MGWCC #213

crossword 3:59 (across lite)
meta 1 day 

hello, and welcome to episode 213 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Special Occasion”. sorry i’m late getting this post up—i totally spaced out about blogging it until just now. anyway, this week, matt challenges us to identify an event. this week’s grid is unusual in that it has left-right symmetry instead of the usual rotational symmetry, and there’s no obvious theme answer, except that there’s a 15 going across, PRESENT THE RINGS. based on that entry alone, plus the instructions and the timing of the puzzle, i was thinking the answer would be the olympics, but i didn’t really know why. the other long answers in the puzzle, ENTABLATURE and ENHANCEMENT, didn’t seem to have anything to do with the olympics (unless you count illegal performance ENHANCEMENT through chemistry, hardly part of the olympic ideal). the second-longest across, STARING AT, curiously has RING in it, but i didn’t see any others.

when i came back to look at the puzzle again the next day, i thought about the olympic rings again and decided to try to look for them in the grid. that’s when i noticed LEMON and HOLLY near the bottom of the grid where the yellow and green rings might be, and i was feeling increasingly sure of my answer. i started looking for other colors in the grid, and surely EBONY at 25a was part of it, too, and ROSE at 27a. (hey, didn’t ROSE code for red in last week’s MGWCC?) i was much less happy with FLOE at 22a, but i thought… well, this can’t all be coincidence that there are these five colors (if you think of a FLOE as blue) in the five right places in the grid, corresponding to the five colored olympic rings. but i was still missing that “aha”.

eventually i saw it: the rings in question are the five O’s in the grid (the only ones), symmetrically placed in the pattern of the olympic rings. each of those O’s is at an intersection of two entries that both have the appropriate color:

  • the blue ring is where FLOE crosses OCEAN.
  • the black ring is EBONY/OIL.
  • the red ring is ROSE/ORANG. did i know that an ORANG(utan) was red? no. honestly, i probably would have guessed it was orange, because of the letter similarity (even though i know they are etymologically unrelated—orange comes from arabic naranj, whereas ORANG is the malay word for … i can’t remember, even though i definitely saw it in a crossword clue some time last weekend. maybe “hairy man”? something like that.).
  • the yellow ring is LEMON and ODIE.
  • the green ring is HOLLY and OKRA.

so there you have it: the five rings symbolizing the olympics, which are due to occur next month in london.

on its own, this is an excellent meta. i have to admit my enjoyment of it was diminished somewhat because last week’s ingenious meta also hinged on colors, and for that matter, the specific colors of elements in iconic logos. i think i would have liked to see this one in july to give it a little more separation from such a similar idea, but as it happens, matt has good reason for not pushing it back to july, which i’m sure we’ll all be finding out about soon.

your thoughts?

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63 Responses to MGWCC #213

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    I suspect the major difficulty for many of us was searching for deeper (nonexistant) levels. The main one I looked for was the still rings event, due to the presence of a gymnast, Kerri Strug. Alas, no. But the construction was very good, especially getting two color coded words for each O. Matt has to work within large constraints of course, but unfortunately he used Lemon Yellow and Rose Red in consecutive weeks. Too bad the Olympics aren’t in Paris this year, since the grid shape reminds me of the Eiffel Tower. There’s sort of an (unintentional?) nod to London in tea leaf, which is rhyming slang for thief. From the unusual symmetry and the mention of origami, I initially suspected we might have to fold the finished grid Mad Magazine style. Joon, orang utan means man of the forest in Malay.

  2. Mark N says:

    Hi. I sent in THE OLYMPICS too after finding the 5 Olympic rings/O’s in the proper positions and colors. I thought the title’s initials might allude to “Summer Olympics”.

    ROSE appears in the exact same position in the grid as last week, and also to clue the color red! LEMON reappears too, for yellow.

    I thought ORANG was a reference to redheads (though that is a different meaning of red).

