MGWCC #575

crossword 3:07 
meta 10-15 min 


hello and welcome to episode #575 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Bowl Games”. for this week 1 puzzle, i didn’t look at the instructions, so… what are the theme answers? the six longest answers in grid are all 9-letter made-up phrases with wacky clues:

  • {Buckets stuffed with bills on the beach at Phuket?} BAHT PAILS. phuket (pronounced something like “pooh-ket”, if you’re curious) is the largest island of thailand, and the baht is thailand’s monetary unit.
  • {Garden trail marked by plants of a certain herb?} BASIL PATH.
  • {What each nun wears in “The Sound of Music”?} ALPS HABIT.
  • {Where scientists put the embers from their campfire?} LAB ASH PIT.
  • {That old “We’re having gyros yet again?” feeling?} PITA BLAHS.
  • {Volcanic rock that everyone’s using in their kitchens these days?} HIP BASALT.

i noticed more or less right away that these were all anagrams of each other, so, by inference, the meta answer was also likely to be an anagram of the same nine letters. this actually used to be a fairly common theme type, but has gone out of favor in the last decade and a half, so i figured there should probably be some thematic reason for it. after thinking about possible anagrams for a few minutes, and pondering what the title might mean, i still didn’t have anything.

however, while i was looking over my grid, my eye was struck by ALPSHABIT, and the answer practically jumped off the page at me from there: ALPHA-BITS, which is just ALPSHABIT with the S moved to the end. the other five answers are more thorough anagrams, but i wonder if the curious proximity of ALPS HABIT and ALPHA-BITS was the seed of this puzzle.

anyway, since ALPHA-BITS is a breakfast cereal, the title suddenly makes sense, and the fact that the cereal consists of jumbled-up letters is a pretty great raison d’être for the whole puzzle. i do wonder about BAHT PAILS—it would seem to me that BATH PAILS is a much more logical choice, as those two concepts actually kind of go together. maybe matt thought it would sound too much like it might be an actual thing?

speaking of whimsical choices: {“___ Blob” (1958 horror classic)} THE is a fairly arbitrary way to clue THE. on the other hand, i did enjoy {Casual request for permission} “THAT OK?”, an entry i’m pretty sure i’ve never seen in a crossword before. it’s just the right combination of colloquial and fresh.

well, that’s all for me. how’d you like this one?

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3 Responses to MGWCC #575

  1. Jim Schooler says:

    ALPS HABIT did it for me too. A fine Week One.

  2. CFXK says:

    ” i wonder if the curious proximity of ALPS HABIT and ALPHA-BITS was the seed of this puzzle.”

    Actually, I was wondering if his son had reached the “playing with his cereal” age and if that was the seed of this puzzle.

  3. Amy L says:

    I’m disappointed that no one posted photos of real Alpha-Bits arranged to spell some of the clue answers.

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