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.