MGWCC #103

crossword 8:34 (paper)
puzzle 5 minutes, but really 3 days, and actually, even then …

mgwcc103greetings, and welcome to week 3 of MayHem and week 103 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Premier League.” this week combined a tough crossword with a tough meta that i only partly figured out. according to the instructions, we were looking for a term from (american) football, even though the premier league in england plays the other football (soccer). as usual, there weren’t many hints. just the title, and the clue for 56a: {Number of letters in this week’s contest answer, and the number of theme entries you seek}, TEN.

well, when i think of american football and the number 10, i think of needing 10 yards to get a first down. my leaning in this direction was bolstered by the fact that adjacent entries 56 & 58a spell out TEN / YARDS in the grid. add in the hint from the title (“premier” = first), and i was definitely looking for a way that the answer could be FIRST DOWN. or i guess FIRST DOWNS, since i knew it had to be ten letters long.

so then i set off looking for ten theme entries, each of which will give us one letter of FIRST DOWNS. naturally i started looking at the first letters of the down entries. as soon as i started doing that, i found a bunch of them that not only had the right first letters, but also shared an unusual feature:

  • {Film about really gory outlaws} is FARGO, yah.
  • an {Innovative, multicolored Apple computer} is an IMAC, and in fact, i’m typing up this post on one as we speak. or, uh, as i type. this post. on an iMac.
  • a {River home in northwestern Europe} is the RHINE. i’m not so sure what “home” has to do with anything, so it’s an oddly worded clue.
  • to {Shoot thirty rounds at, for example} might be to STRAFE.
  • one {Tongue heard around Indochina} is THAI.
  • the TV {Drama about living life at Southfork} was DALLAS. i needed a bunch of crossings for this one. definitely before my time.
  • one {Oil manufacturing Arab nation} is OMAN. shouldn’t there have been a hyphen between the first two words? i thought so, but maybe it was left out on purpose…
  • {Where every sunset terminates} is the WEST, of course. this clue was unusually easy in a crossword this tough.
  • {Not exactly, in Nuremberg} is NEIN.
  • {Something that a tyrant usually erects} is a STATUE. not really sure about “usually,” but it’s close enough.

have you seen it yet? the strange, almost stilted wording of some of these clues, and the unusually easy clue for a juicy, fraught-with-cluing-possibilities answer like WEST, were a big tip-off: each of these clues has the same first letter as the answer! and they’re all down clues; none of the across clues has this feature. so FIRST DOWNS it is. this is where i was after about 5 minutes of working on the meta, and i was about to send in my answer. except, wait… what about these?

  • {Amaze} = AWE
  • {“You betcha”} = “YEP”

this is where i was after about 10 minutes of working on the meta. i couldn’t for the life of me figure out why these two weren’t part of the theme. now, FIARST DOWNSY has the wrong number of letters, and also it’s nonsense. so i was pretty sure about the answer. but i knew i was missing something, because i strongly suspected matt would have been careful enough not to include AWE and YEP by accident, when he could just as easily have clued them {Wonderment} and {“Indubitably”}.

i put it on the back burner for three days, and never worked it out, so last night i just sent in FIRST DOWNS with slight misgivings. and it turned out to be right, much to my relief… and also, matt pointed out what i’d been missing. but by now you’ve already noticed, right?

  • Film about really gory outlaws
  • Innovative, multicolored Apple computer
  • River home in northwestern Europe
  • Shoot thirty rounds at, for example (this one is amazingly smooth and natural-sounding)
  • Tongue heard around Indochina
  • Drama about living life at Southfork
  • Oil manufacturing Arab nation (so is that why there’s no hyphen?)
  • Where every sunset terminates
  • Not exactly, in Nuremberg
  • Something that a tyrant usually erects

pretty amazing, isn’t it? and indeed, AWE and YEP aren’t part of this at all. so i got the answer right, and i think i was most of the way there. but i really wish i’d been able to figure it all out, because it’s a real “aha” moment combined with a “wow” moment, and i only got the “wow.” it reminded me of MGWCC #33, which was the last time i guessed the right answer without really seeing the big picture. that one was also a real wow.

