MGWCC #140

[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/08" plug="mgwcc-140" puzz="" anchor=""]crossword 4:22 (paper)
puzzle 0:05[/time_hdr]

greetings, bibliophiles! puzzle #140 marks the beginning of literary february at matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. i’m definitely looking forward to this month, for several reasons. first, i love literature and literary trivia. second, i know matt’s well-versed in this area, as he’s the editor of literary crosswords. third, most of my pencil/pen/notepad sets were from the previous monthly extravaganzas, rather than by having my name drawn at random.

this week’s puzzle, “There’s More to This Tale…”, was a pretty gentle introduction to the month. there were four goofy theme answers:

  • {Waited a while to stop standing straight?} clues LEANT LATER. “leant” is a british spelling, isn’t it? i know it only from hardy’s liminal masterpiece, the darkling thrush.
  • {Coffee drunk in an Israeli city?} is an EILAT LATTE. i don’t know anything about EILAT other than it shows up in crossword puzzles.
  • {Great success for singer Adams?} is OLETA ECLAT. speaking of only-in-crosswords, here’s exhibit B … and C.
  • {Machine used on athletic footwear?} is a CLEAT LATHE. um, well, i guess those little studs are round.

so what’s the theme? with a nudge from the title, we can see that each of the eight words in the theme answers is an anagram of TALE plus another letter: leaNt lateR eIlat latTe Oleta eClat Cleat latHe. since we’re looking for the last name of a well-known novelist, we can take those eight extra letters and anagram them to spell crichton, as in michael. you know, i met him once, before i had ever heard of him. (i think this was in 1992, so he was already famous, just not to me.) he was ridiculously tall—maybe 6’9″? anyway, nice fellow. i subsequently read four or five of his books, and they were okay (actually, i really did like jurassic park), but i haven’t thought much about him in the last 18 years. i guess he’s dead now?

anyway, where was i? oh yeah, the puzzle. with only 40 theme squares, the fill is extra-clean: no partials and few abbreviations. there’s even a little bit of DAZZLE {Wow}. rounding up:

  • right off the bat, {Birth city of former World Chess Champion Vassily Smyslov} is MOSCOW. i wanted ODESSA, which is a much, much more common crossword answer, but 1d had to be MELD. smyslov and i have a checkered history, but after twice blogging about how i always forget him, i’m pretty sure i’ll always remember him now.
  • {Computer that beat Garry Kasparov in a 1997 chess match} is DEEP BLUE. wait, are we sure it’s not chesserary february? anyway, 1997 was a long time ago. is “jeopardy!” that much tougher than chess?
  • {“Famous Names for $200, ___”} ALEX. who is watson? wait, shoot. this whole thread is out of order. i’m not trying to make this blog post read like a postmodern novel, i promise.
  • {“Carmina Burana” composer} is carl ORFF. watching the super bowl yesterday reminded me how much i loathe commercials and everything they imply about western civilization. i mention this now because i watched the commercial for “x factor,” featuring a sweeping unveilingy shot of some guy i did not recognize, along with the grandiose caption “he’s back.” (the background music, of course, was o fortuna, which is why i mention it.) my wife courteously informed me that it was simon cowell. i guess it’s fine that they didn’t say his name, because if you don’t recognize him by sight, you probably won’t watch the show (in my case, definitely won’t watch the show). but this and pretty much every other commercial went out of its way to make it abundantly clear to me that i was not in its target demographic, despite my 18-35 and maleness.
  • {Soccer player Josh or author Tobias} is WOLFF. i vaguely remember josh, part of the ill-fated 2006 USA world cup team. tobias is unfamiliar to me.
  • {Has to be done now} is CAN’T WAIT. hmm, 8-letter partial or legit standalone phrase? i’ll give it the thumbs-up. for whatever reason, it feels more like a phrase than, say, CAN WAIT. (and if you do say CAN WAIT, does it rhyme with 10-8?)
  • {Character for Sacha B.C.} is ALI G. wait, does the G stand for something? the B and C definitely do.
  • {Spike in film production} is LEE, or i guess JONZE, but here it’s LEE.
  • {Mystery novelist Rendell} is RUTH? never heard of her.
  • {Small Little} is STUART. second-best clue in the puzzle. while i’m here: we need a word for second-best, don’t we? “penultimate” is such an awesome word, but it must be getting lonely.
  • {Touching moments?} is SEX. yeah, that’s the best clue.
  • and finally, {Everything not yet mentioned} is THE REST.

how’d this puzzle treat you? still alive for the month, i hope?

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17 Responses to MGWCC #140

  1. Jeffrey says:

    The chances of my getting through a literary month are pretty low, unless 1970s DC Comics count, but I’m still alive after week one. I was matching out letters one by one until I looked at the title again and the tale was told.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    314 correct answers this week. No way I’m sending out that many stationery sets!

