MGWCC #239 — Friday, December 28th, 2012 — “What’s That Sound?”


You’ve certainly seen puzzles where a square does different duty across and down, and maybe you’ve seen a puzzle where a square does triple duty (Merl Reagle’s FINGERP(A/O/R)INTING one, or Patrick Blindauer’s S’mores puzzle, for instance). But have you ever seen one where a square does octuple duty? If you solved last week’s meta here, then you have!

The central square in the grid could stand for any of eight playing cards, and each radial answer was a movie-related term that either began or ended there. The four acrosses and downs had the nearby diagonal entries’ clues tacked on:

40-a [“The Empire Strikes Back,” casually; her books have been made into movies starring Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley and Gwyneth Paltrow] = EPISODE (V) / JANE AUS(10)

42-a [Jim Carrey role; with “The,” movie where a character has Münchausen syndrome by proxy] = (ACE) VENTURA / (6)TH SENSE

7-d [“Papillon” actor; movie with songs by Elton John] = STEVE MC(QUEEN) / THE LION (KING)

47-d [1999 Matthew Perry/Neve Campbell romcom; Tarantino movie that opens with Pam Grier riding an airport people mover] = (3) TO TANGO / (JACK)IE BROWN

What Jack Nicholson role does this point to? The central square can stand for any of eight cards, so it must be his role of THE JOKER in 1989’s “Batman.” I also accepted JACK NAPIER as correct (he’s the Joker’s alter ego).

357 solvers got this, so it was on the easy side for a Week 3 (and you know what an easy Week 3 means!). But there were a couple of unintentional red herrings along the way:

1) Quite a few solvers put the title (“You Don’t Know Jack”) together with 1-across (TORR) and were convinced the answer had to be Jack Torrance, Nicholson’s unforgettable character in “The Shining.” Nine solvers wound up submitting this.

2) Many more solvers were confused/irritated by the fact that only(!) eight of the thirteen playing cards were represented and tried to spell something out of the unused five cards. I got a little defensive about this in comments at Fiend, but it appears we had a classic case of constructor/solver disconnect. Since I’d written the puzzle I knew what a task it was to get those eight entries to behave; they had to fit with each other, be exactly seven letters long, and be movie-related to boot. But a solver could be forgiven for wondering if the five unused cards spelled something out, since that’s a standard meta idea, so many of them spent time looking for a deeper level that wasn’t there. Which I never want to happen.

bananarchy asks:

I’m assuming the asterisk shape = “wildcard” was intentional? Nice touch.

Golem got it right, but adds:

Though at first I thought maybe some clues were playing WAR-ren Schmidt.

awilc5801 sings:

DECK the halls…

And Dan Seidman writes:

Thank you for not polluting your tour de force with Deuce Bigalow.

Thanks Dan…but I did try to get (DEUCE) BIGALOW in there! He wouldn’t play nice with the other theme entries, though, so got left on the cutting-room floor.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 357 correct entries received, is Rich Novo of Andover, Mass. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Rich will also receive a 1-year subscription to Peter Gordon‘s outstanding Fireball Crosswords. Next week’s winner will receive the same.


Some end-of-year changes going on at PuzzleSocial: the contest crossword will no longer be available there starting this week, but my daily crossword will be. More details on that forthcoming, but for now, those of you who enjoyed a Thursday evening head start on MGWCC will have to wait until Friday at noon like the rest of the class.


This week’s contest answer is a period in American history. Submit your answer in the form on the left sidebar by Tuesday at noon ET. Note: the submissions form disappears from the site promptly at noon on Tuesday. [UPDATE, 12/28, 1:50 PM ET: several solvers (Eric Maddy was first) have noted that (at 54-across) Victoria Azarenka plays for the WTA, not the ATP (which is a men’s tennis organization). D’oh! Messing up a tennis clue is almost as painful as messing up a chess clue.]

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit “print” on your browser. To solve using Across Lite either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,928 members now!) here.

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

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