MGWCC #260

crossword untimed
meta 1 hour 

Hey folks, Evad here–not sure if joon is working on a post for today’s MGWCC or not, but here’s at least a placeholder for your comments and ratings.

The general idea is to notice that each of the six long entries describes a character that is associated with a letter of the alphabet. This image (credit to solver CY Hollander) does the best job I think of illustrating it:

I think weeks 3 and 4 were switched this month, how about you?

edit: joon here. sorry, i just totally spaced out this week. i may have been subconsciously thinking there was an extra day on the deadline due to the holiday; it doesn’t really feel like tuesday to me.

anyway, yes. we were supposed to identify a fabric, and we had these long clues in the grid, each clued as {A strand of the fabric}:


(there’s also one starred clue, but that turns out to be just {*} cluing ASTERISK. not thematic, evidently.) anyway, so those last two clues are probably the easiest—hester prynne from the scarlet letter and superman. what do they have in common? why, they each wore a big letter, of course: A (“adulteress”) for hester and S for superman.

so with ____AS in place and looking for a fabric, i was already thinking madras. could i get any of the others to work out? well, the AL MVP WINNER OF MMXI should be in my wheelhouse. let’s see, last year it was miguel cabrera of the tigers (though it should have been mike trout), and the year before… ah yes, pitcher justin verlander, also of detroit. so there’s your (stylized, gothic) D.

the LORRE BREAKOUT ROLE i thought was actually going to be mr. moto, but really, the only thing i know about peter LORRE is that i sometimes see his name in clues for MOTO. maybe moto wore an M? nope, it turns out that this is a reference to an earlier lorre film role, serial killer hans beckert in fritz lang’s 1931 film M. plot synopsis, including an explanation of the M on his back, here. sounds interesting. the M is for Mörder, by the way.

that leaves two more, both of which i had to google. i didn’t know (or remember) that “witch doctor” is the name of that infuriating “oo ee oo ah ah” song from the chipmunks (although it was originally a hit for their creator, ross bagdasarian). so that explains the A; it’s for alvin.

veronica lodge is just veronica from archie, but who’s this R dude? apparently i don’t know much about archie comics, because it’s actually archie himself, who wears sweaters and letter jackets for riverdale high. my first thought when googling this was that maybe it referred to veronica’s other sometime-boyfriend reggie mantle. i’m kind of glad that didn’t turn out to be the case.

anyway, so that’s the meta. (the picture up top, of course, explains this much better than my ramblings.) the whole thing was not terribly difficult—took me probably 2 minutes to land on madras and another 5-10 of googling to confirm things.

the crossword itself, a sunday-sized 21x, took me 10:09. there were some things i really didn’t know, and indeed i ended up with a wrong letter, where i put ShIRT for {Piece of women’s clothing} giving me hINO for the utterly unknown {Movie theater, in Russian or German}. well. apparently i was supposed to get SKIRT and KINO; in retrospect, SKIRT is more likely than SHIRT to get “women’s” in the clue, and maybe KINO is related etymologically to cine or cinema? other mysteries were {Former Texas congressman Rodriguez} CIRO and {South African region, with “The”} KAROO. yikes. KINO CIRO KAROO, ting tang walla walla bing bang.

other bits:

  • {Everybody knows his address} ABE LINCOLN. yeah, it was 1600 pennsylvania ave, at least for a while there.
  • {“You can do it!”} GO MAN GO! this is right next to ATE IT UP, which makes me look at it as GO, MANGO.
  • {Calendar sequence} SMTWTFS. i kind of admire this. ugly, but totally gettable. and bold.
  • {Without clothing, in the sticks} NEKKID. this amused me too.
  • {With 67-across, clothing store Magnus Carlsen has done ads for} GSTAR/RAW. wow, we have to know about the endorsement deals of chess stars now? sheesh. i’ve just barely heard of this company.

that’s all for me this week. sorry for my tardiness, and thanks to evad for putting the placeholder post up while i scrambled to write this.

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36 Responses to MGWCC #260

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Dang. I was immediately taken by the idea that Justin Verlander was the only real person of the six theme entries, and that we were therefore looking for a fabric that was a mixture of mostly synthetic materials with one-sixth natural material. Never let go of the idea.

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      Yes, that D sticks out like a sore thumb: five fictional characters, and one random sportz dude who could have been anybody who played for Detroit (or Dartmouth, or …) — and worse, the MMXI/XML crossing could as well have been MMVI/VML, which would be sort of admirable if the 2006 MVP happened to also wear a D, but no, it’s just an insufficiently clued crossing. Fortunately MA?RAS could only be one thing. Otherwise, yes, nice idea and easier than Week 3 despite the super-sized grid.


      • Matt says:

        “but no, it’s just an insufficiently clued crossing. Fortunately MA?RAS could only be one thing.”

