MGWCC #533

crossword 3ish  
meta 10ish 


hello and welcome to episode #533 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Lost and Found”. for this week 3 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a five-letter noun. what are the theme answers? the five long acrosses, plus the shorter central across, are all portmanteaux:

  • {2004 romcom starring Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni} SPANGLISH. spanish + english.
  • {Classic frozen treat} FUDGSICLE. fudge + popsicle.
  • {Napoleon Dynamite’s favorite animal} LIGER. lion + tiger. on a related subject, this tweet last week amused me.
  • {GoPro product} CAMCORDER. camera + recorder.
  • {Hybrid string instrument produced by Yamaha} GUITALELE. never heard of this one, but it’s self-evidently guitar + ukulele.

the title suggests looking at the letters that get “lost” in the portmanteau. there are a couple of different ways to do this (do spanish and english both get counted for the ISH of SPANGLISH?), but the one i decided on was to write out separately the lists of letters lost from the first words and the letters lost from the second words:

  • SPANGLISH: spanISH, ENglish
  • FUDGSICLE: fudgE, POPsicle. arguably the e of fudge isn’t lost due to the portmanteau; maybe it’s more like how “judge” loses its e in “judgment”. (is there a name for that?) nevertheless, i’ll put it this way because that E is certainly present in the original word fudge.
  • LIGER: liON, TIger
  • CAMCORDER: camERA, REcorder
  • GUITALELE: guitaR, UKUlele

so that’s “lost”. what about “found”? ah, there’s the beautiful part of the puzzle: there are five other theme answers sprinkled throughout the grid—each one an anagram of the “lost” letters from one of the portmanteaux:

  • {Be outstanding} SHINE.
  • {Disease called “laughing sickness”} KURU. i’m not sure i’ve seen this in crosswords before. this is a rare and fascinating disease. if you like cannibalism and prions, have i got a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy for you!
  • {Bishop of Rome} POPE.
  • {“Will do ASAP”} ON IT.
  • {___ show (carnival attraction)} RAREE. i don’t like this answer at all as fill, but it’s acceptably repurposed here as theme.

ordering these by the corresponding portmanteaux and reading off the first letters gives SPORK, a hilariously apt answer to the puzzle.

i’m not usually one for “who wore it better?”, but this puzzle will unavoidably draw comparisons to patrick berry’s portmanteau wsj meta from last month. that puzzle was the rarest of collector’s items: a patrick berry puzzle i did not care for. matt’s had a much cleaner mechanism and an infinitely more satisfactory final answer. and the title could not have been more perfect to suggest both halves of the key insight. and the difficulty felt just right for a week 3 of 5, so this one gets 5 stars from me.

my only comment/question about the fill has to do with {With 23-Down, Chinese restaurant sought in the song “Werewolves of London”} LEE-HO/FOOKS. how the heck did both halves of this crazy answer get into the fill? i’m guessing FOOKS was somewhat forced by the F of FUDGSICLE and the K of KURU (and the fact that you can’t put FORKS there if you want SPORK to be the final meta answer). then once you’ve already got FOOKS, might as well go for the whole shebang, right?

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

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14 Responses to MGWCC #533

  1. Ephraim says:

    It’s my vague impression that RAREE used to be an item of crosswordese, which is to say it cropped up in awkward fill. I can’t remember when I last saw it, though.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 413 right answers this week.

    I originally submitted this to the WSJ, but editor Mike Shenk told me he couldn’t run it since Patrick’s was already in the pipeline. So I waited until his was published and then ran this one. Only 3 weeks later — I guess I could’ve waited longer, but I figured our mechanisms were different plus we didn’t use any of the same portmanteaux, plus once you see SPANGLISH and FUDGSICLE it’s pretty clear you’re looking at portmanteaux so having solved the Berry doesn’t help you any on this one. So didn’t think I needed to wait 6 months or anything. Plus maybe I wait 6 months and then at month 4 someone else publishes one…I was surprised to find that no one had done this idea before (at least that I could find).

  3. sharkicicles says:

    I think this is my favorite MGWCC of the year so far. To be able to find 5 portmanteaus with missing letters that anagram into other words, then to put all 10 themed answers in a puzzle with a nice fill- plus having the answer also be a portmanteau? Add in a Warren Zevon reference, and “RAREE” is easily overlooked.

    Other favorite meta recently- Joon’s Boss Words from a few weeks ago. A variety meta, but a great mechanism and reveal.

  4. Jim S. says:

    Wow, I’m surprisingly happy that the final step was what it was. I had everything mapped out as far as missing letters in the 5 theme answers and was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out how to derive a 5 letter noun from them. I suspect Matt added “noun” to the requirements because I stumbled upon “erupt” using the first letters of the “real” second words in the themers. My happiness comes from the fact that I wasn’t blind to a way to derive a 5 letter noun from those lost letters.

    My biggest shock is that 400 people looked elsewhere in the grid for the other 5 entries. “Spork” may be well known enough to have been a SWAG for some, but it seems that I’m catching on to Matt’s tricks much more slowly than the rest of the meta solving community. Argh!

  5. dbardolph says:

    Liked this one a lot – 5 stars indeed. Beautifully done, with just the right nudge from the title, and a very satisfying click in finding the “lost” letters. I only wish there’d been a way to work spOONFork into the grid.

  6. paul coulter says:

    Agree with much of the above comments. I found this one brilliant, on a par with Matt’s WSJ meta earlier this month. It couldn’t have been easy to work out the portmanteaus into such a satisfying answer. I don’t even mind KURU/FOOKS drawing attention to this area. It’s Week 3/5, not 5/5, after all, so a bit of a red flag is fine.

  7. hibob says:

    I should have figured out SPoonfORK since my kid plays ForkKnife all the time.

  8. Bill2RD says:

    I liked this one. Kuru and Raree pointed the way for me to find the remaining 3 clues. Easier than this week’s WSJ contest puzzle, which took me a bit longer to solve.

  9. john says:

    One of the best “easier” puzzles of all time (MGWCC time). So satisfying. Laughed out loud at the final portmanteau and each click was loud and inspiring. My daughter recently subscribed and she was awed at the beauty of that meta. Thanks, Matt!

  10. ===Dan says:

    Great! I was thrown off by Fudgsicle because I couldn’t let go of “icicle” (which I’ve assumed is suggested by “popsicle”). couldn’t cope with that S. But I”m an early-week solver.

    • Thurman8er says:

      I actually really enjoyed the “fudgsicle” rabbit trail. Fudgsicle combines fudge and popsicle. Popsicle combines pop and icicle. Icicle combines ice and sickle. Three portmanteaux in one!

      • pannonica says:

        Icicle is unrelated to sickle.


        • Origin and Etymology of ICICLE
          Middle English isikel, from is ice + ikel icicle, from Old English gicel; akin to Old High German ihilla icicle, Middle Irish aig ice

          Old English gicel, meaning icicle, became Middle English ikyl or ikel and later modern English ickle, which survives as a dialect word in Yorkshire, England. The word for ice in Old English is is, and in a manuscript of about the year 1000 we find Latin stiria, “icicle,” glossed, somewhat redundantly, as ises gicel, that is, “an icicle of ice.” Some 300 years later, in Middle English, this became the compound known today as icicle, which means precisely what it did 1000 years ago.

        • Origin and Etymology of SICKLE
          Middle English sikel, from Old English sicol, from Latin secula sickle, from secare to cut — more at saw

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