October 07, 2009


crossword 4:33
puzzle 0:05


did i scare you? no? oh, well. it's hell month over at matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, which surely means something sinister is coming up, because this week's puzzle, "Black-Hearted," wasn't particularly tough for a first-of-the-month. let's have a look at the theme answers:

  • [Go against] is CONTRAVENE.
  • [Yellow property in Monopoly] is VENTNOR AVENUE.
  • [Hospital fluids] are INTRAVENOUS DRIP. except it looks like there's a singular/plural mismatch there, doesn't it? i think there's one fluid per IV drip (even if they mix painkillers into saline, it's a single fluid by the time it's intravenous), so if you're talking about more than one fluid, the answer should be DRIPS.
  • [Classic 1932 novel] is aldous huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD.
  • boo! were you scared that time? rats.
  • finally, [Powerful poison] is COBRA VENOM.

what do these theme answers have in common? aided by the puzzle's title, we notice that they all contain the letters RAVEN in consecutive order: CONTRAVENE, VENTNOR AVENUE, INTRAVENOUS DRIP, BRAVE NEW WORLD, and COBRA VENOM. what does that mean about the contest answer? the instructions tell us that Hell Month contest answer #1 is the name of a well-known author. no problem, then: edgar allan poe wrote the raven, a spectacular poem in trochaic octameter (boo!). it's definitely creepy enough to be a fitting start to hell month.

on the other hand, this puzzle wasn't so tough for a MGWCC. the theme answers were all clued plainly, and include no off-beat made-up phrases like KON-TIKI RONDEAUX. and the fill wasn't terribly tough, either. i suspect matt has some tougher challenges planned for us in the weeks ahead. highlights:

  • ["All About ___" (2009 movie starring Sandra Bullock as a crossword constructor] is, of course, STEVE. i say "of course" (even though i'd never see this movie in a million years) because it was the subject of quite a lot of discussion on this blog a month or so ago when it came out. 10 points for the timely clue, but -1 point for ABOUT being in the grid.
  • while i'm dinging for repetitions: i loved seeing "OH, OK" in the grid, clued as ["Now I get it!"]. 50 points! i wasn't as happy when "I'M OK" showed up in the opposite corner. that's the same word in the fill twice. -20.
  • i wouldn't be anal if i stopped pointing these out, but i am, so i'll keep doing it: SPIN ART and [Pointless art] for PAP. -5. luckily, matt's still up by 34. he can't lose now, unless he's the detroit tigers.
  • one of the fun things about the MGWCC is that matt sometimes uses the puzzle as an erratum feature for previous puzzles. here, we have RENEE clued as [Sexy (but not zaftig) Zellweger)], a way of owning up to his misuse of "zaftig" the last time he clued this word. (i attempted to defend his usage, but i actually couldn't pick renee zellweger out of a police lineup, so my credentials are more than a little suspect.)
  • my favorite academically-oriented clue was [Sociologist Max] WEBER, who wrote the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. in college, i had to read parts of economy and society which was a little dry, but he had a lot of good ideas. of course, i would also have been happy to see the SI unit of magnetic flux, or the composer of der freischütz. it's a good name.

that's all for this week, but there's more hell to pay...