Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “By the Numbers”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upAn impressive grid design this week for the WSJ Contest puzzle, with two stacks of grid-spanning 15-letter entries. Those four entries and the one in the middle of the grid will hopefully lead us to a two-word phrase with a total of ten letters. So what are those entries?
- 16a. [*Tootsie Woodley’s best friend], BLONDIE BUMSTEAD – I’ve heard of the answer but not the best friend. It’s interesting to note that Blondie’s maiden name was/is Boopadoop.
- 19a. [*Where to view Calder’s “Vertical Constellation with Bomb”], NATIONAL GALLERY – see below. Looks a bit like ARA to me.
- 32a. [*Monopoly token choice], SCOTTISH TERRIER – I’d forgotten if this was the token recently replaced by the cat, but that was the iron
- 46a. [*It led to Batista’s overthrow], CUBAN REVOLUTION – I’ve read that Fidel’s brother Raúl (who is now 85) will not seek reelection in 2018. Are there any Castros left to rule?
- 52a. [*Really abysmal], AS BAD AS BAD CAN BE
I first wondered if years related to the theme entries may have some bearing on the meta, but the last phrase is clearly unrelated to any particular year. So how else could numbers (referenced in the title) be involved?
One helpful idea is that since we’re looking for ten letters in total and we have five theme entries, it’s a good bet that each contributes two letters to the meta solution. All but that last entry are two-word phrases, so the hope that the initials of these words could be used is a dead-end. Thinking more about numbers, I wondered if the clue numbers themselves (the numbers the theme entries are “by”) would help? If you parse each theme entry’s clue number as two separate digits and grab those respective letters from the entries themselves, you get the letters colored in red above. Read in order you get BINGO CARDS.
I have a feeling Matt has offered up a similar meta in the past, but unlike joon, my memory isn’t good enough to have a hope of finding that in the MGWCC archives. Bingo cards as a solution has a pretty nice connection to numbers being called, and I see here that the range of possible numbers spans all the ones used by the theme entries (1 ~ 75).
I have mixed feelings about all of the theme entries being 15 letters, though. Certainly it’s an impressive feat of construction and has a nice visual appeal, but since the constraints on the entries are only two letters somewhere between the first and ninth position, I guess I would’ve preferred a bit of variety in their lengths, or (if possible) something that would make them feel more of a cohesive set.
As for the grid, it seemed a bit name-heavy, with CASS, BUSTA, ABBAS and ISAACS just in the lower left and TAMA and GATLIN elsewhere. I enjoyed the clue [Family that brays together] for ASSES, but balked a bit on the entry IV BAG, but what else you gonna do with ?VB??