MGWCC #130

crossword 10:20 (across lite)
puzzle 0:00, plus or minus a few minutes

mgwcc130greetings and welcome to episode #130 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Linkin’ Continental.” in this week’s contest, we are asked to identify one of the seven continents. straightforward enough. what have we got to work with? the only explicit clue in the grid is the central 15-letter answer: the {13 to examine} are the MULTIPLES OF FIVE.

i have to say that the contest instructions and {13 to examine} already had me thinking south america even before i finished the puzzle (which took forever, because of that brutal NE corner) and long before i worked out the meta in full. why? simply because there are 12 countries in south america. every other continent has many more countries, or many fewer. i knew it wasn’t going to be anything incredibly trivial like the anagram of a continent name, mainly because no continent has as many as 13 letters in its name. but also, i know matt likes geographical trivia.

so anyway, here are the 13 MULTIPLES OF FIVE (5 through 65) in the grid:

  • 5-down: {One of the five tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy} is the CAYUGA. didn’t know this at all, but the crossings were manageable and it’s similar enough to cuyahoga (the river through cleveland) that it seemed plausible enough.
  • 10 is either {A bunny pitches it} QUIK (across), or {Chinese system} QIGONG (down). i mentioned that the NE corner was hard, right? i had UP TO NOW and KNEW and none of the other six answers for the longest time. tyler hinman tweeted that it actually defeated him. these clues weren’t helping. i had no idea about QIGONG (dictionary: “a Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control related to tai chi”), and it turns out there are many things pitched by a bunny. my first thought was energizer, but trix and playboy also came to mind. (if you have a recurring fantasy involving quik, energizer, trix, and playboy, please feel free not to share it in the comments.) anyway, the other clues here were brutal. {“Top Chef” season 2 champ ___ Hall} ILAN? not in a million years. the vague {Part of a world capital} for ULAN and the even vaguer {Play soldier} for IAGO were almost impossible without at least two crossings. i finally had to resort to sudokuesque techniques to break the corner. no joke! i knew {Thomas ___ (British general in the Revolutionary War)} was either GAGE or HOWE, so i just tried both and only one went anywhere. (also, it turns out that HOWE’s first name was william, but i didn’t remember that.)
  • 15a is a LIMO, devilishly clued as {Long ride}. luckily i’ve seen this clue before (although i think it was for BUS), so i was onto it quikly.
  • 20a is {Unsurprisingly} AS USUAL.
  • 25 is also the start of both an across answer, {Might} BRAWN, and a down answer, {Deep place} BLUE SEA. that latter one looks suspiciously like a seven-letter partial to me, rather than an actual lexeme. deep blue sea, yes. great big sea, hell yes. BLUE SEA? less so.
  • 30a is the {“Sabrina” actor, 1954}, some guy named BOGART. i had no idea he was in that show about the teenaged witch.
  • 35a: the {Harley-Davidson motorcycle brand discontinued in 2009} is … BUELL? BUELL? BUELL? needless to say, i had no clue.
  • 40d: apparently the PARNELLS {succeeded the Palins as Alaska’s first family}. but not in our hearts, matt. not in our hearts.
  • 45a: {___ criminals} CAREER. tough clue. i wanted WHITE-COLLAR or HARDENED or maybe SMOOTH.
  • 50a: the {Capital with an apostrophe} is SANA’A, yemen. NUKU’ALOFA wouldn’t fit.
  • 55d: {With 61-across, it was stolen in 1911} clues the MONA/LISA. i wonder if matt went out of his way to stick LISA in the grid; it’s nice to have both simpsons there. somehow, i doubt it, though, given the demands of the grid.
  • 60a: {Rock history, briefly} is GEOL(ogy). eh.
  • 65a: {Reindeer herder, traditionally} clues LAPP. i was once rebuked for using this answer in a crossword (clued as the language), as apparently this word is no longer used, and in fact is considered derogatory. (SAMI is preferred.) i didn’t know it at the time, but i sure learned it then and haven’t forgotten.

okay, i’ve rambled on long enough, and you’ve probably already peeked at the screencap, so you know the punch line already: each of the twelve countries of south america is represented in the grid by the first three letters of one of the above answers matching the first three letters of its capital:

