Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Keep on Truckin'” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for something you might call a trucker. The center entry (TENFOUR, clued as “Message received,” to a trucker) was clearly thematic. There were no obvious theme entries beyond that, other than the two long acrosses (which were ten letters long). I tried to apply 10-4 to them (taking the 10th and 4th letters), which lead nowhere. I overcomplicated things and researched trucker 10 codes. I figured they were a bit of a stretch as the basis for a meta, but I had fun learning about them. I slept on it, woke up, and tried applying 10-4 to various places in the grid. Wrong rabbit hole, but I stumbled into the right one when I spotted “Detraining site” (which struck me as an odd clue for EXIT the day before), and realized the clue had a 10-letter word followed by a four-letter word. Fifteen other clues followed the same pattern:
- [5a: Detraining site]: STOP
- [13a: Cloverleaf ramp]: EXIT
- [16a: Restaurant card]: MENU
- [19a: Folksinger Burl]: IVES
- [23a: Allocation word]: PER
- [25a: Ceremonial acts]: RITES
- [33a: Burdensome task]: ONUS
- [34a: Menacingly wild]: FIERCE
- [40a: Serpentine fish]: EEL
- [42a: Diagnostic test]: SCAN
- [47a: Lighthouse view]: SEA
- [56a: Newsworthy pair]: ITEM
- [57a: Transplant hero]: ORGANDONOR
- [61a: Lymphocyte site]: NODE
- [62a: Melancholy sigh]: ALAS
- [63a: Decorative trim]: LACE
The first letter of the theme entries spell SEMIPROFESSIONAL, our contest solution. Note to self: when the grid yields no signal: check the notes. I did so fairly quickly, but not closely enough. Solvers: let me know how you made out.
Most of the theme clues were worded well. “Transplant hero” would be the one that sticks out the most, but when I was solving the grid, that clue didn’t give me pause. Took me a day after completing the grid to figure out the answer.
Well done! Fascinating solution. I got caught up in thinking Ten Four led to clues 10 and 4 down, Pier Stripes, and toyed for a long time with an anagram. The word DECODERS also took me on a wild goose chase apparently. Like others I felt that “Transplant hero” was important but I took it literally, thinking I had to move the letters h e r o. The odd thing about these contests is that I enjoy doing them even when I’m dead wrong.
I felt that TENFOUR was key but could not figure out what to do with it.
Me, too. I should learn that they like to point to the clues as much as the answers.
My other dead end was noticing that BARREL in one long answer could go with ORGAN in the other.
I got tripped up by some of the same until someone reminded me that sometimes you should look beyond the grid. I had kept going back to CLOVERLEAF RAMP/EXIT as that really seemed to fit the theme. But what else could I find? And that’s when 10-4 became crystal clear.