MGWCC #208

crossword 6:34
meta 3 days 

hello and welcome to episode #208 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Lost Island”. this week, matt asks us to name a famous one-named person. this was a tough puzzle with a tough meta. since i’d never missed two in a row, i was particularly keen to get back on the horse after falling last week.

so, the theme answers: well, there was only one overt theme answer, the central 15: {How to solve the meta} is FIND SEVEN B-WORDS. there are only three B-WORDS in the grid (BROKE, BOSTON, BOBA FETT), but a quick scan of the clues reveals these seven that start with B:

  • {“Bali ___”} HAI.
  • {Blarney Stone conferral} GIFT OF GAB.
  • {Bruschetta ingredient} TOMATO.
  • {Brahmin’s city} BOSTON.
  • And this is good old Boston,
    Home of the bean and the cod,
    Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
    And the Cabots talk only to God.

  • {Baghdad area} GREEN ZONE.
  • {Bibi’s party} LIKUD. bibi, of course, being israeli statesman benjamin netanyahu.
  • {Baha’i tenet} UNITY.

soon after finding them, i was certain that these 7 were the ones i was looking for. why? two reasons:

  1. there are no other b-words in any of the clues, not just at the beginning. edit: well, this turns out to not be true at all, as pointed out by many in the comments box. oops!
  2. other than HAI at 1a, the B-WORDS occupy symmetric spots in the grid, including the two longest answers (other than FIND SEVEN B-WORDS itself).

so, that part took about 5 minutes. the “3 days” part was … what the hell do i do with these seven clues and answers? eventually i decided that the clues, rather than the answers, were the important part. it looked like the answers had been pretty carefully chosen to be symmetric. now, i still didn’t know what to do with the clues. i tried looking at the second word in each clue (stone, ingredient, city, area, party, tenet, and i guess HAI), but that went nowhere. i tried looking at the last letter. i tried looking at the letters other than B in the first word. none of that went anywhere. i also noticed that bali HAI was just “baha’i'” with two letters inserted… but that didn’t seem to go anywhere either.

early on i had noticed that bali is an island, and the title (“lost island”) suggested that maybe i do something with that. but none of the other B-WORDS contained islands. nevertheless, i eventually came back to that and noticed the following:

  • Bali is an island of Indonesia.
  • the Blarney Stone is, of course, in Ireland, which is also an island.
  • Bruschetta is an Italian food.
  • Brahmins can also refer to a caste of India.
  • Baghdad, of course, is in Iraq.
  • Bibi, as mentioned already, is an Israeli statesman.
  • Baha’i is a religion of Iran.

well, now… that cannot be a coincidence. seven references to countries, and they all start with i? in fact, that is all of the world’s nations starting with i, except for one. the “lost i-land”, if you will, is iceland (also actually an island). is there a famous one-named icelandic person? why yes, the singer BJÖRK. and yes, this is another B-WORD reference to an I-LAND. nice!

i’m out of time, but i’m relieved that i finally got this, and i’m very impressed by the intricacy and elegance of this meta. no time to discuss favorite clues and answers from the fill, but chime in with yours in the comments.

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32 Responses to MGWCC #208

  1. Mark N says:

    May 2012 goes up as one of my favorite months of MGWCC metas. Week 4’s “Lost Island” features a very clever, threefold hint of a title.
    1. The crossword involves 8 countries whose names begin with the letter I. Or 8 “I-lands”.
    2. The missing (“lost”) 8th country is an actual island.
    3. In plain sight, the name of the missing country is given – Island – as spelled in its native language.

  2. Andrew Greene says:


  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    71 right answers this week. The most popular guesses were BONO (23) and BEYONCE (16).

    PS — hey thanks, Mark!

  4. Giovanni P. says:

    Oh wow, I got this one without completely understanding it:

    I focused more on the grid rather than the clues, And I noticed that there were only six words/entries that contained the letter B. So I assumed we were looking for a seventh word with a B to complete the set, and Bjork leapt to mind. I knew I was way off on that one.

    In fairness, I sort of connected Island with “Iceland” to bolster my argument that it was BJORK in my mind.

    Another cute thing: The clue for EDU has “Brown” in it…which happens to be in Rhode Island. Perhaps it does have a symmetric answer in a way.

    Apologies Matt–the correct method is actually really nice, with a thematic answer to boot.

  5. Mark N says:

    Just a correction to Joon. There are other B-words in the clues. ballplayer, barker, Bush and bounty. But only 7 clues where the first word begins with a B.

  6. Al says:

    Wow, what a great meta. I always seem to whiff on metas that are clue based rather than grid based. I spent way too much time looking at EDU as the symmetric partner of HAI. Just to contribute to the silly guesses discussion, I sent in DONOVAN as a complete shot in the dark, thinking Lost Island might refer to Atlantis. Congrats to those who went 4 for 4 in May, I imagine it will be a small number.

