MGWCC #333

crossword 4:10
meta a few minutes 

mgwcc333greetings, and welcome to episode #333 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. thanks to evad for filling in for me last week while i was out of town and away from my computer. for this week 3 of 5 (but more like a week 2, says matt, since week 1 was more like a week 3) puzzle, matt tells us that we’re looking for an 11-letter proper noun that would’ve made a good fifth theme entry. what are the four theme answers in the grid? each of them has the same clue: {Something the Wordplay Police want to do?}. the answers themselves are rather whimsical:


so they’re all two-word phrases where the first word is a synonym of “outlaw” (in the transitive verb sense) and the second is a form of wordplay (in the plural). well… i’m not really sure acronyms are wordplay, but we’ll give that a pass. what could the meta answer be? the synonym that was conspicuous to me by its absence was “ban”, but this onelook search turned up nothing.

so then i started thinking about other forms of wordplay. what’s missing? anagrams, of course! and indeed the answer is bananagrams, a popular tile-based word game that happens to be 11 letters. (it’s also a portmanteau. prohibit portmanteaux!)

let me just say that i absolutely love the title of this puzzle. not only is “forbidden fruit” a familiar phrase (alliteration unintentional), but it deftly suggests both “ban” and “banana”. that’s so good i feel like crying.

that said, the meta itself was a little goofy, and i think it’s at least a little dissatisfying that the 4 theme answers in the grid were all definitely two-word phrases, whereas bananagrams is just one word. i dunno.

fill bits:

  • {Magazine with a hologram on the cover of its November 1990 issue} OMNI. did not know that. cool!
  • {Lil Wayne song with a tautological title} is I’M ME. never heard of it, but i like the clue.
  • {Young who’s 68 years old} NEIL. cute.
  • {Wizard’s weaponized words} are SPELLS. i wonder if this was the clue that inspired this tweet from matt.
  • {Bo who lost “American Idol” to Carrie Underwood} BICE. this guy is crossworthy now? stop the planet, i want to get off.
  • {Athlete on two consecutive Sports Illustrated covers, February 2012} is jeremy LIN. now this is a briefly famous dude i can get behind.
  • {“Dogs Playing Poker,” e.g.} BAD ART. i won’t defend those paintings, but this phrase seems to me to fall a little short of being in the language. maybe if it had been clued in reference to this museum i’d have been more inclined to let it slide.
  • {They’re wicked} is a wickedly clever clue for OIL LAMPS.
  • {Fan’s download, say} NEW SONG. see: BAD ART.
  • {It fits all, sometimes} ONE SIZE. ditto.
  • {Diploma ___} MILL. i chuckled when this came together from crosses. i wonder if anybody will end up with NEAL young crossing a diploma MALL?
  • {Half a Beatles title} OB-LA DI. this is a little better than just OB-LA (among the worst partials you often see in grids), but it still feels pretty lame.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you all like this one?

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29 Responses to MGWCC #333

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 397 right answers this week.

  2. Garrett says:

    I flamed-out on this one. My original track on solving it prevented me from getting anywhere. The premise I was working on was that the 11-letter proper noun had to be the second half of a fifth theme answer, because all of the first four were 15-wide. I got that the first word would have to be a synonym of “outlaw” or “abolish” or “disallow,” but of course that word would have to be 4 letters to make the 11-letter noun and the synonym add-up to 15. That was simply crash-and-burn time. I love Ban Anagrams but I think I would have liked Veto Vacillation better. ;-)

    • icdogg says:

      End Oscopies! (now if only Endoscopies was a proper noun and Oscopies were a form of word play…)

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        It could be: “LOS_OSOS, California has three OS copies.”

      • Garrett says:

        Ha, that gives me an idea… ENDLESSNESS!

      • Makfan says:

        I got hung up on Ban Ki-Moon, which isn’t an answer but blocked my ability to see other ideas. Rats. Even had the right word to start. I just couldn’t figure out how to fit a fruit anywhere. I don’t remember Bananagrams.

        I was on vacation the whole contest period so I only sent a few minutes at a Starbucks with Wifi trying to find an answer.

  3. CY Hollander says:

    Darn it all, I went as far as searching Wikipedia for all 11-letter entries beginning with “Ban”, and I still overlooked Bananagrams.

