MGWCC #466 — Friday, May 5th, 2017 — “Shell Game”

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Nice idea behind last week’s meta, although some solvers found the execution unsatisfying. But it still might have been close to the best possible execution, so maybe the universe, that trickster, handed us a nice idea without an accompanying nice way to present it.

Instructions read: This week’s contest answer is something I’ve done several times in this crossword’s clues — and what you need to do in the grid. Our original title was “Creative Destruction,” but when just a couple of correct entries had come in after three hours I sent out a hint, which was the alternative title: “Reaching New Lows.” It worked, since a healthy 122 more solvers got it after that (and a total of 14 took the NO HINT option, successfully cracking the meta without the new title. Yikes!).

The only obvious theme entry was ERR at 30-D, whose clue read: [Fail to enter the numeral 4 somewhere while working this meta, say]. Figuring out where that 4 goes was the key to cracking the meta: not in the grid, but beneath it, to turn the 2000 horror spoof SCARY MOVIE into its third sequel, 2006’s SCARY MOVIE 4.

Next step; put 14 more letters underneath the grid, one per column, to form 14 cluable crossword entries (see solution grid above, stolen from Joon at Fiend). They are:

AMIT–>A MITE (two words, as in “a little bit”)

Those added letters spell contest answer BREAK THE 4TH WALL, the theater term for an actor breaking character to address the audience outside of the play’s flow. The device is a rich source of humor, and crossword writers have been doing this in their clues increasingly over the past decade or so (see clues to 28-A and 1-D in this puzzle). Note also that the closest edge to the solver is the wall that’s broken, as it is when the 4th wall is broken in a play or TV show.

So, a nice idea…but. Because many of the lowest down entries have multiple options to form a new entry, such as TRIPLE? which could be A,D,S,T, or even X, some solvers found it difficult to get the final answer even with the 4 in place.

Also, the six parenthetical (Tricky one!) additions to some of those clue were more confusing than helpful to some solvers. They were there for three different reasons: in the case of STAR(K) and AMA(H) they indicated that you skipped over the three black squares beneath them to continue the word; for A MITE and GASLIGHT ERA they hinted at the new answers being two words, and for TRIPLE(A) a hyphenated word; and for SCARY MOVIE(4) it was there because of the numeral instead of an expected letter.

Others found a few of the new entries elusive: A MITE is a crossword staple but somewhat dated or dialectical; AMAH is a tough crosswordese word; and baseball legend Rod CAREW is not as well-known to the general public as his career merits, so unfamiliar to some. The fill certainly did suffer from needing to extend all 15 down entries outside the grid. But in the end we got a reasonable number of Week 4 correct entries, so all’s mostly well that ends mostly well, I think.

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from among the 124 correct entries received, is Rob Tricchinelli of Washington, D.C. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, Rob will also receive a 1-year subscription to Matt Gaffney’s Daily Crossword.

Also a winner this week, for solving MGWCC #465 without the profferred hint: Kyle Osborne of West Chester, O., whose name was chosen at random from among the 14 correct no-hint entries received. Kyle will also win a MGWCC pen, pencil, and notepad set, in addition to a 1-year subscription to MGDX.


Whoops! I blanked on picking monthly winners for April. My mistake, and I’ll choose 12 instead of the normal 10 as penance, and announce them next week.


This week’s contest answer is a famous foursome.

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

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