MGWCC #234 — Friday, November 23rd, 2012 — “Compose Yourself!”


Solvers were asked to find a well-known American billionaire, and the three theme entries all followed a tight pattern: “___ of ___” phrases, where the second blank is a city and the first is a word that shares a first letter with that city.

They were:

20-a [Heated gypsum mixed with water, familiarly] = PLASTER OF PARIS.

36-a [New York-to-Paris flyer] = SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS. Should have used [Lindbergh’s craft] or similar for the clue since, as Neville Fogarty points out, the Paris reference here dupes the first theme entry. Not to wade too deep into the clue dupe argument, but this is a clear case where it should have been avoided: duplicating a very common proper name in two of the three theme clues/answers is a definite demerit. Unfortunately it’s very easy to overlook clue/answer dupes since you’re manually cross-checking dozens and dozens of words against each other (many of which don’t matter, but it just takes one good one, like Paris above). I plan on writing to Antony Lewis to ask if he can include a feature detecting these in the next version of Crossword Compiler, similar to the current function that detects similar strings among grid entries.

51-a [Business since 1688] = LLOYD’S OF LONDON.

So we’re got our three phrases that fit the pattern; now what? There were also four symmetrically placed three-letter entries that took an asterisk, and which displayed a curious letter pattern:

28-a [“We need help!”*] = SOS.
42-a [Really stand out, like a shirt*] = POP.
13-d [Triumphant tic-tac-toe trio*] = OOO.
54-d [“hahaha!!!”*] = LOL.

Three of those map onto the three theme entries: SOS = SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, assuming you’re kind enough to treat “St. Louis” as its own word; POP = PLASTER OF PARIS, and LOL = LLOYD’S OF LONDON. So we’re left with OOO pointing to an American billionaire somehow. We need a three word phrase where all three words start with O, the middle word is “of,” and the last word is a city, most likely an American city since the instructions specified the billionaire’s nationality.

Sounds like it’s gonna be a nickname. Was Walt Disney called the “Oligarch of Orlando”? Nope. Is the NBA team the Thunder’s majority partner Clay Bennett called the “Owner of Oklahoma City?” Uh-unh. Is famed investor WARREN BUFFETT known as the ORACLE OF OMAHA? Indeed he is, making him last week’s contest answer.

Buffett’s nickname is so famous that it’s even in’s database, but you didn’t need to know it to get the meta. Google searches on “billionaire” + likely O-cities seemed to do the trick, as 346 solvers got the meta right (very high for a Week 3, possibly a record).

This week’s winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 346 correct answers received, is G.G.H. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, G.G.H. will also receive a signed copy of my new book Mental Floss Crosswords. Winner next week will receive the same.


Gryptics 2.0.1 has just been released, now iPhone friendly. The app itself is free and comes with 10 puzzles; additional puzzle packs cost 99 cents or $1.99 for the really tough ones.

If you haven’t seen Gryptics before, it’s a novel crossword game the first book of which was published by Sterling last year.

The rules are simple: Fill in the grid to complete the six Across and six Down words, which all use letters outside the grid. No capitalized words are used. Here’s a sample:


This week’s contest answer is a famous European, past or present.
Submit your answer in the form on the left sidebar by Tuesday at noon ET. Note: the submissions form disappears from the site promptly at noon on Tuesday.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit “print” on your browser. To solve using Across Lite either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,901 members now!) here.

Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

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