MGWCC #320

crossword 4:25
meta 3 days 

mgwcc320hello everyone, and welcome to episode #320 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Triple Play II”. for this week 3 puzzle, apparently a sequel to last week’s “Triple Play”, the instructions tell us that we’re looking for a world capital. what are the theme answers? five clues were starred, and each had an extra clue in parentheses:

  • {Band who did “Whip It” (prairie dog’s cousin)*} is DEVO. are they not men?
  • {18th-century belief that living things project an invisible force (optometrist’s supply)*} is ANIMAL MAGNETISM.
  • {2000 Mel Gibson movie set in South Carolina (got better)*} is THE PATRIOT.
  • {Top 10 hit song of 1978 (tavern keeper)*} is COPACABANA. last month i was at the actual copacabana beach in rio for the world cup. i’m no fan of beaches in general (i’m really not big into sand, or especially water), but it is spectacular.
  • {You used it to get this crossword (shout in a forest)*} THE WORLD WIDE WEB.

there was one other clue that was double-starred: {With 69-Across, 1987 movie where Robert De Niro plays the devil**} ANGEL / HEART. never heard of this movie; from looking at its plot summary, it seems really creepy.

what about these parenthetical clues, though? (shout in a forest) certainly seems like it must be TIMBER. i thought (optometrist’s supply) was probably LENSES, and (got better) was HEALED. since we seem to have six-letter answers, i figured GOPHER and BARMAN were reasonable guesses for the other two:


but i couldn’t figure out where to go next, as there’s no apparent connection between the pairs of clues.

after coming back to this a few times over the course of the weekend, it finally hit me: each of the five “main” theme answers suggests a person (sometimes there is more than one). “COPACABANA” is a song made famous by barry manilow—there’s the BARMAN connection. and THE WORLD WIDE WEB was invented by british computer scientist tim berners-lee. going through the other clues, i realized that A) i needed to figure out who was in devo, and B) i had some of the implicit 6-letter words wrong. let’s take a look:

  • DEVO consisted of brothers mark and bob mothersbaugh, brothers gerald and bob casale, and alan myers. the only one of these whose first three letters of each name spell out a prairie dog cousin is mark mothersbaugh (and the MARMOT).
  • ANIMAL MAGNETISM is a theory developed by austrian physician franz mesmer (eponym of the verb mesmerize), so it’s FRAMES, not LENSES, that are the optometrist’s supply.
  • i thought THE PATRIOT was a movie about revolutionary war officer francis marion, aka the “swamp fox”. it turns out it’s a bit more of a pastiche—mel gibson’s character is based not only on marion but on a few other historical figures as well. but it also turns out that HEALED has nothing to do with any of them; it’s gibson’s co-star heath ledger.
  • COPACABANA / barry manilow
  • THE WORLD WIDE WEB / tim berners-lee

okay, so we figured out the theme. what does this have to do with the meta? well, here’s where we need to use the extra theme answer, the ** ANGEL HEART. we’re looking to take the first three letters of a person’s first and last names and spell out a world capital, and it doesn’t take very long to find actress lisa bonet in the cast for the movie, so the meta answer is lisbon.

whew. that was a real tour de force. i love that the meta has so many moving parts, but they all really, really work, and there’s an extremely satisfying “aha”. the wordplay basis of the meta is very elegant: famous people whose names spell 6-letter words if you take the first three letters of their first and last names. the title, too, works on a number of levels: triple play ii in the sense that we’re looking at pairs of trigrams, but also each theme clue is really three clues in one: the one that goes in the grid, the six-letter word that answers the parenthetical clue, and the implicit person whose name connects them. this is a wonderful meta—but i can’t believe there’s something tougher lined up for next week!

the fill was pretty tough, especially {Book subtitled “The Secret of Easter Island”} AKU-AKU, by thor heyerdahl. both K’s had fairly tough crossings, with DANSKO and economist friedrich HAYEK not being the most familiar names. i hope you managed to navigate your way past these crossings.

it was nice to see those of you i was able to chat with at the npl con last weekend. let me know in the comments if you liked this puzzle as much as i did!