        Exactly. The second part.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Here in Jersey, when I satin my plush chair for this week’s meta– No, that’s chintzy stuff and I’ll spare you the lamé puns. Speaking of puns, here’s one of the worst (and therefore best) I’ve ever seen. In Monday’s Guardian cryptic: Space for army manoeuvres? (5,4) from Rufus. Answer below.

    I agree with Evad that Week 4 was easier than Week 3, and certainly the leader board bears this out. For me, this meta’s knotty part was the ambiguity in some of Matt’s intended strands. The first one could be either Mr. Moto or Ugarte. I never considered M in my first pass. The second strand could be Ross Bagdasarian or his stage name David Seville. I had Alvin? written in my margins as a distant possibility. The next three had unique answers, and Superman seemed clear, but if Matt were feeling especially tricky, he might have made it Kal-El or even Clark Kent. I spent an hour trying to weave something between these weft strands, likely a warp of 6 letters. When this produced nothing but the Emperor’s new clothes, I turned to a list of fabrics, noting the common six-letter ones. Something about Madras appealed to me, and when I wrote it next to my tapestry, the connection was immediately apparent. This turned out to be more an exercise in cloth insignias than a meta made out of whole cloth.

    By the way, for those who weren’t backers of Neville’s suite, I can report it was superb. I don’t know if he’ll allow latecomers to buy in now, but for a very low price, it provided a whole evening of fun. The answer to Rufus’s groaner was Elbow Room. Don’t feel bad if this escapes you. Many veteran solvers admitted they couldn’t parse the answer until someone mentioned after the Spoiler period that it was a pun. Arm-y, get it?

    • Neville says:

      Thanks for the plug, Paul. I’m in the process of making it available to folks who didn’t back the Kickstarter. I’ll keep the blogosphere posted!

    • jefe says:

      Reminds me of the old joke, “Where did the general keep his armies?”

      In his sleevies!

  3. Amy L says:

    Much easier than last week’s. I got the M, the second A, and the S right away. Had to work for the other three. The worst part was that I actually listened to Alvin and the Chipmunks to confirm the answer.

    Love the illustration above. Thanks Evad and Cy.

  4. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    To add to the confusion suggested and delineated by Paul Coulter, the actual name of Lorre’s character in “M” was Hans Beckert (which I know only from Wikipedia.)

    I thought this was plenty hard for a week four. But then, I was agonizing at seeing the leaderboard fill with 200 or more successful solvers before I, after 3 1/2 days of being without a clue, finally saw the light.

    Another masterful meta from Matt.

    • pannonica says:

      It’s irrelevant what the character’s name was; what matters is the letter he’s branded with.

      • Bob Kerfuffle says:

        I agree, but early in my attempts at solving I was focusing on the character’s names, before the light dawned that it was the insignia on their outfits which counted. So as with Ross/David/Alvin and Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El, I was trying to decide between Hans, Beckert, and M (which I thought incorrectly might have been a character name.)

        Which is to say, the confusion was in my mind, not the puzzle.

  5. pannonica says:

    Disagree completely about P Lorre. His performance in 1931′s M is universally described as his breakthrough; the film was a commercial and artistic triumph. Ugarte, in Casablanca was a year after Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon (1942). His first English-speaking role was in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). Perhaps his run through the 1930s in the Mr Moto movies garnered more popular recognition, but it doesn’t challenge the role in M as his “breakout”.

    • joon says:

      with whom are you disagreeing?

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Didn’t mean to ruffle film-lovers’ feathers. This is hardly my area and I apologize. What I was saying was that Mr. Moto and Ugarte came to mind, and I failed to think of M, which I’ve never seen. I only discovered the chalked M when I went to Wikipedia to learn about Peter Lorre.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        That’s exactly how I got the M—seeing that “M” was Lorre’s breakout role in Wikipedia.

        Definitely easier than the usual week 4, seeing as how I cracked the meta all by myself the morning the puzzle came out.

  6. ===Dan says:

    Hester’s A and Supe’s S helped me to find the answer to the meta pretty quickly. I’d never seen M and didn’t know that the letter was actually “worn,” but everything else fit. Archie and friends went to Riverdale high, and Archie was often drawn with a big R sweater. Was “witch doctor” ever performed by the Chipmunks? Maybe in recent years? The famous version was by “David Seville” pre-chipmunks (but with the same kind of vocal modification). But the connection was obvious enough, and I knew Alvin wore an A.

  7. Dan Seidman says:

    I don’t remember ever seeing “LRG” — I assumed it was LGE and ESTAR and couldn’t parse PURITANSSHAMEDHEG, although I could tell it gave me a scarlet A. I had to look at all the clues together to realize they all wore single letters on their clothing — it came together very nicely. Great theme.

  8. jonesy says:

    not sure if Joon’s just kidding (as usual) but i took the abe lincoln clue to be referring to the gettysburg Address rather than 1600 Pa avenue?

