Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Lost in Translation”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upMatt serves up a softball this week, as we’re in search of a language. All six theme entries are the titles of famous (to a varying degree to this blogger) novels:
- 17a. [Aristotle masterpiece], METAPHYSICS – originally written in Greek
- 24a. [Alice Walker novel that won the Pulitzer Prize], THE COLOR PURPLE – now a Broadway play and originally written in our native tongue, English
- 34a. [Gogol work that ends midsentence], DEAD SOULS – certainly up there with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, but I’m less familiar with his work. This was written in Russian.
- 41a. [2004 Lu Jiamin novel about a student from 1960s Beijing], WOLF TOTEM – tempted to guess this author wrote in Chinese, but instead it’s the more specific Mandarin
- 48a. [Second book of Naguib Mahfouz’s “Cairo Trilogy”], PALACE OF DESIRE – this author won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Literature and writes in Arabic
- 59a. [Ibsen play mentioned in “Hannah and Her Sisters”], A DOLL’S HOUSE – Hannah played Nora in the movie; Ibsen wrote the original in Norwegian (or, to be pedantic, Bokmål)
Six theme entries is a lot, still Matt found space for the potentially humorous TRUMP SUIT, but he steers clear of politics and clues it as [Bridge concern]. TAUTEN for [Lose slack] is unusual; it reminds me of the town of TAUNTON, just southwest of where I grew up on the south shore of Boston. The next two weeks I will be away from the blog cycling in the Dolomites of Italy, so one of our other-days-of-the-week WSJ bloggers, Jim Peredo will be filling in. See you back here later in October!
Not too difficult a meta to suss out. Only difficulty was WOLF TOTEM since everywhere I looked, all I could see was it was published in Chinese. I was confident the answer was GERMAN, so assumed that the M stood for Mandarin dialect.
For several seconds, I was trying to figure out what GERCAN was. Then the penny dropped.
Thanks, Dave. I wanted to spread the languages around the world a bit so I originally had “Mayan” for POPOL VUH. But sources online were pretty insistent that it was written in Quiche, a dialect of Mayan, so I decided to go with Mandarin instead. Surprisingly few usable M-languages to choose from, and Mandarin over Chinese precludes using any ancient Chinese texts so I had to go with a modern novel. I figured anyone who came up with GERCAN would see what was going on.
For whatever reason, I started with the country names, and so I had Greece, America, Russia, China, Egypt, and Norway, spelling out GARCEN. So my thought was this was a word in a foreign language that meant “lost” when translated to English. That foreign language, once discovered, would be the meta answer.
Of course, I got nowhere with that line. I then went with the languages and got GERMAN. But I was disappointed that it was so straightforward. I liked the idea of spelling out a foreign word which then meant “lost” when translated.
So I looked up possible words Matt could have used. The best six-letter option is from Spanish, where “lost” is “perdió.” Of course, this then reminded me of the 1994 Beck song, “Loser,” which features the line (repeatedly), “Soy un perdedor. I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me.” Given my last name, this provided fodder to certain sophomoric individuals who never seemed to grow up after high school. Sigh.
Oh, looking forward to blogging the next two weeks’ contest puzzle. However, I’m not 100% at solving them, so I’m hoping they’ll be softballs as well! :)
Thanks Jim! I’m sure you’ll do great!
I had a similar thought but misread GARCEN as GARCON, and answered “French”. Merde!