MGWCC #366

crossword 3:00
meta 3 days and some googling 

mgwcc366hello and welcome to episode #366 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “In Living Color”. for this week 1 puzzle, we were looking for a well-known restaurant chain. what are the theme answers?

  • {Trashed} AS DRUNK AS A SKUNK.
  • {It merged with Random House in 2013} is PENGUIN BOOKS, but not before publishing this fine collection of crosswords to which i was a contributor.
  • {Early-in-the-year announcement} are the ORCA NOMINEES, right here on this blog.
  • {1968 Rock Hudson movie} is ICE STATION ZEBRA. i definitely first heard of this movie from a crossword puzzle. anything that has 15 letters, no matter how minor and how long ago, apparently is enshrined forever in puzzledom.

so these are all phrases which include a black-and-white animal. that much was apparent. what’s the meta answer? well, that part took me a long time. a loooong time. i just couldn’t think of another black-and-white animal. eventually i gave up and googled a list of chain restaurants, and there it was at #34: panda express. yeah, i should have thought of that, all right. total headslap moment.

perhaps i wasn’t as diligent as usual in coming back to the puzzle several times over the course of the weekend because it was a week 1 and i figured i’d get it eventually (and also because i had a friend visiting from out of town this weekend), but this still strikes me as an unusually tough week 1. there’s nothing especially tricksy about it, but there just isn’t much of a solving path—the answer is obvious only in retrospect. i mean, 300+ people have solved it correctly as of monday night, so it can’t be that hard, but it does seem a little low compared to a typical week 1.

fill bits:

  • {Subject for Alanis Morissette} IRONY. i’m in a particularly linky mood today, so enjoy lexicographer kory stamper’s take on irony.
  • {Business without bellhops} is a MOTEL or really, almost any business.
  • {Washington Post section} STYLE. did you enjoy this year’s post hunt? i sure did, except for that one puzzle whose answer was both vaguely derived and never used.
  • {Person with roots in the Subcontinent} DESI. i’m loving this definition instead of yet another reference to mr. arnaz.
  • {Capital city on the Pacific Ocean} LIMA. man, this clue took me forever. even getting the L wasn’t enough. “pacific” never makes me think of south america.
  • {Org. known for almost never calling traveling} NBA. ouch. low blow, matt. are you guys enjoying the finals? i sure am. both games have gone to overtime thus far. i’m rooting for the high-aesthetic-appeal warriors, but if lebron drags this cavs team to the title against that golden state team, it’ll be perhaps the greatest accomplishment by any player in nba history.

that’s all for me. see you next week!

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41 Responses to MGWCC #366

  1. Matt says:

    348 right answers this week, which is indeed low for a Week 1. 106 wrong answers which is very high.

    Unintentional; I thought this meta was a two-foot putt but it turned out to be a two-foot putt with a curve to it. So we’ll call this Week 2 and on Friday we’ll have a more Week 1 vibe.

    • Al says:

      Was there a particularly prevalent wrong answer? I briefly toyed with Steak n Shake, due to its black and white decor, before coming to my senses and realizing a black and white animal had to feature in the answer.

      • ICDogg says:

        I also had to use a list of fast food places. But I have heard of Panda Express, I’ve seen them mostly in mall food courts.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        By a rough count, Checkers/Rally’s, Domino’s and Steak n Shake were about equally represented.

        • Steve Blais says:

          I was briefly toying with Checkers and Domino’s before coming across Panda Express on a list of restaurant chains.

          Now I don’t feel so bad.

        • Molson says:

          I was one of the Domino’s entries.

          I think in this case it was the clue that did me in. I saw that all the entries were black and white THINGS and saw “restaurant chain” and thought, “what’s a black and white thing that’s a restaurant chain?” And immediately answered “Domino’s.”

          It didn’t process at all that all the THINGS were ANIMALS.

  2. magoo says:

    Ah, the price of not living Stateside. Never heard of PE. Went with Domino’s.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I finally came up with Panda Express after a lot of googling, but Domino’s strikes me as a pretty sharp alt-answer. Dominoes are usually black and white (if not in the logo of the company), and Domino’s is a much more famous company than Panda Express is; I think I’ve seen the latter driving around, but never been in one.

      • dave glasser says:

        Hmm, but going from 4 black-and-white animals to one often-black-and-white-but-not-in-the-logo non-animal seems like a stretch.

        Personally, I think this meta would have been a little better if worded as “which would make a good fifth theme answer”. I spent a while trying to think of a more generic term that would describe all the black and white animals instead of just thinking of another one, before thinking of Panda Express.

