WSJ Contest – Friday, July 22, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Sounds a Little Off”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - 7/22/16 - "Sounds a Little Off"

WSJ Contest – 7/22/16 – “Sounds a Little Off”

This week we’re going on safari in search of an animal. So let’s get our binoculars out and see if one appears on the horizon.

Six theme entries all contain an animal reference:

  • 17a. [Chaotic situation], GOAT RODEO – this term isn’t familiar to me, and we’re about to start raising goats here on our farm in Vermont!
  • 21a. [It’s above criticism], SACRED COW
  • 35a. [Family embarrassment], BLACK SHEEP
  • 42a. [Item purchased without proper assessment of value], PIG IN A POKE
  • 49a. [Part of some magic tricks], WHITE DOVE – hmmm, a white rabbit seems more common in magic tricks, but I guess I’ve seen a dove fly out of a magician’s hat as well
  • 60a. [Fan of the Persians, perhaps], CAT PERSON – that clue could’ve also been [Me, for instance], referring to Matt himself, who owns two cats as I recall. (One, named OTTO OTIS, was the subject of an early MGWCC meta!)

Given the title (which mentions “sound”) and a couple of other suspicious entries (like BOINK and OMOO), I found the following six corresponding entries that included the letters of the typical sound each of these six animals make (in the order of the theme entries):

  • 45a. [Trump slogan acronym], MAGA – for Make America Great Again. I have never seen it in the acronym form, though. I wasn’t sure if goats “neighed,” or said “naa” before I settled on “maa.”
  • 41a. [Melville’s second book], OMOO
  • 1a. [South Asian honorific], BABA
  • 54a. [Sound of an object bouncing off something], BOINK
  • 37a. [Unruffled], COOL
  • 65a. [Less adulterated], PURER – did you join me in looking for “meow” somewhere else first?

The ones with the extra letter in the middle were much harder to find. I’ll also add that I’m glad these entries weren’t starred, as I believe that would’ve given too much away. Thanks Matt and Mike for that.

Anyway, if you read those extra letters from top to bottom you get GOBBLE, which is not an animal, but cleverly is the sound a particular animal makes, the TURKEY, which is our meta answer. Nice challenge, one I found much harder than the recent MGWCC contest in which the solver found extra entries relating to the truncated part of nicknames, since each of these began with the extra letter that was used in the meta answer. (Only two of the six did here.)

Some quick interesting other facts found along the way, first that oilman J. Paul GETTY spoke Arabic (I read here, that he also was fluent in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Greek). And LEET is an unusual entry, it’s also known as 1337–I often use leet when coming up with passwords, substituting an “i” with an exclamation point, an s with a $, and an e with a 3, etc.

À bientôt, j’espère la semaine prochaine!

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11 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, July 22, 2016

  1. ant says:

    Drat…so close, and yet so far.

    I saw that each theme animal had a corresponding sound in the grid. I went with MA, BA, and PUR, thinking the sounds were a little “off.” Therefore, all I needed to do was find an additional animal sound in the grid, and there at 33d was HOOke…so I submitted OWL.

    I also played with making a phrase out of the animal sounds. While “Coopurr” (for DOVE/CAT) sounded promising, MaaMooBaaOink led nowhere. I was thinking Winnie Cooper might lead to a horse.

  2. MarxSister says:

    I got the animals and sounds but did something similar to ant: I guessed bear because bears say GRR (GIRL). It didn’t feel quite right and I guess it wasn’t! It

  3. JohnH says:

    I got it, but I’d have felt a lot better if I recognized GOAT RODEO or associated goats with MAA. (I even Googled for goat sound to confirm it, with little luck.) Must admit that I hesitated over WHITE DOVE myself as well. Still, not a bad theme, the pairings of animals and sounds with dropped letters.

    Is it a further weakness that there’s another animal coming down with BOAR?

  4. pannonica says:

    GOAT RODEO in these pages, courtesy the New York Times.

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Evad. I was indeed glad to be able to make GOBBLE word instead of the animal itself.

    Otis, not Otto! Will you name your goats?

    • Evad says:

      Oh yeah, OTIS. (I bet he’s a lot bigger now!)

      I’ll definitely be naming the goats and I’ll report back if I hear any of them say “maa.”

  6. Bret says:

    There is also 12 down, coMo, which could have given us Gobbme, which I kind of like

    • Evad says:

      The problem with that is that all the theme material runs in the across direction, but it’s a cute find.

      • Andy says:

        True, and that saves it from being an actual flaw, but it is still an inelegance, a relative rarity from Matt.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Correct, and I would certainly have removed it if I’d noticed.

          In fact I think I might have fixed this and then later “improved” the fill up there without realizing why I had originally changed it in the first place.

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