MGWCC #316

crossword untimed
meta a couple of minutes at most 

Hi, Evad here in all his capital letter glory, subbing for joon who I believe had a front row seat for Sunday’s South Korea-Algeria game, which looked like an Algerian rout until the second half when Son and Koo scored to halve the deficit. I don’t believe that they’re out of contention in group H, but must beat group leader Belgium later this week to move on to the knockout rounds.


So on to today’s Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest puzzle entitled “Cross-Cultural Exchange.” This week the hint to the meta puzzle answer was “a foreign language.” I immediately thought Portuguese given the host country of this year’s World Cup, but then I recalled a puzzle which asked us to name the country Matt had recently vacationed in and all the entries shared only the eight letters in the country PORTUGAL. (It was # 149.) Could lightning strike twice? Let’s look at the theme entries (which were conveniently starred this week):

  • 17a: [Sentry’s (rather naive) question] was FRIEND OR FOE
  • 39a: [Famous African boy] was KING TUT – who died at the tender age of 18
  • 61a: [Bananarama hit used in “The Karate Kid”] clued CRUEL SUMMER – right in my wheelhouse, that one.
  • 11d: [Hardly a thoroughfare] was SIDE STREET
  • 29d: [River stuff] was SWEET WATER – what kind of river are we talking about here?

It wasn’t long before I noticed that some short French words crossed these theme words just like a Ronaldo (sorry!) cross-shot in front of the goal:

A rare shot of the Portuguese striker with his shirt on

  • AMI crossing FRIEND
  • ROI crossing KING
  • ÉTÉ crossing SUMMER
  • RUE crossing STREET
  • EAU crossing WATER

So the sought-after language was French (or Français, as I and a few other solvers submitted). I think it was ingenious to find these five French words that could be easily embedded in longer English words and shared a letter with their English translation.

A quick recap of some other other clues/entries:

  • Did you notice the tie-back to last week’s puzzle with the clue for 1a: [Dali’s days] for DÍAS? Dali provided the Spanish entry in the answer of Group B and these defending champs left Brazil yesterday with just one win against the much lower-ranked Socceroos. Notice too the symmetrically placed 69a [Not, in Netherlands] for NIET, another Group B competitor.
  • We stay on the pitch with 56a: [___ Hurst, only player to ever score a hat-trick in a World Cup final (1966)], which was GEOFF. An English player, and one of those 3 goals was controversial. England is another team who disappointed their fans this year; but Wayne Rooney’s World Cup scoring drought was at least finally broken.
  • Sir Hurst crossed 40d: [First language of 75 million people (but not the meta answer!)] or TELUGU. A good thing this Indian dialect wasn’t the meta answer; week 5 maybe, not 3.
  • IMRE Nagy, leader of the Hungarian Soviet revolt of 1956, was executed by Khrushchev after the revolution was crushed.
  • A six-letter partial in 4d: [“…have eyes but ___”] for SEE NOT. More recent translations of Mark 8:18 say “cannot see.” Another questionable lexical chunk was NO LUCK, clued as [“Things went differently from how I’d planned”]. (I might add a “such” in there myself.)
  • OFFCUT, or [Leftover cloth] at 47d was a new term to me; I read that it’s Chiefly British, which might explain its unfamiliarity.
  • Loved the crossing of PRUDE and UNDIES.

So, was Matt a SOFTY this week or did you find him more like that [Eponymous libertine] DE SADE?

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34 Responses to MGWCC #316

  1. Evan says:

    I got every part of my ass kicked by this one and was stunned so many people got it. I knew there had to be something going on with DIAS and NIET since those corners could easily be refilled with stronger, more common entries, but I could never suss any relationship between the starred clues or their answers, nor figure out which of the words in each theme entry was important.

    Off to eat some humble pie for about three days….

  2. Norm says:

    Got the meta by totally incorrect reasoning (each of the theme answers contains a French word) and knew I’d have to come here for the correct answer.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Dave. 296 right answers this week.

  4. Aaron says:

    I thought the title of the puzzle made the trick a little too obvious, so much so that I was overthinking my answer for this Week 3. I started looking at the crossing letters, and almost submitted IRISH after seeing IRI(AE); I also wondered at the fact that the crosses were all three letter words, and started looking at the letters that *didn’t* get exchanged, so to speak.

