MGWCC #511

crossword 3:36
meta 3 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #511 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Ooh Is E?”. for this week 3 puzzle, we are looking for a famous singer. okay. what are the theme answers? there appears to be only one: the central across entry {You’ll need to use one seven times to figure out the meta singer} COCKNEY ACCENT. the title is perhaps overkill, but points us in the same direction. okay, how to do this? it seemed straightforward at first—there are almost seven grid entries, all acrosses, starting with H:

  • {Brother of Zeus and Poseidon} HADES. in a cockney accent, this is indistinguishable from “eighties”.
  • {Like diamonds, among minerals on the Mohs scale} HARDEST. “artist.”
  • {Best Actress nominee for “Private Benjamin”} HAWN. “on.”
  • {Shade} HUE. “you”.
  • {Laughter syllable} HAR. “are”.
  • {Round of applause} HAND. “and”.

so, we have: ’80s artist on you are and… and what? well, you didn’t exactly need to get this part to figure out the answer, since “you are” is a hit song from the ’80s that pretty well determines the answer, but note that the clue phrase is read in grid order, and it’s all from across entries, and there’s clearly got to be one more theme answer after (H)AND because phrases can’t really end with “and”. there’s only one across entry after HAND, though, and it’s {Diminutive suffix in Italy} ELLO. this is the seventh theme answer—in a cockney accent, it’s the same as “hello”. fun little twist to have the seventh one work the opposite way. (there are lots of other across answers starting with vowel sounds, but none that i noticed that turn into words if you prepend an aspirated H. the most interesting one is OVA, which could be HOVA, one of jay-z’s self-bestowed nicknames, but he’s not an 80s singer.)

anyway, who’s the meta answer?

yes, lionel richie, it’s you we were looking for.

this was a really fun meta. not too tough, but several distinct aha moments, culminating in ELLO. HADES/HARDEST for ’80s artist was a stroke of pure genius, but it’s difficult to even fathom how the idea arose in the first place. how do you just stumble opn a seven-part clue phrase where each word can be cockneyfied into a substantitively different crossword entry? amazing.

bits & pieces:

  • {Singer on the 1982 German hit “Nur geträumt”} NENA. more ’80s singers. this is, of course, not the one NENA song i know.
  • {March alternative} SIT-IN. clever concealment of the not-capitalized m.
  • {U.S. senator since 1998 who certainly was never made fun on the playground for his last name} is mike CRAPO of idaho. this clue might need stronger fact-checking. ;)
  • {Adam Yauch, to rap rock fans} MCA, of the beastie boys. rip.
  • {Billy ___ Williams} DEE. he and lionel had the same ‘stache back in the ’80s, so this is quite an apropos final entry.

that’s all i’ve got this week. see you in stamford!

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42 Responses to MGWCC #511

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 319 correct answers this week.

    Process: got the cockney accent idea, made a list of all the h-droppable words I could. Wanted the contest answer to be an island (highland) for a long time but couldn’t make it work. A few more dead ends — getting the syntax to work was tricky since it’s pretty restricted. Found the HADES HARDEST idea, then HAWN HUE HAR, but thought that wasn’t enough since there are a couple of songs called “You Are” and it’d be better to have two to louden the meta click. Scanned Richie’s other hits from the 80s, about to drop the idea since none of them could drop the H. Wait a second — he had a #1 hit in the ’80s with the most famous cockney H-drop word of them all…that was fortunate!

    Yes, made sure there were no stray H-drops in the grid.

  2. Matthew G. says:

    Me, trying to solve this meta:

    First sixty seconds after finishing the grid: “Oh, it’s EIGHTIES ARTIST! This is going to be easy!”

    The next four days: ” . . . ”

    I know several Lionel Richie songs, but “You Are” is not one of them. And typing in “eighties song you are”–which I tried–does not, in fact, bring it up any mention of Lionel Richie on Google.

    So, that was a bummer. The meta device clicked immediately but I still couldn’t find the answer.

    • Mutman says:

      Same. I wasted 3 days spinning those syllables in my head (along with ‘horn’). Nothing!

