MGWCC #181

crossword 5:15
puzzle 2:30 

hey there, friends, and welcome to episode #181 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Where’s the Party?”. this week, matt asks us to identify a familiar three-letter exclamation. okay then, what are the theme answers? five clues came with stars:

  • {Former senator played by Ed Harris in a 1983 movie*} is astronaut-turned-senator JOHN GLENN.
  • {With 44-across, former governor and senator who now works on air at Fox News*} is EVAN/BAYH.
  • {Current governor whose name fits the odd letter pattern 1-2-3-4 5-4-4-5-4*} is MIKE BEEBE. don’t know this guy, but something tells me matt has used BEEBE in a puzzle a couple of times before and maybe this governor was the clue once (with the other being wide receiver don BEEBE)?
  • {Three-term senator arrested for taking a “wide stance”*} is LARRY CRAIG. i probably wouldn’t have remembered this guy’s name if somebody on twitter hadn’t compared roger craig to him last week.
  • {Current senator whose son has his own D.C. lobbying firm*} is crossword staple ORRIN HATCH.

four of these five are senators, and the other is a governor. guided by the title (party) and instructions (3 letters), i started to write down their state and party affiliations:

  • glenn D-OH
  • bayh D-IN
  • beebe D-AR (i had to look this one up, of course)
  • craig R-ID
  • hatch R-UT

well, you’ve spotted it by now, right? four of those three-letter abbreviations are actually words in the grid:

  • {Casual term for a meal, when repeated} DIN.
  • {Folk singer Williams} DAR.
  • {Free (of)} RID.
  • {Groove made by wagon wheels} RUT.

the odd man out is the democrat from ohio, so D’OH (which is indeed a familiar exclamation) is our answer.

in a rather odd coincidence, this is not the first time that D’OH has been the MGWCC answer. way back in MGWCC #2, matt ran a puzzle called “It Themes Like Something’s Missing”, where there were three obvious theme answers (SKEEZY DOPER, FRUMPY HARPY, and SLEETY BATHFUL) and asked us to identify the secret fourth theme entry in the grid. each theme answer was two of the seven dwarfs from snow white with one letter changed, so the contest answer was D’OH, which is one letter off from doc. in a nice bit of symmetry, D’OH was the answer to MGWCC #2 because it was an extra theme answer in the grid, and the answer to MGWCC #181 because it was an extra theme answer not in the grid.

when i sent in my answer i mentioned the coincidence and matt was dumbfounded—he had no recollection of this meta from three and a half years ago. indeed, it was so long ago that it predates my blogging of the MGWCC; my first writeup for the old crossword fiend blog was #27. what can i say, though? SLEETY BATHFUL stuck in my memory, as did FRUMPY HARPY. (i had to reconstruct SKEEZY DOPER through back-solving.)

last week matt wondered if anybody notices word counts. well, i noticed this one: 80, a couple higher than the usual maximum. not that i really care, mind you; with four long and six short theme answers, there’s a lot on matt’s plate, so to speak. still a cool puzzle.

fill roundup:

  • {Woman’s name that becomes a rapper when its second and third letters are removed} is DEIRDRE. my favorite clue in this puzzle; that’s a nice find. who can think of a good cryptic clue based on it?
  • {1987 Razzie Award nominee for Worst Picture (that lost to Bill Cosby’s “Leonard Part 6”)} is ISHTAR. (spoiler alert!) warren beatty was just one of the two correct answers to last friday’s final jeopardy: one of the two men to twice be nominated for best actor and best director for the same picture. i don’t think ishtar was one of them, though.
  • {Stern group} NBA. *sniff*
  • {Unit named for an Italian mathematician} is the TORR, after evangelista torricelli, who invented the barometer. 1 torr is equivalent to 1 mm of mercury, or 1/760th of an atmosphere.
  • {Surname in self-defense} is RHEE, i think of joon rhee tae kwon do. fellow jeopardy champ jay rhee and i were just chatting about this, actually.
  • {Words only spoken by people under 21} is HIT ME. okay, that’s a great clue.

that’s all for me. what’d you think of this one?

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38 Responses to MGWCC #181

  1. Scott says:

    Week 1 – easy but Scott failed. Still fun.
    Week 2 – easy but Scott failed. Still fun.
    Week 3 – easy and Scott finally was on the right wavelength with a correct answer.
    Thank you Matt for helping me stretch my brain – whether I figure out the meta or not!

  2. tabstop says:

    I wonder how many people went with “WTF” as a wild guess when they got stuck.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    180 right answers this week. Just one WTF, tabstop!

  4. oeuftete says:

    Whew, just under the wire for this one.

    Lady rapper comprehends that is backwards (7) ? Meh, feels clunky.

    Or the other way around: Deirdre dropped upset Ike heartlessly for rapper (5) ?

  5. Scott says:

    My cryptic clue for DEIRDRE is:
    Rapper wrapped around letters, i.e. reversed girl’s name.

