Marie Kelly’s (Really Mike) Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Odd Man Out”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upThis week we’re in search of the seven-letter last name of the missing member of a set. Lots of information there, so hopefully this meta will reveal its secrets without too much difficulty. Let us see!
Looks like five theme entries in this one, all clued with a question mark, indicating a made-up phrase:
- 16a. [Indy action?], CAR RACING – this seems like a valid phrase to me
- 19a. [Serenading, but at dawn instead of at night?], CROONING EARLY – this one is definitely wacky; it made me think the base phrase was the similar CROWNING GLORY
- 36a. [Result of anticlimatic negotiations?], DEAL LETDOWN – here I thought the base phrase was (a) REAL LETDOWN
- 54a. [Indication of a mole problem?], BURROWS IN LAWN – this phrase (as is) actually Googles well, but, here, my initial thought was to drop the N of LAWN and change BURROWS to BROTHERS to get BROTHERS-IN-LAW. I wasn’t seeing a pattern in these potential transformations.
- 61a. [Bossy, perhaps?], MOO SOURCE – back to something pretty wacky
So I struggled with trying to find some pattern among these entries and how they represented five of a six-member set, where the missing entry was a person’s (likely male, given the title) last name. The way I began to crack this one open was to focus on the title; in what way would the missing man be “odd” if he is the sixth of a six-member set? I’m not much of an expert in cryptic crosswords (read “not much of” as “not at all,” really), but looking for “odd” as a cryptic signal here helped me to consider looking at the odd-numbered letters in these five phrases. Thus:
- CAR RACING becomes CRAIG
- CROONING EARLY becomes CONNERY
- DEAL LETDOWN becomes DALTON
- BURROWS IN LAWN becomes BROSNAN, and
- MOO SOURCE becomes MOORE
The rest of this is pretty trivial–who is the sixth man to play Bond? Actually, there seem to be two candidates, David Niven, and, happily, one with a seven-letter last name, George Lazenby. (Or even an eighth, if you believe this page.) So, unless I’m missing a sixth theme entry, I’m bothered that Lazenby doesn’t complete the set. Readers, please clue me in! Also, unless I had discovered the page on how to solve cryptic clues, I think I’d still be struggling with this one. I wonder how familiar your quotidian WSJ solver is with cryptics, as I see them more as a British fixture than American. YMMVW.
As for the rest of the puzzle, as you can see, I had 3 mistakes–for some reason I read [His pa was Andy] as “pal” instead of “pa,” and came up with OTIS instead of OPIE. (Check your crossings!) Also, the answer for [“A lie that makes us realize truth,” per Picasso] of ART makes a lot more sense than my initial ACT. I’m off to have a martini, shaken, not stirred, of course!