    Time got the better of me (and for the best, as it turns out), so FRENCH it was.

  5. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    It’s summer. And the World Cup is on (not that I have watched a minute of it.) And there are so many puzzles – the NPR Sunday challenge, and then multiple spin-offs at and from Blaine’s site. Those perplexing Runtpuzzes that sprang up at Rex Parker’s. My head hurts, and I haven’t been doing very well with Matt Gaffney’s late-month puzzles recently.

    So I looked at this one on Friday, failed to see what was going on, and set it aside and forgot about it. Then this morning at 11:15 I looked at Matt’s site. 269 or so correct answers! OMG, this must be really easy! So I took another look, for something simple instead of something impossible, and there it was. Got it in on time!

  6. Jason says:

    I spent a long time going nowhere because ENDOR from FRIENDORFOEwas staring at me and I was convinced the meta had something to do with Star Wars or sci-fi in general. I won’t mention what word I saw from SWEETWATER.

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      sweetwater” is just “freshwater”, as opposed to saltwater (which contains the same unmentionable word, as does “pocket watch”); it doesn’t mean that there’s actual sugar (or aspartame or whatever) in the river in enough quantity to be detectable by taste.

    • HH says:

      The same one that recently appeared on the Wheel of Fortune puzzle board when the answer was WATERPROOF WRISTWATCH, I assume.

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Yes, ingenious (not “ingenuous”) metapuzzle, with all the hidden French words being familiar 3-letter crosswordese. Also neat to have 69A:NIET (pronounced “neat”, if I remember right) symmetrical to 1A:DÍAS, and 51D:PRUDE crossing 68/65A: TEENIE UNDIES. Not sure about the 8D:SOFT_Y clue: does one really say that “yummy” starts with a “hard y” and ends with a “soft y”? I thought it was a consonant (or “glide”) vs. vowel distinction.

    The 4D:…SEE_NOT line is not original to the New Testament; see Jeremiah 5:21 (though I thought it was an imprecation against idols, which turns out to be Psalm 115:5). Yes, it’s a 6-letter “partial”; I care not: anyway it’s better than say “UP MY” from yesterday’s NYTimes (as is the same crossword’s central 14-letter “partial” AROUND_THE_WORLD).

    In what world does 2D:IMRE Nagy require an anagram hint but not the same corner’s 3D:AMIS and 14A:EMME?…


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Noam, you aren’t seriously suggesting that the literary AMIS is some sort of philistinic pop culture, are you?

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        Literary or philistinic, I needed several crosses for each of them, whereas IMRE was immediate even before I saw the anagram.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I wager that IMRE is not immediate for the vast majority of Americans.

          • Bencoe says:

            I agree, but I don’t think the vast majority of Americans are going to attempt to solve a meta crossword puzzle.
            NIET is pronounced “neat”, that is correct. One of the first Dutch words an English speaker will pick up.
            I found this meta easy because of the title. Great clue as to what was going on with the word “cross” included.

        • Brucenm says:

          Imre Nagy (pronounced NAHzh) a total gimme here too; and I often find myself wishing that it were not the gimmes that are given away by a superfluous anagram, but rather the entries where I really need the help. Excellent meta this week.

  8. AaronB says:

    Well I saw RIEN (French) and DORF (German) in FRIENDORFOE

    and SI (Sp.) DES (Fr.) and TREE (Eng.) in SIDESTREET

    and I knew they went across, and didn’t really cross, and that this logic didn’t extend to
    KINGTUT, (although could weakly encompass the other 2 long answers), I couldn’t “break set” and see the crossings

  9. John says:

    I saw the leader board today and was embarrassed beyond belief that hundreds of people had gotten this and i was clueless. For motivation, i promised to inflict the harshest pain i could think of on myself if i missed this meta. It worked, the solution came to light and i answered late in the game. I came THIS CLOSE to having to watch FIFA soccer.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    What an elegant meta!

