MGWCC #310

crossword 4:18
meta 5 minutes 

mgwcc310hello and welcome to week #310 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Classical Boxing”. the instructions for this week 1 puzzle ask us for a brand of breakfast cereal. what are the theme answers?

  • {Brooke Shields movie, with “The”} is BLUE LAGOON. this movie title always reminds me of this amusing interchange from season 2 of buffy.
  • {Hipster housepet} is a GREEN IGUANA. this seems a little redundant to me, but apparently it’s a species of iguana.
  • {Soft drink in Europe (with the words incorrectly but commonly transposed by American travelers)} clues ORANGE FANTA.
  • {Conveyer of gift money, in Chinese culture} is a RED ENVELOPE.

the title, the four colors, and the slightly arbitrary-seeming theme answers gave this away pretty quickly: it’s life cereal, because the theme answers refer to the spelled-out logo on the box with its blue L, green I, orange F, and red E.

curiously, if you do a google image search for life cereal (as i bet many of you did), you’ll find that the logo was recently redesigned with different colors (and the word “original”): the L is still blue, but then it goes red I, yellow F, and green E. here’s a side-by-side comparison:

so perhaps the “classic” in the title was a necessary qualifier.

did you notice that the grid is slightly asymmetric? yes, RED ENVELOPE is 11 letters and BLUE LAGOON only 10. everything is symmetric except that the three black squares to the right of BLUE LAGOON are not quite matched up with the three to the left of RED ENVELOPE. this shift also creates a long down entry (PUNCTUATION) at 10d, whereas 36d is only 6 letters. (i would have liked RED EMINENCE, the nickname of cardinal richelieu, a little better. it feels less arbitrary.)

i didn’t mind the asymmetry, but perhaps the new logo would have been theme-friendly. other than BLUE LAGOON, the other three theme answers were a little weak, because they were so highly constrained. YELLOW FEVER would have been a nicer thing to have than ORANGE FANTA. that said, there weren’t any decent RED I options that i could find, let alone one matching YELLOW FEVER in length.

well, that is two weeks down out of five this month, and we still haven’t had to break a sweat. what will week 3 bring?

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56 Responses to MGWCC #310

  1. Pete says:


    would all pair with YELLOW FEVER

    + GREEN BERET pairs nicely with BLUE LAGOON

    New box seems crossword-friendlier

    • joon says:

      pete, i think you’re missing half the theme. it’s not just the colors—they have to be paired with the letters in the LIFE logo.

    • icdogg says:

      Nope, they have to begin with the color and then the first letter. Can’t just begin with “RED”, has to begin with “REDI” in the case of the new box.

  2. icdogg says:

    I’ll bet there were a lot of wrong answers submitted for this one. People saw the colors and decided it was something like Lucky Charms.

    • makfan says:

      Guilty as charged. Especially because Lucky Charms advertised blue diamonds, pink hearts, etc (at least when I was a kid). I noticed the color + object pattern and decided that was it. I waited until this morning to submit in case some new inspiration came my way, but nothing did.

      I never thought of Life, although I was thinking I needed to do something with the title. My real name is Mike and I hated that “Mikey Likes It” commercial for Life.

      • Burghman says:

        Ditto – I did the puzzle late Sat night after some very strong beers and submitted Lucky Charms. When I didn’t see my name amongst the correct names, I was sure I typed something incorrectly and nearly reached out to Matt to see if he’d let me submit a mulligan with it spelled correctly while sober. Doh!

      • Jim Schooler says:

        Trix for me. Call me a silly rabbit.

  3. Amy L says:

    I feel so stupid to have missed a week 2! My answer was Trix, because it seems to be the only cereal with those colors. I knew there had to be more to this puzzle, but once you’re stuck on something it’s so hard to move on. I emailed Matt that I thought I made a big boo booBerry. I did!

  4. Ephraim says:

    I wrote ORANGE NANTA instead of FANTA. The mention of Europe threw me off and made me think it was some unfamiliar brand. Since when is Fanta a European thing? I drank plenty of it as a kid in Rochester, NY.

    Got the meta anyway just from the colors.

    • JustinR says:

      did the exact same thing with Nanta. The down entry still makes more sense to me as “read on” than “read of.”

    • Dan Seidman says:

      Although Fanta here was the collection of various non-cola sodas owned by Coke (I remember drinking Fanta grape a lot), in Europe it seems to be just orange, so if you ask for a Fanta it means orange soda.

  5. Jason says:

    After getting BLUE LAGOON I was pretty sure the answer was LUCKY CHARMS until I realized that it could be FROOT LOOPS because of all the colors. Even though there wasn’t a plausible explanation I submitted the latter thinking somewhere in the grid there was some sort of a loop thing going on. Nice to know how I could struggle like this on a Week 2.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 296 correct entries this week, so played tough for a Week 2 of 5.

