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
(Note: Since I am not a chemist, unlike another Fiend blogger and crossword constructor who also constructed a chemistry-themed metapuzzle, I had to look some of these up.)
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.
I didn’t have that wrong square and I still was stuck on INSUOTOL for far longer than I care to admit.
Not in a million years.
Looks like a good meta effort from the group at hand, but I really didn’t get any joy out of it simply because I either had different “fill-in” words in comparison to the expected ones or couldn’t even come up with one at all in a couple of cases. Hence, no solution and none even possible.
I’m curious, what were your alternate fill-in words? I thought the eight were chosen pretty well to force only one possibility.
I got the answer thru the unscrambling method, rather than the reading left-to-right method, the former of which I think is more thematically consistent/satisfying because a “solution” IS something all mixed up, and a chemist wouldn’t be able to tell what it is just by looking at it and would need to do some manipulation on it to find out what it is.
But of course, from a constructor’s point of view, it is much more elegant/difficult to lay out the “solution” from left to right in perfect order.
Either way, kudos to the constructor.
I loved the levels of complexity in this one. Kudos from here too.
Really enjoyed this one. Excellent multi step meta!
Outstanding job, Pete and Milo. Loved the fresh approach. Five stars from me.
Argh. I had everything except that I had an A in the 7 square, and so I had letters that couldn’t be anagrammed to make something. I think this goes down as the closest miss I’ve ever had on a meta.
I found the grid fill grueling, with trivia everywhere. (Say, not one but two Simpson clues in the SE. Or a couple of music clues crossing terms related to “Ollie” and fishing in the NW.) I finished with a huge amount of sheer guessing. So it was hard for me to get up the energy to care about further steps.
I did think of missing words and see that elements preceded AP in each case. But then I couldn’t help wondering if what one finds in chem isn’t simply elements or the periodic table, which sure hangs in every classroom. Of course, an arbitrary set of elements doesn’t make a periodic table, so it felt a little forced, but then why look further? Not that I’d have made the connection to squares in the grid in a million years. Well, if you enjoyed this more than I did, more power to you.
I agree, and a couple of nits: “Dutch Guiana today” is actually SurinamE–the E was added in 1978–The “today” added an unnecessary element of confusion.
Also, OOH and HUH seemed like a stretch.
That’s beautiful. Wish I had happened to download this one (don’t usually get to the WSJ ones).
Man, and I thought I was a true enthusiast in solving the WSJ crosswords and their meta-themes.
I am humbled (well, not totally).
Thanks for the full explanation. Very creative.
I got to the list of elements but didn’t think to check their atomic numbers, which in retrospect seems like a reasonable next step. I agree that some of the fill was a little clunky but overall the result is extremely clever!
I sent in UNISTOOL, which could be a chem lab thing. Saw SOLUTION later (head slap).
Thank you all!
We had fun making this one.
Is there any way to find out how many correct answers are submitted each week?
Yes, Mike Miller of WSJ posts it every week, usually some time Monday afternoon, on both the WSJ comment section
And the “muggles” (people hoping to win a mug) crossword discussion forum
Is no one going to mention that this is also the 150 anniversary of the creation/discovery of the periodic table of the elements by Dmitri Mendeleev? The UN has declared it an official event.
IYPT2019. Great tie in.
Did anyone notice that TRADE could have been interpreted as trade gap? Believe me, the Resulting G didn’t help. Fun, challenging meta. I don’t have a great solve-rate, but I enjoy the puzzles, and marvel at the minds that construct them.
I rated it a five. It is a technically wonderful feat. Like Laura and Tyler, I got it by anagramming. It only took me a minute to see it.