Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “In Character” — Laura’s review
This week, we’re looking for a famous novel.
We have four starred theme entries:
- [17a: Light fruity wine]: BEAUJOLAIS
- [25a: Faultfinding situation]: BLAME GAME
- [50a: Meditation-while-asleep practice]: DREAM YOGA
- [58a: 1970 chart-topping hit for the Jackson 5]: I’LL BE THERE
And one central entry of hintage:
- [36a: George Eliot novel that’s not the contest answer, but provides a hint to it]: MIDDLEMARCH
The hint suggests that we’re looking for something in the middle of the themers, and it turns out that each of those middles (exact middles!) is a March — the four March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s famous 1868 novel, LITTLE WOMEN (which is our answer):
I’LL BE THERE
Okay, so they’re not in order by age (that would be MEG, JO, BETH, AMY) but the mechanism is so simple and elegant, whomst shall quibble? I shan’t.
If you haven’t seen the 2019 film adaptation directed by Greta Gerwig (about which my teenage son said, “wow, I liked that way better than I expected to!”), here is Chloe Fineman giving you the gist (“Florence Puuuuuuugh!?!”):
BEAUJOLAIS is to me, the wine snob awful, oily tannic stuff. Fruity does not come to mind, but I knew what they wanted.
Oh yeah, easiest meta ever, I never seem to get them but had this one before the grid was filled, d-oh, I forgot to enter the mug contest (WAH).
The March sisters are smack dab in the middle of their respective answers. Kudos. Fun puzzle and meta.
Not to mention that the sisters’ last name is March (“Middlemarch”). Not difficult to solve, but scores very high on the meta-aesthetics index.
I know it may look simple, but the way Mr. Shenk was able to get four names of different lengths right in the exact middle was pure poetry especially if this was a teaching month. Very nice.