Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “The Woman in White” — Conrad’s writeup.
Welcome to my eleventy first writeup for Fiend. I meant to mention something on my 100th writeup… and promptly forgot. Eleventy one is a better number anyway. This week we’re looking for a famous American woman of the past. Mike gave us his customary additional hint in the final horizontal entry (61a): MARY, clued as “Lincoln, who was the wife of the 16th president (she’s not the contest answer).” There were four long theme entries, each containing the first name of a first lady who lived in the White House:
- [17a: Punch]: TAKEAPO(PAT) -> Nixon
- [24a: Harebrained]: COCKA(MAMIE) -> Eisenhower
- [41a: Hostile quality]: MALIG(NANCY) -> Reagan
- [53a: Migraine symptom]: VISUA(LAURA) -> Bush
Mike’s hint emphasized the 16th president, so the next step is to map the first ladies to their president’s number (and then map that number to the grid):
- Richard Nixon: 37 -> B
- Dwight D. Eisenhower: 34 -> E
- Ronald Reagan: 40 -> S
- George W. Bush: 43 -> S
The mapped letters spell BESS, making BESS TRUMAN our contest solution. A solving friend pointed out that there have been 54 first ladies, so using a meta mechanism that relies on numbering them risks ambiguity. 61A ties the theme into the presidents’ order, not the first ladies’, which appears to be Mike’s way of addressing that issue. Solvers: please share your thoughts, and let me know if that potential ambiguity affected your solve. I was tempted to end with PM Dawn’s Set Adrift on Memory Bliss (sampling Spandau Ballet’s True), but I already shared that. We just finished bingeing Peaky Blinders, so I’ll end with Pana-vision, by The Smile.