Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “You’ll Never Solve This One!” — Conrad’s review.
We’re looking for an exclamation this week. There were seven theme entries beginning with “What you say…”:
- [16a: What you say…when you want to scare someone]: SURPRISE
- [20a: …when something is disgusting]: THATSGROSS
- [25a: …when it’s cold outside]: INEEDACOAT
- [35a: …when someone suddenly shares unpleasant news]: SORRYTOHEARTHAT
- [44a: …when you require a moment to process your response]: LETMETHINK
- [52a: …when someone does something foolish]: BIGMISTAKE
- [61a: …when you want to aggressively dismiss a suggestion]: BEDAMNED
The grid felt very constrained, which is often a sign that it contains a lot of meta-related content (which proved to be true). I got stuck at the SANAA/KASDAN crossing for a while. The fact that SANAA is Yemen’s capital was definitely in my brain, it just took a while for those synapses to click. I’m not complaining: it was all worth it once I saw how much meta content Matt crammed into this grid.
BARR was my breakthrough, reminding me of BRR (“What you say when it’s cold outside”), and I had the rabbit hole: each themer mapped to another grid entry with one letter removed:
- SURPRISE: BOO(M)
- THATSGROSS: (W)ICK
- INEEDACOAT: B(A)RR
- SORRYTOHEARTHAT: (H)ACK
- LETMETHINK: H(A)MM
- BIGMISTAKE: (H)OOPS
- BEDAMNED: BAH(A)
That spells MWAHAHA, our meta solution. I initially had “(H)ACK?” in my notes as a tentative answer that felt less clicky, but the other six entries felt correct, and that was the only word with an H that worked, so that locked it in.
Matt stuffed an amazing amount of meta-related content into this grid: over half of the grid is meta related(!): by my count 96 of 183 squares are part of the meta (and the crossing squares pull double-duty). That is simply astounding. We’ll end with this fun cover of Ozzy Osbourne‘s Crazy Train by the all-sibling vamp metal group Liliac.