Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Mi Señora”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up“Mr. Meta” Matt asks us this week to discover a 12-letter proper noun starting with S that would complete this puzzle’s theme. Careful meta solvers will pick up on the word “complete” in the instructions–counting six starred theme entries, we’re looking for the seventh and final member of a set. My first thought after looking at the title was that notes of the scale might be involved (do-re-mi…) and we might be looking for a Spanish singer, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
The theme entries:
- 17a. [*At the age of six months, they were cast as Michelle Tanner], OLSEN TWINS – the reference is to the TV series Full House, I wonder (in retrospect) if the reference to their age in the clue is to push the solver toward thinking about numbers. Here the reference is to the number 2 (in Roman numerals II)
- 24a. [*Figure on blue-and-white flags], STAR OF DAVID – I’m quite partial to this answer! :) Anyway, here the reference is to the famous Jewish six (VI) pointed star
- 36a. [*Word used for two different sports, either of which works for this contest], FOOTBALL – I recall a guest puzzle on Matt’s site (perhaps Paul Coulter’s?) where the number of players on a sports team led one to a meta solution; here there are both 11 (XI) members of an American football and European soccer team.
- 42a. [*Element used in batteries and bullets], ANTIMONY – atomic number 51 (LI); I wonder if Matt considered as an alternative a timely reference to last year’s Super Bowl?
- 50a. [*It’s often filled with freshmen], INTRO COURSE – I waffled between 100 and 101 on this one, but saw that the latter fit into the theme sequence (CI).
- 61a. [*Clothing since 1873], LEVI’S JEANS – I normally drop the possessive on this one, I wonder which is more common? Anyway, their original jeans were referred to as 501’s (DI). I thought this page might explain the origin of the number, but it’s only a page where you can buy them.
So as you can see, each entry has an association with a number, and if you convert that number to Roman numerals, you notice that each is two characters, with the second character being I. Which one is left? Well that would be 1001 (MI), hence the MI in the title. And what woman/proper noun is associated with 1001 you ask? Well it would be Scheherazade, the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights and our meta solution.
An excellent meta–it’s quite an art to come up with entries that imply numbers but not so much so that there’s a bit of work involved. That, and that they increase from smallest to largest from top to bottom and you have the high quality level of metas we’ve come to expect from Matt (and the other WSJ constructors). Now back to my TOSTITOS and guac as Super Bowl LII begins!