MGWCC #152

 crossword 8:53
puzzle DNF 


here we go again. week 152 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Drinking Game,” defeated me. and i mean really. for the first time since week 8, i’m really pretty sure i didn’t get this and won’t get it (even though there are 12 hours until the deadline). the instructions this week tell us that we’re looking for an alcoholic drink with thirteen letters in its name, and that may have been the first sign for me that i wasn’t going to get it. but i tried. let’s take a look at the theme answers:

  • {Pairing up} clues GOING TWO AT A TIME.
  • {Slow cooker contents, sometimes} could be a THREE-POUND ROAST. arbitrary, but okay.
  • {What many Starbucks drinks do} is COST FOUR DOLLARS. indeed they do! a friend of mine used to call the store “fourbucks” for this very reason. of course, that was 15 years ago, but have their prices even gone up since then? i’m not really sure. they do, of course, have bigger sizes now. or had you already forgotten from last week? luckily, there was also {Venti, at Starbucks} LARGE to remind you.
  • {Stockbroker’s guideline re commissions} is the FIVE PERCENT RULE. unfamiliar with this one, but it looks legit.

so what’s the connection, other than the obvious numerical sequence? well, look at the word after the number: TWO AT is 2@, THREE-POUND is 3#, FOUR DOLLARS is 4$, and FIVE PERCENT is 5%. those pairs all share a key on a keyboard. that part took me about ten minutes to notice.

what else is there? two short, symmetrically-placed answers look like they’re also thematic:

  • {Adjective for one} is ODD. indeed, 1 is odd. but there’s no ! in the clue or answer.
  • {You need to skip this one (I don’t even know what that thing is called!)} clues SIX. i think this is a reference to ^, which shares a key with 6. (it’s called a caret, by the way.)

so whatever the answer is, it has to involve numbers and punctuation. i take it that we’re supposed to skip 6 (hey, i’m just following orders here), but … then what? i don’t know the names of very many alcoholic drinks. i was hoping SEVEN AND EIGHT might be something. and googling it, i did find this vineyard. i guess if i can’t think of anything else before i finish writing this post, that’s what i’ll send in, and there’s even an argument to be made that it’s correct. i mean, it follows the numerical sequence, skipping 6 as directed, and it uses the & sign (ampersand) on the 7 key. but it’s a pretty crappy answer, because, well, who’s ever heard of it? (also, a vineyard isn’t exactly the same as an alcoholic drink, although it looks like they do have some wines named for the vineyard.)

what else could it be? the parentheses symbols ( and ) that share space with 9 and 0 don’t look terribly useful in the context of a 13-letter answer. the * on 8 might be something, more likely as STAR than as ASTERISK. but i couldn’t find anything involving the & and *. the ODD may be a hint that we’re not supposed to be considering 8, but there’s not much you can do with 7 and 9 either.

i’m left with the sinking suspicion that i’ve extracted what i can extract from the puzzle, and my failure here has to do with a lack of knowledge of alcoholic drinks. so i’ll try one more desperation play: combing through the wikipedia list of alcoholic beverages and (more excruciating) the lengthy list of cocktails, since that’s what most of the named alcoholic beverages are. and … actually, hey, here’s a candidate much more viable than SEVEN AND EIGHT: the SEVEN AND SEVEN, consisting of “Seagram’s Seven Crown Blended Whisky and 7-Up.” never heard of it, but it’s an actual drink with an actual name and it totally fits the theme. i’m sending it in. and if i’m wrong, well, i won’t be terribly surprised.

enough about the meta. was it just me or was this crossword really tough? clues i had trouble with and/or enjoyed:

