MGWCC #135

crossword 6:44 (paper, 1 error)
puzzle DNF12 hours or so

so the thing about this week’s puzzle is: i didn’t get around to it until monday around lunchtime. did the crossword. no clue on the meta. i wasn’t expecting it to be this tough, perhaps because i was mentally preparing for a 1st-week puzzle, not a 5th-week. it’s often been the case that a tough 5th-week meta has taken me a few days to crack, and, well, i don’t have a few days. so i’ve been looking at it off and on for a few hours, and i still have nothing. maybe blogging will cause something to jump out at me? well, i have to do it anyway, so here goes.

in this week’s contest, “This Doggone Crossword!”, we’re looking for a breed of dog. the four longest answers in the grid are all nonsense phrases with starred clues:

  • {Marijuana left out in the snow?*} is WHITE JANE.
  • {What many a bird has after an oil spill?*} is a BLACK BILL.
  • {Oliver Twist pickpocketing target?*} is a LONDON MARK.
  • {Leader of the little people?*} is LORD PEEWEE.

as i said, they are the longest answers, and they’re also the only ones that aren’t real crossword answers. why, then, are they starred? got me.

okay, on to the “thinking out loud” part of our episode: in which joon tries to live-blog solving the meta. what do the theme answers have in common? JANE, BILL, and MARK are first names. PEEWEE, too, i guess, but not exactly a common one. the only PEEWEEs i know are herman and reese. also, trying to get google to solve the meta for me didn’t work.

these look more like two words stuck together than a base phrase transformed in some way. since lots of dog breeds have two-word names, maybe there’s something there? there’s also the title, which has not only “dog” but “gone.” is there a dog name somehow excised from these theme answers?

hmm, i might have solved this one (idly). how about jack russell terrier?

  • jack WHITE is apparently a rock musician, the frontman for the white stripes. never heard of him, but i’ve heard of the band.
  • JANE russell is an old-timey pin-up girl. i have heard of her only because she was a theme answer in a henry hook boston globe puzzle last year.
  • jack BLACK is that annoying actor from “school of rock.” definitely famous.
  • BILL russell is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and the winningest athlete in the history of american professional team sports. very famous.
  • jack LONDON wrote call of the wild and white fang (both about dogs, actually, and i was thinking about him because of both LONDON and WHITE). very famous.
  • MARK russell is an American political satirist/comedian. He also sings and plays the piano. (thank you, wikipedia.) never heard of him.
  • jack LORD is a dead actor from “hawaii five-o.” never heard of him.
  • PEE WEE russell is a dead clarinetist. never heard of him.

okay, i’m going to send this in, but wow, this meta would have been totally unsolvable for me without wikipedia. 3 of the 8 people referenced by the theme are really famous. another i know only from crosswords (and not even crosswords in general, like yma sumac—one particular crossword!). and the other 4 i’ve never heard of at all. yikes. that’s a pretty unsatisfying kind of hard, at least for me. the idea of it is kind of cool, but i can’t help thinking there are not enough famous russells to pull this off. obviously there are a ton of jack options, but you don’t want to go with something like KEROUAC that gives the game away.

now it’s late and i don’t have time to do a fill round-up. i had a stupid mistake in my completed puzzle, which i discovered upon post-puzzle googling. i decided that {Pitching achievement} was a SALE, using the spiel sense of “pitch.” i had absolutely no clue on the crossing {Country singer Gosdin or interior designer Yip}, so even though LERN looked funny, i left it in. of course it’s VERN, which has the benefit of actually being a name, crossing SAVE, which is indeed an achievement (of sorts—i won’t get into my sabermetric screed here) for baseball relief pitchers.

so there you have it—the last MGWCC of 2010, and for me, it had kind of an unsatisfying end. but still, a great year of puzzles, and i’m looking forward to whatever matt has to offer in 2011. happy new year, everybody.

