MGWCC #277

crossword 5:31
meta 5 minutes 

hello and welcome to episode #277 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Playces, Everyone”. this week’s instructions ask us for someone with whom you may have a passing familiarity. well, that’s certainly an interesting choice of phrasing. what are the theme answers? eight entries in the grid get clues with numbers in parentheses:

  • {Iconic British car (1)} is the E-TYPE.
  • {He seized Fort Ticonderoga (6, 3)} is ETHAN ALLEN of the green mountain boys.
  • {“The Red Eminence” (8)} is cardinal RICHELIEU.
  • {She was burned at the stake (9, 2)} clues JOAN OF ARC.
  • {Mother of Erato (7)} and all of the other muses is MNEMOSYNE, goddess of memory.
  • {Predator over six continents (10)} is quite a vague clue for the PEREGRINE falcon, whose swoop approaches 200 mph, faster than any other animal.
  • {He took control of TWA in 1985 (5)} is corporate raider CARL ICAHN.
  • {He named Greenland deceptively (4)} is ERIK THE RED.

i didn’t really understand the numbers at first—they’re not enumerations, probably, because each of the numbers from 1 to 10 appears once. but i did notice that PEREGRINE without its accompanying “falcon” looked rather odd. the title evokes both playing and places—and that was all i needed. each of these eight clues refers to an NFL team name. viz:

  • the E-TYPE is a jaguar, like an NFL player from jacksonville.
  • ETHAN ALLEN was a patriot (new england).
  • RICHELIEU, cardinal (arizona).
  • JOAN OF ARC is a canonized french saint (new orleans). nice how she shares her J with 35d JAZZ, formerly the NBA team from new orleans.
  • MNEMOSYNE was a titan (tennessee).
  • the PEREGRINE is a falcon (atlanta), as mentioned earlier.
  • CARL ICAHN, raider (oakland). as i type this, they are getting absolutely hammered by denver on monday night football. in an unfortunate scheduling quirk this week, the two best teams in the NFL (denver and seattle) hosted the two worst teams (oakland and jacksonville) this week, with predictable results.
  • and ERIK THE RED was a viking (minnesota).

the other part of the title tells us that we need the locations where these teams play. taking the first letter of each (new england and new orleans, because they are two words, get two spots) and ordering them according to the parenthetical numbers produces the string JOE MONTANA, a lovely answer for a meta about the NFL and place names. and he is indeed somebody with whom you may have a “passing” familiarity. get it, eh? “passing”? because he was a quarterback, see. it’s a pun.

anyway—cool theme, pegged perfectly for a week 3 in my opinion. and hey, it’s football season! i’m definitely excited. just … don’t talk to me about the washington defense, okay?

odds & ends from the fill:

  • {Word sometimes annoyingly O-less in crosswords} AMOEBA. yeah, that is annoying.
  • {Person in touch with the universe} TAOIST. i mean, i guess? but the clue kinda makes it sound like we should all really be taoists, doesn’t it?
  • {Hurling and curling} are SPORTS. the gaelic sport of hurling … i actually don’t know the first thing about it. played with a ball? sticks? goals? no idea.
  • {Actress Spelling, or donut shapes} TORI. ha! way to lampshade last week’s nontroversy.
  • {“Space ___”} ODDITY. in case you didn’t know, that’s the actual title of david bowie’s famous ground control to major tom song. i don’t know if it’s a deliberate pun on “space odyssey”, the subtitle of arthur c. clarke’s sci-fi classic 2001.
  • {Sounds from Louisiana} ZYDECO. could easily also clue JAZZ, with which this answer shares a Z. so there’s a lot of louisiana-themed material intersecting over there in that corner of the grid.
  • {Spanish and wild} are, i guess, RICES. this clue is rather an oddity. i thought the answer was going to be the spanish word for “wild”.
  • {7-foot-1 Serbian} is former NBA center vlade DIVAC. i have fond memories of him on the early-2000s kings.
  • {Key for Bruckner} is E MAJOR. why bruckner, in particular? not sure. his symphony #7 does seem to be in that key, but it’s still a weirdly specific clue.
  • {Country whose capital is Funafuti} TUVALU. now that is a clue i can get behind. funafuti is the 2nd-most-fun-to-say oceanian capital, trailing only nuku’alofa.
  • {Early lunch hour} ELEVEN; {Late lunch hour} ONEPM. well, that settles it then—the only normal time to have lunch is noon.
  • {First word of a Shakespeare title} is ALL’S. it’s pretty much always ALL’S (there are precious few other ways to clue this word), but wouldn’t it be fun sometime to use this clue for, say, MUCH or TWELFTH or even THE?
  • {Jackson on the vibraphone} MILT. never heard of this guy.
  • {Pari ___} PASSU. this was not a familiar latin phrase for me; legal definition here. it roughly means “on the same footing”.

one last note: jeff gellner is putting together a map of MGWCC solver locations. check it out—pretty neat. are there other solvers in your area?

that’s all for me tonight. let’s hear your thoughts in the comment box!