        • Wayne says:

          +1. “which would make a good fifth theme answer” would’ve made it a perfect week 1. As written, it’s a perfect week 2, since it’s a two-step solve. (Notice that there’s a set with one element missing; then find an answer to the meta that references the missing element.)

          4.5 stars from me.

      • Matt says:

        Well, SKUNK ORCA PENGUIN ZEBRA are all animals and the title is “In Living Color,” so, while realizing there was a curve to this one absent in most Week 1s, I don’t think I can take any other answers. If they were all random black and white objects then sure, but they’re all animals.

  3. neil B says:

    I had buffalo Wild wings as the logo is black and white although there is a little yellow in it. However i guess if the buffalo itself is neither black nor white i can understand. In new york we don’t consider a place like panda Express to be a viable food option

    • Matthew G. says:

      Looks like there’s exactly one Panda Express in NYC, in the Bronx. But a goodly number in Long Island and New Jersey.

  4. Amy L says:

    I answered Domino’s, thinking I had never heard of Panda Express. When I googled it later I did realize there is one in my neighborhood, but I didn’t know it’s a chain. I think Panda Express makes a much better meta.

    I especially liked Joon’s post this week. First, because he had a hard time with the meta. I was sure he was going to say he got it in one second. Second, the puzzle book sounds interesting and I think I’ll order a copy. Third, I appreciate the link to the irony definition. After listening to Alanis’s song, I was confused but that explained it nicely.

    As for Ice Station Zebra, I associate it with Howard Hughes. He is said to have watched it 150 times.

  5. Jim S. says:

    I hesitated more than normal on this one. We have a new-ish Chick-Fil-A in town and everyone has seen the “Eat Mor Chikn” commercials with the Holstein cows, so I almost went in that direction. Not sure if it’s just me, but it seems like a much more popular chain than Panda Express and the cows are probably connected more with the chain than anything in its real logo and colors (other than red, I can’t think of anything interesting in the Chick-Fil-A logo). However, google showed me the Panda Express path and I went with that. Whew, tough one.

  6. Nancy Schuster says:

    Aha, now I understand why I can never solve more than Week 1. I came to this answer pretty quickly, and I’m puzzled to learn that not all than many solvers got it.
    So I can now conclude that I’ll never *really* understand good metas. Thanks, Matt, for Week 1!

  7. sps says:

    As a Domino’s answerer, that was the first thing that popped in my head—they’re usually black and white, just like the other answers. Yeah, I thought it should be an animal and realize that works against the answer I gave, but I’d never heard of Panda Express before either. There are exactly three Panda Express restaurants in the Boston area where I live. It’s not exactly a “well-known restaurant chain” around here.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Nancy you’re too funny !

  9. bunella says:

    I couldn’t find a black and white animal restaurant so I picked Taco Bell cause I found a picture of the bell and it was black and white.

    Never heard of Panda Express. Hope they don’t serve panda. LOL

    • ML Perry says:

      Oh me too! In my case, I totally missed the animal part and found that Taco Bell has a black and white logo! So, I sent that in…at least there were two of us with that wrong answer!

  10. Jeff C. says:

    I debated for half an hour about the definition of “restaurant.” Now, if you had said the meta answer was a vomitorium chain …

  11. Todd Dashoff says:

    The first thing I thought of was Checkers (aka Rally’s on the West Coast), due to the black and white in the puzzle and the fact that they have some seats. But I wasn’t sure, so I kept looking for “restaurant chain black and white logo” and eventually found Panda Express and decided it was a better fit, even though to me they are a take out place located in food courts, not really a restaurant.

  12. Rachel says:

    I am so happy that this was not a home run week 1 for everyone. I felt like such a big ol’ dope for missing it. Shame. Mortification. Self-hatred. (Too much?). Thank god I missed last week and this wasn’t a big streak killer. ;)

    I could have sworn TGIFridays had black and white shirts (based solely on a poor recollection of Office Space and Jennifer Aniston and her flair) but Google told me no. I was evidently thinking of Foot Locker. So I went with Steak n Shake bc of the black and white logo. And the “In” and “n.” And because black and white made me think of the yummy shakes at EJs and Shake Shack.

    I think the meta was fair and totally get-able (it became quite obvious to me AFTER my wrong guess) but agree that 1) “restaurant” is a stretch and 2) a contest instruction addition of “would make a good fifth theme answer” would have made it way more week 1-ish.

