MGWCC #256

crossword 6:58
meta 5-10 minutes 

hello and welcome to episode #256 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Diamond Girl”. in this oversized week 4 puzzle, matt challenges us to name a Best Actress winner who should be in this grid, but isn’t. what are the theme answers? the four longest grid entries are all full names of famous(ish) people:

  • {“Three’s Company” actress} is SUZANNE SOMERS.
  • {“What Do You Care What Other People Think?” autobiographer} is the late great physicist RICHARD FEYNMAN. i’ve read this memoir (and the even awesomer surely you’re joking, mr. feynman!). he was an interesting character.
  • {“Guitar Shuffle” bluesman} is BIG BILL BROONZY. never heard of him, and i struggled with the last few letters. that doesn’t really look like a name.
  • {“The Old Gringo” novelist} is recently deceased mexican writer CARLOS FUENTES, better known for the death of artemio cruz. although he won the cervantes prize, he never won the literature nobel, which probably says more about the nobel than it does about him.

okay, so, the meta. this never works, but for whatever reason, the first thing i notice is almost always the initials of the theme answers (especially if they are people). here SS, RF, and CF jumped out at me as being abbreviations for baseball positions, consistent with the “diamond” in the title. so i figured we likely had a theme “lineup” of 8 positions, and were missing a 9th. so who are the others?

well, the next ones i noticed were PELE at 1-across, clued as {Reuters named him Athlete of the Century in 1999}, and his symmetric counterpart {Singer on “One Tree Hill”} BONO. that’s the U2 song, not the WB teen drama. PELE, P, can be the pitcher, but i wasn’t quite sure what to do with BONO. his real name is paul hewson, so is he pinch-hitting? PELE’s real name is edson arantes nascimento, but i don’t think EAN is going anywhere in our baseball theme.

well, at any rate, we needed some more players. scanning the grid for more names, i found the symmetric {“Gigi” novelist} COLETTE and {Libertarian Party nominee for president in 2008} BOB BARR in the grid’s center row. COLETTE (C) can be the catcher, and aha! finally the B’s are coming into focus. BIG BILL BROONZY is 3B, the third baseman; BOB BARR is 2B, the second baseman, which means BONO is our 1B, or first baseman. (although he could still pinch-hit when he isn’t in the starting lineup.)

putting that all together, we have all eight fielding members of a baseball team except for a left fielder. it took me a few minutes to think of a best actress winner with initials LF, but i wanted to at least try to think of one on my own before consulting wikipedia. i did eventually pull louise fletcher, who starred as nurse ratched in 1975′s one flew over the cuckoo’s nest—a film that swept the major oscars (best picture, director, screenplay, actor, actress).

neat theme. i really like how matt used “full” names for all 8 theme people—and those were the only full names of real people in the grid. it required some creativity to find one-named people for P and C, and the way the 1B/2B/3B came together was delightful.

fill highlights:

  • {Unisex name} SAM. both my son and his soccer coach (a high-school girl) are named SAM. it amused me to have this near {Palindromic man} DAD. hey, that’s me!
  • {Opera that debuted in 1933} ARABELLA. don’t know this one. apparently it’s by richard strauss. to get this with no crossings, i would have needed the clue to be {___ Figg, squib neighbor of Harry Potter}.
  • {Word with hell or fund} RAISER. amusing juxtaposition. i like the clue; the entry itself isn’t so hot.
  • {How yesterday’s Nakamura-Radjabov game ended} IN A DRAW. gratuitous late-breaking chess news. hikaru nakamura is the top american chess player these days; i’ve never heard of radjabov.
  • {M, MM, MMM, et al.} YRS. uh, i guess so. but i think {Fourth century start} CCCI is enough roman numeral year clues for one puzzle.
  • {Alt-universe form of literature} FANFIC. good fresh fill here, although i just did a BEQ puzzle last week with MARY SUE in it. that’s even fresher.
  • {7th most commonly used word in German} DAS. and everybody knows the top 6, right? suuure.
  • {Boisvert who declined a co-author credit on MGWCC #255, or game show host Trebek} ALEX. there goes matt again, trotting out the same tired old clues for the same answers.
  • {Plant from the Greek for “dry”} AZALEA. i did not know that. i thought greek for dry was xeri-something.
  • {He never won Wimbledon} clues ivan LENDL. he’s in good company; einstein and shakespeare never won wimbledon either.
  • {What every Ferrari owner loves to hear} NICE CAR. hmm. this seems like a rather dubious entry, but maybe it’s okay. i can actually imagine people saying it. what do you think?
  • {Words before “the money” or “the ages”} ONE FOR. now this one is clearly dubious; it’s a 6-letter partial, for those who care about such things.

