MGWCC #177

crossword 8:31
puzzle 2 minutes, or 3 days 

greetings, friends, and welcome to week 3 of THE HUNT FOR FOOD OCTOBER in matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Poisonous Mushrooms”. this week, matt challenges us to identify the location of the three poisonous mushroom patches in a set of 7 mushroom patches. first of all, where are the patches? well, 8d tells us {How to locate the seven mushroom fields}: LOOK FOR DOUBLE M’S. this was hard to parse and i was missing much of the end of it for most of my solve.

anyway, i circled the MMs in the screencap above, and indeed there are seven of them, all located in across answers:

  • {They don’t have funerals} clues IMMORTALS. i guess this is true, although duncan macleod certainly went to a number of funerals for immortals in highlander.
  • {Bebe Neuwirth’s pair} are EMMYS. was she lilith in cheers? in my (admittedly hazy) memory, that’s not really a big enough role to win an emmy, let alone two. also, i always get her confused with nixon pal bebe rebozo, who apparently is a man.
  • {Shots} are AMMO.
  • {Opera set in England} is the who’s TOMMY.
  • {Asian capital city} is AMMAN, jordan.
  • {Former Joan Collins co-star} is EMMA SAMMS. i have no idea who this is, but somehow filled it in with about half the letters missing (and i did not yet know about the MM theme element). must have seen her as a clue for EMMA and/or SAMMS at least a few times before. anyway, each of her names has a mushroom patch.

so which ones are poisonous? well, there’s one other hint-like thing in the grid, and it’s 39a: {Select from one mushroom patch but not from another, for example} clues COME TO A DECISION. not much of a hint, is it?

it took me about a minute to notice that three of the mushrooms are sitting below TOADs in the grid. EMMYS is right below {“You got anything ___?”} TO ADD. the aforementioned COME TO A DECISION sits atop AMMO. and AMMAN is under {Bootlicker} TOADY. i thought this could not possibly be a coincidence and was pretty well prepared to send this in on friday, but i didn’t really understand the connection between the TOADs and poisonous mushrooms, so i held off. well, now it’s monday night and i better send something in, not to mention write this blog, so … yeah. that’s my answer. the poisonous mushroom patches are located in EMMYS, AMMO, and AMMAN.

the mushroom/TOAD connection got me thinking about TOADstools, and i guess in some sense the double-M pair acts as a TOAD “stool” in each case (located right below the OA of TOAD, forming a mushroom-shaped visual). and hey, look at this:

toad·stool noun
: a fungus having an umbrella-shaped pileus : MUSHROOM; especially : a poisonous or inedible one as distinguished from an edible mushroom

i did not know that “especially” part, but it made me feel much more confident about my answer. i was pretty much always going to send it in anyway, because this puzzle has a lot of theme in it: six MM-containing across answers (including the EMMA SAMMS double whaMMy), thematic 15s crossing in the middle, and TOAD-containing answers stacked on three of the mushroom patches, one of which is one of the aforementioned 15s. so i didn’t think there was any way that matt could put any more in the grid to steer us towards TOADs, but he’s been known to surprise me. at any rate, it’s a really cool meta.

this crossword was awfully hard, wasn’t it? tough and/or notable clues:

  • {Yahoo! bought it in 2002 for $235 million} clues INKTOMI, which i’ve never heard of. wha?
  • {First name in 1970s teen heartthrobs} is apparently LEIF. just about 970 years too late for ericsson, so … i don’t know who this is. male or female?
  • {“Who the hell cares?”} is BFD. the eagle-eyed among you spotted the implicit profanity here, i’m sure.
  • {Lula ___ (Brazil’s president, 2003-10)} is DA SILVA, but more commonly LULA is in the grid. also, this is only tangentially related, but i just wanted to say that david SILVA (quarter-korean!) was unbelievable during city’s 6-1 rout of united in the manchester derby at old trafford on sunday. an otherworldly performance in an epic, unforgettable game. man. city!
  • {Che portrayer} is … GAEL somebody. clichy? kakuta? i don’t know. i wanted OMAR (sharif) here, and then ANTONIO (banderas), who obviously would not fit.
  • {Chinese term for a native who spends time in the West, then returns to China later in life} is a SEA TURTLE. wow. is this well known? what a bizarre way to clue it.
  • {Ohio congressman Bob} LATTA was an utter mystery to me, especially crossing LEIF at the L. luckily no other letter besides L made _EIF into anything resembling a familiar name, because _ATTA could pretty much be any consonant.
  • {“Wordplay” solver} PAYNE is the #1 trip payne on imdb.

that’s all for me. neat puzzle—but i’m still smarting from my (well-deserved) failure last week. how’d this one treat you?

