Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Taken In”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upSpring has seem to finally sprung here in eastern Vermont, today it’s in the 50’s with the 70’s in store over the next few days. Still snow on the ground here, but hopefully it will be a distant memory soon. Anyway, this week we’re in search of a four-letter word. Not much to go on, is it? Let’s look at the four theme entries (which likely will give us a letter apiece toward the final solution):
- 17a. [Clarify], MAKE PLAIN – “in pain” (remove an L)
- 31a. [Hopeless undertaking], LOST CAUSE – “in case” (remove a U)
- 39a. [1964 hit for Andy Williams], DEAR HEART – “in heat” (remove an R)
- 55a. [Any of eight on a brilliant-cut diamond], STAR FACET – “in fact”
(remove an E)
My first thought was to consider the title and I realized that “in” could be used with the second words of each phrase, if you remove one letter from them. As I went through them above, it wasn’t until I came to “in heat” that I recalled entering that in the grid! So we actually have four more theme-related entries:
- 21a. [As it happens], IN FACT
- 27a. [Like some noisy cats], IN HEAT
- 43a. [To be safe], IN CASE
- 51a. [Hurting], IN PAIN
So if you take the letters removed from the four theme words, you get LURE, which is indeed a way to “take someone (or something) in,” most likely a fish. I’m sort of surprised these extra four theme entries were present, as I had hitched my wagon onto the solution even before noticing they were in the grid. (Perhaps my subconscious noticed them?) At least we seem to be moving away from the asterisks in these kind of clues, so I am grateful for small steps towards crunchier metas.
As for the rest of the puzzle, YAYAS certainly sets a tone at 1A, doesn’t it? I had TOGAS (and TOGAE) for a while before TUNIC for [Roman’s attire]. I thought [Canaries’ owner] for SPAIN was an inspired clue and learned that Tulsa’s minor league sluggers are called the DRILLERS. I imagine Sarah Palin is a fan.