Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Double Crossing”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upGood Monday morning, fellow puzzleheads! This week guest constructor (and a lifetime member of the cruciverbial pantheon), Patrick Berry and editor Mike Shenk challenge us to find a five-letter word indicated by the entries of this puzzle. Our general approach is to look at the theme entries (starred or at least the 4-5 longest entries), but here there is no entry longer than 9 letters and more of those than are likely thematic. Hmmm.
Spending a bit more time thinking about the title, I started to look at crossing entries, thinking if I found five that were unique in some way, I might take their common crossing letter to spell this five-letter word. Seeing the DATE in both UP AND AT ‘EM and SEDATE, I tentatively put that common A in my pocket and looked for other similar crossings. I found these:
- TOBAGO crossing BAGELS at the G
- TUBEDO crossing BEDECKING at the E
- TEACHINO crossing CHINA SHOP at the N
- STAKES crossing TAKEI at the T
Spelling out those crossing letters from top-to-bottom, we have AGENT, who could definitely be a “double crosser.” Though I’m 99% certain of this solution, it bothers me that the crossing words are not all at least 4 letters long (I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon to find crossing three-letter words that are not put there on purpose in other puzzles) and that these five crossing words have nothing in common with each other (or the meta solution). [Edited to add: observant fellow-Fiend (and my sub for next week while I’ll be biking in Italy), Jim Peredo noticed that these words all can (appropriately) follow the word “double.” That helps tie things together quite a bit.] Finally, the NW and SE are almost completely unconstrained by theme material, making me wonder if MIKE BOSSY or SOAP OPERA was chosen for a meta-specific reason. Seems a bit incomplete in my mind if not.
As for the rest, I was unfamiliar with the [Typographer’s ornamental flourish], or SWASH, so I’ll end with a picture of one:
I saw three of the crossings, but not the two which cross at the last letter. I just never found them, so I thought the other three were coincidental. If that were all this puzzle had, it would be a rather ordinary meta, but having all the words go with “DOUBLE” makes it pretty special.
Wow. I never even got close to solving the meta. Nice puzzle despite my failing to solve.
Thanks for the shout-out, Dave, but I flailed around for a couple of days before I arrived at the answer. I think I followed every red herring.
When nothing seemed obvious, I eventually came to the idea that there might be instances where double letters cross. I found a T at the crossing of WRITTEN UP and OTT and an E at SEE and BEEP. But that’s it.
Then I thought about clue numbers. 9d crosses with its double 18a at an N, and 11d crosses its double 22a at an M. But that’s it.
Then I thought about clues themselves and landed on 29a ONO which refers to “Double Fantasy.” But that’s the only “double” in the clues.
Then I just stared at the grid for a long time until I saw the BED crossing.
I only persisted because I mistakenly thought I was blogging this week, not next. My “Aha” moment was more like a “Whew” moment.
Wow — so it really was a coincidence that UP and IN appeared multiple times each as individual words within entries? I took it as a given that this had to be relevant and never considered the possibility that it wasn’t.
The only known fish these puzzle constructors like is red herring.
I’ve seen some red herrings in my time, but this was a crimson shad.