MGWCC #250

crossword 3:56
meta about 5 minutes 

hello and welcome to episode #250 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “First-Quarter Action”, in which matt crosses the 25% threshold of his intended 1000-week run at MGWCC. sorry to have missed last week’s post—i was intending to enjoy my extra day before the deadline after an exhausting but wonderful weekend at ACPT, but the extra day turned into an extra week as i completely spaced out on wednesday morning and never got the post written. oops! well, i’m glad to be back. let’s have a look at this week’s meta, shall we? the instructions tell us that we’re looking for the answer to a hidden trivia question. what are the theme answers?

  • {It mentions the Isle of Wight (first, quarter; then first quarter)} WHEN I’M SIXTY-FOUR. if it’s not too dear.
  • {Part of the Dead Man’s Hand (first, quarter; then first quarter)} EIGHT OF CLUBS. i knew it was aces and eights, but not the particular suits.
  • {NIT NCAA teams who’ve won their first two games, collectively (first, quarter; then first quarter)} SWEET SIXTEEN. topical, with the tournament beginning this week. my alma mater, harvard, is a 14 seed, and very unlikely to reach the third round. my mom’s alma mater and my only real rooting interest in college basketball, georgetown, is a 2 seed, but landed a ridiculously tough draw. if the hoyas do advance to the SWEET SIXTEEN, they’ll probably have to play #3-seeded florida, only (i think) the best team in the country this year. eep.
  • {Duration of solitude, in a literary title (first, quarter; then first quarter)} ONE HUNDRED YEARS. gabriel garcia marquez’s one hundred years of solitude is probably my favorite novel.

in addition, there’s one other clue that is obviously related to the theme: 4-across, WAGON, is clued as {Traditionally red transportation (not this one; go to 4-down)}. with this hint, i was able to figure out pretty quickly what was going on: take the numbers in the theme answers (64, 8, 16, 100) and quarter them (16, 2, 4, 25). where does that get us?

  • 16a {“What is it, caller?”} clues “HELLO?”.
  • 2d {State quarter with this island’s outline? It’s Hawaii} OAHU. true, although it’s not just OAHU, of course.
  • 4d {Features a gym is very likely to have} WEIGHTS. not 4a, we know, from the hint above.
  • 25a {Piece of fruit that also just happens to be a common color} ORANGE. indeed! shout-out to amy of crossword fiend. of course, a lot of other fruits are color names: lemon, peach, lime, … but none quite so common a color as orange.

these clues all have interesting wording, mostly related to extra words. so what should we do? well, we already did “first, quarter” by taking 1/4 of each number. now we need to look at the “first quarter”: there are 4, 8, 8, and 12 words, respectively, in those four clues. by looking at just the first 1, 2, 2, and 3 words, we get:

  • What
  • State quarter
  • Features a
  • Piece of fruit

there’s your hidden trivia question. the answer is georgia, the peach state.

i loved this meta. every so often, matt pulls out a real scavenger hunt-style meta, and this one was deftly executed. i loved the thematic tightness involving the first-quarterness of each clue, and the wording on the quartered clues was fun. the title was also intriguingly loaded: with the hyphen, “first-quarter” can mean “relating to the first quarter”, but it can also mean “relating to the act of quartering [something] first”. both senses were in play here.

how’d you all like this one?

(sorry for the delay. the site was out of commission when i tried to finish this post last night, and i only just now (1:30 pm) got a chance to finish the post.)

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33 Responses to MGWCC #250

  1. hibob says:

    I liked it. At first I thought I was getting older, losing my head, but finally it came.
    Maybe the first one I figured out that you had to go outside the grid for the answer. I probably would not have figured it out without the “not here/4d” clue in 4a.

  2. Debbie says:

    Only got as far as HELLO, OAHU, etc. Can’t tell you how many times I looked at state quarters trying to find “HELLO” or an orange (or weights, for that matter). So close…yet so far.

  3. Wayne says:

    Loved it. Perfect for a week 3 of 5.

    My only quibble is with the clue for 25A. The fruit and the color don’t “just happen” to share a name. The latter takes its name from the former.

    Embarrassingly, I was working with {8,2,4,25}, since my tiny brain somehow decided to square-root 64 instead of divide it by 4. Luckily, the clue for 8D also started with an interrogative word, which kept me from getting too far into the weeds (despite my best efforts to do so).

    Re: 57A: There should either be a rule against–or a term for–constructors who go out into the world and create new clues for fill. If I owned a margarine factory or fishing boat in the Virginia area, I’d post extra security guards.

    • Abby says:

      I’ve noticed that most of the time when someone says “just happens to be”, they really don’t mean it. So much so that it just so happens to be on my list of phrases not to use.

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    A bit more interesting than usual for mid-month, wasn’t it? I’m all in favor, and I applaud the creative ways Matt continually invents for supplying necessary information. “First, quarter;” led quickly to the themers’ numeric portions, all divisible by 4, but what to do with “then first quarter?” After a few dead ends, I worked backwards. Since there had to be a hidden question, where was there enough room to stash it? In the clues, of course, and yes, the nudge, er shove, at 4 was valuable. With hindsight, the phrasings at 16, 2, 4D, and 25 were indeed strange, but I congratulate Matt for masking them sufficiently so that they weren’t apparent on first inspection. Congratulations to him also for a magnificent first quarter to his meta series! By the way, did you know that the first state Delaware wasn’t officially a province or colony before the revolution? While it’s always included in the list of 13 Colonies, and gained its own Assembly in 1704, it was still known as the Lower Counties on Delaware. It was part of Pennsylvania, governed by the Penn family.

  5. Matt says:

    299 right answers this week.