  6. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Following “A Time to Cull,” I adopted the policy of just making my best guess and getting on with life, rather than agonizing over the meta. So I saw “John Glenn (D-OH)” was the only Party affiliation that lead to an exclamation and sent in “D’Oh!”. As so often happens, I didn’t really get it, as I totally missed the fact that the others made up words in the grid!

  7. Themutman says:

    Stumped, but fair. It didn’t help that I had Arkansas abbreviated as AK nor did writing party affiliation no where near the state.

    Good work Matt.

  8. Paul Coulter says:

    A fine puzzle, but still a very easy meta. Since the answer was in the first theme entry, I imagine many of us saw it in less than a minute. I had to leave to give my afternoon lecture, so I was in a rush and only checked the other thematic clues to confirm. In my email to Matt, I mentioned that I didn’t see what the other words formed by the senators’ party/state contributed – very sloppy of me not to bother finishing the fill before I said that. All in all, another outstanding job. It’s mind-boggling how much time Matt must take to construct these, not to mention all the correspendence and administration – a rousing three chairs to our chairman. Also, I wonder what Matt meant by his comment last week that word count will matter starting with this puzzle.

  9. *David* says:

    I was not on the right wavelength on this one but wrestled it down with brute stength last night. I wrote out the states saw D’OH but didn’t eliminate the others to the words in the puzzle on Sunday night. I would’ve probably sent in D’OH regardless but it felt a lot better understanding why.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    No hope for this non-American.

  11. joon says:

    come on jeffrey, you can google these guys as easily as i did. the state abbreviations, too.

  12. Paul Coulter says:

    Lady Elizabeth dried up DEIRD RE (full rev.) [Down clue]

    By the way, while checking Wikipedia on these senators and Governor Beebe, I learned that the current Lt. Gov. of Arkansas is surnamed DARR. He’s a Republican, but it looks like he could go either way politically.

  13. Aaron (not the usual) says:

    I had a lucky week and submitted DOH, deciding it was more likely than WTF.
    I was distracted by COGNAC going Down (the) HATCH
    BAYH now,

  14. Seems I’m the only one who having seen five pols in the grid went with AYE – an exclamation when voting on bills. NAY would’ve been too negative.


  15. ant says:

    I lucked out, too, submitting D’OH. None of the others were exclamations, and I completely missed their reappearance in the grid.
    The only other concern I had was the use of double letters in 4 of the 5 theme answers. I wondered if that had anything to do with the meta, and thus made my D’OH half-baked.

  16. Tony says:

    I forgot to enter this week, but I wasn’t even close. I was probably going to enter AYE as Jerry did.

  17. Matthew G. says:

    Nice meta. As a political junkie, I really wanted to get it — but I didn’t. I did, of course, know the states and parties of all five of these guys, but I didn’t think to write them out in the D-OH style like you see in newspapers. I sincerely doubt that I would have gotten this even if I had — I suspect I would not have looked for three-letter words in the grid for help.

    Excellent, beautiful meta. I just wasn’t smart enough this week.

    I meant to e-mail in a complete guess by noon, but I had a crazy morning at work and didn’t remember to do it. My guess was going to be wrong anyway.

  18. Dan Seidman says:

    I think the issue for the non-American was the common practice of abbreviating the party initial and two-letter state code as we do. It seems obvious to us, but as far as I know is unique to the US.

    I also saw DOH right away, and then it took me a little while to confirm that was the answer. At first I thought maybe all the other names led to the same word in different ways (like maybe that was Orrin Hatch’s initials or his son’s).

    – Dan

  19. sps says:

    BobK–I didn’t get it even more than you but sent in the correct response too somehow. I was absolutely, positively, no-excuses stumped. I had convinced myself that the letter pattern in the BEEBE clue meant something more than it did. In the end, I made a mental list of three letter exclamations, wrote a silly email without a subject line, then at the last second put D’OH in the subject line. Pure luck.

    Gotta run. Going to pick up a lottery ticket now.

  20. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Nice metapuzzle. “Hey, why can’t I find DOH in the grid? D’oh, it’s the metapuzzle answer!” Yes, a bit American-centric: the facts can all be Googled but the “D-OH” style would be unfamiliar abroad. The fact that party and state affiliations were *not* noted in any theme clue was a big hint. The fact that each theme clue was starred felt like an unnecessary hint since the common thread was so obvious even before I saw where the metapuzzle was going.

    I too wondered about the word count; it’s not that constraining a theme by Matt’s standards (I count 58 letters in the theme answers, including four 3-letter words that could go most anywhere), so I suspected I might be missing some extra layer or twist. Alas it’s not possible for each 3-letter code to cross its corresponding name as 22A:RID does 10D:LARRY_CRAIG.

    The clue for 28:LEAH seems to be not just obscure but incorrect: I looked forward to learning something new about sculpture, and learned that this Leah goes with Michelangelo’s Moses but was actually sculpted not by him but an apprentice.

