WSJ Contest – Friday, March 24, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Star Search”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 3/24/17 – “Star Search”

Greetings from Stamford, CT! This post is coming to you from ACPT HQ, where we’re in the midst of the annual crossword puzzle tournament. Luckily I had a break on the trip down here to solve and blog this week’s WSJ contest puzzle, “Star Search” by editor Mike Shenk. He asks us to find a five-letter word and with five starred entries, it seems a good bet that each will contribute a letter to the final meta solution.

  • 9a. [*Carpenter’s collection], SAWS
  • 19a. [*Made sense], ADDED UP
  • 45a. [*Graceful horse], ARAB
  • 46a. [*Something you can get out of the whey], RICOTTA – fun clue. As we’re about to get goats and start making cheese some day, I wonder if there is such a thing as goat ricotta?
  • 59a. [*Fire], ZEAL

Nothing obviously seems to tie these entries together, but a few other entries in the grid seem to point to some extra help.

  • 16a. [Slashes], DIAGONALS
  • 39a. [Pieces with slants], OPEDS
  • 55a. [Listing], AT AN ANGLE

So I made the assumption I’m on the search for hidden words that appear diagonally in the grid. My first thought was that I was looking for synonyms of the five starred entries (such as SUNNI or SHIA for ARAB?), but RICOTTA is such a specific thing, I found it hard to believe a synonym for it lurked slantwise in the puzzle somewhere.

Without other guidance, I just started looking at strings of diagonal letters in the grid and hit first upon LIBRA running from upper right to lower left in the middle of the right side of the puzzle. I thought perhaps that was coincidental until I saw PISCES on the opposite side. Then I was off on my own “star search,” finding LEO, SCORPIO and ARIES as well. So what did these have to do with the five starred entries? Well, each of these intersects a starred entry once and only once at a particular letter. Reading those letters from top to bottom, you get SPACE, our meta solution and the final frontier.

I enjoyed this meta, but am a little troubled that the grid entries that cross the zodiac names don’t have anything to do with the solution or each other. Perhaps that’s a lot to ask, and they all did have the constraint of having that crossing letter in the correct position. Elsewhere, I’ve heard of the Canadian LOONIE, but not the TOONIE (is one a one-dollar bill and the other two?). And GOLLY GEE, SIVAISM is new to me as well.

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15 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, March 24, 2017

  1. Tim Mitchell says:

    I had no shot at this one. I don’t know if it was an intentional misdirect or a coincidence, but there were exactly five clues that had the word “star” in them, so I spent all of my time trying to build relationships between those answers and the answers to the asterisked clues. I thought finding the clues was the “search” part of the title.

  2. BrainBoggler says:

    Oh, boy. I was nowhere close to solving that one. I wish I would have been paying more attention to “diagonals” and “at an angle”, but instead I got stuck on the fact there are exactly 5 instances of “star” in the clues (whether as a standalone word or part of a bigger word). I kept thinking there would be some way to connect those clues with the answers to the starred (“*”) clues. In fact I thought those “star” clue answers would be the ones to intersect the “*” clue answers, but obviously that wouldn’t turn out to be the case when 1A doesn’t intersect. Nice puzzle in retrospect — thank you for the challenge, Mike and Marie.

  3. Abide says:

    That was an intentional misdirection, I’m sure. I was stuck there for a while too, including trying to link them diagonally. But eventually I saw ARIES in the top right.

    Star Search is such a great title, since it took me longer than I thought to “word search” PISCES and SCORPIO.

  4. J B says:

    So the five clues with the word “star” in them were red herrings?

    • Evad says:

      I suppose it’s a good thing that I never even noticed that, or it would’ve led me down my own rabbit hole.

      • Sally says:

        That’s amazing. You really lucked out. It was luminously clear to me from the beginning that those five clues with “star” in them HAD to be part of the solution.

        I therefore wasted a lot of time on that.

      • LuckyGuest says:

        Yeah, fortunately, I saw Aries almost instantly, so I never got to the point where I started looking at the clues, so I wasn’t led astray by the “stars.”

  5. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    In addition to the five or six “stars” in the clues (I wondered how to count 40 A, Gardner’s “Lone Star” co-star, since there are plenty of ways to clue GABLE using the word “star” only once), I also noted in passing the spacey references in 20 A, Tauruses and Geminis, and 62 A, “The Moon is Blue.” Not that any of that helped; I totally didn’t get it.

  6. Amy L says:

    I saw that diagonal PATTI right away and thought of lots of stars (Page, Lupone, Labelle, Smith) but couldn’t connect it to the asterisked clues. I then noticed the five STARS in the clues. I just SPACEd out on this one.

  7. Scott says:

    This was a good puzzle and I should have gotten it. I did not pick up on the diagonal clues in the grid but I should have. Five “stars” from me.

  8. Sally says:

    Can’t help but wonder if the 3.56 rating on this puzzle is because so many people just were not able to crack it. In all fairness I think it deserves at least one point higher.

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