May 05, 2009


crossword 3:20
puzzle 2:40

hi, everybody! welcome to the 48th week of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, titled "Quite Quaint Quintet." this easy puzzle featured five alliterative/assonant theme answers:

  • the [Sleepy fictitious Scotsman] is WEE WILLIE WINKIE. i believe he also featured in byron walden's "double hung" onion puzzle of 2007. i don't think i actually know who this is, but i know that there is a character in salman rushdie's midnight's children named wee willie winkie. i just picked it up again after leaving it untouched for about six months, and i'm only about 30 pages from finishing. it's a really good book.
  • [Endlessly] clues AGAIN AND AGAIN.
  • [Altered a situation's power dynamics] means TURNED THE TABLES. that's a good figurative expression, although the literal meaning kind of eludes me. i mean, even if it's a square table rather than a round one, it's probably not going to be very different if you turn it.
  • [Cook-off food] is CHILI CON CARNE. yum...
  • the (only?) [Vice President from Minnesota] is HUBERT H. HUMPHREY, namesake of the hubert h. humphrey metrodome.

what do these theme answers have in common? well, obviously, they're all three-word phrases in which each word begins with the same letter. the instructions are: This week's contest answer is a common five-letter word that ties this puzzle's theme entries together -- and appears somewhere in today's blog post. (no, not this blog post, this blog post.) i struggled with this one for a little bit, searching for a word that suggested "repetition" or "alliteration." nope, nothing. then i took another look at the theme answers: what letter gets repeated? W, A, T, C, and then H. oh, that's a word! is that word in the blog post? yes, yes it is, and watch is the answer.

even though it was quite a straightforward crossword overall, there were still a bunch of names i didn't know:

  • [Noted Irish band, with "The"] is the CORRS. never heard of them.
  • [Gadfly journalist Mark ___] is STEYN. never heard of him.
  • [Astronaut and former Senator Jake] is GARN. never heard of him. by the way, does that mean he's still an astronaut? "senator and former astronaut" seems more plausible somehow.
  • [Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben] is COHEN. did not know that, although i've heard of ben & jerry's, of course.

other notable answers:

  • [Famous Freud subject, known by her (pseudonymous) first name and last initial] is ANNA O. you can read about her here. i remembered this, if only barely. freud's daughter was also named anna, but she was a very important figure in psychoanalysis in her own right.
  • [Chicken ___ masala] is TIKKA. it's also my favorite food. together with CHILI CON CARNE, this made it quite a mouthwatering puzzle.
  • there were two interesting pairs of related adjacent answers: DEATH and NILE were clued as [Word in an Agatha Christie title] and [Another word from the same Agatha Christie title], death on the nile.
  • lower in the grid, HUE and HEW were clued as [Homophone for 62-down] and [Homophone for 63-down]. a short distance away, HOI polloi was left out of the fun.
  • a pair of answers that was probably not intentionally related was [Cracklin' Oat ___ (Kellogg's cereal)], or BRAN, and [Like many breakfast cereals], or OATY. minus one for duplicating OAT in a clue. also, those would go horribly with chicken tikka masala or chili con carne.
  • speaking of food, [Sign it's time to clean the kitchen] is ANTS. great clue, although for us, it's usually ODOR. either that or NOT HAVING ANY ROOM ON ANY OF THE COUNTERS TO PUT DOWN SO MUCH AS A DRINKING GLASS SO YOU CAN POUR WATER INTO IT, but that wouldn't fit.

that's all for me, folks. see you next week.