Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Mixed Drinks”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upWell, let’s see how this thing works…oh yeah, welcome to another week at the Wall Street Journal contest puzzle and many thanks to my compadre, Jim Peredo, for his expert commentary while I was away. This week we’re in search of a mixed drink. And our title also refers to mixed drinks, so let’s belly up to the bar and pop the cork on this one, shall we?
Yet again (despite me generally finding them unnecessary), our four theme entries are highlighted with asterisks:
- 16a. [*Superior group], GREAT LAKES – that’s Superior as in Lake Superior
- 33a. [*Unscrupulous rogue], REPROBATE
- 38a. [*Bugsy Siegel was one of its founders], MURDER, INC. – Bugsy I’ve heard of, but not this term given to the crime syndicates operating in the ’30s and ’40s
- 53a. [*All things considered], BY AND LARGE – I read here that this phrase comes to us from sailing lingo
I suppose it’s helpful to know that the 2 10-letter downs, the somewhat odd ABLE SEAMAN (related to the origin of BY AND LARGE?) and AGGRAVATED are not related to the meta solution, so maybe my reservation on asterisks can be a bit moderated this week.
While solving, I found a few other clues (not with asterisks) that seemed a bit off, like cluing RUM as [Peculiar, to Brits] and LAGER as [Storehouse, in Stuttgart]. Why not clue them more simply as a type of drink? And then I thought, I wonder if there are other drinks in the fill and sure enough we have PORT, SAKE (clued trickily not as a drink), BEER, ALE, BRANDY (clued as the singer), CIDER along with RUM and LAGER. It can’t be a coincidence there are so many drinks in the fill and that some are clued in a way to make them less obvious.
Looking back at the four theme entries, I noticed LARGE is an anagram of LAGER, but no other word in the theme entries worked like this, except perhaps for the LAKES / SAKE connection with that extra L thrown in. But since we have 8 drinks in the fill and four theme entries, I tried to pair them up and found (to my great delight) the following:
- GREAT LAKES = SAKE + LAGER leaving T
- REPROBATE – BEER + PORT leaving A
- MURDER, INC. – RUM + CIDER leaving N
- BY AND LARGE – ALE + BRANDY leaving G
Tang is indeed a mixed drink and I remember it as advertised as “what the astronauts drink” on the Apollo missions. (I found it rather disgusting when I tried it though, so I assumed i was ill-suited for space flight.) I thought that the discovery of these theme entries with the extra letters reading down in order was a master stroke, and rather awe-inspiring. That, plus the addition of eight extra entries related to the theme packed in the 15×15 grid means some pretty high theme density as well. I do wonder if these other drinks weren’t in the grid, how many solvers would have discovered them in the theme entries anyway.
I’ll leave with my favorite clue in the puzzle, [Subjects of savings accounts?] for RESCUERS, as we’re talking about tales (from the sea?) not banks here. Arrivederci!