Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Tender Offer”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up
This week we’re in search of a four-letter word, but hopefully this time around it’s a clean one! There are four obvious theme entries (which should clue regular meta solvers to the strong possibility that each contributes one letter to the final solution):
- 17a. [Historic site that was the starting point of a noted 1775 ride], PAUL REVERE HOUSE – very close to our erstwhile condo on Salem St. in Boston, MA
- 28a. [It was originally cast by the London firm of Lester and Pack], LIBERTY BELL – “cast” in the sense of pouring liquid metal into a mold instead of choosing actors for a show, the bell is in Philadelphia, PA
- 43a. [630-foot-tall stainless steel catenary], GATEWAY ARCH – “catenary” means to be supported by its own weight, I just watched an interesting show on the arch’s arch-itect and no stranger to crosswords, Eero Saarinen. The arch is in Saint Louis, MO
- 57a. [Jefferson modeled it after the Maison Carree in Nimes], VIRGINIA CAPITOL – the Maison Carrée is a well-preserved Roman temple façade in the south of France. Jefferson made a stucco model of the temple while minister to France in 1785. (Hope it wasn’t to scale.) The capitol is in Richmond, VA
Notably, there were no locations mentioned in the theme clues. There is also this (probable, given the title) additional theme material:
- 1a. [Tender], CASH
- 23d. / 36a. [Source of some notes], FEDERAL RESERVE
- 65a. [Bills that may prove helpful in solving the contest], ONES
So I took a look at a one-dollar bill from my wallet, wondering if these four images were on it. All I could recall was that creepy eye over the pyramid. (The new $100 bill features a trippy color-changing liberty bell.) But on the one, no. I then thought about Federal Reserve banks, and knowing that there is one in Boston by where I used to work, figured it was a good bet there was a branch in the other three cities.Indeed, according to this page, there are 12 branches that print one-dollar bills. And each one has a unique letter that is the prefix of the serial numbers of bills printed at that bank. Taking these four cities in order, I found A-C-H-E, which is a four-letter word, but very unsatisfying as an answer to this meta, unless I guess you think of an ache being “tender” to the touch?
I wonder too about the serial numbers found on other denominations and are ones special in this association? (Sorry, I’m too lazy to go check that one out.) Anyway, I submitted ache and kept my fingers crossed. The grid itself was pretty tough (I don’t as often find myself on Really Mike’s wavelength as much as I do Matt’s), Shirley EATON of Goldfinger, Hall-of-Famer Orlando CEPEDA and the BARONE family of “Everybody Loves Raymond” were particular trouble spots for me. On the other side of the ledger, [It’s for those with a score to settle] for OVERTIME was a brilliant stroke.
I thought this was an amazing meta. To get FEDERAL and RESERVE to cross and then to get FEDERAL to cross two other themers was very impressive. Then to find four historical landmarks in the needed cities, to have them fit symmetrically, and in the right order to spell a word is amazing in and of itself. Then to have that word related to the title? Wow! At first, like you Dave, when I got ACHE, I thought, “Too bad it didn’t relate.” But it does. A sore or bruise might be tender and ACHE. Maybe a better title would be “Tender Quality.”
And the trick of using the banks’ unique letters for spelling out a word? Genius. (I looked at other bills and didn’t see the same letter coding.)
There were so many layers to this meta and it was fun unravelling it bit by bit.
Jim, you captured my thoughts pretty much dead on. I thought this was a great puzzle.
“Don’t copy this page and then cut out the bill, that would be forgery.”
I really enjoyed this meta.
Almost always, I find the grid harder than the MGWCC, but the meta itself easier than a week 3 -5.
I answered BANK. I thought it was kind of lame, but there was no way to know it WASN”T BANK. If the 23D/36A clue had read [Source of some BANK notes], then I would have known to keep looking.
I was going to go with BANK, but the clue for ONES stopped me. It hinted that there was something unique about $1 bills. Without that clue, BANK is a fine answer. But those two pieces of information should point you to the unique bank letters on $1 bills.
If your first association with the Virginia Capitol is that it shares the city with a Federal Reserve bank and that this bank issues ones with the latter H, more power to you. To me, this one was a matter of very personal associations and utter obscurity. No way I’d have gotten the answer in a million years.
Hmmm, not “park” – because the answers were locations of national parks?
I find it interesting how divisive this meta is.
It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen: very original, and it appears difficult to pull off.
65a’s clue was ‘bills that may prove helpful in solving the contest’, and the answer is ‘ones’. I immediately started looking at $1 bills in my wallet, to see if there were any 4-letter words that worked (and I spent too much time researching “Ordo”).
The “aha” moment came when I noticed the letter on the front. I was confused how “ache” fit, and then the second “aha” moment came when I connected tender to both money and “ache” (aching/sore).
Truly brilliant, IMO
I sent in “SEAL”, since I thought “BANK” wouldn’t really be correct for the one-dollar denomination. Now that the answer is out there I realize I should have just dug one level deeper.