crossword 3:59 (across lite)
meta 1 day
hello, and welcome to episode 213 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Special Occasion”. sorry i’m late getting this post up—i totally spaced out about blogging it until just now. anyway, this week, matt challenges us to identify an event. this week’s grid is unusual in that it has left-right symmetry instead of the usual rotational symmetry, and there’s no obvious theme answer, except that there’s a 15 going across, PRESENT THE RINGS. based on that entry alone, plus the instructions and the timing of the puzzle, i was thinking the answer would be the olympics, but i didn’t really know why. the other long answers in the puzzle, ENTABLATURE and ENHANCEMENT, didn’t seem to have anything to do with the olympics (unless you count illegal performance ENHANCEMENT through chemistry, hardly part of the olympic ideal). the second-longest across, STARING AT, curiously has RING in it, but i didn’t see any others.
when i came back to look at the puzzle again the next day, i thought about the olympic rings again and decided to try to look for them in the grid. that’s when i noticed LEMON and HOLLY near the bottom of the grid where the yellow and green rings might be, and i was feeling increasingly sure of my answer. i started looking for other colors in the grid, and surely EBONY at 25a was part of it, too, and ROSE at 27a. (hey, didn’t ROSE code for red in last week’s MGWCC?) i was much less happy with FLOE at 22a, but i thought… well, this can’t all be coincidence that there are these five colors (if you think of a FLOE as blue) in the five right places in the grid, corresponding to the five colored olympic rings. but i was still missing that “aha”.
eventually i saw it: the rings in question are the five O’s in the grid (the only ones), symmetrically placed in the pattern of the olympic rings. each of those O’s is at an intersection of two entries that both have the appropriate color:
- the blue ring is where FLOE crosses OCEAN.
- the black ring is EBONY/OIL.
- the red ring is ROSE/ORANG. did i know that an ORANG(utan) was red? no. honestly, i probably would have guessed it was orange, because of the letter similarity (even though i know they are etymologically unrelated—orange comes from arabic naranj, whereas ORANG is the malay word for … i can’t remember, even though i definitely saw it in a crossword clue some time last weekend. maybe “hairy man”? something like that.).
- the yellow ring is LEMON and ODIE.
- the green ring is HOLLY and OKRA.
so there you have it: the five rings symbolizing the olympics, which are due to occur next month in london.
on its own, this is an excellent meta. i have to admit my enjoyment of it was diminished somewhat because last week’s ingenious meta also hinged on colors, and for that matter, the specific colors of elements in iconic logos. i think i would have liked to see this one in july to give it a little more separation from such a similar idea, but as it happens, matt has good reason for not pushing it back to july, which i’m sure we’ll all be finding out about soon.