WSJ Contest – Friday, May 6, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Peter Gordon’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “French Twist”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - 5/6/16 - "French Twist"

WSJ Contest – 5/6/16 – “French Twist”

Happy Mother’s Day weekend, everyone! Today, we’re looking for a popular Mother’s Day gift, namely a candy. So let’s begin the hunt!

Three theme entries and a revealer can be identified:

  • 17a. [Like a scorcher (5)], HOT AS BLUE BLAZES – I wanted “hot as a blue streak” here
  • 26a. [Niece of John F. Kennedy (6)], MARIA SHRIVER – and ex-wife of the “Governator”
  • 45a. [Outfield walls closer than usual to home (7)], SHORT PORCHES – I’m not a huge baseball fan, but big enough in my day that I’m surprised not to be familiar with this term. I’m not sure how close is “usual,” so I wonder how close these have to be to be considered “short.” And why a “porch”?
  • 59a. [What the parenthetical numbers tell you to use in a novel way], LEFT-MOST LETTERS – the unusual word “novel” here got my Spidey Sense thinking of book titles (as it turns out, appropriately)

So the first revelation is to realize that the numbers in parentheses refer to that number of letters in each theme entry, starting from the left. So we have HOTAS, MARIAS and SHORTPO respectively. So in what “novel” way should we use them? Well, anagramming letters isn’t particularly novel, but that’s usually my first line of attack when I don’t recognize them as words on their own. I started with the longest of the three (thinking it would have the fewest number of valid combinations) and threw it into my trusty anagram solver. One entry caught my eye, the proper name PORTHOS. Hmmm, wasn’t he a character in a novel? Of course, Alexandar Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.

Looking at the other two entries, they anagram to the other two musketeers, ATHOS and ARAMIS. And, indeed, this novel name is also a type of candy so we have our meta answer.

Pretty straightforward meta this week; I liked how Maria S. worked in particular, although I wish the third theme entry were a bit more common (perhaps it is in your household, so YMMV). Definitely a foodie vibe to the long downs: we have an interesting meal of PITA BREAD, TOSTITOS and LIGHT BEER. Throw in the remaining TEASER AD and you have a Super Bowl party! I also enjoyed the double-A action of TEA ACT smack dab in the middle of the grid.

See you next week!

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7 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, May 6, 2016

  1. Glimmerglass says:

    “Trusty anagram solver”? Where’s the fun in using that?

  2. Scott says:

    Duh! I should have gotten this one. I spent way too much time going down several wrong paths and ended up with nothing.

  3. CoffeeLover says:

    Nothing like the Friday WSJ meta to make me feel stupid after the fact. Since ATHOS is a common xword entry, this should have been easy.

  4. Bob says:

    I was on the right track in that I identified all the letters, and even figured they were anagrams from a novel, but in the 15-20 minutes I spent on it, those names didn’t jump out at me. I should have tried the anagram solver. I have no shame using those tools either, but only after I give a good try without them. I thought maybe if I set it aside something would come to mind, but I hardly thought about it again with the great weather we had in the Pacific Northwest this weekend. Still, I love these metas even when I don’t get them.

    I too have been pretty involved with baseball over the years, and I’ve never heard of short porches, so I learned another bit of worthless trivia that might come in handy in a future crossword effort. Odds are I’ll never hear it again.

  5. Garrett says:

    I found the SW corner of the grid to be a real bear. Even after I had the HEL of HELM, helm just was not coming to me given the clue. And there is a Natick crossing in that corner (I solved the grid without using any tools). But I finally got it and wrote down ASHOTASMARIASSHORTPO, and I’m thinking, “As hot as Maria’s… short PO?” I could not make a thing of that! I finally threw in the towel and missed the submission time last night.

    This morning I was showing it to JJL at work and he came by my office an hour later and said, “Athos,” and the light dawned.

    I liked the meta.

  6. Dan Seidman says:

    “Short porch” is pretty common in my experience listening to baseball broadcasts and commentary. Often it’s just “porch”, since nobody ever talks about a long one. Of course, it’s still limited to baseball fans. No idea how the term came about specifically for close fences, although there is some similarity in shape between bleachers and steps leading up to a porch.

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