Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Back and Forth” — Conrad’s review.
This week we’re looking for a ten-letter word. There were five long theme entries:
- [16a: Badges worn by reporters]: PRESSPASSES
- [21a: In a slipshod way]: NEGLIGENTLY
- [34a: Plan pushed by Dr. Atkins]: HIGHPROTEINDIET
- [45a: Likeness that reverses right and left]: MIRRORIMAGE
- [56a: “Believe what I’m sayin’ here”]: LETMETELLYA
I spotted step one (aided by MIRRORIMAGE): each theme entry contained two three-letter strings that were mirror images of each other (ESS and SSE in PRESSPASSES, NEG and GEN in NEGLIGENTLY, etc.). Then I overcomplicated a fairly simple meta by trying to map those three letters strings back to the grid, finding lots of three-letter entries with one changed letter:
- ESS/SSE -> ESC/USE
- NEG/GEN -> BEG/YEN
- TEI/IET -> LEI/???
- MIR/RIM -> ???/ROM
- LET/TEL -> LEI (again?)/???
That doomed theory worked surprisingly well, all things considered. I explored that dead rabbit hole a bit longer, abandoned it, and studied the grid. I noticed that each mirrored three-letter string was separated by two letters:
Those five pairs of letters spell PALINDROME, our contest solution. Patrick Berry is known for creating metas with surgical precision, and this one is no exception. Let’s end with I Palindrome I by They Might Be Giants.