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37 Responses to MGWCC #277

  1. Jed says:

    Darn. Foiled again by my utter lack of sports knowledge.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 173 right answers this week.

    Most common incorrect answers: ELI MANNING and …ANDY KRAVIS!

  3. Evan says:

    I got this one by brute force. First I tried listing the theme entries by country (Britain, France, Norway, etc). Nothing. Then I tried seeing if I could list them chronologically in order of birth — which obviously couldn’t work with PEREGRINE being an odd man out. When I got the a-ha moment with the football teams, it still took a lot of grinding. I listed the team mascots in grid order. Nothing. Then I listed their cities in grid order. Nothing. Then I changed their cities to states. Nothing. Then I tried listing the mascots in the order according to the numbers in the clues, listing SAINT and PATRIOT twice in their proper place. Nothing. Then I got desperate, looking up jersey numbers to see if there was a connection (all quarterbacks preferably, and some were, like Drew Brees is #9 for the Saints). Still nothing. It was only after I listed the cities by their two- and three-letter scoreboard abbreviations in order of the clue numbers that I finally saw MONTANA staring at me.

    The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why NORMS was in the southeast corner, seemingly important because it’s symmetric with E-TYPE. My best guess is that maybe it’s a reference to Norman Julius “Boomer” Esiason, whose team JOE MONTANA beat in Super Bowl XXIII.

    Two very bizarre coincidences:

    1) From the Wiki page of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga: “After seizing Ticonderoga, a small detachment captured the nearby Fort Crown Point on May 11. Seven days later, Arnold and 50 men boldly raided Fort Saint-Jean on the Richelieu River in southern Quebec.”

    2) When you do grok the football theme, jersey numbers might really lead you astray. The player with jersey number #6 on the New England Patriots is the punter Ryan ALLEN.

  4. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Could borrow the latter half of “SCRABBLE ______” to describe total immersion of football, had no chance at this one — but strangely enough, based on the title alone, and to clear my mind for other things, I sent in a wild-ass guess: Eli Manning! So maybe not so far off anyway!?

    (Isn’t hurling most often done with Guinness?)

  5. Mutman says:

    As a football can, I loved the puzzle! The meta clue had me thinking quarterback and that J from Jaguar had me thinking perhaps Joe Namath or Joe Montana. Had a hard time figuring the numbers, but eventually got them and Montana clicked.

    IMO, Joe Montana is the best QB who ever played the game.

    Great job Matt!

  6. tabstop says:

    I am finally — finally! — getting to the point where I can actually recognize that all the numbers from 1 to n are there and so ignore indexing and go for ordering instead. But it’s taken a long time.

  7. sps says:

    Milt Jackson was the renowned leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet in the 50’s and 60’s…

  8. Maggie W. says:

    Really lovely puzzle, particularly because there are so few people fairly cluable as a cardinal (also Timothy Dolan and…?) or raider (also T. Boone Pickens and…?). There aren’t even very many well-known saints or vikings. Super-elegant, considering all those constraints.

  9. Lk says:

    The actual answer (which I missed) just shouts out at you, but one interesting thing I got distracted by was that “Iconic (British) car” and “Carl Icahn” sound similar, and “The Red Eminence” and “Erik the Red” share something as well. Didn’t tie together any of the other theme answers though.

    • Evad says:

      Me too, LK. I guess that was one of THE RED herrings I followed. Had to sleep on this one to get it Saturday morning.

    • DannyBoy says:

      Also Green Mountain Boys and Greenland. I kept thinking the colors would be important. I even wrote down Cardinal next to Richelieu, as a type of red. Then again, I wrote down Jaguar next to E-type, and Falcon next to Peregrine, without seeing the NFL association.

  10. John says:

    Despite being a huge football fan, this one took quite a while for me to even suss the team name part of the meta. When i did, i was disappointed in myself for what seemed, afterward, so darn obvious. The part after that had it’s share of travails, but it wasn’t too bad a slog.

    Matt is extremely good, IMO, at going to the timely-answer just often enough to be fun, but not so regularly that you can count on it as a toe-hold. You do that regularly and you’ll find the ground crumbling beneath your foot. ;v)

  11. Paul Coulter says:

    I struggled mightily, and wound up coming nowhere close. I was relieved to see it depended on American football, something I never would have gotten. After all my pathways failed, I resorted to searching for prominent names that fit the pattern _*~_ _ ~ _ _* _ with no repeats other than the 9,2 and 6,3 places, either as a single first or last name, or a first and last name together with the break coming anywhere. This produced Cantinflas, though no doubt there are others. Also, the fictional character Brad Majors from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Fair play, though. Another excellent one from Matt.

  12. bolete says:

    Likewise, no sports fan here so it blew right past me.
    I feel the same way when there are too many pop-media entries.
    Here’s one for 58-A:

  13. Scott says:

    I got the football connection right away but never got the answer. I got too hung up on jersey numbers and never thought of anything else.

