Pete Muller & Milo Beckman’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “AP Chemistry”—Laura’s review
We’re looking for something you might find in a chemistry class, and the first thing I find while solving is that eight of the across entries are incomplete — each needs to be completed by a word that ends with -AP:
- [9a: 20-minute rejuvenator]: POWER NAP
- [14a: Rebound]: SNAP BACK
- [25a: Metaphor for a shocking surprise]: THUNDER CLAP
- [36a: Cervical cancer diagnostic test]: PAP SMEAR. (Note: I have gone on record in a national publication with my opinion that PAP SMEAR needs to appear in crossword grids more frequently. People who have cervixes: Remember to get yours regularly, as recommended by your doctor!)
- [38a: Pile of garbage]: TRASH HEAP
- [47a: Playthings stuffed with rolls]: CAP PISTOLS
- [62a: Ooze from a conifer]: PINE SAP
- [63a: Real gamble]: CRAP SHOOT
Observation #2: The letters that complete the –AP words are symbols for chemical elements, like so:
N = Nitrogen
Sn = Tin
Cl = Chlorine
P = Phosphorus
He = Helium
C = Carbon
S = Sulfur
Cr = Chromium
Observations #3 & #4: Each element has an atomic number, often abbreviated in crossword grids as the entry ATNO, and each of those numbers corresponds to a numbered square in the grid:
N = Nitrogen = 7 = A*
Sn = Tin = 50 = N
Cl = Chlorine = 17 = S
P = Phosphorus = 15 = U
He = Helium = 2 = O
C = Carbon = 6 = T
S = Sulfur = 16 = O
Cr = Chromium = 24 = L
*Glitch #1: This is wrong.
At this point I got totally stuck. I put the puzzle away and came back to it. Then got stuck again — see Glitch #1 above. So I called upon a trusty metapal (a certain MR BURNS, but not the one who is the [49a: Love object of Waylon Smithers]) and figured out that the letter in the 7 square should be I.
Observation #5, which I would’ve arrived at far sooner had I looked at the letters as they were laid out in the grid and not as a list on a separate piece of paper:
INSUOTOL == SOLUTION, which is something you might find in a chemistry class, and also the … solution to the puzzle.
In the actual grid, had I looked at how those letters were laid out in it, I would’ve seen the, uh … SOLUTION immediately, as they are placed in the grid reading from left to right. To echo [37a: Cathy’s cry], ACK! Overall, a feat of technical construction, and it’s refreshing to see names other than Shenk, Gaffney, and Berry in the byline (with all props to that triumverate).
Note: Find the ACK FLAG mashup and other awesome feminist punk merch from ETSY seller Crimson + Clover.