November 10, 2009


crossword 4:57
puzzle -2:00 minutes (approximately)

hola. hell month is over at matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, and this week's easy-breezy puzzle, "Ain't No Way," is proof. the straightforward theme involves people whose first name is almost a state (or two):

  • [She was personal couturier to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] is somebody named CAROLINA HERRERA. except that crosswords have led me to believe it was OLEG cassini, no?
  • ["Mrs. Dalloway" author] is VIRINIA WOOLF. you shouldn't be afraid of her. her books are excellent.
  • ["The Secret Life of Bees" actress, 2008] is DAKOTA FANNING. for somebody with a long and not unusually vowel-heavy name, she shows up a lot in crosswords. there's no other explanation for why i know who this is, since i certainly haven't seen any of her movies.
  • pulling everything together (and spelling it out in impossible-to-miss detail) is the last theme clue: [Be without "stated" aim in life -- like the three people in this puzzle's theme entries] is HAVE NO DIRECTION.

so north/south CAROLINA, west VIRGINIA, and south/north DAKOTA ... see? (yes, of course you see. why am i belaboring the point?) speaking of points, the instructions this week tell us that There are three points you need for this week's MGWCC. This week's contest answer is the fourth point, the one you don't need. that would be east, although east carolina is ... okay, no, it's not a state.

the fill contained some good, some bad, some ugly, and some unfamiliar:

  • under the "good" heading would fall KOREAN, the [Cuisine with the beef dish called "bulgogi"]. mmm. mmm! my son's birthday was yesterday, and we had some bulgogi at the party. there was a bit left over, so we had bulgogi again tonight for dinner. did i mention mmm? because yeah, mmm.
  • also under "good": DILI, [East Timor's capital]. last week, for no really good reason, i decided to learn all the countries and capitals of the world by doing those infernal sporcle geography quizzes. i did eventually learn all 195, so this was a nice gimme for me at 1a, even though sporcle prefers to call this country timor l'este. anyway, i had to learn all the countries and capitals back in 10th grade, but east timor wasn't a country then, so this one was new to me as of a few weeks ago.
  • file this under "bad": IS IT A ["boy or girl?"] is a fairly awkward partial, made more awkward by the presence of IT'S ME and I LIKE IT elsewhere in the grid.
  • definitely "ugly": [Get an ___ (fail)] F ON is the worst partial i've seen since "LA, A note to follow so(l)." i guess we can be glad that the answer wasn't AN F ON.
  • either "bad" or "ugly": crosswordese OPA, the [German grandpa]. OMA is the grandma equivalent.
  • the "unfamiliar" category includes california gubernatorial candidate MEG whitman, "the GONG show" (?) and four people named COHN i've never heard of (al, roy, mindy, or marc).
  • gratuitous chess clue of the week (which is really its own category, i guess): the [Annual chess tournament won in 1957 by 14-year-old Bobby Fischer] is the US OPEN. and yes, that's as absurd as it sounds. more absurd than tyler hinman winning the ACPT at age 20.

that's all from me this week. peace out.