that’s all for me. hope you enjoyed the april puzzles. and hey, speaking of april puzzles, i was on the team that wrote and directed BAPHL 7, a puzzle hunt here is boston last weekend. check out the puzzles on the website if you get a chance; the solvers at the event itself seemed to really enjoy them.

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42 Responses to MGWCC #256

  1. jefe says:

    Last-minute solve for me! Kept the streak alive!

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Deceptively tough and eminently fair. Like Joon, I usually notice initials, but this time, the 3B, 2B, and 1B devices made the pattern hard to see, as well as the two smaller theme entries Pele and Bono. In fact, when this clicked for me, I had Fly By as First Base and Bob Barr as Bat Boy, then wondered what to do with good ole Big Bill Broonzy. But naturally, Matt’s metas are too elegant to have an asymmetric themer, so I looked on. One slight suggestion from the Pedant’s Corner – since Sam and Yao are also symmetrically placed names in the other corners, maybe the clues for themers should have all had something in quotation marks, as most of them already did, and those clues with quotes leading to fill like Eno could have been changed. One interesting blind alley — while searching for diamond patterns in the grid, crosswordese favorite OREO popped up twice around L in themers. For a minute, I thought I was onto something, but alas, that cookie crumbled.

  3. Matt says:

    147 right answers this week.

  4. Giovanni P. says:

    So were the OLAV and AMOS entries forming a triple stack of names meant to be a red herring? I could see Matt throwing those in there to obfuscate PELE and BONO and theme answers.

    Kudos Matt; I smacked my forehead when joon explained the trick; simple, but with a nice bit of challenge.

  5. Al says:

    The title was my entree into the meta. The minute I saw Diamond I thought baseball. As Joon said, the RF and CF were immediately apparent, but it took a while to see how the B’s fit in. Elegant and timely meta, thanks, Matt!

  6. Garrett Hildebrand says:

    Dang, I just did not see the baseball thing. For some reason I did not think about initials at all, or I may have jumped on that. Alas.

    After looking at the grid off and on over the weekend and yesterday, this morning I took one last look and noticed something quite unusual: The letters N and R are common to all four theme answers (and only these two), and as well are common with the puzzle title. I thought, “That’s it!”

    However, I did not find an actress in the list with those initials (NR or RN), so I knew that wasn’t it.

    The actual theme is very cool.

  7. Amy L says:

    joon is one amazing solver!

    After several days, I finally saw the initials of the four theme answers. Since the clue for Colette fit the pattern, I added her. I figured each of the Bs in Big Bill Broonzy was a base. I thought Pele could be the pitcher even though his clue didn’t fit. So I got the answer. Now that I see that Bono and Bob Barr are theme answers I am in awe once again of Matt’s constructing.

    For the record, I never won Wimbledon either.

    • baskin98 says:

      I did same with Big Bill Broonzy => 3 bases. Thought about adding Colette, but then thought we’d also have to add Amos since his clue also fit. Wasn’t sure what to do with him, so eventually made the sweeping decision that pitcher and catcher just don’t count that much. Who knew?

      Was initially distracted by all the single-word names, so spent way too much time trying to justify Cher – Best Actress at 60th (diamond?) Academy Awards.

  8. ant says:

    The answers immediately above and below COLETTE are CARLISLE and ENO, which anagram to Leslie Caron, the star of Gigi. Way too much of a coincidence! Therefore, I spent much of my weekend looking for other anagrammed actors and actresses wrapped around a clue, assuming a pattern would give me the missing one.
    Thanks, Matt!

