MGWCC #133

crossword 6:52 (paper)
puzzle 0:13
mgwcc133hi folks. we had a really fun puzzle this week for the 133rd episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Edible Complex.” i don’t know if i had anything to do with the inspiration for this puzzle with my observation in this space two weeks ago that i liked punny restaurant names, but matt treated us to five (actually six) of them this week:

  • {Vietnamese restaurant in Bellevue, Wash.} is WHAT THE PHO. that one strikes a middle ground between my preferred “pho shizzle” and the somewhat more extreme “pho king delicious” (courtesy of eric maddy). stewart levine uncovered a yelp list cleverly called pho queue.
  • {Coffee shop in Berkeley, Calif.} is BREWED AWAKENING. i’m embarrassed to say i needed a lot of crossings for this one, because i’m pretty sure i’ve eaten there.
  • {Sausage stand in Austin, Tex.} is THE BEST WURST. i bet the best wurst is pretty good, actually.
  • {Greek restaurant in Indianapolis, Ind.} is AESOP’S TABLES. moral of the story: look before you leap. or something.
  • {Fish & chips shop in Goole, England} is FRYING NEMO. i like my humor dark, so i laughed at this one. it’s not quite as close a pun as any of the others, but still worth a chuckle. also, the {Company that probably won’t let 32-down cater an event} is PIXAR.

so what was the meta answer? we were looking for the name of a 10-letter Cajun restaurant located somewhere in the Midwest. You can form its name by joining two entries in this grid. well, i was onto this one quickly because one of the entries in the grid is 23a: BAYOU, clued as {Crawfish central}. so i just had to look for another 5-letter answer that could form some kind of pun with BAYOU, and it didn’t take me long to alight on 69a: HOWES, clued as {Gordie and Irving}. finally some crossword love for gordie HOWE, eh jeffrey? although he had to share top billing with irving, whom i’ve never heard of. anyway, HOWE’S BAYOU seems to be the name of a cajun eatery in ferndale, michigan, and it’s the answer to this week’s meta.

i thought the crossword was pretty darn tough this week. let’s stroll through some answers:

  • {Mr. ___} PIBB is a dr. pepper taste-alike that i haven’t imbibed since high school. but oh, high school! the vending machine in the senior lounge stocked mr. pibb, and since dr. pepper was much harder to come by, i guzzled pibbs like they were going out of style. which, in retrospect, i guess they were. anyway, tough clue, no?
  • {Cowboy thrower} is dallas quarterback jon KITNA. did i ever tell you about the time i had a NYT grid reworked to remove tony ROMO? well, romo’s about infinity times more famous than his backup, at least to americans at large. NFL mavens, of course, know kitna well. he’s the poster boy for compiling lots of meaningless passing yardage for awful teams.
  • {Feature of London, often} is DENSE FOG. or is it? i mean, is this a thing? i’m used to seeing it as a clue for PEA SOUP. not really sure why that’s such a common crossword answer, actually, now that i mention it.
  • {“Al otro lado del ___” (Oscar-winning song from “The Motorcycle Diaries”)} is a long way to go for RIO. i think the song translates roughly to “on the other ladle of the river.”
  • {Ad infinitum?} is a POP-UP ad, i guess? not really sure how this clue is supposed to make sense. is it a reference to those annoying pop-up windows that spawn yet more pop-up windows when you close them, like the hydra? i’m very grateful for adblock plus, by the way.
  • {“True Grit” actor} is WAYNE. i think i just figured out that this is john wayne. why do i think of “true grit” as a 2010 movie? is it? i guess i wouldn’t be surprised.
  • {Cuban refuse} is michael ASH, an undrafted free agent power forward recently waived by dallas mavericks owner mark cuban. tough clue.
  • {Little bit in Little Havana} is POCO, and this one has nothing to do with mark cuban.
  • yeah, okay, the previous one didn’t have anything to do with mark cuban either. i just wanted to see if i could trick anybody.
  • {Possessive with Cubes} is RUBIK’S. why on earth did i try REESE’S here? that would not be a good shape for yummy chocolate-peanut butter thingies. anyway, i guess matt was feeling generous, because he could have clued this less awkwardly (but more dastardlyly) as {___ Cube}. or maybe he felt like he already tortured us enough with the mr. PIBB clue?
  • {Jabbering about your job} is SHOP TALK. great answer.
  • {Palindromic airline} is ANA, of japan. raise your hand if you tried SAS first.
  • {“___ Dreams” (Heart hit of 1986)} THESE. hmm. i’m tempted to play jeffrey for a minute, except that actually, i’m not. the 1980’s are over, and they can stay that way.
  • {Epps or Bongo} is a pretty great clue for OMAR. because i’m sure the actor from “house” and the longest-tenured president of gabon have a lot else in common.
  • {___ vein (botch the injection)} is the terrible partial NICK A. is there any other way to clue this? i don’t suppose it’s a radiohead album or something?

that’s all for me. see you next week for the last MGWCC of the year. we’re going to party like it’s 2010!

