MGWCC #381

crossword 3:46
meta 2 days 
mgwcc381hello and welcome to episode #381 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Born for This”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt asks us to find a member of the U.S. Cabinet who served at some point in the past 25 years, and would have made an excellent sixth theme entry in this puzzle. there are five theme answers given, each with a *ed clue:

  • {Stephen Harper’s predecessor*} PAUL MARTIN.
  • {Seven-time Gold Glove winner who was the plaintiff in a 1969 Supreme Court case*} CURT FLOOD. flood was one of the seminal figures in the history of sports qua history. it is only a slight stretch to say that organized labor exists in american professional sports because of flood.
  • {With 41-Across, pioneer in artificial hearts*} MICHAEL / DEBAKEY.
  • {Slovenian chess player whose first name is the same as and whose last name is pretty close to an eponymous physicist*} GEORG MOHR. oy, this guy is obscure for sure, unless you’re a hardcore chesshead. the clue is also a bit tortured—it seems like it’s referring to the first and last name of a single eponymous physicist, but as far as i can tell, it’s alluding to georg ohm and niels bohr. (his son aage bohr was also a physicist, and in fact also a nobel-winning physicist, but isn’t eponymous for anything as far as i can tell.)
  • {He was forced to return his 2005 Heisman Trophy*} REGGIE BUSH.

well, what do these people have in common? it must have something to do with their names, as GEORG MOHR is in no way famous enough for us to be expected to know about him. (even his wikipedia page is a stub. he’s not even the most famous georg mohr; that would be this danish mathematician. the mohr-mascheroni theorem is fascinating and worth a look.)

i didn’t see it on my first pass, but looking at it again a couple days later, it jumped out at me: their initials. paul martin was the PM (prime minister) of canada; curt flood was a CF (center fielder); michael debakey was, of course, an MD (medical doctor); georg mohr is a GM (grandmaster), and reggie bush is an RB (running back).

so who’s the cabinet member in question? well, the only cabinet position you’d refer to by a pair of initials is AG, attorney general. (the others would be “secretary of ___”, and you sometimes see abbreviations like secdef but not SD.) so is there an attorney general with initials AG? why yes: alberto gonzales, attorney general during the second g.w. bush administration.

cool puzzle. i’m kicking myself for not getting it earlier, because i have written a puzzle exactly like this as an only connect question, and in fact i also used curt flood. my version was all from sports, and it was people whose initials matched their position. i went with only one player from any given sport, so reggie bush didn’t make the cut (i thought all-pro cornerback champ bailey was a better and more famous player), but there were many good NFL options—longtime bears linebacker lance briggs and right guard robert garza were both on my mind.

this meta is also reminiscent of one of the earliest mgwcc puzzles (#20, to be precise)—so early that it was before i started blogging it for the fiend. (my first mgwcc blog post was #27.) that puzzle, called “please state your name”, involved celebrities who were born in a state whose two-letter postal abbreviation matches their initials. anybody else remember this puzzle? good stuff.

there’s some pretty fresh fill/clues here, too. the neologism {Bestie} BAE is in there at 67d. it was a word of the year nominee last year, and although i would certainly never use it myself, it has currency. clue and answer are both fresh in {Food descriptor that reverses to an expression of surprise} GMO, too; same with {MMORPG participant} GAMER. i liked the clues for {Fictional stoner, as it were} MEDUSA and {His name is synonymous with…well, synonyms} ROGET.

i’m pretty excited to see who wins the contest this week. it might even be me! i’ve always wanted to win a subscription to my own puzzle website.

well, that’s all for me this week. let’s hear from you all in the comments.

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to MGWCC #381

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    It seemed pretty much a Week 2, didn’t it? From the title, I thought we’d have theme entries like Usain Bolt and Margaret Court, people with appropriate last names. But once the first two themers revealed P.M and C.F., we had to be going for either an A.G. or V.P. The other cabinet members don’t have titles that can be abbreviated in two letters. From there, it was easy to come up with Alberto Gonzales. Matt was nice enough to overlook my misspelling with a final z instead of s. For those too young to have followed politics ten years ago, Gonzales infamously ruled as A.G. that “Enhanced Interrogation,” or torture in plain English, was legal. 3.5 stars from me.

  2. Tony says:

    Definitely had a week 2 feel to it. Got the meta fairly quickly enough after seeing CURT FLOOD (which was the first entry I filled in thanks to the clue) and MICHAEL DEBAKEY.

