Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “The Polls Were Wrong”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upToday we’re asked for a two-word phrase sometimes spoken sarcastically. “Yeah, right,” you’re thinking? Well, let’s see if you’re right!
There’s only one obvious theme entry in this one:
- 36a. [Polling limitation…or, taken literally, the key to the contest answer], MARGIN OF ERROR
But one quickly notices that many entries are patently wrong, all found around the edge (“margin”) of the grid, and all have the same number of letters as the “correct” answer. Reading clockwise from the upper left:
- 1a. [Redford film with the line “He’s not as tough as he thinks”], BRUBAKER – well, no it was from THE STING (you have to wait until #1 appears)
- 9a. [Another name for the VW Golf], PASSAT – nope again it’s the RABBIT
- 14d. [Armenia’s capital], TBILISI – it’s YEREVAN. One thing I noticed here was that Georgia (Tbilisi is its capital) has the same letters as Armenia. Coincidence or meta-related?
- 46d. [Madagascar’s unit of currency], DOLLAR – it’s instead a vowel-rich entry that I’m surprised isn’t found in more crosswords, ARIARY
- 64a. [Literature Nobelist who wrote 1953’s “The Lying Days”], FAULKNER – it was Nadine GORDIMER. Faulkner’s 1930 “As I Lay Dying” has a very similar name. Coincidence or meta-related? These were building up…
- 63a. [Collins ___ (major Miami Beach thoroughfare)], STREET – it’s AVENUE, but again Melbourne shares a few letters with Miami Beach, and its main thoroughfare is Collins Street
- 39d. [World Series champs of 1948], ORIOLES – the Cleveland INDIANS beat the Boston Braves. The Orioles won it all in ’66, ’70 and ’83.
- 1d. [Metallic element with atomic number 28], BARIUM – Barium is 56 (double 28, coincidence or meta-related?), NICKEL is 28.
So although a few of these clues got me thinking there was another layer involved, the meta answer just involved taking the first letter of these “correct” entries to spell out TRY AGAIN; an appropriate sarcastic exhortation when one has initially guessed the wrong answer.
I enjoyed the conceit of this one, but it felt a bit loose, as it seems the only connection between the “right” and “wrong” answers were that they had the same number of letters and could be clued roughly the same. Six-letter metals abound, such as COPPER and SODIUM, and there are a lot of 7-letter European capitals. (Why not VILNIUS or TALLINN? Granted, Georgia is closer to Armenia, so perhaps an easier mistake to make.) Others seemed more restrictive–I doubt there are a lot of 8-letter Redford films, and the connection between Nobelist Nadine GORDIMER’s The Lying Days and FAULKNER’s As I Lay Dying is just freaky.
Seems like a low word-count in this one, with the open corners. Was thinking that the French of [Lemieux milieu] would carry over to the entry of GLACE, but it was just ICE. Speaking of French, along with AU REVOIR, we have Christian LACROIX, the latter being a nice change of pace from that other [Christian of fashion] we typically see. (And congrats to the hosting Les Bleus for winning their opening match in the UEFA!) STATED TO seems a bit stilted to my ear, and if something [Sounds yet again], does it REECHO or just echo? Finally, DO TO A (as a FITB before “T”) should definitely be excised from constructor’s databases.
Wonderful grid! It was definitely fun to do for a number of good entries and then a thinker on how one approaches doing grids, given the conceit present in it.
I was kind of hoping to see some apologies on the WSJ blog site from the people who blasted Matt G and Mike Shenk for the “mistakes” they made in construction and/or editing. But no…
Indeed. If anything, the biggest disappointment was the number of people doing this – basically constituting spoilers. Several admitted that the people complaining helped them in solving the meta, in effect raising the number of correct answers.
A wrong answer is one thing. When the constructor leaves two rather huge flashing beacons that say “I did this on purpose”, it takes a certain level of pomposity to shoot off comments like that. Of course, the problem from the WSJ’s end is how to handle that without ruffling the feathers of these people.
Right. I may ultimately have caught on that the answers were wrong (I didn’t actually know the answers to any of the 8 margin clues and so solely relied on the crossing letters to arrive at the wrong answers), but the comments did get me to that point earlier than I might have gotten on my own. So I got the meta right… but I don’t feel good about it. I will agree though that no one intended their comments to be spoilers. Interestingly enough, if this puzzle had been on Matt’s site, there wouldn’t have been any pre-reveal comments, and hence no spoilers.
maybe don’t read the comments until you’ve solved it?
Once I saw only ORIOLES fit in at 39-d I knew that some of the answers were wrong and that it was probably by design. As an Orioles fan, I knew the team was still the St. Louis Browns in 1948.
Once I saw the revealer, 36-A, I knew where to look for the rest.
I was bit lucky – having seen THE STING 20+ times, I knew right away that something was up when BRUBAKER was the answer to 1A. For most of the others I didn’t know the correct answer before googling, though COLLINS AVENUE was another nice late gimme.
Since the puzzle title spoke to politics, my initial thought was THANKS, OBAMA.
I enjoyed this one – took lots of head scratching and erasing, but lots of fun!
Evad, thanks for the write-up, funny how you followed the puzzle theme by purposely planting your own margin of error with “entires” instead of “entries” :-)
I was wondering how long it would *ahem* take for someone to notice that! :)
I think it was more than a gimmick that the correct and incorrect answers had the same number of letters — for a couple of them, it was necessary to get the right initial. Originally I had S for The Sting, and the currency could be “Malagasy ariary.” Realizing that we needed the first letter of an entry of the same length made it clear.
Collins STREET/AVENUE gave it away for me, as I’ve been to Miami Beach. Of course, I also know Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia and not Armenia, but with all the crossings, I didn’t give it a second thought as I filled it in. I had to google everything else (ariary???).
Some of the fill is pretty obscure too. Bridal gown designer??? Bernie Sanders’ son???
I just enjoyed a “I coulda had a V-8” moment.