MGWCC #90

crossword 6:16 (paper)
puzzle 0:17
mgwcc90greetings, everyone, and welcome to the 90th episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “London Match.” this one had a really cool, if fairly easy, meta. there were no apparent theme answers, so we just had to work the puzzle and see where it took us. the contest instructions this week state that this week’s contest answer is a sport featured in the Summer Olympics — a sport you’ll need to do a little of for this meta. okay then, what stands out about the grid? there are no overt references to the summer olympics outside of the title (which may be a reference to the magazine paris match?). but in solving the puzzle, i definitely noticed an unusual pattern: a 2×2 block entirely populated with Is:

  • {“Don’t argue with me about this”} is “I INSIST,” one of my favorite crossword answers ever. it’s perfectly natural, and yet in the grid it looks insane. it starts with a double-I!!
  • below that, the {Language featured on one U.S. state quarter} is HAWAIIAN. which quarter again? i’ve blocked that meta out of my memory.
  • crossing them, the {Highly intelligent group} is not five-letter MENSA for once, but the unusual plural GENII. i was under the impression that the plural of genius was geniuses when referring to smart people, but genii only when referring to guardian spirits.
  • another awesome answer, which i’ve never seen in a crossword before, is the {Humorous contradiction} known as a YOGIISM in honor of the quotable yogi berra.

now, double-Is are rare (although even the triple-I is possible, as BEQ blog puzzle #1 demonstrated). so a 2×2 block of them can’t really be a coincidence, can it? i was thinking no, and my thoughts were confirmed when i came to the block of Xs in the SE corner, comprising clothing chain TJ MAXX, mötley crüe bassist nikki SIXX, oil giant EXXON, and random roman numeral LXXII. but wait! that numeral isn’t random at all; it’s 72-across, and LXXII is roman for 72. the clue for 72a was blank, which left the solver to figure out what was going on. i’m not 100% sure that was fair, but it certainly was clever. i already had __XII in place when i got there, so it didn’t take me long.

i have to ask, though: how hard did matt work to get that particular entry at 72a? most 15×15 crosswords don’t even have a 72a. the only reason this one does is that it’s got a relatively high word count (80) and very few squares that start both an across and a down (1, 6, 10, 39, and 60). is that the reason for the high word count? the puzzle was a fairly straightforward solve, but might have been more fun with a couple longer answers.

anyway, back to the meta. as i mentioned, i noticed the I box and the X box (not an xbox, sadly) while solving, and figured they must be related to the meta. after finishing, i went back and found four more: the B box in the NW, the G box in the SE, the N box in the SW, and the O box in the middle. that last one was particularly surprising to me. after that, the meta answer BOXING practically jumped off the page. not only is it an olympic sport and an anagram of the six letters in the theme, but it’s also what i was doing (loosely/cryptically speaking) to identify those 2×2 blocks of the same letter.

getting sleepy, so i’ll just mention a couple of quick hits from the fill:

  • {Battle of ___ (Sept. 1950 event)} was INCHON. the massive amphibious assault during the inchon invasion was inchon’s claim to fame until a ginormous international airport was built there, about an hour west of seoul.
  • where were we? oh yes, in {A land divided}: KOREA.
  • but wait, there’s more! {Ireland Baldwin’s mother} is KIM… basinger, i guess. no, this has nothing to do with geography (despite the ireland), but KIM is also the name of the gold medal favorite in ladies’ figure skating, KIM yu-na of south korea. i just watched her flawless short program. i don’t even like figure skating, but i do like cheering for koreans. tip of the hat to liz gorski, who was on the ball about kim yu-na two months ago.

is that all i have time for? korean content? how could i fail to even mention the random chess clue of the week (dutch grandmaster hans REE), or the insane place name aotearoa (in new zealand, i take it, as the MAORI are native there)? or, on the unfortunate side of the ledger, the weird 6-letter partial LIES NO, the difficult foreign words IHNEN and OGGI, and the not-quite-great verb phrases CROONS TO and LEARN TO? well, what can i say? i’m a tease. see you next week.

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5 Responses to MGWCC #90

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Joon –

    Aotearoa is the Maori language term for New Zealand itself.

    Confession, the 72 thing was sheer luck. I only noticed it when I typed in “72″ as the clue.

  2. Pete M. says:

    There’s also Kim Jong-il, though I doubt he figure skates.

  3. Jim says:

    my first anagram of the letters was Bingo X. Was trying to see if Bingo became a sport.

  4. BrianGoodBeat says:

    I caught on to the 2×2′s as I was solving, and used the concept to help me fill in the grid. I love when that happens!

    That’s how I got 72/LXXII, which I think is a totally fair clue (Do I remember having seen this from Matt before?)

  5. Ben Bass says:

    Damn! After blogging about the ACPT for the past four hours (will post shortly), and clicking on my Crossword Fiend link to make sure all my target=”_blank”s are in place, i now realize that I neglected to email BOXING to Matt. I solved the puzzle on the flight to the ACPT and like Joon solved and enjoyed the meta. Oh well, March is another month.

    Joon, check out the blog post when you get a chance… you get some well-deserved props.

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