crossword 5:35
puzzle 1:50

mgwcc98hi, everybody, and welcome to episode 98 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “I’m Gonna Deck You,” in which matt asks us to identify one of the 52 cards in a standard playing deck. here are the “theme” answers:

  • to {Fail yet again to turn a profit (26)} is to REMAIN IN THE RED.
  • {Locavore’s complaint, perhaps; imagine a hyphen between the 13th and 14th letters (13)} is “THAT’S NOT ORGANIC.” i learned the word “locavore” from fireball #1, but i thought it had only to do with eating only locally-grown food, not organic food. are they closely related?
  • {TV host’s plea after saying something stupid (9)} is “NO LETTERS, PLEASE.” unlike the first two, which are somewhat made up, this is a great crossword answer in its own right. i only wish LETTERS hadn’t been duplicated in the clue for ALIF, {Letter from Baghdad}.
  • {Windsors, now (1)} are THE ROYAL FAMILY.

there are a number of odd hints here, beginning with the numbers in parentheses, which decrease until they reach 1. and they are definitely suggestive of a deck of cards: 26 is half a deck, and 13 is the number of cards in one suit. and what’s with that weird “imagine a hyphen” comment in the second clue? all we’re doing is narrowing down the deck by using the hints. REMAIN IN THE RED eliminates the black suits (clubs and spades), taking us from 52 to 26 possibilities. THAT’S NOT ORGAN-IC suggests that we don’t want an organ, so hearts are out. that leaves just the 13 diamonds. NO LETTERS PLEASE means we can eliminate the A, K, Q, and J of diamonds, leaving us with just the 9 possibilities (deuce through ten) that have numerals on the card instead of letters. finally, THE ROYAL FAMILY suggests that we’re looking for an honor card, or a member of a royal flush. but since we can’t use a letter, the only possibility is the ten of diamonds, which must be the contest answer.

as a further hint, look no further than 1-across: {Watch the bar*} is TEND, which can be parsed as TEN-D. the * in the clue is awfully generous, i’d say. but in any event, this was an off-beat but amusing meta. just be glad it was written by a chess player, not a bridge player! otherwise, you might have been expected to know which suits were “major” and “minor” suits and other arcana.

the crossword wasn’t that tough, i think, but i was pretty slow to solve it. the occam’s razor explanation is that i just got back from a five-day trip to california and my brain is pretty tired, but somehow i was still pretty fast solving the daily NYT over the weekend even though i was really, really tired every time i sat down to do it. not sure. i guess failure to gain any traction in the NW was the real problem. roundup:

  • {Hop-o’-My-Thumb, e.g.} is apparently an OGRE. whence? surely one of my kind readers will enlighten me. or at least provide a handy “let me google that for you” link.
  • {___ dal (Indian lentil dish)} is TOOR. now, i eat indian food pretty often, but i didn’t know this. maybe it’s because i’m not really that into dal. but on friday i had the lunch buffet at darbar in palo alto, my favorite restaurant from grad school, and oh, it was heavenly! mmm.
  • {CBS founder William} PALEY? never heard of him. and i’m only 1% familiar with the crossing {“How I Met Your Mother” actor Jason} SEGEL. i had SEGAL, but PALEY/SEGEL looked better than PALAY/SEGAL. ugh, television.
  • and ugh, movies! {Best Director nominee before Kathryn, Sofia and Jane} is LINA somebody. i now know who kathryn bigelow is, and i’m guessing sofia is coppola. jane? LINA? no clue. and the N crossed KLINE, clued as {Porter portrayer, 2004}. now that is a dramatically unhelpful clue. i suspect this is kevin, but i don’t know the movie or the character. cole porter? was there a movie about him?
  • {Jimmy ___ (Bear Stearns CEO who played in bridge tournaments as his company collapsed in 2008)} is jimmy CAYNE, one of the country’s top players. i’ve played against him a number of times, most recently (i think) in march of 2008. but what’s this clue getting at, anyway? you think work is more important than bridge?
  • {Not even one} is NARY A. i can’t decide if i hate this answer or like it better than NARY by itself. it’s true that NARY is pretty much always followed by an indefinite article, but the article still feels like it belongs to the subsequent noun. judges?
  • {He had a hammer}? why, THOR, of course. i have a hammer, too, but my hammer doesn’t have a name. nor does it always hit its target and return to me. nor am i the only one strong enough to lift it.
  • i dimly recall {Google co-founder Sergey} BRIN’s name. i don’t know why i’m so bad at remembering the names of internet company founders, but i really am, especially considering i have a very good memory for names in general. anyway, i was at google on friday night for a “bachelor party” consisting of ping pong, bridge, and dominion. now that’s my kind of debauchery.
  • speaking of debauchery: the {Fun one of seven} is apparently LUST. is it really more fun than the others? give me sloth any day.
  • {Capital of Italy} is ROME. i won’t deny it: this one tricked me. i didn’t have any problem with the other geography (the YALU and LENA rivers, haiti’s ILE de la gonave), but here i tried ROME, erased it for LIRE, considered EURO, and then had to put ROME back in. grr.
  • {“Is your brain even turned on today?”} is a fun clue for boring old HELLO.
  • {Japan’s fugu fish, e.g.} is a PUFFER. this can never not remind me of the simpsons episode where homer eats bad fugu and then thinks he has 24 hours to live.
  • ALI G {asked Noam Chomsky in an interview “How many words is there?”}. have i mentioned how much i dislike sacha baron cohen? i don’t think i have. and i’m feeling charitable today, so i’ll continue not to mention it.

