MGWCC #353

crossword 3:18
meta 1 day, or 5 seconds once i started googling 

mgwcc353hello and welcome to episode #353 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “All Abroad!”. for this week 1 puzzle, matt asks us to identify a well-known organization. what are the theme answers? there are four long entries in the grid, each with a parenthetical note on the clue:

  • {Billionaire co-founder and CEO of Netflix (Swaziland, 1983-85)} REED HASTINGS.
  • {Nurse who was the mother of the 39th U.S. president (India, 1966-68)} LILLIAN CARTER.
  • {Country singer who got 12% of the vote in the 2006 Texas governor’s race (Malaysia, 1967-69)} KINKY FRIEDMAN. is this guy famous? my brother-in-law’s college roommate worked on his campaign. (not a joke, he really did.) i don’t think i would have ever heard of this guy otherwise.
  • {Clinton Cabinet member (Iran, 1962-64)} DONNA SHALALA. health and human services.

so these are four… somewhat notable people, who have little in common. i was going nowhere with this meta on my own. i mean, i didn’t work all that hard on it, but i noticed the countries, and the title (not “all aboard”—all abroad, as in overseas), and the two-year intervals. but that still wasn’t doing much for me.

so i googled “swaziland 1983-85” and this page popped right up, and that was that. i don’t know. it wasn’t a very satisfying meta, i guess. if the four people had been more famous, it might have been interesting just to find out that they had all been in the peace corps (oh, by the way, that’s the answer), but with these C-listers i was a little underwhelmed. but hey, my mom was in the peace corps too and she’s still really good friends with her fellow peace corpses (that can’t be the right plural) 40-odd years later, so that’s something.

a couple words about the grid: with 13 13 12 12 as your themers, you can either throw in a ton of cheater squares or do something like matt has done here, with the 12s on the top and bottom and 11-letter downs. i like this latter approach, although i’m not a huge fan of the entry BE NEGLIGENT. on the other side, MT ACONCAGUA, the highest peak on earth outside of asia, is great, although i have typically seen it without the “mt.” overall the grid is fairly open, with a word count of only 74, and there are a few weird entries (ON MEN, RED SHOES) but overall it’s pretty good. the funky VFW HALL/IRA ALLEN stack is not something you’ll see every day in a grid.

that’s all for me. see you next week.

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21 Responses to MGWCC #353

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 425 right answers this week. Also BOB VILA at 1-A is a themer.

  2. Zach says:

    Maybe not satisfying, but I kinda feel like this is exactly what the week 1 meta should be. I feel like many of the early month guys can be solved by googling, but if you don’t you can have a nice “I learned something today” experience. I figured if I threw in all the search terms together I’d get the answer, so I spent some time looking at political histories of the countries mentioned. ‘Twas fascinating.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Thanks Zach, that’s how I felt as well. Something a little different. Also, it was Peace Corps Week last week, so timely.

  3. Wayne says:

    How is it possible that Donna Shalala is not more crossword famous?

  4. David R says:

    Wondering how many solvers sent in their answer without a Google check.

    • Amy L says:

      As soon as I saw Mother of the President/India, I knew it was Lillian Carter and the Peace Corps. She was 68 when she joined the Peace Corps and it was something everyone knew about her. I’m sorry her “Miss” honorific didn’t fit in.

      Kinky Friedman IS famous (or was at one time). His slogan when he ran for governor of Texas was “How Hard Could it Be?” This was a few years after W left that office.

    • John says:

      I didn’t need to google, but then again I’m an RPCV (returned peace corps volunteer)

  5. Margaret says:

    RED SHOES is not a weird answer to me, it’s probably my favorite Elvis Costello song and now it will be stuck in my head for another day. Oh, and count me in as someone who would never in a million years have gotten the meta without Google.
    PS “Peace corpses” made me laugh out loud.

  6. genefaba says:

    So I started with Donna Shalala (Iran , 62-64)
    I found that the Prime minister of Iran from 62 – 64 was named Asadollah
    This seemed so close to an anagram of Shalala (just adding a DO which is in Donna) that I thought this was where it was going. Nope. Just a red herring, probably unintentional, right?

    • Matt Gaffney says:


    • Dele says:

      Also, his full name was Asadollah Alam. That, along with the title “All Abroad!” and the last four vowels of Donna Shalala’s name, might point toward AA. Of course, the other theme clues don’t produce similar results, and Alam, Shalala, and AA don’t have much else to do with one another, so just another odd coincidence.

  7. Dele says:

    The day before sitting down to solve this meta, I’d watched my DVR recording of last Tuesday’s Jeopardy! episode. This was the $1000 clue in the category “The Carter Family”: Jimmy’s mom, known as “Miss” this, went to work for the Peace Corps at the age of 68. I hadn’t known her name–or been aware of her service–before then, but I certainly won’t forget either now.

    Thanks for the puzzle, Matt!

  8. Robert Loy says:

    If Kinky Friedman isn’t famous he ought to be. He’s written a ton of books including a series of mysteries starring himself as crime-solver. My favorite is “Kill Two Birds and Get Stoned”. In addition to his music, he also has his own line of cigars and tequila.

  9. Cole says:

    I somehow started thinking about the UN Security council and a number of the dates almost line up with country membership (though Swaziland has never been on the SC). A google of one or two of the individuals quickly resolved the issue.

  10. Jmbrow29 says:

    RPCV here. Mozambique (2010-2012). Easier than easy solve for me!

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