MGWCC #193

crossword 3:31
puzzle about 30 minutes while watching jeremy lin 

good evening and welcome to the 193rd episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “In Short Order”. this week, matt asks us to identify a familiar city in the Midwest; it’s what the 5th theme entry must be. okay, well, what are the first 4 theme answers?

  • {1st is a famous music show, so it must be…} SOUL TRAIN.
  • {2nd is a U.S. state, so it must be…} NORTH DAKOTA.
  • {3rd is a Woody Allen movie, so it must be…} RADIO DAYS. not a movie i know.
  • {4th is one of the main solvers profiled in “Wordplay,” so it must be…} TYLER HINMAN.

you see the pattern? i didn’t either; i mostly solved this one by vaguely thinking about it while watching linsanity on friday night. i think my early attempts involved looking for the letters of “order” or maybe “short”, which are kind of almost found in RADIO DAYS and NORTH DAKOTA, respectively. but obviously not really. i did think that there had to be some important reason he’d given us the order of the theme answers (instead of, say, just positioning them in the grid as all across answers in sequence).

eventually i just kind of stumbled upon this one—i was looking at the initials of the answers and found ST, ND, RD, and TH. boom: ordinal numbers. firST, secoND, thiRD, fourTH. or (they’re right there in theme clues!) 1ST, 2ND, 3RD, 4TH. interesting that NORTH DAKOTA’s “ND”ness is pulling theme duty for the second time in two months.

so anyway, what’s the answer? well, just like 4th, 5th is a TH, so we’re looking for a city in the midwest with those initials. it came to me pretty quickly: terre haute, indiana. is that the only one? i have no idea. but i’m guessing it’s the biggest.

when i sent my answer to matt, i predicted (foolishly, as it turns out) that fewer than 100 people would get this right (including mr. 26-down). well, shows what i know. i’ve never been so convinced that an easy (or at least medium) meta was actually tough. the title didn’t help me at all, although in retrospect it’s quite elegant (the initials are the letters in the “short” ordinal form included in each theme clue).

odds & ends:

  • {#8-rated men’s tennis player in the world (and highest-rated American) ___ Fish} is MARDY. hooray for the USA’s upset win over switzerland in the davis cup! you know, brad wilber and i were talking a few months back (when fish cracked into the top 10 and passed andy roddick as the top american) when his oddly-spelled first name might gain grid cred. well, matt has never been afraid to include tennis references in his puzzles, so here we are.
  • {Marcia and Johnnie’s judge, in a 1995 case} is … well, the answer in the grid is ITO, but surely this is an error. it should be LANCE, right?
  • {___ Juice (smoothie chain)} JAMBA. mmm, yes. i used to be addicted to this stuff when i was in grad school. they don’t seem to have a location in cambridge or somerville; apparently BU and northeastern have them, though.
  • {Where Will Shortz is the “Puzzlemaster”} is NPR, fittingly nestled under RADIO DAYS.
  • {Woman’s name that means “honey bee” in Greek} is MELISSA. i did not know that, but it’s a cool etymology.
  • {He wrote “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know”} is LAO TZU. i know, right? or maybe i didn’t know, because i’m saying. that’s all i’m saying. you know?
  • {Text, for short} is a cluing avenue i haven’t seen before for MSG.
  • {___ Purchase (Tucson is there)} is GADSDEN. i didn’t realize that this term was still used in the present tense to refer to that region now, but it seems to be. weird, right? i mean, you wouldn’t say “oh, the louisiana purchase? omaha is there.”
  • {Website known for its funny political videos} is JIBJAB. never heard of this, but “funny political videos”? i’m skeptical. i guess the daily show is often funny, but every time somebody posts a “funny” political video/link/meme on facebook, it makes me want to gouge my eyes out.
  • {Technical and slightly boring, like Karpov’s chess} is DRY. you don’t say… zzz…

okay, that’s all for me. what’d you all think of this one? and how did so many of you solve it?

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22 Responses to MGWCC #193

  1. Eric Maddy says:

    I jokingly submitted “Two Harbors, MN”, although I included Terre Haute in the body of my entry. The “IN” in the puzzle title was supposed to be an indicator as well (Indiana).

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Honestly, the first thing that came to mind was Turpin Hills, Ohio, near Cincinnati, where my college girlfriend was from. I’m wondering if Matt received a variety on this, too, since Terre Haute is 10 letters, but Turpin Hills and I’m sure other T. H. cities with either 9 or 11 letters arguably work better for the meta. It all depends on what’s “familiar” to you, I suppose. Naturally, I entered Terre Haute, since this was the only sizeable Midwestern municipality I could find. So Turpin Hills, or whatever your particular pleasure, will have to be the sixTH.

  3. Scott says:

    I can’t believe I missed this one. It seems so obvious now. I got hung up on short vowel sounds versus long vowel sounds and sent in GREEN BAY. Meta-fail!