that’s all from me. see you next week for the 4th puzzle of the month. i bet it’ll be a lot harder than this, although he still needs to leave some room to grow for the killer 5th week puzzle after that.

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14 Responses to MGWCC #98

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    The OGRE clue is a mistake, several readers pointed out that Hop-o’-my-thumb is the *kid’s* name in the story, not the OGRE’s. I better stick to Shrek clues from now on.

    I also duped AGE and OF AGE. Luckily you were traveling and didn’t notice it either.

    211 correct answers this week. Especially happy with the ROME clue.

  2. *David* says:

    I plodded through the crossword as well but finally got it finished, I put in ROMA at first in my ROME mistake not noticing that it dind’t say ITALIA. The CAYNE corner was my hardest spot since I didn’t know him or NARY A.

    The meta went very quickly until the last hint and then I realized it had to be connected with Poker and a flush. What was ironic was the numbering system for the first two theme answers could go both ways, they could represent what was excluded or what was included since they were exactly half divisions.

  3. joon says:

    you know, when i read the AGE clue i had the nagging “dupe” sensation in the back of my mind, because i’d already done OF AGE. but i never explicitly found the dupe. then when i was doing the writeup i was too tired to go back and hunt for it. you got off easy this time, gaffney! next week, i’ll be watching you like a hawk.

  4. Evad says:

    Yes, ROME was the last thing on my mind for the “Capital of Italy” clue. Sometimes the most straightforward clues are the trickiest because they are unexpected…both EURO and LIRA came to mind first.

  5. Margaret says:

    Ha, I didn’t even think of including currency…I went straight for ROME. On the other hand, Hop-O-My-Thumb really threw me off, and I got a couple legit crosses when I had TALE, so it ended up being totally wrong and incomplete. I should have still tried for the Meta, since I probably could have gotten it, but I had class and a paper due this morning. Darn.

  6. Ben Bass says:

    Had LENI (Reifenstahl) at first. Changed it to LINA (Wertmuller, I assume).

    Loved the meta, but Matt, why give it away with the asterisk?

  7. Ben Bass says:

    p.s. Joon, assuming further, my guess is director Jane would be Jane Campion of “The Piano.”

  8. Abby says:

    Paley as in The Paley Center for Media. Even knowing of that, it took me a while to get the name in there.

    Lina Wertmuller was the first woman nominated for the Best Director Oscar (for Seven Beauties). She also made Swept Away which was (in)famously remade by Guy Ritchie with Madonna.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Ben —

    Wrestled with the * or not to * decision up until the last minute. I was eventually swayed to include it because I didn’t want any confusion with THAT’S NOT ORGAN-IC meaning hearts, but in retrospect the “imagine a hyphen between the 13th and 14th letters” part clears that up sufficiently.

    I probably would leave the * out if I had to do it again. Got about 15 e-mails from people who would have preferred it that way.

  10. Howard B says:

    I do like how Matt’s and (especially) Ben’s current default avatars resemble the debated asterisk this week. Either way, enjoyed this one a good deal.

  11. Bobby says:

    Fun meta and puzzle again this week. Unlike last month, I seem to be more on Matt’s wavelength through three April puzzles. Probably just jinxed myself !

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Now, if NARYA had been clued as [Amy’s friend Carla’s nom de blog], it would’ve been a gimme for me.

    Didn’t look closely at the asterisking and missed the TEN-D tie-in.

    Howard, I like how your smiley-face avatar blends right in with the computer-assigned ones.

  13. Clare says:

    Poker, schmoker. THE ROYAL FAMILY? TENnenbaums, of course. 10 of diamonds it is!

  14. SHAW says:

    Yeah… really unhappy with how this turned out for me this week… I was led down a perfectly sane and reasonable path to the wrong answer. I still don’t like “royal family” including a ten, unless we had been clued somehow to the idea that this would involve a flush… out of curiosity did anyone else do what I did, namely:

    REMAIN IN THE RED (26) – red
    THAT’S NOT ORGAN-IC (13) – diamond
    NO LETTERS PLEASE (9) – Given that eliminating the lettered cards eliminates the only two royals, the king and queen, instead eliminate any of the cards which have
    repeat letters (hence the plural “LETTERS”) in their names, of which
    there are four: THREE, SEVEN, NINE, and QUEEN. Thus, among the
    remaining nine cards, the only one left in THE ROYAL FAMILY (1) is the

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