MGWCC #378 — Friday, August 28th, 2015 — “M Is for Merl”

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:


What novel title describes this puzzle’s theme mechanism?
read last week’s prompt, and the four theme entries each ended with a parenthetical number:

3-D [Book of the future (1)] = MANUSCRIPT
17-A [Drilling field (2)] = DENTISTRY
31-D [Like urns, usually (3)] = PEDESTALED. Not a great word, but might’ve been a hint that something’s afoot (heh-heh).
64-A [One-word letter closing (4)] = CORDIALLY

First thing to notice is that each of these comes from the Latin for a part of the body: MANUSCRIPT is from manus, hand; DENTISTRY is from dens, tooth; PEDESTALED is from pes, foot; and CORDIALLY is from cor, heart.

Second thing to notice is: the English word for each body part is hiding, with one letter changed, in each row or column of the theme entry: HANA for hand, TROTH for tooth, MOOT for foot, and HEARS for heart. Those four changed letters, in order of the parenthetical numbers, spell out ARMS; and to complete the body parts with their correct letters you might just utter the title of Hemingway’s A FAREWELL TO ARMS, found by 157 entrants.

A number of solvers didn’t get a good click on that answer, since the mechanism can also be interpreted as bringing the ARMS into the grid, not saying farewell to them. I agree that the click could’ve been clearer there, though almost everyone who didn’t get the click still got the answer. But still, the click should be solid and leave no doubt that you’ve got the right answer. I assure you that this week’s meta click will do just that when you get it.

Neville says:

I’ve got to hand it to you: putting ARM in the center of the grid was a nice touch.

Total coincidence! I wasn’t even aware of this until solvers began pointing it out with their entries.

Ale M suggests:

This week’s winner should get a free Mani-Pedi!

And Eduardo found another Hemingway novel, in addition to the meta answer:

An afterthought: The Sun Also Rises in 3D.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 157 correct entries received, is Josh Graber of Rockton, Ill. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Josh will also receive a signed copy of Jeff Bartsch‘s new crossword-based young adult novel, Two Across.



As you may know by now, crossword legend Merl Reagle passed away suddenly last Saturday at the age of 65. The entire crossword world is as stunned and saddened by Merl’s passing as you might expect. I wrote a tribute discussing Merl’s impact on crossword puzzles here.

I want to share with you just one of the many ways Merl influenced me. In its December 1985 issue, Games reprinted Merl’s final-round themeless from that year’s U.S. Open crossword tournament. I found it so mind-blowing at age 13 that I memorized the solution grid, and over the years have used it as a sort of doodle — scrawling it in textbooks when I was bored in class, on a random piece of graph paper when I had nothing else to do, that kind of thing. To this day I can still write it out from memory, and still have that “how on Earth did he do this?” feeling every time I do.

I think it’s the greatest themeless crossword of the pre-database era — so wide-open and with so many excellent long entries, and all done completely by hand. I’m as amazed now by it as I ever was, so I’d like to share it here:


Thanks for all you were and did, Merl, and farewell.

This week’s contest answer is an adjective that describes Merl Reagle, who passed away suddenly last week. NOTE: please be 100% certain that you read the “Memories of Merl” section of my post today at before solving this meta.

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:

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

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