MGWCC #343

crossword 3:07 (across lite)
meta DNF 

hello and welcome to episode #343 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “My Kind of Town”. for this final puzzle of 2014, matt asks us to identify an appropriate eight-letter answer to the clue [Reykjavik*]. what the theme answers? these four clues are starred, each of which is clued with a city:

  • {Las Vegas* (hyphen is not meta-related, just evening up the theme entries) [energy]} clues ANN-MARGRET. the non-thematic hyphen crosses NO-NO.
  • {Miami* [dearth]} TONY MONTANA.
  • {Chicago* (but Los Angeles until July 2014) [lack]} THE LAKERS.
  • {Phoenix* [truth]} MEL’S DINER.

okay, so what is going on? none of these answers actually corresponds to the clue, so that’s pretty weird. but they’re all connected, at least somewhat. ann-margret was in viva las vegas with elvis. tony montana is the main character from the film scarface, which is set in miami. i don’t know what’s going on with the chicago clue, but of course THE LAKERS play in los angeles. this past july, longtime laker pau gasol left as a free agent and was signed by the bulls, so perhaps the clue refers to him somehow. and mel’s diner is from the show alice, which was set at a roadside diner outside of phoenix.

i’m not going to lie—i haven’t devoted much time to this due to traveling all weekend and now being on vacation. other than pau gasol, i haven’t really had any useful thoughts about what specific connections we are supposed to draw between these clues and “answers”. but let’s try this now. there’s one actress, one fictional character, one fictional location, and one basketball team. that makes it kind of hard to figure out what to do, but perhaps there’s a person involved in each case—although this would make it hard to figure out what the 8-letter answer is.

suppose pau gasol is the “link” person in the third theme clue. who else would it be in the others? ann-margret’s character from viva las vegas was apparently named rusty martin (which, i must add, is an unlikely name for a female character). al pacino, of course, plays tony montana in scarface. and the relevant person in the phoenix clue might be fictional alice hyatt or the actress who played her, linda lavin. i kind of want it to be linda lavin because her last name is an anagram of her first name with one letter changed. there aren’t too many other famous people with this quality (alan alda, edgar degas, and kevin kline are probably the most famous) and none of them are hinted at by the other clues, but this is the sort of thing i’d be looking for in a week 4 meta.

time to look at it from another angle. what do the bracketed words mean? energy, dearth, lack, truth. dearth and lack are synonyms. i don’t know what they have to do with energy and truth. i don’t think that those are four members of a set we’re supposed to recognize, so they probably are related to either the city or the “answer” to each theme clue. but i can’t figure out how.

well, i have approximately zero more time to devote to thinking about this, so i guess i’m giving up. i don’t think this one was that tough, judging by the number of people who have gotten it since matt sent out the bracketed clues, but i was not one of those people. hope everybody is enjoying their holidays, and i’ll see you all in 2015. (remember to subscribe for next year’s puzzles!)

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23 Responses to MGWCC #343

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    Anyone who solved this without the hint has truly outstanding meta skills. Jangler? Deep Blue? I do agree with Matt that it was gettable, since one of the connections was likely to be Viva, and another could only be Pau or Gasol. But the other two had many possibilities for associations with the t.v. show Alice and the movie Scarface. I’m glad he decided to give us an end of the year present with the hint, though it took this from a Week 5+ to a fairly straightforward Week 3. When I went to common *city words on OneLook, sagacity was the only one Matt hadn’t used where the * was a common word, itself. (Turned out Pau and Viva were right. The others were Vera and Scar) Good conception for a meta, but it needed some device that made it neither mushroom-shaman level nor too easy. It was also unclear if he wanted sagacity, which he accepted, or some connection like the other themers such as OLD NORSE or EPIC POEM. I wonder how Matt’s test solvers did with the original version. Overall, 3.5 stars from me for this one, but 5.0 for a great year of metas! Thanks, Matt, and Happy New Year to everyone.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon. The answer I was looking for was SAGACITY (see below), which 142 solvers found. The idea was to describe each of the clue cities with an X+”city” word. So if you think of Las Vegas in terms of Ann-Margret, who as you mention starred in “Viva Las Vegas,” then you get VIVA-CITY, a synonym for the bracketed [energy].