  3. cheryl says:

    The grid holds the shape of the Olympic torch, with “oil” in the center

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    192 right answers this week. Anything with “Olympic” or “Olympics” was counted as correct (Olympic Games, Olympic Torch Ceremony, even Special Olympics).

    I have to apologize for two stupid oversights in the puzzle that led several (I hope it’s just “several” and not “a ton of”) solvers on a wild goose chase: first, I had the word “Olympic” in the clue for STRUG, and then I asked for an “event” in the contest instructions, which sent several/a ton of solvers off looking for a specific Olympic event that wasn’t there.

    That shouldn’t happen, and if you were one of the people who wasted time looking for that implied deeper level then I truly apologize to you. I’m rating my own puzzle on Crossword Fiend for the first time (2 stars) since I’m so disgusted by the idea that a bunch of people took this route; it’s not that you “overthought” the meta, it’s that I underthought it, especially since spotting the rings alone is not as tough as a week 5 usually is, so it’d be natural to think there’s another layer.

    Ugh. Sorry, sorry, sorry! There are a lot of moving parts to these things and one misstep can send the whole contraption flying. But again, this shouldn’t happen.

  5. I *almost* ruled out the Olympics after seeing the STRUG clue but decided it was a more worthwhile guess than anything else I could come up with. My first correctly guessed answer where I didn’t grok it!

    I went with the Olympics based purely on the RINGS in the long across, that it is an “event”, and that the Special Olympics are a thing. Totally missed the 5 O’s and the colors.

  6. Christopher Jablonski says:

    I agree with Paul that looking for a deeper answer after finding the Olympics rings probably threw a lot of people. I just couldn’t convince myself that the answer could be that straightforward. Two days of agonizing later, I submitted the correct response, at least.

  7. Howard B says:

    I was going to guess the Olympics, but didn’t have any basis to do so other than the loose RINGs in the grid, so I withheld.

    The O’s are ingenious, but the color meta was just too visually loose, so I would not have completely related it (ORANG, ODIE, etc). Even if I’d seen that, I would not have had the ‘aha’ feeling that a meta solve usually brings. So no shame here. Just was not my week, and that’s fine. Too bad though, since I was 4-for-4 going into this week.

    @cheryl: Hey, that’s great!!! I always need people to point out those visual tricks. I rarely see them, for whatever reason my mind works. Thanks!

  8. Pam says:

    I went more specific . . . the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, because of the torch in the puzzle’s lower portion and that’s when the torch lights the Olympic flame..

  9. Dan Seidman says:

    There were three reasons I thought there was more to the puzzle:
    1) It was way too obvious for a week 5
    2) The pattern of the 5 rings clearly indicated the Olympics, so there was no need to discover the color matching (which was very clever)
    3) It asked for an event, and the Olympics is a collection of events

    I guessed decathlon, since there were 10 words indicating the colors.

  10. Dave says:

    Nice job Matt. I got this quickly because I recalled Patrick Berry’s awe inspiring meta in the NYT last October. The O letters represented the pips on the side of a die. They revealed the order in which the puzzles must be sequenced to reveal a quote from Caesar.

  11. David says:

    My guess was the Olympic Opening Ceremony. I didn’t notice the Os. but I thought the middle third of the grid was intentionally shaped to look like sort of like a lit torch (the T is the base and the above black squares in columns 4-12 represent the outer and inner flames). That combined with PRESENTTHERINGS, led to my guess of the final torch lighting that takes place at the opening ceremony.

    In hindsight, I must have been staring at the grid for too long; eventually my mind twisted the black squares into the shape that I wanted to see.

  12. John says:

    Hmm, i thought ‘presenting the rings’ took a further refinement of the answer and sent Olympic Opening Ceremony, an event at the games. I also thought, as cheryl, that the grid resembled the lighting of the torch. The beauty of the exact placement of the “o”s and the matching of the colors is a great testament to Matt’s puzzle genius though. You shouldn’t take this too hard. Most people got it – or something close enough.

