MGWCC #401 — Friday, February 5th, 2016 — “Pre-Game Stretch”

IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:



Week 4 played like a Week 5, and Week 5 played like a Week 4 (77 and 176 right answers respectively). Solvers were merely asked to provide the correct letter to enter in box 29 — but, for the first time in MGWCC history, you also had to show your work!

29-Across was [Causing great distress to] for ?EXING, and 29-D was [Mint and bay, e.g.] for ?ERBS. Therein lies the puzzle: both H and V would work there, so how to choose?

The five theme entries, starred for clarity, were:

17-A [Sticky stuff*] = SCOTCH TAPE
11-D [Character-forming organization*] = YOUTH GROUP
28-D [Once passed on*] = COULD’VE HAD
57-A [Nine-digit number for the IRS*] = TAXPAYER ID
36-A [What Hillary conquered*] = EVEREST. Did anyone put SANDERS there? She hasn’t quite conquered him yet. And I guess Sanders isn’t a “what.”

What now? The key insight is that each of these five suggests an alphanumeric term: SCOTCH TAPE is made by the 3M company; 4-H is a major YOUTH GROUP; “COULD’VE HAD a V-8!” is the famous ad slogan; W-9 is the IRS’s TAXPAYER ID request form; and EVEREST is the tallest mountain in the world, but #2 is K2.

From the title “Frequency Modulation,” let’s look at letter frequencies: as you can see in the snazzy solution grid above (provided by solver Craig Harman), there are 2 K’s in the grid, 9 W’s, and 3 M’s. If you leave box 29 blank, there are also 4 H’s, which is the required number, but only 7 V’s. That means a V properly goes in that box, to give us VEXING and VERBS, and 8 V’s total in the grid.

Tilly and Dave say:

Because you can’t drink V7 at the 5H club.

Raygirl rejoices:

V is for victory! And for vast amounts of time I will not be torturing myself over the meta this weekend (as I did last weekend)

Jay Giess liked it:

One of the most satisfying metas ever!

rvkal did, too:

A-1 puzzle and meta!

And finally, Rich Pardoe got the right reasoning, but also found an intriguing alternate answer:

I almost went with H for the following reasons. I admit up front that this solve method is not as elegant as the real method and does rely on a bit of IRS trivia. While this week’s puzzle associates the Form W-9 with the Taxpayer ID, it is the certification form. The form to request one is the W-7.

So, using K2 / 3M / 4H / W7 / V8 one can count by the associated number into the theme entry (and the theme entries are also arranged by number):


sc_O_tch tape

you_T_h group

taxpay_E_r id


to spell out VOTE H and decide H might be the intended answer.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen randomly from the 176 correct entries received, is J.C. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, J.C. will also receive a 1-year subscription to MGDX.


Tough month! Just 59 solvers submitted correct entries to all five of January’s challenges (R2-D2, 2-MAN BOBSLED, AH COMMODORES!, ANTEPENULTIMATE, V). The following 10 solvers, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Rich Bragg — Los Altos, Calif.

Jeremy Conner — Monrovia, Calif.

Paul Coulter — Glassboro, N.J.

Peter Gordon — Great Neck, N.Y.

George Herz — Boston, Mass.

Carl Holzman — Chicago, Ill.

Bob Johnson — Ambler, Penna.

Lance Nathan — Arlington, Mass.

Brett Rose — Chicago, Ill.

Dave Sullivan — Woodstock, Vt.

Congratulations to our winners, and to everyone who went 5-for-5 in January.


If you’re up for another meta challenge after you knock this softball out of the park, check out my Wall Street Journal puzzle “A Breezy Solve,” here:


Another 50-50 shot like last week, but you don’t have to show your work this time!

This week’s contest answer is the team I think is going to win the Super Bowl this weekend.

Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January 2015 MGWCC is a subscribers-only crossword. The cost is $26 per year, and you can subscribe (or get a free trial month first) here:

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