now, you’ll notice that i worked out the solution by first guessing the answer, and then seeing if i could justify it. how would you get this one without guessing the answer first? i honestly don’t know. i guess if you were really paying a lot of attention, you could have noticed the first letters thing in one of the more unusual-sounding clues (maybe RHINE), and then just tracked down all the others. but it definitely eluded me. i’m not sure if guessing the right answer made it easier or harder for me, actually.

okay, the crossword: it was hard, but not a killer. clue roundup:

  • {Bandmate of Bono, The Edge and Larry} is ADAM clayton of U2. huge gimme for me, as they’ve been my favorite band since i was a sentient music-listener, circa the late 1980s.
  • {Hand ball?} is a FIST. well played, sir.
  • {Kidman portrayed her in a 2006 film} – ARBUS? who? is this from cold mountain?
  • {“Don’t Blame It ___” (reggae classic by the Congos)} is ON I. not a song i’m familiar with, and ungrammatical to boot.
  • {Casually} is EN FAMILLE? man. i’ve only ever seen this expression in a BEQ puzzle from 2 months ago, when it was clued as {At home}. then, as now, i can’t reconcile it with the definition in my dictionary, which is “with one’s family” or “as or like members of a family.”
  • {Run on the bank?} is OVERFLOW. probably my favorite clue of the puzzle.
  • how does matt decide between chess clues and tennis clues? this week, BORIS is spassky, who {won the World Chess Championship from Tigran in 1969}. i thought he’d go becker, but i admit i have tennis on the brain (i’m currently watching rafa nadal’s first-round match on ESPN3 in the background).
  • toughest clue: {La ___} RAZA? what does this mean?
  • {Holder of a high office} is attorney general ERIC holder, who indeed occupies a high office. i can’t decide if this was extra-tricky or less tricky because the common noun “holder” also applies to him vis-à-vis the attorney general position. i guess extra-tricky, since you don’t know you’re looking for a first name.
  • {Word in a Grammy-winning George Harrison album title} … DESH? that’s not a word.
  • {Experiencing major problems, perhaps} clues IN COLLEGE. i like where this clue was going, but maybe {Making major decisions} would have worked better.
  • {Word inside a right triangle} isn’t YIELD.
  • {First language of 25 million Asians} is UZBEK? i’m not so sure about that. one of my best friends from college and grad school is from uzbekistan, and his first language was russian. did you know that tashkent is the 3rd-largest world metropolis in a landlocked nation? did you know that uzbekistan is doubly-landlocked (i.e. all of its neighbors are also landlocked)? well, now you do.
  • {Space Invaders company} is TAITO. ooh, i used to know this. did you reflexively plunk down ATARI here? i sure did.

one more week of MayHem. are you still alive?

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69 Responses to MGWCC #103

  1. Evad says:

    Still alive, with one to go…but we know how that worked out for the Bruins, don’t we?

    I didn’t start with the answer on this one–I missed the TEN YARDS connection but did think to look for clues that started with the same letter as the entry, given that I knew I needed 10 letters (and entries) for the answer, and a synonym of “Premiere” in the title is “First.”

    I saw a big batch of them in the first few downs, but was bothered by the two acrosses that you mentioned. Then I started to look more closely at the relationship of the down clues with their corresponding entries and saw that the entry was an acronym of the first letters of the words in the clue. Big AHA moment there, so very satisfying meta for me.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    56 correct entries this week, roughly 15 of which didn’t fully grok the meta but rather guessed or semi-guessed like Joon did.

    But good guesses count! Like mishits in tennis.

  3. John Farmer says:

    I believe the George Harrison album is “The Concert for Bangladesh,” and one of the songs is “Bangla Desh.” Good enough for the clue. [EDIT: I just reread the clue and see it may be a stretch, but I’ll give it a pass anyway.]

    I too got the right answer and yet didn’t see the full clue connection. Well done. Another cool meta from Matt.

  4. Alex says:

    i guess if you were really paying a lot of attention, you could have noticed the first letters thing in one of the more unusual-sounding clues (maybe RHINE), and then just tracked down all the others.

    Yep, that’s exactly what I did. Sometimes it pays to not be a speed solver and to wonder things like “why ‘not exactly’ in the clue for NEIN?”

