MGWCC #505

crossword 2:20 
meta 3 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #505 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Bar Exam”. i attempted to solve this week 1 puzzle without the instructions. how’d i do? well, the theme was evident enough:

  • {Food eaten in an izakaya restaurant (born May 17th)} CHICKEN YAKITORI.
  • {Tactical reductions in greenhouse gases (born May 10th)} CARBON OFFSETS.
  • {Classic “Sesame Street” song about food (born June 13th)} EVERYBODY EATS. i was not familiar with this song. now, everybody poops? i know that one.
  • {Easy position in which to do push-ups (born June 7th)} KNEES ON THE FLOOR.

as i’ve indicated in the screenshot, each of these contains the hidden name of a famous irish person: mononymous singer ENYA, mononymous singer BONO, poet william butler YEATS, and actor liam NEESON. (although i definitely started out thinking the first one involved KENYA. i guess that’s another theme.) i assume those parenthetical birthdays are correct, although i didn’t look them up. so what now? well, i was about ready to submit “ireland”, but i didn’t know what that had to do with the title. so just in case, when i went to the website, i checked the instructions: This week’s contest answer is a brand of soap.

oh. well, then: a quick pivot to irish spring, and only then did i notice that the four birthdays are all in the (late) spring. luckily, i was able to audible quickly enough to take my rightful place above noted slowpoke joshua kosman on the leaderboard.

i’m curious: how does one go about making this meta? if you were to come up with the idea of four famous irish people whose names could be hidden in a multi-word crossword entry, these might very well be the first four names to pop into your head (maybe WILDE or SHAW, but maybe not)—but then you’d probably write the meta prompt for the answer to just be ireland, wouldn’t you? what would make you take the next step and look up birthdays? it seems to me that matt must have started with the idea of irish spring as the answer, and built the meta to match. but how amazingly fortuitous, then, to find this set of theme people!

bits and pieces:

  • {One of its letters stands for “languages”} ESOL. i like this answer—i’m used to seeing ESL in the grid, but my mom taught this subject for 30 years and her school called it ESOL (english for speakers of other languages), which is more accurate as the kids were often already at least bilingual.
  • {Italian word that can mean “musical speeds” or “chess moves”} TEMPI. this is a nice little clue.
  • {City between Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY} ERIE PA. how are the wings there?
  • {Neighbor of an Omani} YEMENI. that’s two consecutive callbacks to mgwcc #503.
  • {Marine mammals} ORCAS. with the oscars just around the corner, this reminds me that it’s nearly time to celebrate the best crosswords of 2017.

that’s all i’ve got this week. what’d you think?

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10 Responses to MGWCC #505

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 579 right answers this week.

    In the shower, thought how about a meta answer being a brand of soap. Irish Spring seemed evocative, and I thought first of mononymous ENYA and BONO. Hide them in words, and maybe they were born in the spring? Seemed ready for the cutting room floor since what are the odds, but kept at it — thought of the semi-legit KNEES ON THE FLOOR hiding Neeson while still in there, but wasn’t 100% sure he was Irish. Figured YEATS could hide in something but couldn’t think of what, but still figured this was headed for the trash heap since the theme relies on all these people being born in springtime. Maybe could find another one or two but if BONO and ENYA both didn’t work then forget it.

    Dry off, look up birthdays of those four on phone. 4/4, baby! Themage! And the puzzle got published on Joyce’s b-day to boot.

    • pgw says:

      Well, Mr. Gaffney, I guess the luck o’ the Irish really is a thing

    • joon says:

      that is fabulous. bloomsday is also in the late spring, but this will do nicely.

      although now i’m thinking that if, say, 3/4 had been spring birthdays, matt would not have been above vandalizing wikipedia to make the theme work. ;)

  2. Bill Spindler says:

    Totally in the wrong ballpark for the wrong game. I focused on the birthdays…the first two are one week apart, then a 21-day gap, then two more seven days apart. I spent awhile looking up people born on May 24 and May 31 whose names might fit into a brand of soap.

  3. Jim S says:

    Almost submitted “IVORY” – the initials of the 4 names spell out “EBYN” in order, which really looked like EBONY. Didn’t catch the Irish connection until I started validating birthdays and saw their places of birth.

    A bit tricky for a week 1… makes me wonder if we’re trading more prizes for harder puzzles :)

    • Margaret says:

      Haha I *did* submit Ivory for that exact reason! I figured the missing O was also the thing that told me it was ebony’s partner. I guess I overthought this one! And somehow I don’t associate Irishness with any of the theme answers except Bono, so that wasn’t jumping out at me either. Oh well, better luck to me in week two I hope.

      • SewYoung says:

        I was right there with you, Margaret. I was bothered by the missing “O”, but did not make the Irish connection, nor did I pay enough attention to notice that all the dates were in the spring.

  4. Jason says:

    I had a feeling about the meta answer but to “double check” I was looking for an Irish celebrity named TORI. Tori Spelling was incidentally born a day earlier on May 16. She’s not Irish. Tori Amos was also American. What was I missing? Oh wait….

  5. Daniel Barkalow says:

    Considering the day the puzzle came out, I wanted it to be Irish Six-More-Weeks-of-Winter, but that’s not a brand of soap.

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