Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Body Language” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for a four-letter part of the body. There were five long across theme entries:
- [They visit stores for market research]: MYSTERYSHOPPERS
- [Simple picture creator]: PINHOLECAMERA
- [Food named for a Caribbean capital]: HABANEROPEPPERS
- [Woven carriers]: WICKERBASKETS
- [Dog often amusingly groomed]: MINIATUREPOODLE
I noticed the awkward HUART/ISU crossing (which should have been HEART/ISE) as I solved the grid and skipped step one (figuring out the pattern in the themers) and surged right into step two: find grid entries that formed a body part after swapping one letter. I spotted OYES (EYES) and SEETH (TEETH) and was on my way until… I got bogged down. Were RIP/HIP, TRAIN/BRAIN, and ERR/EAR relevant? Well, in hindsight: one was. And what exactly were the theme entries there for?
I realized that skipping step one (figuring out the themers) was actually costing me time. So I circled back and looked at them. I need to get better at noting my random thoughts as I solve meta grids: I saw PINHOLE as I completed the grid and thought, “Shut your PIEHOLE.” That thought flittered around my brain and flew away before I wrote it down. Lesson learned for next time.
The five theme entries contained a word that became slang for a body part after changing one letter. Those body parts mapped to another grid entry that also became the same body part after changing one letter:
- SHOPPERS: CHOPPERS -> TEETH: (S)EETH
- PINHOLE: PIEHOLE -> MOUTH: MO(N)TH
- PEPPERS: PEEPERS -> EYES: (O)YES
- WICKER: TICKER -> HEART: H(U)ART
- POODLE: NOODLE -> BRAN: (T)RAIN
The changed letters spell SNOUT, which is slang for NOSE, our contest solution. As I told my solving friends: I didn’t exactly backsolve this one. Inside out better describes my process. Solvers: I’m curious if you solved this in (what I assume was) Matt’s intended order? Or did you rush straight into step two and flail around like I did? As always: please share your thoughts in the comments.