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40 Responses to MGWCC #320

  1. Evan says:

    Oh man, this is the first time I’ve thrown up a MGWCC hail mary and gotten it right. I never saw what was going on. But I sent in LISBON at the last second anyway because I knew Matt is all about Portugal. Go me….I guess?

    • Evan says:

      I should add that I had a mistake in my grid the whole time — I had DANSKA and I’M LAST. I never looked up the former and the latter sounded totally plausible given the clue.

      And did anyone else fall down the rabbit hole that is the bartender in the song COPACABANA, a.k.a. Tony?

  2. Garrett says:

    Okay, but where is the “triple play”?

    • mrbreen says:

      Parentheticals refer to the first three letters in the associated person’s first AND last name. Thus Triple Play II. Great puzzle, btw.

  3. john says:

    Wow. No clue. What a meta! That may be the meta-missed i wish i had gotten most. I thought of nearly all those people during the weekend, Tim Berners-Lee, Lisa Bonet, Mark Mothersbaugh, Barry. Ugh!

  4. David R says:

    One of the most elegant metas in recent memory. The limitations with the six letter words fitting in to the individuals names is quite constricting. The deftest touch was the nudge to ANGEL HEART which if overdone could’ve pushed you there without figuring out the meta premise. I followed the pieces exactly the way Matt wanted me to, with TIM BERNERS-LEE being my entryway, a masterpiece.

    • Neville says:

      That’s what I did. Went to the Wikipedia page and noticed LISa BONet, and backsolved from there. Not ashamed to admit it at all!

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Dang it, dang it, dang it. This is one I’ll be kicking myself over for a while. I had BARMAN written in the margin, but somehow never made the connection to Barry Manilow. (I had TIMBER written down too, but I’ve never heard of Tim Berners-Lee, so it didn’t set off any bells.)

    Great meta. I’m sure it was deeply satisfying to those who got it!

  6. Garrett says:

    I so did not get this meta, though I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I did come up with the list of Marmot, Lenses (as well as glasses, frames and eye charts), Healed (as well as alternatives such as improved, mended, and emended, plus alternative views on what that meant, such as outdid and one-upped), Barman (as well as the alternatives publican and innsman) and timber was obvious, but tying those to people’s names was just beyond my inkling.

  7. DBraun91 says:

    Got caught up on prairie dog’s cousin being a chipmunk. Then I though of the trio, Alvin Simon and Theodore. So I spent all my time looking for trios/ groups of threes referenced in the parenthetical clues. Guess I was never even close to being on the right track.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I chased this for a while, too–mainly because the most famous cover of “Whip It!” appears to have been by Alvin & the Chipmunks. And they are a trio. Of rodents.

  8. Jason T says:

    Not sure I would have gotten it if Tim Berners-Lee’s first name wasn’t three letters long. As it stands, since it is, “TIMBER” leapt out at me when I wrote his name out. And from there, I was able to find all the other more-hidden words. A brilliant, elegant meta! Matt, how did you ever find all these names that fit the restrictions?

    • joon says:

      yeah, good question. i know how i would (write a computer script to) do it, but i’m guessing matt just came up with them from the recesses of his own brain.

      • mrbreen says:

        I got it off Heath Ledger and Mesmer. Absolutely had to google the rest. What I’m most impressed with is the excellent quality of many recent puzzles, when apparently so much time has gone into Matt’s other projects. Which reminds me, I have a murder mystery to solve.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      No script involved! Spent about 3 hours combing lists + thinking about it.

      Would be interested to know if there are any good ones I missed. I’m going to make a mini-contest out of it on Friday by asking solvers what they can find. Once I would have liked to work in but couldn’t is, who kind of looks like the animal his names start with.

