MGWCC #676

crossword 3:19 
meta DNF 3 days 

 



hello and welcome to episode #676 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Man Seeking Woman”. for this week 2 puzzle, the instructions tell us that we are looking for an Oscar-winning actress of the 1970s. okay. what are the theme answers? five long across answers have *ed clues:

  • {*Caribbean capital where Nicki Minaj was born} PORT OF SPAIN. that’s the capital of trinidad & tobago.
  • {*Make your friends laugh} KID AROUND.
  • {*Real creatures named for fictional creatures} ELF OWLS.
  • {*Earth’s second-largest island} NEW GUINEA.
  • {*Get all irate} HUFF AND PUFF.

what do all these have in common? nothing, as far as i can tell. but i rather suspect that there are more theme answers than this, because there are five different down clues that look relevant:

  • {“Grosse Pointe Blank” actor} alan ARKIN.
  • {“Reversal of Fortune” actor} uta HAGEN.
  • {“SNL” original cast actor} chevy CHASE.
  • {“Closer” actor} jude LAW.
  • {“Days of Thunder” actor} cary ELWES.

it’s interesting, given the title of the puzzle, that four of these actors are men and uta HAGEN is a woman. i don’t know what to do with that, though. i was also struck by the parallel construction of these five clues, in which all five first names were omitted, so perhaps we’re supposed to do something with the first names. or perhaps each of these five actors co-starred with the meta answer in a different film? that seems possible, but a) it would require a lot of research to figure that out, and b) i don’t know what the *ed clues would be doing if that’s the mechanism.

ELWES and ELF OWLS share a lot of letters in common—everything but the second E of ELWES is there, in order. but that’s also the only themer that contains two of the three letters of LAW, and none of them have four of the five letters of CHASE.

perhaps we’re supposed to find one actor who fits all five of those extra clues? that would explain why, for example, jude LAW is clued via a movie i’ve never heard of and cary ELWES via a movie i had no idea he was in. anyway, that would be cute, but it looks like there isn’t any actor in all five. i will say that when i think “grosse pointe blank actor”, alan arkin isn’t the first name that occurs to me; of course, that’s john cusack, with minnie driver and joan cusack next. and reversal of fortune is jeremy irons and glenn close. there are a lot of approximately equally famous members of the original SNL cast. i don’t know the film closer, but it appears to star julia roberts, natalie portman, and clive owen in addition to jude law. days of thunder is primarily a tom cruise vehicle (see what i did there), with nicole kidman and robert duvall also starring.

oh hey, this is something—i believe all four of those films have an oscar-nominated actress in them, though not for that film: both joan cusack and minnie driver in grosse pointe blank, close in reversal of fortune, roberts and portman in closer, and kidman in days of thunder. oh hey, KIDman and PORTman, that seems relevant! in fact, that must be what is going on, given the title, so … it doesn’t have anything to do with joan cusack or minnie driver, or for that matter the aptly named glenn close, who has been nominated for eight oscars but never won.

jenna ELFman is also in grosse point blank (i did not remember that). laraine NEWman was in the original SNL cast, and felicity HUFFman was in reversal of fortune. so that explains the across theme answers. now let’s see if we can put this all together:

  • PORT OF SPAIN -> natalie PORTman -> closer -> jude LAW
  • KID AROUND -> nicole KIDman -> days of thunder -> cary ELWES
  • ELF OWLS -> jenna ELFman -> grosse pointe blank -> alan ARKIN
  • NEW GUINEA -> laraine NEWman -> SNL -> chevy CHASE.
  • HUFF AND PUFF -> felicity HUFFman -> reversal of fortune -> uta HAGEN.

the surnames at the ends of these chains acrostic to LEACH, indicating the celebrated actress CLORIS LEACHMAN. i know her better for her small-screen career (a record-sharing 8 wins from a record 22 nominations for primetime emmy acting awards), but she won the oscar for best supporting actress for the last picture show (1971).

whew, that was a workout. it was all there and gettable, but it felt a lot harder than a week 2 for me, both because there were many steps, and because the key step was not really accessible to me without a large amount of research. i thought i knew who the relevant cast members were in (e.g.) grosse pointe blank and reversal of fortune, but i didn’t. only nicole KIDman in days of thunder was in my knowledge banks at the start of the weekend, and maybe that should have been enough to trigger the “aha” for me, but it wasn’t. the title really didn’t help me until after i’d had the aha, since it put me on the track of actors who co-starred with relevant actresses.

but hey, at least i got there, and it’s actually a really cool meta—just more complicated than anything i was looking for in a week 2. hope you enjoyed it as much as i did!

