MGWCC #481

crossword 3:20 
meta 2 days 


hello and welcome to episode #481 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Seven”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt challenged us to find a hit animated movie, released in the the first decade of this century, that completes this puzzle’s theme. okay. what are the theme answers? six movies in the grid get *ed clues:

  • {*1987 film for which Denzel Washington earned his first Oscar nomination} CRY FREEDOM.
  • {*1979 film with the tagline: “When the gangs take over the highway, remember he’s on your side”} MAD MAX.
  • {*1997 film whose title is the Tibetan word for “presence”} KUNDUN.
  • {*1986 film that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes} THE MISSION.
  • {*1960 film that gave us the word “paparazzo”} LA DOLCE VITA.
  • {*1941 film that opens on a “No Trespassing” sign} CITIZEN KANE.

it’s pretty clear from the title and instructions that we’re looking for something that completes a canonical set of seven. certainly in the context of movies, the first thing i thought of was the seven deadly sins, and anger/wrath is hinted at by MAD MAX, but the others weren’t there. my next thought was perhaps the seven principles of kwanzaa, which are unity and six i don’t remember, but i thought maybe freedom and/or “presence” were on the list. nope.

i finally cracked the meta after checking into our hotel room in hendersonville, nc around midnight the night before the eclipse. (aside: how about that eclipse??) i started reading about some of these films i know nothing about (notably KUNDUN, which is about the dalai lama), and yeah it sure is a canonical set of seven: the continents. CRY FREEDOM is set in africa, MAD MAX in australia, KUNDUN in asia, THE MISSION in south america, LA DOLCE VITA in europe, and CITIZEN KANE in north america. (i suppose there were quite a lot of options for those last two, but those are certainly fine choices!)

so what is the meta answer? there aren’t many options at all for movies set in antarctica, but the one that fits the constraints in the instructions is happy feet, a movie about penguins. i think we actually own this movie, and i believe i’ve seen the first 10 minutes of it.

it was great to see many of you at lollapuzzoola last weekend, and i hope many of you got to enjoy the eclipse. if you missed lollapuzzoola, you can still get the puzzles to solve (and, if you like, enter your scores in the at home division) over at and if i may allow myself a brief plug, i’m now selling subscriptions for year 3 of outside the box puzzles, where you can get great rows garden and other variety crosswords by email 1-2 times per week.

that’s all i’ve got. have a great week!

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22 Responses to MGWCC #481

  1. Lance says:

    This one didn’t really work for me. Almost 350 people got it, so it’s clearly not outlandish. But “It’s set in North America” is one of the least salient facts about Citizen Kane; it makes that movie (and La Dolce Vita, as you note) feel kind of like filler. I also went down the deadly-sins route, thought about colors, looked up the directors, the composers–the thing about movies is that there’s a lot of data there.

    Also, if I were asked to name a movie set in Antarctica, I’d haved named “The Thing”, and other than instructions saying “pick an animated movie from the 2000s”, I don’t think there’s anything in the puzzle itself that points to one particular answer over another. That feels like a flaw to me.

    Overall, perfectly OK, but no better than OK, in my opinion.

  2. Amy L says:

    When I started this, I was still working on the Friday WSJ puzzle and was trying to figure out how July was missing. As soon as I saw the title, “Seven,” I thought, “Well, here is the missing July!”

    I soon disentangled both puzzles. I liked this a lot–it’s clear and to the point. (Aside: Even at 79.9%, the eclipse was awesome.)

    • Garrett says:

      I like the, “here is the missing July!” comment. LOL.

      I watched the eclipse via an Exploratorium feed from Wyoming, because my location in SoCal was way out of the path of totality. It was rad. I haven’t found a video, though, which is as good as this one from March 8, 2016 by NASA and the Exploratorium. Have a look:

    • Makfan says:

      I saw it at a bit over 92% in Oregon, but totality was over three hours north and we had events with friends that Monday. Definitely worth setting aside the morning for viewing, but I feel a bit of regret that I gave up such a good chance to see totality.

  3. Ephraim says:

    I have a reminder set for 11:30 on Tuesdays, so I started working on the meta with a friend about 11:32 and we had the answer in ten minutes. (We’re the last two entries on the leaderboard.) As soon as we noticed the varied settings it all came together with a fairly satisfying snap. Yes, the choice of movies is very arbitrary. The answer is definite despite that, which is kind of cool.

    I’ve only seen the first few minutes of Happy Feet because we turned it off after the narrator said, “Esta es la cuenta del pinguinito con los pies alegres!” and we realized we were accidentally watching Univision. Sorry, but my Spanish isn’t that good.

