WSJ Contest – Friday, February 19, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “What Am I Missing?”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - 2/19/16 - "What Am I Missing?"

WSJ Contest – 2/19/16 – “What Am I Missing?”

So this week constructor Matt Gaffney poses the question, “What am I missing?” Apparently, based on the contest instructions, this missing thing is a certain animal breed. The recent Westminster Dog Show came immediately to mind, would we find a breed of dog missing among the entries in the grid? Let us put on our deerstalker cap and investigate further.

The five longest across entries share an unusual phenomenon; they are all missing their final letters. To wit:

  • 17a. [Campaign strategist for Clinton in 1996], DICK MORRI[S] – only vaguely familiar with the name, couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, I’m sure. Apparently he still publishes a regular podcast on his website.
  • 24a. [2002 Neil Simon revision subtitled “A New Look at the Odd Couple”], OSCAR AND FELI[X]
  • 41a. [Spinal Tap album named for a famous sculpture], INTRAVENUS DE MIL[O]
  • 52a. [President for just 200 days], JAMES GARFIEL[D] – Jim, we hardly knew ya.
  • 66a. [1965 Dr. Seuss book], FOX IN SOCK[S]

What am I missing?

So the most obvious tack is to take these missing letters and try to do something with them. Not much hope with SXODS, though, and it would be odd to have the meta be simply based on just these missing final letters since it’s unclear why these five entries would be chosen to have their “tails” chopped off. Is every entry missing something? The Venus de Milo is famous for not having an arm, and perhaps Garfield could be seen as having lost his life by assassination, but the others didn’t seem to fit this pattern.

Switching gears and thinking about tails got me in the frame of mind of dogs again and I started to look at the final name in each theme entry. We have:

All famous cats! So if we’re looking for a breed of cat (now I understand why “animal” was used in the meta instructions, so as not to let the cat out of the bag as it were), I was hoping that there was only one breed that is known for not having a tail. Indeed, we have the MANX cat, named after the Isle of Man, where it originated.

What am I missing?

I was sort of surprised only one breed of cats is known for not having a tail; in fact, even Manx (or is the plural Manxes?) can sometimes have tails; however, this is quite rare. Other fun facts I learned from the puzzle are the constructor shares his first name with [Savannah’s co-host] (from the “Today” show) and that TOKYO has the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world. With five letters, I was probably not alone in slapping PARIS in there. Finally, who knew that VIRGO was the [Largest constellation in the zodiac] (but not the in the entire Milky Way, which is Hydra, the Sea Serpent)? On the other side of the coin, [___ Janeiro] for RIO DE is a pretty unfortunate looking partial. Though I bet the Manx with its partial tail would sympathize…

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4 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, February 19, 2016

  1. Scott says:

    Really good puzzle. Matt is so clever. I didn’t get the answer, but in retrospect, I should have.

  2. Tony says:

    Crap. Went with Tabby since I knew that Morris and Garfield (and possibly Milo) are tabbies. Forgot the meta puzzle rules of:

    1 – Read the instructions
    2 – Read the instructions
    3 – Read the isntructions

  3. janie says:

    may have been complicating things, but am hoping the cymric will also pass muster (or just even be considered acceptable) —


    p.s. bonus feline (avec tail…) is OSCAR, a hospice/therapy cat.

    • Bob Kerfuffle says:

      I have no idea if the answers to these metas are scanned by machine or by a human, but I submitted my answer as MANX CATS (TAILLESS CATS), since as @janie points out, Manx is not the only tailless breed.

      But really just playing for fun anyway.

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