MGWCC #167

crossword 4:51
puzzle 0:20 

greetings and welcome to the 167th episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Strip Search”. this week, we’re asked to identify a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. there’s only one overt theme clue: 17-down is DOUBLES DOWN, clued as {Employs a blackjack tactic, or figures out this puzzle’s theme}. and indeed, in eight of the down clues, one letter needs to be doubled in order to work:

  • {Not surfing} seems to be OFLINE, but of course the correct answer is OFF-LINE.
  • {Uncomfortable} is IL(L) AT EASE.
  • {50+ org. whose crossword is written by Merl Reagle} is the A(A)RP. nice clue.
  • {Scorer of 158 goals for the U.S. national soccer team} is MIA HAM(M). world cup hero abby wambach has 122, good for third on the all-time list (behind hamm and kristine lilly). have you been following the craziness that is wambach’s club team, magicJack?
  • {“You can’t turn me down on this!”} clues “I (I)NSIST!”. i love this answer, not least because it (improbably) begins with two I’s. i’m quite sure the first time i saw it in a crossword was in an earlier MGWCC.
  • {Two-time Best Actor winner of the 2000s} is sean PEN(N). milk, and … mystic river? i don’t know. i think dead man walking was from the 90s. maybe sean only won once, and the other one was kal penn, for harold & kumar go to white castle.
  • {They’re a beautiful blue} clues ROBIN EG(G)S.
  • {Like some old schoolhouses} clues ONE-RO(O)M.

reading the doubled letters (circled in the screencap above) off from top to bottom and left to right, we get FLAMINGO, which is indeed a hotel on the las vegas strip. so there you go.

in an elegant touch, the eight special squares exhibit not only rotational but also mirror symmetry across both horizontal and vertical axes. and there are no other double letters in the fill, a feat which couldn’t have been easy for mat to pul of.

odds & evens:

  • {Where to go to go to Togo} is a clue for AFRICA that i first saw in a monday NYS puzzle a couple years ago. still funny, i think. but it wasn’t the clue for WEST AFRICA when that was a theme answer a few weeks ago.
  • {Cattle} are KINE, one of those funky archaic plurals. in this case, it’s the plural of “cow” in much the same way that pigs = swine.
  • {Indian whose state of residence is not known} is APU nahasapeemapetilon, of springfield USA.
  • {Neither right nor wrong} clues AMORAL, and the dictionary backs up this usage. but it still troubled me. my high school english teacher taught us that immoral means wicked, as an act; amoral means without a conscience, as a person; and nonmoral means unrelated to questions of morality. so this clue suggests NONMORAL to me.
  • {The Feds, for short} is just GOVT. raise your hand if you had G-MEN here.
  • {Fellows} HES. for hes are jolly good fellows.
  • {In abundance} is GALORE. i love postpositive modifiers.
  • {Light person} is EDISON. i’m not sure why i tried EDITOR here. is there a magazine called light?
  • {“___ Street”} SESAME, where muppets can just be friends with no sexual orientation.
  • {Trumpet blast} is a TANTARA. i know i have seen this word before, but i couldn’t pull it out of my brain this time. needed almost every cross.
  • {___ gow (Vegas game)} PAI. nice thematic lagniappe here. in pai gow poker, three pair is a good hand.

that’s all for me. see you in the comment box.

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20 Responses to MGWCC #167

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    401 (!!) correct entries this week. Holy stromboli.

  2. joon says:

    well, it was basically ungetwrongable if you solved the crossword, and the crossword itself wasn’t that tough.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Well, don’t tell that to the 8 people who got it wrong :)

    CIRCUS CIRCUS was the most common incorrect guess, on the doubling idea.

    I’m just psyched we’ve broken 400 for the first time!

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    I agree Matt did very well to not only get the letters of Flamingo symmetrical and in order, but also managed to avoid any other double letters in the grid!
    Pursuant to the bra discussion earlier, today’s Guardian has a cryptic set by Puck with the clue: It’s a really big bra size that would take me aback (4) Answer to follow below for those who wish a go, so cover the bottom of this post. Here’s one letter, as the grid was at when I came to this entry: _ _ C _
    Matt’s puzzle was much harder to construct than to solve, of course. No doubt he received quite a few “Did it standing on one leg!” comments, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
    Answer to the cryptic clue is puck. It’s a reversal of K cup, as indicated by aback. Me (the constructor’s name) is the definition.

