January 06, 2009


crossword 5:14 + googling
puzzle about 5 minutes

the 31st matt gaffney weekly crossword contest is called "the inversion version," and features four theme answers which... er... it's actually clearer to give you the answers than to attempt to explain what's going on.

  • ["Designer Sui, bring me some Indian bread!"] is "NAAN, ANNA!"
  • [Lays eyes on a Latin verb?] is SEES "ESSE."
  • ["Bus driver on 'The Simpsons,' blow your horn!"] is "TOOT, OTTO!"
  • [Tire out those digging up dirt on your political campaign?] is POOP OPPO.

all four of these eight-letter vowel/consonant inversions are crossed at symmetric places by the alternating four-letter version of those letters: [Grandma] NANA, mobutu SESE seko, the band TOTO, and [Cops, in slang] POPO. i did not know the slang term, and it contributed to a real problem in the california area of the grid for a while. but more on that later.

what's the contest answer? well, we're supposed to anagram those eight letters into a common unit of measurement. NASETOPO anagrams to TEASPOON, so there you have it. i wouldn't be satisfied with a TEASPOON of OX-TAIL soup, but maybe DONDER would.

gnarly bits:

  • that aforementioned california area. [Non-native Hawaiian], or HAOLE, crossed [Posh chip source] TARO (really? but it's so ... tasteless) and GAEL garcia bernal of the motorcycle diaries. the L was not happening for me; i sort of assumed that if the answer were, in fact, L, matt would use a more accessible clue there. nope—he got me. i had to google.
  • also in that section: ORO, clued as [Bacardi ___ (popular rum)]. this clue, and the clue for TIO [___ Pepe (sherry brand)] also did me no favors, since i don't drink liquor and know essentially nothing about any kind of alcohol other than wine.
  • matt springs one of his answer-specific traps on us at 1a: [Cusack of "Say Anything," "High Fidelity," and "Grosse Pointe Blank"]. why would he redundantly give us all three of those movies which very famously star JOHN cusack? because they also feature his sister JOAN, the actual correct answer.
  • it wasn't hard to figure out that the H was wrong, because right below it is ALVA myrdal, the 1982 nobel peace prize winner, and nothing starts with HV. except i had ALMA myrdal (maybe i was thinking of ALMA mahler), and ... wait, nothing starts with HM either. certainly not a [Legendary island], right? what was that island in gulliver's travels with the houyhnhnhms? (apparently it didn't have a name.) that's what i thought was going on, because i had a whole lotta consonants for 3d (including N for the theme answer before i realized that it was the four-letter spelling of NAN that was required): HMNL_N with the unknown sherry brand. but i got it all sorted out after i changed to NAAN; the island is AVALON.
  • speaking of AVALON, [Toyota makes them] is a clue in this puzzle... but for SCIONS, not the toyota AVALON.
  • [Marked by madness] is CHAOTIC, not DAFT or MENTALLY UNBALANCED or anything like that. nearby in the grid is the colorful and similar ATWITTER.
  • very tough clue: [Buffalo, for example] isn't about the city or the animal, it's about the buffalo NICKEL, which i only know about because of the play american buffalo by david mamet, about a plot to rob a numismatist. mmm, numismatist.
  • [Coffee shop cylinder] is a TIP JAR, not a mug or a sugar pourer or even the stirring straw which some coffee shops use. crossing the J is OUIJA, the [Game where the medium is the message?].
  • not hard, but it made me smile: ["IRAQI COURT DELAYS TRIAL OF SHOE ___" (recent Denver Post headline)] is, of course, TOSSER. i love the iraqi shoe-TOSSER. here's the video.