      Finally guessed Ian Dury, an 80s guy with a cockney accent. :(

      • John says:

        Oh my gosh. I was going for Ian Dury as the long bomb also but ultimately failed to submit. I got everything joon did but couldn’t suss it after that. “You Are” never struck me as a possible song title, i’m completely unfamiliar with it.

    • Gwinns says:

      As a youngster I always liked “You Are” much more than the megahit “Hello,” but until now never had the platform to complain about it. So this puzzle was satisfying for me in more ways than one.

    • Abby Braunsdorf says:

      Pro tip (maybe I should keep this one to myself): to find a song with Google, you can usually do ‘lyrics “title or phrase in quotes”‘. That works even with most common words. (This is handy for MMMM.) When doesn’t it work? Songs with no lyrics, mostly.

  3. Tony says:

    Fun puzzle. Easier than a typical week 3, but it is a 5-meta month, so it makes sense that it was closer to a typical week 2. Didn’t realize until I used a Cockney accent that there were only 6 Hs in the entire grid.

  4. Jim S says:

    Complete whiff. I focused on the 8-letter downs and cockneyed them instead. Not all of them were obviously cockneyable, though, but i never thought of focusing on the ‘H’. I find it much more fun to drop the hard consonants in the middle (the glottal stop) and changing the ending ‘L’ to ‘W’. “No’ a’ aw”, “tribunaw”, “al’o ‘orn” are all fun to say! Not sure what to do with “demoniac” or “oil stove” though…

  5. Joe says:

    We submitted Rod Stewart and here’s the reasoning: there are 7 words in the grid that start with H – the 6 listed above plus Horn from “Altohorn.” Drop the H from all seven words and all of the remaining unique letters (not counting repeats) in all seven words combined anagram EXACTLY to Rod Stewart, who is also from London. Coincidence?? Seemed like it had to be right so we didn’t think twice about it!

  6. bunella says:

    Loved the meta, still wanted a British singer to be the answer after all the work.

  7. Jon says:

    I was stuck in a rabbit hole for a few days until a subtle hint told me to abandon it. The rabbit hole was that WURST and the across next to it ASTIR, sounded like Worcester. And then HAWN + OVA sounded like Hanover. Both are English cities and also cities around Boston.

    Matt, was this a purposeful misdirection on your part?

  8. Jack Sullivan says:

    I was confused because I couldn’t understand how HUE would sound in a cockney accent. To my ear, you and hue are the same, and the “h” sound in hue can’t be dropped. Maybe its a regional thing.

    In any case, I should have gotten this one with Eighties Artist and Hello.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Interesting. Are you saying you pronounce HUE without an audible H sound at the start? In my speech the H is fully enunciated.

      • Jack Sullivan says:

        I think it is regional. Think about Trump’s pronunciation of “huge”—it’s “yuge”—no audible “h”. Sounds right to a New Yorker.

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    #511! That’s 111111111 in binary. So the next one will be the binary-billionth. I wonder if that will have anything to do with the puzzle . . .

  10. 80’s music is not my forte, so neither “You Are” nor “Hello” registered as songs to me. I had the right idea with “80’s artist on you are and (orn?)” but couldn’t figure out where to go from there.

    I noticed that ELLO -> HELLO worked in reverse, but I rejected it as relevant because it was backwards from the rest (and 80’s artist was clearly right), and I couldn’t any more words in the grid that worked in reverse like that.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Yeah, this was another thing that tripped me up. It certainly didn’t escape my notice that ELLO sounded like a cockney saying HELLO, but it seemed un-Gaffney-like and arbitrary to have one theme entry work in the exact opposite direction from the other themers.

      • Alex B. says:

        To be fair, a Cockney might pronounce “Ello” as “Hello.”

        Yes, it’s different, but I would argue it’s not inconsistent.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Well it’s not some random word — it’s the most famous Cockney H-drop, so I thought the reverse there would be clear and amusing. To assist solvers in seeing it I placed it as the last across, and right after the sixth H-word in the grid, so that was intended to be a strong nudge. And another nudge: that there were only six H’s in the grid but seven usages of Cockney indicated in the instructions was intended as another hint that something unusual was going on with the seventh.