  13. rmac says:

    In hindsight, I must have been staring at the grid for too long; eventually my mind twisted the black squares into the shape that I wanted to see.

    You’re not the only one. I managed to see the St. Louis arch (gateway to the West) at the bottom of the puzzle, and sure enough, there was WESTS inside of it. So, summer olympics of 1904! Fortunately, I did all this after having already submitted just THE OLYMPIC GAMES.

    — Russ

  14. James Schooler says:

    I sent in “The lighting of the Olympic Flame, part of the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics” due to the same observation by Pam. Matt the Artist!

  15. Abby says:

    I got this one right away, but it seemed too easy. Fortunately, I was on the move when I did it so I had time to think about it before I got back to the computer. By then I decided it was right.

    All those Os seemed like “Olympic opening” in the cryptic sense, but that’s more associated with the torch than the flag, I’d think, so I just threw it in as a mention. The only thing I disliked about just being the Olympic games as a whole was the word “event” that made me worry it was more specific. I decided if it wasn’t as well indicated as the Olympics, it probably wasn’t there. “Crossword Solving” isn’t an Olympic event as far as I know.

    Having the colors back to back with last week seemed like a misstep, but timeliness counts too. :-)

  16. Dave C says:

    I also recalled Patrick Berry’s “Cross” Words contest when I saw the 5 Os. But at first I simply “connected the dots”, and came up with something resembling a shot glass. Shot glasses certainly are used to celebrate events, but it was a dead end. Fortunately I soon saw the colors (floe baffled me though) and the placement of those answers in the grid, which led me to the right answer.

  17. Peedee says:

    I was going to send in the Olympics, but I thought there had to be more to it. I was already out of the running for this month anyway. *sigh* By the way, Kerri Strug’s uncle married my cousin so even though we’re not related (and we’ve never met) we’re kind of family!

  18. @rmac: I also saw the Gateway Arch in the grid, and it seemed like a plausible explanation for why the grid had left-right symmetry, but I couldn’t figure out where to go from there.

  19. Erik says:

    don’t beat yourself up, MG. maybe not the week 5 mindboggler we’ve come to expect, but still a solid and timely puzzle.

  20. Debbie says:

    Didn’t see the torch, but to me the black squares looked a bit like a person leapfrogging over a vault…

    I, too, almost ignored Olympics b/c of last week’s color scheme and the Strug clue. But nothing else seemed to make sense so I went with it anyway. Glad I did!

    Also spent a little too long trying to figure out where “tealeaf” fell in the equation (another green? High tea?)

  21. Howard B says:

    Yeah, don’t be too hard on yourself, Matt.

  22. J. T. Williams says:

    I didn’t notice the Olympic duplicaiton, but for my part, I thought this was a very well-crafted puzzle, and I especially admired the artistry in placing the only O’s and the color connections like you did. Was the “torch” look intentional? It’s a shame that the raised week 5 expectations seem to have detracted from appreciation of what would almost certainly have been acclaimed as a masterpiece had it been a week 1 or week 2.

  23. Phoebe says:

    Count me as one who saw it from the grid torch and the rings and didn’t submit because of the Strug clue. Oh well, should have trusted my instincts!

  24. jj says:

    I saw the Olympic clue, but submitted it anyway since the rings were obviously intentional and there was little else to send in. Figured it was a Struggle to come up with an alternate reference.

  25. wobbith says:

    Saw the rings about 10 minutes after finishing the grid and figured that was way too easy for week five, especially with the ROSE and YELLOW repeats from last week.
    Submitted my answer “The 2012 XXX Olympiad in London I give up” with 2 minutes to spare figuring I’d been defeated.
    BUT. No worries, Matt! It’s a terrific puzzle plus I got a great education on the Olympics, the Olympic venues in London, London, London architecture, Classical architecture and more!

  26. Matt Gaffney says:

    Yeah J.T., timing and difficulty expectation are important. I really wanted to get this Olympics idea in, so I forced it into the Week 5 box when I shouldn’t have. Won’t be able to do it next month for reasons that will be clear on Friday and doing it a week or 2 into the Olympics itself in August seemed off.

