MGWCC #164

crossword 3:57 (across lite)
puzzle untimed, maybe 5 or 10 minutes 

greetings, fellow solvers. in the 164th episode of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Seven Wonders”, we’re asked to identify one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. what hints do we have? well, there are six long across answers in the grid:

  • {11/28/03, for example} was a BLACK FRIDAY.
  • {Highly covetous} clues GREEN WITH ENVY.
  • {1959 masterpiece that’s #12 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”} is miles davis’s KIND OF BLUE.
  • {Guinea-Bissau is there}—where? in WEST AFRICA, of course. so is guinea, but not equatorial guinea, which is in the axilla.
  • {“Step on up!”} is roughly synonymous with “DON’T BE BASHFUL!”.
  • {Surprise Oscar nominee for Best Original Song, 1999} is the south park song, “BLAME CANADA”.

so the first three have colors in them, but that doesn’t appear to be the theme (especially as the others don’t). with the seven wonders in mind from the title and instructions, it didn’t take long to see that each theme answer ends with a member of a famous septet:

  • FRIDAY is one of the days of the week.
  • ENVY is one of the seven deadly sins.
  • BLUE is one of the colors of the visible spectrum in the ROY G BIV mnemonic.
  • AFRICA is one of the seven continents.
  • BASHFUL is one of the seven dwarfs (or dwarves, if you prefer tolkien’s plural). one of the earliest MGWCCs used this septet for a theme—SLEETY BATHFUL was a theme answer, and FRUMPY HARPY. i can’t remember the other one. SKEEZY DOPER, maybe?
  • and CANADA is a member of the G7. this is easily the weakest canonical septet: it was formed in 1975 as the G6, added canada a year later, and added russia in 1997 and is now the G8. even so, the group was the G7 for all but one of its first 20+ years of existence, so this is legit.

well, how are we supposed to pick one of the ancient wonders? it didn’t seem like the name of any particular wonder was being hinted at in the theme answers. it’s already difficult enough to put six long theme answers in a grid at all, without trying to sneak any particular wordplay hints. so i decided pretty quickly that it had to do with the ordering of each set, and which member was selected for representation in the theme. the days of the week, of course, have a canonical ordering, and FRIDAY comes 5th. similarly, BLUE is 5th in the ROY G BIV spectrum, going from long to short wavelengths (low to high frequencies). but the other septets do not have any canonical ordering, and neither do the ancient wonders.

however, you can order any set of named things by using lexical ordering, i.e. alphabetizing them. and if you do that, you notice something curious: the theme contains the first alphabetical member of each septet! the only iffy one is the seven deadly sins, because greed is commonly called avarice instead, and sloth is sometimes (okay, very rarely) referred to as acedia. either of those terms would precede ENVY, but it’s certainly reasonable enough to claim that ENVY is first.

so what then is the contest answer? why, the colossus of rhodes, the first of the seven wonders of the ancient world in alphabetical order. (the others are the great pyramid of giza, the hanging gardens of babylon, the lighthouse/pharos of alexandria, the mausoleum of halicarnassus, the statue of zeus at olympia, and the temple of artemis at ephesus.)

a couple of months ago, i played the critically acclaimed board game 7 wonders for the first time. it underwhelmed me, to be honest. anybody else played it and had a better experience? i played probably half a dozen games, but all with 3 players. perhaps it works better with more. rhodes is pretty good in that game, as i recall.

i thought the crossword itself was unusually easy for a 4th-week puzzle, but it might have just been me. dan feyer took four and a half minutes to solve it, putting it squarely in saturday+ territory by at least one metric. that surprised me greatly, because i never beat dan. (i take solace in the fact that, well, neither does anybody else.) what did you all think? there were certainly some tricky clues:

