Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Brush Strokes”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upToday we are in search of a well-known artist. The grid is a bit unusual in that the only entry greater than 8 letters is the central one:
- 35a. [You can easily impose your own point of view on one], BLANK CANVAS
So what are we to do with that? When thinking about blanks, I started thinking about the blanks that might be in some of the clues (commonly referred to as FITB’s or “fill-in-the-blank” clues). Often, beginning solvers are encouraged to start with these type of clues when trying to crack open a puzzle, as they tend (but not always) to be the easiest. (Saturday’s NYT had [“Get a ___!”], which I put in LIFE and GRIP before the correct and a bit more prurient ROOM.)
Anyway, back to these FITB clues. There were just six of them, all acrosses:
- 13a. [“No ___, no gain’], PAIN
- 22a. [Lawrence ___ (Mr. T’s real name)], TERO – there’s some serious trivia for you!
- 34a. [“___ can take interesting men and thrust mediocrity upon them”: Bowie], FAME – was he saying this about himself?
- 44a. [Puerto ___], RICAN
- 45a. [“___ milk?”], GOT
- 64a. [___ jacet (epitaph)], HIC – “here lies…” as it might appear on an old headstone
So my first inclination was to read down the first letters of each of these entries, but PTFRGH wasn’t much help. It wasn’t until I saw that the entries themselves can be concatenated into a phrase: PAINTER OF AMERICAN GOTHIC, or the well-known Grant Wood.
I thought this meta was excellent, “Marie” (really editor Mike Shenk) took it up a notch splitting a phrase into individual smaller entries that could be clued as FITB’s. I just don’t follow the relevance of the title–I wonder if the “strokes” are the lines that appear in the clues in place of the blanks? Anyway, it’s a small concern in the context of a great meta concept.
I’ll close with my favorite clue, [Source of inflation after a crash], thinking of stocks and markets at first, but it’s a car’s AIRBAG instead.