    Very worried about this week’s puzzle.

  5. SethG says:

    Good lord was I far off.

    Hey, did you know that there are exactly 10 entries in the puzzle which form words when reversed? Why would he have weird stuff like EDAM and DRIB and LODI in the puzzle? Because they reverse to MADE and BIRD and IDOL! I saw that right away, and I never could move beyond those as the theme entries.

    If you anagram the first letters, the last letters, the first or last letters of the clue, the first letters of the written-out forms of the clue numbers, the first letters of the acrosses and the last letters of the downs, the reverse of that…you get…nothing football related.

    And I was even working off the assumption that it would be FIRST DOWNS, but could _not_ find a way to get that to work. But I submitted it anyway, and join Joon in the wow.

  6. Al Sanders says:

    Wow, what a great meta. I guessed FIRST DOWNS exactly as Joon did, from TEN YARDS and Premier hints. I never managed to find the ten theme entries, but sent in the guess and got lucky. I need to remember to not focus on the grid so much and look for unusual clue wording. I missed last week, though, so I’m not alive.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Great meta, indeed. I’m as alive as the Canadiens, but my perfect May is intact. 0 for 3.

  8. tabstop says:

    I psyched myself right out of this one — saw ten yards, saw premier, but couldn’t justify it and decided it was all a bit too obvious in a very sour-grapes sort of way. Ended up sending in “extra point” thinking I could get something out of M->N or the like, but that wasn’t there either. Blast.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    John F —

    It says online that the album title is “The Concert for Bangladesh” though the famous George Harrison song off it is called “Bangla Desh.” So if that’s correct then the clue is wrong since I referenced the album, but my World Almanac calls it “The Concert for Bangla Desh.”

    OK, I’m finding album covers online now with either spelling. So I’ll count the clue as correct.

  10. Pauer says:

    Very nice – I got fixated on DESH missing its BANGLA, so I went looking for other missing chunks. OMAN becomes ROMANIA, right? Not so much.

  11. jimmy d says:

    D’ohhh!! *smacks forehead* You got me (again), Matt!!! Beautiful meta, just couldn’t see it… but I am proud to say that I am now quite familiar with Uzbek, Czech, Oman and Thai soccer teams and prime ministers!!

  12. Hugh says:

    I almost bit at STRONG(=Premier) SIDE(=League) but could find no confirmation elsewhere. Besides, Matt’s clue about the number of theme entries at 56 Across squelched that idea.

    Then, just before going off to my grandson’s lacrosse game, the odd phrasing of 1 Down just jumped off the page and I was off to the other nine in record time (for me). Because I was skipping around the Down clues, I expected to have to solve an anagram of the first letters of the ten and was surprised that Matt was able to construct them in order. Amazing!

  13. Karen says:

    I was looking at all the names in the grid, got distracted by ADAM WEST, and didn’t get any further. Good meta, though.
    ‘La RAZA’ = the race, and can refer to a Hispanic advocacy group.
    Re the puzzle–DRIB was new to me. I had Harrison singing about a DESK. And I had to look up the BIGO/ARBUS cross, both were unknown to me.

  14. rebecca says:

    When I was thinking of football terms that might fit, I slid too quickly over FIRST DOWNS, as I didn’t think the term would be in plural form. Too purist of me, and I ignored all the signs that were so clearly pointing in that direction…. ended up submitting DOWN AND OUT even though I knew it was wrong because there were several words in the puzzle that could be combined with one or the other (down vest, wore out), but not 10 and it didn’t fit with the title either. Sad to be out of the May-hem running, but there’s always June-hem?

  15. Nick W says:

    Brilliant. Kudos to Matt for a great meta. I noticed FIRST going across the top, but was by this point so far lost in my own convoluted anagram-based meta that it was too late.

  16. Nick W says:

    SethG, I was doing exactly what you were doing.

  17. Anne E says:

    I never speed-solve MGWCC crosswords or metas, and this week’s is why. I noticed right away that several of the clues sounded strange or even “wrong-ish” (particularly the “home” in 6D, the “not exactly” in 36D, the absence of a hyphen in 33D [and besides, “manufacturing” refers only to creating synthetic oil, which isn’t what happens in Oman], and the mention of Indochina in 13D, although “around” mitigated that somewhat). Since Matt is typically an elegant, precise cluer (especially when it comes to geography), I flagged these in my mind as I proceeded with the puzzle.

