MGWCC #341

crossword 3:00ish
meta 1:00ish 

mgwcc341hello and welcome to episode #341 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “You Say You Want a Revolution”. first, thanks to matt for filling in for me last week. i wish i had some exciting story about why i wasn’t available to blog last week’s puzzle, but i just forgot. anyway, that was then; this is now. in this holiday-themed week 2 puzzle, matt asks us to identify a word heard during Hanukkah. what are the four theme answers?

  • {Fast-moving weapon} clues NUNCHUCKS, or nunchakas, the weapon of choice for michelangelo.
  • {Seal’s mate, once} is supermodel and designer HEIDI KLUM.
  • {Justin who won the 1998 Australian and French Opens in Mixed Doubles partnered with Venus Williams (58-Across of BIG MOTELS)} clues GIMELSTOB. hey, i remember this guy! then again, i’m a tennis fan. his singles career was rather less notable; i imagine he’s the least famous player i’ve ever seen used in a crossword. 58-across, by the way, was {Earthworms for Swarthmore, say} ANAGRAM, which is a nice find. of course, i solved GIMELSTOB first and then went to find 58 to put in ANAGRAM then.
  • {Illuminate} clues SHINE UPON.

well, with four theme answers, the hanukkah instructions, and the hint from the title (“revolution”), it didn’t take long to light upon dreidel, which is marked with the four hebrew letters found at the starts of the theme answers: NUN, GIMEL, HE(I), and SHIN. and since hanukkah begins tonight, this is a very timely crossword. in the words of wisconsin governor scott walker, molotov!

fill tidbits:

  • {“The Overcoat” author Nikolai} GOGOL. one of my favorite stories by one of my favorite authors.
  • {Wanderer who reverses to a famous Matt} NOMAD. neat find! too bad YENFFAG doesn’t spell anything.
  • {Sea creature once in the center of a MGWCC grid} OCTOPUS. yup, mgwcc #309.
  • {Sitcom actor / poker expert Kaplan} GABE. this guy was in welcome back, kotter, but i still always confuse him with former red sox backup outfielder gabe kapler.
  • {Third most-expensive city in the world in 2014, per The Telegraph} GENEVA. interesting! #1 and #2 are london and oslo, in that order. i wouldn’t have guessed—new york or tokyo seem like good bets for the top spot, but no.
  • {Fauxhawk or beehive} HAIRDO. minor infraction here—BEES is in the grid, clued as {Yellow buzzers}. but certainly less than the 15-yard penalty for CLIPping.
  • {Castor or Pollux} STAR. what, you thought this was going to be greek myth? nope. they’re both stars in (surprise) the constellation gemini. did you know? the brightest star in gemini is pollux, but castor is designated “α gemini” because of a mistake by johann bayer in 1603.
  • {King of Thebes} CREON. here’s your greek myth. CREON is antigone’s uncle in sophocles’s oedipus trilogy.
  • {Chess piece, casually (even the queen and rook?!)} is a MAN. funny, i never thought it was weird to call a rook a man. i know a rook is also a bird, and the chess piece looks like a tower (and little kids call it a “castle”), but it appears the etymology of rook the chess piece is uncertain.
  • {Literary harpooner} is AHAB. i guess he is a harpooner in the sense that he takes a harpoon to moby dick, but he’s not one of the ship’s harpooners in terms of his job title; he’s the captain.

that’s all for me. see you next week, when the festival of lights will be nearly at an end, but christmas will be fast upon us.

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36 Responses to MGWCC #341

  1. Joe Eckman says:

    And don’t forget the “top” in the center of the grid, both vertically and horizontally…

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 535 correct entries this week.

    I am as shocked at the presence of a spinning TOP in the center of the grid as all of you are

  3. Lynne R Equation says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Joon! I knew immediately that it must be Dreidel, but couldn’t figure out the connection to the theme answers. Mazeltov to you!

  4. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    As I noted in my submission to Matt, it was doubtless easier to fully appreciate this puzzle if one was fluent in Hebrew, which I am not.

    Just reading the statement of what we were looking for in the meta, plus the title of the puzzle, I said to myself, “It must be DREIDEL.” And sure enough, the TOP x TOP in the center confirmed that, but it wasn’t satisfying.

    So I studied the grid, and despite the flashing red lights and bells at GIMEL, it was HEIDIKLUM that sent me to look at the Hebrew alphabet — but I expected to find KLUM there, not HEI! (Have I mentioned my ignorance of Hebrew?)

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      KLUM is Hebrew for “nothing”, so if you expected to find “klum” in that entry you were wrong ;-)


      [Yes, classically KLUM meant “something” or “anything”, but usually in expressions like “I didn’t do KLUM”, so at some point reversed, as in the French “pas” from “ne pas” = “not a step”.]

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      My other title idea was “In the Lounge, With the Revolver”

    • makfan says:

      I started with the idea of Menorah, but nothing fit. Then I saw the title and thought of Dreidel, but had no idea how to make the theme answers fit. After I Googled dreidel and looked at the Wikipedia result, I hit pay dirt.

      Submitted on Gogo inflight Wifi so I didn’t miss the deadline. I had been in workshops all day Friday/Saturday/Sunday and trying to catch up on work yesterday.

  5. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Nice holiday metapuzzle. Also a bonus hint in the two intersecting TOPs hiding right in the center of this pinwheel. (I see that others noted this too while I was editing this comment.)

    Earthworms has long been the name of the men’s Ultimate Frisbee team at Swarthmore. The women’s, naturally, is the Warmothers!

    Does “Uzbekistan” really start with a 22D:LONG_U? Ukraine, sure (“you crane”), but “use Becky, Stan”? I always hear an “oo” vowel at the start, which is a different sound.