  7. Yossi Fendel says:

    I thought the “Lost” island was also a reference to MG #198, where this was the only missing Nordic country.

  8. Paul Coulter says:

    Great meta. Stumped again. But Joon, it’s not true that there are no other B words in the clues. One of the first things I did was make a list, and they include ballplayer at 23A, barker at 43A, Bush at 27D, bounty at 41D, and www at 71A, before Matt changed it to carleton, which I see now is significant, because he probably considered it a first word of the clue. No complaints, since it’s fair in a week 4 to make us notice that seven of them are openers, but it might have been better if he had in fact avoided other b words in the clues.

  9. Dave C says:

    Yes!! After not even getting close on last week’s meta, I nailed this one, and fairly quickly. I wasn’t 100% sure when I submitted my answer though – I was a teeny bit concerned about Bush, and I flashed on Ivory Coast as another I country. I believe the formal name may be Cote D’Ivorie, so it begins with a C. Ironically, I tried to do something with countries last week, but to less than no avail (Highlander-Scotland-Japan, Lusophone-Brazil-Portugal). Turns out I was one week early in examining countries. 3 for 4 this month….

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Paul — I thought it’d be better to leave a few b-words scattered randomly in the clues since there were only so many places to FIND SEVEN B WORDS anyway, so why not add one more thin layer to it.

    You’re right about the Brown/Carleton clue. Amy suggested we change it from Brown since it could be argued that the b in brown is the beginning of the clue — well, not argued persuasively, but why not just go ahead when it’s so easy to change it to a non-B-school. So I chose Amy’s alma mater as a hat tip to her for pointing it out. I meant to have the clue changed in the PuzzleSocial version, too, must have been a lapse on my part.

  11. John says:

    i got this one yesterday after looking at the puzzle many times over the weekend. i missed some of the clever nuances that Joon pointed out (I-land), but the “get” was solid and a sweet ‘aha’ moment. It was a very good May, even if i didn’t get all of them. Thanks for the weekly sprinkling of magic, Matt.

  12. oeuftete says:

    I got sidetracked on words in the grid that could become B-words: URN to BURN, for example. BEDS, BRIGHT, BLOWERS, BRANT … and then maybe (Eric) BANA … and then the ONE from PRETTYONE to BONE? Just looking at a bunch of filled grids I had on hand, the number of entries that could take an initial B seemed to be too high to be coincidence. But it was. (Or was it a misdirection?)

    Three meta whiffs in a row!

  13. jefe says:

    Argh, picked out those 7* B-words immediately, but got stuck there. I think I’d even done an “I-countries” quiz on Sporcle recently. So close to making the connection!

    joon’s statement that there are no other B’s in the clues is incorrect – there are 4 clues with B as the first letter of a non-leading word, and 4 other clues with B’s: Phoenix ballplayer, Hollywood barker, Cabinet member under Bush, Star Wars bounty hunter, December decoration, Copy chiefs: abbr., Cyberspace, and Kind of public transportation.

    *In the facebook app, the clue opposite [Bali __] was [www.brown.__], but it was [www.carleton.__] on the mgwcc page, which threw me, as I couldn’t tell if the asymmetry was relevant or not.

    (Edit: I see I’ve been ninja’d regarding the above two points. Guess I should’ve refreshed the page before commenting.)

    Great puzzle, and ready to start fresh in June!

    Also, I really loved the clue for Taft [He was large and in charge].

  14. Paul Coulter says:

    oeuftete – I also tried your list, along with herb and Ahab at the other end, then reduced it to seven by taking out the proper nouns, but nothing worked from there. Another list was bun, bight, brash, byes, etc. by changing the initial letters to B. I thought I might have something with George Carlin’s famous list of 7, but alas, they’re not all b words. Also, I thought the four long entries might translate – informant to blabbermouth, pretty one to belle or beauty, Green Zone to bastion or maybe bosk or bush, and gift of gab to blather, then along with the 3 actual B entries… ah well. Another enjoyable weekend Bit By Bit Badly Blown Beyond Boundaries.

  15. Tyler says:

    Wow, I wasn’t even close. There were exactly seven answers that contained at least one B. Nasty coincidence, if you ask me. I looked at the clues, but discarded that idea when I saw other B-words in them.

    Well, I was bound to return to my mean of crappiness eventually.

  16. Lance says:

    It is so obvious when they click for you and so frustrating when they don’t. I could never settle on which b words to use and was convinced that I was missing something that was too cleverly hidden for me to detect…nope, they were right where I had checked…fail

  17. ===Dan says:

    If “Lost Island” were “Long Island” then “ST” would be “NG.” If it’s “no good” then you should take it out, and if you remove ST from BOSTON you get BOON, which anagrams to BONO (my futile submission).

    I also found that taking the last letters of the answers to the B-word clues, you get IBONEDY. The NEDY hinted tauntingly at KENNEDY (90’s MTV person).