    Missed RED EMINENCE. Would have used it had I seen it.

  7. Jeff G. says:

    I’ve eaten a ton of cereal in my “life” so I thought this would be right up my alley. Of course I preferred Froot Loops (which I submitted) Never was a fan of Life so didn’t recognize the colors of the box. I was thrown by nag, Nagano, and Nagoya (and Goya) I was looking for letters in a square (box). Sorry I missed it, but always lots of fun trying. Thanks Matt!

    • Elaine Walizer says:

      Hand up for Froot Loops. They are the only ones I could think of that came in colors… so sue me! Never fed my children sugared cereals, but I recall using these as reinforcers in a preschool for multi-handicapped children. When they all turned up with cavities we were so embarrassed! End of Froot Loops….

  8. JustinR says:

    Barring a more creative or desirable solution, the simplest way to avoid the asymmetry would be to pluralize blue lagoon. The cost would be one inelegant entry, the payoff avoiding an inelegant grid! A bargain!

    As a solver, I looked for the four colors on old cereal boxes, thinking there’s no reason why the second word in each theme entry has to be relevant to the meta. With this approach, I submit to the court “Fruity Pebbles,” which displays on the box a red r, blue u, green i, and orange t (with all other letters – fypebbles – one color). Considering also that the actual cereal has some pieces of each of those colors, whereas Life does not, I find the submission equally valid as joon’s. Thoughts?

    • Dave C says:

      I had the same notion on Fruity Pebbles, but I saw the Red as a Pink, and there were other color patterns as well on Google Images, so I dismissed it. After not seeing anything definitive separating Fruity Pebbles, Froot Loops, Trix and Lucky Charms, I went back to the grid (always a good thing to do), and immediately LIFE popped out at me in the themers. The Googled image of the Life cereal logo was a wonderful confirmation.

      • JustinR says:

        yeah, i went back and forth through three of those (didn’t remember Trix) until I noticed the letters in fRUITy

    • CY Hollander says:

      Barring a more creative or desirable solution, the simplest way to avoid the asymmetry would be to pluralize blue lagoon.

      The trouble is that, whereas “[The] Blue Lagoon” is the title of a movie, which is a Thing, “blue lagoons” is merely what, when I served as a contributing editor for the OEDILF, we used to call a “red car”—meaning a phrase that no dictionary would include, because its meaning is wholly inferrable from its component words.

  9. Wayne says:

    Count me as another one who got the meta without seeing the letters spelling it out. I figured there had to be more to it, since Matt doesn’t resort to asymmetry unless he absolutely has to.

    Doing a google image search on “cereal boxes” made for an enjoyable walk down Memory Lane, this morning.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I was never a cereal-eater as a kid, and I’m colorblind to boot, and yet somehow when I saw the colors in the theme answers I thought of Life cereal immediately. I guess corporate branding really does work! I had to show my wife an image of the Life box to get her to confirm the colors for me, but I didn’t consider it cheating since I was only seeking confirmation.

      I never saw the letters in the second half of the theme answers either.

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    The 1-star rating is idiotic. Why don’t more constructors hang out at Fiend and comment? Because of that.

    • Jeffrey K says:

      Wasn’t me, but a constructor calling a rater idiotic won’t help matters.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        The rating, not the rater. Read it again.

        • Jeffrey K says:

          Noted. Perhaps the one star option should be removed as I don’t believe any puzzle reviewed here has ever deserved only one star.

        • JustinR says:

          Two stars through six, then? And a miniature trophy for all participants.

          • Jeffrey K says:


            To be honest, I think the star system is so flawed that it should be removed. But that is just another area where my views are out of step with the Fiend-Powers-That-Be.

          • Dan F says:

            Jeffrey, I’m with you – I think the star system is stupid and gets way too much attention. I concede that it helps people (normal solvers who don’t do all the puzzles as a matter of course) know when there’s a particularly good non-NYT that they should solve. But that could be accomplished with a different system: star, or no star. If it’s particularly good, give it a star. We could still count the most-starred puzzles at the end of the year, and we wouldn’t have to deal with troll ratings.

          • Andrew says:

            I agree whole-heartedly with Jeffrey and Dan. This isn’t limited to crossword reviews — I find it reductive and overly simplistic to find a need to slap a star rating on something when reviewing it, whether it be books, movies, or anything.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            I give Andrew’s comment 2.5 stars. ;-)

    • pgw says:

      Matt, while I agree that this puzzle and meta merit a significantly higher rating than one-star, somebody else apparently didn’t like it. Maybe that’s perplexing to you, but “idiotic” is a little strong. I personally wasn’t a fan of last week’s octopus puzzle, whereas many people loved it.

