Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Secret Ingredients”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up
This week we’re on the hunt for a three-letter word contained within one of the puzzle’s answers. Lots of three-letter words out there, but the title implies that it’s likely something that can be eaten (or *spoiler alert* drunk), so that helps limit the possibilities. Let’s look at the theme answers and see if we can narrow down our choices:
- 17a. [Union representative], SHOP STEWARD – not a phrase I’m that familiar with; I also first thought STEW was the “secret ingredient” in this one
- 26a. [U.S. region from 1838 to 1846], IOWA TERRITORY – a bit of U.S. history here
- 42a. [Horse whisperer, e.g.], ANIMAL TRAINER
- 55a. [Words on some pastel cards], HAPPY EASTER
Looking for “secret ingredients” in each of these, led me to HOPS, WATER, MALT and YEAST, the ingredients used to brew beer. However, since “beer” isn’t three letters, I first wondered if there was a missing three-letter ingredient, but these are the only four traditional ingredients used. (MALT is short-hand for a malted grain, like barley or wheat.)
I then thought ALE is a type of beer and also a pretty easy word to hide inside a longer word. Following the ingredient “stairs” down the grid, I found WHALE (clued as [Big bettor at the casino]), which indeed includes these three letters in a row. I made sure I couldn’t find another ALE in the grid (if it were the correct answer, it should only appear once), and that was the only one, so I had my meta solution.It’s a nice touch that these ingredients stair-step down the grid, each one further into its theme entry than the one before. And I always enjoy seeing that these words span the two words of each phrase.
I found the grid itself quite gnarly in places; in particular, the GATEMAN / WASHATERIA crossing at that T, as I had an M at first, having never heard either word. Two presidents, OBAMA and REAGAN grace our grid, it’s unlikely TRUMP will have as much crossword play as OBAMA due to his lack of friendly crossing vowels (whatever your political persuasion is). I also felt this one was quite heavy on proper names–ISAAC, MAE, KIERAN and the maybe-its-a-theme-entry? SAM RAYBURN in the upper northeast was a rough area for me to get out of safely. I’m not sure I follow how TV SPOTS (which I’m assuming are ads) are [Targets of zapping]? I think of zapping as doing something with your remote control, perhaps if you have a DVR, you are skipping over the ads somehow? Finally, how many joined me with SOAPS for [Shower collection] before the AHA moment when GIFTS fell?
Off for an early Thanksgiving meal with family, see you next week.