MGWCC #569

crossword 4:35  
meta 2 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #569 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Weird Neighbors”. this is week 4 of gentle april, so as usual, i tackled this one without using the instructions. what have we got for theme answers? there are four long wacky phrases:

  • {“I’m so glad that Caribbean island’s surge in popularity has finally abated!”} ADIOS, ARUBA MANIA.
  • {University professor who studies nerve cells?} AXON ACADEMIC.
  • {Boast from someone talking on the phone at 30,000 feet?} I GAB AERIALLY.
  • {Teaching someone how to smoke marijuana?} TRAINING A BLAZER. not damian lillard, though. he’s been very well trained already.

in addition, three countries are in the grid clued only as {COUNTRY}: URUGUAY, YEMEN, and USA. what’s going on? well, the title is certainly a hint that we’re dealing with bordering nations, and all three of those countries have exactly two neighbors: brazil and argentina for URUGUAY, oman and saudi arabia for YEMEN, and mexico and canada for USA. and look, the names of those two neighbors can be anagrammed to form one of the theme answers:


that leaves I GAB AERIALLY, which anagrams to LIBYA + ALGERIA, the two neighbors of tunisia. this certainly seems like a meta that’s asking which other country should have been in the grid, so that pretty much has to be the theme answer. indeed, the instructions say: This puzzle grid contains three countries. What fourth country, whose name has seven letters, should also be in the grid but isn’t?

this felt like perhaps the easiest puzzle of gentle april, or at least the easiest one to do without the instructions, since it was always fairly clear what was going on. i guess your mileage may vary if you’re not big into geography, although everything relevant was laid out clearly enough that it seems it would have been straightforward to look up.

not a theme answer: {Rome controlled it for half a millennium} GAUL. i guess it’s far from clear what its bordering “countries” would have been.

that’s all i’ve got. i enjoyed gentle april quite a bit, but i’m also looking forward to the tougher metas that will come our way at the end of may. how about you?

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24 Responses to MGWCC #569

  1. David Glasser says:

    Very happy for Gentle April since I forgot about MGWCC this week until 1.5 hours before it was due!

  2. Silverskiesdean says:

    Don’t forget Niger as well is a neighbor, hence the reason for stating the answer has 7 letters.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Exactly right — Niger is not really correct since the others have exactly two neighbors, but it’s slightly too mean for Gentle April so I figured better to exclude it with the 7-letter stipulation.

      • ===Dan says:

        Two neighbors by land? USA borders Russia, but not by land. Yemen, too, has neighbors with water borders. No?

        • pgw says:

          If you count Russia as a “neighbor by water” of the USA, doesn’t that mean all countries with coastline are neighbors of each other? Sure, Russia is closer to the USA than, say, Albania – but Cuba is pretty close too … how close is close enough to count?

          • ===Dan says:

            I don’t know where the US territory ends to the south, but it’s certainly short of Cuba. But I’m pretty sure there’s a line such that separates US from Russian territory. And it looks like Yemen shares a frontier with Djibouti, and possibly Eritrea. But I don’t know for a fact that there aren’t international waters separating the countries. “Close enough” seems to depend upon international law, no?

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    390 right answers, so almost a Week 2. More of a Week 2.25.

  4. ===Dan says:

    JEEEEEZ I was careless

  5. Jeff M says:

    5 stars. I have no idea how the heck Matt comes up with this stuff.

  6. Jim S. says:

    Missed the anagram piece – I didn’t look too hard at the long answers for… I don’t know why, actually. Noticed that the 3 countries bordered exactly 2 neighbors and at least 1 ocean. Of the seven letter countries with 2 country borders, only Ecuador is on an ocean (some landlocked, some on seas). That was good enough for me to throw that in as my answer in Gentle April – figured anything more than that bordered on Week 3 territory. Oops. Great puzzle, just wish I hadn’t stopped where I did based on perceived simplicity.

    • Andy says:

      How does Yemen border an ocean if countries like Tunisia, Lebanon, and Estonia don’t? Its neighboring water is in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.

      • Jim S. says:

        Well, the Arabian Sea is just one part of the Indian Ocean. There’s no natural physical delimiter like the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea/Gulf of Finland have to separate them from their oceans – they’re probably officially considered part of the Atlantic Ocean, but they’re more cutoff than the Arabian Sea is. I’m not arguing my case for it being a right answer – after all, the US borders 3 oceans so it should have been obvious to me that oceans weren’t in play for the meta. I know it’s not geographically correct, but that’s how my head was working at the time.

  7. Eric Eisenstadt says:

    Question: as there appear to be about 30 countries who are bordered by only two neighbors what’s the significance of “weird” in the title? Thanks.

  8. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I was stumped until I was reminded that it was supposed to be week 2 difficulty, at which point I stopped thinking about exceptional vowel patterns and just weirded the neighbors.

  9. Steve Faiella says:

    I hate geography! LOL
    I was waaaay off base here. The 3 given countries were in NORTH America, SOUTH America, and the middle EAST, so thought the country was in the WEST Indies. Never mind that the whole “Neighbors” thing didn’t fit in.
    Did I mention how much I hate Geography! :-o

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