MGWCC #445

crossword 4:00 
meta 10 minuts 


hello and welcome to episode #445 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “That’s Over the Line!”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a seven-letter word. okay. what are the theme answers? there are four goofy 15-letter phrases, and unusually for a standard crossword, they all run down:

  • {All that money you got for suing the chiropractor?} VERTEBRA ZILLION.
  • {Outdoor fun at a New York racetrack?} SARATOGA BONFIRE.
  • {Two things you need to start your flying carpet company?} THE RUG AND A DRONE.
  • {Disagrees with ancient Thai secessionists?} IS BEHIND ONE SIAM. oof.

okay, so these all contain countries hidden across one or more word breaks: BRAZIL, GABON, UGANDA, and INDONESIA. that much was readily apparent from the start. but what’s the seven-letter word? given the title, i thought about “borders” for a while, because borders are lines and the country names span “borders” between words, but that didn’t really have the right click. these are such weird, arbitrary phrases containing particular countries; why these four? many other countries could have been embedded in a much more natural-sounding way (especially the short ones: as PER Usual, aIR ANd space, sCHADenfreude, etc.).

the answer came to me a few minutes later: these are all countries that cross the equator. that’s why the theme answers are oriented in the downward direction and all the country names pass through the horizontal center line of the grid. there aren’t very many countries on the equator at all (in fact, the northernmost point of PERU misses out by only one degree of latitude; check out this surprisingly long wikipedia article about the peru-ecuador territorial dispute), so the choices were rather limited.

i liked this meta quite a lot. it was a good thinker for a week 2. my one fear is that people who submit “borders” or something of that sort might have a reasonable case that their answer is good enough. after all, my own reasoning about why to keep thinking after coming up with that answer basically boiled down to “um, it wouldn’t be a very good puzzle if that were the answer”.

here is some nostalgia for you: eight years ago, in week 2 of december 2008 we had mgwcc #28, whose theme was based on which countries lie on the tropic of capricorn. we are very slowly drifting northward; i am going to be ready for the tropic of cancer meta in mgwcc #862.

quick hits:

  • {Composer mentioned in the movie “The Hunt for Red October”} PAGANINI. what a curious clue. is that important to the plot at all?
  • {Language in which “crossword puzzle” is “Kreuzworträtsel”} GERMAN. fifteen letters! you hear that, constructors? bonus points if you can get another word with an umlaut to cross at the ä.
  • {Neither hibernal, vernal, nor autumnal} ESTIVAL. my wife’s first step-cousin once removed used to keep lizards as pets in a terrarium when she was a child. once when we were visiting, she showed us one that, to all appearances, was obviously dead, but told us it was “estivating” (the summer equivalent of hibernating). we nodded very soberly and were later told by her mother that in fact, the lizard really was dead and she hadn’t yet figured out how to break the news to the girl. good times.
  • {First name of the 1902 and 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winners} ELIE. the second one is writer ELIE wiesel. major props if you knew the 1902 winner without looking it up.
  • {Org. that will soon be led by Antonio Guterres of Portugal} THE UN. first i’d heard of this! feels like it’s been a while since we had a european secretary-general; the last would’ve been kurt waldheim back in the ’70s.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you like this one?

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16 Responses to MGWCC #445

  1. Scott says:

    Good one!

  2. Bret says:

    I fell into two traps that had me thinking I’d DNF on Week 2 for the second straight week. First, I had Vertebra Millionaire, which gave me Utm for the pretzels, which is my bad but for me a little of a Natick. Then I had Beyond One Siam, giving me on the crosses a plausible Italian name with an ‘o’ instead of an ‘i’ and Juday instead of Judah (OK, that was idiotic).
    So after I finally got Utz to correct the down to zillionaire and give me Brazil, I knew the meta answer was “Equator.” That last theme answer was still driving me crazy, and what was killing me was Indonesia wasn’t the only equator country I was two letters away from. I spent an implausibly long time trying to force the theme answer to be Becong One Siam (Be Con Gone Siam??? I did spend time trying to parse this). Having said all that, getting Indonesia into an answer was a Gaffney coup.

  3. Ephraim says:

    I wondered about the vertical theme answers while filling the grid but didn’t appreciate their significance until after solving the meta. The grid has represented a few things over time: the Monopoly board, a baseball diamond, and now a world map. What else? I must be missing some.

    • Bret says:

      Oh wow, just caught that they are arranged West to east in geographical order. That’s a whole another layer.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Was aiming for N-S accuracy is well, which is why some of the entries were so syntactically challenged.

        442 right answers this week.

        “my wife’s first step-cousin once removed used to keep lizards as pets in a terrarium when she was a child” — sentence that has never before been spoken or written

        • pgw says:

          I spotted the relative N-S accuracy! Though really Brazil should have been a little farther South.

          I’m sure the grid has represented many things over the years. My favorite was when it represented the courses of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers:

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Ideally yes but then ZILLOW was my only option for ZIL???, and WONDERBRA ZILLOW is uncluable unless you are syntactically unshameable

          • sharkicicles says:

            “syntactically unshameable” is a great turn of phrase.

            After thinking about it for a few minutes, the best I could come up with was “Push-up at a real estate site?” which is… not good.

        • Garrett says:

          I missed the N-S accuracy. That’s pretty darn cool!

        • CFXK says:

          Caught the wonderful attempt at N-S accuracy (which was pretty amazing). I was i awe, actually. It wasn’t pulled off perfectly (Brazil nudged a bit too north), but well enough to see that it was built into the puzzle. REALLY REALLY enjoyed and admired this puzzle.

          Another layer, btw, if you look from right to left, there is also W-E accuracy. lol

  4. makfan says:

    Well, I solved the puzzle at the Kona airport late Monday afternoon, but nothing came to mind once I noticed the downflowing country names. Then of course I was cut off from Internet for 4+ hours, landing at 11 pm, so no Googling to find the commonality. Once I got home I just needed to sleep. Doh!

  5. Bill Spindler says:

    AARGH! So easy I didn’t get it. I got stuck on trying to come up with a 7-letter word that contained a country lying on the equator. Couldn’t create a word using KENYA…

  6. sharkicicles says:

    Nice, fun , easy week 2 with nice fill. I enjoyed it.

  7. Garrett says:

    Well, I loved this meta. I did not go down any ratholes at all. My first thought was that they were all geographically dispersed, and so that had me wondering what they could have in common. I immediately thought of the tropics and the equator, and pulled up a world map. Equator! For some amusement, take a look at this Web page:

  8. Jim S says:

    Nice meta. My rabbit hole, based on presuming the title referenced borders like Joon, was the bordering countries of Guyana and (French) Guiana for Brazil, (Equatorial) Guinea for Gabon, and (Papua New) Guinea for Indonesia. That seemed like it had to mean something but try as I might, it didn’t work for Uganda. Equator came immediately after giving up on that theory.

  9. Rachel says:

    So, did anyone submit “borders?”

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