MGWCC #609

crossword 3:22* 
meta 0:40 


hello and welcome to episode #609 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “How Did You Know?”. for this week 5 puzzle, matt dials the difficulty down to week 2.5, asking for a familiar verb. okay. what are the theme answers? the only one in evidence is the grid-spanning central across: {Inelegances that make a puzzle tough to solve (of which there are six herein)} UNFAIR CROSSINGS. what are those six?

  • {Hungarian for “snake”} KIGYO crosses {Australian fencer Adams who competed in the 2000 Olympics} GERRY at the G. most of us have no working knowledge of hungarian, and _ERRY could be JERRY, KERRY, TERRY, PERRY, etc. the funniest thing about this fencer name is that he’s by far not the most famous gerry adams.
  • {Japanese pop pianist Hanako ___} OKU crosses {Half of Will Shortz’s favorite sport} PONG at the O. that could, of course, be PING also.
  • {Attractive, in Argentina} GUAPO crosses {North Carolina state representative Lambeth} DONNY at the O, but GUAPA also means attractive (for a feminine noun) and DANNY is a common first name as well.
  • {Chess author Greengard} MIG crosses {Animal that’s “hanhi” in Finnish} GOOSE at the G. could certainly be MIM/MOOSE.
  • {Ninth word of Dickens’s “The Pickwick Papers”} GLOOM crosses {Georgia town 18 miles north of Athens} ILA at the L, but that could be GROOM/IRA. ILA turns out to be a town of about 300, so not exactly on everybody’s map. and while there are some dickens novels whose first lines we all know, pickwick isn’t one of them.
  • {Danish pole vaulter Rasmussen who competed in the 2000 Olympics} MARIE crosses {Limoux’s river} AUDE at the E. i actually knew this crossing! not the pole vaulter (what’s with the obscure 2000 olympians?), who certainly could have been MARIA, but the river. that’s one of those old-school four-letter crosswordese rivers.

of course, the meta answer is GOOGLE, which is what you get when you read the correct letter for each of those crossings in order from top to bottom in the grid. and i’m sure it’s the answer to the question in the puzzle title for many solvers. i actually solved this without google, by writing down the possible letters in each case: [many choices][I/O][A/O][G/M][L/R]E. GOOGLE jumped right out at me, and then of course it made sense in context.

i think it’s kind of hilarious that matt phrased the instructions the way he did, since google (the company) has, like xerox and photoshop before them, waged a hopeless battle against the lowercase generic version of their company name in an effort to protect their trademarks. however, english does not have “proper verbs”, so any verb is lowercase, and indeed, the verb google has had a lowercase entry in merriam-webster’s collegiate dictionary for almost two decades now.

that’s all for me. on to february! as a reminder, you’ll need to sign up on matt’s patreon if you want to keep getting the puzzle every week.

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12 Responses to MGWCC #609

  1. I tried to solve this without instructions and got the answer GOO GEL by reading in the order of grid section rather than strict row order. “I guess…that’s kind of a thing?” Then I looked at the instructions and realized what the correct answer should be.

  2. mlpdyer says:

    Well, well, well – when I first looked at this one, the idea that the unfair crossings would just spell out a 6 letter word did occur to me…but, it’s week 5! I expected other things – take those 6 letters, compare them to their corresponding clue number, cross reference to the French atlas from 1931 and finally decrypt the hexadecimal back to text!
    But, just in case, I looked at this once more this morning – happy surprise! Just what I thought with no “extras”! Thank you

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      You would have saved yourself some thinking had you checked Matt’s blog at

      Our “Week 3” turned out to be a Week 5 last week, so now we’re going to backpedal with a Week 2.5 this week (also we’ve got some new people and I don’t want to scare anyone off right away with two Week 5’s in a row).

  3. Jim Schooler says:

    I solved this Friday night, asking myself, “What do I do when I get UNFAIR CROSSINGS in a crossword?” “I google it!” More like a Week 2, but it gets five stars from me!

  4. Ale M says:

    I think this would have been an excellent week 5 puzzle without the central grid entry altogether. The six unfair crossings are all unfair in exactly the same way, so it’s a clear anomaly that would have led to an exciting solve, after some head scratching. With the central across grid entry it basically hands you the answer on a silver platter.

    • Jonesy says:

      I don’t think it would’ve amounted to a week 5 without the central across. I’d guess more like week 3ish. Those crosses were particularly unfair/noteworthy and there’s only one step involved really. As it was, this played more like a week 1-2 (over 500 correct responses)

  5. C. Y. Hollander says:

    As I noted to Matt, GROOM/IRA was not actually an option, because IRA appears elsewhere in the puzzle, a slight flaw.

  6. ===Dan says:

    I didn’t consider MIM, but did think TIG was a valid name, and RTS could have been rates. I guess GOOMLE should have jumped out at me, but it didn’t. So one of the possible sets of _ alternative_ crossings (scrambled) led me to PATRIA, so if I hadn’t set puzzle this aside and forgotten about it, I would have submitted PATRIATE ironically, since that’s almost a “familiar” verb and it’s almost spelled out by the almost-crossings.

  7. Jim S says:

    My Hail Mary was going to be NATICK. I think it’s usually a noun but can be a verb (e.g, Don’t Natick me!), and I wonder if that might be why Matt had “familiar” in the instructions… It’s certainly common enough among the crossword universe but doesn’t exist elsewhere. Luckily, GOOGLE was fairly obvious once I landed on the right 6 – I initially had the ‘M’ in MIG because the hotel answer could have been RMS (rooms) or RES (reservations)…

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I remember the post by Rex Parker that coined this term–but, honestly, I don’t see a good reason to call a basic pitfall in crossword editing after an arbitrary example that happened to be the one that tripped up a popular blogger. I like Matt’s “unfair crossing” much better.

  8. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I remember the post by Rex Parker that coined this term–but, honestly, I don’t see a good reason to call a basic pitfall in crossword editing after an arbitrary example that happened to be the one that tripped up a popular blogger. I like Matt’s “unfair crossing” much better.

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