January 02, 2009


crossword 4:07
puzzle ... a couple of days

the new years installment of the matt gaffney weekly crossword contest is called "time to play the piper," and, like this week's tausig puzzle, has as its theme the CHINESE/NEWYEAR, as indicated by 24- and 58-across. three phrases get a so-last-year RAT evicted in favor of the 2009 OX:

  • [Container you can't use any more?] is a SPOILED BOX (spoiled brat).
  • to [Squeeze money out of rowing team members?] is to MILK COXES (milk crates). and most coxes are pretty small, but i bet they could beat you up anyway. or at least, they could beat me up.
  • [Sibling of a sly guy?] is a FOX BROTHER (frat brother). does michael j. have any siblings? what about vivica a.? i'm pretty sure panthers coach john has a brother.

so what's the contest answer? well, i'm not 100% sure, but i have a good guess. according to the instructions, This week's contest answer word is a kind of soup/stew with six letters in its name (well, ten if you include the word "soup" or "stew"). my guess was OX-TAIL, for two reasons:

  • it's my favorite soup. in korean, we call it kalbi-tang. and it is yummy.
  • there is one RAT in the puzzle that has not yet been excised: 11d is [Snap a wet towel at], or RAT-TAIL. if you perform the theme operation on this answer, you get OX-TAIL, which is indeed a kind of soup or stew. and a yummy one. did i mention that?

what else was notable about the puzzle? it was much easier than a typical MGWCC, i think. i didn't keep track of my solving times until i started this blogging gig, but i think it usually takes me on the order of 7-10 minutes. this one wasn't bereft of tough clues, but they happened to be things that i knew. among them:

  • the [Japanese novelist who wrote "Sea of Fertility"] is yukio MISHIMA. he was a pretty crazy guy. i think he and his followers took over some sort of radio tower so he could commit seppuku on the air back in the '60s.
  • today's [Shakespearean title character] is TIMON of athens. i haven't read it, but off of the TI, it wasn't hard.
  • the BORGS are the [Group against whom "resistance is futile"], in star trek: the next generation. except that i'm pretty sure the collective noun for them is the BORG (no S). BORGS would be björn and others.
  • [Iroquois confederacy founder] clues HIAWATHA, only known to be via the longfellow poem.
  • weirdest-looking answer: Y-AXES, clued as [They go up and down]. "what's a YAX?" i wondered, until it hit me.
  • unknown to me: the [Etymology-based NPR series by late poet John Ciardi] ON WORDS. sounds like the kind of show i would have liked, though.