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37 Responses to MGWCC #177

  1. Scott says:

    Well, I am now 3/3 in October. This week was interesting in that I got the answer quickly but kept trying to talk myself out of it. It seemed too easy for week #3. In the end, I sent it in and hoped that somehow it wasn’t a red herring. Thanks again Matt for a fine puzzle.

  2. Aaron says:

    Darn. That makes more sense than mine, I guess, which was AMMO, AMMAN, and the latter part of EMMA SAMMS, all of which can be seen as a type of agreement in the cryptic sense (A + MEN (Ms)) and which I thought referred to the highly toxic Amanita type of ‘shroom. Given how hard it was to explain this in the subject line, I wasn’t sold on it being right: saying “The three that are under TOADS” is probably a bit more elegant/accurate. There was room for interpretation, though! That’s all I’m saying!

    EDIT: Not sure why I read “decision” in the instructions as “agreement.”

  3. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Found this a fairly easy puzzle and meta – solved it while waiting for my 79-year-old cousin when I took her for an eye exam.

    Of course, only got INKTOMI and SEA TURTLE from crossings – no idea otherwise.

    At one point, had _O_M_ for the opera set in England, put in NORMA, had to change to TOMMY.

  4. Crossword lover says:

    I sent in nothing this week, assuming there was a meta-trick of some sort (something scrambled, something in the odd double-letter pairings at NW and SE). If the answer was this simple, I am an unhappy solver — I expect more from Matt’s metas!

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Very tough crossword, but I got the meta in less than 60 seconds after spotting all of the MMs. I had noticed the TOADs hiding out while solving.

    Much easier meta than Week 2′s, IMHO, since it didn’t expect me to know any obscure words such as MUNG.

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    Not my favorite this week, but Bonxie in the Guardian Prize Cryptic happened to have a mushroom clue. It’s deceptively tough, and was my last one in. (answer below)

    Large mushroom found outside, possibly pink (5)

    Two of the three toadstools happened to have an I directly underneath, which made nice stems. It would’ve been cool if Matt could’ve worked another for the third. By the way, my granddaughter thought of another four letter veggie (within the broad definition) beginning with O. Though I’d generally think of them in the starches category of the old food pyramid, OATS qualifies, I think, since they’re the edible seeds of plants, and like peas, we almost always refer to them in the plural. Much better than my Latin olea.

    B(L)OOM Pink refers to the flower, of course, but it had me fooled, since Bonxie had a colours theme in his clueing this time around.

  7. pannonica says:

    A fungus amungus.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Crossword lover — why did you send nothing in instead of the toadstool idea?

  9. Pete Rimkus says:

    Joon said:

    “… but i didn’t really understand the connection between the TOADs and poisonous mushrooms, so i held off. well, now it’s monday night and i better send something in…”

    … and that’s exactly what I did.

    According too Wikipedia the connection between toadstools and poisonous mushrooms is tenuous, so I figured it had to be something else. Even my email to Matt essentially said “well, I blew it, but here it is”.

  10. Crossword lover says:

    I saw the toadstools — they were REALLY obvious. But there were also several other places with double m, the 39A clue was a synonym for ‘pick’, and 10D was stems. So I thought that perhaps the answer might lie in the area where there were only stems. As mentioned earlier, I expect a tricky meta by Week 3, the answers in the ‘fallow’ areas were very double-letter intensive and the toadstool idea as described above seemed too obvious. TooTooToo obvious.

  11. rebecca says:

    Darn it, I really needed a new pen. (kidding) But I’m slapping my head with a big D’OH because I got the TO and missed the AD. :P

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Crossword lover — I follow you, but I’m wondering why you chose to send *nothing* in instead of at least your “too obvious” guess. There’s 100% chance of getting the meta wrong if you send nothing in.

