MGWCC #212

crossword 4:43
meta 4:15 

hello, and welcome to episode 212 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Shady Businesses”. this week, matt challenges us to identify a famous ship. here are the six theme answers:

  • {Skedaddled (bid on it)} is TOOK A POWDER.
  • {Interviewer born to North Carolina tobacco farmers (look it up, or just bid on it)} is CHARLIE ROSE.
  • {Doesn’t make the best decision on a used car (bid on it)} clues GETS A LEMON. i’m not convinced of the crossworthiness of this phrase.
  • {2001 Tom Cruise movie (look it up)} is VANILLA SKY. i have no memory of this. what’s it about?
  • {Split water (look it up)} is the ADRIATIC SEA, not because the sea is split in any way but because the city of split, croatia lies on it.
  • {Will Ferrell role (look it up, or just bid on it)} is RON BURGUNDY, from anchorman.

as you can see, each of the theme clues has “look it up” or “bid on it” (or both) in parentheses. that pretty much instantly suggested google and ebay. a glance at the title told me that i was looking for something to do with colors—and indeed, each theme answer’s final word suggests a color:

  • POWDER blue
  • ROSE red
  • LEMON yellow
  • SKY blue (although i spent some time thinking that perhaps this was VANILLA white)
  • SEA green
  • BURGUNDY red

the next step is the coolest, but it didn’t take long to “click” either: each theme answer is giving me a letter based on the colors of each letter in the logo of the corresponding internet company. both ebay and google have iconoc logos where each letter is a different color:

the four ebay colors are unique, so there’s no ambiguity going from a color to a letter from the ebay logo. for google, both blue letters are G, so that’s no problem, but red could be either O or E. that would ordinarily be a problem, but fortunately, ebay comes to the rescue: its E is red, just like google’s E. so there is an unambiguous way to clue E, simply by citing both company names—which is what the clues for CHARLIE ROSE and RON BURGUNDY do. slick, no?

anyway, after all that, the colored letters give you BEAGLE, the name of his majesty’s ship that carried young naturalist charles darwin to the galapagos islands in the 1830s. i’m not sure why the instructions were to name a ship instead of a dog breed, but of course beagle is plenty recognizable as both. perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that we’ve had a meta already whose instructions were to name a dog breed.

although it didn’t take me long to get to the “aha” moments for this meta, look what needed to happen: starting with the idea of turning these two recognizable logos into a color-to-letter cipher, matt needed to come up with a word that uses only the seven letters in those names, and then find six phrases each ending in the right colors, in the right order, with the right lengths to go symmetrically into a grid. after that, it was “only” a matter of filling in the grid around six long theme answers. sure, there are some slightly ugly sections (UES on top of RST stands out), but overall the grid is quite clean. anyway, i’m trying to convey the idea that this puzzle is a remarkable technical achievement. and it’s only week four of five!

fill tidbits:

  • {Where the Seattle Supersonics used to play} is KEY ARENA. way to rub it in, matt. it’s not enough that they had to watch the thunder in the NBA finals?
  • {Jeff’s partner, in a Matt Groening cartoon} is AKBAR. i read somewhere this week that “life is hell” is ending after some decades of publication.
  • {Bakery item} is apparently BEAR CLAW. what this means, i have no idea. some sort of utensil?

that’s all for me. your thoughts?

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46 Responses to MGWCC #212

  1. Mark N says:

    Fun meta, Matt! Found the answer to this quickly too. I felt this was easier than the usual week 4, probably because of the coming week 5. *gulp*

  2. sps says:

    Brilliant meta, which I didn’t get until your equally brilliant post, joon. A bear claw is a delicious type of pastry, I believe.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    103 right answers this week. I predict some tomatoes thrown at Joon since the meta only took him 4 minutes…

    And yes, the reason I went with the ship is that we’d already done a breed of dog recently. Bonus word puzzle found while themestorming: can you name a seven-letter word formed by GOOGLE + another letter and then anagramming? Assume that “Google” itself is not a word for this, so googles/googled/googler/googlee don’t work.

  4. Mark N says:


  5. Myron M. says:

    Spoiler for last week’s “The Week” crossword:

    Both last week’s The Week puzzle and this puzzle have ELKO, the Nevada county, at the exact same spot in the puzzle at 4 Down. Doing one puzzle right after the other was a tiny solving help. Didn’t get the meta.

  6. SHAW says:

    Shoot. I spent the whole time thinking POWDER referred to white. No white letters in those logos. Sigh.

  7. ben says:

    Wow, wasn’t even close. One nit though, Elko seems to be Nevada’s second largest county? (behind Nye – which obviously wouldn’t fit)

  8. abide says:

    Well done Matt–I never made the logo to color leap. Dogpile is my home page which makes the BEAGLE solution sadly ironic.

