MGWCC #436

crossword 3:30 
meta 1 minute, sans instructions 


mgwcc436hello and welcome to episode #436 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Talk Show Talk”. i’m back after last week’s humbling week 5 failure. i should’ve gotten than one. oh well, time to start a new streak. as i often do for week 1 puzzles, i tried this without the instructions. what are the theme answers? unusually, the long answers are all downs:

  • {“You’ll be working at another branch soon” memos} TRANSFER NOTICES.
  • {He played three consecutive Super Bowls for the Dolphins in the 1970s} MANNY FERNANDEZ. this is not a 1970s football player that i have any recollection of.
  • {Zach Galifianakis talk show since 2014 — and the key to this meta} BETWEEN TWO FERNS.
  • {Serious fire} BLAZING INFERNO.

okay, so all of these contain FERN, pretty obviously. and the FERNs line up in pairs. both times, sandwiched between the two FERNs in the grid is the answer I SEE, clued once as {“Fascinating!”} and once as {“Please go on!”}. so that must be the answer. what are the instructions? turns out we were looking for a two-word sentence uttered frequently by talk show hosts. well, I SEE certainly fits the bill there. meta solved!

this meta might resonate more with me if i were a fan of BETWEEN TWO FERNS, but i just can’t get into it. not my style of humor, i guess. anyway, as a meta, it’s nice that it visually represents the two FERNs of the title and puts the answer literally between them.

but there were some things i didn’t love. i’ve already mentioned MANNY FERNANDEZ, who strikes me as more than a little obscure. its symmetric partner, BLAZING INFERNO, seems more like two words than it does like a phrase; i am sure people say it, but i don’t know that it means anything different from just BLAZING + INFERNO. (or, for that matter, from INFERNO by itself.) (THE) TOWERING INFERNO would be great, as it’s a movie title and would fit in the right place (without the black square at the top) to line up the FERN, but then you’d need a symmetric 15 in place of MANNY FERNANDEZ, and there are no good candidates. the closest i could find with the FERN in the right place is this country singer, and while she is probably as famous as MANNY FERNANDEZ, i have also never heard of her. but i would imagine there are country singers i’ve never heard of that are much more famous among the general populace than any old-time football players i’ve never heard of.

other notes: it’s a rather ambitious grid this week, with a low word count of only 74 and a very wide-open field. the trade-offs were some entries i’d never heard of (RIFIFI, MACLEN) and some i didn’t care for (LINDAS, SEINE NET, THE NINES). i guess RIFIFI is actually constrained by the theme, rather than the grid, as the -FIF- is necessary.

i’ve only just now noticed that the grid is more than a little asymmetric. huh. well that makes it even weirder not to use TOWERING INFERNO.

that’s all i’ve got this week. what did you all think?

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9 Responses to MGWCC #436

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon. 487 right answers this week.

    There’s a reason I didn’t use TOWERING INFERNO, but I can’t remember what it was. DANTE’S INFERNO was the other candidate.

  2. PJ Ward says:

    I dropped MANNY FERNANDEZ in with just a couple of crossings. The 70s were my peak time for sports enjoyment and I watched more than a few of his games. I could do a reasonable job of naming his teammates. I’d have a hard time naming five players off of the 2015 Broncos.

  3. DeepakB says:

    Between Two Ferns has been around since 2008, not 2014…

  4. Scott says:

    Any reason the grid was designed so that the theme answers were down instead of across?

    • Amy L says:

      Probably because ferns are often hanging plants. Think of the puzzle as a fern bar with greenery hanging all around.

  5. Kali says:

    I had Manny Hernandez for the longest time… Diverting my ferns even farther between… None of these were in my wheelhouse

  6. LuckyGuest says:

    I’m now tied with Joon with a streak of 1 in a row, so that’s pretty good company. In fact, that got me thinking… I’m finally better than Jangler at something. He has kept only *one* streak going, while I’ve had *dozens* this year!

  7. e.a. says:

    none of the individual themers really did anything for me (count me in for JENNI FERN ETTLES over MANNY FERN ANDEZ, fwiw), but as a whole this was one of my favorite gaffney themes so far this year – so inventive, so apt, and it’s a week 1!

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