Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Driving You Crazy”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upThis week we’re looking for an automotive no-no. Texting while driving came to mind at first, let’s see if that’s the direction the theme entries point us.
There are four obvious theme entries, with a possible fifth in the center:
- 17a. [Boxer’s target], SOLAR PLEXUS – when I saw this entry and knew we were thinking about cars, it brought to mind a Sunday-sized puzzle I created many years ago called “Rear Wheels” that ran in the Tribune family of newspapers.
- 61a. [Rocketry substances], PROPELLANTS – here, I abandoned the idea that car makes finished each theme entry and went instead to a rhyming scheme. The only thing I could come up with here was BENZ, which isn’t a very close rhyme
- 11d. [Has room for in the budget], CAN AFFORD – this satisfied both trains of thought I had: it ends in a car make (FORD) and rhymes with a car model (ACCORD)
- 34d. [Electronic “Jeopardy!” champion of 2011], IBM WATSON – this one really threw me as I was sure the meta relied on the rhyme between Watson and Datsun
I then looked at that middle entry, ALBANIA, and even that could be considered to rhyme with KIA, so I was quite sure rhymes were the order of the day. Even so, I was left with trying to piece together the first letters of the car makes (or model in one case, which was disturbing too), getting an LB(F or A)KD, which got me nowhere fast.
I put the puzzle down and came back to it the next morning and thought I needed more letters and that there might be other rhyming (shorter) entries in the puzzle. Finding SAUDI and SHONDA, I knew I was onto something. Indeed, rhymes weren’t involved at all, but car makes are embedded in longer entries, and not only that, they abut one another as highlighted in the attached grid. For a time I also considered DASHER (clued in the reindeer sense) part of the theme set (I actually owned a VW Dasher back in college), but its symmetric entry, STEERED was only obliquely related to car makes.
Now that I had my four pairs of car makes, I wondered what “automotive no-no” they may represent. “Parallel parking” was my first thought, but unless you’re as bad at it as I am, it’s not generally considered something to be avoided (or would drive someone “crazy” as in the title). I then hit upon “Passing on the right,” which is indeed something that does bother other drivers and perhaps in each pair, one can envision one car passing on the right of the other. (Now, to be fair, the one on the left could also be seen as quite reasonably passing on the left.)
I had no other idea, so I went with the passing idea, but felt a bit unsure of it. It seems justifiable, but perhaps not the best (or intended) meta solution. Perhaps in the comments someone will share something more definitive.
I’ll close with being quite familiar with 40d. [Dr. Seuss’s real name], Theodore GEISEL, as nearby Dartmouth College has named their medical school after him.