July 07, 2009


crossword 2:51
puzzle -2:51

this week's episode of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest marks the 57th flavor of matt's ketchup. i haven't timed myself every single week, but i'm pretty certain that this is the fastest i've ever done one of matt's crosswords. and the meta was easy enough from the title, instructions, and timing of the puzzle that i guessed the right answer actually before i even started the crossword.

the puzzle, called "ABC," has the following theme entries:

  • [Japanese lunches] are BENTO BOXES. yum!
  • ["The father of numbers"] is the ancient greek mathematician PYTHAGORAS.
  • [Tourist town in the Black Forest] is BADEN BADEN. once upon a time, i had a dream of making a puzzle with theme answers BADEN BADEN, WALLA WALLA, PAGO PAGO, and BORA BORA. of course, it's been done, many times before actually. ah well.
  • [1939 Hitchcock film] is JAMAICA INN. yowzers. it's only a slight exaggeration to say that everything i know about hitchcock films i learned from crosswords, but ... never heard of this one. not even close. also, there really, really, needs to be a consonant of some sort between JAMAICA and INN.
  • tying them all together is the central answer, [What this puzzle's four theme entries start with]: THREE-LETTER HITS.

so what do BEN, PYT, BAD, and JAM have in common? why, they're michael jackson hits, of course. the puzzle's title, "ABC," is also a three-letter hit, not by michael himself but by the jackson five. and since the puzzle's instructions tell us that This week's contest answer phrase is a famous person whose first and last names total 14 letters, we can pretty well deduce that the contest answer must be michael jackson himself.

i'm not going to embed the videos here, but just in case you haven't had your fill of jacko in the last week and a half, i'll provide links: ben pyt (pretty young thing) bad jam. these hits impressively span the decades of michael's popularity, from "ben" in 1972 (his first #1, when he was still a boy) to "jam" in 1991. i confess i had blocked out any memory i had of "jam," and only vaguely know about "ben." "PYT," believe it or not, i have only ever seen in ... matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, back in week 45. "bad," of course, is one of the biggest hits of all time, by michael or anybody else. the choreography in the video is must-be-seen-to-be-believed precise, and of course this was back in 1987, early enough that you know it's real dancers rather than CGI. after you've seen the video, be sure to check out weird al's version, too.

okay, what else?

  • i can't decide if i like [Sign that it's time to clean the kitchen] for ANTS. i loved this clue the first time i saw it, in ... matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, week 48. that was only 2 months ago.
  • i don't think i saw the clue for TAO, [2006 Fields Medal winner Terence ___], until just now. whoa, the fields medal. high-falutin'. i took complex analysis as an undergrad from curt mcmullen, who won the 1998 fields medal. TAO sounds like an interesting character, at least according to wikipedia, but of course, i've never heard of him.
  • matt goes meta with DECODE, clued as [Solve, as a Kaidoku]. have you checked out alex boisvert's kaidoku blog, to which matt and alex each contribute one puzzle a week?
  • right next to DECODE is DEBUG, or [Perfect a program, perhaps]. for a programmer, the DEBUG step often leads straight into the RECODE step. hopefully not DECODE, though.
  • i think [Kick-___ (awesome)] is my favorite ASS clue. easy, but just right.
  • [Not yet having turned pro, perhaps] is an amusing clue for ANTI.
  • ["I am happy about this!"] made me giggle. it's an identical sentiment, albeit much more formally expressed, to the one expressed by "YAY!"
  • i liked ["___-ching!"] for CHA. but joe cabrera says it "grinds his gears" when somebody says "cha-ching" instead of "ka-ching." how onomatopoeia is transliterated seems a strange thing to get worked up over, doesn't it?

that's all for this week. look for a tougher puzzle next week.