Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Begin at the End”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upGreetings once again to our weekly recap of the Wall Street Journal’s contest puzzle. Since we’re in a week that contains an “R” (insert appropriate emoticon here), we have “Mr. Meta,” Matt Gaffney with whom to battle wits. Today, he asks us for a famous novel, so let’s take a look at the theme entries, shall we?
- 17a. [Preliminarily, redundantly], FIRST OF ALL – I guess the “of all” is unnecessary
- 24a. [Satisfies], MAKES HAPPY – seems as good as place as any to link to this video
- 38a. [Traditional arrangements], NUCLEAR FAMILIES – or, as W would call them, nucular
- 48a. [Johnny Mathis hit of 1957], CHANCES ARE – I remember his coming out in 1982 was a big deal at the time, glad it’s not so remarkable these days
- 60a. [Great minds may do it], THINK ALIKE – I thought the idiom implied this is a given, not a possibility
Again, we have a meta that hinges largely on interpreting the title correctly. “Begin at the End” sent me looking to the end of each of these entries and first thinking that they could each “begin” another phrase. After that unproductive start, I thought they could read as a phrase from top to bottom, leading us to:
All happy families are alike
Indeed, author Leo Tolstoy used just this phrase to “begin” his novel, Anna Karenina, which is a very famous novel and our meta answer. Frankly, I didn’t recognize the phrase and had to Google it; I’ve only read his War and Peace, and even that I have yet to completely finish, having about 200 pages to go (the Epilogue part; somehow I think it’s my life’s work to finish it so I’m in no hurry). In terms of famous first lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from Dickens is the one that comes first to mind, which sort of parallels the opening to Anna K. in that the line continues:
each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Start with the good news and follow up with the bad, I guess. Other points of interest in this one:
- TORSI or “torsos” for [Trunks]? I would use the latter.
- Speaking of the BUSH family, we have brother Jeb referenced in the clue [Carson rival] (admit it, you were thinking TV first, weren’t you?)
- Rather tough entries for me were ILEX, LLPS, and ICEMEN, wondering for the last of these when ice was last delivered to someone’s home (revivals of Eugene O’Neill’s play notwithstanding)? Wouldn’t hockey players (or even curlers?) make for a more contemporary entry?
- [Buzz in the sky] had me thinking of bees, but instead, it’s astronaut Buzz ALDRIN