Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Unfinished Business” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for a past-tense verb. There was one obvious themer: the center down entry LEFTOFF, clued as “Stopped while one’s business was unfinished.” I struggled mightily with this one. Here are some rabbits I chased:
- AHEM, mentioning “right” in the clue: “I’m right here, you know”
- EWAN, with WAN in the clue (the left letter removed): “McGregor of Disney+’s “Obi-Wan Kenobi”
- I noticed the grid had a lot of F’s: 12 in all
- I looked for brands in the grid, and tried to make brands names after dropping/adding letters
- I dropped the left letter from a bunch of entries
- EDSEL was symmetric with SEDAN
- The center across entry BESTFIT seemed like it should be important
- Etc., etc.
Sunday rolled around so I teamed up with a friend who also hadn’t solved it. We agreed that LEFTOFF was important and I pointed out the twelve F’s. I looked back at my highlighted grid as he noted that the F’s were on different lines and I had it: look at each letter LEFT OF F:
The letters LEFT OF F spell DISCONTINUED, our contest solution. One of my continuing meta solving challenges is trying to get better at extracting myself from countless rabbit holes. I had the whole thing in front of me right away, and then spun my wheels for days. I had it in minutes after simply telling my friend the important things I noticed. Hats off to Mike on LEFT OF F: that entry is sublime. Solvers: please share your thoughts.