MGWCC #112

crossword 6:11 (across lite)
puzzle not timed, maybe 5 minutes?

i completely forgot to do the writeup last night, and just got back from the zoo. full writeup forthcoming ASAP; meanwhile i’ll post the grid and solution after the jump. feel free to leave spoilerrific comments in the interim. update 1:30 pm: full post is now up.
greetings, and welcome to week 112 of matt gaffney’s crossword contest, “Willpower.” this week’s contest asks us to identify an historically important year. what’s in the grid? well, the only overt theme answers are the two-part instructions at 17a/60a: TO GET THE YEAR YOU / MUST GET THE EVENT.

so what could this mean? well, a hint is that there is another pair of long, connected, symmetrically placed answers: 33a/43a, clued as {Cleaves}, is SPLITS IN / TWO PARTS. there seems to be a lot of splitting in two parts going around. the take-away hint from this is that we’re actually looking to split the year itself into two parts, and that gives us the event. how so? check it out:

  • 10d is NORMAN, clued as {Cousins of the literati, once}. i got this all from crosses, and in fact i don’t actually understand this clue at all. can anybody enlighten me?
  • 66a: {Victory} is CONQUEST.

see what happened there? 10 and 66 are the “split in two pieces” version of 1066, the year of the NORMAN/CONQUEST, when william of normandy defeated the anglo-saxons at the battle of hastings to become king william I of england, aka william the conqueror. the anglo-saxon king, harold II, was killed in the battle. as a result of this battle, more or less, english plurals take an s (as in french, the language spoken by the normans) instead of an n (as in other germanic languages, including old english), although we still have some holdovers like oxen and godchildren. and actually, i could be making that up, but it sounds totally plausible, doesn’t it?

unless i’m missing something, i don’t think there are any other hints in the grid. i thought maybe HASTINGS might be split across a pair of entries, but it wasn’t. HA + STINGS would be great, except that HA isn’t long enough for a crossword answer. i feel like i’ve seen TING or TINGS in a grid sometime this weekend, but it wasn’t in this puzzle, so it must have been in one of the 20 or so others i’ve done since friday. anyway, the only other hint is the title, where “willpower” definitely had me thinking that some famous william would be involved. at first i thought it might be shakespeare, but in fairness, no one year in shakespeare’s life is so memorable that schoolchildren memorize it, although i think it’s an interesting curiosity that (supposedly) shakespeare and cervantes both died on the same day (april 23, 1616). anyway, it’s all the more elegant that the william in question is probably the one guy you could refer to as just william, with no other names or qualifiers, and expect to have a chance at being understood.

fill roundup:

  • {Mount ___ (where Moses died)} is NEBO, although i always want NOBU. but he’s a celebrichef, not a biblical mountain.
  • {Silver or Goldman} is RON. i won’t even think about mentioning paul.
  • {Friday’s creator} is daniel DEFOE, not frigga, who i guess is friday’s eponym. but her husband ODIN is at 23d.
  • {Dutch soccer powerhouse} is AJAX amsterdam, pronounced roughly “eye-ox.” did you guys read the fascinating NYT magazine article about the ajax academy a few months ago? it’s long, but fascinating. world cup silver ball winner wesley sneijder is mentioned several times, but the article doesn’t mention if the academy is where nigel de jong learned his mortal kombat moves.
  • DECEASE is not the answer i was expecting from the clue {Pass}. this seems like a word you’re less likely to encounter in a newspaper puzzle.
  • {Nor or or or for for short} is a crazy-ass-looking clue for CONJunction. it’d be easier to parse as {“Nor” or “or” or “for,” for short}.
  • {Wild Asian ass} is ONAGER, but if you don’t remember this one you could always google it.
  • {Capital city named for a fur trader} is PIERRE, south dakota, named for … um … pierre garçon. you believe me, right?
  • {Holiday on U.S. postage stamps} is EID. what does this mean? i thought this might be billie holiday, but she didn’t fit.
  • {A small number of Mexicans} is UNO. cute.

how’d this puzzle treat you?

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to MGWCC #112

  1. Evad says:

    My two questions on this one were did the “Will” of “Willpower” relate to WTC (which MG confirmed it did) and whether SPLITS IN TWO PARTS refers to the NORMAN / CONQUEST split in the grid (which I didn’t ask MG about). Any other theme-related entries I missed?

