Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Who’s Missing?”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up
Let’s jump right into the theme entries, starred (and double-starred) for our convenience:
- 1a., 70a. [*With 70-Across, 2012 Best Picture nominee], ZERO DARK (THIRTY)
- 20a. [**Six-time Wimbledon champ (1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973)], BILLIE JEAN KING – I first thought maybe one of those five years she won as a doubles partner as well. Here, though, we’re missing her final win in 1975 in the clue.
- 38a. [*Band fronted by Jared Leto], (30) SECONDS TO MARS – I’ve heard of Jared Leto, but not the band. Before I realized the full name began with “30,” I was trying to figure out what band would be called SECOND STOMARS.
- 57a. [**Five-time World Series champs (1919, 1940, 1976, 1990)], CINCINNATI REDS – again, 1975 is missing from the list in the clue.
So the clues with one-star are missing 30 in the entry and the ones with two stars are missing the year 1975 in the list of years. The one-star clues are both in the entertainment world (movie and music) and both obliquely reference a time of day. (Oh-dark-thirty references sometime between midnight and sunrise in the military.) The clues missing the year are in the sports arena, a tennis player and a baseball team. Since we’re looking for a famous 20th-century American, those missing 1975 references must point to something remarkable that happened in his/her life that year (perhaps died, if he/she is missing?)
Looking a bit further into the grid, I did notice a lot of specific months in the clues:
- 19a. [Don January’s sport], GOLF – nice way to hide the month name there
- 46a. [Flowers for February], ROSES
- 63a. [“The Gladiator March” composer], SOUSA – again, a nice hiding place for a month name
- 52a. [Count with the album “April in Paris”], BASIE
- 56a. [“May ___ fourth be with you”], THE – I liked this occurrence better than 45a.’s [It may be fragile] due to the leading capital
- 42a. [June Cleaver’s husband], WARD
- 32d. [Some August births], LEOS
- 15a. [Director of “Sleeper” and “September”], ALLEN
- 1d. [Country whose Independence Day is October 24], ZAMBIA
- 43a. [Waits who sings “November“], TOM
- 47d. [Christmas ___ (December, roughly)], SEASON – perhaps the most awkward of the bunch
So it looks like we’re missing the month of July. So perhaps something of note happened on July 30, 1975? Sure enough, this page lists “US Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa disappears in suburban Detroit; Hoffa was legally declared dead in 1982.” And in terms of the canon of missing persons, Jimmy Hoffa ranks right up there as one of the most famous.
Fun meta–I do wonder a bit though why sports was used for 1975 and two arts- and time-related entries for 30 (for a time I considered the event happening at 2:30); and not only that, why are those missing twice whereas the month of July is only missing once? (Perhaps the answer to this latter question is just to confirm what is missing is “on purpose” and not a typo, as well as needing more than just 2 theme entries in a puzzle of this size.)
Anyway, see you next week!