Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Head in the Clouds”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upTwo theme entries seem apparent in this week’s WSJ contest:
- 27a. [Singer/songwriter of 42-Across], JONI MITCHELL
- 42a. [Popular song also called “Clouds”], BOTH SIDES NOW – called that by whom? I only knew of the original title.
Oh, and there’s a little fillip sitting down at 56d. [“___ love’s illusions I recall”] for IT’S, which are from the lyrics of this song:
So how do these lead us to a weather phenomenon? I immediately thought of El Niño, and based on the title alone, wondered if these six letters could be placed above the grid (“in the clouds”) to extend some of the first set of down entries. LUNG could become FLUNG, OLE could be SOLE, but others didn’t lend themselves to that treatment.
I then thought of the song title and wondered if “both sides” would be involved in the meta solution, so then I looked at the bottom of the grid (to complement the “head” part). Again, not a lot of luck there. Finally I hit on looking at common letters on the left and right sides of the grid, giving me the TORNADO depicted in the grid above.
I have mixed feelings about this one–on the plus side, it happily reminded me of a Patrick Blindauer meta puzzle (from a Puzzlefest of many years ago) in which you actually had to divide the grid in half vertically and see which letters were in the same position on both halves. (I remember printing out the puzzle, cutting it out of the page, folding it in half and actually holding it up to the light!) On the other hand, I think the title of this one distracted from the solution more than pointed toward it, as no “head” was involved (unless if you think of a tornado as some type of “storm head”?) and the clouds allusion is just to the song lyrics, not any position on (or above) the grid. I also thought perhaps cloud types (cirrus, stratocumulus, etc.) might be involved, but that was another dead end.
Finally, I found the fill a bit wonky, particularly with the vague cluing in the SW and terms such as NODDY and the less frequent spelling of MOSLEMS. Given the lack of a lot of theme material in this one, I wonder why these were chosen. I found some inspired cluing, though; in particular I enjoyed [Diamond edge] for BASE PATH and the also baseball-related [Call at home] for BATTER UP!.