WSJ Contest – Friday, December 18, 2015

untimed (Evad) 


Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Same Difference”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - "Same Difference" - 12/18/15

WSJ Contest – “Same Difference” – 12/18/15

It’s an “off-week” for meta constructor Matt Gaffney and in his place we have one of the gods of the cruciverbial pantheon, Patrick Berry. He asks us for a five-letter word, which isn’t much to go on, but let’s see what hints develop along the way.

This one doesn’t have any obvious theme entries, so that too, makes things harder than our typical contest puzzles so far. The longest entries are just 9-letters long (PARENTING and ISOMETRIC, which seem to have nothing in common, at least on their surface) and then just two 8-letter entries in the down direction, PREGNANT and ADAPTERS. One thing I did notice looking at this set of four longer entries is that two of them share the exact same clue:

17a. & 11d. [Overseeing a child’s development, say] – PARENTING & PREGNANT

That made me think that a few other clues might be repeated, and if there were four other of these pairs, I might be on the trail of the five-letter word. Here are the other four:

  • 38a. & 48d. [Suspicious] – SHIFTY & FISHY
  • 41a. & 63a. [Men’s formalwear purchase] – COAT & ASCOT
  • 51a. & 44d. [Game featuring shapes of different colors] – TWISTER & TETRIS
  • And finally, 1d. & 29d. [Cavorts playfully] – CAPERS & PRANCES

So the only thing left was to figure out how each of these pairs contributed a letter to the final meta answer. Well, it’s pretty obvious that in each pair, one word anagrams to the other with the addition of one extra letter. Those letters are highlighted in red above: ITSWN, which itself anagrams to TWINS and our (appropriate, given the almost identical pairs above) meta answer.

Twister sans W

To say that I loved this meta is an understatement, finding pairs like PARENTING and PREGNANT, and TWISTER and TETRIS, and then coming up with clues that fit both is trademark Patrick brilliance. This conceit though had the unintended side effect of making the puzzle itself harder to solve as these shared clues were a bit strained to fit two different words. I’ve attached here my attempt to solve this puzzle and you can see where I had the most trouble:

  • Starting in the northwest, I had MACHO for MANLY ([Strong and brave]), leading me to MATCH instead of EQUAL for [Keep pace with].
  • Then in the center, I went with SO SAD instead of SORRY for [Woefully unimpressive]
  • Finally at the bottom, my missteps were OPEC instead of ROTC for [Drilling org.] (I knew ADA was one letter shy, anyway!); EDITS for IDEAS as [Writers’ room products] and I guessed OTIS instead of WATT for the [Improver of the Newcomen steam engine]. (James Watt makes a heckuva lot more sense in retrospect.)

Thanks for the ride, Patrick and Mike!

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6 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, December 18, 2015

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    Wonderful puzzle! Like you said, I felt the clue for TWISTER was a bit strained, but technically it’s correct (it doesn’t say that the shapes are all different).

    My post-solve moment of paralysis didn’t last as long as did for PB’s last outing (the “Long and Winding Road” one), but the solution was just as satisfying.

  2. Scott says:

    This puzzle was brilliant. I can’t imagine how Patrick found these word pairs. Very well done.

  3. Alan D. says:

    Couldn’t agree more. When I finished the meta I had to stand back and admire the genius of it.

  4. DaveB says:


  5. bananarchy says:

    Oh wow

  6. Jan says:

    I loved the puzzle overall, but am surprised there aren’t any comments about 4D: Strong and brave = MANLY. Since I was early into the solving when I got to it, I thought there might be a rebus involved, but couldn’t figure out which part of valiant or womanly would be the multiple letters in the grid.

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