  • {Wooden peg} is a TREE NAIL. not one of the carpentry terms within my ken.
  • {Level} is TIED… this time. but you never know if it’ll be TIER.
  • {Men at ___ (Chinese restaurant in Williston, Vt.)} WOK. oh, matt and his punny restaurant names.
  • {WSJ rival} is the LAT, or los angeles times. i don’t really think of them as rivals, i guess. they both have good crosswords with top-notch editors, though.
  • {Intro college class, so to write} is IOI, which is supposed to evoke 101. ugh. i’m much more familiar with this, although i admit that it’s not really famous enough for a crossword.
  • {Member of the order Anguilliformes} is an EEL, a fact that i certainly did not know before solving a master theorem puzzle a month ago. (oh, spoiler alert, i guess.) but in three letters, you have to be thinking EEL anyway.
  • {She had a long-running Hollywood feud with Zsa Zsa} is ELKE, presumably sommer. no idea what this is about, but with the K in place it was that or ILKA. (note: i have no idea when ILKA chase lived.)
  • {Namesake of a Twin Cities college, casually} is ST KATE. amy, did you know this? i am apparently not as up on my small minnesota colleges as i thought.
  • {NPL appellation} is a NOM. ugh, i won’t repeat my anti-nomian (so to speak) screed here.
  • {Found new actors} clues RECAST. this clue seems off to me. isn’t RECAST transitive? CAST certainly is.
  • {It’s frequently before a hyphen} clues OFT. heh. get it? “frequently”? eh? eh?
  • {Big bra size} is an H CUP, really? i admitted last week that i don’t know much about bras, but here we are again. i had no idea the letters went that far.

another bullet dodged, then. what does week 5 have in store for us?

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51 Responses to MGWCC #164

  1. Eric LeVasseur says:

    I was torn between alphabetizing by name of structure or by location. The Lighthouse at ALEXANDRIA could have been a reasonable alternative answer. Ultimately went with the COLOSSUS of Rhodes, though.

  2. Eh, I was DOA on this one.

  3. Neville says:

    4/4 so far here, too, Joon – but you had a much easier time with this meta than I did. I got sidetracked looking for tunes in the initials of both the groups and the individual entries. Eventually that made me realize that the entries were all at the front of the alphabet.

    Not optimistic about week 5 at this point.

  4. Evad says:

    My one reservation about alphabetizing the lists was finding ANGER and AVARICE listed among the 7 deadly sins. But having the five others clearly be the firsts of their lists swayed me toward COLOSSUS as well.

    Week five will be a bear if this week is any indication of what’s to come!

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Didn’t get it. Stared and stared and stared, but didn’t notice that each theme entry included a word that was part of a set of seven. Got fixated on the notion that if the top three had something in common (colors), I needed to figure out what the bottom three had in common. Couldn’t let go of that.

    Oh well. I had my first 3/3 start this month. I’ll keep looking in August for my first 4/4.

  6. Zifmia says:

    No clue. 1 in 7 guess failed.

  7. Paul says:

    I followed much the same line of reasoning, except that 6 theme entries and 7 wonders led me to think that one’s been omitted, that being the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. Bashful is the 1st dwarf alphabetically, Africa the 2nd largest continent, blue the third darkest of the color spectrum, Friday the fifth day of the week, envy the sixth deadly sin, and Canada the 7th member of the old G-7. On the theory Matt doesn’t do anything by chance, this looks like he intentionally skipped the 4th ordinal. Among the seven wonders, this would be the Statue of Zeus, both by age and as listed by several ancient writers. On the other hand, the inclusion of SEA in the fodder looks suspiciously like a seventh type of septet. Maybe that’s because the Colossus supposedly straddled the harbor at Rhodes? Incidentally, was anyone else thrown by CONTENTS beneath the Continents entry into looking for another deletion in the septets? How about the grid shape that looks very much like an eye (or lens) emitting rays – which might lead to the Lighthouse of Alexandria. It was at the outlet of the Nile, which is a Kind of Blue.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    I used the sins from the movie “Se7en.” if it’s good enough for brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin spacey it’s good enough for me!

    84 correct answers this week.

  9. pannonica says:

    Ooh, sesevenen! That, and The Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim). Yes, I’m grumpy.

  10. Bruce S. says:

    I followed the same logic as Paul in submitting the Statue of Zeus. Oh well. I spent a while on the use of 101/IOI in the lower left since that corner could have been filled in many different ways so I figured there was something up with Matt’s reasoning for inclusion of numbers one way, letters the other. Guess I will attempt to start a new stretch of correctness starting Friday.

  11. *David* says:

    At least I wasn’t in the ballpark, would have been annoying figuring out the seven theme and not seeing the alphabetical connection. I saw the IVY coming down on the top and thought that there was some literal hanging garden in there somewhere.

  12. Tony says:

    I went with Hanging Gardens as well, mostly because I was confused and also the cluster of Bs, As and Ls near the bottom that seemed to be hanging down.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    Went with Temple of Artemis based on it being FRAGMENTED and DIVINE. The only septet I couldn’t get was CANADA.

