MGWCC #396

crossword 3:18 
meta -2:30 (approx) 


mgwcc396happy new year and welcome to episode #396 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Secondary Character”. thanks to evad for filling in for me last week while i was on vacation. i had a chance to look at the puzzle but didn’t get the meta right away and wasn’t able to come back to it. reading the recap, though, i thought it was a pretty cool puzzle and i wish i’d had more time to spend on it.

anyway, that was then; this is now. for this week 1 puzzle, matt challenges us to find a character from the “Star Wars” universe. i did get a chance to see the force awakens over the holidays, but i’ll refrain from any spoilers. what are the theme answers?

  • {Asian river that Kipling called “The Road to Mandalay”} is the IRRAWADDY.
  • {Red dessert that isn’t very common but sounds good} is CHERRY PUDDING. indeed, i have never seen this.
  • {Event where the bride and groom haven’t made the most important decision of all} is an ARRANGED WEDDING. i don’t know how i feel about this phrase as a theme answer. arranged marriage is certainly a thing, but arranged wedding? i mean, aren’t they all arranged, more or less?
  • {Gift company named for its founder’s two sons} is HARRY AND DAVID. totally unfamiliar to me.
  • {Like the Balkans, historically} WAR-RIDDEN.

okay, so all of these contain a double-R and (later) a double-D, so we’re looking for R2-D2. not too tough. i mentioned to matt that i was going to be impressed if the answer had been BB-8, the ball droid from the new film, because there can’t be very many phrases that contain eight BB’s, but in retrospect, that would be a perfectly doable (though hardly trivial) theme with 8 B.B. phrases like BEACH BOYS, BLACK BELT, BIG BIRD, etc.

so, a nice simple and unambiguous meta to start us off in 2016. i liked it, although some of the actual theme answers left me a little cold. still, there aren’t a ton of better options available; you can’t fit ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT into a grid, and other options like TARRADIDDLE and former outfieldr GARRY MADDOX aren’t really any better than what he’s got.

in the fill, NA LI caught my eye; she’s the recently retired {Chinese tennis star whose name, fittingly, hides in FINALIST}. i know her more commonly as LI NA, as LI is her family name and the chinese put the family name before the given name. so NA LI looks a little out of place to me, like zedong mao, but i will certainly grant that she is often called that (including on the wta’s own website). it’s absolutely a legit entry.

that’s all i’ve got this week. what’d you all think?

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15 Responses to MGWCC #396

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 504 right answers this week.

    I had GARRY MADDOX and apparently CARROT PUDDING is more legit than CHERRY PUDDING, but it sounds gross so I went with cherry. I was surprised there weren’t any really good RR-DD people, considering the huge number of common first names with a double-R (Barry, Larry, Jerry, Terry, Harry, Perry, etc.)

  2. pgw says:

    A nice pair of alternate theme answers, of length 14, would have been WARRIOR-GODDESS and DARREN McFADDEN. No big deal, but I wasn’t thrilled with the RR breaking across words in WAR-RIDDEN and the DD doing likewise in HARRY AND DAVID.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      There is also Larry David, which avoids the distraction of the ‘and’.

    • bananarchy says:

      Whether or not it was intentional (I’m assuming it was), it was a nice touch that the DD and RR were the only double letters in the entries. The SS of GODDESS would spoil that.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I thought it was the rare meta that was easy enough for me.

  4. A BB-8 puzzle would be easier to write than 2011’s B-52s puzzle, I’d wager.

  5. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Let’s see . . . There are all those double letters in the answers . . . and the title of the puzzle is “Secondary Characters.” I saw the new movie, and there is a minor character named Finn . . . whose name has double letters . . . and he is a stormtrooper, definitely a secondary, throw-away role in the Star Wars universe, so . . .

    Nah, just kidding. Saw the clue to the meta and the title and was 98% sure it was R2-D2. Mentally fit IRRAWADDY into 17 A before putting pen to paper and was 100% sure. Just didn’t get around to actually doing the puzzle and sending in an answer right away because of the holiday schedule.

    The old question – were there any wrong answers this week?

    • Paul Coulter says:

      My early guess was Wookiee from the title and first theme line. But I’ve learned my lesson about racing on Week 1s, and finished the puzzle before entering. Still, as any lifelong nerd knows, Wookiees are notorrioussly bad spellerrs.

  6. Qatsi says:

    I saw the two pairs of doubled letters in each theme entry and confidently sent in JABBA THE HUTT, not noticing that the two pairs were the same set in each case. Even hinted in my comment that MATT GAFFNEY fit the pattern as well. Epic fail.

  7. Archie says:

    Focused on the DDs, looked u8p DD in Wookiepedia, found “Defender Droid”, said “aha” and completely overlooked the RRs. I’m still kicking myself over and over.

  8. Jim S. says:

    This led to epic visions of my writing a Star Wars themed puzzle as my first effort – R2D2, C3PO, BB8 and others but using different schemes than Matt used. Who knows? Maybe it’ll happen using the guidelines and helpers linked to for the Indy submission reminder.

  9. Music Man says:

    As a Philadelphian, I would have preferred GARRY MADDOX :)

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