MGWCC #441

crossword 3:28
meta see below 


mgwcc441hello and welcome to episode #441 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Casual Drinking”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a drink. what are the theme answers? five across answers get *ed clues, and each one contains a “casual” (i.e. slang) term for a beverage:

  • {*With 5-Across, stuff in a washing machine} SOAP / SUDS. suds = beer.
  • {*Perky person’s quality} BUBBLY DEMEANOR. champagne.
  • {*”If I Did It” author, 2006} O.J. SIMPSON. orange juice, of course.
  • {*Sandwich named for a 1930s cook in Sioux City, Iowa} SLOPPY JOE. joe = coffee.
  • {*Try to give someone a ring} POP THE QUESTION. pop = soda (or “coke” for some of you).

so that much was evident right away. (well, i had actually overlooked the split theme answer at 1a/5a.) i then spent about 10-15 fruitless minutes googling for what mixed drink contains champagne, orange juice, coffee, and soda, because it’s only week 2 and i figured it wasn’t going to be any tougher than that. when nothing turned up (because eww, who the hell would mix coffee & o.j.?), i put the puzzle aside for a time.

as it happened, andy kravis was visiting me last weekend, so when he arrived on friday night we looked at the meta together. andy pointed out the SUDS theme answer that i had missed, and then … yup, we spent some time googling for what drink contains champagne, orange juice, coffee, soda, *and* beer. (i’m not proud of this.) finally, andy had the key insight: he noticed that the other clues contain one instance each of the five theme drinks:

  • {North ___-Westphalia (where Warsteiner is brewed)} RHINE.
  • {Appropriate night to uncork a bottle of Ayala, initially} NYE.
  • {Tropicana stuff} PULP.
  • {Espresso amount} SHOT.
  • {RC container} CAN.

taking the first letters of those five drinks, in the same order as the theme answers from top to bottom, spells out WATER, which is the answer to the meta. as an extra layer of elegance, no other beverages are referred to in the clues.

my feeling about this meta is that it is extremely elegant and beautifully executed, but it is a lot harder than a typical week 2, and that may have led to some of the struggles i had in seeing the necessary “next step”. run this puzzle as a week 3 and it would be essentially flawless. in that regard, it seems weird to ding a flawless puzzle just for being harder than expected, but that kind of thing does affect a solver’s experience of the puzzle. so i’ll give this one 4.5 stars.

the fill was okay, not great. a few more partials and prefixes than i’d like, but it was basically fine. i thought it was pretty awkward to have the OJAYS crossing OJ SIMPSON, and the longer fill answers were a little blah (e.g. SOIL TYPE and SPARSEST) but nothing that affected my enjoyment of the puzzle too much.

i’m guessing a lot of you also found this harder than a typical week 2. (i honestly don’t know if i’d have gotten it if i hadn’t been working with andy, and i don’t think i’ve ever missed a week 2.) am i right?

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

49 Responses to MGWCC #441

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    194 right answers this week, so you’re definitely right about it being a Week 3.

    About 110 solvers sent in MIMOSA, because of the OJ and Champagne, but I don’t see a further connection (that doesn’t appear to address the other three starred answers).

    If a Mimosa solver can elucidate here I’ll see if that answer needs to be sent to the panel for consideration.

    • jefe says:

      Overlooked Soap Suds asterisk.

      Bubbly + OJ = mimosa; thought sloppy referred to the alcohol (e.g. sloppy drunk) – didn’t consider Joe as relevant since the other 3 (see above) used the first part of the answer. Pop is synonymous with Bubbly, i.e. carbonation.

      This being a Week 2 I didn’t look further.

      • Jim S says:

        I’m with Jefe. I missed the soap suds themer. Joe was the second part of the answer so I figured it must have referred to sloppy – I’ve never made a mimosa, but the combination of the bubbly and a presumed shake led me to think it was a sloppy pour.

