Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Tense Situation” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for the grid answer that’s a secret sixth theme answer. There were five starred theme entries, each containing a present tense verb:
- [17A *Ask what others would do]: SEEKADVICE
- [25A *Get into crisis mode]: THINKFAST
- [39A *Contribute, as a team member does]: BRINGTOTHETABLE
- [48A *Cult classic of 1999]: FIGHTCLUB
- [62A *Cause great damage (this one is a little loose)]: WREAKHAVOC
The past tense of each verb* rhymed with OUGHT:
- SEEK -> SOUGHT
- THINK -> THOUGHT
- BRING -> BROUGHT
- FIGHT -> FOUGHT
- WREAK -> WROUGHT*
I scanned the grid looking for a present tense verb with a rhyming past tense. BOUGHT is the past tense of BUY, making BUYIT our contest solution. I was about to submit my answer, and had to double check what Matt meant about 62a (“this one is a little loose”). It turns out the past tense of WREAK is WREAKED. I was an English major as an undergrad, and this sailed right past me.
Here is more information than you require on this issue: ‘Wrought derives from Middle English worken, the past participle of our very familiar verb work, following similar verb patterns still in use today (caught, bought, taught).’ The highlight of my undergrad studies was reading, translating, re-reading, and finally getting the Canterbury Tales in Middle English (the Miller’s Tale is delightfully filthy). Solvers: would you have noticed WROUGHT if Matt hadn’t pointed it out? Let me know you made out in the comments.