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31 Responses to MGWCC #676

  1. Wayne says:

    Liked it. But the prompt gave away a lot of the game. With Step 1 plus a little research, there is the only solid choice, and it turns out to be the correct answer. If the prompt had omitted “of the 1970s”, it would have been a more satisfying week 2, because the Step 2 would have been more necessary. Drop the “Oscar-winning” and also drop the stars from the thematic clues, and it would be a fair week 3.

    The puzzle did lead to some enjoyable googling. I had no idea that Ms. Leachman won so many Emmys. Also, it’s definitely time to rewatch Grosse Point Blank. I had completely forgotten that Alan Arkin is in that movie.

  2. Wayne says:

    My solve was a mess. I proudly and confidently entered SAGO for 45d, cross-pollinating my crosswordese plants. (Sago is the palm.) Then I stupidly hung ANDYS off of that errant A in 48a. (As in the friends of Raggedy Ann dolls.) Took forever to climb out of that hole.
    🙄

  3. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I decided early that the actor names in the grid don’t spell anything, and when I noticed that the starred clues identified women named somethingMAN, I thought that was going to be it. Nope, both Cloris Leachman and Ingrid Bergman won Oscars in the 70s. Took me ages to find either LEACH or BERG somewhere in the puzzle, since I’d already rejected the place it was.

  4. Adam Rosenfield says:

    I hadn’t heard of Cloris Leachman before last week (that’s on me, she’s clearly more than notable enough), then all of a sudden she shows up in two different puzzles in two days: she was also featured as an entry in last week’s Out of Left Field cryptic.

    • Tony says:

      If you haven’t seen them yet, I recommend you watch Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety and Young Frankenstein. She’s in both. If you have seen them, she portrays Nurse Diesel (Nurse Ratched spoof) and Frau Blucher respectively.

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 373 correct entries this week, so indeed more like a Week 3.

  6. Elizabeth W says:

    First puzzle for me. No way was I getting the meta- I was too literal with “man”. Sigh. But lots of fun trying and I knocked out the puzzle with no trouble. Just need to wrap my head around how the meta portion works.

  7. Seth C says:

    Phew, coin flip came up correct. Completely missed the step with the corresponding movies/actors. Had to go with Frau Blücher *neigh*

    • pannonica says:

      Before I saw the actual mechanics of the second part, the choice between LEACHman (5) and BERGman (4) was determined by recognizing that there were 5 starred theme entries.

  8. tabstop says:

    Definitely started with the -man names; Laraine Newman was the only one I could place to a clue just from my own head, but was fairly certain that was going to be it regardless. I think I checked one, then went to anagram mode.

    My iPad still doesn’t want me to type Cloris, and changed my submission to Clovis before I noticed.

  9. Susie says:

    I was thrown off early by the AGE & TEN that were adjacent to each other.my mind kept going to Tatum O’Neal, but could find no other clues pointing me there (words intended to deceive?). I solved, but had some help getting me back on track. As a child of the 60s and 70s, I loved Cloris Leachman.

  10. andreaborn says:

    Did anyone else notice that Bergman’s first name is “IN GRID”?

    I got through the steps (not quickly…) up to the choice between Bergman and Leachman. Couldn’t find anything to break the tie, saw “IN GRID,” looked in vain for something to definitively click it into place, but finally just submitted it. Soooo close.

  11. spotter says:

    Once I finally got a start, I spent too long trying to do something with the Actresses names.

