MGWCC #523

crossword 6:54  
meta DNF 


hello and welcome to episode #523 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Why Don’t You Go First?”. for this week 2 puzzle of guest constructor month, we have jeremy horwitz, our second consecutive san franciscan, and an appropriate constructor for a puzzle with this title because he won mcwcc #1, ten years ago. jeremy challenges us to find a country musician. i didn’t figure out this meta—or at least, i haven’t yet figured out this meta. let’s see what the theme answers are, shall we? jeremy has gone to a 19×19 grid to fit the full names of six famous(ish) people:

  • {Actor who turned down Gandalf and Thomas Crown but not Zed in “Zardoz”} SEAN CONNERY.
  • {NASCAR legend nicknamed “The Intimidator”} DALE EARNHARDT (sr.).
  • {Oscar nominee for playing the title character’s trainer in “Rocky”} BURGESS MEREDITH.
  • {Author of 1992’s “The End of History and the Last Man”} FRANCIS FUKUYAMA.
  • {Actor nominated for an Emmy on three different series for the same role} KELSEY GRAMMER.
  • {First female “60 Minutes” correspondent} DIANE SAWYER.

okay, so. connery was of course the first james bond, notably missing from the clue, so that seems like a starting point. meredith was most famous (to me, anyway) for playing the penguin; the rocky trainer in question is named mickey goldmill, and it may be significant that the clue does not include the name. likewise, the grammer clue notably omits the name frasier crane, although that is the role in question. so those are striking.

the problem here is francis fukuyama. i’ve heard of him, but there is basically nothing else to say about him other than he wrote that book. (or at least, it would be strange to require knowledge of him beyond that in order to solve a meta.) that leads me to think that maybe just francis is the relevant part of that theme answer—but there isn’t really another famous kelsey or burgess, so i’m a bit at a loss. there are connections between the clues for the three actors, but the driver, the political scientist, and the tv journalist don’t really fit in.

what about the title? other than “first”, the relevant part could be either “why” or “you”, which are homophones of the letters Y and U. i don’t really see where this is going, either. FUKUYAMA contains both a Y and a U (two U’s, actually), but BURGESS MEREDITH and DALE EARNHART contain neither.

okay, well, what about this—if it is the first names that matter, then DALE goes with chip, in the sense that chip ‘n dale are a pair. similarly jack & diane. i don’t know where the others are going. there is presumably some way to find them? or there would be, if that were what we were looking for. i don’t think the meta is going to hinge on obscure duos, though, so if there aren’t others as famous as chip & dale or jack & diane, that is probably not what we’re supposed to be doing.

well, i guess i’m out of time. i’m a little embarrassed to be stumped on a week 2, especially one that seems to be trivia-oriented (normally a strong point of mine), but i’m just not seeing it this week. bummer.

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25 Responses to MGWCC #523

  1. Matthew G. says:

    So, achieve of the people is known by their middle name and has a different legal first name. That far I got. And their first initials anagram to TAYLOR, so I sent in Taylor Swift as my answer. But that was marked wrong, so I’ll wait to hear what was right.

    • Dave C says:

      so close! Going in order, the first initials spell TROYAL, which is Garth Brooks’ given first name.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Huh, I could have sworn I googled TROYAL and got no hits, but maybe I typoed when I tried that approach. I did find a rapper named ROYAL T, but not Garth Brooks.

        • That was my initial trouble, too; I typed in “troyal country singer” in Google but it thought I made a mistake and showed me results for “royal country singer” at first. Thankfully, telling it again that I really meant “troyal” turned up Garth Brooks right away.

          (It looks like typing in “troyal” in the Wikipedia search bar redirects you to Garth Brooks, so that could work as well.)

    • sps says:

      No need to anagram the letters…TROYAL is Garth Brooks’ first name.

  2. Stribbs says:

    My favorite red herring was that after Diane Sawyer, the next 60 Minutes female correspondent was Meredith Vieira. I tried to make that extend for a while!

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Jeremy and Joon — 263 right answers this week.

    Unfortunate that TROYAL anagrams to TAYLOR (Swift). But the entries would’ve been in TAYLOR order in that case, and even so it wouldn’t really make sense.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Yeah, no complaints here. I didn’t find the first step of going middle name-to-first name until less than an hour before the submission deadline, so I had a very short window to figure out the next step, and in my haste didn’t give TROYAL sufficient scrutiny. All on me.

  4. tabstop says:

    Sent in a Hail Mary that for once was correct. (I was also with Chip and Jack, and was willing to go so far as Frankie & Johnny, but that doesn’t actually get you any farther.)

  5. Jon says:

    Wonderful meta. Google was my friend this week as looking at their wikipedia entries made me realize that Dale wasn’t Earnhardt’s 1st name. From there I check all the rest of them and was pleasantly surprised at the list of famous people that don’t go by their 1st name. TROYAL is such an unusual first name. But “troyal country” got me Garth Brooks. Taylor Swift doesn’t work since Taylor is her 1st name; her middle name being Alison.

