MGWCC #176

crossword 4:19
puzzle ??? 

well, we’re into week 2 of THE HUNT FOR FOOD OCTOBER at matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “KP Duty”. so here’s the thing: i didn’t give this one my best effort, and now the deadline is hard upon us, and i don’t know what the answer is. let’s see if i can blog the puzzle anyway. five long answers, all 9 letters:

  • {Had to wait for oncoming traffic, maybe} TOOK A LEFT.
  • {Shampoo brand named for what it promises} SLEEK LOOK.
  • {First European to see the Niger River} MUNGO PARK.
  • {Managua maidens} SENORITAS.
  • {Have no nightmares} SLEEP EASY.

per the instructions, we’re looking for a four-letter vegetable. IMPORTANT NOTE: We’re using the everyday, expansive definition of “vegetable” this week, so don’t think too technically along that front. If you think something might be reasonably considered a vegetable, it is one for our purposes. right then. i found a four-letter vegetable in each long answer: KALE, LEEK, MUNG (bean), NORI, and PEAS. i don’t really know what to do with them, and i don’t know what to do with the title. there are certainly Ks and Ps strewn about. SLEEK and SLEEP differ by only a K/P switch, in fact. but SENORITAS has none of them.

for a 4-letter answer, we’re not trying to get one letter from each theme entry, so it must just be some commonality that i’m missing. i’ll give it some more thought. in the meantime, the fill roundup:

  • {Benedict Arnold} was a TRAITOR, yes. don’t remind me.
  • {Prepare for slaughter} is FATTEN UP, but not like a fatted calf or sacrificial lamb. don’t remind me.
  • {“Julius” in “Gaius Julius Caesar,” e.g.} is one of his NOMEN. he was killed in the 1st century BC. why does everything remind me?
  • {TV show set in Lima, O.} GLEE. somebody might have won a guest appearance emmy for this… remind me?
  • {In Spanish it’s “agitar” (anagram of LOITER)} clues TO RILE. rates an 8.8 on the arbitrary infinitive scale.
  • {Doesn’t go to a restaurant} DINES IN; consonantal twin of {Ohio college that graduated Michael Eisner} DENISON.
  • {Frost of “Fire and Ice”} is ROBERT. nice clue, trying to mix in frost with fire and ice. not much of a poem, though. does not make my frost top 20.
  • {Is awesome} RULES. this clue is awesome.
  • {One of many Latin American nations} is UNA. very clever clue.
  • {Letters on Cardinals caps} STL. apparently they’re in the world series now. strange, no?
  • {One of 52} is a WEEK, not a CARD. perhaps i just have cards on the brain because my friends are currently in the netherlands representing the USA in the world championships of bridge.
  • {1985 movie with songs by Cyndi Lauper and The Bangles (with “The”)} is GOONIES, the first movie i ever saw that scared the crap out of me (i was 6).

well, it’s almost noon and i haven’t figured out the meta. i’m probably going to send in bean. it’s totally unsatisfying, but at least MUNG and PEAS are kinds of beans, and there are references in the clues to several more (lima in the GLEE clue, common in the ERATO clue, coral in the SNORKEL clue, string in the KITE clue). plus, bean is exactly the kind of answer that some people would not consider a vegetable and thus would cause matt to make a disclaimer like the one he made. (maybe that’s too meta-meta, but really, i got nothin’ here.)

so, does somebody want to fill me in on what i missed?

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41 Responses to MGWCC #176

  1. Jed says:

    I sent in Okra, completing a K-P series of 4-letter veggies. Hoping for confirmation here!

  2. Matthew G. says:

    I entered “Guar.” It uses the four letters in MUNGO PARK that are not the letters K through P (“KP Duty”), and like the four words hidden in the other theme entries (KALE, LEEK, NORI, PEAS), it’s a four-letter word that means a green vegetable.

    Not remotely confident that I’m correct. Feels unsatisfying.

  3. tabstop says:

    My guess was: KP suggests going from K to P, and we have K, L, M, N, and P and we are missing O, so find a four-letter vegetable starting with O.

  4. Dan F says:

    Here’s what I thought:


    Based on the title, I went looking for a four-letter vegetable that starts with O, which has to be OKRA. There may be another hint or pointer somewhere… anyone?

    eta: too slow… look at all of us clamoring to show how much smarter we are than Joon… ;)

  5. joon says:

    jed, i like the OKRA answer a lot better than BEAN. wish i’d thought of it.

  6. Jason says:

    Jed makes a lot of sense. I sent in LEAF, thinking that the five short answers dealt with somewhat leafy vegetables, although BEAN had also crossed my mind.

  7. Aaron says:

    Yeesh. I had no idea that “MUNG” was a thing — I was also looking for words hidden WITHIN the theme entries. I went with OKRA, as it was green, like the other four that I’d found. I also tried to rank the vegetables in terms of their Vitamin K and Potassium counts (KP) but I came up empty (MT) there, too.

