MGWCC #267

crossword 3:21
meta 0:10 or so 

hello and welcome to episode #267 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. in week “2″ of guest constructor month july, alex vratsanos brings us a puzzle called “Spell Check”. the instructions this week tell us that we are looking for an automaker that would be an excellent fifth theme entry. what are the first four?

  • {#1: Acting honor} OSCAR NOMINATION.
  • {#2: Classic steam shovel owner} MIKE MULLIGAN, from mike mulligan and his steam shovel by virginia lee burton. advice to parents: if you haven’t read burton’s classic children’s books, do yourself a favor and don’t ever let your child be exposed to them. they are painful to read.
  • {#3: Dolphins use it} ECHOLOCATION.
  • {#4: Opens, often} GOLF TOURNAMENTS.

well, this didn’t take long at all: OSCAR, MIKE, ECHO, and GOLF are keywords in the NATO alphabet for O, M, E, and G. if you wanted a fifth theme answer to round out the set, you should probably finish spelling out OMEGA, which would require an automaker beginning with ALFA. and what do you know? alfa romeo does the job nicely. there’s a nice little echo (if you will) there, with alfa and omega rounding out the set.

this was a simple, straightforward meta, definitely easy enough for a week 1. i’ll give it a half-star deduction for the fact that ECHOLOCATION is a single word, whereas the other letter words are on their own as the first words of two-word phrases. and one more deduction because matt has used the NATO alphabet for a meta before. now, that was three years ago (long enough ago that i’d never heard of wikileaks!), but i found matt’s take on the idea to be more fun and more elegant.

now, the fill was very good. it’s a 74-word grid with nice open corners, and there wasn’t a single awkward entry in the grid. i liked the NE corner with AMIDALA on XEROXES. some good stuff there.

what about you? what did you think?

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23 Responses to MGWCC #267

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    426 right answers this week. Nice job, Alex!

    Joon, your memory for past puzzles continues to amaze. I had no recollection of that one, even after seeing it linked. You should go on “Jeopardy!” or something.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Good job, Alex. I also found it Week One easy, but enjoyable and very well constructed. Echolocation doesn’t bother me, but the inconsistency of Alfa Romeo employing two call letters does a bit. By the way, I wonder if Alex was playing on the fact that several car models have been called Omega. And I wonder if anyone submitted Omega as their answer for that reason.

  3. Wayne says:

    Painful? You’re nuts. Mike Mulligan was one of my favorite books growing up, and my father’s before me. And as an early 20th-centrury metaphor for the impending technological age, it is both poignant and hopeful. I’ll grant you that her other books don’t reach the same heights.

    ‘course, you gotta read it with appropriately humorous voices for Mrs. McGillicuddy and Henry B. Swap, or you’re just wasting everybody’s time.

    • icdogg says:

      I have to admit, I am totally unfamiliar with the Mike Mulligan books…

    • joon says:

      the problem i have with burton is that her books are so repetitive and also repetitive. she can’t seem to say something only once. instead, she says the same thing over and over. she is really repetitive. and worst of all, she habitually repeats herself.

      granted, mike mulligan is a little less repetitive than, say, katy & the big snow. but for me, repetitiveness is a cardinal sin; kids already want you to read them the same books over and over. if the book itself is essentially the same sentence over and over, then you’ve got a perfect recipe for a book that i have to hide from my kids.

      • elaine says:

        Just go ahead and teach them to read BEFORE you give them that book?

        Honestly, there are so many wonderful books out there that you can easily skip the ones you hate. I think that Mike Mulligan is so dated that it’s not often seen. Make Way for Ducklings, however, still pleases….

  4. Matthew G. says:

    I like that both “Alfa” and “Romeo” are NATO alphabet words. I assume that’s why the clue says the answer would be an “excellent” fifth theme entry and not merely a “good” one. A nice flourish.

    This felt like a Week 1.5 to me, because it was easier than a Week 2 but: (a) I somehow thought “Ocean,” not “Oscar” was the phonetic alphabet word for “O” (I think it is in some other phonetic alphabet besides NATO’s); and (b) the word “GOLF” threw me off and had me thinking of Volkswagens. I still got the meta in just a few minutes, but it was slightly slower than in a Week 1.

    I have no idea what joon is talking about re: MIKE MULLIGAN. I have fond childhood memories of those books. But I’m about to become a father in a couple months myself, so perhaps I’ll see what he means when I dig my old books out.

