MGWCC #190

crossword 4:14
puzzle about 5 minutes 

greetings and welcome to the 19oth episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Mix & Match”. this week, matt asks us to find the two grid entries which, when combined, would make an excellent sixth theme entry. let’s first take a look at the five overt theme entries:

  • {Cassettes dressed up like superheroes?} are CAPED TAPES.
  • {Prominent former governor, when giving her thoughts on the justice system?} is PENAL PALIN.
  • {Make a new compressed file for a photograph of a church?} is to REZIP SPIRE.
  • {Fret over lulls in activity?} is to SWEAT WAITS. i’m glad this wasn’t a reference to tom waits.
  • {With 30-down, raises the price on certain sea fish?} is HIKES/HAKES.

so what’s the theme? well, they’re all two words of five letters each. in all but one case, the two words share 4 letters in common, but the theme is hardly going to be “two five-letter words with 4 letters in common, with the exception of CAPED TAPES which has only 3”, now, is it?

taking a closer look at the letter that differs between the two words, we have Z/S in REZIP SPIRE, some vowel shifting in PENAL PALIN, SWEAT WAITS, and HIKES HAKES, and both C/S and D/T in CAPED TAPES. the phonetic similarity (or at least possible phonetic similarity) of Z/S, C/S, D/T and pairs of vowels led me pretty quickly to the actual theme, which is that the two words are anagrams of homophones:

  • CAPED TAPES = paced paste
  • PENAL PALIN = plane plain
  • REZIP SPIRE = prize prise
  • SWEAT WAITS = waste waist
  • HIKES HAKES = sheik shake. now, i pronounce “sheik” like chic, but shake is also acceptable, and in fact, the last time i spoke with an actual arab, this word came up (we were discussing sheik mansour, the owner of manchester city football club) and she pronounced it like shake. so.

so what’s the meta answer? making a list of all the five-letter words in the grid, i found SCALE ELLEN ORGAN AWING (TAG UP) ASSES SHINE RUSSO SLEET WRONG TRAIT (ROLL A) EXILE SEXES (DREW U.) FESTS ANTSY ADMIN (SOON I) TONNE ANGST SHAUN URALS RIZZO. i didn’t think it was going to involve one of the two-word responses (even though ROLLA could have been clued as the missouri city). interestingly, ANTSY ANGST satisfies the almost-theme i first noticed, with four letters in common, but not the actual meta. (i will wager a dollar that its presence is no accident.) that honor goes to WRONG ORGAN, whose words are anagrams of “grown groan”.

i liked this meta a lot. subtle, but totally gettable—you just had to think clearly about what the similarities and differences were.

fill roundup:

  • {Splinter group} is SECT. i wanted this to be TMNT.
  • {Page in “Entertainment Weekly”} is ELLEN. tricky tricky.
  • {“She’s Gotta Have It” director} is LEE. ang or spike? we may never know.
  • {So long} is AGES. also tricky! not a farewell.
  • {Person who can ban posters} is a message board ADMIN. (posters as in people who post, in case it wasn’t clear yet.)
  • {Shaped like Mentos} is OBLATE. indeed they are. remember, OBLATE is squished at the poles, like mentos; prolate is squished at the equator (like mike & ikes).
  • {Brown and 2nd Earl Grey, e.g.} aren’t PMS; they’re you.

that’s all for me. what’d you think of this one? how many people fell into the ANTSY ANGST trap?

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28 Responses to MGWCC #190

  1. Scott says:

    I have to admit that I submitted the right answer without actually grokking the full theme.

  2. Mark N says:

    I didn’t work out the rule about the anagrammed homophones! Luckily, I guessed right. Whew.

  3. Cyrano says:

    I actually got WRONG ORGAN but without seeing the whole meta. I just saw the letter differences and knew that was not all there was to it. I opted for WRONG ORGAN over ANTSY ANGST because it “felt” more correct. Anagrams of homophones…didn’t quite get there.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    236 correct answers this week. And 12 SEXES ASSES, most of which I had to fish out of the spam box.

    Joon you owe somebody a dollar as I didn’t notice the ANGST/ANTSY combination (or even that 4 out of 5 entries shared 4 letters) until my new test-solver pointed it out. As you say it doesn’t quite work anyway since CAPED and TAPES share only three, and that two five-letter words would share 4 letters isn’t uncommon anyway.

    76 people sent in ANTSY ANGST, but many expressed that they weren’t feeling very confident about it.

  5. tabstop says:

    Shoulda, but didn’t. I even knew as I was typing it that “four similar letters except when it isn’t” wasn’t going to fly, but I also knew I wasn’t going to spend more time on it. Hooray for finals week.

    I am confused about Mike&Ike. The ones I get are all cylindrical (with rounded top/bottom, which I forget the name for that). Are there some that are more infinity-shaped (which I guess is what you get if you squish in the middle)?

    (EDIT: Or do you mean that the squishing is what gives you the cylinder? I guess I can see that.)

  6. *David* says:

    I did not like this one at all, it really got my goat. As a disclaimer I’m not very good at anagramming. I first spent some time with what appeared to be the letter patterns in the theme fill and the differences in letters for each one. Similar to Joon I could not find any similarities.

    I then went to the anagram solver and threw in the whole theme fill and noticed the homophone relationship for all the theme answers. I then highlighted all the five letter fill and painstakingly went through them trying to find anagrams that were homphones. Nope couldn’t find it and it was time to put each of the five letter fill into the anagram solver again and write down each anagram for each of the five letter fill until voila the answer was revealed. The aha moment and the ultimate solve for me felt forced and perhaps I “cheated” by using the anagram solver but it was a real let down versus a logical progression of discovery that I typically enjoy in the meta solving experience.