  9. Mutman says:

    I thought baseball, but I struck out!

    Nice week four: tough and fair.

    Half-way there with my Liza Manelli guess.

    Nice work Matt!

  10. Matthew G. says:

    My first thought on seeing the title was baseball, and I kept coming back to that thought, but I just never noticed the initials. This is particularly ironic because I spent a lot of time pondering the puzzle while at an MLB game on Saturday, keeping score! If wonder whether, if I had written the positions on the scorecard using their initials, instead of their traditional numerals, I’d have noticed a connection to the puzzle. What an a-ha moment that would have been…

  11. abide says:

    This one clicked pretty quickly as Al described. Looking at the Wikipedia page, I did find one other nominee, Lynn Fontaine. There’s also quite a bit of vandalism on that page; over the weekend Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) was listed as Best Actress over Jennifer Lawrence.

  12. Amy L says:

    Jennifer Lawrence just won the Best Actress Award for playing a character called Tiffany. Did that throw anyone off?

    • DannyBoy says:

      I noticed that, but it didn’t have legs. I also tried Hope (Diamond) Lange, but I don’t believe she won. So I went back to the title, and saw the other thing it could signify was baseball, and from there it was a matter of looking up American notation. I wanted this to point to a baseball themed movie like Field of Dreams or A League of Their Own, but there were no Best Actress Winners among these.

  13. Charles Montpetit says:

    Just to show how a sports illiterate like myself was at a disadvantage here: I got the title’s baseball reference and did think of checking the initials… and drew a complete blank. Joon probably thought that RF and CF were too obvious to deserve an explanation, but I actually had to look these up to find out what they stood for. Needless to say, I didn’t have a fighting chance. But if Matt ever does a puzzle based on French-Canadian comic strip artists, I swear I’ll kick all of your asses from here to Sunday!

  14. Alex V. says:

    Knew there was something baseball-y going on… I completely missed thinking of 3B for Big Bill Broonzy. Had I thought of that, I would have probably kept digging… darn. Sally FIELD was a good guess, though, in my opinion.

  15. Golem says:

    I was thinking baseball all the way, but got stuck by noticing that all four long entries had identical “X” Y clue structure, with Colette being the only other clue with this structure. So I reasoned these must be the only 5 theme clues. Especially in light of 83A NOT being clued as “One Tree Hill” Singer.

    Eventually I decided I was wrong about the baseball, and lobbed a desparate “Helen Mirren” for her Best Actress portrayal of (diamond jubilee celebrating) Queen Elizabeth II.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I took a similar blind stab at the last minute: I went with Cher, who won best actress at the 60th (diamond anniversary) Academy Awards.

      And like you, I was convinced there had to be some significance to the parallel structure of the clues to the long acrosses. I also got hung up on the fact that one short across, COLETTE, also had a clue fitting that structure {“Gigi” novelist}, but the mirror image answer, BOB BARR, did not. So I also spent a lot of time thinking that I had to find something else that could have taken Bob Barr’s place.

  16. Owen says:

    Anybody else put in for Cher? All those one named stars, and I’m not sure if this was an intentional red herring or not, but she just happened to win at the 60th Academy Awards, which, coincidentally enough would be the “diamond” anniversary…

  17. Tyler says:

    I successfully identified all eight theme answers pretty quickly and it still took me three days to solve (although I didn’t find much time for it over the weekend). If I’d even once considered the concepts of “diamond” and “nine” simultaneously, it probably could have gone a lot faster. Well, I got there, at least.

  18. Joe says:

    Yeh, hand up for a last minute Cher hail mary from me, too.

  19. Jeff Chen says:

    (head desk)

    Impressive, it’s completely obvious now that I know the answer. Well done Matt!

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Baseball, meh.

  21. Blanche Schulz says:

    I was sure it was Cher, too, because of the 4-letter, single-named stars and the red herring at BONO. The letters of her name (a little out of order) actually form a diamond shape starting with the C in square 45, H in DOH, E at the end of LITRE and ending with R at the end of BARR.

