MGWCC #486

crossword 4:08
meta 10 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #486 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Long May You Rule!”. for this week 4 puzzle (of 5), matt tells us that we are looking for a current European head of state. okay. what are the theme answers? there are five long acrosses with *ed clues:

  • {*Group that calls their island nation Aotearoa} MAORI PEOPLE.
  • {*Illinois-based food giant that owns Nabisco, Oreo, Toblerone, and Tang} MONDELEZ.
  • {*Latvia’s current president (who isn’t the meta answer, and neither is Latvia’s current prime minister)} RAIMONDS VEJONIS. i’m guessing the prime minister isn’t a head of state anyway, but rather a head of government; that’s usually how these things work in parliamentary democracies. but i suppose it can’t hurt to just clear that up off the bat. also, wow. i have never heard of this guy. i know the names of a lot more european heads of state/government than most people because of my simulated baseball league. vejonis’s predecessor (andris berzins) and prime minister from earlier in his term (laimdota straujuma) are both hall-of-famers in imaginary baseball.
  • {*Board game after which a punk rock band named themselves} HUSKER DU. heard of the band, but not the board game.
  • {*Intense sounding cleaning product} DRANO MAX GEL. this does sound intense, but i’ve never heard of this particular drano product either.

the crossword was difficult because of these unfamiliar names, but the meta actually came together fairly quickly because of it. i googled a bunch of stuff after finishing the grid, and the connection became clear. why?

  • MĀORI people
  • MONDELĒZ international
  • HŪSKER DŪ?, danish for “do you remember?”

it’s well-disguised because diacritical marks don’t go into the grid, but all of these names contain vowels with macrons, placed over a vowel to indicate that it’s pronounced as a long vowel (hence the title). that makes the meta answer emmanuel macron, the new(ish) president of france. curiously, the band hüsker dü would not fit as a theme answer! i don’t know why they changed marks when they named themselves after the board game. i guess it’s a metal thing.

i liked this meta just fine, but it certainly felt easier than the week 3 meta. (among other things: even if you were totally stumped, macron is probably among the top 2 or 3 people you might guess from a very limited answer space.) the leaderboard agrees with me: there are at least 264 correct answers this week, compared to last week’s 190. perhaps this means there’s an absolute soul-crusher in store for week 5! i’m simultaneously giddy and fearful about the prospect.

this is the second week in a row where the mgwcc winner will receive a subscription to will nediger’s bewilderingly puzzles. this is especially apt because will has also explored the wordplay value of emmanuel macron in this puzzle. it’s not anything near as direct as scoop as the shonda rhimes (rhymes) puzzle from a couple weeks ago, and it’s very entertaining, and it’s a free puzzle, so check it out.

i, too, once tried to put EMMANUEL MACRON in a puzzle (in this case, a marching bands), but i put it in the wrong place in the grid and didn’t realize it until a test-solver pointed out that i’d actually gridded EMMANUEL MACRO. (i’d intended for it to be the last answer of a band, but i’d put the N in the top-left square of the band, which is where the first letter of the first answer in the band should go.) i could laugh that one off because EMMANUEL and MACRO are separately cluable, but sheesh, i seem to have a lot of problems with french presidents and gridding errors!

bits & pieces:

  • {Greek surname that means “priest”} PAPPAS. didn’t know that, but i guess it makes sense—priests are called “father” or equivalent in lots of languages.
  • {One of their tribute bands is called Björn Again} ABBA. love it!
  • {Spineless novels, e.g.} IBOOKS. i definitely had E-BOOKS first. admit it: you did, too.
  • {Dreaded high school test, maybe} PROM. scratching my head over this clue. “test”?
  • {Perform a “Jeopardy!” task} RING IN. i dig this cluing angle, as opposed to the typical “herald, as the new year” avenue.

that’s all i’ve got. your thoughts?

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27 Responses to MGWCC #486

  1. Alex Bourzutschky says:

    Oh dear. I even said “macron” multiple times when explaining this to someone as I was trying to solve it, and settled on a different pattern that led me to Putin. I may have considered Marcon briefly but I was thrown by the umlauts in Husker Du and kept hunting.

  2. hibob says:

    I didn’t read the clue properly and put in the band Husker Du (with umlauts). I then spent the weekend trying to parse something out with Morse Code. I got N T L H T and almost sent in something to do with the Netherlands.

    • Dan Seidman says:

      I went the same route. Eventually I decided the Morse code didn’t work and took another look at the Husker Du clue. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t read it properly as by the time I got to the end of the list of theme answers, I just googled it and the band was the first one that came up.

