Fireball Contest Puzzle, February 23, 2018

Puzzle 6:27 (Jenni)
Meta: a whole lot longer  


Peter Gordon, as both constructor and editor, gave us a lot of fun with this puzzle! Each theme answer is a person. Each first name is someone else’s last name, and each last name is someone else’s first name. The clues give us the beginning and end of the chain. We fill in the middle. It reminds me of one of my favorite rounds on Says You! The contest question was more difficult, of course, because Peter didn’t give us the beginning and ending names.

FB contest 2/23

  • 17a [Explorer who links director Spike Lee to actor Carroll O’Connor by way of an actress and a writer] is MERIWETHER LEWIS. The actress is Lee MERIWETHER and the writer is LEWIS Carroll, giving us Spike Lee/Lee MERIWETHER/LEWIS Carroll/Carroll O’Connor. See how it works?
  • 26a is [Comedian who links politician Howard Dean to singer Taylor Swift by way of an entertainer and a football player]. The entertainer is Dean MARTIN and the football player is LAWRENCE Taylor, so the comedian is MARTIN LAWRENCE.
  • 41a [Politician who links actress Anna Kendrick to golfer Payne Stewart by way of a rapper and a director] is looking for Kendrick LAMAR and ALEXANDER Payne for LAMAR ALEXANDER. Payne was new to me because I am not a movie buff. I’ve heard of many of the movies on his resumé but didn’t know his name.
  • 54a [Actress who links singer Elton John to songwriter Irving Berlin by way of a politician and a writer]. The politician is John KERRY and the writer is WASHINGTON Irving; the actress is KERRY WASHINGTON.

The contest asked “What novelist who links a racecar driver to an actress by way of a revolutionary and a director could have been a theme entry in this puzzle?” The racecar driver is Danica Patrick; the revolutionary is Patrick HENRY; the director is JAMES Cameron; the actress is Cameron Diaz. The novelist, of course, is HENRY JAMES. Bravo to all who solved it and to Patrick Blindauer, who won!

This post is already late so I’ll skip the “few other things.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that  Idi AMIN was a boxing champion in the 1950s. If he’d stayed in boxing and Fidel Castro had stayed in baseball….


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3 Responses to Fireball Contest Puzzle, February 23, 2018

  1. chris says:

    just from the title and instructions, i was pretty sure i had the meta answer before i started, and indeed i did. was also able to fill in most of the theme answers immediately, which is rare for a fireball. (and, also, some of these were pretty good finds.)

    and yet. it’s a mark of peter’s skill that, despite all the free letters, this puzzle was still appropriately challenging, and also quite fun overall. knowing the theme / meta didn’t affect my enjoyment of this puzzle. definitely a job well done on all fronts.

  2. Garrett says:

    I had a good deal of trouble filling in the grid. I had never heard of Martin Lawrence, Lamar Alexander, or Kerry Washington. If the difficulty of the cross-clues hadn’t t been a little lighter than usual for a Fireball, I probably would have taken quite a while longer to complete the grid. When I did, I started to focus more on the theme.

    It wasn’t until I got to Kerry Anderson that I finally understood how the theme worked. With that understanding, I tried working from a race car driver to a revolutionary, and for some reason, Danica was just not coming to mind (though I’ve well-enough heard of her).

    Then I tried going from a revolutionary to a novelist, and could think of nothing. That’s likely because I’m unfamiliar with Henry James.

    With three metas to solve this weekend, I finally dropped it, hoping my subconscious mind would think of something.

    I rated it 4.5 because I thought the theme was very clever.

  3. Jon says:

    So you didn’t need the grid or clues at all in finding the meta? You could just read the instructions, realize it’s a mega Before & After (Wheel of Fortune) riddle? Seems weird.

    The lists of actresses, authors, race car drivers, directors, and revolutionaries are each quite huge. I was about to protest but now I see that I should have at least tried instead of tossing the xword aside. “I’ll never be able to figure that out.”

    I just Googled “famous race car driver” and Danica Patrick was the 6th one to come up but only the 2nd that had a last name that could have been a 1st name. The other was Jeff Gordon but “revolutionary war Gordon” came up empty. “Revolutionary war Patrick” got Patrick Henry as the 1st suggestion. Then the rest in the sequence were also the 1st suggestions offered. Oh well. That’s a good lesson to me not to give up so easily next time.

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