MGWCC #371

crossword 5:02
meta 0:10 

mgwcc371hello and welcome to episode #371 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Clueless”. for this week 2 puzzle of guest constructor month, speed-solver extraordinaire anne erdmann and 2014 constructor of the year brendan emmett quigley challenge us with these instructions: The theme entries in this puzzle allude to five members of a set of six. The answer to this week’s meta is the missing sixth member of this set. so what are the theme answers?

  • {Singer of the #1 country hit “She’s Too Good to Be True”} CHARLEY PRIDE. i’ll admit it: i’ve only ever heard of this guy once, and that was in last week’s fireball contest puzzle. now i’ll never be able to see his name (if in fact i ever do see his name again) without thinking of him on a harley ride.
  • {Pretty difficult} NO WALK IN THE PARK.
  • {2005 movie with the tagline “Revenge Knows No Mercy”} PRETTY PERSUASION. never heard of this. it’s 16 letters long, which necessitates a slightly wider grid than usual. so if the puzzle took you 6% longer to solve than you were expecting, now you know why.
  • {Concert film that begins with a bare stage} STOP MAKING SENSE. i think this is the talking heads. i’m only about 60% confident, but i’m feeling extra-lazy so i’m not going to look it up.
  • {Violet Crawley’s TV home} DOWNTON ABBEY. i kno this one!

so the last words of the theme answers are PRIDE, PARK, PERSUASION, SENSE, and ABBEY. these refer to five of the six full-length complete jane austen novels: pride and prejudice, mansfield park, persuasion, sense and sensibility, and northanger abbey. what’s the sixth? it’s emma. the title is working double duty: not only is emma “clueless” in the sense that it’s the only unclued (full-length, complete) austen novel, it was also the basis for the charming 1990s movie clueless, starring alicia silverstone as cher horowitz, the 20th-century emma woodhouse.

(i use the caveats complete and full-length because we don’t want to get into lesser-known works like the unfinished sanditon and the novella-length lady susan and love and freindship [sic].)

i liked, but did not love, this meta. i dig the literariness of it, for sure. it was missing just a smidge of elegance. the instructions correctly state that the theme answers “allude to” austen titles; but i just wish the connection was a little tighter. you’ve got PRIDE and SENSE, which are first words, PARK and ABBEY, which are last words, and PERSUASION, which is the only word. it just felt like it could have been tighter.

i don’t recall seeing anne’s byline on a puzzle before. i don’t know exactly how the division of labor went between the two collaborators, but i’d be interested to hear the story behind how this puzzle came to be. i’d venture to guess that the theme entry STOP MAKING SENSE and the never-before-seen clue {American Eagle Outfitters lingerie brand} for AERIE were brendan’s doing, but maybe i’m wrong! i know anne, but i don’t know anything about her cluing style.

other clues that caught my eye:

  • {Generally the most-fouled player on a Quidditch team} SEEKER. interesting clue. i suppose the only fouls i can remember occurring in the books were on the seeker.
  • {“Drugs are ___ with your mind” (Jim Morrison)} A BET. i’m going to make A BET that this was also brendan’s clue.
  • {Stand-up comic Shaffir} ARI. never heard of her/him.
  • {___ Brilliant Personal Teeth Whitening Device (no really, that’s the product’s actual name)} GLO. what … what kind of device is this?
  • {Someone to hatewatch the “Entourage” movie with, maybe} BRO. well, as long as it’s not ted 2.

that’s all for me this week. how’d you all like this one?

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16 Responses to MGWCC #371

  1. Evan says:

    I got this one, but not after leading myself waaaaaay down the wrong path for a good long while. I saw the title, saw the instructions about a set of six, and immediately thought of the game Clue. Thankfully I gave that up after I couldn’t convince myself that SCARLET PERSUASION was a thing. And we won’t get into what I was terrified could have been the Clue substitution with the PRIDE answer. (*shudder*)

    • Matthew G. says:

      I also immediately thought we would be looking for a missing member of a set from the game Clue–be it weapons, characters, or rooms. But “pride” and “persuasion” were hard to overlook for very long, so I got back on track quickly.

      Got the meta <5 minutes, but did not grok the title without googling — have not seen the movie Clueless.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 358 right answers this week. And thanks Anne and Brendan; that’s right on point for a Week 2 total.