  • {“Good to ___” (2001 management bestseller)} GREAT. no idea, and a super-tough clue for a really common word. i thought it was going to be a partial.
  • {Member of an A.A. group?} is POOH. cute. does it make me a bad person if my parallelism radar kicks in, and i think the answer should be WINNIE instead? (or even EDWARD, since that’s the bear’s name…) this is like when i saw caleb madison’s amazing {Ford explorer?} clue for HAN SOLO and thought, “hmm, that should just be SOLO.” what is the matter with me?
  • {Lord of the rings?} is a nice clue for BEST MAN. i’m going to be in a wedding this summer (of recent BCPT runner-up matt matera, if you must know). i’m not the lord of the rings, as far as i know, but my son sam will be the ring-bearer. we’re all very excited. of course, the one time i actually was best man at a wedding, i didn’t find out until the day before the wedding. i don’t think matt is planning to spring that on me, though. are you?
  • {1956 Democratic National Convention name} is good old ADLAI e stevenson. i recently studied presidents and vice presidents. know what i learned? the original adlai e stevenson was VP in grover cleveland’s second administration. you never see that clue, do you? the AES who lost twice to DDE (and also had the xword-friend running mate ESTES kefauver) is the grandson of cleveland’s veep.
  • {Soccer players often do it on the pitch} clues SPIT. of course, anybody who watched last week’s ugly-as-sin barcelona-real madrid first leg might have been excused for thinking the answer was DIVE, or CHEAT, or WHINGE, or SURROUND THE REFEREE AT THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION. what a disgrace.
  • {Marshal killer, in Stratego} is the SPY. ah, those were the days.
  • {TV spouse of James} is EDIE, i’m assuming because this is falco and … somebody, of the sopranos. galdonfini? maybe. but i can’t say i like the wording of the clue. i think “TV spouse of James” should mean the character who was married to the character james, not the actress. edie falco is not a TV spouse.
  • {Be in the lead} is a deliberately misleading clue for STAR, designed to make you (okay, me) think about sports. then there’s {Fast break}, which also made me think about sports… the wrong sport (basketball), as the answer is PIT STOP. great clue, because a pit stop really is fast and it’s a break.
  • speaking of sports: {1998 Winter Olympics setting} was just a cruel, cruel clue. everybody dropped NAGANO in there, right? nope, it’s HONSHU. gaffney!! *shakes fist*
  • {“___ Loves Helen” (1964 episode of a classic TV show)} is a long way to go to find a new clue for OPIE. but who loves chachi? (okay, i know that one. but who is chachi? i have no idea.)
  • {It’s turned on in the summer} is THE AC. i don’t mind the definite article here, but i would’ve preferred a clue like {It’s turned on in summertime}.
  • {Stereotypical preppie’s name} is BIFF. really? i know two BIFFs: the son from death of a salesman, and the bully from back to the future. neither one was exactly a preppie.
  • {You can hear one on the Turtles’ hit “Happy Together”}? an OBOE. and actually, no, no i can’t. i’m still mad that wasn’t ELENORE at ACPT, by the way. (oh, retroactive spoiler alert.)
  • {Four or five, say} is A FEW. seems like not the best choice of clue given the duplications of the theme.
  • {Film for which Geraldine Page received her first Oscar nomination} is HONDO. i had no idea she was in john havlicek.
  • {Political commentator Rockwell} is a LEW i don’t know. wallace and ayres, meet rockwell.

okay, that’s all for me. let me know what you guys thought in the comment box.

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36 Responses to MGWCC #152

  1. Eric LeVasseur says:

    I got 7&7 fairly quickly – but totally missed the keyboard connection until reading Joon’s writeup.

  2. tabstop says:

    Knew the drink, didn’t even look at the keys (that “skip six” took me right out of looking at the answers themselves, for whatever reason). Figured I was wandering right into a trap, but got it right for once.

    “Good to great” was a bit of a gimme for me as someone up the food chain from me has read the book and consequently we have had meetings and meetings and meetings about what we are only good at and what we can do better. I suspect the management types would be all over that one.

  3. Noam D. Elkies says:

    SIX-KARAT DIAMOND? Not quite…

    I looked up “seven and seven” on Google, and got the answer “seven plus seven = fourteen” :-)

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    170 correct answers — including you, Joon! And including three who had drunk Seven and Sevens the night before or the day of solving the puzzle. Who needs Starbucks?

  5. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Yet another example of Matt’s genius – totally wasted on me.

    I had the correct answer, but only because TWO through FIVE were free-standing in the grid and SIX was explicitly excluded (never did understand what that clue was talking about), so it had to be a 13 letter drink with the word SEVEN. Because I didn’t see the keyboard connection (joon is a genius too, of course), I even suggested in my email to Matt that “Seagram’s Seven” was also a possibility – 13 letters and all – but clearly it isn’t!

  6. *David* says:

    First time I got the meta and just went with what made the most sense without getting the keyboard connection. A bit disappointed there but I’ll take my wimpy victory.

  7. Mike says:

    Totally missed the keyboard connection also. It figures this was the one week I decided to solve on paper.