    Similarly, Miami is SCAR-CITY because of Tony Montana being Scarface, clued by [dearth]; Chicago (but Los Angeles until July 2014 is PAU-CITY because of Pau Gasol, longtime star on THE LAKERS [lack]; and Phoenix is VERA-CITY in terms of Mel’s Diner because Vera was a waitress there.

    So for Reykjavik the 8-letter word that fits is SAGACITY, since it’s a main city of the Icelandic sagas.

    Unfortunately I worded what I was looking for ambiguously. Most solvers got SAGACITY, but others understandably were looking for something that would hint at Reykjavik, not the X + City term.

    So: If you were one of the solvers who saw the SAGACITY link but then submitted something other than SAGACITY, please e-mail me at and we will give you credit manually.

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear about the city connections. Matt’s explained it very well above.

  4. Garrett says:

    I loved this puzzle. Gave it a five.

  5. PJ says:

    I’m one of those who debated whether to put SAGACITY or something related to Reykjavik, as the other theme answers did. I reread the instructions and realized that Matt said to find an “appropriate” answer, not one that fit the pattern. However, I submitted EPICTALE along with a comment about SAGACITY, covering all my bases. Thanks Matt for etertaining us all year. Joon, thanks for giving us a heads up on Tuesday, so we don’t have to wait and wonder until Friday. Happy New Year all you Gaffney Gamers.

  6. Dan Seidman says:

    I thought it was a little more vague and confusing than most of Matt’s puzzles — the relationships of the grid entries weren’t precise, especially THELAKERS being the answer for Chicago. But it was a clever theme, and I’m not sure what would have been a better way to do it. It reminded me of the April 18th puzzle — that had a bunch of words ending in -ABLE.

    Without the hints, if nobody in this crowd could solve it in almost a day, I would consider it unsolvable.

  7. Bob Dorfman says:

    Like PJ, I got the SAGACITY connection, but after heavy Googling went with OLD NORSE, the language of the Icelandic SAGA. Learned a lot about Iceland and Rejkyavik in the process. Another great puzzle, Matt!

  8. Don Lloyd says:

    I had CHESSSET as an emergency stand-by answer because of Bobby Fischer’s famous ties to Reykjavik, and knowing of Matt’s interest in chess, making Reykjavik “Matt’s Kind of Town.” It seemed too simple for a week 4 meta and I had no idea how the theme clue/answer pairs were connected, so I delayed submitting. Then came word that the meta was not only not too simple but too hard! Sifting through synonyms for the additional bracketed hints I experienced felicity.

    And a felicitous New Year to all!

    • abide says:

      I spent most of my pre-hint time in the CHESS SET vein, especially when I learned the typical chess set is known as a Staunton chess set after its designer.

      Also each city was in a different U.S. time zone, and Iceland is on Greenwich Mean time, which made me think the corresponding TIMESLOT had to be relevant.

      Great puzzle; great year.

  9. singerdog says:

    If only I had found out about Pau…reading Joon’s write-up, I immediately pounced on the *city pattern when I saw Pau Gasol. Alas, my googling skills failed at finding anything note-worthy about July ’14 relating to the Lakers. Aaarrgggh!

  10. Adam T says:

    I don’t get why the entries for the starred entries are what they are. They aren’t answers to the clues and they”re tangential to the -city words.

  11. Jed says:

    I was sure I wasn’t grokking when I could only get to SAGACITY and struggled for quite a while to find the missing piece. I was incredibly pleased when I learned from Google that the popular Reykjavik-based band SIGUR ROS was featured in The Simpson’s episode “The Saga of Carl.” A pretty neat coincidence, encouraged by Matt’s frequent Simpson’s references.

    Happy New Year! Or should I say, “Gleðilegt nýtt ár!”

  12. Eric L says:

    Since the other connections went from [City Name]* to [Intermediate Term] to [-CITY word], I thought I was looking for an 8-letter [Intermediate Term], not an 8-letter [-CITY word].

