Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Under the Table” — Conrad’s review.
This week we’re told, The answer to this week’s contest crossword is an adjective. There are four long theme entries:
- [17a: Bird on the reverse of many U.S. silver dollars]: BALDEAGLE
- [33a: Hiders of pots of gold]: LEPRECHAUNS
- [43a: Wrought-iron icon in the 7th arrondissement]: EIFFELTOWER
- [64a: Lead comedian in a burlesque show]: TOPBANANA
What next? I found a few shallow rabbit holes. There was a weak country theme going in the themers: LEPRECHAUNS (Ireland), EIFFELTOWER (France), BALDEAGLE (U.S, mentioned in the clue, weakening that theory), and TOPBANANA (time to abandon this rabbit hole). I noticed 62a (PLATE, “Setting item”), which is “table”-relevant. EIFFELTOWER had the substring FELT (as in pool table), but those theories petered out immediately.
I rescanned the clues and found the thread: the four theme clues mention silver, gold, iron, and lead, respectively. Silver’s atomic symbol is AG, gold’s is AU, etc. I scanned the grid for those symbols, and found each in the relevant themer:
- Silver: BALDEAGLE
- Gold: LEPRECHAUNS
- Iron: EIFFELTOWER
- Lead: TOPBANANA
Last step: look under the (periodic) table entries. The grid letters under AG, AU, FE and PB spell DISCREET, our meta solution. Another elegant meta by Mike; the title ties in perfectly and I was impressed that each theme entry contained its own atomic symbol. I also enjoyed the subtle lead/lead heteronym curveball. We’ll wrap up with L.E.S. Artistes by Santigold.