    Another puzzle ending in a sigh.

  14. Howard B says:

    The puzzle was challenging but not too tough. I don’t speed-solve these, so can’t compare, but I’d say it was “al dente” in difficulty.

    The meta? No way in heck. Nicely done, but wasn’t gonna happen here :).
    CANADA, even if you told me the theme beforehand, I could not have figured out how to fit into it. Then, even if I knew the 7 connection, I still would not have made the last leap to order them and solve. I’ve cracked seemingly tougher metas (as determined by the community) before, but this one was the farthest out of my wheelhouse of any meta I’ve ever attempted.
    Not a good month here for me. But a fine puzzle and meta. Still enjoyed the struggle.

  15. Matt Gaffney says:

    I was slightly concerned that several of the sins have other names, but I figured that the other five septets were unambiguous, so it’d be quite a coincidence (1 in 16,807, or 7x7x7x7x7) that five would be alphabetically first within their sets so solvers would realize it had to be the meta key (especially since several of the most common lists have ENVY as first).

    That precise list (GREED LUST ENVY SLOTH WRATH GLUTTONY PRIDE) is sanctioned by both Wikipedia and, as I mentioned, the movie:

    I also was very slightly reluctant to use G7, but I used it in a clue last month (for ITALY) so that helped.

    Also note that the G7 still does exist and is not the same as the G8.

  16. Scott says:

    No clue. 1 in 7 guess failed. (reprise)

  17. Robin says:

    Ditto Zifmia. Not a clue.

  18. Abby says:

    I got it, but not before a detour that had me running for a while.

    Five of the six theme words are not bad hints for “Nile”. Nile, ON, Canada is a stretch, but Black Nile, Nile Blue, Nile Green, and the West Nile Virus are all pretty reasonable things (the last three are in Chambers, which in cryptic land would count for something :-) ). Lucky for me, I couldn’t complete the set or I would’ve played the Pyramid. (“Delta… matchbox… talkshow…” “June Answers to MGWCC!”)

    i tried to make other orderings work for the septets too, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but most other orderings for most of them (especially the continents) felt too arbitrary.

  19. Eric Maddy says:

    Oh, the G7. OK.
    I had just figured that Canada was first alphabetically among the seven countries/federations that have won gold in Olympic men’s ice hockey…..

  20. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Yes, I noticed the cont(in)ents, and also wondered briefly if we might have to alphabetize by Alexandria and/or Artemis ahead of Colossus. As I noted in my solution e-mail, the other colors in the first three theme entries (also suggesting a pairing with the remaining trio: BLACK/BLAME, but then what?) were an effective “red” herring…


  21. Don Lloyd says:

    Not only was I not in the same ballpark, I was not even in the same country. When I noticed the two longest vertical answers were FRAGMENTED DIVINELAWS, I read the latter as an anagram of ISLAND VIEW. Had to be the lighthouse, right? I’m having red herring for dinner tonight.

  22. Paul says:

    What’s more ambiguous than the envy/avarice primary alphabetic positioning is, as Eric notes, the name/location of the wonders. The anwer could equally well be the Pharos as the Colossus, if you use Alexandria. While I think that Bruce and I have a reasonable case for the Statue of Zeus via an alternate ordering system (and the absent 7th wonder being somewhat more elegant,) I submitted the Pharos because the unusual grid certainly seems to go out of its way to draw a picture. Ah well, no doubt Matt’s all-seeing eye will blast me from the heavens on the last one, anyway. No complaints – full marks for another brilliant puzzle, and hours of delightful torment.

  23. joon says:

    i thought about that but quickly discarded it. alexandria isn’t a wonder; the pharos is. if you alphabetize the wonders, colossus comes first. it’s not like he’s a person surnamed rhodes.

    as for the grid drawing a picture, … no. the grid is not unusual. the only thing it’s going out of its way to do is include six theme answers of 10+ letters, including a couple of 13s, which are always awkward to place.

  24. Matt Gaffney says:

    Paul –

    I don’t see the logic in using the locations of the Wonders instead of the Wonders themselves, especially since the contest instructions are explicit.

    I also don’t find the ordering logic you used persuasive, since 1) Friday can be either the fifth or the sixth day of the week; 2) I don’t think the sins have a particular order; 3) it’s arbitrary to use darkness for BLUE being third; you could just as easily make it fifth for lightness, and indeed it’s in 5th place in ROY G BIV, and 4) using the age of the 7 Wonders to make the Statue of Zeus 4th is also arbitrary (you could use size instead, for example).