  12. David G says:

    Man, I was sure that the 5 down actors played into this somehow and even anagrammed them into LEACH, but didn’t even try to submit an answer because I couldn’t grasp the mechanism that connected them to the * theme answers… Definitely a solid Meta, but more like a week 3 or even 4!

  13. Eric says:

    another cute feature is that LEACH was Cary Grant’s birth name. ;-)

  14. Steve Thurman says:

    Never, never, never. Not in a million years. I felt like such a failure all weekend for not getting a Week 2. Truth is, this was a Week 5 for me. I never even found a rabbit hole…

    • Mutman says:

      I’m with you Steve. Been doing these for years. Rarely do I get shut out on week 2. Usually it’s a one-off of the themers, but in this case, the themers were no help unless you spotted the 5 ‘actor’ clues first.

      “Swing and a miss, he struck ‘eem out!”

    • Jim S says:

      Ditto, though a found a few rabbit burrows… HUFF AND PUFF brought to mind the wolf from The Three Little Pigs, GUINEA pigs are a thing, and “wolf” is in ELF OWLS. HUFF AND PUFF also brought to mind Hufflepuff from Harry Potter – lots of elves and owls there, and Maggie Smith was the head of Gryffindor and won an Oscar in the 70s… but couldn’t tie the other theme answers in. Even got a hint from the Muggles site and couldn’t parlay it into anything. Felt like a week 4 to me.

  15. Joel H says:

    Went down a rabbit hole by seeing BAT and ESS in the corners (Batman and Susie Essman) and trying to finish B-E-R-G(man). Noticing the five themers was much easier.

  16. Joe says:

    I got it, but completely missed the L-E-A-C-H actors connection! I identified pretty quickly that the themers were female actor names with the MAN removed, or LEACHed, away from them. Solid lock for me, without even seeing how freaking elegant the puzzle actually was.

  17. TRidgway says:

    Joon, didn’t you have LEACHMAN in the top row of a recent Rows Garden? She was in the news at the end of January (RIP) – I’m guessing you and Matt both took inspiration at that time.

    • joon says:

      nope—perhaps you were thinking of the recent left field cryptic mentioned by adam upthread. LEACHMAN is only 8 letters, so couldn’t have been in row A of a rows garden at any rate.

  18. Seth Cohen says:

    Like some others said, I saw the “man” thing, googled 70s Oscar winners, saw Leachman and Bergman, and assumed it was Leachman and each themer would give a letter in LEACH. But it took a while to confirm that, since I didn’t know any of the movies in the grid so had to do a lot of googling.

  19. Tom says:

    Gosh, I feel absolutely on cloud nine, obviously my naivety helped me solve this one rather easily, albeit not by the intended mechanism. I quickly saw the PORT MAN, ELF MAN, etc. and then hit the wall because of course it gave nothing but the mechanism. Then I happened to notice the 5 “actors” (all actresses are actors even if all actors are not actresses) and thought “gotcha” but when nothing came of that I sat back, looked at the first letters (I mean why not 95% of the time we do) and saw that it could anagram to LEACH. I tacked on MAN and came up with Frau Blücher. I WISH I had been clever enough to go with the Actress – Movie – Actor elegance, but once I saw LEACH I needed no more. Indeed the fact that it was narrowed down to 2 actresses made it much easier.

  20. EP says:

    Completely agree that this was much tougher than expected for a week 2. It’s not unusual to need some heavy google research to solve a meta, but I suspect that most solvers rarely need to do so for the grid. I wonder how many were able to get THIS grid with out it…I suspect precious few.

    • BarbaraK says:

      For me, needing to google the grid was a big help in solving the meta. Since I remember well and was absolutely sure about the SNL clue, I did not think to google that one, and if they’d all been like that, I’m not sure when/if I’d have found the actress connection. But the other four, I had no idea about and no confidence that I was right even after filling in names from crossings, and when I googled the movie casts and saw Elfman there, shortly after entering that odd elf owl, it jumped right out.

      I wonder why Matt included the 70s award winner hint. Seems like quite a few people just noticed the actress names but not the actor connections and narrowed it down to two and guessed. With a more generic “name of an actress” or even “8 letter name” they’d have had to actually find all of it.

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