meta 2 minutes, with some
uncertainty without instructions
hello and welcome to episode #402 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Space Oddity”. for this week 2 puzzle, matt asks us: What is the answer to this puzzle’s riddle? the five-part riddle is spelled out in the grid’s theme answers: WHICH JAMES / BOND NOVEL / IS THE FAVORITE OF / VALENTINA / TERESHKOVA?
this is not a serious riddle (if that’s even a thing). i mean, tereshkova (the cosmonaut who was the first woman in space, for those not familiar with her) was certainly alive at the time ian fleming was writing, although she is unlikely to have consumed much in the way of western spy fiction. rather, it’s a pun—a timely one, i guess. tereshkova was a soviet and her first name was valentina (february 14 was this sunday, in case you’d already forgotten), so we’re looking for from russia with love. and that’s all there is to it.
i gotta say i was a little thrown by this meta. in the first place, it had nothing to do with tereshkova’s actual claim to fame; in the second, the title was also unrelated, since it was a reference to tereshkova’s historic achievements (and david bowie) rather than the actual riddle. in the third place, the instructions didn’t quite convey that we were looking for a punny interpretation to what was presented as a straightforward question. if there had been a james bond novel involving a pioneering woman going into orbit (and, frankly, i don’t know that there isn’t, although i checked the plot of moonraker because it seemed like the most plausible candidate and there didn’t seem to be anything like that), wouldn’t that be a better answer?
other than that, it’s a perfectly fine wordplay to base a meta on. i just wish it had been pinned a little more tightly in the instructions.