    A lot of solvers mentioned having to stare at the letters in CRICHTON for a while before the name popped out.

  3. Howard B says:

    5 seconds on the meta? Joon, you and your smarty-smart anagrammatical smartness! Just kidding, really. I did have to write the letters out before the author snapped into place, though. Nicely done.

    I did have a similar experience to the X-Factor promo, and a few people at the party we attended also had the same reaction. Target demographics aim and miss many of us by a mile, it seems.
    That along with the plethora of groin-shot/face-punch humor and bizarre CGI in the other ads had me fearing society a little as well – and I’m no intellectual, believe me. I don’t expect Philosophy 401 or anything highbrow from my Super Bowl beer ads, but those were pretty rough on the soul. Back to puzzling :).

  4. Neville says:

    10 minute subway ride crossword… Mamma Mia! long meta puzzle, mostly because I had forgotten to look at what the anagram was supposed to be. My favorite non-answer was CHRONIC T.

  5. Aaron says:

    I didn’t read the requirements carefully and came up with a wrong answer (which I knew was wrong) which I will share as a literary puzzle.

    Name a literary figure (firstname, lastname) that like the theme clues contains two tales (the letters “t”, “a”, “l” and “e” twice).
    Unlike the theme answers it contains fewer than 10 letters.

  6. I Before E says:

    I thought that might be the route to the correct answer, but I could not anagram the letters into the correct answer–even with the help of several Internet anagram-making tools. So without a lot of confidence I submitted TALESE as something “more to this TALE…” Oh well, enjoyed the puzzle anyway.

  7. Abby says:

    “‘leant’ is a british spelling, isn’t it?”

    Tsk. The correct comment is “‘leant’ is a british spelling, innit?” :-)

    Got this one pretty fast. I’ve got a bad habit of getting the penultimate week of these challenge months wrong. Hoping to break that streak.

    (Yes, “Jeopardy!” is a harder game than chess for computers currently. It’s much harder for them to suss out what’s being asked. First they have to figure out what you want to know, then find the answer. This is good and useful research.)

  8. otis says:

    O Bugger, I had OSS instead of Ost which I underthought being vaguely WWII related… so floundered with just took out any letter from the answers that wasn’t t-a-l-e and missed that each part only had one extra letter each. That and Mr. Chrichton is just barely on my periphery of awareness= meta fail. Cripes.

  9. sandirhodes says:

    The first thing I saw was the LAT prominent in every answer. So I quickly wrote out an email with the subject Lord Alfred Tennyson. But wait, isnt that Alfred, Lord Tennyson? There had been such controversy last month, that I thought Matt would be especially careful to make clean metas for a theme month of puzzles, so I looked again.

    Then I noticed that there was more to this tale, and there were 2 sets of tales in each answer. Oh, how obvious! A Tale of Two Cities had to be the ref, so the answer was Dickens. But that didn’t make any more sense than Tennyson.

    It was only then I checked the extra letters to discover Crichton. Whew! (and aha!)

    I don’t see myself lasting the whole month. :)

  10. Howard B says:

    @Neville: I like your alternative*. Also THIN CROC here.
    *Side effects of Chronic T include Andromeda Strain and occasional Coma.

  11. Karen says:

    Aagh, I got stuck on trying to find an author’s name that fit the same pattern, and overlooked my discarded letters. This crossword seemed harder than a typical first week puzzle, maybe it’s good to throw in the towel sooner than later…

  12. Dan F says:

    I didn’t see the TALE thing at first, so I was also working with OATES/PASEO in the middle, which (coincidentally?) differ by just one letter, like the other five-letter pairs.

  13. joon says:

    howard—i figured out the theme and wrote in the extra letters next to my grid as i was solving, so the 0:05 was just putting them together at the end once they were already written down. i find anagramming infinitely easier when i can see all the letters at once.

  14. Howard B says:

    I hear you, Joon, I was just messing with ya ;). That’s a much more efficient way of handling the meta. I didn’t write the missing letters until I completed the solve.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I would read a book by someone named Corn Itch.

    Joon, Tobias Woolf wrote the memoir “A Boy’s Life,” which apparently is about mustard:

    http://betterbooktitles.com/post/2924497494/thisboy

  16. pannonica says:

    Had no trouble at all with the meta, but completely missed the “tale” angle. Simply noticed that the components of each theme entry differed by one letter each and wrote those down, then anagrammed them. In retrospect, it seems deliberately, blindspottingly perverse to not have noticed that the matched parts each spelled “tale.”

    Thereby hangs a tale told by an idiot, tellingly.

  17. JannieB says:

    Such an idiot! I tried and tried to anagram the discarded letters to no avail. But noticed each theme answer had two “Tales” so went with the Hawthorne and his “Twice Told Tales”. Pressure off for rest of the month :(

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