  4. John says:

    Well a week 3 of 4 has to have some degree of difficulty. To have put in a movie that was mundane vs. something like Kane or La Dolce Vita may have pointed too closely to the regional aspect of the film. The fact these are remarkable movies, for the most part, leads you to perhaps concentrate on that, adding to the (necessary) difficulty. Even at that, there were a LOT of correct answers. I looked up a few movies over the weekend and mulled a little and had the “click” moment, so a fun puzzle for me.

  5. David R says:

    I found this one pretty easy for a week 3. Only rabbit hole I glanced at and was kind of hoping for was that the movie years would represent names of movies and the year they were made such as Spielberg’s 1941 which was released in 1979. That would be a good idea for a meta puzzle albeit pretty restrictive.

  6. sharkicicles says:

    For me this was by far the easiest Week 3 ever. I DNF a lot of week 3s, but solved this one in about 10 minutes.

  7. Jim Schooler says:

    This meta had me “Tangled” up in knots.

  8. Jon says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m a geography nerd but the 1st sets of sevens that came to my mind were the 7 seas and the 7 continents. I knew “Kundun” was set solely in Tibet and once I Googled “The Mission” and saw that is was set in South America, I was off to the races on figuring out each continent. The arbitrary selection of “Happy Feet” seemed odd to me, but that may be because I chose not to watch that movie since it looked dumb. But perhaps it’s a good movie? Since all the other movies seemed to be of such high caliber films, I was wondering why “March of the Penguins” or “The Thing” weren’t selected.

    But yeah, definitely the easiest week 3 in awhile.

  9. Garrett says:

    This is one of those metas that completely eluded me. I figured that the “Seven” title was just an indicator that we had to come up with a seventh movie to complete the theme. Thing is, I never found one. I tried playing with the numbers in the dates. I tried looking at the difference between the dates. La, la, la. At one point I noticed that the titles all had pairs of the same letter used twice, except Citizen Kane, which had three. These are: ER, AM, IS, AL, and EIN. I was excited when this anagrammed into Alien Armies! But this, too, led nowhere. After getting the WSJ meta and then working this one for what seemed like AEONs, this was a real let-down for the weekend. I actually ended-up feeling pretty dumb when I looked at the leaderboard this morning and saw how many people got it. I’ll tell you, there was no way I was going to read the plot of six movies to solve a meta.

  10. Wayne says:

    I was led astray by the strong emphasis placed on the years of release of the seven films. I figured that this had to be an ordering of the clues, and that therefore we were looking to complete an ordered set. Never recovered from that :-(

  11. Scott says:

    Similar to the WSJ this past week, I solved the meta in an appropriate amount of time. I liked this puzzle alot!

    • Evad says:

      I found the WSJ puzzle much harder than this week’s MGWCC (the former took me a while to notice the missing month in the clues). I guess as always YMMVW (the W is for wildly).

  12. Abby Braunsdorf says:

    And “Happy Feet” was directed by George Miller- same as “Mad Max”.

    If you search IMDb for animated movies released in that time frame with the keyword “antarctica” (filming location wouldn’t work, for obvious reasons), it gives a few others, but I’m pretty sure the others aren’t mostly animated (“Farce of the Penguins”) or fully set in Antarctica (“Madagascar” and “Surf’s Up”).

  13. ajk says:

    Pretty sure this is the fastest I’ve ever gotten a week 3. Read the opening wiki paragraph on each movie. When I got to The Mission being set in South America, and knowing that Cry Freedom was Africa, the continent link clicked. Whole thing took less than 15 min after I got around to starting.

    • Lance says:

      Maybe this is actually my problem with the meta: if things clicked for you, it fell very quickly. But if you didn’t happen to click into “continents”, you (like me, like perhaps Joon) spent days following all kinds of other false leads.

      • ajk says:

        Yeah, I think that’s what they’re all like though. I’ve definitely taken forever (and sometimes even failed) on ones that have week 1-2 level numbers of correct answers. :)

        IMO the best thing about Matt’s are that I almost always feel like I could/should have gotten it. :)

  14. BarbaraK says:

    I started this one by brainstorming things that there are seven of. Before finally looking at continents, I tried
    Days in a week
    Colors in the rainbow
    Notes in a scale
    Wonders of the world
    Deadly sins
    Roman numeral digits

    Didn’t really spend that much time on any of these others though as they quickly went nowhere.

  15. Laura B says:

    My first guess was the 2002 animated feature Ice Age since, like Joon, I had first thought of the Seven Deadly Sins, and Ice Age features a Sloth as one of the main characters.

  16. Adam Thompson says:

    did anyone else try to find NEMOs in the grid?

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