January 27, 2009


crossword 4:37
puzzle maybe 3 minutes?

the 34th installment of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest is called "Three Thirteen-Letter Phrases," and it was much easier than last week's cranium-crusher. the theme answers are:

  • the [Vehicle crossword constructor Ben hires to get around labyrinths?] is the TAUSIG MAZE TAXI. a theme shout-out to ben tausig!
  • ["Poker tokens? Are you kidding? My wager was for religious artwork!"] clues the phrase "CHIPS? I BET A PIETA!" this one made me chuckle. i can just imagine the pope and some cardinals sitting around a poker table and tossing in a michelangelo when the stakes get raised.
  • the most contrived-sounding theme answer has to be ["Former Burmese leader -- I'm talking about a Swiss pork product bought for a professor's helper!"], which clues "THE T.A. ALP HAM, U NU!" i've often had to make this clarification in my conversations with U NU. maybe his english isn't very good.

what do these crazy phrases have in common? they're not 13-letter phrases, as the title suggests. but they are phrases which consist entirely of greek letters, 13 of them in total:

  • "THE T.A. ALP HAM, U NU!" = THETA ALPHA MU NU. the NU in this one is the only letter which stands as its own word in the theme phrase.

this is the second MGWCC whose theme required us to GO GREEK. the instructions tell us: One of the grid entries in this week's puzzle anagrams into one of the eleven you didn't need. This grid entry is this week's contest answer word. so we're looking for a grid answer which anagrams into one of the other 11 greek letters: gamma, delta, rho, etc. the quickest way to do this is to notice that most of the across answers in the grid are 7 letters long. there are only so many 7-letter greek letters. there's no EPSILON, and UPSILON has been done, but what have we here? here's OMICRON, disguised as MORONIC, or [Stupid], which must be the answer.

other stuff:

  • there are five partial phrases in the grid, every one of them clued as part of a song title: eminem's "GET U mad," coldplay's "ONE I love," "ON A carousel" by the hollies, b.b. king's "why I SING the blues," and aaron tippin's "i wonder how FAR IT is over you." that last one is totally unfamiliar to me; apparently it's a 1991 country song. keeping them company is ELEANOR [Rigby of song], specifically the beatles song from revolver.
  • speaking of women's first names, ELEANOR is joined in the grid by MIMI rogers, GABI (gabriella) sabatini, and REBA hart (the sitcom character played by REBA mcentire on the show "REBA").
  • three clues referenced african geography: the [Capital on the Atlantic] is ACCRA, ghana. adjacent to it is [Much of Mali], which is part of the SAHEL. and over in the lower right is the HORN, clued simply as [Part of Africa]. also joining in the african mini-theme is the TUTSI people of rwanda.
  • puerile gaffnish goodness in this puzzle seems to be limited to BOOGERS. i suppose that'll do.
  • word i did not know: MALEN, which is german for "to paint." are we supposed to know that much german? i'm familiar with mathis der maler, the opera by paul hindemith about the painter matthias grünewald, so i suppose in one corner of my mind, i knew that "maler" is german for "painter." still, this seems like a too-obscure foreign word for an american crossword. what do you all think?