  8. Evad says:

    I wanted to give this one EIGHT STARS….how do I contact the developer who wrote that star rating system anyway? :)

    I had a small reservation that I wrote to Matt about how someone didn’t really need to figure out the keyboard connection to get the right answer, there are really only two reasonable answers to this meta–SEVEN AND SEVEN and SEX ON THE BEACH, being the only 2 cocktails I could find that are 13 letters. Once you know to “skip” six, you have it.

    I would like to see Matt come up with a meta in the future for SEX ON THE BEACH!

  9. Jed says:

    Didn’t grok the keyboard connection…but I’ll take it. Two beverages I don’t consume in a row, Matt…”Can you do something with herbal tea, please?” he said meekly.

    Is 170 the highest you’ve had for a last week puzzle?

  10. Matthew G. says:

    Add me to the list of those who got the meta right without seeing the keyboard connection at all. I admit that I back-solved this one, thinking of drinks with long names and/or numbers in their names until I found one I could justify based on the grid.

    The Seven and Seven is my wife’s favorite drink, and when I thought of it it immediately felt appealing because it had two numbers in its name. I justified it by observing that if you added together the numbers in the first and last theme entries it came to seven, and the same held true if you added the two theme entries in between. This felt unsatisfactory to me, because I would have expect the first two rows to total seven if that was the approach, but it was the best I could come up with, and the instructions to ignore SIX made me think my addition approach was on the right track. So, like Joon, I sent it in with mixed feelings.

    Didn’t even come within a mile of seeing the numeral/punctuation connection. Good thing there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

  11. Toby says:

    The meta totally stumped me. At one point (don’t ask how, I can’t even remember), I stumbled across “seven and seven,” but didn’t submit it. I never even caught onto the keyboard connection: 2@, 3#, 4$, 5% (skip 6 per 68-across), …. wait for it…


    Gotta be right! And what a bummer… I was 4 for 4 in April until this week!

  12. Bruce S. says:

    Great meta. Got it by reasoning a method similar to Matthew G. with the theme numbers totalling 7. Fun month of April. Thanks Matt. Looking forward to May.

  13. Gnarbles says:

    I did the puzzle while riding back from Dallas (wife driving). I figured out the keyboard link and as I looked at my laptop keyboard I saw 7 & 7 on my keyboard as the number pad is set-up for the right hand with the seven on the normal 7 key. So the whole answer was there staring at me on one key.

  14. Al Sanders says:

    I also came up with SEVEN AND SEVEN as an early candidate, but I was definitely relieved when I figured out the keyboard connection Sunday night and it all clicked. Another brilliant meta, the only drawback being that the answer was pretty guessable without understanding the keyboard part. How evil would this have been if Matt didn’t throw us that “skip six” bone?

  15. wobbith says:

    Look at 8 Down in the grid – 8 STAR, but “7 &” in any form is nowhere to be found.

  16. Jason Feng says:

    Never saw the keyboard connection but as a last ditch effort submitted SEVEN AND SEVEN anyways. I should have caught on with that weird clue for SIX. But luck is luck.

    That being said, I’m not a big drinker but somewhere out there, isn’t there another cocktail called SEVEN AND ????? that may also fit the meta?

  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    I try not to make a meta gettable without a solver fully grokking the idea behind it. One way to do that is to set up a secondary answer that a solver will submit if they only understand part of the meta; I did that here, but severely overestimated the # of solvers who would fall into it. Oh well, having a relatively large group get the Week 5 meta isn’t the worst thing that can happen :)

    The trap here was SEAGRAM’S SEVEN, which is also thirteen letters long. I was hoping that a certain % of solvers who noticed the numbers but not the keyboard connection would submit that one. Unfortunately only 5 solvers sent that in as their answer, and many more guessed SEVEN AND SEVEN without noticing the keyboard connection.

    Twelve people submitted SEX ON THE BEACH! And two sent in PRINCE OF WALES.

  18. Russ says:

    Count me among those who got the meta without noticing the keyboard thing.

    The 2-3-4-5-skip 6 pattern got me thinking about 7s, and then I saw that TWO and THREE and FOUR and FIVE adds up to fourteen, just like SEVEN and SEVEN does. (I had heard of the drink.) That plus the fact that SEVEN AND SEVEN contained the correct number of letters would have been a fine “Aha!” for a fifth week puzzle, but the cryptic “I don’t even know what that thing is called” made it more of an “Aha?” for me. For once, close enough.

