I can only add that for me the crash appears only in
> ipython on OS X with this particular font. It is in the
> set_text function and after I added print statements it
> went away. From reading the mailing list and when other
> people get crash, it seems that the only common thing is
> the font - Vera.ttf.
> Is there a way to tell matplotlib what font to use?
Paul did add support for this when writing the font manager.
You should be able to do, eg
from matplotlib.font_manager import FontProperty
prop = FontProperty(fname='/path/to/somefont.ttf')
xlabel('some text', fontproperties=prop)
Since you said the crash went away when you added a print statement,
my guess is that there is a bad pointer haunting us in the font module
that is cropping up (or not) in different contexts. If you get
any more information, let us know.