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24 Responses to MGWCC #135

  1. SethG says:

    Some random person somewhere on the internets answered another random person’s question “What type of dog is pee wee herman’s dog speck?” with “It appears to be some sort of mixed breed, possibly including Jack Russell Terrier.” My google search for “Pee Wee Herman’s dog” found that, and I finished with the luckiest 5/5 ever. (And with LERN.)

    Thanks Matt, looking forward to the next 865 weeks!

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Seth — don’t forget to mention that you submitted it five minutes before the deadline!

    149 correct entries this week. Most popular incorrect answer was DALMATIAN with 14 (black and white dog, was the logic, with BLACK and WHITE in theme entries).

  3. Evad says:

    Got the meta but agree some of the names were obscure to me. I think it would be hard to find 8 semi-famous names that most people “should” know across sports, entertainment, etc., but not so obvious that it gives the meta away (like KEROUAC as you mentioned above). Another constraint is that the two names had to have some surface sense put together and be in symmetric pairs, so pretty tough challenge for Matt, methinks.

  4. jimmy d says:

    Got this one pretty quick, but I am a huge Jack White fan (check out The Raconteurs & The Dead Weather too), and I remember Jack Lord from my childhood. Never heard of Peewee or Mark Russell… but Bill & Jane brought in home for me.

  5. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    I guess it paid to be old to solve this one. Certainly not easy, but I did get it essentially on my own with a lot of contemplation. Only real googling I did was to read about the life of Jack London (unavoidable connection?) Quite a story, which I had not known before.

    Another brilliant puzzle from Matt G.!

  6. Al Sanders says:

    This one definitely skewed to my generation, although that doesn’t excuse you from not knowing Jack White, Joon :-). My kid’s a big White Stripes fan, so that made him pretty familiar to me. Also, he did a nice acting turn in “Cold Mountain”. Incredibly versatile musician.

    Pee Wee Russell was the only one I had never heard of. Jane Russell was made famous by Howard Hughes in one of his movies, then used to do all these Playtex Bra ads (“Cross Your Heart!”), back in the day when they could only show bras on mannequin torsos on TV. Jack Lord will always be famous for being the one who got to say “Book him, Danno!”.

  7. Matt Gaffney says:

    I didn’t think many people would know all 8 names, but figured most would know at least 2-3 from each set and be able to Google the remaining 1-2 to verify.

    I’d had this puzzle and meta saved for a couple of months, and using it on a 5th Friday seemed appropriate. My personal guess was 125 right answers, so the 149 that came in was pretty robust.

  8. Hugh says:

    One of the benefits of being considerably older than Joon is that I knew of 7 of the 8, Jack White being the only gap in my knowledge base. Another group of Russells that nobody remembers include: Lillian (early 19th century stage performer), Gale (B-movie star of the 40s), Harold (Supporting role Oscar winner for “The Best Years of Our Lives” in 1946, Nipsy (comedian), Connie (singer), Bertrand (scientist and mathematician) and Rosalind (fine screen actress of the 30’s to 50’s).

    Still, this meta was a grind until the Jack Russell terrier (like Eddie, Frasier Crane’s tormenter, I think) finally surfaced. Then you wonder why it took so long to think of that particular breed.

  9. Pam says:

    I could have spent another week puzzling over this and still not have gotten it. Very clever Matt.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    Yeah, I’m older than joon, knew most of the names, solved rather quickly.

  11. Howard B says:

    Same here, knew many of the names and verified the remaining ones online. The biggest stumper for me was the breed name, which I’m rather unfamiliar with outside of puzzles (I know very little of dog breeds, even the cute, friendly ones).

    I’ve seen the name before but it rung no bells, so had to consult a list of dog breeds to narrow down potential answers, then backsolved my way to meta-completeness from there. Bonus points for JOAN JETT and TEX-MEX, too!

    Joon, re: Jack Lord: look ‘im [up], Danno. Should be plenty of video clips.

  12. sandirhodes says:

    Yup. Age was definitely an advantage here (7 of 8 for me – no google for meta). And as far as Hugh’s list is concerned, oh, crap, I know of them all!