  27. Pj says:

    Like Pam and James Schooler, I sent in a long old answer about the lighting of the torch at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Thought the Olympics was too obvious for all the stated reasons above, but always love spending time with Matt on the weekend. Such good company!

  28. Les W says:

    I caught the rings immediately after completing the puzzle and thought Olympics right away. Spent the next couple of hours trying to find a different answer and arguing with myself about sending in gymnastics, based on the Strug clue and answer, but decided that with the torch and rings only Olympics could have been right.

    A two star Gaffney puzzle is still better than a three star movie any day, Matt!

  29. DavidB says:

    Like many others, I got “Olympics” very quickly just from the placement of the O’s (never even noticed the colors) but figured the answer had to be more specific and less obvious. I eventually submitted “London Olympics” because I thought I saw the image of the London Bridge in the grid.

  30. Paul Melamud says:

    I suffered over this one since Friday. I had Olympics as an answer before seeing the colors, all because of the placement of the O’s and the two “ring” references. I was glad when the color reference gelled it, but then I was looking for an “event” of the Olympics as Matt noted was a red herring.

    Alas, Matt, I think you missed an opportunity – you had FLOE (which isn’t really blue, I was thinking white), if you had matched up OKRA with say, JOE (which isn’t green but brown), then you might have been able to lead us to a specific event… :)

  31. Norm says:

    grrrr. i just stopped when i saw “olympics’ in the clue and couldn’t see anything else.

  32. Matt Gaffney says:

    It was shockingly tough to come up with something blue in the pattern ??O? — if anyone can come up with something better than FLOE I’d be very interested to hear it. I thought it would be trivial but…nada.

  33. Paul Melamud says:

    How about moon?

    I’d have gotten an aha-chuckle out of that if you’d used it. :)

  34. jj says:

    Yes, I tried to get into your head to think about the difficulty of cluing blue into ??O?. “Pool” and “Moon” were alternates, but neither was convincingly better.

    Edited to add: “Room” might have an aha-chuckle to it as well.

  35. Matt Gaffney says:

    Can’t use MOON (or POOL) because the only 5 O’s in the grid are the Olympic rings

  36. jj says:

    Yes, I clearly wasn’t very gOOd at getting into your head. BOOK is out for the same reason, I see.

  37. Paul Melamud says:

    By Jove, Matt’s right, can’t use moon or book in that case. Sorry to have forgotten that cardinal element. HM!

  38. Matt Gaffney says:

    This puzzle was cursed from the start, I’m convinced. Voodoo hex or something.

  39. joon says:

    crosswordese SLOE looks bluish to me, but i think technically more purple. at any rate, it’s not obviously any bluer than FLOE.

  40. Themutman says:

    I thought the puzzle was great, primarily because I usually don’t get the last week of the month meta. I was looking deeper and submitted ‘Summer Olympics’, thinking Matt may have been implying something with the ‘SO’ acronym in the title. (Special Olympics do not have the rings in their emblem)

    I thought he was also being clever tying up the month in a big circle — doesn’t anyone remember ‘Olympic Game’, our week 1 meta??

  41. joon says:

    this is obscure, but i managed to find a movie character from 2000’s the specials named AMOK. he’s blue.

  42. Dave C says:

    The AZOV Sea is blue!

  43. jj says:

    TRON’s always blue. Maybe we don’t think of TRON that way, though. (Or, if we’re lucky, we don’t think of TRON at all.)

  44. joon says:

    the sea of azov is blue, but azov by itself is a city in that area of the world which is not, to my knowledge, particularly blue.

  45. Matt Gaffney says:

    Aha Dave C, that’s nice!

  46. How about IHOP? Its logo is mostly blue (and so are its restaurants’ roofs).

  47. James Schooler says:

    Could we consider the River AVON as being blue? Although I do like IHOP!