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18 Responses to MGWCC #133

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Well Joon, KITNA was good enough to beat the Redskins on Sunday. Which isn’t saying a whole lot, but still…

    297 correct answers this week.

  2. sps says:

    “yeah, okay, the previous one didn’t have anything to do with mark cuban either. i just wanted to see if i could trick anybody.”

    No, but I laughed.

  3. Howard B says:

    Reese’s Cubes sound interesting. I would definitely try Reese’s Dodecahedrons in a heartbeat though, if such a thing existed. Multifaceted peanut-buttery goodness. Especially since there’s not much promise in Moebius-strip licorice.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Sigh. I have to do everything around here.

    These Dreams

    Gordie Howe

    The puzzle had some gnarly bits, but the meta was a snap.

  5. Mitchs says:

    Cuban cluing the owner and not the cigar? Man, talk about dry humor. Get it? Ash? Dry? Awww, nevermind.

  6. Eric Maddy says:

    You had me with Ash, so much so that I’m not sure if you’re serious about “on the other ladle of the river.”

  7. Scott says:

    I am surprised how many folks got this one – apparently with ease. I had to pound it out with brute force using Excel and matching up all of the 18 5-letter answers against 17 others. (not to mention the 6×4 and the 4×6 possibilities)!

  8. abide says:

    I eventually got the meta after two days, but was severely misdirected by trying to substitute “Ind” for “Ry” ( did the ind refer to indiana?; is goole a railway town?), Looking for opposites (T/F in Aesop’s), looking for homonyms (Brewed, pho), and other theories too embarrassing to mention. It never occurred to me that those could be actual restaurants! Even after I got the gimmick I still had to Google several other options (Pop Up Bayou, Bayou “I sing”) before finding HOWES.

  9. *David* says:

    I felt good, finished xword with no help and got the restaurant meta almost as fast as Joon, give or take a couple of seconds.

  10. Michael Morowitz says:

    Very good puzzle this week although I found the meta significantly easier than last week. 2-for-3 in dec.

  11. Howard B says:

    There was a common thread in the theme answers, in that each name was a play on words, and Matt backed up each restaurant name with a location (which can be looked up to confirm that indeed, each place is real). So at least you know that if you come up with a plausible 10-letter combo, you’ll be able to look it up for confirmation. (That’s what I did after finding the words with the most promise). There were actually few words in the grid that both fit the 2-entry 10-letter requirement, and had the requisite punning potential.

    The biggest possibilities for trouble here (assuming the crossword is solved, that is) are if you don’t know the phrase “How’s by you?”, or if the place names misdirected. I could see those as being potential game-breakers, for sure. But there were quite a few avenues to approach to find the meta this week, even if you weren’t an aficionado of Midwestern Creole cuisine.

    I only regret that I did not see the full potential of pho before.

  12. pannonica says:

    Was mystified by the locations. Never occurred to me that they might be the actual locations of the groanworthy establishments (even though I once blogged about the phenomenon), so I was convinced that they were another level of wordplay. Goole is one letter away from Google, the FRYING NEMO clue could utilize the [Indianapolis,] Ind[iana]. abbreviation to restore the original phrase… usw.

    Glad I cut the Gordian Knot and went with my initial, simpleminded instincts.

  13. Howard: I had not heard the phrase “How’s by you?” before. I also thought that BAYOU might be a trap, as it seemed too obvious an entry for the meta. But the first word pair I tried was HOWES BAYOU because it seemed a feasible answer. I’d probably still be pairing answers now if that one hadn’t worked.

  14. wobbith says:


    True Grit (1969) got Wayne his one and only Oscar. I’m no John Wayne fan, but I thought it was pretty darn good. True Grit (2010) is a remake starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. It was directed by the Coen brothers, so it ought to be pretty darn good too. Opens tomorrow in a theater near you.

  15. Howard B says:

    I find with spoken phrases, in any kind of puzzle, there’s always the assumption that the solver is familiar with it. I’ve had the same issue with puzzle theme answers before. Happens to us all. At least there was the possibility of a lookup to verify suspicion of the correct answer.

  16. sandirhodes says:

    Michigan is in the midwest?

  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    Right wobbith — I was hoping people would put the somewhat more crossword-friendly DAMON in there instead of WAYNE, assuming it was a trap.

  18. Blanche S. says:

    Michigan is definitely in the Midwest — did you think it was somewhere else, sandirhodes?

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