MGWCC #198

crossword 4:30
meta 4 days 

greetings, fellow solvers, and welcome to episode 198 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “National Assembly”. this week, matt challenges us to identify a familiar Elton John song. (uh-oh. i’m not familiar with many elton john songs!) what are the theme answers? well, the five long answers in the grid are:

  • {Request for an update} is “ANY WORD YET?”. quite apropos after the events of the ACPT this past weekend, when the identities of the three A finalists seemed to change after every puzzle—and even several times between puzzles!
  • {Where Ostende, Antwerp and Ghent are located} is IN FLANDERS. not a great crossword answer, i think.
  • {Cold quintet} are the NORDIC COUNTRIES.
  • {Once a week, sometimes} clues WEDNESDAYS. i blog the MGWCC once a week, and it’s not usually on WEDNESDAYS, but here we are.
  • {Bill to foil bank robbers} is a MARKED NOTE.

so i solved this crossword on friday before the ACPT, looked at the meta for about 5 minutes, and couldn’t figure it out. i had some misgivings about the instructions due to my general non-upness on elton john songs. (can i admit here that i don’t really like his music?) after a very puzzle-filled weekend, i finally got back to it on tuesday afternoon and the scales fell. considering the title, the central NORDIC COUNTRIES should be a big hint, and it is: there are five nordic countries (as the clue indicates), and four other theme answers, each of which begins with an anagram of one of those countries:


the only one missing is ICELAND, so the meta answer should be an elton john song that begins with an anagram thereof. and lo and behold, one of the—let’s say three—elton john songs i could name does exactly that: CANDLE In the wind. whew.

i was more than a little worried i was going to fail this meta, even though it’s only week 3, both because of the subject matter and the lack of attention i could afford to give it this weekend, but the extra day really helped. (well, that, and the theme actually being geography and anagrams instead of pop music!) having now solved it, i really like the theme. it’s elegant and several of the theme answers are gems. as i mentioned, the one i really dislike is IN FLANDERS. is there any way around this? well, “in flanders fields” is a famous WWI poem by john mccrae, so if it were me making these puzzles, i’d have made that the meta answer (instructions: name a famous war poem), and put CANDLE IN THE WIND into the grid as a 15x to balance NORDIC COUNTRIES (which would probably have to go at the bottom). then you could have WEDNESDAY as a central 9 (no awkward plural necessary) and the matching 10s of ANY WORD YET and MARKED NOTE.

of course, i strongly suspect that elton john songs are way more famous among matt’s solvership than WWI poems, so you can all be grateful it’s him making the puzzles rather than me. :) IN FLANDERS FIELDS itself is too long for the grid (16 letters—darn!). i haven’t done an exhaustive search for other words and phrases beginning with an anagram of FINLAND, but i’m guessing the options will be pretty slim. there aren’t any in the databases, although LANDFILL and FINAL ANSWER come tantalizingly close.


  • {Georgia’s largest newspaper, for short} is AJC, the atlanta journal-constitution.
  • {Rathvon’s cruciverbal partner} is henry COX. nice tribute here.
  • {Part of LEO} is ENF. no idea what this refers to. the only LEO acronym i know is low-earth orbit. edit: evad points out that it’s law ENForcement officer. never seen that abbreviation, but there you go. also, big thanks to evad for filling in for me last week while i was on vacation!
  • {+2, to Tacitus} LXX. this clue flummoxed me until i realized it’s 68-across, and 68+2 = 70.
  • {Letter opening, perhaps} is DEAR DAD. arbitrary, maybe, but fresh. i think i like it.
  • {Light blue avenue, in Monopoly} is ORIENTAL. a mostly innocuous way of cluing this very dated word.
  • {Bobby with 284 home runs} is ABREU, of the phillies, angels, yankees, and probably some other teams since i stopped following baseball. man, he was a stathead’s dream in the early 2000s. so many walks. i’m guessing that non-baseball fans haven’t heard of him, though.

the symmetric full-name 8s JOE PESCI and REDD FOXX are a very nice touch.

that’s all for me. i enjoyed seeing lots of you last weekend, but i hope you found time to look at this interesting puzzle! as for matt, well, see you at lollapuzzoola.

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30 Responses to MGWCC #198

  1. Scott says:

    Three for three in March so far. But I feel we are in for a couple of real tough ones in weeks 4 and 5.

  2. Matthew G. says:

    This must be Confess-the-music-you-don’t-like Day. I’ve have a long thread running on my Facebook page since last night about my bafflement at the appeal of jazz. I like Elton John, though.

    Like Joon, I put the meta aside for days after solving because I was just too busy, but this fell pretty fast once I really looked at it. Week 3 has several times knocked me out in 5-week months, so it was nice not to have that happen this time around.

    I hope to meet more of you at the ACPT next year. I attended this year, but I had to miss two of the puzzles (3 and 4) and most of the socializing because I was constantly on urgent work calls and shuttling across the East River to my office. I did meet one fellow with a MGWCC pen, and I was suitably envious.

  3. Dannoz says:

    I found 3-letter US airport codes in each of the (supposed) theme entries. This led me to Benny and the Jets. Just thought I’d share.

  4. David says:

    Like others, I was way behind this week from ACPT and some other activities, so I picked this back up around 30 minutes ago. At 11:50 EST I saw the 4 anagrams, and with Iceland staring right at me and only a few minutes to go, I thought of ISLAND GIRL. Pretty close to Iceland, yes? Oh well, at least this time I was on the right track…

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    279 right answers this week. I’m on track for a perfect month, too (i.e., a month where each week’s total of correct entries is lower than the previous week’s)

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    The meta was easy enough to do before leaving for ACPT. Thanks, Matt, much appreciated. Joon – I think I saw you at 5th after the first three puzzles. I was rooting for you to pull into the top three, but ah well, you’ll get ’em next year. I’m constantly amazed by what the world-class competitors can do. There’s fast, like us ordinary regulars, but then there’s light speed. We salute you in great awe!

