Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Music Tour”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up
Today, on our Magical Mystery Tour, we are asked for a five-word song title. This one is a bit more difficult than recent contest puzzles in that there are no obvious theme entries, as no entry is longer than 8 letters, and those that are 8 don’t seem to have anything in common. Our only hints toward the meta solution are found in parenthetical comments after two clues:
- 17a. [Pass (from here…)], TICKET, and
- 57d. [Journey (…to here)], RIDE
Ignoring the parentheses for now, the entries themselves point to The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” off their “Help!” album.
But before we jump to premature conclusions, we should look at what the comments in the parentheses may imply, namely a journey from one point in the grid to another. (And also don’t forget that we are told the sought after song title is five words long.)
It didn’t take me long to see the beginning of a title reading Boggle-style beginning with the last T of TICKET and ending with the D of RIDE, “The Long and Winding Road,” another Beatles song from their later album “Let it Be”:
And sure enough, following that trail of the song title was indeed a long and winding road. But as sure as I am about this solution, I am a bit troubled that so much of the rest of the puzzle is unconstrained. It’s a rare meta puzzle that has such large swaths of fill unencumbered by theme entries. Unless I’m missing something, the entire northeast and southwest, indeed almost all of the west, offer no hints toward the meta solution. I started to try to find other Boggle-style titles hidden in the west, but came up short. Are there Easter eggs to be found?
Perhaps the benefit of all that free space in the hands of one of our most able constructors alive today are the Scrabbly entries POP QUIZ, CZARS and QUILT all in the west. I’m less impressed with the northeast with the obscure (to me, at least) [Groundbreaking invention?] for MATTOCK (I kept trying to figure out if there was a “Matlock” episode that might fit the clue)
as well as the unusual entry CHIN-DEEP for [Like the middle of the pool, maybe].
Clues I particularly enjoyed were [Junk in the box] for SPAM, [CBS show that had 337 episodes] for CSI (is that number somehow important and now final?) and [Your business is their business] for YENTAS. [Pepper on a platter, abbr.] for SGT was a nice additional nod to the Beatles meta solution.
Fun A-HA moment in this beauty from Patrick Berry. But you’re right, it is strange that the entire West and SW are theme-free. Seems like RARA AVIS could have been avoided, but everything else there is absolutely solid.
I didn’t know what a MATTOCK is either and wanted MATLOCK. LING is maybe just a hair worse than TING, but MATLOCK is way better than MATTOCK (IMO).
It’s unusual but I think perfectly OK for the SW to be devoid of theme. Artist doesn’t have to use the whole canvas if it’s not needed!
PS — I call 1-star abuse on whoever did that
Well, you can take my Beatles fan club card away now. I focused on the meaning of TICKET and RIDE and all I could come up with (using only my brain’s content) was “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Although I wasn’t sure enough to send it in. Well, I did Google to verify that there was not a 5 letter title for Ticket to Ride that no one uses.
Nice enough themeless puzzle, tough meta. But the others for the Friday WSJ have been soooooooooooooooo easy. I would rather have a tough one and miss.