  6. Dan F says:

    Hah! Look at me with the 11:59 Hail Mary guess. I too was dismayed to fail a week 2 based on celebrity trivia. But like the June MMMM, I don’t care about missing a meta that’s 1% aha and 99% Google/Wiki research. (No shade there – kudos to Jeremy, loved the grid!)

  7. Dan Seidman says:

    It probably helped me that I did not know who Francis Fukuyama was, so I went to Wikipedia right away. I noticed there his first name was different, and that reminded me of the puzzle title.

    • dbardolph says:

      Yep, same here. I saw that, and had this vague recollection that DALE was not EARNHARDT’s first name. Confirming that, and seeing Thomas SEAN CONNERY got me all tingly. I’ll admit, TROYAL wasn’t particularly encouraging, but Google was my friend.

  8. Eckless says:

    Kudos also on the grid and clues – there was some very wacky and wonderful stuff making for a fun solve. (The meta was gravy!) Thank you for putting Francis Fukuyama in there – if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have Wikipedia’ed these folks and would have had no idea how to solve. :)

  9. Small Wave Dave says:

    Google made me smarter–I learned that in Troy, AL there’s a used Chevy pickup available for $14976.

    Liked the puzzle. Definite tingle as I discovered the real first names one by one.

  10. old meta says:

    “trivia … (normally a strong point of mine)”
    of course, sean connery was not the first james bond.

    • joon says:

      this seems like a particularly catty way of … something. making a correction? did you want me to say “the first actor to play james bond on film”? i’m not sure what relevance the barry nelson tv adaptation has on the universe of james bond in media. it’s so far removed from the canonical set of eon films that it would be absurd to include it in a meta based on james bond actors.

      more to the point, if that’s the correction you wanted to make, why not just quote my statement that connery was the first bond, instead of the line you actually chose? kinda makes it seem like your goal wasn’t to point out the “correction” so much as it was to insult and embarrass me.

      • It really seems like the poster’s intents were to insult Joon and make themself look good in comparison. They may have accomplished the first goal, but the second…not so much.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        One wonders if “old meta” has won hundreds of thousands of dollars via trivia.

        Wow, the Barry Nelson TV thing is not something I’d heard of. It doesn’t seem super-relevant to much trivia.

      • Stephen McFly says:

        It should come as no surprise that “old meta” anagrams into Aldomet, a medication for high blood pressure.

  11. Mutman says:

    Being befuddled for a couple of days — trying to find a “first”, like Dr No, or “Cheers”, which led me nowhere — I wikied the people. If nothing else, I learn stuff i never knew. It finally dawned on me that there were other first names, and the meta fell. As Evan alluded to, typing in Troyal in wikipaedia brought up Garth Brooks.

    If I am not mistaken, there was a similar meta a while back with the same mechanism — which I did not get at that time. Or, per Malcolm Gladwell’s latest podcast, I may have remembered incorrectly …

    Nice work!

  12. old meta says:

    Wow. I honestly didn’t intend to offend anyone, especially joon, and certainly not Amy. While my reply may have been terse, it was meant only to include the relevant information being referenced. I actually adopted joon’s style of capitalization in that post as a nod of respect.

    There certainly exists a frequency of trolls here, and they are duly chided by this community, but I never expected to be considered one of them. So while the perceived intent is quite more nefarious than the actual intent, the perception dictates the mood. So for that I deeply apologize and assure joon that embarrassment and insult were not motive in this case.

    That said, my intent was that in the canon of Bond, Casino Royale (1967) with a David Niven who portrayed an older, more seasoned character, is considered to be a predecessor to the Bond of Connery. The name and designation 007 were passed on (presumably to the Connery character) to protect the legend (which would also help explain later character idiosyncrasies). Yes, Dr No was the first film, and yes, it starred Connery, but the perception is that he was not the first James Bond. My real peeve is the use of the phrase “of course,” as this implies canon. My clever (sic) use of the phrase in my post was meant to parody that, and I now understand how it could be misinterpreted, or even totally missed. (FWIW, having seen Dr No in the theater first run, he was always the first Bond to me as well.)

    Amy, it is a given that the outcome of any trivial competition involving myself and joon would prove to be fruitless for me, and the embarrassment would be mine, regardless of how lucrative my knowledge has been to me. One proof of that is the overwhelming difficulty I have at solving meta crosswords. Old comes long before meta!

    And while we’re here, I watched with anticipation and glee as joon demonstrated his abilities on Jeopardy. I was with you all the way, and rooted for you to rival some of the shows legends. I assume you are in the all-time top fifteen percent of contestants based on screen time, but I don’t have numbers to prove it. That is freaking awesome.

    I hope I have managed to dull the nerve that I obviously hit with my first post. I probably won’t reply again on this subject.

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