        I’m not petitioning for mimosa, mind you. I was fully expecting to come here and find an obscure international drink made from champagne, coffee, OJ, and soda, and was already planning on an “are you kidding?!?!” comment, but this one is completely on me for missing starred theme entries. Oof! Not that I would have found water, but there’s no way “soap suds” would have had me keep “mimosa” in the running…

      • Makfan says:

        I thought JOE meant coffee which you drink at brunch while sipping bottomless MIMOSAs. A stretch to be sure. And you POP the cork on the bottle of champagne to make them. I think the OJ is what convinced me it had to be something like a cocktail. Sigh,

      • LuckyGuest says:

        I too overlooked the *’d SOAP SUDS entry. I saw BUBBLY and OJ (Mimosa, so far) and then I took SLOPPY JOE as meaning we could/should mix up the word JOe giving OJ, and POP I took as also champagne. So, equal parts of champagne and OJ (2 parts each) gave me Mimosa. I couldn’t see how I missed it… but now I’m wondering how I could have missed “SOAP SUDS” as a themed entry (especially since I’d circled it on my hardcopy). Amateur mistake; I deserved to miss this one and to break my (paltry) streak.

      • chris says:

        also missed soap suds, but i figured the note on Ayala was an extra hint. didn’t see the other stuff, though.

        might’ve helped to have SOAP SUDS symmetric, rather than in row one. maybe.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Early on, when I had SUDS, BUBBLY, OJ, and POP, or Beer, Champagne, Orange juice, and Soda, I almost jumped the gun and entered BOSCO. But realizing Matt almost never uses letters out of order, I continued on with JOE for Coffee. Ayala and Warsteiner had raised no flags, but Tropicana and R.C. did, then on to espresso and the answer. Two nits – Espresso might have been better as Eight O’Clock, the coffee brand, since the others all are brand names and Espresso is only capitalized as the first word in its clue. Also, I would have preferred a replacement for OJ. Not only for the inelegant OJAYS that Joon mentioned, but OJ seems more an initialism for Orange Juice than a slangy name. Something like DUCKSAUCE or WEAKSAUCE, equating to whiskey, then anything starting with a T for a whiskey brand in the clues, say Tullamore or Teacher’s. Overall, I enjoyed it – four stars from me.

    • Dave C says:

      I did in fact submit BOSCO (is it even a drink, or just a syrup?), having run through the Beer, Champagne, Orange Juice, Coffee and Soda exercise. Since BCOSC only closely anagrams to BOSCO I knew I was in trouble, but I was too deep down the rabbit hole to figure another way out….

  3. Neil B says:

    MImosa seemed obvious but then the other clues didn’t match and when i saw there were not too many answers I realized had to be trickier which indeed it was.

  4. jps says:

    Wow. I never saw the acrostic but found what might be an amazing alternate answer. See if you agree.

    Six specific brand/type of drinks are in the clues. The generic name is omitted but the “casual” name is in the starred entries.

    In the acrostic order here, though not the way I was doing it on paper:

    19A Warsteiner is a beer or casually “suds”.
    62D Ayala is a champagne or casually “bubbly”.
    51D Tropicana is an orange juice or casually “oj”.
    67A Espresso is a coffee or casually “joe”.
    48A RC is a soda or casually “pop”.


    8D Roy Rogers is a mock cocktail or casually “mocktail”.


    • Kaille says:

      Yep – that’s exactly what threw me. I noticed Warsteiner, Alaya, Espresso, etc., but didn’t think to do anything with the first letters because I saw “Roy Rogers” and fell down that rabbit hole.

  5. Stephen McFly says:

    I guessed BLACK TEA. Perhaps coincidental, but adding a T to the black square ending 50-across would have made a down answer or MOJITO. Adding a T to a black square starting 24-across would have made a down answer of TONTO. Both mixed drinks. Thought I had a shot.

    Also appreciated BRONCO (with the black square continuation) crossing OJ Simpson.

    Until next time.