  7. abide says:

    Darn. Not a clue, but I almost submitted LEVON as it was the only 5 letter song I could think of.

  8. Dave Taube says:

    Like Dannoz, I submitted Benny and the Jets, but for a different reason. The first two long answers are aNYwordyet and iNFLanders (NY + NFL = JETS). Anybody else get that?

  9. Gareth says:

    Like Scott, I’m expecting 4 and 5 to be proper cranium-crushers! I must say this was a very nice idea, and considering its constraints well-executed; I’ll take one INFLANDERS-type answer in my stride…

  10. Howard B says:

    Took me a while to come up with the correct song. (Elton John is not a favorite of mine, either, though I respect his work). Should be noted that “Daniel” runs out of letters, coming up only a ‘C’ short of correct.

  11. Matthew G. says:

    From a grid standpoint, I wasn’t bothered at all by the IN FLANDERS entry precisely because of the famous poem beginning with those words. That makes it a thing, even if it wasn’t clued via the poem. However, it made for a bit of a red herring from a meta standpoint, as it made me think this might be one of the metas where we find a missing word (in this case, FIELDS). But I soon noticed the anagrams and correctly concluded that the “IN” in IN FLANDERS had no particular significance.

    Am I the first person ever to type a grammatical sentence in which the word “in” appears thrice consecutively?

  12. Victor Barocas says:

    I like Elton John. With an experience similar to Howard’s, I really wanted “Daniel” (which I like a lot more than “Candle in the Wind”), but to no avail. I also noticed that “Levon” spelled backwards is “novel,” so in his next Elton-John-themed meta, I’m hoping that Matt will have all of his theme entries be famous novels written backwards.

  13. rmac says:

    Count me as another almost-Daniel-submitter. I wonder how many actually did. Seems like that might be a strong candidate for the most popular wrong answer.

    — Russ

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It didn’t take me long to figure out that I needed a song starting with the letters in ICELAND, so I went straight to the Wikipedia page for Elton John’s discography. V. handy!

    Also displeased with IN FLANDERS as an entry. At least it was a huge red flag for “look at this answer when working out the meta.” V. handy!

  15. Jan says:

    Since I just got home from the ACPT last night, in desperation I went with the land of the midnight sun idea, and submitted “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”.

  16. Matt Gaffney says:

    Yeah Amy (and Gareth and Joon) — that’s how I rationalize a sketch entry like IN FLANDERS in a meta like this. Since its dubiousness is so blatant, I can sell it as a meta-hint (i.e. feature) instead of merely a dubious entry (bug)!


    Also there were 19 DANIELs. I have to admit I didn’t even look for alternate answers since I figured it was vanishingly unlikely that another EJ song would begin with the letters ICELAND in some order. But “Daniel” comes within 1 letter of doing it.

  17. Gareth says:

    Confession: I went where Amy went too, but in the end, I didn’t need it…

  18. Joan says:

    Lucky me (for once), not being brilliant, but getting this the easy way. I thought that a National Assembly was the funeral of Lady Di, where this song was played so memorably. Since that was only one of the 3 Elton John songs I could think of, I made the wild stab….after straining my brain for days and not seeing the anagrams.

  19. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    @Matthew G. – It would never occur to me to count the number of appearances of “in” in ” ‘IN’ in IN Flanders.”

    I solved the meta and sent in my answer before catching the bus to Brooklyn on Friday. It’s good to be retired!

  20. Abby says:

    I didn’t see this one when I first did it on my phone, but since I don’t have AirPrint working at the moment, I retyped the entry on my computer to print it out so I could stare and scribble. Got halfway through when I saw the trick. Having recently found all Elton John’s 5.1 releases, I had more titles in my head than I needed. :-)

    If the song title were switched with the center entry- so we had to guess what the theme was- I’m not sure I could’ve got it as easily.

  21. pannonica says:

    To add a smidgen of resonance to IN FLANDERS, there was a few years ago an acclaimed film (which didn’t impress me so much) called In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

    And, joon, you meant to type Emily, not Henry, COX.

  22. Matthew G. says:

    @Bob Kerfuffle: Bravo!

  23. Like Amy, I also went to the Wikipedia article on Elton John discography and found the answer without much trouble. But just to be extra sure, I copy+pasted all of the song names into a text file and write a quick little program to make sure that none of the other songs there began with an anagram of Finland, and indeed there were no others.

  24. rmac says:

    I copy+pasted all of the song names into a text file and write a quick little program to make sure that none of the other songs there began with an anagram of Finland, and indeed there were no others.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who does stuff like this.

    — Russ

  25. bolete says:

    the meta eluded me completely, a major “doh” when i saw it here.
    can’t help but wonder, though, if anybody else was as bugged as i was by the dance at 1-down being the “cha cha”. given that “cha cha cha” is the correct name, it should have been clued as ‘two-thirds of a dance’.

  26. Matt Gaffney says:

    bolete I think it’s good either way:

  27. Joan says:

    Re the movie, IN BRUGES, try it if you want a hysterically funny black comedy, one of my favorites in recent years. I watched it one night and then watched it the next night with friends who also loved it. And it’s hard to do comedy well.

  28. jefe says:

    zomg, I got the meta quicker than joon did?! It’s like people don’t have time for crosswords while they’re doing crosswords anymore.

    Great meeting a few of you this weekend! MatthewG, I hope you win soon!

  29. Dave Taube says:

    Joan, I agree with you. In Bruges was a very good movie.

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