MGWCC #570

crossword 2:57  
meta -2 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #570 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Funny Guy”. as usual for a week 1 puzzle, i tackled this one without using the instructions. what have we got for theme answers?

  • {1973 David Bowie album with “The Jean Genie” (1992)} ALADDIN SANE.
  • {Being yanked offstage (1991)} GETTING THE HOOK.
  • {Reality checks (1990)} RUDE AWAKENINGS.
  • {Role that Gene Hackman won Best Actor for in “The French Connection” (1980)} POPEYE DOYLE.

i was pretty sure i had this one from the title and the first two theme answers, as robin williams was a funny guy who starred in both aladdin (1992) and hook (1991). the other two actually didn’t help me at all, as i was unfamiliar with both awakenings (1990) and the popeye movie musical (1980), but a post-solve google confirmed that they also starred robin williams. so there you have it.

this is a simple meta, certainly straightforward enough to be a week 1, but i wonder if there aren’t a lot of people who really wouldn’t be able to do it without google. that feels less satisfying, i think. certainly the ALADDIN in the first theme answer plus the parenthetical 1992 suggests robin williams; while there are other actors from that film, probably only gilbert gottfried (who voiced iago) qualifies as a “funny guy”, and he is considerably less famous than williams. can you name either the actor who voiced aladdin’s speaking role or the one who provided his singing voice? if so, you might be a hard-core disneyphile, because i certainly couldn’t. i know lea salonga provided jasmine’s singing voice; i couldn’t have told you who did her speaking voice.

anyway, while aladdin is certainly very famous, and hook is a well-known movie that famously starred robin williams also, i am less sanguine about the other two. i think i’d heard of awakenings, but didn’t know anything about it (including who was in it), and i had really no idea about the 1980 popeye (apparently williams’s first starring role). from the point of view of the meta, i guess it makes sense to stick to one-word movie titles (you can’t really disguise GOOD MORNING VIETNAM or DEAD POETS SOCIETY or MRS. DOUBTFIRE in a theme answer!), but then your options are basically just these four movies. i guess JUMANJI is another one-word title, but it’s not part of any longer theme answer. so while the meta is basically fine, it was not really sparkling from my point of view.

in the fill, {“Just tell me the answer!”} I GOT NOTHIN’ was terrific; many an elusive meta has resulted in me saying that either out loud or on this blog. i also found {Make crude personal attacks against someone} GO LOW to be fresh and intriguing.
{Response to hearing a nice turn of phrase} WELL PUT, if you will.

that’s all i’ve got this week. how’d you like it?

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17 Responses to MGWCC #570

  1. Matthew G. says:

    I think AWAKENINGS is a solid choice. It was nominated for Best Picture, and also for Best Actor (Robert De Niro, as one of the patients whom Robin Williams’s character “awakens”) and Best Screenplay. I remember being very moved by it, and particularly struck by the not-very-Hollywood ending (which I won’t spoil here).

    POPEYE is not a great movie, but is notable for use in a meta about Williams because it was Williams’s first major film role; before that, he’d been mainly a TV guy and a stand-up comedian.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 645 right answers and no wrong answers! That’s the goal on Week 1/5.

    I worked in video stores from 1990 to 1992 so maybe I think those Robin Williams movies are more iconic than they are. I remember when “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” came out we had the trailer on loop in the store so in an 8-hour shift you heard that Bryan Adams song maybe 100 times. It was almost a form of torture.

    • john says:

      Popeye was a huge deal at the time. Altman was still considered a genius at that point (before falling from grace and then re-ascending) and to move from his usual personal dramas or off-beat comedies to pure cartoon-ville was a real news-maker. Plenty of early stills of Williams as Popeye and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl looking so good in their personas helped word of mouth too. That it was a bust, and deservedly so, recalls the recent disappointment of the Burton-helmed Dumbo. Can’t win em all.

  3. sharkicicles says:

    I also got this one halfway through the solve from the first two themers. Great week 1 from Matt.

  4. Dave says:

    Was anyone else confused by 13 down? Who’s Andy Sandler?

    • Matthew G. says:

      I took this to be a mistake, and was somewhat surprised that Matt didn’t circulate a correction. I know of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg, but to my knowledge there is no crossworthy person by the name of Andy Sandler. The most famous person named Andy Sandler appears to be a corporate lawyer, and I’m pretty sure that’s not who Matt meant.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Oh yeah, this was just a mistake. I meant to send a correction out but then forgot. I should have.

        • This threw me for a bit, especially since Adam Sandler has been in the news for hosting SNL this past weekend for the first time since he was fired from the show in 1995. That and my first name is Adam, too :).

  5. Golem says:

    The Popeye movie is also notably the source for the song in this 2019 FedEx commercial:

    • Wayne says:

      Neat. I always kinda liked that movie. (I can’t disagree with Matthew G’s assertion. But what it lacks in Good, it makes up for in Quirky.) Olive Oyl was the character that Shelley Duvall was born to play. Or maybe EC Segar created the character so that someday Shelley Duvall could play her. Not sure which.

    • CC says:

      The Popeye movie is deeply, deeply strange. I watched it during the salad days of the early 80s, when my parents had HBO/Showtime/Cinemax, and they recorded it onto VHS. I just remember how odd the whole thing seemed, but it was its weirdness that kept me coming back. (It’s not a great movie, I should note.)

      It did have early cameos by NYPD Blue’s Dennis Franz and actor/clown/all-around awesome guy Bill Irwin!

  6. Marcus says:

    Based solely on the title, when I started I was looking for Joe Pesci references.

  7. Myelbow says:

    I’m with Matthew G.–I think AWAKENINGS and POPEYE are both perfectly well-known movies, and legitimate Week 1 meta indicators. Thanks for the fun puzzle!

  8. MichaelJ says:

    I got as far as Aladdin and “Funny Man” and knew who it had to be, but it also didn’t hurt that while doing the grid my wife and I were coincidentally watching the HBO documentary of Robin Williams.

  9. Greg Maczek says:

    It’s very concerning when you fail on a Week 1 meta, which I did here. I got hung up on the upper left hand corner entries, which suggested ‘Cosmo’ Kramer and ‘Oscar’ Madison, 2 very funny characters played by 2 very funny guys. I (obviously) don’t see many movies, so Robin Williams appearing in these didn’t register.

  10. Jon says:

    Awakening is a good movie and should be on your list for movies to see. Also, since Robins portrays real person Oliver Sacks, a super smart person that other smart people should know, it seems like this movie should be in the wheelhouse of crossword solvers.

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