      • Bencoe says:

        I would like to be the first to submit something, then. Clue: Song on Moving Pictures (Cuban dance). Entry: LIMELIGHT. Meta: CHA CHA, for CHARLIE CHAPLIN, star of LIMELIGHT.

        • Jim S. says:

          Another name, but perhaps too obscure… Clue: Most popular tiger subspecies (how a typist’s wrist malady gets started). Entry: Bengals. Meta: Carpal, for Carson Palmer, former Cincinatti Bengals QB.

          He’s with the Cardinals now, so the clue could also be related to the bird, St Louis baseball, etc…

    • Dan Seidman says:

      Same here — TIMBER was the most obvious of the six-letter words, and also the beginning of the name of someone famously associated with the entry.

  9. I had written down MARMOT, LENSES, HEALED/MENDED, BARHOP, TIMBER, so I figured the answer would be a 6-letter capital with the pattern CVCCVC, but I couldn’t make the leap to the first 3 letters of the first and last names of people associated with the answers.

    I considered guessing one of London, Madrid, Lisbon, Warsaw, and Moscow, and ended up going with Moscow.

  10. Ephraim says:

    TIMBER was obvious, as Joon says, and Tim Berners-Lee came immediately to mind because of the WWW. Fortunately COPACABANA was the first thing I looked up (because I honestly couldn’t remember who sang it and I’d be happy to forget again) and BARry MANilow made the theme clear. Looking up other theme items first might have derailed me because the crucial person wasn’t the first person mentioned.

  11. Jason says:

    Nice to know I wasn’t even remotely close to this one.

  12. Anne E says:

    That was one of the hardest Week 3s in memory for me. At one point over the weekend I accidentally tossed my completed puzzle with all its marginal guessing, and had to re-download and re-solve, which turned out to be a good thing as I could sort-of forget about all my earlier guessing. Like others, my entry point was TIMBER, which was about the only one that couldn’t be anything else – at one point or another I had SQUIRREL, HAMSTER, LENSES, EYEDROPS, MENDED, RECOVERED, HOST, BARMAID, etc etc. Even worse, once I thought of PACA as the rodent-y cousin, and then saw PACA in COPACABANA, and substituted in DEVO, which led to CODE VOBANA, etc. ugh ugh. Once I made my way to Tim Ber-guy, and saw Barry M, after that it was all Google for me, though – didn’t know the others (or Mr. Mesmer’s first name), and never heard of Angel Heart. Phew. Might as well give up on next week’s right now, if this was any indication!

    • Garrett says:

      I was fascinated by the embedded PACA for a while also. And by TRIO in “The Patriot”. I was also thrown by the number of stars — seven. Had I focused more on TIMBER as the only possible answer for the last one, I would have been able to then focus on six letter answers, but I kept thinking I was missing something there and so did not go there. A really tough puzzle, but really seamless in how it actually works.

      • Ale M says:

        I got stuck on TRIO in PATRIOT as well. I thought every theme had trio in some foreign language somewhere in there. This one had me pulling my hair out!

    • Margaret says:

      Count me in as another person who couldn’t get past the embedded PACA. I was nearly certain it was a dead end and still couldn’t let it go. Now that I see the solution it seems so clear — very elegant.

  13. Eric L says:

    BARMAN was the first parenthetical clue I solved, and I immediately saw the BARry MANilow connection. From there it was just a matter of confirming the theme, and noticing the double-asterisk next to 9A.

  14. Jon says:

    You people are all too smart for your own good. Tim Berners-Lee is not an obvious clue as I’ve never heard of him before.

    I was on the right track but at the same time no where near close to figuring out the answer. I thought the asterisks HAD to be clues to how many letters you excise out of the answer to piece together the world capital. Since there were 7 asterisks, I thought I was looking for a 7-letter world capital. “Was it the 1st letter of the parentheses answers? Well, the name is “Triple Play ii” so maybe it’s the 3rd letter of the parentheses answers?” I couldn’t get off that line of thinking. The inclusion of DEVO, ANGEL, and HEART threw me because they made the grid asymmetrical. Why was ALLY not included? Why did ANGEL HEART has 2 asterisks yet no parentheses?

