MGWCC #585

crossword 3:24 
meta 0:45 


hello and welcome to episode #585 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Words of a Feather”. this week, matt challenges us to name an 8-letter word. what are the theme answers? four long across answers have parenthetical numbers in their clues:

  • {Jacques Cartier sailed up it (3,4)} ST. LAWRENCE RIVER.
  • {Opera star in recent news for allegations of sexual misconduct (7,2)} PLACIDO DOMINGO. oof. i don’t know if the puzzle was made before the allegations became common knowledge, but it’s still a bummer. good on matt for at least acknowledging that fact in the clue, though.
  • {Sports psychologist’s principle (1,8)} MIND OVER MATTER.
  • {Many leis contain them (6,5)} HIBISCUS FLOWERS.

in addition, the last across answer tells us what to do, sort of: {Give a talk without adequate preparation…or, how to find the meta answer} WING IT. i didn’t need this hint (on top of the pretty hefty nudge from the title) to notice that there were birds hidden in each of the long answers: WREN, DODO, DOVE, and IBIS. but it was useful to focus on just the “wings”, or sides, of those birds—in other words, their first and last letters (circled in the screenshot above). taking those eight letters and reordering them 1 through 8 according to the parentheticals spells out DOWNSIDE, which is an 8-letter word, and also a punny description of what a bird’s wing is. so that elicited a little chuckle.

this is a fine meta, but it felt more like a week 2 than a week 3 (even a week 3 of 5). the mechanism was fairly clearly laid out in the clues and title. so i think this is one of the easier week 3s i can remember.

other bits & bobs:

  • {Expedition team?} FORD. i don’t think i noticed this clue when i was solving. it’s a good clue!
  • {“___ and Enchanted” (1992 Pavement album)} SLANTED. didn’t know this one. too hipster for me.
  • {Blue-haired title girl in a Netflix series} HILDA. didn’t know this one either, but that’s useful. hilda solis, the erstwhile secretary of labor, may be fading into non-clueworthiness, and i can’t think of any other famous hildas.
  • {___ Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (Queens attraction)} USTA. the u.s. open starts next week!
  • {Uses to knock down, as pins with a bowling ball} ROLLS AT. this felt fairly arbitrary as verb + preposition phrases go.
  • {Edge in a cooking competition, maybe} PIE CRUST. great clue, great answer.

that’s all for me this week. what did you think of this one?

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6 Responses to MGWCC #585

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Not only an easy Week 3, but (for my money) both easier and cleaner than last week’s. Although the number of correct entries looks about the same.

    I heartily endorse HILDA, both the original book series and the Netflix television series. My five-year-old son loves them, and they’re just so sweet and wholesome.

  2. David says:

    With Netflix’s recent Sabrina series, hopefully Aunt HILDA is still viable!

  3. Jim S says:

    My initial thought had to do with changing Placido Domingo somehow to “Pink Flamingo”. Couldn’t do anything similar with the others – Piping Plovers? divers? – but that close inspection led me to see the hidden birds. But I did think “Man, if Matt found 4 answers that could be turned into birds like that, I’d be massively impressed”.

  4. Reid says:

    I tried really hard to overthink this one and find other words in the grid that were like the 4 birds, and even other birds whose letters were at an angle, like a wing. It wasn’t til I saw how many correct answers had been submitted last night that I realized I was probably overthinking things and needed to think simpler.

  5. Mutman says:

    Easy week 3, most likely will be felt in weeks 4 & 5.

  6. Silverskiesdean says:

    I didn’t think it was so clear cut. In fact, after a number of permutations, I listed 1 thru 8 and sat the birds, in order, on the lines. Eventually, I went from left to right and picked one of the four letters and came up with the answer. I still did not send it in because other than the word “down”, meaning feathers, I didn’t know what “downside” had to do with the META. Eventually, I thought about “wingit” to mean ad lib it and even thought about winging a bird, which is to shoot it. But wouldn’t that mean to shoot the wings or the ends off, not the middle two letters? It was very confusing, I thought, but seeing how everyone was submitting the answer, I sent in the correct one but only because I could think of no other way to go. Did anybody else go through all of this?

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