    I guess I don’t know much about beans, aside from them being a magical fruit, but even with all those references, it’s hard to resolve that with an outlier like NORI, which is most certainly *not* a bean.

  8. Matthew G. says:

    I was thinking OKRA all along, but rejected it because I couldn’t find an M vegetable. Never heard of MUNG. Grr.

  9. Pam says:

    I sent in SPUD because of all the stacked (don’t know why they’re backwards) TA and TOs in the puzzle with the PO in the center of the puzzle. And KP duty is usually spent peeling potatoes. ??? I have no idea.

  10. Scott says:

    I am two for two with OKRA. Keep ‘em coming and Thanks Matt!

  11. Charles Montpetit says:

    While Jed makes sense, I’m actually on Joon’s side for the following reason: according to, KALE, LEEK, NORI and PEAS are all alkalizing vegetables, while a MUNG bean is the lone acidifier of the lot. As the odd one out in the set, it got my vote for this week’s winner.

  12. Aaron says:

    I just read all the other responses. Glad I sent in OKRA! That fits KP a lot better than what I was thinking of . . . and reminds me of my favorite crossword clue: “H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O?”

  13. Mike L says:

    I was going to send in OKRA, based only on the fact that it seemed to be hidden in mungOpARK, but thought that was waaayyy too tenuous…

  14. Andrew Greene says:

    Another OKRA submitter here, for the reasons given above.

  15. Charles Montpetit says:

    Aaron: WATER, right? (H-to-O)

  16. Matthew G. says:

    Also, like Aaron, I was looking for words _within_ the theme entries, so while I googled GOPA and UNGO and OPAR to see if they might be vegetables I hadn’t heard of, it never occurred to me to google MUNG.

  17. Paul Coulter says:

    Should’ve known a good Southern boy like Matt would come up with okra. He had me for a while, and the only thing I could see was that out of kale, leek, mung, nori, and peas, only mung could not be anagrammed. It also happened to have both the k and p of KP duty in the full entry Mungo Park, which the others didn’t. But then my granddaughter came home from school – when she saw we were looking for a four letter vegetable, she said Oh, like okra? (Her favorite is her mom’s fried okra.) Which got me thinking – checking the five theme entries, sure enough Matt had omitted O in the K-P sequence. I wonder if he would have accepted Olea (Latin for olive.) Well, time for dinner. As I said to Matt, guess what we had Friday night Chez Coulter?

  18. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    As I noted in my submission to Matt, MUNGOPARK, once you have used up the MUNG, contains OpARK, an anagram of OKRA.

    I had solved the puzzle by using the K, L, M, N, (___), P theory.

    Two things: My only write over was at 32 D, “I shoulda known that!” To me, that cues D’oh!, whereas Duh! would be clued by “You shoulda known that!”

    Also: clearly MUNGO PARK is a fictional character — what an impossible name! I can understand how Matt could create a fictional Wikipedia page for him, but how on earth did Matt put that same entry in my 1975 “New Columbia Encyclopedia”?

  19. Al says:

    Managed to come with OKRA yesterday. I almost sent in LEEK because LEEP was in the grid, thinking that was what KP referred to. Glad I held off.

    I highly recommend TC Boyle’s early novel, “Water Music” for a wonderfully entertaining account (historical fiction) of Mungo Park’s explorations of Africa.

  20. Noam D. Elkies says:

    I sent in OKRA as well, for reasons noted by previous posters. I too had to look up that explorer’s name, and also complained about 32D:DUH vs. D’oh, and questioned “mung” as opposed to “mung bean”.

    Note that the other four theme entries place the four-letter word in the four available spots within a 9-letter string. I thus thought at first that the central Mungo Park would reveal the theme in some other way, but eventually settled for “mung” working in the same way — which has the advantage that it’s in place alphabetically and in yet a fifth different spot in its 9-letter string, but the disadvantage that it’s not hidden (as noted) and leaves the sixth spot unclaimed.

    If there were a sixth theme entry to complete the pattern, it might be clued “committed apostasy in ancient Egypt?” [answer = rot13 of "sbefbbx En"].

  21. reid says:

    i also sent in Okra based on the missing O alphabetically. Wasn’t feeling too confident about it at the time, but I’m feeling a little better knowing no one could come up with anything better.

  22. Matt Gaffney says:

    218 correct answers this week for OKRA. Dan F. is right — do your “K-P” duty by finding the missing four-letter vegetable from the sequence of (K)ALE, (L)EEK, (M)UNG, (N)ORI and (P)EAS.

  23. MountainManZach says:

    I got an extra hint when I misspelled Tommy’s name laSORTa, so I thought, aha! Sort the vegetables somehow! And there it was.