  2. Tony says:

    Really enjoyed this one. At first, I thought the answer was going to be 1938 since “SPLITS IN TWO PARTS” made me first think of nuclear fission, bust after I saw NORMAN and CONQUEST in the puzzle, and the title. Never thought about the clue #s themselves, 10d and 66a, until Matt pointed it out to me.

    Had DAFOE for a while at 22a until I realized that I was mixing William Dafoe and Daniel DEFOE.

  3. zifmia says:

    I have long ago accepted the fact that I can’t complete one of these without Google’s assistance.

    FYI, Googling “Wild Asian ass” is NSFW :)

  4. peechy says:

    Would “Split in tWo pARts” for War in 1812 (split puzzle 1_12) with William Hull, invader of Canada be too much of a stretch?

  5. Meg says:

    I’m sure either I missed something in all those classes in European history or I am just not reading the clue correctly, but I could use a clue as to how “cousins of the literati”, clearly a plural clue, results in NORMAN. Got the 1066.

    I wanted DOC for “Holiday on stamps”.

  6. *David* says:

    I surprisingly finished this puzzle with only one Google, I am getting more adept at deducing what the fill must be like, EDO Castle. The meta took me all of five seconds as the last thing I filled was CONQUEST and NORMAN came right to mind. EID refers to the Muslim holiday.

    Meg, COUSINS is the last name.

  7. Matt Gaffney says:

    Evad — yes, I put SPLITS IN / TWO PARTS in there because a) I felt that, even for a fourth-weeker, solvers might need a slight nudge to get the contest answer, and b) I had no themage in the center of the grid, so why not?

    Not sure a) turned out to be valid, since 214 correct answers came in. I think I need to turn it up a notch.

    Peechy — cute but, with no offense meant to our Canadian cousins, that’s a little obscure for a meta.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:


    Quite a lot of people hadn’t heard of him, you’re not alone.

  9. Dan F says:

    I didn’t notice they were clues 10 and 66 – was just proud of myself for knowing the historical date!

    [EID and NORMAN explanations deleted for redundancy]

  10. jllaf says:

    The entire clue number is split, including the “a” and the “d”, so that 10a and 66d = 1066 a.d.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    Oof — that woulda been really clever, jllaf.

    But then NORMAN would have had to be at 10-across instead of down, which is a physical impossibility. I suspect an 8-letter 66-down is another physical impossibility in a 15×15 grid. But still, a very clever notion.

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    OK wait, 10-across as NORMAN isn’t a physical impossibility, I was thinking it had to be on the top row. But it would have to be really ugly with a lot of black squares.

  13. otis says:

    I definitely did not put together that Cousins was a last name but made peace with the answer because the literati of China were the ruling scholarly class which could be analagous the the Normans who were relatively literate and scholarly in regards to the people they were conquesting. I actually thought it was poorly clued since Norman was directly clued to match the meta theme and thought that Matt should have clued it as someone’s first or last name to throw us off the track. I should know by now that if something seems like Matt did not think about it enough then I myself am definitely missing something, haha. The 10d/66a was genius, did not realize this on my own either. Fun puzzle!

  14. Howard B says:

    Great puzzle with a sneaky moment of discovery. Figured out the year before realizing the clue significance.

    Chalk up another who had to Wiki ‘Norman Cousins’, unfortunately. There are so many famous people who slip through the cracks. I’ve just accepted that it’s just not possible to know so many, at least consciously enough to get them from a sneaky clue. In this particular case, I’ve simply never run across the name at all. So little to learn, so much time. Strike that, reverse it.

  15. Matt Gaffney says:

    Well Howard, there goes my NORMAN COUSINS / JOYCE BROTHERS theme idea! A shame, since they’re both 13 letters.

  16. Meg says:

    The worst part is that I HAVE heard of Norman Cousins and I still didn’t see it. Sometimes a brain reads a clue one way and just will not budge.

  17. I Before E says:

    I didn’t get the Norman Cousins thing, but after getting NORMAN from crossings and correctly solving the meta, I Googled “Norman Literati” and got some hits tying the two together in a time-appropriate way. Did not notice the 10 and 66 of the answers though, very clever.

