Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “We’re Back in Business” — Conrad’s review.
This week we’re told, The answer to this week’s contest crossword is three letters long. There are six themers:
- [17a: Pioneer in public education]: HORACEMANN
- [23a: Dictatorial]: UNDEMOCRATIC
- [30a; Siestas]: MIDDAYNAPS
- [41a: Modest vacation home]: VILLANETTE
- [49a: Emulates a wizard]: WORKSSORCERY
- [59a: Standard stretch for many at the office, and for you now]: NINETOFIVE
The clue for NINETOFIVE jumped out immediately. Grid numbers 9 to 5 spelled “AKSAT” (not helpful). More helpful: the theme entries were ten+ letters long, and each one (except the last) contained a backwards partial phrase in their 5th-9th letters:
- HORA(CEMAN)N -> NAMEC
- UNDE(MOCRA)TIC -> ARCOM
- MIDD(AYNAP)S -> PANYA
- VILL(ANETT)E – > TTENA
- WORK(SSORC)ERY -> CROSS
That spells NAME CAR COMPANY AT TEN ACROSS. The entry for 10a is HAIK. The last three letters of HAIK are AIK, which spells our meta solution when reversed: KIA.
I felt a 90% click at first, but that has since risen. NINETOFIVE served as an alternate title, explaining the mechanism of using the 5th-9th letters in reverse. That freed up the actual title (“We’re Back in Business”) and the puzzle notes (requiring a three-letter entry) to lock down KIA as the business in the back of HAIK. Ending with 9 to 5 seems a bit on the nose (though I was tempted to use this funk cover by Love Raptor). I will not miss an opportunity to play Dolly Parton, so we’ll end with Jolene: