MGWCC #132

crossword 3:14 (paper)
puzzle 1:19

mgwcc132hi there, and welcome to the 132nd episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Side Project.” this week, we’re asked to come up with the name of a well-known five-letter sitcom. the only hints in the grid are the following starred clues:

  • {Ducks, Sharks or Penguins*} clues a HOCKEY TEAM. my wife was just commenting to me over the weekend that “ducks” isn’t exactly the fiercest-sounding team nickname. i can’t really decide if it’s lamer or less lame than “mighty ducks.”
  • {It runs from fascism to anarchy*} is the POLITICAL/SPECTRUM. nice answer, even if i think of it as multidimensional.
  • {Boeing 747 or the like*} is a JUMBO JET.
  • {Bird in Froot Loops ads*} is, of course, TOUCAN SAM.
  • {$20 bill feature*} is the WHITE HOUSE, unless it’s canadian money. in that case, it’s probably a maple leaf or mountie or celine dion. i can’t remember which recent patrick berry variety puzzle featured the clue {White House bill?} for TWENTY, but it helped me get this answer.

this is a pretty interesting assortment of theme answers, isn’t it? this reminded me a little of a puzzgrid: what do these things have in common? again, i was probably aided by having recently (okay, not nearly as recently as that patrick berry TWENTY clue, but still, only a year ago) done a puzzle with the exact same theme: these are all things with wings. and since wings is a five-letter sitcom, starring tim “don’t call me tyne” daly, crystal “light saint” bernard, and steven “paul mccartney” weber, i knew that must be the answer. i actually used to watch this show in my misspent youth. it featured a young thomas haden church, as the (stock simpleton) mechanic lowell mather. when i got to college, i realized that there were probably some harvard grads on the writing staff.

HOCKEY TEAMs and the POLITICAL SPECTRUM both have left- and right-wingers, but that didn’t really hold for the others. the WHITE HOUSE has a west wing, and for all i know an east one too (it looks pretty symmetrical, right?). i don’t think anything particularly distinguishes one wing of a JUMBO JET from the other, and as for TOUCAN SAM—well, it seemed a little arbitrary to have this particular (fictional) bird in the theme instead of, say, any other 9-letter avian. but i enjoyed it anyway, just for goofiness.

this week’s crossword was substantially easier than last week’s. i finished it in tuesday NYT time, which makes it the easiest MGWCC(C) ever by a fair bit, at least according to my own solving times. this despite matt’s claim that the first puzzle of the month is “about a Monday Times level.” if you haven’t seen his interview at the wordplay blog, do check out the link. among other tidbits, he lets slip that there are only 868 more MGWCCs planned! i’m not sure what will fill the void that MGWCC will leave in my life. grandchildren, maybe.

odds and an end:

  • {Chorus syllables} are NA NA NA. {“That’s all wrong!”} is NO NO NO. how would you clue NE NE NE, NI NI NI, or NU NU NU? the latter is one letter off from a former white house chief of staff. also, {No votes} are NAYS, but not NE NE NE.
  • {Like, totally attractive} clues SO HOT, but i’m, like, so not buying this answer as crossword fill. further demerits for duping the HOT from HOT DATE, clued as {Saturday night fun}. now that’s a great crossword answer.

that’s all from me. see you next week.

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26 Responses to MGWCC #132

  1. Peedee says:

    Since there were 5 starred clues and Matt specified a 5-letter answer, I just knew each of the clues answers contributed one letter to the answer. I thought about this all weekend, refusing to see the actual words of the clue answers until the last possible minute. I sent in WINGS at about 11:55 EST. Whew! I loved the red herring of the 5-letter solution and 5 starred clues!

  2. Al Sanders says:

    I kept looking for a structural meta with letters projecting out the side or something. I wasn’t focusing on the meaning of the theme entries themselves. Finally this morning I wrote down the theme entries outside of the grid and then I wrote down the 5 letter sitcoms I could think of (MAUDE, RHODA, ELLEN, and of course, WINGS). It finally clicked and I sent in the answer at 8AM (MT) this morning. That’s the closest to the deadline I’ve ever come.

    We used to love Wings and we still call Thomas Haden Church “Lowell” whenever we see him in a movie. I also loved the pre-Monk Tony Shalhoub as the cab driver Antonio.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    You are correct joon. The $20 has Celine Dion in a Mountie suit. The reigning monarch, Pamela Anderson, is on the other side.

    I solved this one (puzzle and meta) fairly quickly.

  4. SethG says:

    I checked the cruciverb database for all 5 letter answers whose clues included “sitcom”. Wings wasn’t one of them, so today I found a longer list of sitcoms. If I hadn’t found it, my guess was gonna be ALICE. Or COACH.

    [HI native in the Lincoln Zoo?]
    [Michael Palin’s role in “A Fish Called The Holy Grail”?”]
    [Prime Minister U, is my Bubbie right about the 13th Greek letter?]

