! Not being married, I didn’t make the connection to anniversaries, and while I noticed the odd parentheticals for OLE and LAZULI, the others parentheticals (ERLE and OUTER) didn’t have any commonalities.

    Also, is there any reason why the Puzzle Social app had a Q in place of the central 5, instead of an F? (And has the app been acting up for anyone else?)

    • Alex says:

      Jefe –

      Matt has had a few grids with numbers in them, and the Across Lite file invariably has a Q in the place of the number. For most solvers it doesn’t matter because the file is locked. But now that it’s on PuzzleSocial …

      • I started solving the puzzle on Android with the Shortyz app. At one point I had the “reveal incorrect letters” option on and it highlighted almost every letter, since the puzzle was locked.

        I’m guessing that either it has a bug and was just treating the scrambled solution as if it were the real solution, or Matt intentionally fills in the puzzle “solution” with garbage. I’m guessing the latter, since I’m hoping that Matt is wise enough not to include the actual solution in any form, even if the puzzle is locked and the solution isn’t ordinarily viewable.

        I don’t know if there are any programs out there that do this, but it wouldn’t be hard to crack a locked puzzle by trying all 10,000 possible unlock codes and seeing which ones give a good number of dictionary words.

      • Alex says:

        Adam — it’s the former (and there are “only” 6561 possible combinations because 0 never appears in the unlock code).

  20. Matt Gaffney says:

    Easter egg for Annette!

  21. Dave C says:

    Solved the puzzle Friday, nothing. Scanned the grid for a few minutes Saturday and Sunday, zippo. Picked it back up Monday night almost as an afterthought, decided to give one last look. Fortunately, I decided to stop looking at the grid, and went after the clues. Ruby, Pearl…..interesting….wait! Emerald, Silver too! When the corresponding numbers were multiples of 5, I knew I was home. Didn’t see half of the anniversary references till I was 75% done with my email to Matt. Went with “2011 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Nominee Diamond” as my clue answer….

  22. Abby says:

    Didn’t get this Friday, but it cleared up by Monday. I admit I did try fifth letters and every five clues (not by number) before I got there, though. I was also distracted by the sea of names and possible connections (Grant + Joyce -> Ulysses?, Neil + Lance -> Armstrong?), but that seemed too loopy to pursue. Finally sent in an easy clue that was an easy cryptic clue too.

  23. HH says:

    “{Louisiana senator David} VITTER is not the most famous senator around. ”

    Really? Then perhaps this, from gawker . com, will refresh your memory:
    “Five years ago, Louisiana Senator David Vitter was humiliated when he was outed as a client of the infamous “DC Madam,” Deborah Palfrey. Back then, reports said that not only did Vitter see prostitutes on numerous occasions, he was rumored to have a fetish for wearing diapers, like a man-baby. “

  24. AV says:

    … and I thought this was another puzzle to celebrate the Shortz 60!

  25. Todd G says:

    President Amy. I like the sound of that.

  26. Jeff G. says:

    Excellent meta. Always enjoy any puzzle with a Seinfeld clue. Great job Matt!

  27. Mitchs says:

    Wow, what a meta! Beyond me, of course. I did go so far as to check out the ANSWERS on the multiples of five, but that’s as far as I got. Even if I had scanned the clues, I’m with Howard B in that these traditional presents just aren’t on my radar. Still, I think I’m getting better at these and they are consistently my favorite puzzle experience of the week. Thanks Matt and Joon!

  28. Paul says:

    I needed help from friends to figure out, first, that it had to do with anniversaries and, second, that 60A was NEIL, not NAIL. As great as the puzzlewass, my favorite part was that solvers had an opportunity to be creative with their answers. I sent in: Diamond on the cover of People in 1979. I can’t wait to hear some of the others. Perhaps Matt will pick a favorite…

  29. Ben Bass says:

    I briefly looked at clues 5, 10, 15, 2o, etc. and then I was all, no, this can’t be it. Kudos to everyone who solved the meta, way over my head like Mr. Kerfuf.

    Also thought about the All-Star Game with a sad memory of Bud Selig’s impotent shrug at game’s “end.”

    p.s. I forgot to work on it again Monday night after solving the puzzle over the weekend, but it mattered not, as there is no way I was going to get this. #wavelengthfail

  30. Plum says:

    I grokked this immediately even though I only took note of sapphire, emerald, ruby, and gold. I submitted “Love On The Rocks” singer Diamond. Love? Rocks? See what I did there?

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