November 03, 2009


crossword 16:08
puzzle 1:15

hell month is over at matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, and i won't say it ended with a whimper, because this was a very cool puzzle, but it was nowhere near as tough a meta as last week's. the puzzle, "65 to Stay Alive" (a reference to speed limits, no?), asks us to find a five-letter common halloween costume. let's have a look at the theme answers:

  • [1992 biography subtitled "Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance"] is EDGAR A. POE.
  • [They usually have green eyes] clues BLACK CATS. is this true? i suppose so, but i don't really see why it would be, necessarily.
  • [F.W. Murnau's masterpiece] is that classic horror film of the 1920's, NOSFERATU.
  • [Michael Keaton lures a fly with one in "Beetlejuice"]? that would be a ZAGNUT BAR.
  • and the central 15 is [What you must become to find the costume], or UNLUCKY ALL MONTH.

pretty nifty, eh? all four of this month's earlier contest answers, in order, are theme answers in the grid this week. now what's this about UNLUCKY ALL MONTH? lest you fear that only solvers who have gotten every meta wrong so far are eligible this week (now that would be a dastardly way of making sure nobody got all five right, eh?), it's a relatively straightforward reference to triskaidekaphobia, the belief that the number 13 is somehow unlucky. so all we need to do is go look at the letter in square 13 from all five of this month's crosswords:

  • 13d from MGWCC #70 was [Didn't hit, in poker], or STAYED. i looked askance at this clue four weeks ago, and i'm looking askance at it now. isn't that blackjack? in draw poker, you can "stay," i guess, but "didn't hit" in poker would be chasing a drawing hand unsuccessfully. anyway, that's neither here nor there; we have the S.
  • 13d from MGWCC #71 was [Brick carriers], or HODS.
  • 13a from MGWCC #72 was [Bausch & Lomb brand], or RENU.
  • 13d from MGWCC #73 was [Carve on permanently], or ETCH INTO.
  • and finally, 13d from this puzzle is [Groups], or KINDS.

well, this is definitely the most meta of any of the metas, what with referencing both contest answers and crossword answers in four previous puzzles (and itself). but it wasn't so hard, was it? there it is, spelled out in order: SHREK. i can't say i've ever seen anybody dressed up as shrek for halloween, but i could certainly imagine it. my son sam dressed up as a cowboy; his friend grace (also going on 2) was a fairy; and we saw a buzz lightyear in their building. but no shrek.

so how about the crossword? it was tough, all right, but i think not quite as tough as last week's. i did have to guess/google two squares, and went 1 for 2:

  • the very first square. [Carson or Cohen] is BEN, and [Arkansas governor Mike] is BEEBE. i have never heard of any of these three gentlemen, although i do know a guy from arkansas named mike. former bills wide receiver don BEEBE is the only beebe i could name. he's perhaps best remembered for his involvement in one of the memorable plays in super bowl history. anyway, i guessed this one right.
  • FRANKS is clued as [Needs no stamps], crossing SNARED, or [Got]. i do not know this definition of FRANKS; i guessed FRACKS, since [Got] could just as easily be SCARED.

what else?

  • [2007 Cooperstown inductee who retired in 2001] is tony GWYNN. the induction of GWYNN and cal ripken, jr is the one and only time i've been to the baseball hall of fame. that was a fun trip; i was there more for cal than for tony, but i met up with my buddy eugene from san diego, who flew all the way out from the west coast to see tony. the museum is pretty spectacular, too.
  • [Island whose highest peak is the newly-renamed Mount Obama] is a crazy cool clue for ANTIGUA. i've been doing the sporcle geography quizzes over and over, but i never seem to be able to nail every country in the world. i can get up to 190/195, but there's always something.
  • from the sublime to the ridiculous: adjacent to ANTIGUA is AGRISTIC, the [Fictional California town where "Weeds" is set]. good grief. an 8-letter fictional town on a show that, despite its critical acclaim, nobody watches?
  • both of those also crossed BERNISE, clued as [___ German (Swiss dialect)]. yikes.
  • [Clay achin' to be shot] is SKEET. i suppose i've heard of clay aiken, which makes this clue funny, as opposed to just ... absurd.
  • obscure chess clue of the month: [Paul ___ (chess great on the Estonian 5-krooni note)] is KERES. what's crazier, the fact that they put chess players on their money, or that their money is called krooni?
  • [Words before dirt] is a tough clue for "I HEAR ...". usually that wording means "words that can precede the word 'dirt' in a phrase."
  • [Killed spiller] is an almost-incomprehensible-at-first clue for the biblical ONAN, whom god smote for, ahem, spilling his seed. let that be a lesson to you: don't mess with old-testament god. not much smiting going on in the NT, unless you could jesus vs. the fig tree.

okay, that's all for me. i hope everybody else enjoyed hell month as much as i did...