  • QUIk QUIto (ecuador)
  • LIMo LIMa (peru)
  • AS Usual ASUncion (paraguay)
  • BRAwn BRAsilia (brazil)
  • BOGart BOGota (colombia)
  • BUEll BUEnos aires (argentina)
  • PARnells PARamaribo (suriname)
  • CAReer CARacas (venezuela)
  • SANa’a SANtiago (chile)
  • MONa MONtevideo (uruguay)
  • GEOl GEOrgetown (guyana)
  • LAPp LA Paz (bolivia)

why thirteen, then? i first thought it was going to be a nod to sucre, the “other” capital of bolivia, but it was actually something else entirely. there are only twelve countries of south america, but there are thirteen countries with territory on the south american mainland, because france is also there. i did not know the capital of french guiana, but apparently it’s CAYenne, hence the CAYuga. so there you go.

i’m always impressed when the meta involves answers that have to go at specific grid numbers. yeah, it’s slightly inelegant that two of the multiples of 5 have both an across and a down, only one of which gets used in the meta (leaving QIGONG and BLUE SEA hanging), but the constraints on this grid are pretty ridiculous—fourteen theme answers, one of them grid-spanning, and the others have to go at specific numbers? nutso. how did you do it, matt?

quick hits:

  • {Ridiculous} is always, always, always INANE. except this time, when it’s SILLY.
  • utter unknowns i haven’t discussed yet: {Cole ___ shoes} is HAAN, {Some Americans, per an Elvis title} are US MALES, DON PABLO {‘s Mexican restaurants}, … i feel like i must have seen {Big Sur institute} ESALEN before, but i couldn’t summon it up.
  • {One of Nigeria’s official languages} is HAUSA. this is also something i didn’t know last week, but luckily, earlier that very day it was used in a NYT clue (for NIGER). serendipity!
  • two fun references to last week’s puzzle: the title, {“Our true ___ has yet to reveal himself” (“The Sopranos” line)} clues ENEMY, although the sopranos line, i’m given to understand, is a misquoting of a godfather line. either way, it was the title of last week’s puzzle. and {Some were miffed by 29-across in last week’s puzzle} are ELIS, sore at not even being good enough to be considered harvard’s rival (and also at the beating they took in that football game that nobody cares about that i keep mentioning anyway).
  • some tough sports stuff, all of which i knew this week. a {Minn. athlete} is a T-WOLF, aka a minnesota timberwolf of the NBA. haven’t seen that one in a grid before. {Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey} LURIE is … probably not the most famous LURIE? but maybe he is; i dunno. alison LURIE seems to get more crossword clues. {Brutes} CAVEMEN isn’t really a sports reference, but did you watch the patriots-lions thanksgiving game? i did, and i was left wondering if tom brady was auditioning for a geico commercial.

that’s all from me. i’m thankful for another awesome month of MGWCC puzzles in the books.

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32 Responses to MGWCC #130

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Wow, 0.00 minutes on the meta? Also Belushi’s GPA in “Animal House.”

    102 correct answers this week.

  2. Neville says:

    I considered it for a moment, but blew it off because 12 != 13 and went with Asia. I mean, ASIAN is in the danged grid! My answer involved ‘linkin’ countries together across Asia that had the numbered letters as their initials (and taking a boat from Qatar to Pakistan!) Never saw the capital thing at all – was also thrown by the down/across duplicates, so I figured it was directly related to just those thirteen squares.

    Wasn’t the first I’ve missed – won’t be the last :) Nice feat of construction, but I guess the puzzle title threw me – I was looking for links, but I should’ve been looking at the starts of entries. I wish I could come up with a better title here, but clearly this puzzle and I are not on the same page!

  3. Matt S. says:

    Wow, I didn’t even notice the first three letters matched, I only noticed the first letters. That’s pretty amazing!

  4. tabstop says:

    Hooray guess! I knew it was the right-ish number of countries on the continent (although I wasn’t sure how many are in North America either) and so since I had no idea what’s going on (I also was just looking at the letters) I just went with it.

  5. Karen says:

    I picked Asia because Qatar is technically Asian. Oh well. At least joon is making me feel better about googling several of the more obscure names in the grid (haan, parnell, gage, buell, and bogart)

  6. *David* says:

    No clue didn’t even think of going with number of countries on the continent. I saw all the Asian connections but couldn’t get it to work with the 13 fill that I looked at. I tried connecting words crossing the 13 with other countries based on name or source as an elimination process. I tried looking for abbreviations of countries crossing the 13. I took the crossing letter between the 13 fills and anagrammed it and it led me nowhere.

