MGWCC #201

crossword 3:12
meta -2:50 (approx) 

hello and welcome to episode #201 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Chain Letters”. for this easy-breezy week 1 puzzle, matt asks us to name a fast-food chain. let’s take a look at the theme answers:

  • {Al Gore’s predecessor} was DAN QUAYLE. i got this about 20 seconds into my solve and was pretty sure i knew the meta.
  • {He played Jerry Lee Lewis in “Great Balls of Fire!”} DENNIS QUAID. yup. although i did not know this particular fact, i know that there is an actor named that, so once i had DENN i filled in the rest of it.
  • {First coin issued in a familiar set, 1999} is the DELAWARE QUARTER. a clue that is near and dear to my heart, since i converted a $2400 daily double on essentially the same clue.
  • {Exactly what someone said} is a DIRECT QUOTE.
  • {Capital on the Persian Gulf} is DOHA, QATAR.

so obviously these five answers all have the initials DQ, which also forms the initials (and nickname) of dairy queen. come to think of it, i don’t believe i’ve ever actually eaten at a dairy queen, although i like ice cream plenty. huh. i mostly associate the restaurant with mark cuban, due to this incident.

anyway, about the puzzle: definitely easy enough for a week 1, but still an interesting crossword; five Qs in a grid is no mean feat. yeah there’s some ESQ and the awkward PDQS in there, but also cool fill like PIPSQUEAK and the awesome STEPS IT UP, clued as {Takes things to the next level}.

one unfamiliar grid entry: {Bulgaria’s third largest city}, VARNA. i had no idea. reminds me of eula varner, the faulkner character from the hamlet (not to be confused with hamlet). there was one crossing that might have been iffy, the german word SONNE, but matt helpfully clued it as {Sun, for Germans (anagram of NONES)}, so that all solvers would have a good shot at it. in fact, SONNE also crossed the crosswordese ELENI, but even if you knew none of SONNE, VARNA, and ELENI, you could still get those last two letters from the anagram since they were both N’s. nicely played, matt!

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27 Responses to MGWCC #201

  1. Matthew G. says:

    I struggled briefly with the notion of Dairy Queen being a “fast food chain,” since I think of it as an ice cream shop. But I see on Wikipedia that they actually serve non-dessert foods too. I did not know that. I don’t think I’ve been in one in decades.

    Good thing this wasn’t the answer to a difficult meta — I might have talked myself of the answer.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Well I went to Dairy Queen right after solving the meta.

  3. J. T. Williams says:

    Dairy Queen absolutely serves non-dessert foods too, including some of the best chicken finger and steak finger baskets (with cream gravy) around. They also have great burgers, including a chicken-fried steak burger called the Dude, and if you go to the right ones, delicious taco salads. There aren’t many things from Texas I miss out here in California, but a Dairy Queen in just about every town is one of them. (Pluckers and Freebirds are two other favorite eateries I miss… getting somewhat nostalgic (and quite hungry) here now…)

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    498 correct answers this week. Also: 7 QUIZNO’S and 2 QDOBA.

  5. Dannoz says:

    @J.T As a Californian who made his way to Texas, I agree that Plucker’s and Freebirds are worth missing. I prefer What-A-Burger to DQ, but since the arrival of In ‘N’ Out, the game has since changed. Oh, by the way, I liked this puzzle, too.

  6. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Only 498 correct answers?!? I thought this puzzle and meta were designed to elicit a correct response from every person who visited the site! Maybe that impression is due to my youthful over-indulgence in DQ banana splits. (Still have some of those plastic banana split dishes with the DQ swirl for a handle.) (Which I now see on Google referred to as “vintage”!)

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    The problem with that NE corner is not just 11D:VARNA and 12D:ELENI but putrid 19A:PEREZ, more correctly 19A:WGASA (an online gossip blogger, really?!). Much too far to go for that Z on a first-week puzzle. 21A:SONNE can be guessed (it’s close enough to the cognate “sun”), but there’s very little positive confirmation in a name like “Perez Hilton”.

