MGWCC #362

crossword 3:25
meta 0:10 

mgwcc362hello and welcome to episode #362 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Grow a Pair”. for this week 2 puzzle, we are asked to identify a famous musical duo. what are the theme answers?

  • {#28 on TV Guide’s list of greatest cartoon characters of all time} FELIX THE CAT.
  • {Troublemaker’s activity} RAISING CAIN.
  • {University that’s home to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center} PENN STATE.
  • {Phrase that sometimes has the words “in Eden” inserted} MADAM I’M ADAM.
  • {Smoker’s problem} ITCHY THROAT.

pretty straightforward theme: each contains one member of a famous pair: felix and oscar (from the odd couple), cain & abel from the book of genesis, magicians penn and teller, adam and eve (also from genesis), and itchy & scratchy from the itchy & scratchy show from the simpsons. the first letters of the “silent partners” (very apt in the case of teller) spell out OATES, so there are two possible answers: the famous hall and oates, and the somewhat less famous but still famous garfunkel and oates. i’ve never heard their music, but riki lindhome (garfunkel) was in a movie i saw recently, as conrade in the joss whedon (callback!) much ado about nothing. it’s not much of a part, but the movie was great.

anyway, this was a fine puzzle. it’s a simple but fun idea for a theme. i didn’t like the title’s gratuitous testicle allusion, but everything else about the puzzle was fine by me.

bits that caught my eye:

  • {Words on Election Day stickers} I VOTED. i would never wear the sticker, but it’s a cool crossword entry.
  • {Wealthy island nation} BAHRAIN. it sure is—12th highest GDP per capita. not the island nation that tends to show up in a crossword.
  • {Regression to the mean, e.g.} ATAVISM. this is a cool word, but i haven’t seen this usage. my understanding of ATAVISM is reversion to some ancestral characteristic. there is apparently a thing called atavistic regression, but it’s not regression to the mean in the statistical sense.
  • {“Vamos!”} is a more positive clue for “LET’S GO!” than something like {Lays off}.
  • {Mathematician Elkies, journalist Scheiber, or linguist Chomsky} NOAM. never heard of scheiber; chomsky is by far the most famous, but as far as i know, elkies is the only one of these three who is a MGWCC subscriber.
  • {Ezra Pound or Amy Lowell} IMAGIST. boy, there is a lot of lovely 7-letter fill in this grid. matt has done very well with those 3×7 stacks necessitated by a central 9-letter themer.
  • {Grammar police, e.g.} PEDANTS. yup.
  • {USNA measurement} NAUT. MI.? this is a hideous abbreviation. i don’t know why i’m having quite such a strong reaction to it, because at least it’s pretty clear what it stands for. but ouch.
  • {Birth city of Milan Kundera, Ernst Mach, and Kurt Godel} BRNO. i did not know that. here’s the funny thing: they were born in three different countries! mach was born in 1838 in moravia, part of the austrian empire; gödel in 1906 in austria-hungary; and kundera in 1929 in czechoslovakia. and of course, anybody born in BRNO since 1993 was born in the czech republic.

that’s all from me. how’d you all like this puzzle?

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19 Responses to MGWCC #362

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Wow. I forgot to solve the puzzle this weekend while traveling, and ten minutes ago I realized I was about to skip a Week 2 entirely. So I sent in Hall and Oates as a Hail Mary based off the title alone (“grow” and “oats”). My most undeserved correct answer ever.

    • makfan says:

      Ha. I’m jealous. I solved the crossword on Saturday but family arrived and then by the time I remembered it this morning, it was too late.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Perhaps “grow” made me think of “oats” so quickly because, when I was a kid, I thought the name of the group was “Haulin’ Oats.” True story.

        • ICDogg says:

          There was a story a couple of months ago in the news about Hall and Oates suing a granola manufacturer that calls their product “Haulin’ Oats”.

          • Matthew G. says:

            That’s really funny. I swear I didn’t plagiarize my anecdote from the news, though.

  2. KZ Condor says:

    For some reason I found this week super difficult – harder than the last several week 4 puzzles. I couldn’t decide whether Penn State was a theme answer or not, and I wasn’t seeing Itchy or Felix as part of a famous pair. That left me with Adam and Cain, so I was stuck in a Genesis rabbit-hole, even though they are not a duo.

    Eventually got it by staring at the completed grid until “Oscar” jumped into my head for no particular reason.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    340 right answers this week, including about two dozen Garfunkel & Oates answers (they’re new to me but certainly a legit answer).