    Also for those unfamiliar with mung beans:

  24. Aaron says:

    @Charles: Correct.

    As for getting OKRA via alternative means, I’ll take it.

  25. PJ says:

    I also thought Okra because it was the missing letter in the K-P string. Did Pfc. Okra get KP duty for going AWOL?

  26. Matt Gaffney says:

    Matthew G. — that is an interesting find! It doesn’t address the other four theme entries so I can’t accept it as an alt-answer, but it is neat.

    Aaron — I was a bit concerned that some might not have heard of MUNG (that was the reason for my instructions disclaimer), but I figured that if you see the K-L-?-N-P link you know you’re looking for a four-letter vegetable in MUNGO PARK that starts with M, so a solver would at least Google MUNG to see if it’s something.

    Charles — in almost any group of five anythings, you can find a way that one is not like the other!

  27. cybergoober says:

    In addition to the missing O-veggie, I sought justification for an OKRA answer in the grid. There are eye-catching clusters of four O’s in the NW and NE corners, and there is a K, R, and A adjacent to each cluster. A sign from the heavens that okra is the winner. Vegetable tic-tac-toe.

  28. *David* says:

    I had Matt’s disclaimer ringing in my ears about not looking at the title of the xword to help with the solution so I quickly took KP as poetic license on the kitchen and moved on. Boy that would have helped with this meta. My logic was that it was one of the five choces and we needed to find something to eliminate the other four. I spent some time on anagrams which MUNG does not have one of but KALE becomes LEAK. I then noticed that a proper name crossed every answer other then MUNG and you got TOMMY LEE(K) and LASORDA. I also noticed the four down phrases that had to do with eating and tried to get those to work, alas it wasn’t meant to be.

  29. Karen says:

    I got OKRA too about a day after I solved the puzzle. I believe the vegatable caveat is mostly in regards to nori, which is algae rather than a vegetable; beans and legumes are also sometimes put into a different category.

    Charles, thanks for solving that clue above, I couldn’t see it.

  30. Neville says:

    I went with CORN as a shot in the dark entry, as I couldn’t come up with it all weekend. Oh well – less pressure for the next few weeks :)

  31. Mike says:

    Right answer, wrong reasons. How about this for roundabout logic? Anagram the middle letters of the first 4 theme entries:

    TOOK(A)LEFT –> A
    SLEE(K)LOOK –> K
    MUNG(O)PARK –> O
    SENO(R)ITAS –> R

    I admit it’s tenuous at best, and I wasn’t sure what to do with the P in SLEEP EASY, but once 11 AM rolls around you get pretty desperate.

  32. Matt Gaffney says:

    *David* — I didn’t say you *shouldn’t* look at the titles for guidance, just that the title can be *either* 1) an aid to unlocking the meta or 2) a neutral placeholder if I can’t come up with anything that wouldn’t give the game away too easily, especially later in the month.

    This title was tricky since it was actually 1), but had surface sense as 2).

  33. PM says:

    I thought OKRA is technically a fruit (like a tomato)

    This made me even more sure of the answer (given Matt’s caveat)

  34. Evad says:

    Same as PM, here. Matt’s disclaimer made me more confident of OKRA, since various sites call it a fruit (due to it having seeds inside).

  35. Matt Gaffney says:

    PM & Evad — it’s funny, I didn’t find out that the OKRA is technically a fruit until after I’d posted the puzzle. That disclaimer was meant for MUNG. MEANT FOR MUNG is a good band name.

  36. Joan Aufderhar says:

    And I really liked KELP, yes a seaweed that people eat, going from K to P and putting in some of one of those L’s and E’s which were so numerous.

  37. Jeffrey says:

    I sent OKRA but didn’t really know why. There seemed to be lots of K’s and O’s in the puzzle.

  38. Owen says:

    Joan, I was totally with you! I had no idea what to do with the Mung… I wonder how many people sent that in.

  39. abide says:

    Started puzzle at 10:30 today. Completed puzzle at 10:45. Saw four hidden vegetables at 10:50. Googled OPAR, NGOR, etc w/o success. Now it’s 10:55. Sent in OKRA for the hell of it since those letters were in the central entry. About time I got lucky!

  40. Pete Rimkus says:

    I got it and Joon didn’t…

    Can I have “MGWCC Miracles for $200, Alex?”

  41. Matthew G. says:

    @Matt Gaffney: I think your decision not to accept my entry of GUAR as an alt-answer is probably the right call, but for what it’s worth: My reasoning was that the other hidden veggies were all (1) four letters; and (2) green, so I was on the lookout for another four-letter green veggie. That’s how I accounted for the others.

    But once you find MUNG (which I didn’t), GUAR is less objectively there than OKRA is, so I’m not begging.

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