MGWCC #540

crossword 3:24  
meta 0:30 


hello and welcome to episode #540 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Orange Is the New Black”. i solved this week 1 puzzle without looking at the instructions, as i often attempt to do. what are the theme answers? well, there are three grid-spanning across answers, so let’s take a look at those:

  • {Play a prank} PULL SOMEONE’S LEG.
  • {Serie A or the WNBA, e.g.} PRO SPORTS LEAGUE. some good choices for this clue! serie A is italy’s top soccer league. below that is serie B. every season, the worst teams from serie A are relegated to serie B, and the best teams from serie B achieve promotion to serie A for the next season. (and it keeps going, to serie C and so on.)
  • {Demand to a gaslighter} PLEASE STOP LYING. this one feels very much like a roll-your-own. i mean, somebody might well say this, but it’s a fairly arbitrary phrase rather than any kind of familiar spoken expression.

so, okay, the theme is pretty clearly three-word phrases with initials PSL. now that we’re into october, and with a hint from the title, i caught on that the answer was likely to be the pumpkin spice latte, that seasonal starbucks offering often referred to by its initialism. sure enough, the directions this week ask for a drink, so that must be the answer.

a simple and straightforward enough meta for a week 1. i have never tried a pumpkin spice latte. are they any good? i guess the fact that i don’t really like pumpkin-flavored anything might suggest that i wouldn’t like this beverage.

the crossword itself was unusually difficult for me to fill, especially for a week 1. mostly i had difficulty with the SOMEONE’S section of the first theme answer. i had tried PULLS ON ONE’S LEG which is both bad and the wrong length, but i wasn’t seeing {“I can’t explain that”} IT’S ODD and i didn’t know {“___, Tell Me How You Live” (Agatha Christie memoir)} COME at all.

  • {Mineo whose parents ran a coffin-making business} SAL. i did not know that.
  • {Yoko who tweeted yesterday: “Are you a chef? I like to cook conceptually. It is easier to clean up after!”} ONO. that does sound like a lot less work. thanks for the tip!
  • {“Can you tell me where/when/who etc.?”} DEETS. this is good, fresh fill—and look how golden those letters are, especially for the bottom row or right column of a grid! i think DEETS used to be in my word list, and clued as the plural of the insecticide ingredient, so i lowered the word score enough that it would never come up. but this slangy form of “details” is great (in my opinion). i’m not quite as sanguine about {On the ___ (frequently, casually)} REGS. what say you?
  • {They sway when you dance} HIPS. not the way i dance, they don’t. maybe this is why i am a bad dancer.
  • {Pirate ship indicator} JOLLY ROGER. over the weekend, i was part of a team that ran a puzzle hunt here in the boston area, and it happened to be a pirate-themed puzzle hunt. (well, partly.) it was a lot of fun! anyway, this clue shivered me timbers, or something.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you like this one?

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17 Responses to MGWCC #540

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 548 right answers this week.

    Comments were about 8-to-1 against Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but somebody’s got to be drinking these things since they keep making more of them.

  2. pgw says:

    > i have never tried a pumpkin spice latte. are they any good?
    > i guess the fact that i don’t really like pumpkin-flavored
    > anything might suggest that i wouldn’t like this beverage.

    If only it were so simple. In fact, when it was originally released the “pumpkin spice” in the PSL was just short for “pumpkin pie spice,” a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice or something like that. These, of course, are perfectly reasonable things to put in a latte. But people, being the idiots that people so often are, became enraged when they learned that an item whose name they parsed as “coffee with milk, spice, and pumpkin” had … no pumpkin. Pumpkin, of course, is a dumb thing to put in a latte. But Starbucks, being exactly the kind of mass branding operation that will bow to significant public pressure no matter how stupid it is, capitulated and put a small amount of pumpkin puree in the thing.

    I have also never had a PSL. You can get a regular old latte, put in some free cinnamon, and sweeten to taste instead of having the truckload of sugar they probably put in the premade version. So I know not whereof I speak, really. Maybe coffee with a hint of pureed squash is delightful, what do I know? But it sounds dumb, and the story behind it is even dumber.

  3. john says:

    i have been a several-times-a-week Starbucks customer for 2 decades and i have never heard of PSL as being a thing, although i am of course very familiar with the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Googling “psl drink” brought the answer immediately though.Then again, i only get brewed coffee there and generally pay no attention to signage, ads, or promotions. My daughter knew the term immediately though so perhaps its use is in the circles of younger folks on social media.

    I have tasted the PSL and it is tasty but too sweet for my liking.

    • Andy says:

      Same here. Instantly familiar with Pumpkin Spice Latte, no clue at all what drink a PSL was supposed to be. Google cleared it up, but I’m still kind of skeptical that PSL is a thing.

  4. Mary Flaminio says:

    Never had one either! Not a Starbucks fan. Too strong! Nice easy puzzle- week one! Thanks Matt.

  5. e.a. says:

    i would like to nominate this for the “title of the year” orca

  6. Scott says:

    I had to Google “PSL drink” also to get the answer. Never heard of one, never drank one, and never will. Good puzzle though.

  7. Garrett says:

    Besides the fact that the first letter of each theme-answer word is the same in each relative position — which leads to PSL, there are two other letters that occur in the second word and the third one, and these are OG, which with the P would yield POG — a popular drink in the Hawaiian Islands and one of my faves! POG is Pineapple-Orange-Guava. But, I did not send that in because A) it is October, and B the SL are at the starts of words, as is the P.

  8. sharkicicles says:

    This is possibly the first time I’ve gotten a MGWCC from the title and instructions alone! But it was still super fun to solve. Thanks again Matt!

  9. Adam says:

    For mathematicians, PSL stands for the projective special linear group. (See, for instance.) But that’s too long for a crossword puzzle entry.

  10. Jack says:

    PS – You can ask for the pumpkin spice SYRUP added to a regular black coffee. You’re welcome folks, I just saved you some $$ this season. :)

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