    For the parentheses I had the following written down on my notepad: (prairie dog’s cousin) marmot, gopher, woodchuck, squirrel or chipmunk. (Optometrist’s supply) glasses, eye glasses, lenses or frames. (Get better) healed, mended, recovered or improved. (tavern keeper) bartender, publican or tapster. (shout in a forest) timber. I figured these answers somehow factored into the grid answers but I was clueless. I never saw the single asterisks separate from the double asterisks. I even asked myself aloud “could the asterisk not point to a 7-letter word?” but never really explored that possibility.

    If this is a week 3 difficulty, like Joon I’m afraid of how difficult this Friday’s puzzle will be.

  15. pannonica says:

    Didn’t get the meta, but … would it have been better to have optician rather than optometrist for that particular hint?

  16. lilroser says:

    Got this one, also thanks to TIM BERners-Lee (thanks Wikipedia for reminding me!).
    A couple little red herring-like things I found that sent me down a rabbit hole (gopher hole??) for a while… Alvin and the *Chipmunks* did a cover of Whip It! Not only are they cousins of the prairie dog, but also a trio! So I started looking for alternative answers suggested by the clues in parentheses.

    Also, Tony was the BARMAN in Copacapana, which sent me looking for a forest on the World Wide Web and Flying Squirrels in the lyrics to Whip It!

    A truly great AHA moment in this one, thanks Matt!

  17. Bencoe says:

    Boo (hoo?). Thought of TIMBER immediately but noticed that M was the only letter from TIMBER not in the entry, and got stuck on that track with BARMAN and HEALED. Couldn’t figure out the triple play aspect nor how ANGEL HEART fit in, although I did notice Lisa Bonet was in the cast when I googled it. If I had only made the connection with Barry Manilow/BARMAN/COPACABANA, which seems obvious in retrospect. But I wasn’t really prepared for another level of Meta in week 3. Plus I’ve been busy planning and packing to go to Europe tomorrow. Week 4 seems scary now.

  18. Ale M says:

    My main theory for “Triple Play II” was that each theme related to a parentheses and ALSO another word in the grid. I thought the LOLA clue was the big hint for us to see that. Consider this:

    ANGEL HEART – SOUL (The main character in the movie sells his soul to the devil, or “Heart and Soul”) and
    DEVO – OH SNAP (“Whip it”)

    Tried to connect those to Timber, Publican or Bartender, Healed, Trifocals, whatever. Endless combinations! At one point I took all the third letters or all three sets of words, 18 in total (maybe triple play II?) and anagrammed them into GREAT VAMP’S REPUBLIC. What’s the capital of Transylvania? Too far-fetched, I knew.

    In the end I punted with TRIPOLI as my answer, thinking it might have been a cute answer to go with the puzzle title. Anyway, I lost fair and square!

  19. mnemonica says:

    I looked at COPACABANA and PUBLICAN and saw -BANAna rePUBLIC-. It was too good and obvious to not be the first step. You’d think that after I failed to come up any other such pair, I’d look for another route, but there you go.

  20. abide says:

    It took me a day to find the Timber/Barman/Lisbon trail. Then it took me around two hours to find another reasonably known name to fit this pattern; MUCH harder than you would think. (I rejected names that formed other names, like MARgaret THAtcher). Look forward to seeing what others could find.

  21. Amy L says:

    I gave up when I couldn’t find seven hills.

    Interesting that Alvin and the Chipmunks seem so familiar to this crossword community.

    A brilliant puzzle. Thanks, Matt!

    • Matthew G. says:

      Not to me. But their cover was prominently listed when I read the Wikipedia entry on “Whip It!”

  22. Scott says:

    I was halfway there but couldn’t get the next step.

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