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.
I did not know about wrought. Should I oughta known? Perhaps.
And Jagged Little Pill was the first CD album I bought with my own money so it has a special place in my heart. So I did “BUY IT.”
I second that emotion.
I am fine with the word WROUGHT.
It’s one of those instances where the dictionaries lag behind the language. Google News search “wrought” and all the big papers and magazines use it this way, but the dictionaries don’t approve.
I think that it would have been more appropriate to add a parenthetical explanation if the grid answer you needed was ‘wreaked’…
Got this one. As a matter of point, is the way to correctly submit BUYIT or Buy It?
Surely both are acceptable.
I found it a bit surprising that they provided asterisks this week, when all of the themers were the obvious longest answers, yet they didn’t last week, when some of the themers were shorter than several long answers that were not used in the puzzle solution. I think that it would make more sense to use asterisks when it it is unclear which answers are part of the puzzle solution.
That could raise some ambiguity about which sixth secret theme answer to use. It seem obvious that the shortest, non-symmetrical answer would be the one, but a case could be made for any of the other answers being the correct one.
In the context of the past tense of the phrase “Wreak Havoc,” I have never seen someone say, or write, “wrought havoc,” always “wreaked.” The addendum was definitely helpful, but not entirely necessary.