  4. Mark N says:

    I thought it was tougher meta than usual for a Week 2, but it came to me on the third day. It made for a good Eureka moment.

  5. Ken / Cazique says:

    I got this right away (from working out SOUL TRAIN in my head, noticing the “st”, and length-checking NORTH DAKOTA) but I don’t think this is an easy meta *at all* – not super hard either but if you don’t cotton to it, I could see it being maddeningly opaque. Week 3ish, at least.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    252 right answers this week. 20-a should definitely have been Clark & Cochran instead of Marcia & Johnnie. And sure, I’d take TWO HARBORS or TURPIN HILLS, but no one submitted them (except Eric on Two Harbors).

  7. Matthew G. says:

    Well, I for one thought this was easier than Week 1, in that I was sure I had the right answer once I guessed it (last week I considered, and rejected as too much of a reach, the right answer).

    After puzzling over this meta for about ten minutes, I got out a map and started writing down notable two-word Midwestern cities. Purely by coincidence, the very first one I jotted down was TERRE HAUTE, although it was another ten minutes (and a dozen scribbled city names) later before the meta suddenly clicked and I realized the first city on my list was the answer.

  8. Karen says:

    Nary a clue from me this week. I considered guessing, likely with Des Moines, but I’m glad I didn’t. Fair but tough.

  9. pannonica says:

    I saw the meta, but lost the plot halfway through, distracted.

    With ST, ND, RD, TH written down, I then focussed on the ends of words and sent in DULUTH. Was also briefly distracted by ST(a)ND(a)RD.

  10. Paul Coulter says:

    Joon – the meta was easy for me, because the first thing I usually do after writing down the theme answers is to write the initials beside them, checking to see if they spell out or anagram to something. I also check the theme clues’ wording, and since they already contained ordinals, it was straightforward to see the connection.

  11. Howard B says:

    Searching for the meta-answer this week went something like, {Nope, no, dead end, no idea, maybe-no, AHA!}. One of those where the light bulb suddenly goes on or just stays dark. So I got it, but I’m usually about 50% on these, which is less than Jeremy Lin’s overall shooting percentage, and way higher than mine even when standing in front of the rim.

  12. Did not see it this week. First time in I’ve missed two puzzles in a month since I started solving >_<.

  13. Abby says:

    This was one where I stepped away from it and then realized the answer when I ran through the theme words in my mind. Getting from TH to Terre Haute is easy here (we’re not too far away), but I did wonder if there was a better answer. Figured not, since nothing obvious occurred to me.

  14. Gareth says:

    My initial thought was this was gonna have something to do with short order cooks’ lingo… One of those themes that was utterly inscrutable til you spot it (after +-30min) and then you wonder how come you didn’t see it immediately!

  15. Mike M says:

    “{Woman’s name that means “honey bee” in Greek} is MELISSA. i did not know that, but it’s a cool etymology.”

    Also a cool entomology? :)

    Which reminds me of this:

  16. jane lewis says:

    radio days is one of my favorite woody allen movies. it’s about a young boy growing up in the ’30’s and his memories of them and how what was on the radio affected him. julie kavner plays the boy’s mother so it’s very hard not to think that marge simpson is in the movie.

  17. rmac says:

    The word “order” in the title was what got me thinking in the right direction. Terre Haute came to me right away, but I misspelled it “Terra Haute” in my email to Matt. I’m gonna assume that he is lenient with regard to stupid stuff like that.

    — Russ

  18. Matt Gaffney says:

    Yeah Russ — you’re on terra firma with TERRA HAUTE.

  19. Joan says:

    I couldn’t get Indianapolis out of my head (because of the Super Bowl) but couldn’t make it work. In a fit of desperation, I thought it “must be” Detroit which had hosted the Bowl once to Indianapolis’ twice and was shorter (in letters). Woe is me! This seemed much harder than last week’s.

  20. granbaer says:

    I thought about this one day and night and could not get a grip on it. I, too, thought it must have something to do with short order cook language. Also, my brain just locked in on St. Louis because I used to live there! Well, this is only my fourth puzzle and I DID get the YAHOO! meta. Will keep trying. Keeps the old brain from petrifying!

  21. I’m curious why the grid had such an unusually high word count (80), given that the only constraints were the 4 theme answers (which could also have been other possible answers).

  22. Elaine says:

    Our son was very attracted to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, but U of Evansville came up with the scholarship $….the students at RHIT referred to the city as ‘Terrible Hole.’ It’s def out there in the corn…

    Well, I got absolutely nowhere with this meta, but that is usual for me, alas. –I solve the puzzle, and then it just sits there. Add that the mother-in-law contrived to fall and break her arm–no small incident at age 87–and you can tell I had other stuff going on. So, we’re wearing a path back and forth, trying to oversee things.

    I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up when I managed to solve last week’s puzzle!

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