    Puzzle was pretty tough, no way could’ve finished it without some googling of proprer names.

  7. Peedee says:

    Damn! This one was hard. I struggled all weekend and came up with…NOTHING. I kept thinking the wordy clues (“One of the five tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy”., “They succeeded the Palin’s as Alaska’s first family.” when “One of the Five Tribes.” or “Alaska’s First Family.”would have done just as well) had something to do with it.

  8. zifmia says:

    I stared at all the multiples of five answers and had no clue.

    Although in retrospect reading your writeup, I remember thinking of Lima in connection with LIMO (since they are only one letter off) but didn’t ever make the leap to using just the first 3 letters of the other theme entries or looking for other capitals.

    And South America is the only continent where I _could_ name all the capitals.

    Oh well. Is it Friday yet?

  9. Howard B says:

    Geography deficiency – it’s my worst subject by far. Can’t remember places, locations, directions for anything. I’m being sent to Sporcle summer school for my past record of country and state quiz failures.

    No chance at this at all. Joon’s tip off on number of countries had no meaning here.
    Had the puzzle solved, all the theme words, but could not decode anything from it.
    I had to read joon’s explanation twice before understanding it, I’m ashamed to say.
    Reason #27 I’ll never make it on Jeopardy ;).

    (Even if you led me on and said “The first three letters of each theme answer are significant”, that still would not have helped.)
    Ah well. No regrets here on missed opportunities. Better luck next month.

    Very well executed, by the way, Matt. Tip o’ the hat to you.

  10. abide says:

    I broke a four month streak on this one, submitting ASIA which crossed S.A./N.A./A, and also had the apostrophe in the title.

  11. Charles Montpetit says:

    You people who chose ASIA think you got it wrong? Heck, since this was a last-of-the-month puzzle, I couldn’t even believe that the answer would be one of the seven CURRENT continents, as even a totally random pick had 1 chance in 7 of winning — how hard was that? The title led me to believe that the answer was one of the prior land masses in which continents were smushed together, e.g. PANGAEA, PANNOTIA, RODINIA, COLUMBIA, CONGO CRATON, PROTO-LAURASIA or PROTO-GONDWANA. Of these, only the latter two had 13 letters, and since there was no D anywhere in the theme answers, the last one was out, while the 13 entries could be stacked onto each other (a clever reference to continental shift) so that PROTO-LAURASIA would be read vertically: lapP, paRnells, mOna, bogarT, limO, geoL, sanaA, bUell, caReer, cayugA, aSusual, quIk (or qIgong) and brAwn (or blueseA). And I was SO proud of having sussed it, dammit!

  12. joon says:

    matt, it was 0:00 plus or minus a few minutes. i was leaning towards south america before i finished the puzzle, but then i didn’t work it out in full until a few minutes after. and yeah, i guess it helped to be in your head, because i went in looking for links to south america. the Q pretty much screamed “quito” and then it was all over.

  13. Abby says:

    I got it on just the letters in the index squares and saw they lined up more later, but didn’t see it as much of a feature since using more of the words would make it fifteen to examine, not thirteen, and there was no clue that three letters were significant. That’s also why I discounted the answer being in the clues (I hate it when that happens) even though I looked them over pretty closely to be sure.

    The tip off for me was the Q and all the Bs. I figured they had to be countries or cities, and Q means QUITO. Everyone knows that. :-) Then it was a matter of checking the rest.

    It’s neat that they line up to three letters (or four for La Paz), but I think it hurts the 38A clue somewhat. You’d need to examine fifteen words (and discount two of them).

    I didn’t have much trouble in the NE corner, but I knew the Q words. GEOL took me a while even after I had it written in from the checks. Ditto ALULA.

    And isn’t writer/director Rod Lurie the one that turns up the most?

  14. Evad says:

    Yeah, that Q helped me narrow it to QUEBEC, QATAR or QUITO. I’m with the prior poster in just seeing the first letters of the capitals in the grid, not the first three. But, in the end, getting S.A. was all that counted!

    I do wonder why French Guyana was included among the 13, but not the Falkland Islands? Did Argentina win them back from the Brits?

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m with Howard, except I rock at geography and thus perhaps ought to be abashed at blanking on this meta.