    The island on Lost apparently never had a name, but there’s another island on that show called HYDRA, and that’s the one-word name of a wrestler, according to Wikipedia’s immense list of one-word stage names.

  18. Erik says:

    this is one of the weeks where i got it wrong and i’m still happy about it. so cool.

  19. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    @oeuftete and @Paul Coulter – As another (and eventual failure) who tried looking for “words in the grid that become other words with the addition of a B”, I will note that there is a seventh possibility, 32 A, AHA, which yields the BAHA MEN of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” fame. So much for barking up the wrong tree.

  20. Gareth says:

    Cool! I got as far as the seven clues with the Bs in… If I had guessed it would have been BONO. I’m sure I’m not the only one who went down the dead-end of Oahu being somehow a part of the theme: as in the island where Lost was filmed…

  21. Donimo says:

    Was no one else caught up on the entries being almost, but not quite, symmetric? That made me decide the answer was either related to HAI or EDU. I was guessing that the 1 across entry was an “island” since it had no pair. And since Bali Ha’i is actually an island in South Pacific, I focused there.

    The person who sang the song was Bloody Mary. I really didn’t like that she actually went by two names, but decided maybe it was being considered as one name “Mary” and an adjective. The Bloody also made it a B, so I went with Bloody Mary.

    Guess I should have known a week 4 would be more involved.

  22. Ale says:

    I sent in FONZ (who I know is not a “person” but a “character.”) Anyway, did anyone else see this when they stacked the seven answers to the B clues? —

    h a i
    g i f t o F g a g
    t o m a t O
    b o s t o N
    g r e e n Z o n e
    l i k u d
    u n i t y

  23. J. T. Williams says:

    So glad I’m not the only one who drew the “lost” B’s into the grid to get BURN, et al! Yes, Donimo, I definitely got caught up in the perfect symmetry but for Bali Hai of the entries. Better yet, I had forgotten about Indonesia, so I decided that the answer must have something to do with how Bali Hai was connected to Iceland. Try Googling that combination and see what you get! I wasn’t completely satisfied with that connection, so I eventually had the idea that maybe there was another I-land I was forgetting, and then everything fell into place perfectly.

  24. joon says:

    wow, don’t know how i missed ballplayer, bush, et al. in my (obviously) perfunctory scan of the clue list. sorry about that, everyone.

  25. Abby says:

    I finally went back to my first guess, Madonna, as in because I got hung up there on the symmetry of the B clues. I didn’t like it because you’d be hard pressed to find it if you didn’t know it, but it didn’t seem totally far out.

    I probably should’ve got this one, but don’t feel too bad because I’m already out for the month. :-( I hate it when it’s in the clues, but at least I found the right ones…

  26. Howard B says:

    Found the 7 B clues, got the words in question, and did not know what to do with them from there. Never got the chance to go back to re-examine them this week.
    Nicely done.

  27. I scanned the clues for leading Bs — more than once! — and it never added up to seven for me. Why, I don’t know. Had I not botched that, though, I still doubt that I would have figured out the I-countries connection. Guessed BONO, hoping that it might be some sort of wordplay involving ONO.

    (I also couldn’t help thinking “Lost Island” and “find 7” were pointing me toward Gilligan’s Island.)

  28. abide says:

    Almost fell into this …the last letters of the themed clues anagrams to BEYOND I….which signals J….and since it starts with B…that’s BJORK.

    But in the end I submitted MADONNA….found in the 7 themed entries in a clockwise pattern.

  29. Colin says:

    I lost a lot of time to the near-symmetry too, but the very first time I tried pronouncing the title like a cryptic (which doomed me last week) as “Lost I land,” I had it.

    To me that’s the mark of great clue—a totally plausible alternative that almost works, but once you *really* figure it out, you know.

    Of course, this is only about the 2nd or 3rd week-4 I’ve gotten, in a year and a half of doing these, so *obviously* this is more brilliant than all the ones I missed…

  30. J. T. Williams says:

    I abolutely agree with you Colin about the mark of a great clue, although I would say it’s the mark of a great meta. Very very very few times indeed (in my opinion) has there been a situation with one of Matt’s metas where the correct solution doesn’t have that absolute “click” once you get it.

  31. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    Well, believe it or not I have never heard of Bjork. I never made the I-connections. But I did get that 7 B-words that Joon listed had to be the ones we were looking for. From there I started trying to spell the names of famous people using one letter each from all 7 B-words. I was able to spell Ashanti thus:


    Like many others, I was hung-up on the asymmetry of HAI in the grid. So I focused on finding a link using Bali, because I was already focusing on using clues rather than fill. Ashanti vacationed in Bali. It felt weak, though, as a link, and did not seem to go with the title, so I sat on it. Then I simply forgot to submit. Ah well. That broke my streak in May. Nice Meta.

  32. Elaine says:

    I found so many B clues that I gave up on that aspect, which was of course the wrong thing to do. No matter; I’ve never heard of BJORK. So we’re even.

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