Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “That’s a Plus” — pannonica’s write-up
If this were a MGWCC I’d call it a week 0.5 difficulty. Super-easy meta and a smooth grid solve. Even without looking at the title, the quincunxial letter clusters are unmistakable and unignorable. I’ve circled the centers of the four in the solution grid, right.
A look at the title (plus!) and the instructions—”The answer to this week’s contest crossword is a common four-letter word.”—clinches it. The letters A⸗L⸗S⸗O (plus!) read clockwise. I’d presume Matt intended to situate them symmetrically, but it proved too difficult?
How the eight triple-letter strings were achieved:
- 17a [They support many towers] AAA MEMBERS. That’s towers with a long-o, as in tow trucks.
- 2d [Greet or warn verbally, as one sheep might another] BAA AT.
- 22a [Dark, poetically] ILL-LIT.
- 10d [Noisy revolution] BELL LAP. At the onset of the final lap in some auto races, the officials ring bells or what-have-you.
- 63a [Backdrop for a tie] DRESS SHIRT.
- 52d [To a smaller degree] LESS SO.
- 53a [Do more than just heckle] BOO OFF THE STAGE.
- 45d [Be enamored with, as a baby] COO OVER.
Some of the contrivances necessitated are a bit of a stretch, but there isn’t anything too outlandish.
Not too much to say about the ballast fill. It’s mostly <a title=”workpersonlike”>workmanlike</a>.
- Long entry: 24a [It may include Facebook shares] STOCK PORTFOLIO. Minor misdirection there.
- Even better misdirection with 12d [Path’s start] SOCIO-.
- Bit of trivia: 30d [Candy from Austria] PEZ. Introduced in 1927.
- 29a [Most of Canada and Russia] TAIGA. The word’s unsurprisingly unsurprisingly from Russian. Inconveniently for rhyming purposes, the critically endangered saigas (Saiga tatarica)—whose name also comes from Russian—are denizens not of the taiga but of the steppe.
A very gentle meta.
Each of the letter clusters forms a plus sign in the grid, which is undoubtedly meant as a solving hint in conjunction with the puzzle’s title.
Was this not clear?
I think your variant spelling of quincuncial might have thrown some readers off.
By gum that must be it.
I loved having an easy meta, not the weekend for me to strain my brain further. I saw the first quincunx, and drew a plus around it. The rest followed. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary in the review.
I wrote A L O S at the top of the page and stared at it for the longest time. Then, “Duh.”