    Yes, a Rook or Queen is “one of the distinctive objects moved by each player” in the board game of chess, so each counts as a 47D:MAN, see definition 4a in Merriam-Webster. I think technically a chess “piece” is any chessman other than a pawn.


    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Isn’t the u in “tube” long, and the u in “tub” short?

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        “Tube” can be pronounced either “tyoob” or “toob”. The former clearly has a long U sound; the latter is at best debatable (does “boob” have a long U sound?).

        • Clint Hepner says:

          “Uzbekistan” does indeed start with a long U. Some dialects often (always?) precede a long U (/u:/) with a palatal approximate (/j/), hence “tyoob” (/tju:b/) vs. “toob” (/tu:b/) for tube.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            The vowel sound is strictly the OO portion, yes? And when it’s YOO, the Y bit isn’t specifically part of the vowel sound in question?

          • Dele says:

            I’d agree that the LONG U sound is just ‘OO’. In any case, the first vowel in Uzbekistan is undoubtedly long, and is undoubtedly a U, so what would you call it if not a LONG U?

          • Noam D. Elkies says:

            I suppose since some people even say “I rock” for Iraq I shouldn’t be too surprised to hear “use Becky, Stan”. But aside of that I’d call it an oo sound, or maybe a “pure u vowel” (pronounced “pyoor oo”), figuring that “long U” includes the initial approximant/semivowel. Just because the vowel of “truth” is spelled U doesn’t make it sound any more like a “long U” than the one in “booth”, or in “crwth” for that matter. If that counts as a long U, then what’s a long A? Anyhow “Ukraine” was an unimpeachable option.

        • pannonica says:

          According to the Unspoken Law of Phonetic Vowel Progression Themes, a long U is inevitably considered to be /oo/ (/u:/) and the existence of the ‘longer’ /yew/ (/ju:) is politely ignored. I learned this via overwhelming solverati opinion when I first tried to push back in blog write-ups.

  6. Mac says:

    The importance of dreidel cam pretty quickly with Hanukkah, revolution and the Hebrew words appearing on its sides. But then I wasted a ton of time trying to figure out what to submit as my answer. Not being familiar with dreidel-play, I kept looking for the word that one shouts when something happens with the dreidel. Alas. Found nothing. Matt usually tells us what he wants (an article of clothing, a part of the body, a city, a state, etc.). Maybe it was intentional misdirection. Maybe it was because it would be too easy (even for Week 2) if he said he wanted a toy or object associated with Hanukkah. Anyway, just sayin’.

    • Norm says:

      I had exactly the same thought/concern, but figured that people would often be singing the song while they played, so dreidel itself would be “a” word heard. It was a relief to see my moniker appear on the board.

      • CY Hollander says:

        I had exactly the same thought/concern, but figured that people would often be singing the song while they played, so dreidel itself would be “a” word heard.

        I think you’d be likelier to hear it in phrases like, “Anyone want to play dreidel?” or “Pass the dreidel, please.” Singing “I Have a Little Dreidel” (the song you had in mind, I presume) while playing the game strikes me as roughly on a par with singing “Heigh Ho” as you go off to work.

    • pannonica says:

      ooh, DreidelCam™ !

  7. ant says:

    Matt – just curious: how many wrong answers, and what were they?

    • Matt Gaffney says:


      • jps says:

        From now on when I’m stumped (likely this week), I’ll try to remember to submit “chapstick”. Perhaps that can be the answer to puzzle 1000.

      • CY Hollander says:

        CHAPSTICK (?!)

        It does begin with CHA…

        • CY Hollander says:

          …and one advances the stick by revolution of the tube’s base. I imagine the guess was a shot in the dark based on the puzzle’s title and the CHA- coincidence.

  8. joon says:

    by the way, if you are looking for the perfect gift for that jewish pun-loving hip-hop fan in your life, look no further than the dr. dreidel.

    • CY Hollander says:

      I don’t see a way to buy it on that page. Then again, I doubt Dr. Dre licensed the use of his image, anyhow.

  9. Erich Peterson says:

    I thought this was a great week 2! In addition to the spinning tops in the middle of the grid- NUNCHUCKS spin, GIMELSTOB certainly employed some spin in his career and HEIDI KLUM was in Spin City. If SHINE UPON could’ve also been something that spun, then my head would’ve been spinning!

  10. Blanche Schulz says:

    I overthought this one. Believing that the answer had to be found in the grid, I looked unsuccessfully for “dreidel” and then decided to take the title literally. If I want a dreidel to revolve, I might sing the song that begins “S’vivon sov sov sov” (dreidel spin spin spin). And sure enough, I found SOV and submitted that. Oh well. . .

  11. Daniel Barkalow says:

    Despite the order they’re clued in, the theme answers are really NUNCHUCKS, GIMELSTOB, HEIDI KLUM, and SHINE UPON, reading clockwise around the puzzle. They’re in the same positions in the puzzle that they would be on a dreidel ready to spin, seen from above.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Ah, good catch. I didn’t notice that.

      I’m always impressed with the detail-work Matt does on his themes.

  12. Amy L says:

    I missed the central TOPs because I could only see the central nine-patch as a form of grated POTATOS (spelled a la Dan Quayle). I was disappointed to have to settle for that dumb plastic toy.

  13. CY Hollander says:

    Totally missed that spinning top in the center, even after finishing the puzzle, but that was a very deft touch.

    I usually finish the puzzle before going for the meta, but this week I submitted early because I wanted to be first on the leaderboard for once, especially as this was most likely my last chance. Lucky the theme was in my wheelhouse.

  14. Dele says:

    I’m sure some of you have seen this already, but…

    Chag Chanukah sameach!

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