Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Cross Country” — Conrad’s review.
This week we’re looking for the name of a country. The grid was a bit of a grind for me, which is often a sign that it’s working overtime to support the meta (which was true in this case). I had the theme idea pretty quickly: country names that were split in two while crossing something. Three down (GRENADE) threw me off for a bit, as I hurriedly wrote GRENADA in my notes. Then I spotted O(GRE/CE)E, crossing one black square, which contained GREECE when substituting an E for the back square. The rest came in fits and starts. Solvers: raise your hand if you had CHAD in your notes for the ASE(C/AD)ORN crossing (I certainly did for a while). It all came together when I noticed that the crossing squares formed countries for both across and down entries:
- 20/21a: RA(CY[P]RUS)E
- 9/24d: O(NE[P]AL)OE
- 29/30a: O(GRE[E]CE)E
- 4/37d: HANGR(Y[E]MEN)U
- 47/50a: DO(NAU[R]U)NITES
- 23/53d: DUCAT(I[R]AQ)UA
- 53/54a: AS(EC[U]ADOR)N
- 28/60d: IM(PORT[U]GAL)
The missing letters spell PERU, our contest solution. Impressive feat of construction by Mike: making both the across and down entries form countries could not have been easy. Solvers: let me know how you did. What country was your foothold to the meta?
I found Ecuador, even though I thought it had a Q (ignorant me), before I found Chad, which I did, and prior to realizing that country names crossed. So I submitted PERUU, and expect to have the only entry with the correct answer.
Just kidding about PERUU.
I had GRE(E)CE very early on. But I couldn’t find any more for what felt like ages. Then I stumbled over PORT(U)GAL and it was a quick journey to the finish line.
I got there eventually, but started by noticing that GREENE was one letter off from GREECE, and looked for similar change-a-letter countries:
GRENADE – GRENADA
Certain I was on the right track, I allowed partials:
CONAN – cOMAN
MOLARS – moLAOS
MAGTAPE – MALTApe
DISDAIN – diSPAIN
Then I saw putting letters on black squares:
ALIT – MALIt
Finally I found Y(E)MEN crossing GRE(E)CE and it was short work from there.
I spotted Portugal first and then it was a quick finish. Fun meta.
Same for me, although it took some searching to find the R.
✋ I was definitely team CHAD until I noticed a couple other intersections with the common missing letter.
There are also 8 Olympic country codes that start words in the grid, I couldn’t see how to make them cross. I did have a small hint that it was wrong because GRE was repeated. But that was a pretty awful coincidence for me.
This is the same rathole I went down at the start. When I realized it led nowhere, I went back to where I had noticed IMPORT_GAL at 28 and 60 Down. Then I noticed ASEC_ADORN crossing and realized they shared a U at the black square. This was a very exciting moment.
In hindsight, it took longer than it should have, but then the GREECE/YEMEN pair jumped out at me and it was straightforward after that.
Being seemingly blind to the obvious, I stumbled on Chad *and* Mali *and* Aden – which turns out to only be a city. :-)
Despite my taking a long time to find my first (which was actually the last) crossing, I loved this puzzle. The title was meaningful, all the letter-pairs were embedded in other words except for GAL in the second part of PORT, making them hard to spot, but the GAL one was a nice intro to it.
Plus, marvelous construction. I rated it five stars.
I initially expected that it would be eight countries that crossed their own blank spaces, and the answer would be an eight-letter name. The first three letters I found were E, U and R, and I convinced myself that the answer would UKRAINE. I spent a lot of time trying to make that work before realizing that the countries were in fact crossing each other, and I was looking for a 4-letter name. I had never heard of CYPRUS and NAURU, and only got those when I figured out where the missing cross-countries were, and learned something new in the process.
Surprisingly, NA(U)RU was the first country name I noticed. Took me a long time to find any others, and I worried that I had just found a coincidence.