meta puzzle a minute or two
Surprise! It’s me, Amy, blogging the MGWCC this week. Joon’s daughter was born in the very wee hours yesterday, so he is otherwise occupied at present with a toddler boy, baby girl, and wife who just had a baby. Congratulations to the burgeoning family!
The theme entries spell out, in five parts, a World Cup riddle:
The initials / of what quartet’s / nations comprise / something put on / a soccer ball?
It’s awkwardly phrased, but each World Cup “group” is indeed a quartet. Looking at the initials of the four country names in each group, we see here that group F includes Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand, and Spain. (We’re ignoring the Z for Zealand, which seems uncharacteristically inelegant for a Gaffney meta.) PINS! Do not put pins on a soccer ball. If you “Bend It Like Beckham” (the puzzle’s title), you put SPIN on the ball. So Group F is the meta answer this week.
There’s some soccer content in the crossword:
- 11a. ["Wonderful performance!"] is OLÉ. Not specifically soccer, but I suspect soccer’s the only sport in America where fans may chant “Oléeeeeeeeeeeeee, olé olé olé.” At least, I’ve never heard that at a Cubs game. Oh! I’m going to Thursday afternoon’s Cubs game. Can’t wait! Maybe I’ll try to get an olé cheer going.
- 66a. [Alexi on the 1994 U.S. World Cup team] is the redheaded Alexi LALAS. He’s done some TV commentary in the years since.
- 3d. [Result of today's South Africa-Mexico game] was the TIE last Friday in the host team’s opener.
- 13d. [Samuel ___ (Cameroonian star in the 2010 World Cup)] is Samuel ETO’O. He’s Africa’s best player, and he scored more goals in World Cup qualifying matches than any other player in the world. Alas, his team lost to Japan 1-0 in their first Cup match this week, and have to contend with the mighty Orange (the Netherlands) in their group. Man, I hope Cameroon makes it past the first round. A name like ETO’O would be useful in crosswords, but he has to become more famous to Americans first.
- 55d. [English sportswear company bought by Nike in 2008] is UMBRO. They make a lot of soccer gear.
Wow, it’s almost like having Joon blogging this puzzle, with all this soccer talk. I’ve nearly exhausted my stores of knowledge, however.
- 15a. For some reason, [Second-place Stevenson] really made me want to fit MCLEAN in there. It’s ADLAI.
- 19a. TWO [___-letter words (feature of the TV Guide crossword)]? Oh, dear.
- 44a. [Greek goddess whose name anagrams into her mother's name] is HERA. Mom is Rhea. If I’d had a daughter, I surely would have named her Yma.
- 59a. [Iconic figure in Pennsylvania sports history] is such a weird clue. DR. J played basketball in Philly, which, yes, is part of Pennsylvania.
- 1d. [___ Tuesday] / 2d. [___ Wednesday]: FAT and ASH.
- 32d. [Flicks collectively] are CINEMA. If a group of people collectively flick you, you are going to be incredibly annoyed.
- 37d. [Sixth-largest city in the Dakotas] is MINOT, North Dakota. Going to college in Minnesota gives one a familiarity with the Dakotas. College classmate of mine teaches at the state university in Minot, in fact. I reckon the winters are unforgiving.
In retrospect, those May-hem puzzles were uncommonly tough. I had no trouble with the first two June puzzles, but I gave up on two of the four metas last month.
How about you? Did you feel Matt was going too easy on us this week, or did you appreciate the breather? Or did you shake your fist at Matt because you couldn’t figure out the puzzle this week?