Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Backdrops” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for a nine-letter theater term. There were no obvious long theme entries, but Mike gave us two nudges in the grid:
- [52a: Transmission ender (this is a very loose hint to solving the contest)]: OVERANDOUT
- [Reverse (another loose hint)]: FLIP
FLIP and Drop (from the title) stood out, so I hunted the grid some something to reverse while dropping a letter. I noticed that GRAB’s clue contained bag in reverse once you drop the “R”, and the rest fell quickly:
- [1a: ___ bag (miscellany)]: GRAB -> R
- [15a: Love, in Roma]: AMORE -> E
- [22a: Material for a crib]: BIRCH -> H
- [24a: Lake formed by Hoover Dam]: MEAD -> E
- [35a: Dry goods measure]: YARD -> A
- [37a: One of Nevada’s gambling cities] -> RENO -> R
- [44a: Iraqi city on the Shatt al Arab]: BASRA-> S
- [51a: Mme. Bovary]: EMMA -> A
- [56a: Whole and skim]: MILKS -> L
The dropped letters spell REHEARSAL, our contest solution. I loved this meta by Mike: the construction is simply stunning. Solvers: please let me know what you think.