  6. Dan Seidman says:

    I don’t think it would have helped anyone, but I think it would have been clearer if 5A had been starred instead of 1A. I’ve heard SUDS used for beer, but not SOAP.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I thought of all three combinations (starring 1-A only, or 5-A only, or both 1-A and 5-A). All three made sense, but I thought what I did (1-A only) made the most sense. Starring both seemed like overemphasis (some solvers would be looking for two drinks) but it was a close call between what I did and what you suggest.

  7. Wayne says:

    It took me a while to realize that 5A was thematic. Yes, I saw the “With” in the clue for 1A. But I’m still calling shenanigans. The star should have been on the 5A clue. For me that would’ve made it a solid Week 2 level puzzle.

    Still enjoyed the puzzle, misplaced in the calendar though it may be. All the stars.

  8. CFXK says:

    I first just saw BUBBLY and OJ, and thought a Mimosa would be a nice remedy for the events of the past week, followed by another, and another… By the time I was recovering with a cuppa JOE and a nice warm SUDSy bath, it was already after noon on Tuesday before the solution POPped into my head. Oh well.

  9. Kali says:

    All the clued beverages are typical of a standard brunch menu.
    The only missing beverage was a Bloody Mary, which was my answer. Seemed blah for a week 2, but it made sense to me.

  10. Puff says:

    What bothers me is that 4 of the clue matches are brand names while espresso is not. Seemed inconsistent to me so I went with coffee as an answer since “Joe” didn’t have a match in the clues. Oh well, life will go on.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      A tester suggested the Eight O’Clock adjustment but I kept my espresso. I figured that with WAT?R and “espresso” in the grid and JOE for coffee it would be clear what was going on, but there is a good case for using Eight O’Clock instead for consistency’s sake.

      • John says:

        Espresso didn’t bother me a bit and i found this meta rather easy. I do not know the name brand Eight O’Clock, never heard of it. I would have had an issue with that.

        • Peedee says:

          If it’s any consolation, I went the exact same way you did and submitted “coffee” as the meta answer. Oh, well. First Week 2 I’ve missed in a while :-(

  11. Jon says:

    Since the theme answers were spaced out nearly symmetrically, I thought the SHOT answer was the clue to the meta. So I submitted liquor.

    I generally don’t hunt for extra clues in the clues section – that’s usually saved for week 3 or harder metas. And since I’d never heard of Ayala or that it was a wine, it didn’t clue me in that this meta is actually a week 3 meta in disguise. And if I must nitpick – and you know I must – Espresso isn’t a name brand type of beverage while RC, Warsteiner, Ayala, and Tropicana are.

    Plus, the meta answer turns out to be not a casual drink name? No agua or H2O? SHOT was so close to being SHOO – H, two Os.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I wanted AGUA or some other nickname for a drink, but it’s an extremely restricted set. Besides these five and agua/water, I didn’t find any other good pairs of drink nicknames.

    • austin says:

      liquor here too, for the same reason

      • Joe says:

        Same, SHOT stood out as the only other beverage answer that wasn’t starred, plus symmetrical, so I submitted whiskey. Didn’t think there was another level on a Week 2.

  12. Matthew G. says:

    I eventually got it right, but was initially thrown off by two things.

    First, as Dan and Wayne say above, the slang term for beer (at least so far as I’ve ever heard) is just “suds,” not “soap suds,” so the star would have made more sense on 5A.

    Second, four out of the five drinks referenced in the clues are brand names (Warsteiner, Ayala, Tropicana, RC) and one is generic (espresso). I spent some time looking for a brand-named coffee, but then the acrostic hit me and I realized WATER had to be right despite the slight inelegance.

  13. JRS says:

    I substituted “moet” for champagne and “Oly” for suds, and got an anagram for Cosmo. Since I couldn’t see any other possibility, I casually sent it in.

  14. Scott says:

    Wow, I was sure I was right and I wasn’t. I saw SUDS, BUBBLY, OJ, JOE , and POP were all starred. BUBBLY was symmetric with POP. OJ was symmetric with JOE. That left SUDS which was symmetric with SHOT and SHOT didn’t have a starred clue. So I figured that must be the correct drink. About the right amount of difficulty for a week 2. Did anyone else take this same path?

