Fireball Contest, April 12, 2018

Puzzle: 11:01
Meta: an hour or so  


FB - 4.12.18 - Gordon - Solution

FB – 4.12.18 – Gordon – Solution

OH HI! I’ll be writing up the Fireball contests from this day forward. Sweet! Peter gave me an excellent one to kick off this gig. Our title is “In Retirement,” and we are asked, “What number is the final answer to this puzzle?” Let’s start with the grid. There are six long entries:

  • [17a: Hope for good luck]: CROSS YOUR FINGERS
  • [22a: Side from a wok]: FRIED RICE
  • [36a: It’s often close to a grand]: PIANO BENCH
  • [47a: Bright yellow Crayola color]: LASER LEMON
  • [58a: Animal whose thick fur turns white in the winter]: ARCTIC FOX
  • [64a: 1962 Olivia de Havilland film]: LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

I have all sorts of interesting things to say about Olivia de Havilland, including an extended disquisition on how, at the age of 101, she sued Ryan Murphy for what she called the inaccurate (but in my mind brilliant) portrayal of her by Catherine Zeta-Jones in Feud: Bette and Joan, but I have nothing to say about Light in the Piazza, except that whenever I see the word piazza, I immediately start humming that Belle & Sebastian song … “Elope with me Miss Private and we’ll sail around the world…”

Wait … BENCH … wasn’t he also a catcher? brb, time for some research. Meet you at the statue in an hour.

Turns out, the theme entries point to six baseball Hall-of-Famers, all of whom have had their numbers retired, but only one of whom inspired a Belle & Sebastian song:

  • Rollie FINGERS, Milwaukee pitcher, 34
  • Jim RICE, Boston left fielder, 14
  • Johnny BENCH, Cincinnati catcher, 5
  • Bob LEMON, Cleveland pitcher, 21
  • Nellie FOX, Chicago White Sox 2nd baseman, 2
  • [Mike] PIAZZA, New York [Mets] catcher, 31

I got a little stuck at this point, thinking that this must be leading to some arcane baseball statistic, so I called in a favor from my twitter friend Rich, who is literally writing the book (or at least a book) on being a completist re baseball and other pro sports. While we were both independently working on some leads, I thought, wait, what’s the simplest thing we can do when one step of a meta has generated a set of numbers? Why, we can see if those numbers make any sense with the letters to which they correspond in the grid, such that 34 = J, 14 = A, 5 = C, 21 = K, 2 = I, 31 = E. JACKIE, who has to be JACKIE ROBINSON, whose number was retired from all teams in his honor. And thus, the answer to the meta, just as it is the answer to life, the universe, and everything, is 42. Today, if you are reading this on Sunday, the day that contest entries are due, is Jackie Robinson Day, (commemorating his MLB debut on April 15, 1947), which promotes diversity and inclusion in professional sports.

This meta made me happy. It was challenging, but rewarding. Your thoughts?

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