    I submitted Dutch, though. According to the etymologic notes in the Mac’s dictionary widget (drawn from the New Oxford American Dictionary), the FRIEND in FRIEND OR FOE is related to the Dutch vriend. In KING TUT, KING is related to the Dutch koning.
    CRUEL SUMMER’s SUMMER is related to the Dutch zomer. SIDE in SIDE STREET is related to the Dutch zijde. And SWEET WATER ties to the Dutch zoet and water. This seemed compelling at the time! Although the same dictionary entries also cite, I see now, the German cognates. Given that most English words don’t include Dutch in the etymology listing, it seemed like it couldn’t be mere coincidence.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Dutch is a Germanic language, so a lot of English words that derive from German presumably have cognates in Dutch. Does your dictionary widget really include Dutch in the etymology section for these 6 words, but not for most Germanic words?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Please give me a list of 10 other Germanic-origin words and I’ll check.

        • CY Hollander says:


          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            GIVE, COME, GO, KNIGHT, SHEEP, THROW, HOLD: lists Dutch and German cognates
            TAKE: it’s Old English from Old Norse
            WALK: Old English from Germanic, no Dutch
            STRIKE: Old English, related to Germanic, no Dutch

      • Bencoe says:

        STREET is also related to the Dutch “straat”.
        Don’t tell the Dutch that their language is any more Germanic than English. They are justly proud of their independent cultural and linguistic history and hate being compared to their nemeses the Germans.

  11. Wayne says:

    Like it well enough. I thought that starring the theme entries brought it down to a Week 2 difficulty level.

    I spent a little bit of time trying to swap words in the theme answers, until I realized that the “Cross” in the title must be the other sense of the word.

    I also noticed the false path to the right answer that Norm mentioned above (each of the theme answers contained a common French word). Clearly that lacks the elegance of a Gaffney Meta, but I wonder how many people submitted FRENCH because of it, either as a hail-mary, or because they spotted it and thought they were done.

    • Norm says:

      Obviously, a total Hail Mary for me.

    • J. T. Williams says:

      I’m not sure I understand this idea of each theme answer containing a common French word. Why does that logic not equally support an answer of Spanish?

      • Norm says:

        I don’t see a Spanish word in KINGTUT or SWEETWATER, although I have to admit (doh) that neither language is one of my strong points.

  12. Ben Vincent says:

    I really liked this one, especially because all of the French crosses in question are popular Crosswordese choices. Happy to see them as part of longer words (even Amis clued as the proper noun and not the plural French friend we’re all used to seeing) and not just thrown in for easy fill. bEAUfort and dROIds were particularly nice. Great job, Matt!

  13. Jim S says:

    Wow, did I get lucky on this one. I only found one of the real French crossings (ami). The other theme words had French-related crossings – Berne, Orne/Fete, Beaufort, St Peters. Berne is apparently a Minority French-speaking area of Switzerland, there’s a St Peters in France (and probably every other country), there’s a Beaufort in France, etc. Those “facts” (which I now see are coincidences) were enough for me to submit French.

    I liked the puzzle a lot, mainly because I got it; however, from a meta perspective it seems unfair to those that found the real meta that I’d be able to stumble upon it (SWAGs are unavoidable, but I logicked my way to the right answer with coincidentals).

    • CY Hollander says:

      SWAGs are unavoidable

      Crediting them with the answer is very avoidable: Matt would just have to stipulate that you show your work. I’m not sure why he doesn’t.

      • Bencoe says:

        Maybe because he doesn’t want to check hundreds of people’s work every week just to make sure a few people don’t get it right randomly?
        Just sayin’.

        • Norm says:

          Matt has replied before that getting the meta for the wrong reason[s] still counts. Might be a blind guess off the puzzle title. My best bud used to call my pool playing “skills” slop — and he was right. Some weeks, that’s how I get the meta.

        • Lorraine says:

          Bencoe, especially now that he’s got upwards of 600 solvers.!

  14. Paul Coulter says:

    I was getting an early French vibe in the themers, which turned out to be separate from the meta – rien in friend, tu in Tut, et in sweet, mer in summer, and des in side street. I thought street would match up with the rue of cruel, etc. but when that didn’t work out, I saw the rue in true, and then the other crossing definitions. Excellent meta – just right for a Week 3 – well done, Matt. 4.5 stars from me.

  15. Matthew G. says:

    This felt more like a Week 2.5 to me, but I really liked it because the French crossings are all common crosswordese. “Repurposing” metas are among my favorites.

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