  5. icdogg says:

    I did not think of the military alphabet right away, even when I did I was confusing it with the police alphabet. Still, I got it in a few minutes.

    “Alfa” is not quite “Alpha”, but the title of the puzzle, “Spell Check”, accounts for that.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I was surprised to discover that the NATO alphabet does in fact spell it “alfa,” not “alpha.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_phonetic_alphabet . That was the moment when I knew I had the meta right.

      • Wayne says:

        And “Juliett” is spelled with two Ts for the same reason: to minimize the chance of mispronunciation by non-English speakers. (No stranger to tragedy, single-T “Juliet” runs the risk of being pronounced as “jew-lee-ay”.)

        I’m a big fan of the NATO phonetic alphabet. A lot of good design went into picking words that couldn’t be misheard or pronounced multiple ways by people with vastly different language backgrounds. (The notable exception, of course, is “Lima”. It’s pronounced like the country, not the bean.)

  6. Howard B says:

    Aw, missed this one due to vacation. Looked like fun.

  7. Pamela says:

    Mike Mulligan’s all day dig-a-thon made Ramona Quimby wonder out loud in her third(?) grade class room about how Mike managed to go to the bathroom. This got her into a heap of trouble.

  8. Alex Vratsanos says:

    Thanks, Matt… it has been an honor to be the author of an MGWCC puzzle.

    I can’t remember how old I was when my mom read Mike Mulligan to me, but I know I was very young. I’d always loved it, and so I was more than happy to use it. It’s ironic, though, that not long after Matt decided to use my puzzle, I dug deep into my bookshelves, pulled out the book, and cried at one point near the end.

    That aside, this was the first metapuzzle I’d ever made, and I can definitely see myself making more. The question is… can I make more in a day than a hundred of my friends can make in a week?

  9. Don Lloyd says:

    I thought I was on to something with “automaker” in the instructions and ECHO (Toyota) and GOLF (VW) both being names of car models. Also, the ubiquitous OMNI (Dodge) can be found misspelled in NOMINATION, but I couldn’t tease a car model out of MIKE MULLIGAN, so I abandoned that track as a red herring.
    Sometimes it helps to just read clues and entries out loud. Having watched David Simon’s “Generation Kill” recently, I was prepped to make sense of the catchphrase “We’re Oscar Mike!”. That lead me to the NATO alphabet (and not automaker Humvee).

    • Scout says:

      Oscar Mike = Jeep Patriot model
      Echo = Toyota model
      Golf = VW model
      Which threw me off for a bit because there are other car/truck models with Bravo, Omega and even Tango and Alfa Romeo isn’t a model. Then I saw the omeg_ pattern and knew Alfa Romeo had to be the answer.

  10. sandirhodes says:

    golf = Volkswagen;
    echo = Toyota;
    google mike and you get Mike Honda;
    Oscar = well, I never managed to link Oscar to anything. Except OScar, which I had never heard of, but is an interesting concept;

    Then I couldn’t find a fifth entry that made sense.

    therefore,
    sandi = fail

  11. Abide says:

    Missed the OMEG_ reference but liked the double NATO letters for the answer. Nice job, Alex K.

  12. Jeff G. says:

    It’s easy if you see it right off the bat. I was stumped for 3 days. Kept trying to make cars out of the words and was thrown off by seeing 4 one’s – OneRoom, OneA, USOne, LeOne. Finally echo hit me this morning when I talked it out while spelling it out. Great job Alex!

  13. Mutman says:

    I felt like a complete idiot this week. First, the NATO alphabet has escaped my for 51 years. All I really know is EBCDIC from IBM: Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog Easy, Fox.

    At the eleventh hour, I noticed the OMEG initials and figured on an ‘A’ answer. I had also concluded that all the themes were two words, though echolocation is actually one word. Leaving Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin, I chose the former since it was “misspelled” (Spell Check).

    I guess all the junk cancelled out and I got a guess right for a change!

  14. Alex Vratsanos says:

    It’s also worth noting that OMEGA is not the only pattern that comes up when you search “omeg?” on OneLook… apparently, OMEGQ is (or was) the ticker for Omega Environmental, Inc.

    I chuckled when I saw that… did you? Ah, well… if only OMEGQ was acceptable in Scrabble or Words with Friends. (My WwF username, if any of you would like to play me, is “xwordman92″.)

  15. Alex says:

    Roger that! We’re Oscar Mike.

  16. Norm says:

    Interesting that there were other options as well: SIERRA Nevada; PAPA Smurf; and so forth.

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