  9. Wow. Growing up outside the continental USofA for chunks of time leaves some serious gaps….and being a quilter predisposes one to think differently when cued with ‘kind of fabric’ (cotton, rayon, silk, linen, wool) rather than a type of design (madras plaid, calico, challis, toile). I wrote Mr. Moto, Hester Prynne, and Christopher Reeve/Steve Reeves in the margin, then googled to get Dave Seville/Ross Bagdasarian and Miguel Tejada. The DHubby gave me Archie instantly upon hearing the clue.

    This list of names get me absolutely nowhere.
    I am safely keeping intact my solid record of Epic Fails for the final weeks of any given month.

  10. Norm says:

    Pretty much the same experience as Mean Old Elaine. I had assorted names — e.g, three for Witch doctor [the singer, his real name & Alvin]; two for the leaper [Superman & Kal-El]; one for the others — but couldn’t get anywhere with them. This is about the spot I fail each month (assuming I get past week 3), so I can live with it.

  11. sandirhodes says:

    Of course everyone will soon know that the figure on Superman’s chest is NOT an ‘S.’ It is the Kryptonian symbol for hope.


    (No flames, please. Insert smiley above.)

    • ===Dan says:

      Just curious: When was this detail added to the myth?

      • sandirhodes says:

        The movie coming out next week: Man of Steel

        I saw it in a trailer, and was just being a smart so-and-so.

        • ===Dan says:

          I thought I heard something about that in a trailer, too, but I wasn’t paying full attention. Still, I’m not ready to have my myths tinkered with.

    • Karen says:

      I remember reading John Byrne always thought it was two fish (check the negative space).

      In other news, first week 4 I’ve gotten in many months!

  12. mmespeer says:

    Last week I broke thru my third week solving barrier but it looks like I will have to go another month or more to break thru the fourth if ever. I had 4 out of the 5 names, but never caught the fact they were associated with letters. I knew M, but his character was Hans Beckert. Maybe if I had had Alvin instead of David Seville. Archie or Reggie, I couldn’t decide. So it was definitely a Week 4 for me.

  13. Hester Prynne was actually the last one I figured out. Call me uncultured, but I never read The Scarlet Letter, so she didn’t come to mind at all. I was scouring Wikipedia for someone the Puritans shamed, and the best I could come up with was Mary Dyer before I finally found Hester.

  14. Cole says:

    I got stuck on the actual names for quite a while trying to work Hans Becker, David Saville etc. and spent a moment or two pondering whether the presence of (H)ESTER meant that it was a synthetic before forcing myself to think of six letter fabrics and finding the six letters.

  15. J. T. Williams says:

    Wow, this one really did not pop out easily for me at all. I spent days working on this crazy grid, which either had some of the nastiest traps or most devious coincidences I’ve seen in quite some time. OTO in the grid with an M directly below started me off in the wrong direction, and then when I found BAGDASARIAN, with the letters in order even, woven into the southwest corner, I felt sure I was on the right track. Even worse was how the name ROSS snaked right off the end of that clue, and I kept trying to figure out how to connect the two. There are also the letters for ANDREWS connecting through the Veronica clue, and VERLANDER is in the grid too!

    When I finally figured out that Lorre’s breakout role was probably not Mr. Moto, but rather Hans Beckert, what was there to really throw me off but the answer HAN directly following the clue, and the letters KERT going up from the end of the clue? BRUTAL. This made me start questioning my other answers, and sure enough, Wikipedia alerted me to these very sneaky “tricks.” For instance, yes, Bagdasarian sang Witch Doctor, but so did SHA Na Na, and look what’s crossing the clue! And what a nasty nasty trick to clue the AL MVP in a way to make us all think of Justin Verlander of the American League instead of Trent Richardson of ALabama? There were also plenty of other women who could be said to be “shamed” by Puritans, including non-name answers like adulteress, prostitute, GOSsip, or nag! And leaper of buildings could be the same trick, cluing something like daredevil!

    After a couple days of this, I was completely stuck in mental anagram mode. Even in non-crossword conversation, I caught myself randomly anagramming words! The BAGDASARIAN just seemed too big of a coincidence to let it go. Finally, the connection between the M and Prynne’s A clicked, and the jig was up. A great puzzle and a great idea, but if those diversions in the grid weren’t intentional, those are some of the more brutal coincidences I’ve seen lately!

  16. Spencer Thomas says:

    KINO was easy for me, not from having taking German over 30 years ago in college, but from this song, from 80s flash-in-the-pan Europop band Nena. (translated lyrics)

  17. Charles Montpetit says:

    Wow, was I ever off. I had M, justIN (N), bagdasariAN (N), ARchie (R), HESter (S) and kal-EL (L), and I just couldn’t figure out what to make of MNNRSL. Add AEIOU to get MANNER I SOUL??

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