WSJ Contest – January 5, 2018

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Opposite Day”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 1/5/18 – “Opposite Day”

Rather unusual instructions this week for our meta solution; we’re looking for a word that does not describe this week’s contest. Well, that could be pretty much anything–let’s hope that word isn’t easy! Five theme answers seem to be involved as well as five other shorter words that have two numbers in parentheses after their clues. Let’s begin with the longer entries:

  • 17a. [A celebrity may secretly desire one], NORMAL LIFE – who is to say what is normal these days?
  • 26a. [“Awesome!”], COOL BEANS – an awesome phrase in my book, if a bit dated
  • 35a. [Debater’s weapon], LOGICAL ARGUMENT – I was on my high school’s forensic team for much of my junior and senior years; one year the topic concerned scarce world resources. I remember our cases involved protein sources other than meat, the tropical legume known as a winged bean was one of my favorites.
  • 48a. [Longtime Cubs supporters, e.g.], LOYAL FANS – that loyalty paid off in 2016 with a World Series win!
  • 57a. [Stuff in a barrel, maybe], TOXIC WASTE – why does this video come to mind?

The five shorter entries are: BLIP, BALI, SIDES, NONOS and MUNI. So with a strong hint from the title, I started to think of opposites of the words in the longer entries. WARM is the opposite of COLD, DEATH for LIFE, SALUTARY for TOXIC, etc., but these seemed a bit imprecise. Speaking of im-precise, though, it got me thinking that these first words could be negated by putting a prefix in front of them–ABNORMAL, UNCOOL,

Then, if you look at the five shorter entries, you can find these prefixes hidden within. The next problem, though, was how do you use those prefixes and the enumerations to come up with the meta solution? Well, on “Opposite Day,” it’s appropriate to do just the opposite, and use the letters left over from each of these shorter words, leaving 2 letters in each case. Put them in that numeric order, you get IMPOSSIBLE, which, at least for this solver, does NOT describe the puzzle.

Other bits I enjoyed: the crossing of [Glasses, humorously] for SPEX and [Photos, amusingly], for PIX at that X. EVANESCE is a nice word, as well as the “Swedish mini-theme” of ABBA and IKEA.

Since this is opposite day, I’ll say that I really hated this one. =8*)

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12 Responses to WSJ Contest – January 5, 2018

  1. Jon says:

    I was not even close. Never in a millions years would I have seen the prefix association for the 1st word of the long theme entries.

    I’m glad Matt didn’t chose this meta for his week 5 MGWCC last week or for sure my streak would have been broken.

    • Jon says:

      Also, I want to point out that the hidden prefixes in the shorter fills with the parenthesis clues aren’t all consistent for all 5. It appears 4 out of the 5, the prefix is hidden going backwards (or opposite the normal direction) while 1 of them – the UN – goes the same direction.

      • 3 out of 5, technically, since the NON- of NONOS goes both ways. But even if it were 4 out of 5, that wouldn’t have bothered me at all. That Matt could keep the fill pretty smooth despite working with this much theme material — while having the leftover letters of the short entries spell something relevant — is very impressive.

        • RPardoe says:

          The 3 out of 5 that are in reverse order also have the parenthetical numbers in declining order. So perhaps the “numerical order” direction of the parenthetical references was a clue to the direction of the prefix?

          Or just an amazing coincidence?

  2. JohnH says:

    Did I miss an explanation of the parenthetic numbers? They’re pretty much all I looked it, such as a way to convert MUNI into a phrase of two- and seven-letter words. Never found it.

    • joon says:

      the parenthetic numbers provide an ordering, as implied by the fact that each number from 1 to 10 appears exactly once. each short theme answer had two letters left over after taking out one of the negating prefixes; the two numbers told you how to order those remaining letters to spell out the final answer.

  3. azmat says:

    Clunk not a click led to the answer. Opposite day= opposite ends of the 5 short words. Using the numbers in clue order gave me IMPNSSIBBS–Only only 1 word made sense. The mistaken ‘O’, ‘L’ & ‘E’ were all in the short words….so submitted IMPOSSIBLE without further thought. Actual extraction was quite slick.

  4. Matthew G. says:

    This was really great. I kept trying to find opposites of the adjectives but the much more elegant idea of adding prefixes did not occur to me. 4.5 stars even though I didn’t get it.

  5. Scott says:

    I liked this one but I failed to get it. I solved this on my mobile (not on paper) and promptly forgot about the parenthetical numbers. I had all the prefixes and saw the associated entries but failed to work it out to the conclusion. My bad!

  6. austin says:

    i solved pretty quickly only from looking at the parenthetical numbers. then took me like 10 minutes to figure out HOW it was correct lol

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