  5. Barbara says:

    Rah! Rah! Yay! Yay! Great! Great! I belong to the exclusive eight!
    I’m one of the doubling dummies.

  6. Matthew G. says:

    I like to think that it was my plugging MGWCC on my Facebook feed on the first Friday of this month that led to all these records. Perhaps my friends have turned out in force …

    As I told Matt in my e-mail, I was almost ready to e-mail in Circus, Circus as my own answer when I saw the doubling. In fact, I was pretty sure it was going to be right. Good thing I finished the puzzle and looked at the grid again.

  7. Matt Gaffney says:

    Hey thanks Matthew G. — it might well have been your Facebook plug. Lots of new names over the past two weeks.

  8. Evad says:

    I bet there were some groans out there in MGWCC-land with the clue [N. ___ (one of seven)]. Sure brought back some painful memories for me!

    Didn’t notice the symmetry of those 8 squares–another nice MG touch!

  9. Abby says:

    (Did the Guardian over lunch (like I do every day and have for years) and that cryptic clue is hogwash- the answer should be K-cup. It’s poorly written. The definition or an indicator thereof has to be very first or last. “me aback” is not “me” is not “puck”. It’s just wrong. “me aback” plainly says it should be me backwards and the other forward. I know it’s supposed to be one of those jokey (tich as 225 likes to say) clues that’s not really cryptic, but, feh.)

    Liked the meta this week. As usual, I did the across clues first, so I wasn’t sure of the trick until I got near the bottom. Made the down pass a lot easier, though!

  10. Paul Coulter says:

    British clueing has evolved to be a lot less rigid and often tougher than that found in American cryptics. The general standard is that a good clue lead to a unique solution once one identifies the definition and word-building elements. Preferably, with few or no extraneous words, a fluent surface, and clever wordplay. In this case, “me aback” signifies that my name will be found backwards in the auxilliary instructions. Many of the commenters on 225 agreed this was the clue of the day. Of course, there’s always room for dissent. Everybody’s darling Araucaria is my least favorite setter, for instance. And while most find Paul (the famed constructor, not me) difficult, I’m almost always well in sync with him.

  11. Anne says:

    I first thought of Circus Circus but there’s also a New York New York. It made me look at the letters again and Flamingo popped out.

  12. Karen says:

    The same day I listened to the report about the MagicJack craziness, one of my patients mentioned having their phone service. She didn’t seem too impressed by them.

    I had to go back and hunt through the down clues for my final letter. Weird experience.

  13. Michael says:

    I loved the clue regarding Merle Regal! I think he would have replied with a sharp retort, but he was finishing dinner at 3:30 and onto his nap.

  14. Tony says:

    I was originally looking at a possible rebus puzzle, but then got the theme. As I solved the majority from the south on up, I saw G, I, A, and M and first thought MIRAGE, but thankfully decided to solve the rest first!

  15. Noam D. Elkies says:

    COW/KINE is suposedly the unique example of a singular/plural pair with no comon leters.

    I hapened to se the theme leters FAM first, and was expecting FAMILY which could then lead to CIRCUS (with the title’s “Strip” sugesting a comic strip) and then doubled to get the casino. That would have ben an even neater metapuzle, albeit to hard for second of the month. The actual solution was clear enough once al eight theme leters emerged — with no ned for anagraming, even, though I had to confirm online that FLAMINGO is in fact the name of a Strip casino.

    Yes, Mat Gafney used I_INSIST once before, when he neded a 2×2 square’s worth of double I’s for the BOXING puzle.


  16. pannonica says:

    “anagraming”? (there’s still time left!)

  17. Noam D. Elkies says:

    thanks, panonica :-)

  18. pannonica says:


  19. HH says:

    @Abby — Since the Brits invented the whole idea of cryptic clues, they’re allowed to muck it up any way they wish.

  20. James Schooler says:

    I too am one of the exclusive eight. I just had “insist” instead of “I insist”, so I thought the obvious “Flamingo” might be a red herring, so the “doulble downs” suggested “Mirage” to me. Aarrgh!

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