    Sigh. My one-word review to Matt was ‘Nice!’ Meant it!

    Oh, and Vern Yip was on ‘Trading Spaces,’ one of the wife’s former faves.

  13. otis says:

    Jack Russell was the first thing that came to mind but I dismissed it because I really thought that the london, white, black and lord had to have something to do with the meta so went to look for a breed that had a lastname/firstname pattern and came up with Airedale and since it is an English breed went with it. Also considered Boston Terrier because it was a geographic breed that was black and white and the Cavalier King Charles having similarities with London and Lord, and they can be black and white. Doh- should go with your gut I guess is the lesson here.

  14. Scott says:

    Wow! I did not do the puzzle until Monday night. I’d like to think I would have cracked it within a few more days but that was not to be. I was one of the DALMATION (yes, I spelled it wrong in my submission) entries.

  15. Abby says:

    I had the problem that I completely spaced Jack Russell as a breed and I couldn’t get over the appearance of the puzzle (white with black spots- I mean more than the average crossword) and that I could find not terrible connections to Dalmatian for the theme words.

    Guess I should’ve kept looking for a Jack breed of dog because that’s all I came up with on first pass. I know Jane Russell too, of course. Between the bra ads and the taglines for The French Line (“JR in 3D! Need we say more?” and “She’ll knock both your eyes out!”), but I just didn’t see that. Should’ve asked a dog person. I’m allergic. :-(

  16. john farmer says:

    Never got close on the meta when the clock ran out on this one. I also had SLICK BILL (crossing IN A SEC), looking too right to let go, which held me up for awhile.

    Matt’s puzzles and Joon’s posts are highlights of my xwording week. Thanks for the fun time, guys. Keep ’em coming’! What is it, 865 to go?

  17. Blanche says:

    This was an easy one for me — maybe I’m finally getting on Matt’s wavelength. First time I’ve been 5 for 5, wow!

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The crossword part took me four times as long as Joon. That’s because I was solving via the Team Crosswords interface (team of one!) on my phone in a minivan traversing South Florida. Like Al, I knew seven of the eight names and never heard of Peewee Russell. When the Jacks and the Russells began to click, it was a very satisfying “aha” moment—and the meta probably took me less time to puzzle out than the crossword.

  19. Norm C. says:

    I went a totally different way on this. My meta answer was CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER. Since the puzzle title was “This Doggone Crossword” it suggested to me that there was some word missing in the answers to each of the starred clues. So since marijuana is also known as Mary Jane I thought Mary was the missing word in the White (Mary) Jane clue. I thought Land was the missing word in London (Land) Mark and that Water was the missing word in Black (Water) Bill. Wasn’t too sure what to do with Lord Peewee but the other three missing words came out to MARY LAND WATER. So when I think of a Maryland Water Dog I think Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

  20. mitchs says:

    I won’t even approach the meta…can someone help with FLACKED?

  21. Ben Bass says:

    Like Joon, I had SALE instead of SAVE. And like Al S. and Amy R. I knew 7 of 8, everyone but Peewee Russell. All in all, I am in excellent company.

    I doubt that Peewee Russell’s mother ever heard of him.

    All this talk about Hollywood bombshells and bra ads reminds me of Jack Paar’s immortal line on the Tonight Show: “Here they are, Jayne Mansfield!”

  22. abide says:

    No one has mentioned the five or six clues that were “____ or ___” variety. Most of these were names, so that gave me a subliminal hint to look for a dog with two proper names. I got sidetracked at first with SANTA BERNIE (St Bernard). Knew 7 of 8 but enjoyed learning about Peewee and his corroded liver.

    4 of 5 this month because I didn’t do the STREEP puzzle until Wednesday after. Thanks for a great year Matt.

  23. Abby says:

    My biggest problem was just running out of time. I needed the extra day to make up for the holiday (didn’t last week). I barely had time to look at the meta before I had to send it in.

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