    Fortunately that wasn’t needed for the metapuzzle (I liked the clever title too). Neat that fully half of the ten entries involving theme Q’s did not include QU, and theme entry 56A:DOHA,_QATAR is particularly nice.

  8. pannonica says:

    Wonder if David Quarfoot got the meta.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    @Noam: 11.5 million Google hits on “Perez Hilton”; 238,000 on “Paul Erdos.” This is the world we live in!

  10. Jason says:

    Wonder if DON QUIXOTE feels left out this week.

  11. Themutman says:

    Of course he does Jason.

    That was a Dumb Question!!

  12. Howard B says:

    @Matt: 1) That makes me weep a little bit.
    2) Is Perez Hilton’s Erdos Number then = infinity, until he co-writes a mathematical paper?

  13. Noam D. Elkies says:

    @MG: ERDOS was in the final puzzle of the month. PEREZ is a first-week entry, and in a corner already overflowing with marginal entries. Pee Hilton may indeed get more Google hits (evidently yet another of these people who are so famous that I’ve never heard of them), but unlike Erdős, somebody who looks up one of those PHilton pages will learn Diddlys Quat. There’s no need to pander to this stuff and wallow in it.

    Re Don Quixote: according to the XWordinfo database of Shortz-era NYTimes crossword, it’s tied for fourth of all 10-letter entries! (8 times, tied with EVEN_STEVEN and RABBIT_EARS, behind OPEN_SESAME [13], ONE_AT_A_TIME [11], and ITALIAN_ICE [10].) Who would have thought DON_QUIXOTE was crosswordese?

  14. J. T. Williams says:

    “Pee Hilton may indeed get more Google hits (evidently yet another of these people who are so famous that I’ve never heard of them), but unlike Erdős, somebody who looks up one of those PHilton pages will learn Diddlys Quat.”

    This just somehow sounds so dirty and yet somehow so appropriate vis a vis Perez Hilton…

  15. Matt Gaffney says:

    Tough crowd, wouldn’t have it any other way tho

  16. Jason says:


  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    “don’t quit”?? try “doubling quality”!

  18. Matt Gaffney says:

    PS — VARNA is famous to chess geeks as the site of the 1962 chess Olympiad, where two of the all-time chess greats played what turned out to be their only game: Mikhail Botvinnik of the USSR (world champion 1948-57, 1958-1960, and 1960-63) and a certain punk kid from Chicago/New York City named Bobby Fischer. Botvinnik, with the white pieces, had to scrape for the draw.

  19. pannonica says:

    Down Quark! (good boy.)

  20. Old Geezer says:

    Don’t Quibble with Matt’s genius!

  21. ant says:

    Matt, while I tend to agree with the axiom “quality over quantity” – there are certain times when the inverse is true:
    1. When you want/need to get drunk
    2. When you want/need more MGWCC

    Matt – Double Quantity!
    Wait…what do you mean you have life outside MGWCC?! Aren’t you here to serve us!?

    Seriously, though – thank you for ALL that you do. You make my week.
    (Now, if you could only make it TWICE a week…)

  22. Matt Gaffney says:

    Well gosh ant, thanks. My guideline is that MGWCC, in all its aspects, gets 10 hours of my life per week. That’s usually enough for one puzzle plus e-mail jousting, blogging, prize-sending and Fiend commenting.

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Aww, c’mon, Noam. Perez Hilton is a nice play on “Paris Hilton” for a Latino guy who wants to write vapid gossip about vapid celebrities.

    I thought I was fast with the meta, getting it about 50 seconds into solving the crossword when I hit the second theme answer. Aww, Joon beat me.

  24. Dave Taube says:

    Don’t DisQualify me, but what’s the website for the monthly Gryptics contest?

  25. jimmy d says:

    ^ decent question

  26. Dave Taube says:

    Thanks, Amy!

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