    Interesting that the colors also fit the Clue game to some shaded degree–Powder (WHITE), Rose (SCARLET) BURGUNDY (PLUM), etc.

    Although the grid strongly suggested a six-letter ship, I submitted PINTA (“the painted one”).

  9. bob says:

    Man, I was so far off on this one I had to read Joon’s blog twice and ponder for another 5 minutes before i figured it out. I might as well not even look at week five.

  10. Danno says:

    Wow, great Meta Matt. I put this down over the weekend and looked at it again this morning, I got the Ebay/Google piece and somehow lucked into Beagle just from the combination of letters in the two words. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good I guess… Looking forward to week 5 of 5 on Friday!

  11. Andrew Greene says:

    I got completely thrown by the fact that the four “look it up” clues had perfectly plausible alternate answers, two of which contained more colors (RED SEA, BOB WHITELY), and the clues that were only “bid on it” didn’t have reasonable alternate answers. I wasn’t sure what to do with THE OTHERS but figured it would relate to POWDER somehow.

    Very nice, Matt.

  12. Peedee says:

    Missed another meta :-(. I had figured it out as far as Ebay and Google, but that’s as far as I got. It doesn’t help matters that I’m color-blind. (I had never noticed the Google letters were differently and consistently colored.)

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I got the meta about as quickly as Joon. Yay, me! I often don’t figure out week 4 metas at all.

    “Vanilla Sky” is the Cruise/Cruz picture, Joon. Penelope costarred. What’s it about? Uh, you got me. Something moody and atmospheric? Maybe with a sci-fi angle?

  14. Gnarbles says:

    I found the colors first and ignored the parenthetical directions which got me to thinking this had to be about country flags. Red and yellow get you Spain, so I thought maybe this is the USS Maine and the color of Cuba’s and The Philippines’ flags would fit with the other colors to link up the Spanish American war and the USS Maine sinking in Havana harbor. As that didn’t work out, I went back and figured out the Google/EBAY link and after googling Ebay to find out what its logo looks like the light bulb came on.

  15. Dan F says:

    Wow – we still get credit for a blind guess, right? No idea where to go, so I picked the first six-letter ship that came to mind.

  16. John says:

    Yeah, didn’t leap to ebay and google “instantly”. In fact, i look stuff up on merriam-webster and wikipedia, not Google so much. I did think of ebay fairly early, but the colors and logo didn’t jump to mind and it seemed a red herring. Finally locked on the jelly-bean nature of the logo itself and it was a short ride to Google’s equally child-like logo and felt like a pirate finding the treasure chest. Very fun meta.

  17. Jim Curran says:

    I got the colors and the Google/Ebay hints but could not put them together. Never tought of the logos. So took a wild stab at PINTA (anagram of PAINT).

  18. Mike says:

    So so tantalizingly close this week. Anyone else notice that “blue red yellow blue green blue” is the color scheme for the Google logo? That’s pretty much where I got stuck. Probably would have gotten it if I’d started the puzzle sooner.

  19. Pete Rimkus says:

    Got the EBay/Google connection, but I wouldn’t have gotten the colors thing if I’d had another week to think about it…
    Maybe next month…sigh…

  20. Charles Montpetit says:

    Amy & Joon: Since you ask (and apparently refuse to Google, strangely enough given this week’s theme–does this involve some sort of crossword solver’s pride?), Vanilla Sky is indeed a science-fiction remake of Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), both of them co-starring Penelope Cruz. It’s about facial reconstruction and… well, feel free to read the rest for yourself at

  21. Wayne says:

    My first thought was that the colors were hinting at maritime signal flags ( which would encode the name of the ship. It didn’t take long to realize that wouldn’t pan out. Then it was a short trip to the correct solution.

    The detour did remind me of one of the more memorable scenes from the second book in Patrick O’Brian’s excellent Aubery/Maturin series:

    [The ballroom] was a fine sight, hung with bunting in the naval way – the signal engage the enemy more closely, among other messages understood by the sailors alone – shining with bees-wax and candlelight, crowded to the doors…

    The fictional Maturin often stands in for the real Darwin in the novels, so my misstep may have helped, after all.

  22. @Mike: Yep, that was actually the first thing I noticed. I’d forgotten about the parenthetical hints in the clues by the time I finished solving and instantly noticed that the last word of each theme answer could be associated with a color (actually I figured that out before I finished solving, which helped me backsolve the POWDER part of 17A).

    Once I got the colors I instantly realized they were of Google’s logo (in order!). Finally re-read the clues and remembered about the “look it up / bid on it” and found the eBay connection in there.

