April 21, 2009


crossword 7:30
puzzle 3:40

g'day, mates, and welcome to the 46th installment of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, "I Can't Deal With This."

  • [Perennial battlers] are GOOD AND EVIL.
  • ["Love Potion No. 9" band]? apparently it's THE CLOVERS. never heard of them.
  • ["Things will be different for me now"] clues I'M A CHANGED MAN.
  • [Ebony] clues the poetic phrase BLACK AS TAR.
  • [Really rouse the rabble] is LAUNCH A RIOT. i'm not sure about this one as "in the language" phrases go. start a riot, sure. incite a riot. i'd even accept foment a riot, because i love the word foment, and there's not all that much you can foment. (unrest... revolution... uh, coffee?)

what about the metapuzzle? the instructions tell us that this week's contest answer phrase consists of two interlocking words in this puzzle's fill, and explains the source of the theme entries. These two words total eleven letters. these instructions, and the hint from the puzzle's title, point us towards the common endings that the theme answers have: GOOD AND EVIL, THE CLOVERS, I'M A CHANGED MAN, BLACK AS TAR, and LAUNCH A RIOT. what are those boldface things? why, they're tarot cards (hence the "deal" in the title) that are named (as opposed to, say, the eight of cups or the deuce of swords). is there a name for the named tarot cards? indeed: they are MAJOR ARCANA, and that's the answer to the contest. MAJOR is in the grid clued as [Huge], in the colloquial sense. and ARCANA is [Obscure stuff].

i may have had an inadvertent advantage in sussing out the meta, because i spent a good long while staring at THE_LOVERS before finally filling in that last square (which required changing the incorrect RATA to RATO). once i convinced myself that the theme wasn't rodin's les portes d'enfer, tarot was the next thing on my mind.

i thought this was a highly pleasing metapuzzle, but as usual, there was lots else to like in the grid:

  • the kia SPECTRA and hyundai ELANTRA form a matched set of korean car models.
  • SPECTRA is part of a nice NW corner that includes MATA HARI and UNCLE TOM stacked up next to each other. in the opposite corner, AL ITALIA, NOT AT ALL, and the beatles song NO REPLY also form a nice stack.
  • ANGEL cabrera is topical, as he's the newly crowned [2009 Masters winner].
  • ["Mr. No Depth Perception" of "Saturday Night Live"] was one of the characters portrayed by kevin NEALON. i didn't love that particular sketch, but NEALON was a very funny regular on the show during the years when i actually watched it.
  • the entire SW was delightful except for the six-letter roman numeral DCCIII. first, of course, there was MAJOR/ARCANA. there's also JOCUND, a fine word meaning [Merry], flanked by norse fave ODIN, interestingly clued as [God who inspired Tolkien's Gandalf]. and of course, there was [Fun with verbs and nouns], or a MAD LIB. who doesn't love a good MAD LIB? {pronoun} finds MAD LIBs highly {adjective} to {transitive verb} {adverb}.
  • tricky clues: TEN is a [Score half] if you work out that "score" is being used to mean 20. [They travel by air] clues AROMAS, not frequent flyers, but [Get high] means to AVIATE, not get stoned. [Glass many enjoy weekly] is NPR's IRA glass, not a beverage, but [Pop out of a can] is a beverage, SODA, and not what worms may do. [Part of a British car] isn't the BOOT or the STEERING WHEEL ON THE RIGHT (WRONG) SIDE, but merely ASTON, part of "ASTON martin." and my favorite clue: [Go for the gold] means PAN for gold, not vie in the olympics.

unfamiliar names (other than THE CLOVERS):

  • BIHAR is apparently [India's third most populous state]. i've never heard of it. its capital and largest city is PATNA, which ... i've also never heard of. apparently it's mostly rural.
  • [Pop stars ___ & AJ] is ALY. who knew?
  • [Dave of Jane's Addiction] is NAVARRO. i may have known this at one time, but i certainly didn't remember it while solving the puzzle.

that's all, folks. see you next week for april's evil finale.