Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Grinning from Ear to Ear”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upThis week we’re looking for two non-theme answers in the grid that could be combined to make a fifth theme entry.. So what are the first four theme entries you ask? They are our longest across entires and clued with question marks:
- 17A. [Gathering with seminars like “Oasis Etiquette”?], CAMEL CONVENTION – would one of the breakout sessions be “Do Bactrian camels have to get through Thursday of a work week to feel relief?”
- 28A. [How much more you sold that marionette for than it cost to build?], PUPPET PROFIT – whenever you see “marionette” in a clue, the much more common term puppet must be in the entry.
- 45A. [Song like “Ode to My Swiss Army Knife?”], GADGET BALLAD
- 58A. [Promotional literature in an ancient Roman showroom?], CHARIOT PAMPHLET
With a nudge from the title, it’s pretty clear that all of these words can be appended with the suffix -EER to make a new word. (Cameleer and gadgeteer were the ones I was least sure of.) So we were left with the task of finding two other entries in the grid that one could add this same suffix to, and we find them symmetrically placed at 9 Across, MUSKET and 66 Across, SLOGAN. I think “musket slogan” parses a bit better than “slogan musket” so I submitted the former. I also added the clue [It keeps you going when the British are coming]. Not sure if the addition of a clue might get me a leg up on the weekly mug prize, but it can’t hurt.
Pretty wide open grid, the symmetric NEVADAN and MIAMIAN had me a bit befuddled as I was beginning my meta hunt. Not sure I like the plural form of VINOS for [Trattoria drinks], as I think of wine as a collective noun and one wouldn’t say we had “wines” at lunch (unless you’re like us and one wants white and the other red, so we end up buying two bottles). And an EELPOT just sounds gross.
Hard to imagine that as enough to motivate five arbitrary, nonidiomatic phrases, with the further drawbacks of its hinging on two unfamiliar words (cameleer, gadgeteer), the lack of resonance for “grinning,” and the implication that, if the fifth is a potential entry, it ought to have a determined ordering of the two words. I got this one right, but it’s just awful. Not just contests, but WSJ for a week had a really, really lousy streak. When I get to Saturday’s, I’ll see if it improves a tad.
1) If it’s arbitrary then it’s also non-idiomatic, so you don’t need both. Lots and lots and lots of crossword themes use such arbitrary phrases, so an odd thing to have as complaint exhibit A.
2) “Hinge” is wrong. If you knew the six, you could Google the other two in about 8.7 seconds. And if you think “cameleer” and “gadgeteer” aren’t mildly amusing words, then that’s that.
3) I can tell you weren’t grinning, believe me
4) Well, perhaps the one at the top of the grid would go first and the one at the bottom second, especially since that ordering makes far more sense than the other one. But I imagine they accepted either.
Ouch! Looking at the ratings, JohnH isn’t alone on this one.
I trust I said not that the phrases were unacceptable per se, but that they were wildly under-motivated. And sorry if I managed to be not just too terse to spell that out, but also verbose by one word.
And the reason the order matters, at least to me, is that the instructions say that we have to find the words that make a fifth theme entry. It doesn’t say they can make any of two theme entries.
To put it another way, the instructions ask us to hunt not just for words ending “eer” but for a fifth theme entry. That has me looking for something that just isn’t there.
There are only about 20 common words that can take an -EER suffix, so “wildly unmotivated” isn’t right. Sorry.
Of course it’s “there.” You found it, as did hundreds of others. I’m getting both a “hyperbolic” and “willfully obtuse” vibe both here and from your many comments at the WSJ site, so I’ll bow out now.
Hey Matt (or anyone else who may know the answer to this), do you have an idea of how many people submit correct answers to the WSJ contest on a weekly basis? As they tend to be set at an MGWCC level of about week 1 or 2, I have gotten almost every meta. However, the ease of submitting the answer to prize level seems kind of low, especially since the readership of the WSJ is pretty high and the puzzle is accessible to non-subscribers, I assumed that there is almost no chance of winning, so I stopped submitting after about the first month. Plus they don’t publish a streak which is what I like most about MGWCC and MMMM.