MGWCC #257

crossword 3:39
meta about 10-15 minutes (without instructions) 

hello and welcome to episode #257 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Anxious Moments”. in this easy-peasy week 1 puzzle, matt challenges us to name one of New York City’s five boroughs. what are the theme answers?

  • {Spell placed on a person so they can’t speak?} LARYNX JINX.
  • {Casual appreciation from a group of soldiers?} PHALANX THANX.
  • {Five-point pattern formed by tailless cats?} MANX QUINCUNX. QUINCUNX is one of my favorite words.
  • {Creature creeping around the Pyramids?} SPHINX LYNX.

as you can see, they’re all silly phrases made of two words ending with -NX, so the answer to the meta is the bronx. without the instructions, though, there are many more possibilities. MINX and SPANX were the first ones to occur to me. there’s also PHARYNX but that’s too similar to LARYNX. SYRINX is a musical instrument but maybe a little on the obscure side. but when i eventually thought of the BRONX, i knew that had to be right—although i did check the instructions before submitting just to make sure.

super quick write-up this week, as i’ve got lots of other things to do this morning. but don’t let that stop you from discussing the puzzle in the comments thread!

edit 3:15 pm: let me expand a little bit on my solving process. matt had suggested that people try solving the meta without the instructions, so that basically meant that the answer had to be extractable from the theme alone. so it basically had to be either a single -NX word, or a “natural” pairing of -NX words, if one existed. it couldn’t be a made-up phrase like SPHINX LYNX, because that wouldn’t be solvable without outside instructions.

as for THE BRONX NO THONX, it has a couple of strikes against it: 1) it’s not very famous. i mean yes, it’s an ogden nash poem, but not actually one of his most famous ones. 2) it’s more than two words long, so it really doesn’t match the theme answers any better than a single -NX word.

finally, the BRONX stood out above other possibilities like SPANX and MINX just because there is actually a possible question to which it is the answer that would be suitable for a week 1 puzzle (namely, the actual instructions). what would the instructions have to be for MINX to be the answer? “This week’s answer is a term referring to a coquettish young woman”? and SPANX, to me, feels not quite famous enough to be a week 1 answer, even though there are reasonable instructions that would lead to it (“a clothing brand”).

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28 Responses to MGWCC #257

  1. Matt says:

    592 right answers this week, 3 wrong ones.

  2. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Solve the meta without looking at the instructions? Waaay beyond my skill level.

    But After seeing it was a Borough of NYC that was being sought, I immediately knew that the grid would be full of MARY PICKFORD, CHARLOTTE RAE, ANNE HATHAWAY, ELIZABETH TAYLOR and the like, and the meta answer would be QUEENS.

    Fortunately for me, I did solve the grid first, then sent in the correct answer.

  3. Wayne says:

    I tried to meet Matt’s challenge of solving this without looking at the instructions. BRONX’s absence in the grid is immediately evident. But there was nothing in the title to suggest that this was the answer. And since the theme answers were all pairs, I wasn’t confident enough to submit it without checking first. Anxious moments, indeed.


    P.S. The definition of “pinx” is still rattling around in my brain, like a mouse in the rafters. “Abbreviation?” Abbreviation of what?

  4. Jeff Chen says:

    Wow, the idea of trying to solve this without instructions, crazy! Maybe if there were a borough called “ITENDSWITHNX” I might have gotten it.

  5. Dan Seidman says:

    My guess without reading the instructions would have been Xbox, since each theme entry has two Xs.

    I’m dying to know what the three wrong answers were.

  6. Amy L says:

    Pinx is short for pinxit, for painted. It was used by artists with their signatures. So a painting might say “Wayne pinxit” to show that Wayne painted it. I’m more familiar with fecit (made it) which was used on sculptures. This signature style was still fairly common in the 1700s.

  7. Charles Montpetit says:

    I don’t see how we could have possibly solved this without the instructions: based on the four theme entries, I would have assumed that the meta had to be another workable phrase consisting of rhyming -nx words (sure, MANX QUINCUNX is a stretch but Matt has been known to twist pronunciations to suit his purpose, and as long as he bends the rules without expecting us to do so, that’s fine). So, if we dismiss the anatomical similarities like MENINX and SALPINX, as Joon suggests, then that only leaves MINX SYRINX.