        • I was trying to use the HORN in ALTOHORN as the 7th theme entry. I didn’t like it because it’s not a full answer, it’s the only down answer and has unclear ordering, and ORN isn’t an obvious word unless you stretch really hard to make it sound like ON. But it I couldn’t find any better alternatives.

          It’s not an unfair meta (319 people solved it after all), but it’s certainly an inconsistent one.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Strong disagree. I mean, technically it’s “inconsistent” but feature here, not bug. I would call it an amusing twist at the end that was fairly and significantly hinted at (its location, there was no other 7th H-word, once you had “Eighties artist on ‘You Are’ and ___” it fit, since it was a #1 song from the 80s by the same artist who sang “You Are.”)

            Plus it was logical and not arbitrary — you’re still using a Cockney accent for ELLO, but it reverse from the others — it’s already Cockneyfied. And I did make sure there were no other de-cockneyfiable words in the grid as well.

            • Howard Green says:

              The ‘ELLO at the end gave me both the AHA and a laugh. I loved it. Thanks for the fun.

            • jps says:

              What’s the clue for IDOL at 1A?

              Since it’s symmetrical to ELLO, was it intended as a fillip since Richie is/was an American Idol judge?

        • Matthew G. says:

          Yeah, it’s reasonable. It wasn’t what kept me from solving the meta — that was my own failure to discover the song “You Are.”

  11. Amanda says:

    Ugh. So close, but I didn’t get the ELLO connection. I thought there might be some Cockney slang too, and “hand” translates to “German band,” according to Google, but that got me nowhere. Kicking myself.

  12. Barbara Hartwell says:

    Just like some other solvers, got 80’s artist right away and spend four days saying “on you are and”….even added ello at one point, but the “on” is what threw me….an artist isn’t ON a song. He is On a tv show, record label, etc….Not happy with this one.

  13. Jeff says:

    Dropping the H from HAWN gives me AWN. HAN Solo would have been a better choice in that case.

  14. Daniel Barkalow says:

    Somehow, I managed to do a Google search for something like “80s artist you are and” and have Google return a video of Lionel Richie’s Hello. Then I spent another 10 minutes figuring out why that was a sensible top result, half of which was spent trying to get it not to tell me which 80s singer I am.

  15. Dogpole says:

    Am I the only Londoner here? That would be a shame as I didn’t get the meta. Too many words in the grid became other words in a cockney accent. Alternative meta clue “Also fifteen quid”.

  16. Zifmia says:

    I had no problem with “Hello”, since my main source for Cockney is:

    “ln ‘artford, ‘ereford and ‘ampshire ‘urricanes ‘ardly hever ‘appen.”

    • BarbaraK says:

      My first thought was “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plains,” but that didn’t go anywhere at all.

  17. PatXC says:

    Like others, I had the first 6 words right away and then got the 80s artist. Elli seemed like the likely 7th, but nothing worked for me. It didn’t occur to me to look up You Are and Hello as song titles, so I searched elsewhere for the last word. I went back and forth between orn and hampshire (in the down clues) for a bit. I even thought it might be Cher, but couldn’t make the you are, and, and amp work. It was nice to be on the right track for a change, even if I didn’t submit an answer.

  18. ===Dan says:

    I went down a rabbit hole, and with a couple of hints managed to extricate myself. But not limiting myself to the precise order of the thematic answers and using each once got me

    80’s artist on U and U R HAND

    A Pink song. Pink’s no 80s artist, and I couldn’t find the personnel on that song, but the Wiki page for the album in which it appeared, “I’m Not Dead” includes a personnel list including Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who apparently appeared in some bands in the late 80s.

    I knew it couldn’t be right.

  19. Stephen McFly says:

    My one complaint was “OVA” was “OVER” in the same way “ELLO” was “HELLO.” Couldn’t get past that.

  20. Garrett says:

    Cockneyfied… first time I’ve seen that word!

    Complete whiff for me as well.

  21. Sherman Uitzetter says:

    As soon as I completed the grid, I noticed that “ELLO” and thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if it turned out to be Lionel Ritchie?” Then, after a couple days of chasing rabbits… head smack.

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