November 24, 2009


crossword 8:47
puzzle 1:29

hi, everybody! this week marks the 77th episode of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest. this week's puzzle, "Middle of Somewhere," had a really cool theme. let's have a look:

  • [Whichever biothreat you happen to have handy?] is GERM OF ANY. this ... doesn't actually make grammatical sense, i think. it's definitely the weakest of the theme answers.
  • [Extinct bird whose habitat was the living room couch?] is the SOFA MOA.
  • [Dossier on comic Margaret?] is the CHO FILE.
  • [Craze where everyone stands on top of their houses?] is ROOF MANIA.

the gimmick here is that each of the four answers is the name of a country (germany, samoa, chile, or romania) with the word OF stuck into the middle. hence the title, "middle of somewhere." to find the contest answer, a familiar thanksgiving food, we take a look at the two-part central instructions: STUFF A NATIONAL / BIRD THE SAME WAY. despite my missteps (true confession: my first thought was, "is NOFENE the name of a thanksgiving food?"), the answer came to me reasonably quickly once i started going through birds and thanksgiving foods: TOFURKEY, of course, the tofu version of turkey that some vegetarians have for thanksgiving. i've never had it. one year some friends and i were going to get turducken, but ... we didn't. that's actually the saddest thanksgiving story i have. maybe i'll share it another time.

i looked somewhat askance at "national bird," because as much as ben franklin wanted otherwise, the turkey is not the national bird of this or any other nation. (it's only native to the USA and mexico, so the options are somewhat limited). but of course, the theme is OF in country names, and indeed TURKEY is both a nation and a bird. are there any other birds that are also countries?

odds and ends from the fill:

  • ["Who is John"] GALT? the protagonist of ayn rand's atlas shrugged, that's who. or maybe fountainhead, but i think that's howard roark. i often confuse the two. (i've never read either.)
  • [Dominated, in internet lingo] is apparently OWND. i really, really, really wanted this to be PWNED.
  • ha! we've seen the clue [Word on Puerto Rico's state quarter] before, with the answer ISLA. this time he's recycled the clue but not the answer; it's good old e pluribus UNUM.
  • the ALF at 5d [Franklin crushed him] is ALF landon, erstwhile political opponent of franklin delano roosevelt.
  • fave fill: it's a tie between I CAN TELL ["Yeah, it shows"] and A-GAME [Peak performance].
  • fave clue: [It's not working] for TIME OFF, which is, indeed, not working.
  • several things i did not know: [Lady ___] is GAGA, a musician i've never heard of. [Golfer who hit the "shot heard 'round the world"] is gene SARAZEN, and i've never heard of him, either. (this has got to be a distant fourth on the list of "shots heard 'round the world," behind lexington & concord, bobby thompson, and bob beamon.) [Faddish fruit] is ACAI, or perhaps AÇAI. this sounds 10% familiar (i did guess correctly at the first A), but i don't really know what that's about either. and [Wonkette founder ___ Marie Cox] is ANA. who/what is (a) wonkette?

that's all from me. have a happy thanksgiving, everybody.