Joanne Sullivan’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “In the Hopper”—Laura’s review
March 2020 is the Crossword Women’s March, when many crossword venues are publishing only women for an entire month. Some venues have committed to only a week; they must have their reasons. The WSJ Contest constructors are all male, and unlike the regular WSJ puzzle schedule, it is not open to outside submissions. Thus I couldn’t be more delighted to see Joanne Sullivan’s byline for this week’s WSJ contest and I’d like to see her puzzles included in the rotation from here on out. Not expanding the roster seems like a missed opportunity not only to work toward inclusion and equity, but to publish puzzles by someone of unique talent and creativity.
This week, Joanne challenges us to find a six-letter word. There appear to be six themers, so let’s start there:
- [17a: “Ah!” elicitors]: CATHARSES
- [24a: Pace]: RATE OF PROGRESS
- [32a: Like Amal Clooney]: ARAB BRITISH. Amal Alamuddin Clooney was born in Beirut; her family fled the Lebanese Civil War in the early 1980s and settled in the UK.
- [42a: Finish some taxing work?]: FILE A RETURN
- [51a: Wined and dined, perhaps]: WENT OUT ON A DATE
- [62a: Krackel alternative]: MR GOODBAR
I suspected there might be something hidden in the themers — I saw LEAR in FILE A RETURN and ABBR in ARAB BRITISH — but I couldn’t find a consistent set of somethings. A friend suggested that if I looked a little more closely at the themers, something might leap out at me. And looky there at that last across entry:
- [72a: Mental ___ (“Aha!” elicitor)]: LEAP
RATE OF PROGRESS
FILE A RETURN
WENT OUT ON A DATE
Each themer contains an animal that is known to LEAP — HARE, FROG, RABBIT, FLEA, TOAD, ROO (as in KANGA-). Let’s say that each of these leaping animals is a hopper, hence the title — and in the hopper is an extra letter. Those letters spell out, in order, SPRING, which is a six-letter word, a synonym for LEAP, and our answer. Fun!!!
The starts of the first two themers (CAT, RAT) got me looking for animals, then RABBIT jumped out at me.
Me too. 5 stars from me.
I also wondered whether LEAP pointed to 29A given the leap year. I went down a bit of a rabbit (heh) hole with the Xs, but then ended up finding the solution not from a leap but from deleting (X-ing) out a letter. Likely just a poorly connected coincidence.
I enjoyed this. I’ll endorse Laura’s call for the WSJ to expand its pool of meta setters, beginning with Joanne. It was pleasing how the animals “leaped” over the target letters. The technique was very apt for springing into spring in a leap year. For me, it was also just the right bite for Week 2. Not instantly obvious, but gettable while solving.
I don’t think the WSJ puzzles progress in difficulty through the month. The difficulty is random.
I didn’t notice the leap connection. But the phrase in the hopper means something is on its way which also fits well with spring which is definitely already here where I live!! A really fun puzzle! Thanks Joanne. Hope to see more of your puzzles in the wsj.
9A–Has anyone else ever seen square bales? I have seen many bales and of none them have been rectangles.
David, I hesitated before submitting the 9A clue for that very reason, but I found sources that call the rectangular bales “square” so I thought it was fair.
I made a stupid error in my previous comment–replace “none” with “all”.
David, I understood what you meant. Rectangular bales are called “square bales.”
Here in the north country there is a joke:
Q. Why have round bales been outlawed?
A. Because then the cows don’t get square meals.
Plenty of both round and square bales to be seen in the surrounding fields.
Joanne Sullivan: I’m curious about 26D. How is a frame an accompanier for a mat? Thx.
A picture frame often goes around a mat.
Laura, thanks for your kind words!