    About halfway through, as I was finding more and more of these, I stared at them, wondering why the questionable cluing and the extra or erroneous-ish words (nothing football-related was springing to mind), and then suddenly the staring paid off and I realized the first letters of the clunky clues spelled their answers. My only reservation at that point was that some of the other clues were deceptively a little strange as well, but none of these spelled their answers so no worries. I then used the meta solution to finish the puzzle, which I thought was fairly difficult – the meta gave me the answer to 1D, for example.

    But yeah, a nice aha moment – very satisfying.

  18. John Farmer says:


    I went to a definitive source, the DVD on my shelf. That one’s called “…Bangladesh,” but it also contains some of the original artwork, which you linked to. You’re fine.

    I’m sure Joon will be posting a correction momentarily. ;-)


  19. Meg says:

    In past puzzles Matt has hidden part of the meta in the clues. I’m waiting for the day I have to cut up the grid and glue the parts together in some fashion…..or maybe origami.

    Lovely “aha” moment. Thanks for the fun!

  20. Abby says:

    I hate it when it’s in the clues. Hate it. Main reason is that I usually have to fill it in fast on Friday and then can’t look at the meta for a few days, by which time I’ve forgotten weird clues.

    When I came up dry, I revisited some clues, but not those.

    I latched onto “premier” being first. Tried what I thought was a weird thing: three pairs of words differed in the first letter (edam/adam, vest/west, dell/yell). If there’d been five, I would’ve stayed there.

    Then I noticed a lot of names in the puzzle. First that grabbed me was Norah and Grace… Jones. Isn’t Adam Jones a player? Yes! So I tried to match up more names. There being about five women’s names gave me some confidence, though I don’t know many players’ names. Best I really got was (Norah and) Adam Jones and (Grace and) Eric Kelly. Which are cornerbacks, so I sent that in after much agonizing.

    If I had time to look for the meta when I actually solved the puzzle, I probably would’ve got this, but I can only do that about every other week. Still don’t like those. And, worst of all, I’m out of the running again, which means I’ll get the next one for sure. :-(

  21. Aaron says:

    Darn. I had written over my grid (circling repeated words and ELLs) looking for answers, and must’ve misread it when I submitted the ten-letter “Nickleback,” thinking that there were ten entries that had “IN” in them. Ah, well. I can accept the much more elegant FIRST DOWNS.

  22. Garrett says:

    Well, I am pretty much in awe of this meta. But my small beef is that the meta clue has “a term used in football” and this had me thinking singularly, so I did not even consider first down–I was thinking about ten letter terms in the singular. But enough whining. It really is a work of art.

    Speaking of art, did anyone notice FOAL and YIELD? Diagonally left and up from the F two letters is a G. Diagonally up and right two letters from the Y is an F. This spells field goal if you transpose. And here is an odd thing: if you highlight the YEF, the SNEAK in “sneaksin”, and the word DALLAS in the grid it makes a 4. This got me looking for numbers in the grid formed with football terms. Argh.

  23. Evad says:

    But good guesses count! Like mishits in tennis.

    Are you saying yorshits are better than mishits? ;)

  24. rebecca says:

    I thought I posted before but it never showed up… Like Garrett, I passed over the FIRST DOWN(S) possibility too quickly because I didn’t think that the plural form was suitable, despite all the (in retrospect) obvious clues… too purist of me, and I’ve learned my lesson.

    I did look at the clues as well as the answers, and thought that some of them looked odd (especially went WTF? for the NEIN clue) but didn’t think about it at the proper meta-level… Time to stop licking wounds, gird the loins and get ready for the last of the month. Thanks Matt!

