MGWCC #772

crossword 4:11
meta 5 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #772 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “World Leaders”. for this week 3 puzzle, the instructions tell us that we’re looking for a famous Irish person. the puzzle came out on st patrick’s day, so fair enough. what are the theme answers? it’s not exactly obvious from the start that all of the seven longest across answers in this 15×17 puzzle are the themers, but they are:

  • {Ibuprofen provides it} PAIN RELIEF.
  • {North Carolina’s motto [Note: parts of the 18th and 19th centuries only]} ESSE QUAM VIDERI. i’ve seen ESSE clued as the start of the north carolina motto several times, but never QUAM or VIDERI, and certainly never the whole shebang. interesting parenthetical note, too.
  • {Super-patriotic beverage} MERICA BEER. unfamiliar to me.
  • {“Baby Cobra” comedian} ALI WONG. a very familiar name in crosswords by now, but this might be the first time i’ve seen her full name in the grid. (as it’s only seven letters, i’m sure it won’t be the last time.)
  • {“History of the World: Part II” actress} WANDA SYKES.
  • {#1 hit for Michael Jackson in 1988} MAN IN THE MIRROR.
  • {Was 100% sure} HAD NO DOUBT.

okay, so what’s the theme? the parenthetical note on ESSE QUAM VIDERI suggests that whatever we’re doing to the other themers applies to that one only in a historical sense, and the title suggests first letters and foreign countries. it’s not that hard to connect the dots now: the first word of each themer is a nation (ish) with its first letter missing:

  • (H)ESSE QUAM VIDERI. the german state of hesse was an independent(ish) polity, the grand duchy of hesse, from the dissolution of the holy roman empire until the unification of germany in 1871.
  • (A)MERICA BEER. this one feels less elegant, as surely MERICA is just a shortening of AMERICA—which itself isn’t even really a country name. that said, despite the abundance of countries starting with A, none of them lend themselves nicely to this meta mechanism. i’m sure matt would have been grateful for any theme phrases starting with the word NDORRA or LGERIA.

those first letters, taken in order, spell out SHAMROC, which is intriguing. to complete the irish theme in the most apt way would require a K themer at the end. you can try to find themers with UWAIT (seems almost possible) or YRGYZSTAN (um, good luck), but of course the famous irish person we’re looking for is ENYA. that was a very satisfying endpoint.

this definitely felt more like a week 2 meta to me than a week 3, but perhaps that’s just me—there are indeed fewer names on the leaderboard than last week. plus, if you have this idea for a st patrick’s day meta, it’s not like you can just wait for a year when the 17th will be in week 2 of march.

bits & pieces:

  • {Granddaughter of Abraham} LISA. abraham begat homer, and homer begat bart, lisa, and maggie.
  • {Criticized severely} BLASTED and {Prepares, as chicken} PAN-ROASTS. these two entries have nothing to do with each other, but i find it curious that “pan” and “roast” can both mean to criticize severely.
  • {Gymnast Aly with three Olympic golds} RAISMAN. surprising inversion here—usually raisman is the clue and it’s ALY in the grid.
  • {Word absent from the script of “The Godfather”} MAFIA. i’d bet almost all of the 84 entries in the grid satisfy this clue. the only ones i’d expect show up in the screenplay are YES, OKAY, and probably LEAD. a few maybes like LAY, MESS, BALANCE, NO IDEA. almost everything else is an obvious no.

that’s all i’ve got this week, so let’s hear from you. did you have the luck of the irish on this one?

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13 Responses to MGWCC #772

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 338 correct entries, 260 of which were solo solves.

    Obviously the H(ESSE) fudge is a big blot, but I thought the (K)ENYA payoff was worth the price of admission. Did you know that AITI is the Finnish word for “mother”? Couldn’t find a good phrase for it, though…

    • Mikey G says:

      The (K)ENYA was definitely worth the price of admission in my book!

      Let me solve them
      Let me solve them
      Let the meta puzzles flow

      Great one!

  2. AmyL says:

    I liked this a lot, possibly because it’s the first week 3 I’ve gotten in a long while. I was a little off at first when I thought of TAIWAN for the Wanda Sykes entry. Once I figured out some of the other countries, I switched to RWANDA. When I got SHAMROC, I thought there is probably a rapper I’ve never heard of called Sham Roc. It seems that the people called Shamroc (yes, there are a few) are not Irish. So I struggled with what to do with the K. When I finally hit on Kenya, it was a very satisfying aha moment.

  3. John says:

    yes, it was a fun get. It took a bit to realize the ‘note’ on 19A was for the meta, not the clue for the grid. Until then, i just had a blank but knew the mechanism was leading to SHAMROC. But what of that K? Nice click.

  4. Seth says:

    Never saw the last step. Saw the countries immediately, except the non-country HESSE, so I tried to made SAMROC mean something for a while. But I knew it had to be SHAMROCK, so I thought I was just missing the K like I was missing the H, and maybe that was just supposed to point to St. Patrick, but that would’ve been inelegant. And then I thought maybe it was a pun, like Nokay or Kayless. But never thought the K would be the start of another themer of sorts. Oh well.

  5. milobela says:

    This was my first attempt at actually solving a meta puzzle, after years of reading these writeups. Stared at the grid for a while until click one (SHAMROC?) and then click two. Great feeling! I’ll be back next week.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      If this was your first meta and you got it, that’s impressive.

      Welcome to the madness…

  6. Richard K says:

    Oh, I assumed the 18th/19th century part of the clue applied to the state motto itself. I ended up googling “Hessequa,” a municipality in South Africa. Fortunately, the other letters were obvious enough for me to get to SHAMROC and then to the finish line. Glad I got this one, as I muffed the WSJ contest meta this week. One-for-two on St. Patrick’s Day.

    • dkbvt says:

      What’s interesting about this is that North Carolina’s current motto wasn’t adopted until the late 1800s, so I went down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what the state motto was for “parts of the 18th and 19th century only”! (It seems there wasn’t an official one, which I initially tried to tie to a theme until I saw the actual mechanism.)

  7. Joshua Kosman says:

    This was a great meta, HESSE or no. The final click was all the more pleasurable because it took me a moment of “Okay, SHAMROC, but now what?” before the penny dropped.

    By the way, fun fact: There are six countries in the world beginning with K, and it’s easy to remember them because they have different vowels in the second position. KAzakhstan, KEnya, KIribati, KOsovo, KUwait, KYrgyzstan.

    • David R says:

      This is what I come to the comments section for and from someone with a K last name of course.

  8. Steve Miller says:

    I got stuck on the parenthetical note, because I thought it applied to the motto itself. NC adopted that motto in 1893, so I kept thinking about the period in parts of the 18th and 19th centuries when NC was a state, but had no motto. It SEEMED right to me, but it wasn’t meant to BE. :-)

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