Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Physical Science”—Laura’s review
We’re looking for a four-letter noun. Perhaps the four longest across entries can help us find it:
- [17a: Amusing story]: RIB TICKLER
- [26a: Chili bit]: KIDNEY BEAN
- [43a: Holy Week start]: PALM SUNDAY
- [53a: Lawyer, slangily]: MOUTH PIECE
Gosh did this ever take me a while because I must be way out of practice, having had a few weeks off blogging of late. Clearly the meta mechanism has something to do with body parts … we also have BONEUP and URCHIN in the grid, and BONE could go with RIB, while CHIN could go with MOUTH — could we be looking for corresponding grid entries? Turns out, yes, but not these, and I needed to talk it through with solving pal Jesse (who, seriously, should be getting coauthor credit on most of these posts and occasionally does).
There’s that PALOMAR sitting just to the lower left of PALM — and lo and behold, PALMAR is a term that means “of the palm.” Could there be other entries that turn into adjectives meaning “of the [body part]” when a letter is removed? Why, yes, and here they are in theme entry order:
COASTAL == COSTAL – A (costal: of the ribs)
RENTAL == RENAL – T (renal: of the kidneys)
PALOMAR == PALMAR – O (palmar: of the palm, natch)
MORAL == ORAL – M (oral: of the mouth)
The leftover letters spell ATOM, a four-letter noun, and our answer. (Q: Why can’t you trust atoms? A: Because they make up everything.)
We were thrown off the track by PALOMAR being so close and obvious-seeming, but perhaps it was there to spark inspiration. (To paraphrase … Woody Allen? Albert Einstein? Groucho Marx? Karl Marx? — solving metapuzzles is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. [Oh, it’s Thomas Edison, says the google.])
Let’s let Béla Fleck and his BANJO play us out.