    (Rebecca, your comments wound up in the spam filter. I’d delete the first one but I like that “June-hem.”—Amy)

  25. Abby says:

    Garrett- I had discounted “first down” too. Not knowing football, the plural didn’t make much sense to me. I liked the “down”, of course, but pretty much wrote it off even after a friend said it was the most likely thing, sight unseen. :-(

  26. Howard B says:

    Sent in my answer alomst immediately after seeing the first letter of eleven clues matching the answers, with the extraneous A. Knew it had to be right, since the ordering of the other ten perfectly fit the term, but at that point had to head out for the day, so sent in my answer. A few minutes after that, just before shutting down, after a second look at the clues in question (specifically IMAC) did I realize the full extent of the meta and why that pesky 11th letter didn’t belong.

    I don’t think I’ve had it happen before where I understood the theme after submission; got lucky in that I only partially grasped the idea at first. Of course, I’ve submitted in the past fully believing I hit the mark when I was, in fact, a few thousand miles off-course. I’ve also previously halfway completed a meta but didn’t go far enough to reach the correct solution. So this balanced puzzle karma a bit.


  27. Scott says:

    Shoulda figured it out.
    But didn’t.
    Nice one!

  28. Al Sanders says:

    The first downs plural seemed a little arbitrary to me as well, but then I thought about any standard football game box score in which “First Downs” is one of the top lines. That convinced me that the phrase is in the football language. It’s a key statistic.

  29. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I followed Seth’s path, except not the part about coming up with the answer. Another wrong path was seeing that FOCI/FARGO could change one letter and become valid entries (LOCI/LARGO). And yet another was TEN, YARDS, NCAA, IN COLLEGE, DALLAS—and first names that are probably found on a number of NFL players.


  30. Jim Akin says:

    I bow to Matt’s acrostic acuity, and to the skills of the successful solvers. I had no clue on the link connecting the ten sought entries. I was thinking either “second down” or “fourth down” — I didn’t think to pluralize downs. I also couldn’t shake thoughts of Peyton Manning because of the placement of the “ISN’T ELI” entries. :) Maybe next MayHem…

  31. abide says:

    I almost sent in TFORMATION (T is the first letter of TEN, a “league” is a formation, and there were ten Ts in the grid). But I kept looking and acheived full grokkage on close inspection of the Fargo clue.

    Proud to be…3 for 3.

  32. Cole says:

    I’m somehow negatively correlated with many of you as I am now one for three* having seen the IMAC clue very early on and finding the FIRST DOWNS right away.

    *Perhaps two out of three if my unofficial answer to the last puzzle “COLES ANSWERS” was accepted even if my official answer SCANT ANSWERS (cryptically meaning answers that were missing something) did not qualify.

  33. pgw says:

    SethG – Unless I’m missing something I assume you’re including LAD/DAL and ELI/ILE in your list of ten “it’s a word backwards too” entries. (Other eight are DAR, AGAS, TEN, STOP, EDIT, DRIB, EDAM, LODI.) Those are foreign, of course, in which case you may need to let in ROSA/ASOR (an obscure hebrew stringed instrument), ADAM/MADA (something in Hindu theology), and ERIC/CIRE (French waxy fabric.) Granted, no one has ever heard of those things, but still.

    Like others, I had FIRST DOWNS in mind early on but could find no way to make it work. I only stumbled on the meta after thinking maybe the answer was FOURTH DOWN and staring for a long time at the clue for 4 Down. Luckily, that was one of the acrostics (IMAC) and I finally noticed it.

  34. joel a says:


  35. Cole says:


  36. pannonica says:

    WYSIWYG! (Just kidding. I’ll come up with something real.)

  37. ldswat says:

    the thematic clue for entire crossword – “Premier League”, is in fact European Football soccer league/term , not American Football… so i embarked on looking for a bridge betwixt soccer and football.

  38. pannonica says:

    “My acrostic themed twister generated a few fiendish nightmares. Enigmatically Yours— MATT GAFFNEY”

  39. pannonica says:

    “Clues referencing obscure subjects, seldom winning overtures, ruefully describing enervatingly stale entries”

  40. Peedee says:


  41. Peechy says:


  42. Hugh says:

    Sonneteer: Had A Keen Experience Scripting Performance Epics And Ribald Escapades

    Does Only Competent Treatment, Offering Relief

    For Living Or Reclining In Doddering America

  43. Cato says:

    Homes Of Surgical Patients, Internists, Technicians And Lung Specialists

  44. Noam D. Elkies says:

    One boring way to get long backronymic definitions is exemplified by

    Estonia, Ukraine, Romania, Andorra, Singapore, Israel, Azerbaijan, Netherlands,
    Nepal, Austria, Taiwan, Italy, or Norway

    My first attempt started “Iceland, Saint Lucia, Australia, Nauru, Dominica, …”,
    which would have been nice for the use of SL, but then ran aground for lack of
    further island nations beginning with N (other than New Zealand which was useless).
    Still I’m sure something more interesting along these lines is possible.

