MGWCC #106

crossword 5:30
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!

Region capture 4The 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.

Favorite clues:

  • 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?

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13 Responses to MGWCC #106

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Congratulations, Joon!

    I noticed the NZ thing, but didn’t want to pass on this coincidence (that one of the eight groups’ members spells out something to do with soccer). Had to use “initials” since I couldn’t get FIRST LETTER(s) to fit with the rest of the riddle, and I figured I’d retort with “I’ll also accept SPINZ” if anyone mentioned it (which a few dozen did).

    296 correct answers total.

  2. pannonica says:

    3d was timely.
    Amy: Reminds me of the hoary rumors of Yma Sumac really being someone named “Amy Camus” from New Jersey (it’s always New Jersey). Mya could be an alternative (let’s not talk about naming someone Yam, not even Popeye).

  3. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    My first thought at reading 3 D, with the answer TIE, was, Wow! Matt is really on top of things as usual! How could he have predicted that there would be a TIE score and work it into his puzzle the same day?

    Then I remembered (half-remembered) an old joke, to the effect that “Something happened the other day that had never happened before in professional soccer — someone scored a goal!”

    Living with tied games is probably another reason so many Americans don’t give a hoot about soccer. :>))

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Congratulations, Joon! That’s one method of getting out of a weekly blogging committment that I have not used.

    I’m liking June way better than May; 2 for 2.

  5. Evad says:

    Yep, one of the “few dozens” who mentioned the extra Z.

    Speaking of extra Zs, count me among those who are nostalgic for the hard metas of May-hem.

  6. Joe Cabrera says:

    Well you put a needle into it when you want to inflate it, and that’s sorta like a pin. Eh close enuf!

  7. sps says:

    Congratz Joon!!

  8. john farmer says:

    Excellent news, Joon! Best to you, and especially mom and the baby!

  9. Karen says:

    Congratulations joon! I hope to see cute pics soon!

    I’m an American who cares about soccer, especially American soccer. Go US! Beat the Slovenians! I figured out the answer to the riddle before looking at the groups…I figure I’d find Portugal, Italy, Nigeria, and Slovakia.

    My sister-in-law Amy has a daughter named Mia. She didn’t realize the sound similarity for about a year.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    Congrats to joon and family! Amy, you don’t have to get as exotic as Yma, if you have a daughter — just name her May, hm?

  11. Jan (danjan) says:

    Congratulations joon!

  12. Eric Maddy says:

    As a Cote d’Ivoire and Chelsea fan, I’ve got to take issue with characterizing Eto’o as “Africa’s best player”. That would in fact be Didier Drogba, the reigning African Player of the Year.

  13. joon says:

    thanks everybody! back from the hospital now… let’s see what puzzles i’ve missed in the last three days.

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