March 24, 2009


crossword 5:55
puzzle 49 hours

anyunghashimnika, and welcome to the 42nd episode of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, "this town has changed." it took me damn near forever to figure out this week's metapuzzle; hopefully it won't take quite as long to explain it. what are the theme answers?

  • [Spark in the eye of the best hucksters?] is SALES GLINT.
  • [Person who can't tolerate quiet?] is NOISE LOVER.
  • [Paces of music they used back in the day?] are OLDEN TEMPI.
  • [Request in a German bookstore for a copy of "The New Atlantis"?] is "BACON, BITTE." good thing we didn't need to know the german word for bacon; instead, we get the philosophical stylings of francis bacon.

what's going on with the theme? my first thought was that NOISE LOVER was a play on NOISE LEVEL. and ... maybe BACON BITES, and ... OLDEN TIMES? i had no ideas for the first one, though. let's see, do the instructions help? they tell us that This week's contest answer word is an American city with eight letters in its name. hmm. because there are four theme answers, we might guess that we are getting two letters from each one, somehow.

let's have another look. each theme answer consists of two five-letter words. what if they're not puns on some base phrase? TEMPI is one letter off from TEMPE, which is a U.S. city, and i know the theme involves cities somehow. in fact, another look at the title, "this town has changed," suggests that the names of cities are being played on. okay, what else is there? BITTE is one letter off from BUTTE (hat tip to my wife for noticing this). GLINT could be FLINT, and LOVER from DOVER... we're getting somewhere. what have we got so far?


those eight letters don't seem to suggest much. but wait! there are four more five-letter words in these theme answers, each one also concealing a city:


what can we do with these sixteen bold letters? it turns out that the original 8 (FDEUMBGM) don't really do much. but the 8 new letters (GLIISNLB) anagram to form BILLINGS, montana--which is this week's answer word. whew.

it wouldn't be an MGWCC without some fun clues and fill, so let's take a look:

  • right at 1a, [Coltrane's boss] is boss HOGG of the dukes of hazzard. nothing to do with jazz.
  • i believe this is the second time we've seen O'SHEA clued as [John of Manchester United] in the MGWCC. all i can say is: liverpool 4-1 united. suck it, gaffney! let's see fernando torres and stevie gerrard in the grid next time, eh? if it's vowels you want, albert RIERA and fabio AURELIO should stand you in good stead.
  • two colloquial ___ IT ON expressions "grace" the grid: PILE IT ON, or [Keep extending an already huge lead, in sports slang], is one. and [Makes sweet love] clues GETS IT ON. i don't think you'll be seeing that clue/answer pair in the NYT any time soon.
  • IBISES had a fun clue: [Holy waders]. no, not waters! IBISES were sacred to the egyptians; thoth, their god of wisdom, had an ibis for a head.
  • GOOD EGG is clued as [Mensch]. i believe we decided some time ago on this blog that "mensch" could refer to GOOD EGGs of either gender, so the clue works for me.
  • matt valiantly attempts to clue OF ALL as a standalone phrase instead of a partial, with [In the whole world]. did that work for you?
  • one entry was so bad, and its clue so good, that i just had to laugh: the purely imaginary partial "Z IS," clued as [Future first two words of the last Kinsey Millhone title]. kinsey is the protagonist of the sue grafton mystery novels. what word, i ask you, will complete the title Z is for ___? not too many Z-words in whodunnits, although i am reminded of the steven wright quip: "so i finally got around to reading the dictionary. turns out the zebra did it." except that in my dictionary, the zyzzyva did it.
  • here's matt's trademark potty humor again: the delicate [Use the facilities, perhaps] clues the rather indelicate PEE. south carolina's PEE dee river feels demoted.
  • one [Feature of May-December romances] is AUTUMN. i've never been involved in a may-december romance, but there was a september-january one back in sophomore year of college. anyway, this time, the answer they want in the crossword is AGE GAP.
  • [Even-___ (calm)] is TENORED. i recently listened to a ryan & brian podcast starring dan feyer, winner of the C division (he's since upgraded his nickname). dan is very even-TENORED. for some reason, i was expecting him to be a booming baritone.
  • do you think ADAM WEST goes around introducing himself by saying, "i'm batman"? no? well, he should.
  • [Will show, briefly] is the ACPT, or will shortz's annual shindig. how very insidery, although i guess it was already the answer to a MGWCC last month and the theme of another one this month.
  • speaking of will, "THIS [Diamond Ring" (1965 #1 hit)] was a theme answer in the marriage-proposal NYT puzzle that he edited. i think bob klahn wrote the puzzle. and KEN is back as [Half a logic game]. or maybe it's a doll. or maybe it's half an east african. or maybe it's one fifth of an east-african doll that solves logic puzzles?
  • [Make yourself a pop] is a great clue for SIRE.

that's all for now. tune in next week for the killer puzzle of the month (maybe).