    Interesting BRNO factoid!

  4. Clint Hepner says:

    I was at a loss until about an hour before deadline when I realized I had overlooked PENNSTATE as a theme answer; adding Teller to the list of partners I already had made “?ATES”, and although I didn’t really know what went with Felix the Cat, I figured OATES was the intended name. Luckily (at least for reverse-engineering OATES), Wikipedia mentions Otto Messmer as a claimant to having created Felix the Cat. Tenuous, but close enough. Felix + Oscar had flashed through my mind before I realized the need for an O, but “Felix the Cat” was harder for me to break down into “Felix” plus something irrelevant than, e.g., Raising Cain.

  5. Wayne says:

    I got this one pretty quickly. So I’m hoping that my slump was just an April thing.
    I’m glad I didn’t know about Garfunkel and Oates, since that undoubtedly would have gotten me over-thinking the meta into Simon and Garfunkel territory.

    @joon, nice one about Brno!

    [Holy cow, I just spent some youtube time with Garfunkel and Oates. They are all kinds of wrong. I think that’s going to have to be continued on a non-corporate computer.]

  6. Amy L says:

    I had cat and DOG for my first pair, so I got DATES. I spent the weekend wondering what kind of pair of dates you can grow. And Daryl Hall lived in a trinity (a type of house peculiar to Philadelphia) that’s on the walking tour I have been leading for over twenty years. (I usually mention him but I never remember if it was Hall or Oates who lived there–I just googled so it was Hall.) I knew I would be doing a giant head slap today at noon. Ouch!

  7. Laura E-D says:

    I definitely didn’t think hard enough about this one. Saw that it was a “foo & bar” pattern and sent in Simon & Garfunkel. I saw I didn’t get it on the leaderboard, and did a bit of a facepalm. Even so, I assumed the first was “Felix & Maria” not “Felix & Oscar” and thought the answer might be “Mates of State.”

  8. Jim S. says:

    Fun meta. Before I caught on, I was wondering if maybe the names were references to songs, so I made the mistake of googling “Felix Cain” and boy was THAT a mistake. Hello Australian pole dancer! I figured Matt wouldn’t send us down that direction, so went back to the drawing board. While slowly building the initials, Oasis came to mind but quickly disappeared (the duo initials didn’t pan out, but the band was more than just the 2 brothers that I’ve heard of). 4 stars from me.

    • Jim S. says:

      Meant to add… Found the puzzle itself fairly easy this week after having a brutal time last week. That’s one aspect I love about Matt’s metas – an easy meta could be paired with a tough puzzle and vice versa, so you never know what you’re going to get for the complete package from week to week. I know that I won’t get many week 4s (yet – I’m getting better!), but the experience of the puzzle solve is variable from week to week and doesn’t seem to follow the progressive difficulty pattern of the meta.

  9. Neil D says:

    You know… I was gonna guess Hall and Oates because we sang it at Karaoke and I just saw them in concert but I never pressed send…. :/

  10. - kip - says:

    I thought sure there was a HALL hidden in there too with the other half of the theme entries.

    So there wasn’t anything going on with “the cat in the Hat”; “raising Arizona”; “madam (I couldn’t figure this one out)”; and “throat Lozenge”?

  11. Bret says:

    What threw me was that for three of the themers – Felix the Cat, Penn State and Itchy Throat – the partner was from a pairing that had nothing to do with the answer. IE Felix and Oscar are completely different than Felix the Cat. For the other two, Adam/Eve and Cain/Abel, the pairing was directly related to the answer and the clue. It had me wondering for a while if there was an Eve and Abel group somewhere.

  12. chriskingsc says:

    Whew, I’m glad I got this one. I was over thinking it, and tried to make even more pairs! In my mind, the other halves of the theme phrases could make the pairs CAT/DOG, RAISING/LOWERING, CHURCH/STATE, SIR/MADAM, and NOSE/THROAT. Some are weaker than others, but these pairs are real things. So, of my 10 possible letters, I found OATES in the mix, and tried Hall and Oates, which sure enough was right.

  13. Jim Curran says:

    I figured out the pattern, but ended up answering ITCHY AND SCRATCHY, even though I had a feeling that something was amiss with that answer. Or maybe just because I never heard of them before. Funny thing was though… my first hunch upon seeing the meta question was HALL AND OATES for some reason. Shoulda gone with the gut!

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