MGWCC #422

crossword 3:09 
meta 0:15 


mgwcc422hello and welcome to episode #422 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “First Things First”. for this week 1 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a Best Picture-winning movie that would complete this puzzle’s theme. what’s the theme? there are four 15-letter across answers:

  • {Pagan practice} NATURAL RELIGION.
  • {Gathering in the auditorium} STUDENT ASSEMBLY.
  • {Rival of Reuters} ASSOCIATED PRESS.
  • {Activist’s exhortation} SIGN THE PETITION.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” that’s the first amendment to the u.s. constitution, guaranteeing the freedoms of RELIGION, SPEECH, PRESS, ASSEMBLY, and PETITION. the four theme answers each end with one of those, and the missing one is SPEECH. so the oscar winner we’re looking for is the king’s speech, that most patriotic and american of oscar winners.

this was a pretty good meta. i’m glad we didn’t have to come up with PETITION, because from memory, i would have thought the 1st amendment included only the other four. (also, petitions are lousy and inherently undemocratic.) all of the theme answers relate to the actual concepts whose freedoms are protected, as opposed to something like BENCH PRESS or ONE-STEP ASSEMBLY. that’s a nice touch, and also keeps the difficulty down somewhat for a week 1.

pretty good grid, too. despite the four grid-spanners, matt’s gone with a pretty low word count of 74, but i don’t see any junk in the fill. PINCH ME is a nice answer i don’t think i’ve seen before, and broadway star (and two-time disney princess) SALONGA usually only shows up in clues for LEA. but i’ma quibble with the clue {Acronym meaning “sweetheart”} for BAE. is that an acronym? or is it just a shortened form of “baby/babe” that has been backronymmed in some circles? i’d love to see a real lexicographer’s take on this.

that’s all for me this week. how’d you like this one?

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22 Responses to MGWCC #422

  1. Jason says:

    Complete fail, as being a Canadian meant all those freedoms didn’t immediately click in. And I was convinced that the first words of the theme answers were the key. GRRRRRR

    • Jeffrey K says:

      Another Canadian with a week one fail.

    • Jason T says:

      I’m happy to say that this Canadian Jason managed to figure it out… but it was more like a Week 2 for Canadians, eh? Fortunately, “freedom of religion” and “freedom of the press” leaped out at me… and Google helped to confirm the rest. Phew!

    • Dogpole says:

      Failure from an Englishman.
      Looked for a tie in to Traitors Day, but missed it.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Well timed for the 4th of July long weekend, but shouldn’t the title have been “First Things Last?” After all, the First Amendment freedoms appear last in the theme answers, as does Speech in the meta answer. I’d be interested to hear Matt’s interpretation.

  3. sharkicicles says:

    This took me a little longer than usual for a week 1, and then when I did get it I had no idea why it took me so long. Pretty fun for a week 1.

  4. Joe says:

    I had to look it up, but BAE is an acronym for Before Anyone Else. I’ve never heard it before.

  5. CFXK says:

    Re “petitions are lousy and inherently undemocratic.’

    I suppose you could legitimately hold that position if you understand the “right to petition the government for the redress of grievances” to refer very very narrowly (and anachronistically) to what is commonly understood today as “petitions.”

    However, this right is about something so much broader than that narrow expression. It involves, for example, the right to sue the government to right a wrong, to demand a hearing from one’s elected representatives to advocate for public policy and legislation, to actively and directly participate in the workings of government and affect decision-making beyond simply casting one’s vote. It’s origin is in the English common law tradition of the right of individual citizens to bring grievances directly to the King and to the parliament – in spite of what they may have already decided.

    One of the grievances of the Continental Congress against Great Britain when it declared independence was the Crown’s refusal to address the petitions of the colonies: “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

    So many of the basic civil rights not explicitly addressed by the religion, speech, press and assembly clauses flow from and are protected by this “fifth” right. It is, in a very real sense, the bulwark against tyranny. Religion, speech, press and assembly define the rights of the people to try to affect the workings and decisions of government from the outside; the right to petition is a right to get your foot in the door and work for change on the inside, using the actual instruments of government. There is nothing MORE democratic than this right. It guarantees your freedom. It guarantees your active citizenship. You forget it or minimize it at your own peril.

  6. Ed says:

    Yet another week 1 that I didn’t have a clue about. This is becoming embarrassing.

  7. Norm says:

    I thought this was actually rather subtle for a week 1, since the title sent me looking at initial letters and the like. And then the trick of stacking the theme answers on top of each other and just looking at them saved the day. Very timely for the pre-4th Friday.

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