  3. jefe says:

    Well, I was on a wrong but plausible track. 4 of the 5 (couldn’t find enough info on Mohr) were named after their fathers, or named their sons after them, or both. So I went with Manuel Lujan (jr), Bush’s secretary of the interior, though I suppose Al Gore would’ve been a more obvious guess.

    Does anyone know about Mohr’s family? I could still be right…

  4. Wayne says:

    I almost went astray obsessing about Curt Flood actually being involved in a *1972* Supreme Court case. But fortunately that rope wasn’t quite long enough for me to hang myself, and there were no more strands laying around from which to fashion a longer one. So eventually I got back on track.

  5. bananarchy says:

    Wow, you’ve got a hell of a memory, joon. I knew this theme looked familiar and was sure Matt had done something like it before, but couldn’t recall the exact puzzle. It’s here, if anyone’s curious:

  6. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I thought that, for example, the Secretary of Defense could be abbreviated S.D., so I went through all of them. This turned up SHAUn Donovan, a Secretary of Housing And Urban Development. Of course, he’s not the right answer, but I was still amazed by the coincidence.

    • Tony says:

      I guess it could be, but then you could do the same with every other secretary position as well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, though. Most times, I’ve either see it as Secretary of Defense or Defense Secretary.

  7. Garrett says:

    I looked at this puzzle several times this weekend (completed the grid Friday, lunch) and absolutely nothing stood out for me. I didn’t put together that a pioneer in artificial hearts was an MD, and I didn’t recognize any of those other guys. And I’m thinking that even if I thought about Debakey being an MD I would have tossed it off as one of the many coincidences I find in MGWCC puzzles. At some point I figured that if I googled them all and read about them I’d likely find something that linked them but I did not have time to do that.

    Speaking of MGWCC coincidences, did you know that Paul Martin and Curt Flood were born in the same year — 1938?

    • Mutman says:

      I noticed the 1938s, because I thought the birthdays had something to do with the meta (I was thinking Zodiac, or something). Wrong of course.

      When nothing popped with the days/dates, I went back to it later and the PM caught my eye, and down it went.

      I wasn’t feeling as smart when I saw 240+ other people beat me to it …

      Nicely done, Matt!

  8. joon says:

    two funny things happened at trivia last night, after i wrote this post:

    1. there was a question asking us to identify alberto gonzales based on this clip.
    2. a guy came up to me and asked if i was joon pahk. when i confessed to it, he said he recognized me from this blog (!).

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 343 right answers, so definitely Week 2. And Week 2 had Week 1 numbers, so looks like Week 4 is going to have to overcompensate by being brutal.

    This was an extremely restricted group. The only other plausibles I found were these two: (great name)

    Vinod Khosla also came painfully close to being a good VC (venture capitalist).

    Of course using Georg Mohr was suboptimal (I hadn’t even heard of him!) but his inclusion allowed me not to have to scrap the whole theme idea. Was going for Georg Ohm as the close name (Ohm is the first three letters of Mohr)

    • jps says:

      Any reason you couldn’t have forgone Mohr and used just four theme entries?

      • Sam Donaldson says:


        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Right. I Had to use ALBERTO GONZALES as the meta answer since he was the only entry part of a clearly definable set, so then I had 10/10 for PAUL MARTIN and REGGIE BUSH, the 9 for CURT FLOOD, and then MICHAEL DEBAKEY across the center.

          I thought about making DeBakey the meta answer so AG could go across the middle, but in the end decided that the meta answer really needed to be in a clearly defined group.

  10. AboutTheSame says:

    don’t make it TOO brutal, he sobbed.

    in my journal notes from last week, i predicted that week 4 (to make up for the easy month) would have at least three steps — and i’m sure to miss at least one. ;-)

  11. ConvolutED says:

    Can’t speak much to what Week # the puzzle feels like, since this was only my 3rd MGWCC. (Please don’t make Week 4 too brutal, Matt; I really want to go 4-for-4 in my first month.)

    I had the same issues with Georg Mohr re: Niels Bohr, but it didn’t affect my solving too much. (I Googled Mohr anyway while I was looking for the meta.) I went down the same 1938 birthday train as Garrett and Mutman before seeing the initials connection.

    I want to disagree about GAMER, though. Fresh as the clue (‘MMORPG participant’) may have been, I think that it was a little inelegant, since the ‘G’ in ‘MMORPG’ stands for game. Especially so when there are lots of game genres (with the same hardcore ‘gamer’ connotation that a genre like puzzle games doesn’t have) that don’t end in ‘G’ for game. (e.g. FPS, MOBA)

Comments are closed.