    Thanks Matt.

  13. Dave says:

    I finally decided that Panda Express was the intended answer, but before that had considered Checkers, which has a B/W logo that looks somewhat like a crossword grid, or Dunkin’ Donuts/Krispy Kreme, since “Black & White” is slang for an old police squad car, and police are stereotypically associated with donuts. Most PE are found in shopping mall food courts, but there are a few freestanding locations.

  14. Stribbs says:

    I did worry about west coast bias on this one, as I saw way more freestanding stores when living in California and Texas than I do in NY now. That said, I think PE is great, as faux-Chinese places go, and I totally wish Manhattan had one. I ain’t ashamed!

  15. Norm says:

    I saw all the animals and sent in Rainforest Cafe without even looking at the title … and then went “Oh c***” — Sigh.

  16. Jim Schooler says:

    I submitted Chick-fil-A because of the chain’s exclusive use of black-and-white cows in their advertising. I still think it’s a good meta answer.

  17. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I was stuck on ice cream vendors whose decor features black and white diary cows, until I described the puzzle to my wife, who suggested Panda Express before I managed to list all the theme answers.

  18. Peedee says:

    The last time I got a meta answer (2weeksago) I was the 47th person to get it. Only geeks like Michael sharp and Joel fagliano woulfd understand why that is significant. At any rate, I saw the meta was going to be related to color and after I got drunk as a skunk, I figured the colors were gonna be black and white and thought Dominos. And since I wanted to try to be 47th again, I pushed myself to hurry. As I finished the puzzle, dominoes still worked– it didn’t occur to me that all the black and white objects were ANIMALS. and so I didn’t change my mind. I quickly sent in my response…and for the first time ever, I sent in the wrong answer on a first week meta. But at least I kinda have an excuse.

  19. Jim Curran says:

    I still like my answer :)

  20. George says:

    I actually didn’t notice the black and white theme initially. My first idea was The Rainforest Cafe, but didn’t like it because the animals didn’t seem to align with rainforest animals. Once I noticed the black and white, Panda Express seemed the only option. The title in retrospect, as is the case with most titles, acted simply as confirmation that I was correct, instead of pushing me in the direction of the answer. Another fun puzzle, looking forward to next week, I’ll have an extra puzzling Friday with the new series from Peter Gordon starting this Friday I believe.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’ve seen Panda Express outside of mall food courts and tollway oases. Fast food chain. Downtown Chicago has nine stores, only one in a shopping center.

    That said, even after perusing a Wikipedia list of chain restaurants, I still had to Google black and white animals, and a dumb “Yahoo question” site listed the panda, and then the penny dropped for me.

    • Justin says:

      So so embarrassed that i used the yahoo answers for black and white animals too. But I knew my initial gut of “Steak n’ shake” couldn’t be right, and didn’t want to miss a week 1. Well, the embarrassment will pass.

    • Chris says:

      I went through Wikipedia and Google before realizing where I could find the answer: Sporcle. Sure enough, found a quiz with black and white animals, and once I saw the panda there was plenty of headslapping.

  22. 10 miles north of Clute says:

    I’m thinking Ms. Dupont would have gotten the right answer.

    • Katiedid says:

      Maybe not! I also found that paper, and saw that Steak ‘n Shake is the only restaurant listed with the two colors black and white. Panda Express is red, white and black. Ultimately not helpful for someone like me who overlooked the animals in the answers.

  23. Lynne R Equation says:

    The black and white theme caught my attention immediately. I searched for fast food places with a black and white logo and quickly came up with Steak and Shake. Of course, within 5 minutes of submitting my answer, I realized that another animal was needed. Doh! Next time I’ll stick to my usual last minute answer!

  24. pannonica says:

    I flirted briefly with both Red Lobster (surprised no-one has yet mentioned it, or Red Robin, working on the black-and-white-and-red-all-over principle) and Domino’s (for which the red-and-blue-and-white logo was a major debit) before consulting the Wikipedia list and seeing the way.

  25. Thomas says:

    See, this one came very quickly to me. If you find yourself needing a better mental hook for the set of black and white animals, I would like to direct you to these two pieces by my special lady:

    Nesting Dolls
    Totem Pole

  26. Vraal says:

    So I answered this correctly but I also posted that as an alternative “Checkers” is an OK answer – if you reference the fact that Richard Nixon’s dog, Checkers, is itself demonstrably black and white (and therefore, you’re linking the name of the restaurant chain to a black and white animal).

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