  3. Jason says:

    I spent a lot of time wondering if the answer was supposed to be a phrase/name ending in EMMA instead of just the name. I almost submitted REGARDING EMMA.

  4. jps says:

    Shame on the inelegant Jane Austen for not writing six novels all of the same number of words with the last word being able to be clued as the last word in a puzzle entry 200 years later. What was she thinking?

  5. Anne E says:

    Right joon, this was my first byline, and really Brendan’s name should have come first since he did 95% of the work! The meta was my idea – I thought it would be fun to have something that I thought of as a very “girly” meta. I think I was inspired by that meta a while back that was all basketball jerseys or something like that. :-) I had originally thought that the words could move around in the theme entries (e.g., GAYPRIDEPARADE), but Brendan convinced me that was inelegant meta behavior. (That’s why he’s the pro and I’m not!) LOL about your ideas about which clues were mine and which were Brendan’s – all three of the ones you identified as likely being Brendan’s were mine.

    And thanks jps – nothing I could do about the titles Austen selected!

    And major thanks to Brendan, who as I said did most of the work and taught me a lot in the process, and to Matt who accepted the puzzle and did some re-cluing himself. I don’t expect to ever do another puzzle, so it was a huge honor to appear on this, my favorite crossword website ever.

    • joon says:

      thanks for the inside scoop, anne! and congratulations!

      you are a quick study if your clues are already indistinguishable from those of an old pro. ;)

      not to put you on the spot, but are you saying that diary of a crossword fiend is your favorite crossword website? or mgwcc?

      • Anne E says:

        Oops, speaking of inelegance, I was inelegant about STOPMAKINGSENSE. That theme entry was mine, but the clue was Brendan’s. The other two clues were mine.

        Um, er, the spot is very hot indeed, but I was referring to MGWCC. The inventiveness of Matt’s mind, week after week, is just amazing.

  6. Dan Seidman says:

    As soon as I wrote out just the last words, I saw it right away, but before that, I went down a rathole. With the game Clue in mind, I thought it could be the six question words, and spent a lot of time trying to make that work. There was a Who, a Where, a How, and sort of a What, but it broke down from there.

  7. Tracy B says:

    I don’t doggedly pursue the meta part of a meta puzzle. If I don’t get it within a few minutes I’ll set the puzzle aside with good intentions, but then not get back to it until the answer has come out and there’s a new meta to work on. This one I got within a few minutes—totally spoke to my knowledge base, and I loved it. As soon as I cottoned to the literary theme here I felt something like gratitude. The title, which as usual I only bothered to look at afterward (part of the reason I struggle with metas), is just perfect.

  8. Neil D says:

    What’s with all the hate? Why can’t I watch and enjoy the Entourage movie? It may not be the most cerebral film but who cares?

  9. jefe says:

    I (or rather, my Plus One) solved this on the train to Stamford, but I’d never read any Austen and the first sextet I could think of was the quarks. The first two themers pair off as Truth and Beauty, via their clues; the next two pair off as Charm and Strange; then “Down”ton Abbey, leaving the unpaired Up quark.

  10. Norm says:

    My wife was a grad student in English Lit lo those many years ago (MA/ABD), and Jane Austen was and is one of her favorites, so you can probably guess our daughter’s name (this was back 1991 when it was not even close to the top 10). I was pretty sure of this meta after the first two theme entries, but waited to finish the puzzle since I’ve been burned n the past by jumping to conclusions. After I submitted my answer, I sent the five theme entries to wife and daughter (not solvers), and both (big surprise) got it immediately. Our entire family thanks you for a fun time, Anne E.! Norm, Phoebe & Emma

    • Anne E says:

      Thanks, Norm! I love the name “Emma” as well, since long before it was popular. I also love the name of the heroine of “Persuasion”, Anne Elliot, who shares my name and initial.

  11. Amy L says:

    Loved it! It was so much fun to have a “girly” theme. Plus I’ve read all six (and the other bits) and even visited Jane Austen’s house in Chawton.

    • Norm says:

      I visited the pub just down the street while my wife visited the house. Nothing like a nice pint of cold dry cider at an outdoor table on a breezy summer day.

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