Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “One, Two, Three, Four”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upA belated Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there; I lost mine when I was in my early 30’s and still miss his intelligence and encouragement in my life. We’re counting off in this week’s WSJ Contest puzzle and looking for a group of four. Appropriately, there are four theme entries, each ten letters long with enumerations in the clue:
- 17a. [Song sung by Marliyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” [4, 2, 1]], BYE BYE BABY
- 30a. [Spice-yielding evergreen of Peru ], PEPPER TREE – I assume that “spice” is the ubiquitous black pepper?
- 38a. [Like halter tops ], SLEEVELESS
- 51a. [Trials that are often televised? [2,3]], TASTE TESTS – Pepsi v. Coke seems the classic one of these
It was pretty obvious that each of these entries had many repeating letters; in fact, of the ten letters of each, one finds only 4 unique letters and those letters occur one through four number of times in the entry. The enumerations refer to the letters that occur that many times in the entry; so, for instance, the [4, 2, 1] for BYE BYE BABY refer to the B (which occurs 4 times), then the E (which occurs twice) and finally the A (which occurs just once). Reading from top to bottom, you get BEATLES, otherwise known as the “Fab Four,” an apt solution for this puzzle of fours.
If I hadn’t seen who the constructor of this puzzle was, I believe I would’ve guessed it was Patrick, as this is familiar territory for someone who seems to find letter patterns like this us mortals could never encounter without the use of software and a large database of possible entries. (Does anyone know how much, if at all, he relies on software?) My nit to pick is how obvious the meta technique was here as well as the relative blandness of entries with so many repeating (and common) letters. These kind of puzzles highlight the skill of the constructor, but at the expense of a rich solving experience.
I enjoyed the fill in this one–SLAM BIDS was particularly appropriate as I’ve become a weekly bridge player of late (but have yet to bid a small or grand slam). I’m not familiar with “sweetheart cakes,” but apparently there is MELON in them. (Better that than RAT POISON, huh?)
See you next week!