  23. Ken / Cazique says:

    I guess it helps that I got it (finally, last evening) but I thought this was fantastic. “Bid on it” led me straight to eBay – and I think I thought for a moment about trying to match letters in the answer to letters in the logo or something) but for some reason “Look it up” had me hung up on dictionaries. Only when I finally rethought that first instinct (well, 2nd after noticing the colors” did I think of THE GIGANTIC SEARCH ENGINE I USE THOUSANDS OF TIMES A DAY and then immediately hit on the logos.

    Elegant with a tough but gettable a-ha that has the right amount runway before and after. Five stars.

  24. James Schooler says:

    I saw the Ebay and Google references right away, then was distracted by the colors, figured that they represented a rainbow, noticed that violet was missing, went to flowers and noted that violets bloom in April and May, and sent in “Mayflower.” Ugh.

  25. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    I never got the ebay connection, and though I used google a lot the color of the letters went right over my head. But what a bitchen meta. Maybe my favorite ever, even though I did not get it. Well done.

  26. Bananarchy says:

    Figured out most of it right away (the colour pairs, the ebay/google connection, coloured letters, etc.) but got hung up on the vanilla/sky conundrum as well, and completely failed to remember that “powder blue” was a thing until after I took an educated guess at the answer, so I spent a while trying to figure out how “white” played in (the background??). Other than that, I guess this one just worked for me, as it’s the first week 4 I’ve ever gotten! Although it’s not quite a *real* week 4…

  27. Abby says:

    I strayed far afield before circling back to the right answer. That happens a lot if I don’t spend much time on the puzzle Friday because I rarely get back to it until Tuesday morning. I wasted some effort trying to think of two kinds of wordplay for “bid on it” and “look it up”. When it didn’t pan out, I went back to my first (right) guess.

  28. ===Dan says:

    POWDER made me think of the Argo. ( (Any guesses of ARGO?) I also thought of variant theme answers, such as CHARLIE BROWN and VANILLA ICE but got nowhere. There were some interesting hiddens in the theme answers, KAPOW, SALEM, LASKY. And I even considered the possibility that Matt made some fake auctions for us to find by bidding. I just never thought about the colors of the google and ebay logos.

  29. granbaer says:

    Immediately got the colors but nowhere to go with them. eBay and Google finally dawned on me late yesterday, but try as I might I could not go anywhere from there. Even Googled famous pirate ships to go with the “shady businesses” title. Really a great meta, Matt. Just sorry I did not see the light in time.

  30. Patrick says:

    I liked this meta a lot, but I thought SEA was an odd choice for green since referring to the sea as ‘blue’ seems just as common if not more. I wonder why that theme entry couldn’t end with OLIVE or FOREST. I also thought about RED SEA for a long time due to the clue ‘Split water,’ but that was just another RED herring.

  31. joon says:

    patrick, i probably should have made this clearer in my writeup, but the last word of every theme answer is the first word of a two-word color. so POWDER codes for blue because there is a color called powder blue. likewise sea green. i don’t think “sea blue” is a familiar color despite there being many references to the (deep) blue sea.

  32. Dave Taube says:

    Absolutely brilliant, Matt! I was nowhere close. I was thrown off by the theme, “Shady Businesses.” I noticed that the EN from KEYARENA was directly on top of the RON in RONBURGUNDY and thought that ENRON had something to do with the meta, so I spent some time looking for other shady businesses. That’s how lost I was.

  33. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    @Joon – this is a fairly typical Bear Claw pastry. They are yummy. Should be eaten after heating them up in the oven a little while.

    I was thinking for a while of submitting the Victoria. This was the only ship of the group Magellan took out to circumnavigate the world that made it back. Take a look at the colors in the flag that Wikipedia shows with the article about this ship:

    Right down to the burgundy lions.

  34. Paul Coulter says:

    For me, the Google logo part came easily from the colors, and “bid on it” certainly suggested Ebay (not to mention its nautical sounding name,) but I stupidly rejected Ebay since there was no convergence in the two logos’ color orders. Then I obsessed all weekend on getting from simply Google and its own auction site Checkout to a particular ship. There’s the Queen Mary, which you could navigate on Google Earth, later replaced by the Costa Concordia. Then I noticed that the current logo’s color pattern replaces yellow with more of an orangy gold color. Could this be denoting the Golden Hind? I considered that Matt could be doing something tricky like censorship, partnership, or entrepreneurship, all associated with Google. Then I focused on Google Enterprise (USS or Starship, take your pick) because their adware does have a strong connection to bids on keywords. I shifted next to the Doodles, of which there have been logos honoring Jacques Cousteau (Calypso) Jules Verne (Nautilus) and even the Mars Rover. The current doodle contest winner features an unnamed pirate ship. I settled very unsatisfactorily on Titanic, because of the disaster’s anniversary and the viral video playing the theme song on the musical Doodle. By the way, did anyone else notice the two primary color triads (color wheel and optical) – Blue, Red, Yellow & Blue, Green, Red that form the Google logo? At first “blush” I suspected Matt was revisiting the Secondary Colors controversy. Brilliant meta – wish I’d solved it.

