WSJ Contest – Friday, January 22, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Comes with the Territory”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - "Comes with the Territory" - 1/22/16

WSJ Contest – “Comes with the Territory” – 1/22/16

Welcome back to another week of the WSJ contest crossword. Today, we’re asked for one of the 42 territories on a Risk board, that would complete this puzzle’s theme. So, let’s start with the theme entries, which are conveniently starred this week (although I’m not sure why, as they seem to be the longest across entries anyway):

  • 17a. [*”Cocoon” is set at one], NURSING HOME
  • 26a. [*Disney CEO since 2005], ROBERT IGER – I keep confusing his last name with Robert Iler from “The Sopranos”
  • 38a. [*She was born in Vienna and died in Paris], MARIE ANTOINETTE – a geographic clue that had me thinking (along with the fact that they were starred) that clues would feature in the meta solution
  • 53a. [*Wine party need], CHEESE TRAY
  • 62a. [*Current controllers], VACUUM TUBES – many times Matt’s metas make too much mileage mentioning alliterative metaphors

I am not the CEO of Disney.

Given that there are five theme entries, and we are asked to complete the theme, I assumed we were looking for a set of six, and these entries represented five of that set. Typical wordplay relationships among entries that seem dissimilar on surface value (unless we can imagine some type of “wine party” at a nursing home at which Marie A. and Robert I. were in attendance and cheese was served in vacuum-sealed wrappers?) is to see if their first or last words form a set as these were all two word entries.

That didn’t seem to be a productive path to follow in search of the meta answer, so the next idea I had was look at the initials of each “phrase,” which did seem promising:


Well, given I live in the last state on that list, it was quickly evident these represent five of the six states of New England, leaving the postal abbreviation for the ol’ state o’ Maine (ME) to be found among the 42 Risk board territories. Even though I played Risk in college (and was spectacularly bad at it, as I don’t have a devious bone in my body, which shouldn’t be seen as an invitation to all poker players out there to fleece me!), I had to head over to Wikipedia to check out the names of these territories, in search of a two-word name that began with the initials M. E.

Lo and behold, I found the Middle East, and I had my submission of the answer to this week’s meta contest. Nice to have, at least for this New Englander, a much easier meta challenge than last week’s jawbreaker. I thought the non-meta content of this puzzle was very nice, in particular the triple 8-stacks in the northeast and southwest. Lots of geographic entries might pull solvers off the scent of the main trail–I found NEPAL, GAMBIA and USA calling out for consideration. Timely entry of Louisiana’s ex-governor Bobby (short for Piyush?) JINDAL, who dropped out of the presidential race back on 11/17. Finally, I found the crossing between DEA AGENT and AOL a bit difficult, as I had never heard of Engadget, which appears to be some type of technology ezine.

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2 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, January 22, 2016

  1. JeffG. says:

    Thanks for the write up Evad. Enjoyed the puzzle and your re-cap.

  2. John Haber says:

    This to me was an example of what’s wrong with meta puzzles. You can connect the dots to see practically anything. In this case, not remembering a Risk board meant having to look it up, which feels like cheating to me, but also not having a clear definition of New England in my head, I just figured it was a sample of states from New England, not a set missing one, and so the answer must be the Risk territory encompassing New England. Who can say I’m wrong?

    Didn’t care either for the arbitrary feel of the phrases bearing those letter pairs. It felt like many another construction would do.

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