MGWCC #455 — Friday, February 17th, 2017 — “Letters from the Past”

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Curious instructions last week:

[Note: Arthur Wynne’s historic first crossword puzzle featured a period at the end of each clue. This convention gradually died out over the ensuing decades, but we’re reviving it for this week’s MGWCC.] This week’s contest answer is the last name of a famous person whose full name may or may not be a “period piece.”

Adept meta-solvers soon realized that, in the case of the six theme entries, which were marked with parenthetical numbers, those final periods served to mask an abbreviation. So at 17-A, [Pizza makers may use this dial. (7)] was in fact NEAPOLITAN, dial. being short for “dialect.”


23A [The answer to this question will be a no. (6)] = HOW OLD ARE YOU. No. = number.
30A [Famed culinary fig. (4)] = PAULA DEEN. Fig. = figure.
39A [Where one may find a student apt. (6)] = OFF-CAMPUS. Apt. = apartment.
46A [Catholic you knew from Mass. (5)] = JOHN F KENNEDY. Mass. = Massachusetts.
58A [It boasts America’s greatest pop. (10)] = CALIFORNIA. Pop. = population.

Now what? Looking to those parentheticals seems logical; extend the abbrs. to their full form, pop in the relevant number, and see what happens:

7th letter of DIALECT is T
6th letter of NUMBER is R
4th letter of FIGURE is U
6th letter of APARTMENT is M
5th letter of MASSACHUSETTS is A
10th letter of POPULATION s N

That spells TRUMAN, contest answer HARRY S TRUMAN being a possible period piece due to the uncertainty over whether to put a period after his middle name (the “S” was his full middle name).

Ed writes:

My father was Philip N Brody without a period. In college he was badgered into picking one, so he chose Neil, but abandoned it again later.

Mike Berman

Hopefully he will remain the only president starting with “TRUM” to deploy a nuclear weapon

I suspect so, but only time will tell.

Jeff Louie writes:

I was one of those working off the original PDF. I was extremely frustrated. I feel better now.

Big apologies for that. The parenthetical numbers didn’t transfer over to the PDF, something I did not catch until a couple of hours in when we sent out a correction. My sincere regrets to everyone inconvenienced by that — should not happen, and I’ve taken steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Tyler Hinman thinks that this puzzle was:

A fun var.

And finally, cscottclay suggests:

I nominate this for Puzzle of the cent.

Meaning it’s the best crossword of the past 100 years, or that it’s worth one penny? With a masking final period, I can’t say for sure.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from among the 409 correct entries received, is Joel Martin of Moses Lake, Wash. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Joel will also receive a 1-year subscription to Peter Gordon’s Fireball Newsflash Crosswords.


This week’s contest answer is a First Family member of the past 20 years who would have made a fitting final theme answer to this puzzle.

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

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