  35. Patrick says:

    Joon, I thought I might get some clarity from the Wikipedia entry ‘List of Colors’ but it does list both a Sea Green and a Sea Blue – so I didn’t get the sense that Sea and Green were strongly associated. It also doesn’t list Rose Red, Burgundy Red or even Lemon Yellow. (Powder Blue and Sky Blue are both on the list.) I did get the meta, so it didn’t throw me off. In my own mind I might just chalk it up to Matt being a Beatles fan…

  36. joon says:

    oh, interesting. lemon yellow is definitely a thing, and rose red is … well, she’s snow white’s sister, if not necessarily a color name. (and everybody knows that roses are red and violets are purple.) but “burgundy red” is clearly not really a thing, so … yeah, i guess it’s a mixture of words that are themselves a color and words that modify a color.

    and whatever wikipedia says, to me, “sea green” is a color name and “sea blue” is not.

  37. Neville says:

    Maybe 15 minutes on the meta here. Helped that I learned the Google color order a while back for trivia purposes!

  38. Louis says:

    You’re all wrong. It’s the original Greenpeace ship, The Rainbow Warrior, which was covertly sunk by the French, thus the “shady business.”

    The parenthetical clues are red herrings.

    Right, Matt?

  39. Old Geezer says:

    I learned it …

    Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you.

    Aren’t violets, er, violet? Why or why not? (Never seen one, I believe)

    There was a yellow rose in Texas once. I’ve seen pink, too.

    I remember ‘Lemon yellow’ as one of the colors (or was it flavors?) of TRIX cereal as described by the Rabbit in a commercial or two. The others were ‘Orange orange’ and ‘Raspberry red.’ But alas, he only got some twice, because, “silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.” (here)

  40. Matt Gaffney says:

    I think the kindest way to phrase it is that the last word of each entry suggests a color.

  41. Dannoz says:

    I saw a lot of flowers and figured “Mary Rose (all the theme answers connected to that most elegant of blooms).” I am glad that others rose to the occasion. I wilted.

  42. CY Hollander says:

    For what Wikipedia is worth, I’d like to note that despite its self-describedly “comprehensive” List of colors (which is indeed extremely comprehensive), it contains an article for Sea green but none for Sea blue. Even the List of colors has but a single entry for “sea blue” and 6 for (various shades of) “sea green”. Finally, “beautiful sea-green eyes” are a thing. Just sayin’.

    Speaking of lists of colors, I can’t forgo the opportunity to link to my favorite such list: the one compiled by by displaying randomly generated colors to myriads of people and statistically tabulating their names for them. A really amazing testament to the wisdom of crowds, it’s also the only color chart I’ve ever seen with a convincing representation for the shade “vomit”. In regard to the subject at hand, it recognizes 4 shades of “sea green” (plain, “dark”, “light”, and “bright”) and 2 of “sea blue” (plain and “deep”).

    @Andrew Greene: I was also thrown for a while by the Red Sea, which intriguingly made a perfect alternative answer for “Split waters” and contained a color as well. Alas it turned out to be a Red herring.

  43. Donna k says:

    Way over my head. I wonder if I’ll ever get over week one.

  44. pgw says:

    The way I think of the “rule” that drives this theme is that each theme entry ends in a word that is a *shade* of some primary/secondary color – some are called by the two word phrase [shade] [color] (e.g. powder blue) and others are standalones (e.g. burgundy.) That fits nicely with the puzzle’s title.

    As for the sea green/sea blue debate, I totally overlooked VANILLA SKY when I was solving the meta, but – the HMS Beagle being a far more famous ship than either of the two USS Beales – I engineered a whole rationale for SEA representing blue-green and thus supplying both the G and the L. According to Wikipedia, sea green is a shade of cyan, which is equal parts blue and green, etc. etc. … A few minutes after submitting this tedious explanation to Matt I realized I’d overlooked one of the theme answers and way overthought things. Happily it landed me in the right place anyhow.

  45. Wayne says:

    How many times can I be expected to sit here hitting “Reload”?
    A: All afternoon.

  46. rmac says:

    @Wayne: Me too!

    — Russ

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