      I know you work hard on these puzzles for little monetary reward, and it stings to see someone panning your efforts. The fact that so many of us come back week after week should be proof enough that overall, you’re doing a phenomenal job. The occasional dissatisfied consumer is gonna happen.

      Did anyone else notice that right there in the writeup for last week’s puzzle, Matt slyly hinted at this week’s answer with the comment “Mikey likes it(?)” I enjoyed that.

      Joon, what, RED INK PLANT isn’t in your everyday lexicon?

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        It wouldn’t be perplexing if they’d explain their rationale in comments, pseudonymously if need be.

      • JustinR says:

        Personally, I loved the reference to last week’s apologetic entry, “to pee”.

      • Bencoe says:

        Yes! I laughed when I saw “Mikey likes it?” in the write-up to the previous puzzle.

    • icdogg says:

      It’s the Internet, there will be idiots. Not worth thinking about.

  11. lorraine says:

    i meant this in response to Matt’s comment just above.

    If the main body of voters cluster around a certain curve, and the 1s are clearly outliers,why can’t you (and the other constructors who apparently refrain from commenting here because they’re similarly offended) just consider them noise, no? I can understand how any harsh criticism (which a 1 vote clearly implies) would be annoying, but if that’s the only reason you don’t hang out here and comment, then I’m baffled.

    • joon says:

      best not to read too much into it. haters will hate and matt will overreact; that is just the way of things.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I’m mellowing with age, believe it or not.

      • lorraine says:

        ah. thank you.

      • makfan says:

        Yeah. I didn’t get the correct answer, but I find it clever after seeing the write-up. “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

  12. hibob says:

    I also got stuck on all the NAGs in the middle and what I thought were a lot of words with the letters N & G in them. If the last themer had been RED ENGINEER or something like that I would have submitted Grape Nuts because I never would have worked past it.
    Eventually LIFE popped out and a google search of the box confirmed.
    Excellent puzzle.

  13. Shawn P says:

    I was originally thinking Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops, but it didn’t quite grok. Fortunately, I saw the pattern, submitted the correct answer, etc. and went about my weekend. On Monday, my daughter asked for a bowl of Cinnamon Life, and lo and behold, I noticed that the colors on the box were different from the meta! I thought maybe the cinnamon iteration of the cereal was different until I saw this post. Thanks joon for clearing things up!

  14. DBraun91 says:

    Stared at this for a little longer than an average Week 2 (of 5 to boot).Thought of Froot Loops and Lucky Charms but there was no connection other than randomly selected colors. Then it hit me that GREEN IGUANA was just way too arbitrary and that pointed me to look at the words after the colors and it instantly clicked. This was a fun, albeit closer to week 2.5, meta.

  15. Norm H says:

    I was bumping up against the deadline and had already written TRIX in the answer box (after considering Lucky Charms and Froot Loops) when I wrote down the initials to each theme entry and saw LIFE. The asymmetry had been nagging at me, thank goodness.

  16. Don Lloyd says:

    Wikipedia was very helpful on this one. Whilst solving the puzzle, I thought the meta had to be Trix, Froot Loops or Lucky Charms. In trying to decide which one, I could find no color sets used in the “classical” (introductory) versions of those cereals (1955, 1962 and 1964 respectively) that would map cleanly onto the color set presented in the grid. I decided the colors might be blue, green, orange and red herrings, and that allowed me to stumble on Life hiding right there in plain sight. It wasn’t until after I submitted my answer that I realized how the color-letter pairs mapped onto the classical package. Elegant. Life is just a box of colors.

  17. CY Hollander says:

    Slightly embarrassingly, I got the answer to this one by Googling up images of classic cereal boxes and scouring them until I found the colors in the right order, which seemed like a lot of outside research required for a MG theme, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Only after I’d submitted did I notice the letter part of the theme, which in retrospect I really should have found earlier.

  18. Mikey says:

    Went with Froot Loops – dang

    Great puzzle Matt!


  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joon, you’re on crack. I am no fan of high-fructose corn syrup, but I would take ORANGE FANTA over YELLOW FEVER any day. Flavivirus simply doesn’t quench my thirst.

  20. Abby B says:

    I thought Lucky Charms or Froot Loops at first glance too because LIFE didn’t seem to use enough of the puzzle. I discounted them, though because it’s not Lucky Charms without pink hearts and Froot Loops use a six color scheme (even with the “yellow” from the clues you come up short). Finally got the colors and letters connected and then it worked. Shades of the Google/eBay puzzle.

    Looks like there’s been a lot of variation in the logo over the years, but the meta version can be seen in the original “Mikey” ad (at least the version I saw on You Tube), so that seems definitively classic to me.

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