  18. Pete M says:

    I unfortunately noticed that the puzzle was an almost-pangram, missing only the Z. Hmmm… we’re short Z in a puzzle with “Will” in the title? All downhill from there…

    And Matt, if you did that on purpose I’m going to hunt you down. :)

  19. Michael M says:

    @zifmia: Ever since that “wild Asian ass” story broke on the web, it’s the second result when you Google that phrase. (I couldn’t remember the term, so that’s how I got it.) The first result, on the other hand, remains decidedly NSFW.

  20. Abby says:

    I had trouble with the area around the end of “Norman”, but I saw “conquest” was clue 66, so that wrapped it up for me. A historical date I actually knew! And it tied to the title. Almost seemed too easy for week four, but not to worry. I still have one more chance to blow my perfect record this month.

  21. Spencer says:

    I, too, was stumped on the derivation of NORMAN. I was telling my family about it at dinner and it suddenly clicked. My daughter, who sometimes solves the NYT puzzle with me, said “That’s an evil clue!”

  22. Matt Gaffney says:

    Pete M —

    You’ll never find me. I live off the grid (heh-heh).

  23. Howard B says:

    Sorry ’bout that Matt – could still wedge them into a nice freestyle/mini-themed puzzle though!
    (And can’t fall back on the excuse of not knowing Mr. Cousins anymore).

  24. Eric Maddy says:

    Missed the 10/66 connection.
    The combination of missing that and being a soccer fan led me to the alternate solution of 1995 (AJAX were undefeated in 1995 as part of a 52-match undefeated streak in the Dutch Eredivisie, thus NO LOSS)……

  25. Tim Platt says:

    I think it’s interesting that an onager is sometimes referred to as a Wild Asian Ass, since onager is the Latin word for donkey. Not very Asian. Roman soldiers also called the torsion catapult commonly used at that time an “onager,” since it kicked back so vigorously when fired that it sometimes crushed the foot of an unwitting soldier.

  26. pannonica says:

    Tim: It’s a little trickier than that.

    Etymology: Middle English, wild ass, from Latin, from Greek onagros, from onos ass + agros field — more at acre • (

    As far as I know, Latin doesn’t distinguish between asses and donkeys, and they are both asinus—or, rather they’re both asini and are each asinus. Small or young ones are asellus/aselli. The above etymology suggests that there’s an onos-y Latin word for the animal, but I can’t locate it.

    As for scientific names, the species in question was named by Pallas in 1777 as Equus onager but that particular appellation was later demoted to a subspecies: E. hemionus onager. E. hemionus and its subspecies are all onagers, although some are also called other names (kulan, dzigetai).

    Donkeys (asses) are Equus asinus. Another “wild Asian ass” ripe for crosswords is the kiang (E. kiang), which as far as I know does not anagram to any blogger.

    Whew. Apologies for the didactics.

  27. Will Nediger says:

    More didactics: In Old English, some nouns were pluralized in the nominative with -n (e.g. nama(n), “name”), some with -s (stan(as), “stone”), and others in various other ways (scip(u), “ship). But yeah, the Norman Conquest is more or less why we almost always pluralize with -s nowadays.

  28. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m digging the etymology and Old English comments.

    I did the crossword on Sunday, didn’t figure out the meta, didn’t grasp the NORMAN clue, and didn’t remember to look at the puzzle again before Matt’s deadline. Oh, well.

  29. zifmia says:

    Didn’t notice that Sun story for the onager on the list. I actually _was_ doing the puzzle at work, and closed my browser immediately after glancing at the (predictable) results.

    BTW, I have actually gotten all four puzzles this month, which is definitely a first for me.

    Of course, this would have to be a FIVE Friday month :)

  30. miss kali says:

    I didn’t have time to get my answer in by the deadline, (grr! I was right too) but I would love to share this amazing article on wild Asian ass.

  31. pannonica says:

    Will Nediger: The Norman Conquests are also a trilogy of linked plays. They were revived last summer on Broadway (after a run in London) to great acclaim. Wish I could’ve seen them, especially in the marathon format.

  32. Russ says:

    Well, hmm. Our pal Norman Cousins actually gave the commencement address when I graduated from the University of Arizona in 1973, but that didn’t help me any with this puzzle. About all I remember is that his remarks were mercifully brief.

    — Russ

Comments are closed.