    Of the eight people who submitted the Statue of Zeus as their answer, none used the above logic. So I would argue that it’s clear that the alphabetical list is far less ambiguous than your alternative. OK, I see from above that Bruce S. was the only other person who used that logic (he didn’t mention it in his e-mail so I didn’t know).

  25. Norm says:

    I thought BLACK -> LIGHT, GREEN -> HOUSE, and ALEXANDRIA as a KIND OF BLUE, and figured the other longs might contain something that was over my head. Obvi, the entire meta was. Like Matthew G., I’ll take some comfort in a 3 for 3 start. August cannot come too soon; I’m sure this Friday will be a killer.

  26. I know a few women who went to St. Kate’s, including my aunt Paula. “St. Kate’s” is definitely more often used than St. Catherine, so props to Matt on this one — nice vernacular entry though it’s probably lost on many non-Minnesotans.

  27. Bruce S. says:


    Actually I thought

    Bashful 1st alphabetically
    Africa 2nd biggest
    Envy 3rd in everylist I saw
    Missing fourth (Hence Zeus)
    Blue 5th in ROYGBIV
    Friday 6th (since I start my weeks on Sunday)
    Canada 7th last to join G7

    Was not confident at all, since i didn’t deem this elegant enough for you… I knew when Joon posted the answer I would be kicking myself… and I am.

  28. Paul says:

    Matt, I agree the alphabetical list is less ambiguous, and I could kick myself for failing to see that it could apply to all the theme words after making Bashful 1st alphabetically on my list. I’m only pointing out that there is some room for interpretation in your solution, unlike your other metas.

  29. Matt Gaffney says:

    Paul — by “room for interpretation” do you mean ordering the Wonders by location? If so, I’d like to hear your logic for making that leap. It appears arbitrary to me, something like using the capitals of the G7 countries instead of the countries themselves.

    Putting it another way — if you had noticed both the intended solution and your alternative, I think you would have chosen the intended one.

  30. Paul says:


    No argument here – as I’ve said, your answer’s better and I wish I’d thought of it. But the route to the answer need not be the answer, itself. My logic is that the locations can be alphebatized, then Alexandria points to the Pharos. I felt quite sure that the eye with beams of light depicted by the black squares was pointing to it as well. As I mentioned in my letter, I didn’t think the alternate answer of the Statue of Zeus was right because it required too much massaging of the ordinals.

  31. Matt Gaffney says:


    Any list of words can be alphabetized. My question was *why* anyone would choose to use the locations over the wonders. They’re second after the wonders themselves, plus the instructions ask explicitly for a Wonder of the Ancient World, not the locations.

  32. Noam D. Elkies says:

    BTW the probability calculation is off because there are also six choices for the odd-man-out, making the total (6×6) / (7x7x7x7x7x7). But the result, while larger than 1/(7x7x7x7x7), is still tiny enough (.03%, previously .006%) that the conclusion still stands.

  33. Matt Gaffney says:

    Who does this guy think he is, some kind of mathematician?

  34. jimmy d says:

    Smooth meta, Matt… Bashful tipped me off to the septets, Africa tipped me off to the alphabetically first selections… which out of the Seven Wonders is definitely Colossus of Rhodes! Another nice week 4 A-HA!!… can’t wait until week five!!

  35. Karen says:

    Matt, I would love to see the breakdown for the incorrect guesses. I think the two most famous are the pyramid of Giza and the hanging gardens. Not many people pop off the mausoleum of Helicarnassos.

    I’m another clueless one–I expected to have the six clues associated with one wonder each, and have another left over. I’m going to Blame Canada for my failure.

  36. Matt Gaffney says:

    Karen — here you go:

    Colossus of Rhodes — 84
    Hanging Gardens of Babylon — 29 (mostly because of the hanging VINE in DIVINE LAWS)
    Pyramid of Giza — 15
    Lighthouse of Alexandria — 15
    Statue of Zeus at Olympia — 8
    Temple of Artemis at Ephesus — 8
    Mausoleum of Halicarnassus — 3

  37. Howard B says:

    Something you’ve got to admit on these – if you get on a hot streak, eventually a meta comes around that humbles you. If you get on a cold streak, one is bound to come along that just clicks, and gives you a nice confidence boost (even a tough one). Not easy to please everyone, but hang in there and you’re eventually rewarded. Appreciate the effort.

