Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Start in Fear” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for a five-letter word related to Halloween. There were five starred theme entries:
- 1A [*Deck material]: TEAK
- 20A [*Baked Alaska layer]: MERINGUE
- 35A [*Mock]: TEASE
- 47A [*Touched tenderly]: CARESSED
- 60A [*Garamond or Goudy Old Style, e.g.]: FONT
I spun my wheels for a while, and found no traction on the meta. I asked a friend for a nudge on Sunday, and I finally found the rabbit hole: the five themers phonetically match other clues when started by “BOO”:
- BOO TEAK (Boutique): Place to shop ->MART
- BOO FONT (Bouffant): Puffy hairstyle -> AFRO
- BOO MERINGUE (Boomerang): Weapon thrown by Aboriginal Australians -> SPEAR
- BOO CARESSED (Bucharest): Capital of a nation on the Black Sea -> KYIV
- BOO TEASE (Booties): Soft footwear -> SOCKS
The mapped grid entries spell MASKS, our contest solution. In hindsight: I saw the clue for SPEAR and thought, “That should be boomerang,” but I didn’t pursue that rabbit any further. I also didn’t think to try pronunciation (and should have). A clean meta, and 100%-er once you spotted the mechanism. Readers: please let me know how you made out on this spooky puzzle.