  15. I don’t think I agree with other commenters suggesting that Matt should have starred 5A instead of 1A. If I had to guess, he starred 1A and connected it with 5A because that keeps it consistent with the other themers: multi-word phrases with a slang term for a drink in it (I see now it’s not just two-word phrases, given POP THE QUESTION). If he had starred just 5A, I bet I’d have been far more likely to assume that the symmetrical un-starred SHOT was the correct answer. Having me focus on the fact that the phrase up top was SOAP SUDS, rather than just SUDS, helped steer me clear of thinking that the non-phrase SHOT LODE was supposed to be relevant.

    I dunno, maybe I’d have avoided that line of reasoning anyway because a SHOT can encompass many different things like VODKA, WHISKEY, HARD LIQUOR, etc. But still, knowing I was working with a two-word phrase at the top helped me see that the symmetrical two words at the bottom couldn’t be the right path by itself.

    • Garrett says:

      I agree with that logic.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Evan — good point which I didn’t notice. Starring 5-A alone would have made SHOT seem more central than it was.

      Appears there is no perfect solution to the question here. All three starring possibilities have drawbacks.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Evan has persuaded me, too — I can totally see myself having been confused by SHOT if 5A had been starred.

        I stand by my dinging of “espresso,” though.

        • Vraal says:

          Also: much fun was had trying to turn “shot lode” into some kind of horrible college drinking experience.

          Though come to think of it, I suppose for some… no, nevermind.

  16. Norm H says:

    I was all set to come here and remark that that 5A should have been starred, but Evan’s logic above convinces me that Matt made the correct decision. For me, Ayala was the giveaway — there are many better-known sparking wines out there, and beyond that, cluing NYE as an abbreviation seemed clunky compared to Bill the Science Guy. From there, it fell pretty easily.

  17. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Always one to look for a simple answer, I submitted “Pousse-café.” Layers of various beverages, even has the café in there. Didn’t feel very satisfying, though.

  18. Garrett says:

    I started out by writing out the starred-clue’s theme fill on another sheet of paper, which I put in my pocket because I had errands to run. So, off and on during the day Saturday, I’d think about the five things, thinking about Brand Names. When I got a new one, I’d write it down in a five-column table. I figured that I’d be able to use the first letter of each. Nothing was really jumping out at me. By Saturday night I had (among all the others in my table): Stein, RC Cola, and Tropicana. I had a bunch of coffee brands, and even other names for coffee — but not espresso. I had a number of champagne names, but not Ayala. I gave up and worked on the WSJ grid and then went to bed.

    Sunday I worked on the WSJ meta and got it around noon. Nothing new on the MGWCC meta.

    Monday I was idly looking at the grid again, and I thought, “What was the clue for this NYE thing?” And so in reading the clue I was reminded that I had never heard of Ayala, and I wondered for the second time what it was. So I googled it. And that was it. Once I saw that connection I quickly went through the clues and had the meta.

    I think that if the first starred clue’s answer could have lead to a product starting with W and if the espresso clue could have been a coffee product name I might have gotten it without needing to look at the clues again. Maybe. I liked this meta.

  19. Norm says:

    C = Champagne
    O = Orange juice
    C = Coffee
    Pop can be A COLA
    Ergo: COCA COLA.

    Knew it was too much of a mess, but I had nothing ….

  20. Joe says:

    Wow all I can say is holy crap that was way more complex than I was expecting. After initially feeling like we were overthinking it (since it was only week 2, after all), I noticed that SHOT was symmetric and unstarred, thinking that had to relate to the meta. After we decided we were overthinking a “simple” week 2, we submitted LIQUOR as the meta answer, since all themers had a slang term for common drinks and SHOT was the odd man out, symmetry wise. And when we hear SHOT we think of LIQUOR.

  21. MM says:

    Was anyone else thrown off by Cobra?

Comments are closed.