Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Small Animals” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for a three-letter animal. There were three-letter animals throughout the grid: some symmetric and some not:
- 6a: S(ASS) -> ASS
- 12d: KA(YAK)S -> YAK
- 29a: (CAT)HER -> CAT
- 49d: U(BOA)TS -> BOA
- 72a: S(COW) -> COW
- 64a: BOON(DOG)GLE -> DOG
The lack of step one symmetry threw me a bit and delayed my solve. I kept looking for a three-letter animal in INTIMIDATE. It was symmetric with BOON(DOG)GLE and theme entry length. It turns out INTIMIDATE was important, but part of step two. The lack of symmetry made me unsure if I’d found all of the small animals. I wrote ROO? and NIT?? in my notes. Both admittedly weaker than CAT or DOG: ROO is short for kangaroo (the other entries were the actual name of the animal) and NIT is a bug.
I finally spotted SCARF (clued as “Long neckwear”) and realized it served as an alternate clue for BOA. I had the rabbit: each short animal name mapped to another entry’s clue:
- [1a: Long neckwear]: SCARF -> BOA
- [11d: Pinhead]: NITWIT -> ASS
- [17a: Push around]: INTIMIDATE -> COW
- [26d: Cause persistent stress to]: TORMENT -> DOG
- [47a: Shoot the breeze]: CHAT -> YAK
- [57a:Dude]: HOMBRE -> CAT
The mapped entries spell SNITCH, leading to RAT, our contest solution. I backsolved CAT/HOMBRE after seeing “SNITC.” in my notes. This meta felt rough around the edges to me, but it all lined up in the end. Solvers: please share your thoughts.