    After rejecting Leif ERICKSON (who, despite probably having a few SAGAs written about him, was Norse and not from Reykjavik) and KOPASKER (a city on the opposite side of Iceland from Reykjavik whose airport code is OPA), I discovered an author from Reykjavik by the name of Arnaldur Indridason, who has written a series of crime novels featuring a Detective ERLENDUR, the first of which was called JAR CITY. Not an elegant solution (since the title of the novel is not a single word), but I went with ERLENDUR.

  13. pgw says:

    I too was torn between SAGACITY, which I eventually submitted, and something saga-related to fit the pattern. But there was clearly no universal such term so I decided it had to be sagacity. I suggested to Matt that maybe the meta clue should have been something like “an 8-letter word describing Reykjavik,” which might have both solved this ambiguity and obviated the need for the extra hint Matt had to send out. Still, I thought it was a great meta idea.

  14. Cole Kendall says:

    With the hints I got SAGACITY but assumed that like ANN MARGRET and THE LAKERS the answer had to be something like NORSEMEN (though I included the wisdom/SAGACITY in my comment to be sure).

  15. Mike says:

    The puzzle asked for “an appropriate eight-letter answer to the clue [Reykjavik*]”. The answer for the clue “Las Vegas [energy]” was “ANN-MARGRET”. So the answer to the puzzle should have been something analogous to “ANN-MARGRET”, not something analogous to “VIVACITY”. If Matt wanted “SAGACITY”, he should have asked for “an appropriate eight-letter word analogous to the hints I had to provide for what started out as a sixth week puzzle.” The answer might then be JUDGMENT.

    I was thrown off by the request for “eight-letters”, looking unsuccessfully for something like “ANN MARGRET” about the SAGA MUSEUM that had eight letters but unambiguously pointed to the museum.

    • Abby B says:

      Exactly. That took me forever, but I found what seemed to be a likely character from an Icelandic saga and explained my thought process in the submission, which got it right, but seemed like more knowledge than these are supposed to take.

      Plus the whole thing was a little loose on the relationships. Only thing that seemed certain was it should be a proper noun that had something to do with Reykjavik that somehow suggested “saga”. I kept thinking I was missing something that made the answers less arbitrary.

  16. John says:

    I had SAGACITY in mind 5 minutes after he posted the revision. I thought we were finding a proper answer to fit in the grid though. So: What with Reykjavik goes with x to suggest SAGA? As someone else here alluded to, i learned an awful lot about the city, old Norsemen, and a TON about Fischer/Spassky. Granted, the latter was because i found it interesting enough to keep reading about long after i realized it wouldn’t solve the puzzle. My answer, Arnarson, was the founder of Reykjavik and thus progenitor of the Icelandic Saga. I felt less than the solid click though and so put my reasons in, which Matt kindly accepted.

  17. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Clue #15A, asking for the largest palindromic city in South America (appropriate for puzzle #343), is a surprisingly close call, and I’m not sure whether the correct answer is the intended ORURO (Bolivia) or the name that first came to mind, Neuquén (Argentina). Wikipedia gives both towns’ populations at about 265000. Of course for a 5-letter entry NEUQUEN is normally out of the question, but in a Week 4 puzzle (and with this theme!) one never knows…


  18. AV says:

    This was too tough for me. I want my money back .. oh, wait .. ok, fine. I will subscribe and then ask for my money back! :-)

    Matt – thanks for the many years of freebies. It’s about time we all subscribed! Keep on meta-ing!

  19. Joel says:

    I was a little led astray by the first letters of the theme entry spelling MATT, so I was half-expecting the meta to start with a G. I had no idea what to make of THE LAKERS, so I went out on Facebook and asked if anyone knew of a connection between Lakers, Chicago and July 2014. Someone brought up Pau Gasol, but it apparently auto corrected to Paul. Sports ignoramus that I am, I had no idea until Sunday night when I googled him in desperation. After that it all fell into place.

  20. Elaine says:

    Okay, I give up. I don’t have a tool box of meta-puzzle approaches, and I’ve been chronically unable to solve more than 2 puzzles per month. It doesn’t make sense to spend money on something I have no chance of enjoying or whatevering (same reason I don’t buy lottery tickets) so I will bid a fond farewell to a talented puzzle-maker. I’m clearly not in this class. Best wishes always!

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