Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “it’s What’s Inside That Counts”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upWe’re treated to an appropriate message this holiday season–I guess it could be translated as “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Here, we’re asked to find a two-word phrase found on some Italian restaurant menus. Hmmm, given what I began to see as theme entries al dente came to mind, but let’s see if that holds up to more scrutiny:
- 17a. [*Airstream and Winnebago, notably], RV MANUFACTURERS – I’m pretty sure I’ve never encountered that phrase in a puzzle before; our good friends in Raleigh own an Airstream and have found a national community similarly crazy about them. We bought them an Airstream Christmas tree ornament a few years ago!
- 23a. [*Iconic glower], GE LIGHTBULB – GE has been recently beset by financial woes of late; I imagine most American consumers are now buying LED bulbs made overseas
- 38a. [*1925 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature], G. B. SHAW – I doubt the author of Pygmalion ever signed his name like that, but one never knows for sure. This reminds me of a terrible crossword fill entry, E. A. POE, which again is only known as a way constructors can get out of tough crossings
- 40a. [*Size of a small sandbox, for short], SQ. YARD – this is either sqyd. or “square yard,” not a hybrid of the two
- 52a. [*June Cleaver or Sheldon Cooper, e.g], TV CHARACTER – June I readily knew, Sheldon is on The Big Bang Theory, which I have never watched a full episode of. I know, I live a sheltered life!
- 58. [*Reality how since 2009 (Note: This one’s a bit different from the others)], RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE – funny, with the “race” part in place, I threw in The Amazing Race, but was short one letter. I think this is “different” because the “RU” in RuPaul is not an abbreviation.
So as I mentioned above, al dente came to mind because each of the theme entries starts with a two-letter abbreviation or name. However, I then noticed that the letters in each of these two-letter entries were pretty close in the alphabet to each other. A & L of “al” are not. So what is “inside” each of these pairs? Well, from top to bottom you get:
STU + F + FEDC + R + U + ST
Or, STUFFED CRUST, our meta solution. Neat too that “stuffed crust” features cheese “inside” the crust (like there’s not enough on the pizza itself, I guess!) I liked how Matt used letters in both directions of the alphabet to develop his set; on the other hand, I think those center 6 entries (G.B. SHAW and SQ. YARD) brought the execution down a bit. All told, I really enjoyed this one.
The grid seemed to be a bit tougher than usual (or I was suffering from a post-Thanksgiving tryptophan stupor)–I’ve never heard of “Mormon Tea” (which apparently has EPHEDRA in it), although I might consider the diet supplement next year after my Thanksgiving dinner! The adjacent clue [Smackers] for BUCKS was also difficult until I realized the mighty U.S. dollar was involved here. Finally I’ve never heard of this PRE-DEAL poker term ([Like a poker ante]), but since my main card games these days are bridge and cribbage, it’s unlikely I would be familiar with it.