  5. joecab says:

    I am a moron. Totally missed this one. :(

  6. Karen says:

    I missed this one too. I was looking at initials, adjacent words, finally a list all sitcoms, and decided it was probably Cosby, Maude, or Rhoda, and completely overlooked Wings. The metas get easier throughout December, right? Right?

    A religious woman might honor the Burmese PM by calling herself Nun U Nu.

  7. Lorraine says:

    Since it was just the second meta of the month, I decided to just try brute force technique — i went through the alphabet to come up with as many 5-letter sitcoms I could (alice, cosby, ellen, maude, rhoda…). of course it had to start with W! Thankfully my ability for holding massive amounts of trivia in my head is well-advanced, so no googling for this one for a change! I was dreading having to attempt the trickier wordplay and/or structural (i.e., meta is somehow found in the clues) solving techniques…

  8. Michael Morowitz says:

    I missed this one. I stared at those 5 things forever and never came up with anything in common. I listed all the 5-letter sitcoms I could think of (ALICE, MAUDE, RHODA, COACH) and tried to reverse engineer an answer and came up blank. Had I remembered WINGS I might have made the connection.

    One-for-two in December. Oh well.

  9. Abby says:

    I was thinking more of HAHAHA and HOHOHO being in the Xmas Eve puzzle.

    I wasn’t able to write on the puzzle until later (why won’t Crosswords on the iPhone download that directly? Wrong MIME type at Google Groups?), but I read the PDF on my phone and got it from the theme words. Good thing too because I was having trouble thinking of 5-letter sitcoms.

  10. Spencer says:

    I went through the sitcom list on Wikipedia, and came up with these possibilities:


    I had the 5 answers written right above this list, so when I got to “wings” the light bulb went on — “they all have ’em!”

  11. Michael Morowitz says:

    Spencer, Good thing the answer wasn’t COACH

  12. Howard B says:

    Took me a long time to crack this. Had to find the sitcom from a list, since I do remember the show, but very dimly (just the premise, but no characters, actors, episodes, etc.). I think at the time of Wings’ popularity, if anything, I was probably too busy watching Night Court and/or MacGyver while doing homework, anyway. So it was just outside my 5-letter TV show trivia radar. Once found, it was a quick meta-turnaround, and a nice payoff.

    TV and film themes are always dicey for me, so I just accept that, solve to the best of my ability, and move ahead. Now geography… (shudders). :)

  13. Peedee says:


    What about Hazel, Arnie or Julia? I remember watching Arnie and Julia in the 70s when they were first-run and Hazel in reruns.

  14. Mitchs says:

    Sorry for probably stupid question, but where was the hint that he was looking for a five-letter sitcom. (Not that I would have got it even with the hint)

  15. joon says:

    mitchs: not a hint, per se, but those were the contest instructions, from the web page of the contest itself. “hint” is more along the lines of the title, which does describe a wing in a roundabout way.

  16. Mitchs says:

    Joon, thanks from this newbie to the Matt/Meta. I just solved from the email link and didn’t see this. Love these puzzles and the meta is very cool, but takes a different mind set than normal solve.

  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    217 correct answers this week, and many mentioned having to spend a while with it.

  18. Karen says:

    I also found Quark and Daria on the list of sitcoms, among several others I hadn’t heard of before.

  19. *David* says:

    Did anybody use the word damn as often as I did in explaining how long it took before they got the meta?

  20. Cole says:

    I haven’t watched sitcoms in a while so I went to the Wikipedia list and stopped at WINGS. I have only a vague recollection of the series and never would have gotten it without seeing the list.

  21. Agreed that this one took less time than the previous week’s puzzle, Joon. It was near my Tuesday NYT average time as well.

    WINGS came to mind while I was raiding the kitchen for a late-night snack…by this I mean I figured it out when I wasn’t focused intently on solving it. Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes, as Shatner said.

  22. Peedee says:

    I can’t believe 217 correct answers. That sure makes me feel like a dummy. I thought this was HARD!

  23. zifmia says:

    I also went looking for 5-letter sitcoms from a list, which turned out to be a rather short list, and I still didn’t get it. I ended up picking a random non-Wings name off of my list just in case I got lucky.

  24. Evad says:

    I also first went down the 1-letter-from-each-theme-entry route. I think it’s interesting that this one was a somewhat atypical meta in that it wasn’t so much letter manipulation, but trying to see what these 5 things might have in common…different brain cells at work.

  25. joon says:

    maybe this is a bit meta-meta, but i would have been much more inclined to look for one letter from each theme entry if the theme entries had been nonsense phrases instead of actual things. nonsense phrases need some sort of rule to explain how they were generated, but actual phrases have real surface sense, so they can have semantic commonality.

  26. MM says:

    I agree with Peedee. My streak of 10 or 12 metas in a row ended with this one!

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