  22. Gideon says:

    Any non-US people catch the baseball meta? I sure didn’t.…

    I went for Madonna: one-named like BONO, PELE, COLETTE. best actress (golden globe) for Evita, with the song She’s a DIAMOND (not to mention her diamond albums). also a material GIRL.

  23. janie says:

    this one came together pretty much without tears for me — which was a surprise and a delight. still… before i saw that one position remained unfilled — and even though it duplicated SUZANNE SOMERS’s initials — my first thought was of baseball groupie/muse SUSAN SARANDON. bull durham anyone?

    ;-)

  24. Alex says:

    Surprised DOH has been in the title of nine Simpsons episodes — they like to replace it with [Annoyed Grunt] in a lot of their titles, e.g. Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious

  25. Jeff M says:

    Count one wrong Sissy Spacek answer, a Coal Miner’s Daughter that couldn’t produce a diamond.

    • John L. Wilson says:

      You read my mine, Jeff! Thought I avoided the “Iron Lady” trap, but it turns out not to be so element-ary.

  26. Mark N says:

    Since I don’t think anyone else has mentioned it… Aside from the baseball meaning, I thought that “Diamond” was also apt in the 75th-year sense since Louise Fletcher won in ’75.

  27. John says:

    Once again, my hat is off to those who figured this. I thought Diamond Girl could be a reference to baseball, but in films only as we were looking for an actress. I think transferring BBB in theme #3 to 3B was quite a stretch, as was picking random non-theme names in the grid to fill out the rest of the lineup so it was a nice bit of deduction by the 147.

    Cleverly composed all the way around. Well done, Matt.

    • joon says:

      “random non-theme names” is off the mark. the 8 names are the theme. they’re not the eight longest answers, but, as i pointed out in my writeup, they are symmetrically placed, and they are the only full names of real people in the grid.

  28. Scout says:

    I thought of baseball, but missed the initials standing for positions. I went with Audrey Hepburn because Colette, when she first saw Audrey Hepburn, said, “There is my Gigi!” And although she didn’t win her Oscar for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it did fit the diamond theme…not enough for a meta, but I thought I’d submit it in case I got lucky.

  29. Garrett says:

    @Joon — Holy Mackerel! I could have nailed the meta with my RN by thinking about roles and linking the role to the actress! @Matt — did you do that by coincidence, or design (see my morning post)?

    For anyone puzzling about this, Wikipedia says:

    “Louise Fletcher won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Nurse Ratched in the film. Nurse Ratched was named the fifth-greatest villain in film history by the American Film Institute in their series 100 Years… 100 Heroes & Villains.”

    NR are the only letters common to the Title, and all four theme grid fills.

  30. Garrett says:

    RN ~ NR

  31. cybergoober says:

    One other angle that took me down the rabbit trail: the title suggested to me Audrey Hepburn or Carol Channing (“Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”). My attempts to tease out Channing’s name led me to these painfully trivial factoids:
    Suzanne Somers hosted a revival of Candid Camera
    Richard Feynman’s autobiography was subtitled “All the Adventures of a Curious Character”
    Big Bill Broonzy recorded C. C. Rider
    Carlos Fuentes – (mumble)

    Carol Channing was not an Oscar winner, but the puzzle instructions did not specify an Oscar.

    Another candidate was Claudia Cardinale, who has those initials and also has her 75th birthday this year (a diamond jubilee). She is also a best actress winner in some non-Oscar ceremony.

    Both answers too lame, no submission from me this week (sigh).

  32. Gwinns says:

    I thought that that weird clue for YRS {M, MM, MMM, et al.} was a clever nudge toward the three basemen, who could be written as B, BB, BBB. Of course, I didn’t notice this until after I solved the meta, so maybe it wasn’t much help. But I thought it may have at least led someone to look at those three answers in a different light?

  33. Joan says:

    It seemed like Baseball had to be the theme. Then, after not being able to solve the puzzle, I had an epiphany. Diamond is the birthstone for the month of April, so I went through manipulations of birthstones and dates of birth to come up with my own insane logic of why Bette Davis, of the several best actresses born in April, was the answer. Didn’t anyone else think of birthstones?

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