Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Three-Part Harmony”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up
This week we’re looking for a “one-hit wonder,” namely a a rock band with a single top-20 hit. Given the title, I wonder if the notes of this hit would appear in theme entries in solfège (DO-RE-MI, etc.) notation, hoping if so I could recognize the tune from its opening notes. This is one of those puzzles where finding out where the thematic material is is 90% of the battle. I doubted the longer BOOK REVIEW and LIGHT TIGHT (whatevah?) were thematic since that left so much of the puzzle unconstrained.
My first thought was that perhaps a lyric or the names of band members would be split in three parts across the grid. Seeing BRADS/ETH in the center right gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush that I might be on the right track. But I couldn’t see many other words split across black squares so I went back to the drawing board.
My inroad into this one was to question three odd 3-letter abbreviations, ETH, GBR and most noticeably ALT. Why not APT or ACT (leading to the equally fine PORE or CORE instead of LORE crossing from that middle letter). I then wondered what if the “Three-Part” part of the title referred to 3-letter entries in the grid? They lay out this way from top to bottom and across to down:
So what musical trio sang “Brick”? Well, none other than the Ben Folds Five (apparently their name was chosen for humorous reasons):
The puzzle had a bit of a prurient vibe, what with SEX ACTS, BONERS and BUTS (SIC). See y’all next week!
This was the best kind of meta: I was in the weeds until Sunday afternoon and finally had that glorious aha! moment. There’s nothing quite like the feeling when you find it. R
I failed to figure this out in time, but holy hell do I appreciate it in retrospect! Amazing construction.
I also focused on three-letter clusters as the title implied (especially ones that repeat themselves throughout the puzzle because harmony) but not this.
As so often, never occurred to me. I looked first at the longest entries (where nothing, not even the entries, stood out) and (given the frequent RE) scale notes, but that’s it. Now I guess I have to look up Ben Folds Five, whom I’ve never heard of.
I got this one at the 11th hour (literally around 11 pm last night) after spending the weekend down the following rabbit hole:
There are only three Ps in this grid. Each such P is part of a 5-letter string (if you ignore black squares) that contains the letters P – A – R – T, plus one additional letter (O, M and I). So I spent hours trying to find the harmony among these letters. O, M and I, plus one black square had me sure that I was after Black Sabbath, whose guitar player is named Tony IOMMI. Plus they only had one top 20 hit (Paranoid).
I kept struggling, however, because this answer seemed too forced, and I eventually stumbled on the correct solution (although I considered still submitting Black Sabbath, because…Sabbath!). However, I went in the wrong order on the downs and missed WHO, so I had NAME THE MUSICAL TRIO GBRSANICK. This anagrams to KING CRABS and CRAB KINGS (both of which sounded like possible one-hit-wonders), as well as BACKING RS. On finding that, I was sure I was looking for the MUSICAL TRIO BACKING Rod Stewart, which could be the Faces — who also only had one top 20 hit. But alas, they are not a trio.
Glad I finally saw it. I had a nice streak broken last week (still kicking myself for not seeing that one), and was worried I was headed for another. Fun puzzle…thanks!!