    • David Bael says:

      In keeping with the format of the theme entries, without having seen the instructions, the answer could have been the Ogden Nash poem: THEBRONX NOTHONX.

  8. Jeff G. says:

    I attempted to solve without the instructions. Downloaded the .puz in across lite on the iPad, went to tap on 1 across and accidentally hit the paper clip. Doh! The instructions popped up and borough jumped out at me. Oh well, still enjoyed the puzzle.

  9. Paul Coulter says:

    Solving Week One puzzles sans directions is a good challenge, and I’ve often raced my granddaughter (with directions) this way, but this time around, the puzzle and title offered no particular direction in which to look. As Joon says, and as occured to me while solving, it could just as easily have been pharynx or minx, along with several less common choices. Word lengths didn’t narrow it down, either. So it’s a bit strange that Matt chose this particular week to suggest this. He could have added a layer for ambitious solvers by making reference to the other boroughs, as he started to do with Shea. Things like “met” and “zoo” in either the clues or fill would have sufficed, along with something for Staten Island, maybe ferry.

  10. Matthew G. says:

    The only argument I can see for solving this without instructions is that every vowel is used in an _NX construction except ENX and ONX. There are no words that end in ENX, and no words other than BRONX that end in ONX. So you could say it’s a find-the-missing vowel theme, except an odd one because one vowel couldn’t have been used even if Matt had wanted to.

    None of this is to suggest I would have figured this out if I’d tried to solve without instructions. Highly unlikely.

  11. jimmy d says:

    I love 5-Friday months!! =)

  12. Christopher Jablonski says:

    I don’t think Matt was suggesting anyone throw away their contest entry with a blind meta guess, but rather to use it as an opportunity to think deeper about the puzzle and not solve it before the grid even gets filled. I liked how it got my brain moving. I’ll probably even try it again next week.

    (Had I submitted my own guess, I would have been way, way off with “Dos Equis.”)

  13. joon says:

    i’ve added a bit more explanation of the solving process and why i thought BRONX stood out as an answer even with no instructions.

    • David Bael says:

      But, Joon, when you say that the most reasonable answer is a single -NX word, remember that the name of the borough is not “Bronx”; it’s “The Bronx”.

      • joon says:

        “the” is not an essential part of the borough name, and it is not an essential part of the answer. in fact, my submission was just “bronx”.

        having said that, i’ll add that surely “the bronx” is not substantively different from “bronx” vis-à-vis this meta, and of course matt rightly accepted either one.

        • janie says:

          and perhaps BRONNIX or THE BRONNIX as well! (not to mention DA BRONX/BRONNIX…)


        • pannonica says:

          My submission was THENX BRONX, but Matt accepted it anyway.

        • HH says:

          “The” is seldom an essential part of anything … thus my disdain for clues using the phrase [with “The”].

    • pannonica says:

      I can just as easily imagine a cogent instruction hint for MANX (the language, the cat, or simply a demonym) as for THE BRONX.

  14. hibob says:

    I have three daughters that play soccer and lacrosse. Spanx is a more common word around our house than Bronx.

  15. janie says:

    because of the title, my first thought was XANAX. then, looking at the word “anxious,” i saw that the puzzle themers included NX words in combination with the “a,” the “i” and the “u” (QUINCUNX?! — wow) — but not the “o” — which led me to BRONX. still, was not about to submit it until reading matt’s clue!

    and THE BRONX, NO THONX? **love** it!


  16. janie says:

    >“the” is not an essential part of the borough name…

    spoken like a true bostonian! ;-) whether it’s “bronx” or “the bronx” seems more to be a question of context:


    • pannonica says:

      More precisely, part of speech. With the definite article for a noun (such as, say, designating one of the five New York boroughs, as per the puzzle instructions) and without for an adjective (or adjectival phrase), which jibes with my lifelong experience.

      Just sayin’.

  17. Lance says:

    INXS (the band) would have been my blind meta guess. Meets all the requirements of Joon’s logic and the clue would have been just as easy (although much greater possibility of alt answers)

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