Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Sound Investment”—Laura’s review
This week we’re asked to find a five-letter financial term. We have five starred entries; whaddaya wanna bet that each one suggests a letter?
- [17a: School writing assignment]: TERM PAPER
- [22a: Deserted]: LEFT HIGH AND DRY
- [36a: Rot]: HOGWASH
- [48a: Number in a Jules Verne title]: TWENTY THOUSAND
- [56a: Overindulgence]: DECADENCE
This is one where I made a list of the themers and stared fruitlessly at them for about 13 minutes, then had a breakthrough and solved the meta in a couple of minutes. Thinking about the title — “Sound Investment” — and reading a message from metapal Austin were what set me off:
Both the NE and SW could’ve been filled in any number of ways, given that the only squares connecting them to the rest of the grid are RY and TW, respectively — so much other, cleaner fill could go in both places!
So I knew there was something up with those corners. And I made some lists of the themers and tried to find commonalities — nothing. Then I started thinking about the clues, and how I had wanted to put ESSAY in 17a, since I think of a TERM PAPER as more of a college writing assignment than a school writing assignment. Waaaaaiiiiittt … ESSAY sounds like SA. And another word for “Deserted” is EMPTY … MT! Turns out each clue has an alternate answer that has a two-letter cognate:
- [17a: School writing assignment]: ESSAY = SA
- [22a: Deserted]: EMPTY = MT
- [36a: Rot]: DECAY = DK
- [48a: Number in a Jules Verne title]: EIGHTY = AT
- [56a: Overindulgence]: EXCESS = XS
Then, if you take a look at those corners with the subpar fill, you see, symmetrically, entries that have those letters, with one extra letter in the center:
PRIME is a five-letter financial term, and our answer. I wonder if Mike tried to place DIK in the center to make the corresponding entries completely symmetrical? And just couldn’t? I tried all sorts of things for the corresponding entry for 48a — roman numerals, etc etc — and finally remembered another one of Verne’s novels. I was also backsolving at that point and tried to find a three-letter down entry with C in the center to get PRICE. Nope.
Prime work from Mike this week. What did you all think?