    Georgia is the 4th state, appropriately for a puzzle focusing on quarters!

  6. Jim Schooler says:

    Ugh. Very elegant meta, but with the media blitz going on regarding March Madness, I was sure that the number references had something to do with the “NCAA Basketball Tournament:” 64 teams whittled down to sweet 16, elite 8, and the NCAA is just over 100 years old, that’s what I sent in. Plus the reference to the NIT nudged me to the NCAA. Fooled again, but a weekend of entertainment. Thanks Matt!

  7. abide says:

    Like. But was the comma necessary for “First, quarter”?

    Having EIGHT in 4-D slowed me down for a while.

    • pannonica says:

      The punctuation helped me, and it certainly doesn’t distort the instructions or mislead. In fact, it clarifies, just like punctuation is supposed to.

  8. Mutman says:

    I loved this week 3 as well. Yes, the 4-A clue got the antennae up. I had the quartered numbers but spent til Monday figuring out what to do. The. The clues just jumped at me and made the sentence.

    Well done as usual Matt!

  9. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    I loved this puzzle. I liked the link between Matt’s 250th puzzle and his goal of 1,000, the title, the double-quarter function of the meta, and the just-realized fact (from reading Matt’s comment) that Georgia is the 4th state!

    I got started with 2d: State quarter with this island’s outline? It’s Hawaii

    I kept wondering why the “It’s Hawaii” was there. Having finished the grid, I wandered off to look at the state coin. Hawaii’s quarter depicts Hawaiian monarch King Kamehameha stretching his hand toward the eight major Hawaiian Islands, which are shown in bas-relief. I thought, “that is not really an outline, per se.” So I then thought Matt had put the “Its’ Hawaii” because of that and the possibility that someone might wonder if there is another coin that has a state outline that looks like Oahu…

    So I went to look at them. Seven have outlines. Georgia’s outline if rotated 180 degrees looks remarkably reminicent of the shape of Oahu, coincidentally.

    Well, I just thought I would mention that. I knew that this really could not be it, because it did not explain the 2nd half of the four theme instructions (then first quarter). That is when I thought about that extra “It’s Hawaii” and realized that it made the clue 8 words long, making the “state quarter” pop out like a neon sign. Then I knew I had it. I eventually checked for the whole trivia question, but I knew right then that I had it.

    By the way, another interesting coincidence… 8 words in 2D, and 2D is pointered by 28A, which starts with EIGHT, and the T there is crosssed by weEIGHTs, which is from 4D, redirected from 4A, and 4+4 = 8. More quarters…

    Did I say I loved this puzzle?

  10. Tony says:

    I normally don’t do well with metas that use the clues as well, but I figured it out when I saw the “What” as the first word in 16-A I was pretty sure I knew what to do to find the trivia question.

    • Matthew G. says:

      That’s why I found this week particularly satisfying. I usually miss the metas that use the clues.

  11. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Dagnabbit! Got the meta again without having properly understood the mechanism!

    In pondering the puzzle, I very early lost track of the addendum to the clue for 4 A, and never took it into consideration.

    Once I did get the overview of the process, i.e., knew that the trivia question would come from the clues for 16A, 2D, 4A (I thought) and 25 A, I was totally hung up on counting letters rather than words, which didn’t exactly compute.

    Still, that left me with a trivia question of the form, “What state quarter? – Traditionally red piece of fruit?” which was still enough to take me to Georgia!

  12. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Very neat idea, though I still wonder why “piece of”: the centerpiece of the Georgia quarter looks like an entire peach, and an 25A:ORANGE is an entire fruit, so why not just “What state quarter features a fruit?”? (Also, the answer to “What state quarter…” is properly “Georgia’s”, but I suppose “Georgia” could stand for it, as in “I’ve collected all the state quarters but Guam and Georgia”.)

    • Matt says:

      I liked the idea of having at least one of the clues be 12 words long instead of 4 or 8. So had to get verbose on purpose.

    • CY Hollander says:

      the answer to “What state quarter…” is properly “Georgia’s”

      I agree—which is why I answered with “The Georgia quarter” and urged Matt to reject all answers that gave the state instead of the quarter. However, in fairness to the “Georgia” crowd, Matt himself implicitly endorsed this loose usage in his clue for 2-down (“State quarter with…? It’s Hawaii.”)

    • Abby says:

      I was going to answer “Georgia’s” but remembered the submission form won’t take most punctuation so I didn’t try it.

  13. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    @Noam: Usually fruit is an uncountable noun, so you can’t say one fruit or two fruits, unless you are talking about different kinds of fruits (i.e., “five servings of fruits and vegetables a day).

    In English, we usually count fruit by saying 1 piece of fruit (or “a piece of fruit), 2 pieces of fruit, a bowl of fruit, etc.

    A big discussion about this here:

  14. mitchs says:

    Beautiful Meta. Makes me wish I’d solved it!

  15. Jeff G. says:

    Outstanding meta as always. Had me puzzling for 2 days, glad when it finally clicked. I kept trying to quarter the letters of the words.

    Joon, glad to have you back in blogging action, you don’t realize how much you enjoy the reviews until they’re gone.

    Matt, Congrats on 250 wonderful puzzles. Looking forward to 750 more!

  16. Howard B says:

    Cool meta concept. Didn’t understand any part of it this time around in my solving time. Don’t think an additional month would have helped. Loved the execution of it.

  17. Elaine says:

    I quartered the numbers, but then I just sat there looking at them.
    This means I did 50% better on this 3rd week meta than my usual performance.
    And I’m even from Georgia, used to live in Hawaii, and all that, but nothing shook loose enough to guide me to the next stage of the puzzle.
    Hats off to all who can do these things.

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