  4. Leonard Williams says:

    I missed “Ban anagrams” but still like my answer of “Prohibit ion”.

    • Mutman says:

      I submitted Prohibition too. It is 11 letters and a proper name. Is bananagrams really proper? Apparently Joon didn’t think so (see above).

      I guess Prohibition would have been a better title than 5th theme answer. Good month to have missed week one …..

  5. icdogg says:

    Took me a while since I never had heard of Bananagrams. I did think of both “Ban” and “Anagrams” before looking it up and realizing it was a thing.

    (Also was looking for names starting with “Bar” for a while, and “Halt” (would have been some guy named Hal T___) etc.)

  6. Armagh says:

    Bananagrams is popular? That’s a revelation. Never heard of it.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Damn — I was completely on the right track for once. I was looking up names of celebrities starting with ‘ban’ or bar’. I’m not sure I had the right definition of “proper noun’ in mind. I sure I would have done better at age 8 or so.

  8. Jon says:

    It took me all weekend but yesterday I had an a-ha moment with ban anagrams. The whole proper noun aspect made me keep looking for a brand name or geographic location name. It’s also too bad that the meta wasn’t also 15-letters long to match the theme answers. Ban abbreviations is 16 letters; so close yet for far.

  9. Jim S. says:

    Argh. Never a clue on this one, as the proper noun part threw me completely off. I was looking for famous names that somehow expressed Wordplay items and eventually settled on Spoonerisms. Most clueless I’ve been on a non-week 4/5 since I started meta-ing.

  10. Tony says:

    Closest I came was Ban Deodorant

  11. Garrett says:

    Did anyone notice that NEATO at 5A is stacked on top of EATON at 15A? A perfect anagram.

  12. MM says:

    I was thinking more along the lines of crossword themes (puns and rebuses especially) and submitted BLOCK QUOTES. Which obviously isn’t a proper noun, but whatevs.

  13. ant says:

    I thought it odd that RADII was paired with ULNAS. I figured it should either be radii/ulnae or radiuses/ulnas. That gave me a possible rebus box of USES in the rebus theme answer, along with REVER (or EVE) in the reversals answer, and AA in the acronym answer. I then farted around with PU in the pun answer, but finally got a clear whiff of where this meta was headed…

  14. Bruce S. says:

    I went with BUSTA RHYMES

    • Crypdex says:

      Me too!

      I’m sad because I’m sure I thought of BAN ANAGRAMS in my searches, but never saw the answer hidden there as one word. And I’m familiar with the name too, I don’t own the game but I did pick up this fun little book somewhere in my travels.

    • Daniel Barkalow says:

      Said with a fake Italian accent, of course. Embarassingly, I couldn’t come up with anything better than Busta Rhymes despite trying for several days while sitting within a foot of a Bananagrams set. Maybe if I’d listened to Ask Me Another this weekend, I’d have suddenly gotten it when they started reading the credits.

  15. icdogg says:

    I’ll bet the Amazon site for ordering the Bananagrams game had more traffic than usual this week.

  16. DanielB says:

    Dang! thought of bananagrams but dismissed it, never heard of the game. But it made me think of the shark from SNL . . . ‘bananagram’ . . .

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    You word-puzzle people should pick up Bananagrams!

    I navigated to a Wikipedia page listing types of wordplay and tried appending BAR or BAN to the front of them. Ban anagrams was a quick find since I own the game.

  18. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    This one took far less time than last week’s for me. I was tickled to see “I’m Me” there. It’s one I tend to quote often when bragging.

  19. mathgrant says:

    Took a while for it to click that the 11-letter proper noun could be a single-word charade and not a two-word phrase where the first word means “prohibit” and the second word is something else, but eventually I got it. I submitted my answer with the comment that ironically, when the Wordplay Police NAB a law-breaking anagram user, that’s a BAN anagram. . .

    I used to like the game Bananagrams, but I once played a game where the other people just gave up and stopped even trying to make a crossword while I kept shouting “peel”, and that soured me against the game for the rest of my life. I do like Zip-It, though, and play a variation where you use the cubes as dice rather than being able to pick any letter you want from each cube (you can reroll your entire hand as often as you’d like if you have bad letters). It tends to be one-sided with the people I play with, but it’s shorter.

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