    That said, a little wary going into #5 this month. Hoping for a strong finish here.

  38. Dan Katz says:

    For what it’s worth, I played 7 Wonders a few times with 7 people and loved it. The game balance seemed really impressive, in that the players used very different strategies and just scored the majority of points from different areas, yet no one was a runaway winner or loser.

  39. Garrett says:

    I did not have a lot of time to look at my puzzle grid this weekend, and none yesterday. I did not get it. But I want to mention that I had never heard of an H cup size either. However, I found this statement on Wikipedia today:

    “British bras currently range from A to K cup size (with Bravissimo recently introducing an L-Cup), while most Americans can find bras with cup sizes ranging from A to G. Some brands (Goddess, Elila) go as high as N, a size roughly equal to a British JJ-Cup. Larger sizes are usually harder to find in retail outlets.”

  40. Amy Reynaldo says:

    A friend of mine wears an 32H bra. The Europeanish E is, oddly enough, equivalent to DDD, which follows DD, which follows D. Women with unusual bra sizes often have good luck finding bras at Nordstrom. This concludes your Crossword Fiend public service announcement.

    Had no idea what route to take on the meta!

  41. Lance says:

    Devils advocate ( I was completely stumped), but alphabetizing based on the last word in the wonder (ie rhodes for the colossus at Rhodes) would fit with the last word of the theme entries being the integral word of the theme (ie envy in green with envy). This would make a case for lighthouse of Alexandria being a logical conclusion. The lighthouse and the mausoleum are not identifiable as a wonder unless you include the location. And once again, solid meta

  42. abide says:

    No clue. Forgot to even guess, but I would have gone with the lowly Mausoleum.

  43. Mark N says:

    Hi. Just sharing my own route. I was one of the “Statue of Zeus at Olympia”s. I thought that 6 of the 7 sets of seven have well-known orderings (some having more than one admittedly), with only the Disney dwarfs as the exception. As there are many alternative names for the deadly sins, in my mind alphabetical order seemed too subjective. (I considered official Catholic teachings a more authoritative source on the sins than Se7en.) Africa is the 2nd-largest continent; envy the 3rd deadly sin per Vatican catechism; blue the 5th in ROYGBIV; Canada the 7th to join the G7. Went with 6th for Friday since that’s what my M-W dictionaries say, and 5th’s already taken. That left only 1st and 4th positions missing. Couldn’t find a reasonable ordering for the dwarfs so went with alphabetical. Bashful is 1st. The statue is 4th by the traditional ordering of the 7 Ancient Wonders by age (whether increasing or decreasing).

  44. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    After I had solved and sent in the correct answer to the meta (by no means easily; took me several days), it occurred to me that, Matt being Matt, the title “Seven Wonders” just might be parsed “Seven ‘One’-ders”.

  45. Dannoz says:

    I saw the letter(s) I throughout the grid forming pyramids. Or maybe not. In any event, I was flummoxed by the meta, not the puzzle. Maybe next week.

  46. HH says:

    The other day I noticed that one of my cable channels was showing “Sesevenen”; oddly, one channel over was a rerun of “Numbthreers”.

    @Matt — If you read this, please email me … I need some info. If, however, you don’t read this, never mind.

  47. HH says:

    P.S., I once saw, in a catalog, a listing for a bra sized 38N. I’d really like to meet this woman.

    As to why I’m looking at bra catalogs, hey, everybody should have a hobby.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      According to’s size charts, American N cup equates to a British JJ—and there are K, KK, and L beyond JJ. Why the American scale stops rather than having O, P, and Q, I can’t say.

  48. pannonica says:

    I can no longer resist typing “brabdingnagian.”

    Also, HH, in case you didn’t see it, I sort of apologized—but more accurately kicked myself—for completely misreading your comment about “MEN WORKING”.

  49. Blanche says:

    84 people got this. Really.

  50. ldswat says:

    collosal blunder! i wuz on the right track, but the wrong train. Canada as “G”7 country contaminates the meta, and negates the logic. ends up being a guessing game versus a solution based on reason. Canada would have to one of the “7G” countries for it to work….and the alphabetization is hit and miss at best. Lighthouse at AAAA, versus AAAA Lighthouse – either way is acceptable.

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