  19. abide says:

    I also missed the keyboard connection, and was worried about not understanding the clue for SIX….but the advice to skip Six led to 7&7. And no one has mentioned (may just be a coincidence) that the five clues have “one” in them, plus the “Four or five” clue, and that totals 14 (7 and 7). So that was my checkpoint.

    I did spend a lot of time at first trying to fit SEXY on the ARUBA beach, knowing that Matt had just returned from Portugal.

  20. pgw says:

    @wobbith – did not notice the 8 STAR connection; clever. Too bad 1-down could not have been BANG.

    I too totally missed the keyboard connection but submitted the right answer based just on figuring it had to have something to do with 7. It’s a shame such a clever meta was relatively easy to guess without really figuring it out.

  21. jimmy d says:

    I’m a gin & tonic guy… but a friend of mine turned me on to 7&7’s a couple of weeks ago. I actually did this puzzle with a Seagram’s hangover!!!

    Like everyone else, I missed the keyboard connection and was frustrated at not getting the SIX reference… I even typed my answer as 7&7 and noticed “hey, its all on the same key”… D’oh!

  22. Jeffrey says:

    Not a drinker. Never heard of 7&7. Didn’t get the keyboard connection. submitted no answer. Other than that…

  23. Evad says:

    Matt, is that why you worded the instructions “alcoholic drink” instead of “cocktail,” hoping people might fall in the Seagram’s 7 trap? I wasn’t completely sure if I was looking for a mixed drink or just a type of liquor at first.

  24. Noam D. Elkies says:

    I was hoping for Sex on the Beach too (the drink, I mean…), after seeing 61D:SEXY. But no other confirmation. Didn’t notice 8D:* :-)

    @Bob Kerf: “totally wasted” is an interesting choice of phrasing given the alcoholic topic ;-)

    Two false trails: the SIX clue suggests doing something with the names of puzzles 1-5 of this month (and indeed the FOUR clue explicitly references Starbucks); and POUND, DOLLAR, CENT in the 3/4/5 entries, but no dough to be found in the theme answer for TWO.

  25. Cole says:

    I’m another who saw TWO, THREE, FOUR and FIVE and skipped six and doing the math got 7&7.

  26. joon says:

    8 STAR is brilliant. didn’t notice that at all! thanks, wobbith.

  27. Al Sanders says:

    Before I got the keyboard thing, I tried to convince myself the GOING TWO AT A TIME was a pointer to the two SEVENs in SEVEN AND SEVEN, but it didn’t seem like enough to base the meta on, and of course gave no explanation for the other theme entries. Matt, was that intended as a hint?

  28. zifmia says:

    Yet another correct solver who only got as far as numbers without seeing the punctuation.

    I also got the answer by scanning the cocktails list at wikipedia looking for the number 7. Didn’t see “Seagram’s Seven” there, or any other possible 7s.

  29. Dipso unDunn says:


    Matt, not me.

  30. Alex says:

    i recently studied presidents and vice presidents

    Why, are you going to be on Jeopardy!?

  31. Stevo says:

    Darn – I was one of the four to go with Seagram’s Seven. Not a huge drinker, but I knew enough to not google. Is that worth anything?

    And hey, since the clue called for AND instead of AMPERSAND, it would’ve been consistent to use “216” as a clue for SIX TO THE THIRD or something like that.

  32. Karen says:

    I googled because I didn’t know enough. And under ‘alcoholic drink seven’ you find seven and seven.

    Also, awfully nice fill this week.

  33. Erik says:

    I have never felt worse about solving a meta. Leaned on Google pretty heavily this month.

  34. +1 for guessing it correctly while missing the keyboard connection. The first thing I thought of was SEVENTH HEAVEN, which has the right number of letters and also happens to be a drink (, but then I found SEVEN AND SEVEN and decided that was more likely to be correct, so I sent it in.

  35. sandirhodes says:

    Well, I didn’t do this puzzle ’til Tuesday morning. I thought 7&7 was reasonable, but didn’t get an ‘aha’ moment about it. So I figured it couldn’t be that easy for a 5th wk meta, thus didn’t submit it. Heh heh. I GOTTA start doing these things on Friday!

    Very nice, Matt!

  36. Gene says:

    I didn’t know any drinking games so thought I’d look up some. There is one called 1-2-3 which is a dice game where the first person to throw a six gets to name the drink. I thought this might be the source of the clue six – I didn’t know what that thing was called. It didn’t lead to the answer, however.

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