    • NonnieL says:

      I also failed to read the clue properly and embarked on nearly an hour of esoteric and useless research into umlauts, diacritics and Icelandic vowels. Kicked myself when I went back and reread the clue. Did you know the president of Iceland started a kerfuffle when he said he wanted to ban pineapple on pizza?

  3. sharkicicles says:

    Hüsker Dü was the breakthrough for me because Matt had specifically clued it as the game and NOT the band- I figured the only reason would be the macrons as opposed to the metal umlauts, and Googling led to the rest.

  4. Toby says:

    The president of Albania is Iler Meta. I was hoping it would be him.

  5. KZ Condor says:

    If this had been a week 1 it would have been solve-on-sight, I think. I’m sure a lot of people were tripped up by thinking it had to be trickier than it looked.

    Count me in favor of an absolute soul-crusher next week. I want my solving experience to last right up to (but not past!) the deadline.

  6. dbardolph says:

    This one took a lot longer than it probably should have because A) I started with umlauts until I read the clue for 56A again, and B) like some others, I was looking for something more complicated. I liked it anyway – the click might not have been as loud as last week’s, but a good one nonetheless.

  7. Laura B says:

    Loved this one. But while Hüsker Dü’s ümlaüts may be “metal” — to call them a “metal” band makes no sense at all.

    RIP Grant Hart.

  8. Norm H says:

    Got the lines in four of the themers but (a) had no idea the lines were called macrons and (b) in the remaining themer focused on the band instead of the name and thus saw umlauts. Hence, like hibob, I spent tons of time in Morse code hell, hoping at first the dashes and dots would spell out, or anagram to, QEII. I spent even more time staring at the European country names in their home languages, and on all the heads of state…and heads of government, just to be safe.

    In others words, a knowledge gap and my serial tendency to overcomplicate things combined to do me in.

  9. Margaret says:

    Count me in as someone who second-guessed myself thinking Macron was (a) too easy for a week three and (b) didn’t fit the title. I saw the diacritical mark right away and thought, What’s that line above the letter called? After googling “what’s that line above the letter called?” and seeing it was macron, the answer Macron seemed far too straightforward. I messed around for quite a while trying to make it more complicated because of the title. I understood the macron indicates a long sound, but I was sure it had to be a long U (you) because Long May You Rule.

    • pannonica says:

      To make a straight line a draughtsperson would use a rule. Layfolk call them rulers, but hey we’re indulging in a little élitism here. By association a line drawn in such a way is also called a rule. A macron is a relatively long line, as far as diacritics go. And of course the double entendre of a head of state’s time in power.

      Which is to say that I felt the title was apt.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Yeah, the title clues the answer in at least two distinct ways, which is part of what made this meta easy for a week 4 (but also makes the title so good). For me, the title confirmed the meta answer because a macron is a “long rule”–i.e., a long line–over a letter. I didn’t even think of the other relevant meaning of “long”–a long vowel sound–until I read joon’s review.

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 290 right answers this week.

  11. John says:

    Yeah, i thought this was too easy for a week 4 and makes missing week 3 even harder. Still, a good meta idea and a fun puzzle. I don’t know how this keeps going on, week in and week out. Thanks, Matt!

  12. ajk says:

    Had the marks, had the long vowel connection to the title, didn’t know (and didn’t find out) that they are called macrons. Feel dumb. :)

  13. Chance says:

    Dang, this looks enormously complicated. Hats off to any who finished it in less than a half hour!

  14. Tony says:

    Not much to add as I didn’t get the meta, but the surname Pappas is the Smith, Gomez, Nguyen, etc. of Greece with one exception. It is short for an even longer name. Most Greek last names are descriptors of another name. For instance, my last name Antonakas means Big Anthony, which makes me Tony (Or Anthony) Big Anthony. Pappas is usually something like Papakonstantinou (Father Constantine), Papaiouannou (Father John), etc. A friend of mine who went by Pappas was able to get out of a ticket because the officer didn’t want to write out her full name.

  15. Seth says:

    Anybody else get stuck for a while on the fact that MAORI, MOND, and DRANO are all anagrams from RAIMONDS?

    • Craig Mazin says:

      Yesssssssss. I did. Also, went down a rabbit hole of “long answers,” i.e. combined answers where we run the themers together… the end of maoripeopLE plus the beginning of MONDElez… now I have LEMONDE… and then EZ goes to RA… LEMONDE, EZRA… ooh, what next?

      NISHU? Oh god.

      Took a while, but Kwong and I finally got there. I was also deked by the Dü.

  16. Pete Rimkus says:

    I went with Hungarian President János Áder … the only European head-of-state with pronunciation symbols over the vowels (besides RAIMONDS VĒJONIS I guess) …
    So close yet so far away…

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