Matt Gaffney’s and Peter Gordon’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Wheat Thin”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upFood is the order of the day, courtesy of the power duo of Gaffney and Gordon. Today, the hint to the meta solution tells us the answer is ten letters long and describes this entire puzzle grid. Interesting that the answer describes the entire grid instead of just what the theme entries have in common. Let’s see what ingredients make up this cruciverbial feast from the starred clues.
- [17a. *A little pig?], PORK CHOP
- [19a. *Fruit used in Thai cuisine], PAPAYA
- [41a. *It’s sometimes called an “alligator pear”], AVOCADO – I’ve only heard it called that in crosswords, is it common elsewhere? I like how this resembles the French word for lawyer, avocat
- [43a. Chinese cabbage], BOK CHOY – I first spelled this with an ending “i” instead of “y.” We grow this, kale and Swiss chard in our vegetable garden each year. Yum!
- [17a. *Tempura choice], SHRIMP
- [17a. *Bayou specialty that, like all the starred foods, fits the answer category], CRAWFISH, certainly a mouthful there!
Stars were necessary today as 6-letter theme entries would be very difficult to spot otherwise. I think the first thing I noticed about all of these foods (and indeed the entire grid) was the lack of the common letter E. I then wondered if there was some saying like I’ve heard for oysters, that we shouldn’t eat them in months that don’t end in R. (R-LESS is one of those constructor’s desperation entries you sometimes see in grids clued this way.) But I’ve never heard of E-LESS foods!
- a – 28
- b – 6
- c – 16
- d – 7
- f – 2
- h – 11
- i – 10
- j – 1
- k – 6
- m – 7
- o – 23
- p – 12
- q – 1
- r – 15
- s – 25
- v – 3
- w – 3
- x – 1
- y – 8
- z – 1
Not only was there no E in the grid, the lack of a G, L, N, T and U was surprising as well. Rearrange those letters and you get the word GLUTEN, so these theme entries, as well as the grid itself, can be considered to be GLUTEN-FREE, a ten-letter phrase as indicated by the meta instructions.
I really enjoyed the wordplay involved in reinterpreting the term as well as finding foods that are indeed “gluten-free” in both a spelling and phrase sense. (I believe gluten is a protein only found in grains, which none of the theme entries are.) I wonder how hard it is to find foods without these 6 letters, but even more difficult is to find fill entries that eschew them as well. (My working theory is that’s why Matt reached out to Peter, known for his incredibly long word list (which apparently includes the obscure SCAPA, OPQR and non-possessive BARQ), for help.)
I’ll close with my favorite clue, [Low pair] for SOCKS. With the two S’s in place at first, I wondered why SIXES were considered low! :)