    I’ve also seen something like “Enormous lumbering ecru pachyderm having a nasal trunk”.


  45. Peter Gordon says:

    1. Some automobiles assembled by Swedes
    2. Spooky alien UFOs circling earth really secretly
    3. Things academia scholars sport every late spring
    4. They are thick area mats including straw
    5. Unlike “Notre Dame ear raving stupid tank and north dodo also but leaf except”

  46. Matt Gaffney says:

    #5 I already had, verbatim…wouldn’t fit in the grid, sadly.

  47. Peechy says:

    Could Require Your Patience To Interpret Correctly

  48. Not entries for the comp as these aren’t my own work, but FWIW these have been actual clues in NYT crosswords:

    1. Beantown, on scoreboards [22-Apr-2007]
    2. Touch and go? [26-Oct-2006]

    The Oxford Guide to Word Games by Tony Augarde has some fun acronyms, culminating in “This has everything: syrupy outbursts, uplifting nannies, dancing over flowery mountains, unctuous songs involving children”.

  49. Peter Gordon says:

    6. Six, expressed in Spanish

  50. Tim Platt says:

    My daughter goes to St Andrews so I had to try:

  51. Alex says:

    Unlike “Notre Dame ear raving stupid tank and north dodo also but leaf except”

    Peter wins the internet.

  52. JDG says:



  53. Michael Farabaugh says:

    1. Bakers use this to enrich recipes

    2. This is something sneezers use endlessly

    3. Woman intending to cook Hansel

    4. Technology where idiotic texts travel everywhere repeatedly

    5. Desperately angry man might interject these words, (or make annoying noises)

  54. Alex says:

    Seven, in El Triunfo, Ecuador
    Neuf, in New England

  55. Meg says:

    Michael’s # 5 has my vote so far. Yes, I know. We don’t get to vote, but I still laughed.

  56. Russ says:

    Determined, idealistic neocon George Bush, at times.

  57. Elaine in Arkansas says:

    Scribbles commonly rated ‘Awful wild-looking samples’

  58. Lance says:

    As a pharmacist, I couldn’t resist coming up with:

  59. Jeffrey says:

    Canadian regularly opines; song selections cause anxiety needlessly.

  60. Ben Bass says:

    1. Group of politicians
    2. Pouty Alaskan lacking intellect, nearsighted
    3. Calicos, angoras, tabbies, sno-
    4. Big problems

    I didn’t write this one, which I think I saw in Games magazine 25 years ago (also explains the dated reference): “I am chairman of Chrysler Corporation America”

    Another one I didn’t write is a local classic around Chicago: “Completely useless by September”

  61. Evad says:

    Ben reminds me of a reference to a Vermont military school that students regret choosing: Name One Reason Why I Came Here!

  62. Scott says:

    Disseminated Information (Sometimes Classified) Leaked Out Surreptitiously Under Regulators’ Eyes

  63. Abby says:

    Contraption online magazine publishers use to email readers.

  64. Abby says:

    Get out!

  65. Craig K says:

    Cause one more problems, leaving incompletely clear at the end.

  66. Jed says:

    George Allen’s foolishness, for example.

  67. abide says:

    Goulash using mostly boiled okra

    Quote used in puzzles

  68. Brenda Mejia says:

    OK, so I missed the deadline, but figured I’d submit my entires anyway:

    Most Rational Stoic Partner Of Captain Kirk
    Deeply Revered Seminal Physician Of Children/Kids

  69. OhioBoy says:

    Also missed the deadline, but:
    Achaean Champion, He Is Livid, Lost Ephebic Sidekick

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