Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “The Play’s the Thing”—Laura’s review
Good solvers all, cast thy nighted colour off, and join me in seeking a Shakespeare play! It is the thing that we are forsooth to find. Hark! Five themers, alike in dignity:
- [17a: 2015 Drake/Future song (“Measure for Measure”)]: CHANGE LOCATIONS
- [23a: Some shake it on pizza (“King Lear”)]: DRIED OREGANO
- [39a: Feature of some lots (“Othello”)]: DIAGONAL PARKING
- [50a: Ingredient in many Thai dishes (“King Lear”)]: MINCED GARLIC
- [61a: Use your influence (“All’s Well That Ends Well”)]: PULL A FEW STRINGS
If you look not with the eyes, but with the mind, you’ll see that hidden in each themer is the name of a character from the indicated play:
CHANGE LOCATIONS — Angelo, one of the lead characters of Measure for Measure
DRIED OREGANO — Regan, King Lear’s daughter
DIAGONAL PARKING — Iago, villain of Othello
MINCED GARLIC — Edgar, son of Gloucester in King Lear
PULL A FEW STRINGS — LaFew, a lord in All’s Well that Ends Well
If you list the characters in order:
… their first letters spell out ARIEL, fairy servant of Prospero in The Tempest, which is the play that is the thing, which is the answer. My one quibble with this well-wrought meta was that while four of the five characters are reasonably major enough that many people may have heard of them and could suss them out of their encrypted places in the themers, LAFEW is not a particularly well-known character. One would be hard-pressed, methinks, to find another character whose name begins with L, and who could be hidden in a common phrase. Maybe if there weren’t already two characters from King Lear, Matt could’ve used [1984 Depeche Mode hit]: PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. The fault, dear solvers, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.
* Sonnet 100, line 13
As I worked the puzzle, I kept thinking this was the cleanest puzzle from Matt in a very long time. Very fun puzzle (I’m a huge Shakespeare fan) and meta. Thanks, Matt! 4.5 stars from me.
I found the fill a drag, but a theme easy enough even for me. I actually wanted it to be harder for once, maybe by omitting the names of the plays from the clues, but then it wouldn’t have held together logically, since then we’d go from Ariel to a play but not from other characters to their plays.
My initial run at spotting characters correctly gave me all but the last, which I could not recall. What popped-out at me was RING, which is part of that play. I knew that could not be as Ariel was clearly the intent, so I submitted “The Tempest.” I later had a friend point-out LaFew.
In any case, I very much liked the puzzle and the meta!
[Polytechnic exams] = RENSSELAER TESTS
you’re welcome …
I’ve sat through many of those — BSEE ’84