Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Oh, and One More Thing…” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for a five-letter word. There were five theme entries with clues ending with “oh, and one more thing…”:
- MARYLAND: Big Ten school (oh, and one more thing…)
- KENNYLOGGINS: “We Are the World” singer who was half of a famous duo (oh, and one more thing…)
- TOPSPINLOBS: Tactics used against players who rush the net (oh, and one more thing…)
- RANCHOMIRAGE: Coachella Valley resort city (oh, and one more thing…)
- UTAHJAZZ: NBA team in a Four Corners state (oh, and one more thing…)
Two techniques I have learned over the years helped me solve this one. The first is noting odd grid fill: I spotted SIXON [clued as, “___ my head…” (counting lyric from “Schoolhouse Rock”)]. NIXON/NAT would have been much cleaner and I knew SIXON had to be relevant. The 2nd technique is spotting vague clues that could have alternate answers, and all five theme clues were vague. I checked the list of singers who appeared in “We are the World,” looked for members of other famous duos, spotted Paul SIMON (of Simon & Garfunkel fame), and I had the rabbit: each theme entry had an alternate answer that mapped back to the grid with one letter swapped. Here they are in mapped grid order:
- [Tactics used against players who rush the net]: Passing Sho(t)s -> SHO(E)S
- [“We Are the World” singer who was half of a famous duo]: Paul Si(m)on -> SI(X)ON
- [Coachella Valley resort city]: Palm S(p)rings -> S(T)RINGS
- [Big Ten school]: Pennsylvania Sta(t)e -> STA(R)E
- NBA team in a Four Corners state: Phoenix S(u)ns -> S(A)NS
The mapped letters spell EXTRA, our contest solution. It took me some time to nail this one down: I spotted SIMON/SIXON and SPRINGS/STRINGS first and spun my wheels for a while. I wondered if I was chasing a phantom rabbit but SIXON kept me locked in. SUNS/SANS fell next. That gave me .XT.A and I knew the answer had to be EXTRA. I started backsolving the missing E and A and struggled until l I noticed that each alternate answer contained two words beginning with PS (as in: one more thing you add to the end of a letter). After lots of Googling I finally spotted Pennsylvania STATE/STARE, and Passing SHOTS/SHOES.
This meta felt a bit rough around the edges. I got it and PS definitely helped, but I kept wondering if I was missing some confirming factor beyond PS. But the answer is a 100%-er, so it all works. Solvers: let me know if I missed anything and as always: please share your thoughts.