    No love from me for DEIRDRE: one made-up r*pper’s name found inside an actual name that looks almost as made-up (though it turns out to come from Irish mythology).

    Yes, the clue for 45D:HIT_ME is neato.


  21. Joan says:

    OMG I’m so far off. I checked party affiliation but never wrote down the states represented by the Senators. All I found was States’ postal abbreviations within the first names and wildly guessed ZIP, the puzzle also seeming to have something to do with a combination of 5 and 4 letters. Did anyone else send in ZIP?

    John OH Ohio
    Mike MI Michigan
    Evan VA Virginia
    Orrin OR Oregon
    Larry LA Louisiana

  22. HH says:

    Such a list of politicians would be better suited for 4-letter exclamations.

  23. Charles Montpetit says:

    As a non-U.S. citizen, I can confirm that the three-letter practice eluded me. And as a non-political junkie (how dare these “public servants” grab so much spotlight for themselves?), I would have sent TMI. But that’s just me.

  24. Karen says:

    Before I solved the crossword I thought OMG would have been the answer. I thought how clever for Matt to find almost all the words one could make out of the party/state abbreviations, then realized that DAR was a name rather than a word, and saw that all except DOH were in the grid. Although DOH was the only exclamation, as noted above. (I would have been happy with either the folk singer or the beastmaster for DAR.)

  25. ant says:

    DR DRE made-up?! Any other blog and you would probably be flambé right now.
    I don’t even listen to rap and I respect the heck out of this guy…a lot more than that Kanye kid!
    (Oops – am I about to be flambéd myself…?)

    edit: oh, wait – did you mean made-up, as in he’s not really a doctor?

  26. lucky says:

    AR in 60 down SEAR led me to the answer. Was this done on purpose? The SEAR/TAR crossing could have used L,M,N,S or T.

  27. Aaron says:

    I, too, was one of the semi-lucky guesses. As I noted to Matt in my submission this morning, I felt good that at least D’OH matched up with the Democrat from Ohio.

  28. Noam D. Elkies says:

    @ant: he’s not a real Dr., and he’s not a real Dre. He made up the whole name like some commercial trademark.

  29. Cole says:

    Solved the puzzle Friday, “knew” it had to be DOH but had no idea why there were four others besides John Glenn. Looked at it again on Monday and learned that Larry Craig was not R-WY as I had suspected and the answer became obvious.

  30. Matthew G. says:

    I think one reason I didn’t think to write out the party names in the D-OH, D-IN, etc., format is that, in the four years I spent as a newspaper copy editor, that style is only used with Senators and Representatives, not with Governors. Furthermore, we would also use the Associated Press abbreviations for the states, not their postal abbreviations.

    So we would write: Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, or Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., etc. Not D-OH and D-IN.

    We also would never print Gov. Mike Beebe, D-Ark (or D-AR). We would print “Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, a Democrat . . .”

    So, yeah. I’m sure there are plenty of publications that do it this way, and therefore it remains a perfectly fair (and good) meta. But my own intimacy with the subject matter actually worked against me this week.

  31. Forgot to solve until this morning. Was close but not close enough, writing out just the five two-letter abbreviations and staring at them. Thought about sending in OHO, but, well, didn’t.

    Noam: According to that Wikipedia link, Dr. Dre does, in fact, seem to be a real ‘Dre.

  32. JanglerNPL says:

    {Female rapper covering Nelly song}, Joon? Admittedly the definition is ultra-weak.

  33. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Busy weekend. Didn’t grok the meta right away so I went on with my life. I like to think I would have gotten it if I’d spent more time poking the puzzle.

    I was going to say what @R Hutchinson did—that Dre is short for Andre.

    I’m not a rap lover, but I’m eternally fond of the Doctor Dre/Ed Lover/Denis Leary comedy, Who’s the Man?. Haven’t seen it since ’93 and what are the odds it’s holding up over time?

  34. Michael says:

    I thought Matt had actually botched the DIERDRE clue and had the roles reversed.

    I had originally written in FLO RIDA as the rapper and thought Frida was the woman’s name when the L and O were removed (thinking of Frida Kahlo). Naturally, as more fill came in, I realized that I was just wrong.

    But I did find it interesting that there was a counter pair of answers.

  35. mitchs says:

    A bit American-centric??? Yipes, doesn’t Matt have enough restrictions?

  36. Mark N says:

    About the US-centric thing… I’m a Filipino who has lived all his life in the Philippines and I grokked this week’s meta. The title strongly hinted that political parties would be key. I’m familiar with the party-US state notation, though I can’t remember where I first saw it (maybe in a Jeopardy! question or a cryptic crossword clue). I think it’s fair game for an audience of puzzler-types.

  37. BridgeFog says:

    @ Jerry E. Rosman – I also sent in aye – glad to know I wasn’t the only one!

  38. Myron M. says:

    Had it in my head the politicos mentioned were all Republicans, went with Gee, as in GOP.

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