March 17, 2009


crossword 5:13
puzzle 0:35

buenos días, amigos! the 41st installment of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, "Stick It!", featured normal phrases clued as if they referred to brands of chewing gum:

  • [How long sticks stay fresh?] is CAREFREE LIFE. "carefree" is a gum.
  • [Contraption that sells sticks?] is BIG RED MACHINE. "big red" is a gum, and the BIG RED MACHINE was the nickname of the 1970s cincinnati reds dynasty.
  • [Entered the offices of a stick manufacturer?] is WENT INTO ORBIT. "orbit" is a gum.
  • [Just one or two sticks?] is A LITTLE EXTRA. "extra" is a gum.

so what was the metapuzzle? the instructions tell us that This week's contest answer phrase is two words and a total of twelve letters long, and is comprised of two fill entries somewhere in the grid. The phrase answers the clue: "Sticks they brought along on the Apollo 11 mission?" well, the apollo 11 mission is the one with neil armstrong, buzz aldrin, and little-known michael collins that landed on the moon in 1969, so that's a strong hint that the answer might involve 2d, LUNAR ([Word before module or landscape]). LUNAR is five letters, so we're looking for a seven-letter companion. which of the seven-letter entries forms a phrase with lunar? it's 38a, ECLIPSE, clued as [Mitsubishi model]. so LUNAR ECLIPSE looks like it is a good phrase which answers the clue in the instructions. is ECLIPSE a gum? i'd never heard of it, but yes, it is. so that must be the answer. i don't know why these gums (ECLIPSE and ORBIT) are named after astronomical terms.


  • [Foot faults] is a fun clue. it's not about tennis; it's about BUNIONS.
  • i believe i'm on record as being a fan of the word ULULATE.
  • [Part of a chorus's chant] is STROPHE. this is a reference to ancient greek drama, although the term is still used for a musical refrain.
  • [___ Thule (unknown point on Earth, to early cartographers)] clues ULTIMA. i love this clue. ancient/medieval geography! good stuff.
  • more stuff i actually knew: [Architect killed in 1926 when a streetcar ran over him] is antoni(o) GAUDI of barcelona. brilliant, crazy guy. i feel like there was also a french composer who was killed in a bicycle accident at around the same time, but i can't remember which one.
  • i'm pretty sure i've complained about OXES ([Big oafs]) before. why is it that when OX is used literally, its plural is OXEN, but when used metaphorically, it's OXES?
  • [Buck of the future] isn't buck ROGERS of science fiction; it's a FAWN, who may grow up to be a buck.
  • [Move across the water] is being used in the transitive verb sense: to OAR a boat across the water. likewise, [View] is also a transitive verb here, not a noun; it clues SEE.
  • ["The Black Pearl"] isn't a pirates of the caribbean reference. it clues dark-skinned brazilian soccer star PELE, who became a legend back before nicknames had to be politically correct.
  • ["You forgot something down there..."] is XYZ, or "eXamine Your Zipper." tehee.
  • [Bar crowd] is BOOZERS. hey, why wasn't CARLOS BOOZER in caleb madison's bar crowd NYT this week?

th-th-th-that's all, folks. catch you next week.