  16. Michael Morowitz says:

    Well, I was able to guess the meta correctly. It was a educated guess, but it worked. I saw the QUI-, SAN-, BOG- and thought, “South America!” But, I kept looking for the 2nd half of the words instead of realizing that they just ended with the first three. I got so stuck on finding the “TO” for QUITO that I never dug further down the list of 13. The word “Linkin'” lead me to think about how one clue might have half the word and the next clue would have the other half. Scratching that itch drove me a little nutty.

    In mild frustration, I sent off “SOUTH AMERICA” to Matt G.

  17. Howard B says:

    I just couldn’t guess at it without an inkling of why ;). But I never even thought to look for capital cities, since I don’t know enough of them by heart, and there wasn’t any cue here to justify a) looking up a list of capital cities, or b) searching the first N letters of answers or clues. You really had to have some geography knowledge to have an advantage this one (or guess, of course). This was perfectly fair though.
    I tried using the Q in QUITO, but as Evad said, QATAR, QUEBEC, and who knows how many other places could be justified using that, without more info.
    I did not know Quito was the capital either :(.

    Learned a lot from this one though! Thanks for empathizing, Amy.
    Congrats to the successful solvers this week.

  18. john farmer says:

    I was convinced that the “Linkin’ Continental” title was pointing toward URL country codes. All 13 answers started with a country code except for QU / QI (and BU was BUrma). But the countries were spread around — Asia, NA, SA, Eur. — so it didn’t lead anywhere. I finally gave up on that idea, and never saw the SA capital city connection.

  19. Robin says:

    NO IDEA WHATSOEVER. I’m with you Howard. 13 countries in South America? Quito? Huh? Tough one.

  20. Matt Gaffney says:

    “I do wonder why French Guyana was included among the 13, but not the Falkland Islands?”

    Since the theme emphasized the continents I decided to go with the continental approach instead of the political one.

  21. cybergoober says:

    Woohoo! 9-for-9 in October-November! Channeling Matt Gaffney is a trip!

  22. Did anyone else have I CHING before arriving at QIGONG on 10-down? I CHING is not a system per se, but as Neal Stephenson’s novels demonstrate, its characters serve well as a cryptographic translation system.

  23. JannieB says:

    Must confess that I guessed correctly but for the wrong reason. I kept trying to make sense of the “multiples of 5” answer. Looked at the grid squares and nothing rang a bell. So I looked at that clue “13 to examine”. Seems like I counted 12 or 13 occurrences of “SA” in the grid and went with it! Made as much sense as anything else.

  24. Neville says:

    Brent H, I had MEKONG first! River system!

  25. Barbara says:

    I usually fill in the puzzle each week … and then feel as though I have crossed into an alternate universe trying for the meta. Creativity is a good tool for me usually, but here I need that, plus geography skills and Matt’s and Joon’s brain. You guys are amazing. And my idea was Asia to begin with (that Linkin’ hint got me, too).

    Now I’m just waiting for Matt to throw in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou for the hint to another Meta.

  26. jllaf says:

    Kinda worked backwards, figuring it was S.A. based on 13 countries before figuring the meta. LIMO suggested LIMA, and BOGART BOGOTA, and it was cracked in a flash. But I’m a geography nut.

    I also had ICHING for QIGONG at first.

  27. pgw says:

    Very hard puzzle. I would never in a million years have gotten the SANAA/ESALEN crossing. In the NE, I was lucky to know QI GONG, which helped with ULAN. But I was all screwed up on the West side due to having COMMON written in confidently for {___ criminals} beginning with C.

    Once the puzzle was solved, though, the meta was pretty easy for a geography nut. The real revelation was realizing – shortly after I’d already submitted – that the first three letters of the thirteen theme entries matched with the capital cities, not just the initials. And I was already impressed with the construction as it was.

  28. Mitchs says:

    Sheesh, this was my first attempt at one of these. Are they all this tough?

  29. joon says:

    mitch: no, they’re not. they get tougher as the month goes on. this one was a 4th week of the month, so it was unusually difficult.

  30. Matt Gaffney says:


    This was one of the toughest puzzles and metas of the year. Stick around — next week’s will be a piece of cake.

  31. Ben Bass says:

    Re the meta, got smoked like a Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham, or whichever foodstuff is actually smoked. But liked the tough puzzle on its own merits.

  32. Mitchs says:

    Thanks Joon and Matt. The NE of this one had me spinning on the floor ala Curly of the three stooges.

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