WSJ Contest – Friday, March 18, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Yours For The Asking”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - 3/18/16 - "Yours For The Asking"

WSJ Contest – 3/18/16 – “Yours For The Asking”

This week we’re looking for a famous actress/comedian (not “comedienne”?) who would complete this puzzle’s theme. There seem to be five obvious theme answers, so the meta would complete a set of six:

  • 17a. [“Greetings!”], HELLO THERE
  • 24a. [Has lasting effect], GOES A LONG WAY
  • 35a. [Noted Oxford graduate of 1651], CHRISTOPHER WREN – a lovely 15, and renowned architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. I first thought of Isaac Newton, but, though precocious, he would only have been 8 in ’51 and attended Trinity College in Cambridge.
  • 49a. [Be indifferent], NOT CARE A WHIT – can’t say I’ve said this phrase in recent memory
  • 59a. [Untouchable, perhaps], BURNING HOT

Switch out the highlighted letter above and you have four of the five W’s as well as HOW. So which W is left? WHO, of course!

So, if we’re following the theme pattern, we have to change one letter of WHO to get our meta actress/comedienne, and Margaret CHO came directly to mind.
Though I am very familiar with her name and comedy (she attracts many gay men and women to her shows with her unique brand of risqué humor), I do wonder how well-known she is among the general WSJ-solving public. Your mileage may vary widely.

I thought Matt did a good job of getting five theme answers in the grid; the J action in the TOJO / EMOJI crossing was a particularly nice find for this solver. I’m a little less enamored with CUT, CUT, [Exasperated director’s shout] and the horse in “National Velvet”, THE PIE, which was an obscure entry for me.

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12 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, March 18, 2016

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    I had the same thoughts as you, Dave, about the WSJ crowd, and yup, they’re complaining over on the WSJ site.

    Solving the puzzle was pretty straightforward for me, but taking the two steps to get the meta was pretty challenging. I didn’t recognize the questions at first. My first thought on seeing HELLO THERE was Mae West for some reason, followed closely by Bette Midler who apparently had a song “Hello In There”.

    I also noticed the last two themers ended with IT and HOT respectively, which sent me looking for SOME and LIKE (thinking Marilyn Monroe). No dice.

    Finally I noticed all the Hs and Ws which led me to the questions. But then I couldn’t figure out who TARIT was. Once I realized the instructions were to “complete the set”, I got to the right answer.

    I don’t know what else she’s done lately, but I last saw Margaret Cho in Weird Al’s video of “Tacky”.

  2. Scott says:

    This was a good one and quite fair. It took me awhile to figure it out…basically the right amount of time. The WSJ blog has a lot of complaints…mostly unwarranted…but it is an interesting read nevertheless.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      It wasn’t too complaint-filled, I don’t think. A few people hadn’t heard of Margaret Cho, but, as other commenters pointed out, Googling a famous comedian/actress whose surname is ?HO or W?O or WH? is, as one of them put it, “a limited universe.”

      • JohnH says:

        I’m not admiring of puzzles that require Googling, but this morning I did Google “famous actress comedian,” and she didn’t turn up. At least she wasn’t in the row of names and photos that appeared at the top of the screen, and I clicked at right to see the first 25 or so.

        As I commented at WSJ, it also just didn’t feel tight enough to me. If it were a Thursday Times theme puzzle, we’d have some indication to change letters and some pattern to the changes, such as a shared letter to change or a word spelled out by the dropped letters. So, on the whole, this one didn’t work at all for me.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Well you wouldn’t normally get such indicators on a meta — that’s part of what the solver is supposed to be figuring out.

          • JohnH says:

            Well, maybe, but if so, it doesn’t speak well of a meta that it’s a guessing game. And anyway previous weeks did say to look above a long entry, to its right, to black squares after, etc., etc.

            Without that, you’re left with what? The last word in long answers kinda sorts is like a question, and an additional question is kinda sorta like a comedian not on the tip of my tongue. I know you’ve dug in your heels, so it doesn’t matter, but the negativity over at WSJ is well earned.

  3. KatieM says:

    Matt, you are so patient and nice with the WSJ commenters. I am not going to read any of the comments over there anymore. I agree with Scott that the meta was good and fair, as all of the WSJ metas have been. Maybe someday, the WSJ commenters will begin to learn what a meta is all about. I love the solving of the mystery. Don’t take those negative WSJ comments seriously.

  4. Scott says:

    Katie, I agree. I think many WSJ solvers simply don’t understand meta puzzles. People who have been solving Matt’s puzzles for years are unlikely to complain because they “get” the whole process.

  5. Abide says:

    smh on a few of the commenters openly asking for a hint. And then Al Sanders wins the mug! Hilarious

    • Evad says:

      Yeah, I thought that there was only one Al in Loveland, Co it could be!

      I have to admit I was smh over what smh meant…

  6. Kaille says:

    I’m excited to have found this site! (Thank you Jim Peredo for leaving your comment over on the WSJ boards.) I love the WSJ Friday contest and I can’t get to my paper box fast enough on Friday mornings (sounds like somebody needs a life). I thought Friday’s puzzle was really clever, but I remember the kerfuffle over the Risk/Middle East puzzle on the WSJ board a few weeks back and figured this puzzle would be equally controversial.

    I don’t subscribe to Matt’s weekly contest on this site, but I’m happy to see that it is reviewed after the fact for all of us to see. I figure the more of them I look at, the better I will get at solving them.

    Off to find out what smh means.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Yay! Welcome. I think you’ll find the discussions here are mostly fair and civil. And we know all about crossword addiction, so you’ll fit right in.

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