  13. Charles Montpetit says:

    @ Joon: LEIF Garrett may have been a heartthrob back then, but now, uh, not so much (compare the first two pics that come up in a Google Image search). GAEL Garcia Bernal (aka young Che) is more like it. As for Bebe Neuwirth, she did win two supporting actress EMMYS as Lilith but her two TONYS would have made more sense as they were much more significant. And if EMMA SAMMS didn’t tickle your fancy in Dynasty, how about her appearance on Newhart as Larry’s dream girl?

  14. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    Kind of curious as to how people described the location of the three poisonous patches. Here is how I described their locations in my submittal subject line:

    “NE, SW, & center patches — the ones under the word TOAD.”

    I was actually planning to reference the locations by using grid numbers, but I left work without my puzzle Monday night, and I wanted to submit that night so I would not forget the next morning (which I have done many times!), so I used this method. Did anyone else do that?

    I noticed two other things in the puzzle which may have been coincidences or may have been intentional–can’t tell. The EMMA of EMMASAMMS had above it SEAT. If you google ‘definition of seat’ you get back, “A thing made or used for sitting on, such as a chair or stool.” Then, with the last two letters of 1A (immortaLS) and the last three of 15A (TOO) you have STOOL. These two sets of letters were in very similar, symmetrically opposite areas of the grid.

    I also noticed the word STEMS at 10D. Have you ever seen cans of Pieces and Stems Mushrooms (or Stems and Pieces) in your grocery store? If not, look at this:

    And I believe this is the first time I have ever seen BFD in a crossword grid. It worked perfectly with the clue!

    And I have a small pun: Erbium-doped mushroom (because 24D terminates in a pair of EMS. You’d have to be on my “wavelength” to get that, and if you are not look at this:

    Like Mattew G. said, tough puzzle, easy meta. In fact, to me the meta seemed so easy I wondered if I actually had not solved it, but rather had been suckered by a red herring. Finding nothing else after studying it diligently, I decided that toadstool had to be what was intended. I wonder how many people are left in the eaters-of-apple-and-okra-and-mushrooms “tribe”?

  15. Matt Gaffney says:

    Garrett — I won’t have an exact number until Friday, since I need to go through the answers one-by-one and see who got the right locations. Naturally I’ll be very liberal with counting answers as correct no matter how someone described the toadstool locations, as long as I can tell they understood the meta.

  16. Charles Montpetit says:

    @ Garrett (Hildebrand, not LEIF): If one is to consider that there is a STOOL hidden near the first patch, then there also is a TOAD much closer to the MMs (tooTootoo, stOrm, yoDA)!

  17. MM says:

    This one had “me” written all over it!

  18. pannonica says:

    Garrett Hildebrand: I titled mine simply EMMYS AMMO AMMAN and briefly demonstrated an understanding of the meta in the body (even though I was suspicious of it seeming so easy).

    Hm, I knew that sounded familiar. Body Meta is an album by Ornette Coleman.

  19. Ken / Cazique says:

    Saw absolutely nothing when I did the puzzle last night, and took it out again this morning and the TOADs pretty much jumped off the page at me* – figured that couldn’t be coincidental.

    * (Yup, I went there.)

  20. Hugh says:

    In my email to Matt, I had the same misgivings stated by others and concluded that:

    The TOADs (shorthand for TOADSTOOL, I guess) above three of them were so obvious that I spent time looking for a better alternative & couldn’t find one.

    I kept looking for a red herring in the accidental use of “fields” in 8 Down because it would have been relatively easy to correct. I’m just too too too suspicious after 177 weeks.

  21. Erik says:

    And here I was feeling like a genius for finding the TOADstool connection so quickly. Damn you, geniuses of the Crossword Fiend comments section!

  22. Scott says:

    Garrett said “…but I left work without my puzzle Monday night…” which makes me wonder if anyone SOLVES these puzzles while on the company clock. Anyone willing to admit it? OK, I will go first – I am sometimes guilty!

  23. Abby says:

    I worried after I sent it in that I didn’t provide enough detail. I just said “Under TOADs / Toadstools”. Made sense to me and seemed sufficient given 8D.

  24. Howard B says:

    Had some trouble finding the TOADs – it wasn’t so obvious to me as I often have difficulty with visual metas. What is often obvious to some is challenging for others; the one commonality in these metapuzzles is that there is usually a fairly solid ‘click’ when an answer works. It’s consistent across all theme words, or at least the meta-answer and/or title. There’s not a question of whether you have to make it fit the theme for any one particular answer to work. And (usually) that answer is the only one that works, or is clearly the best fit. No additional explanation is necessary to make it work once you’ve found the connection.