  7. Aaron (not the usual) says:

    Do the Right Thing is a Spike Lee Joint

    I knew I hadn’t gotten the significance of the 3 letter overlap for CAPED TAPES and went for the appealing


    Baserunners’s anxiety on a potential sac fly?

    – Aaron

  8. joon says:

    tabstop, i just meant squished relative to a sphere, not all the way to the point of hourglassness. maybe jelly beans would have been a better example.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    *David* I think the quicker way to do it instead of brute force would’ve been to eyeball five-letter pairs that share 3 or 4 letters, since they’d need to in order to anagram to homophones.

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Also solvers had a lot of funny clues for WRONG ORGAN. I’ll write up the 10 or so funniest on Friday.

  11. MM says:

    My though processes where exactly like joon, only literally ten times slower.

    Isn’t the difference between oblate and prolate a matter of orientation? So is the Earth oblate or prolate? What if my Mentos are held vertically?

  12. joon says:

    the earth is oblate, and no, it’s not just a matter of orientation. starting with a sphere, if you squish along one axis and expand along two, you get an oblate spheroid. if you squish along two axes and expand along one, you get a prolate spheroid.

  13. Paul Coulter says:

    I also got the answer right, without really grasping the full reason. Guess I used the WRONG ORGAN, my eyes instead of my ears. Interestingly, I was almost exactly following Joon’s logic until I noticed WAITS crossing RUIZ. I lived in Boston during her notorious “victory” and watched the finish. Nearby in the grid is GREAT, and this seemed to reinforce the letter switch/anagram theme, producing GRETE WAITZ. So I made my word lists, found wrong/organ, and luckily missed spotting antsy/angst. Cheers to Matt for another lovely meta.

  14. Al says:

    I’ve pronounced SHEIK as “shake” since Frank Zappa’s disco era album came out when I was in college, sporting a title that is one of my alltime favorite puns: “Sheik Yerbouti”.

    I was on the ANTSY ANGST path for a few days, but knew there had to be something more. I finally saw the homophone connection yesterday which led me to the right answer.

  15. Dannoz says:

    Like many, I submitted a correct answer without knowing exactly why. It just seemed so write…

  16. ant says:

    I have a question:
    Would it have been more elegant to have the pair located symmetrically in the grid, or would that have made it too easy? Perhaps if similar pairs, such as ANTSY/ANGST, were also symmetrical?
    Did anyone start off looking for symmetrical entries?
    Great puzzle, Matt. Thanks!

  17. Themutman says:

    I liked the puzzle and thought it was fair. Almost discounted wrong organ because others substituted vowels for vowels, consonants for consonants. Then I found the homophone connection and voila!

    Btw Joon, most of us are more familiar with pries than prise. That meta was last month.

  18. Pam says:

    Well, I too, got it without getting it. Missed the homophone stuff completely. 3 for 3 is the best I’ve done in awhile, but it feels a little tainted!

  19. Evad says:

    Themutman, I’m with you and I’ll have a burger with those PRIES.

  20. pannonica says:

    I got the mechanics right away, but initially overlooked that all the components were five letters. Started going through the grid rather methodically, looking for anagrammable entries (four letters and up) that had homophones. Fortunately, ORGAN appeared early on.

  21. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    I dread the day Matt institutes a “show your work” rule.

  22. Old Geezer says:

    Just to clarify, Sheik Yerbouti, while it may have come out in the disco era, was by no means a disco album. Frank was adamant in his opinion of disco. Does that bother you? Well, broken hearts are for …

  23. Howard B says:

    Same here. Did not get the last part of the meta. Got it correct without precisely knowing why it was correct (Especially with that CAPED TAPES anomaly), but it seemed like the only plausible answer given the limitations. To second Bob K., were this an essay meta, I would not have passed this week :).

  24. Judy says:

    Gah…. I answered SEXES EXILE because the vowel pairs were short (e) and long (i), which matched the other two “mixed” pair clues. SWEAT WAITS and REZIP SPIRE… The other 3 clue pairs had both long vowels.

    I knew I was trying too hard to *make* my guess fit and missed the whole anagram thing. Sheesh…..Cool puzzle.

  25. ===Dan says:

    It took me a while to solve even after I grokked the theme. I was looking for SLEET –> STEEL ~STEAL —> LEAST or STALE or something like that.

    It was the title that clued me into the theme. ANTSY-ANGST was a near-anagram pair but it really bothered me that the first theme answer was not close enough. Then I ruminated on “mix and match” which suggested anagrams, and the rest came pretty quickly after that.

  26. I figured this one out after a day of mental struggle, and I honestly couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not–fiendish or frustrating? Hearing from Matt that he was unaware of all the 4-out-of-5s and the ANTSY/ANGST mislead, I’m willing to tip towards fiendish (which is good).

    What finally pushed me into the solution was two things: thinking really hard about the puzzle title “Mix & Match”, and realizing that Matt probably wouldn’t have resorted to using words like REZIP and HAKES without a *really* good reason.

  27. Neal C. says:

    I liked the puzzle. I feared that many would get the right answer without “showing their work” ..anagrammed homonyms. I think Matt should sometimes require us to explain ourselves.

  28. Gareth says:

    I really enjoyed this one. My initial step was the same as yours (Joon’s), and then I looked at the title and started anagramming things and eventually the penny dropped. looking for wrong organ didn’t take long, the two g’s were suspicious enough…

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