Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Go With the Flow”—Laura’s review
This week we’re looking for a food. Thing is, I’m always looking for a food. Man do I love food.
- [17a: Haiphong tongue]: VIETNAMESE. Hai Phong is the third-largest city in Vietnam.
- [26a: Engine covers]: CAR HOODS
- [36a: 1947 Malcolm Lowry novel set in Mexico]: UNDER THE VOLCANO. A fascinating and terrifying portrait of alcoholism (which the author also died of). Also a 1984 film with Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset.
- [48a: Stockpile for later use]: LOAD UP ON
- [58a: Say “Enough is enough!”]: TAKE A STAND
That central long themer is the giveaway that the names of four volcanoes are hidden in the other four themers:
VIETNAMESE == Mt. Etna, in Sicily, which last erupted … last year
CAR HOODS == Mt. Hood, in Oregon, which last erupted about a century ago
LOAD UP ON == Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii, which last erupted in 1984, is the largest volcano on Earth, and very common crossword grid fill
TAKE A STAND == Mauna Kea is Mauna Loa’s neighbor and dormant. There are several astronomical observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea and further development has been opposed by Native Hawaiians, to whom the mountain is sacred.
If you look under each volcano, you’ll find these letters:
Or, MOLTEN LAVA CAKE, which is a particularly delicious food, being in its most common form an individual chocolate cake which is under-baked so that a “lava flow” of chocolate sauce flows out from the center, covering your vanilla ice cream on the side. This was lovely and fun and made me hungry, thank you Matt!
My friend Amanda walked down the aisle to [12d: Boston’s only #1 hit].
The puzzle challenged me; the meta was fun. Sales of frozen molten lava cakes (oxymoron, I know) at Trader Joe’s should be through the roof (pun intended). I may venture there myself, despite my sugar and wheat-free diet, because victory celebrations are important, too, and recovery takes just a few days— once I’m back on the wagon, that is.
I love these recaps, especially when I solved the meta. Thank you.
I didn’t know that Mt. Hood was active, and I’d seen ever so many “Mauna ____ ” clues without thinking to ask what exactly Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are. So I learned something. Good.
Oh, wow! I should have gotten this one!
I loved this one. Though if you’re not very familiar with crosswords, this one would be very difficult.
I really admire this construction, and I got the meta eventually. But not before heading down an interesting rathole. “Flow” had me thinking rivers at first, and a number of potential themers had letter strings that were one letter away from well-known rivers:
— VIETNAMESE >> Thames
— CARHOODS >> Arno
— UNDERTHEVOLCANO >> Volga
— CHISELED >> Both Oise and Isere
Of course, that was all I could find, although TAKEASTAND contained a river that needed no letter substitution. But it was a fun diversion nonetheless.
I was looking for rivers also:Etna is river in Norway; Volcan is in Chili; and the East in N.Y.
Rabbit hole that got me nowhere.
Interesting side note: chocolate lava cake is not undercooked cake. There’s a particularly funny interaction in the movie Chef around this point between Jon Favreau as the titular chef and the restaurant critic played by Oliver Platt. Chocolate lava cake combines two different types of chocolate, the inner of which remains semi-solid (the “lava”) as the outer bakes into normal cake.
My favorite recipe for Chocolate Lava Cake is https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/bas-best-molten-chocolate-cake
I noticed ETNA and KEA right away, and after I got the central theme I wrote down:
ETNA — MOLT
KEA. — AKE
This did not go anywhere so I looked at the grid again and noticed HOOD, then recalled that i was a volcano. Looked at the symmetrical opposite and noticed LOA for the first time. So I added them to my list. In this order I could make no sense of it, so I set it down.
Later in the day it hit me that MOLT could be short for molten and that’s when it hit me that you could go MOLTENLA… and it all fell together — a very happy and satisfying moment!