    If your answer seems too obvious, but it meets the exact criteria of the meta for all answers, then you are probably fortunate enough to have taken the right path early on.
    If not, (say, STOOL is hiding in an irregular squiggly line around one MM, and TOXIC is found anagrammed adjacent to this M here, ….), then it’s probably not quite right and is a mislead or more likely sheer coincidence.

  25. Jeffrey says:

    Had no clue for several days until this morning, when I looked again and those pesky TOADS appeared out of hiding.

  26. PJ says:

    I, too, saw the TOADs right away, but thought that I better look further as Matt can be tricky. The more I looked at them, the more it looked like Toads sitting on stools (MMs), and toadstools are supposedly poisonous. I also felt validated because I found out through my searches that the character of TOAD in Super Mario games can be (or use) a poisonous mushroom to defend against others. Is that a coinkydink, Matt?

  27. Bill Spindler says:

    ARRRR! Matt may have gotten me again. I saw the “TO A” locations but never added the D to get TOAD and totally missed the TOADs since I was hung up on the idea that MM stood for Magic Mushrooms. Still, I had the right patch identifications within the puzzle, but my meta guess was based on removing the letters MM from each “patch”. We’ll see if Matt gives me credit for “counting answers as correct no matter how someone described the toadstool locations.”

  28. Paul Coulter says:

    I’m with Howard on this one. When the meta emerges in a Gaffney puzzle, to me it always seems conclusive. When I’m clutching at straws like the Pharos lighthouse eye, I’m pretty sure there must be something else. I also found this very easy for Week 3 – solved both the puzzle and the meta during a break at the Westchester tournament Friday night, but I’m not complaining since I already had my head-scratching fill that afternoon. I spent about an hour analyzing Matt’s long preamble before ever doing the puzzle, on the suspicion that it held important clues. It always seems if something’s different than before, it must be key. I had to chuckle during the puzzle, since MM reminded me of Magic Mushrooms, which is what the heads in my frat house called peyote back in the day.

  29. PJ says:

    I, too, am interested in how people described the locations of the poison mushrooms. I simply put Top Right, Center, Bottom Left (TOADs on MMs). It sounds as if some devised creative ways to describe the offending patches.

  30. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I submitted “Where there are TOADstools: The three poisonous patches are where TOAD appears above the MM, with the patches in 18a, 43a, and 65a.”

  31. Ben Bass says:

    I too found the TOADs and submitted the three correct MMs, but failed to make the toadstool connection (I was thinking of poisonous cane toads or something).

    Matt, is that good enough for lucky dimwit inclusion?

  32. Karen says:

    I found the toadstools, but it was about the third thing I went looking for. I like that feeling similar to the first time I ‘saw’ a Magic Eye stereoscopic picture (in Games Magazine, I believe) and suddenly it all comes clear.

    I felt that way about Berry’s NYT puzzles last week too.

  33. GaffneyFan says:

    I was so confident of 1A that it kept me from finishing the puzzle in normal time. Who doesn’t have funerals? Why, SURVIVORS, of course!

    @Matthew G: Not picking on you, per se, but I am astounded at all of those who did not know ‘mung.’ It is the young sprout that ‘bean sprouts’ come from. Of course, I have a restaurant background, so I had an advantage there.

    I am also astounded at how many people take things that I don’t know as ‘easy,’ by the way!

  34. Aaron says:

    GaffneyFan, that reminds me of the old “riddle”: A plane crashes on its way to California. Where do they bury the survivors?

  35. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Mung beans are great. What, you’ve never had Asian cookies with sweet mung bean filling?

  36. MountainManZach says:

    @Garrett I almost always solve these on the “company clock,” though I’m in grad school, so it’s a little fuzzy as to what that actually means…

  37. dunnderhead says:

    So, I had it all but didn’t understand the instructions apparently. I have my draft with TOADSTOOLS as the title in my folder (found SEAT somewhere apparently) but thought I was looking for three discreet places and a way to describe them. That is, three places where toadstools would be found, not that a poisonous mushroom the toadstool) was in only three of all the MM locations. Doesn’t matter AFA the month is concerned but I’m glad to have an explanation. Over thinking seems to be getting me this month all over the place.

    Fun puzzle; great meta. A vegan meta with meat.

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