  48. I had “Olympics” Friday evening, but kept reexamining the grid all weekend for a better answer because of pretty much every reason listed above. Which led me to forget to submit my answer at all. No 5-for-5 for me.


  49. pannonica says:

    Alas, only a CHOW’s tongue is blue.

  50. Pamela says:

    Luckily I didn’t read Pete Muller’s advice about solvings metas until after submitting “Olympics” to matt’s contest. Pete says if you’re in doubt, you’re probably wrong. I was in doubt (colors again?) but am glad I answered anyway.

  51. Paul Coulter says:

    Snow? No wait, that only works for yellow.

  52. Patrick says:

    I thought this was a very artistic puzzle. I actually didn’t get the significance of the crosses. I’m glad that part wasn’t necessary to unlock the meta – orang and Odie seem to have fairly weak connections with red and yellow, respectively. And now the ocean is blue, whereas last week the sea was green.

    But in hindsight I can sympathize with the challenge of making this all fit together. (How about NEON for something blue?) This is also my first ever 5-for-5 month, so I guess that puts me in a forgiving mood (not that there’s anything to forgive).

    At one point I was re-examining previous puzzles this month to see if there was any pattern in some of the recurring elements (colors, logos, Ancient Greece, numbers). I didn’t find anything, but it seemed like an intriguing possibility.

  53. Dave Taube says:

    Like Adam, I submitted Olympics because I saw the word ‘rings’ twice in the puzzle. Like Debbie, I thought the black squares looked like a hurdler jumping over a hurdle (or someone riding a horse). I’m just happy that I got the final puzzle of the month for only the second time.

  54. Evad says:

    How about [Peep ___}? Or does just the entry on its own have to be blue?

  55. rmac says:

    How about [Peep ___}? Or does just the entry on its own have to be blue?

    If that works, then [Suede ____].

    — Russ

  56. CY Hollander says:

    Unrelatedly: Dan Seidman, are you he who submitted two excellent limericks to the OEDILF and wrote but didn’t submit a third, on caduceus?

  57. J. T. Williams says:

    In response to Patrick, last week the words in the grids were not things that happened to be a certain color so much as they were shades of colors (hence the title). While a sea can certainly be said to be either blue or green, “sea blue” does not appear to be a shade of blue, while “sea green” is certainly a defined shade. This week, in contrast, the words in fact are things that are commonly associated with a color, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the ocean described as green. Well, there is that poem, Columbus sailed the ocean green, in 1517, or something like that… As for orang and Odie, even if Odie might arguably be a stretch, I don’t know how you can argue that an orang is any color other than red. I agree wholeheartedly about this being a very artistic and admirable construction though!

  58. Pam says:

    I’m just amazed because the only puzzle I got right in June was a week 5!!!!

  59. granbaer says:

    Awww man, I wanted it to be Olympics because of the rings reference, (twice if you count “staringat”) but that was the only basis I could come up with. I did notice the color references, but blew them off because I was sure Matt would not use color clues twice in a row. Also, kept squinting at the grid, sure that it represented something. It also looked to me like someone riding something or jumping over something. And the Strug clue made me think it must not be Olympics, so I did not submit it.
    Now I know to go with my intuition anyway!

  60. Elaine says:

    I almost did not send in an answer. I am so beat up from the earlier Killer Meta Puzzles this month that I had little confidence. I considered boxing ring (‘The Main Event’) and wedding rings (too obvious) but due to the timing I went ahead with Olympic Opening Ceremony.
    Total surprise that it was correct!
    Maybe I am not over the hill after all.

  61. Dan Seidman says:

    Cy — yes, I submitted alliterative and antidisestablishmentarianism. I don’t remember ever doing one on caduceus, though.

  62. CY Hollander says:

    Dan: those were great. I still occasionally quote antidisestablishmentarianism.

    The one on caduceus can be found here.

  63. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    Sloe cold be used for the blue color. It is described as a blue-black color (the berries). Interestingly, the juice of the berries dyes linen a reddish color that washes out to a durable pale blue.

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