  14. BrainBoggler says:

    I wish I hadn’t gotten stuck in the rut of thinking about Shakespeare plays (after seeing the incomplete title answer for 6-down). The football connection went right over my head, despite knowing enough about it to solve this puzzle. When I submitted my do-or-die answer within a few minutes of the deadline, I had a last-second thought, “Watch it have something to do with football because of ‘passing’ in the instructions”. If only that thought had come sooner, I might have a had a shot at a game-winning touchdown. As it turns out, my Hail Mary pass of an answer didn’t find any open receivers downfield. Oh, well…Friday will be a new game! Great meta concept, Matt.

  15. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Random sportz theme again? I was hoping Matt got this name-trivia nonsense out of his system with Week 1. Just as well I didn’t have much time to think about the puzzle this weekend…


  16. lorraine says:

    i….wasn’t close. I got hung up on the 9 muses (plus the unofficial 10th muse, sappho of lesbos), wrangled with that for awhile, then became irrevocably sidetracked by all the green/red connections (green mountain boys, icahn is what is know as a “greenmailer”, etc. etc) greenland connections, etc. I kept trying to find a mnemonic for green/red. i never got out of the deep deep hole i’d dug myself to see it with fresh eyes, especially as i AM an nfl fan. Head desk.

  17. Abby says:

    I got the team thing instantly (which is pretty good considering “I don’t follow hockey” as I say in any sports discussion), but couldn’t suss what to do with them. Put it aside.

    Came back later with the attitude that Matt rarely expects us to know much. Every time I’ve really looked stuff up, I’d been on the wrong track. It’s a word game, not a trivia one. Revisited the idea that “New Orleans” and “New England” were two words and got it.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Exactly right, Abby — knowing the names of at least some of the NFL teams (you can Google the rest if need be) is about as far as I’d usually go on a football one. You didn’t even really need to know who Joe Montana is, just to be able to recognize the name once it emerged. Or even that could be Googled.

      • Jed says:

        I just want to also wave my flag in support of Matt. When I come up against a MGWCC, like this week, that falls directly on a blind spot, I figure – hey, it’s in someone else’s sweet spot. You’re an equal opportunity torturer, Matt!

        No hard feelings here. :-) I’ll be back on Friday!

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Ha thanks Jed! But it’s true, I don’t like to do too many on any one subject or require knowledge too deep.

  18. Howard B says:

    Nope, not this week. Know enough football to know the league and all their locations. That’s a finely designed meta right there. Should have been in a sweet spot.
    The connection just missed me entirely though. Never came close to it.
    Just in my worst meta slump in years. Didn’t help that I never would have connected ICAHN = RAIDER, but you didn’t need to get them all this week anyway).
    :). But the puzzles still confound and delight. Thanks Matt.

    • Abby says:

      Honestly, Icahn was probably the one that clinched it for me. His name is under “corporate raider” in my brain.

  19. Aaargh, this one was painful for me to miss. I’m a casual football fan (of the Patriots) and guessed very early on that the answer would be a famous quarterback, yet I never thought to associate each theme answer with an NFL team. I even wrote down Jaguar, Cardinal, Sainte, and Falcon in my notes, but I couldn’t make the connection.

    I was one of the Eli Manning guesses. I didn’t think it was right, but it was worth a shot.

    Also, the clue for 3D is wrong: Bing and Yahoo! aren’t rivals. Quite the opposite, in fact — Bing is what powers Yahoo! search nowadays.

  20. Amy L says:

    I have always complained bitterly about all the sports clues in crosswords. But I noticed the football teams right away. I though “playces” probably referred to football plays. Somehow I started to look up football positions to find out which one makes the passes (now you know why I complain about sports clues). I read the entire list of 100 best quarterbacks (had only heard of the Steelers on the list). But it helped to have the names in my head. As I looked over my lists of sports teams and places, MONTANA jumped out.

    I’m so excited that I got a football meta that I keep doing that silly show-offy dance they do on the gridiron when they make a point.

  21. bob says:

    my lack of knowledge is what helped me. I was already thinking of quarterbacks because of the “passing” knowledge. I had to google e-type, Richelieu and Mnewhatever, and discovered they were a Jaguar, Cardinal and Ttian, the other teams were obvious.

  22. Joe says:

    This was an “ohmigod i actually nailed this one” moment for me. I am totally NOT a football fan, but the connections were apparent enough to make. After seeing Cardinal, Jaguar, and Falcon right off, the football theme was apparent. A few days later I figured out Patriot and Raider. Googling gave me Viking and (finally !!!) Titan. Even then, writing them out gave me nothing. A final stab at the teams’ homes gave me the answer. Matt, from this absolutely sport non-enthusiast, this was a totally fair, totally brilliant meta. Thanks, as always.

  23. Jeff G. says:

    I’m kicking myself for not getting this one. I went down the wrong track of thinking silent letters were involved. Joon makes it look too easy figuring these things out in 5 minutes. Excellent entertainment as always. Thanks Matt!

  24. Jan says:

    If I had translated “someone with whom you may have a passing familiarity” to “the really nice guy who offered to help your husband carry the rug up to your daughter’s dorm room”, I would have gotten this!

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