WSJ Contest – Friday, October 21, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Mixed Drinks”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - 10/21/16 - "Mixed Drinks"

WSJ Contest – 10/21/16 – “Mixed Drinks”

Well, let’s see how this thing works…oh yeah, welcome to another week at the Wall Street Journal contest puzzle and many thanks to my compadre, Jim Peredo, for his expert commentary while I was away. This week we’re in search of a mixed drink. And our title also refers to mixed drinks, so let’s belly up to the bar and pop the cork on this one, shall we?

Yet again (despite me generally finding them unnecessary), our four theme entries are highlighted with asterisks:

  • 16a. [*Superior group], GREAT LAKES – that’s Superior as in Lake Superior
  • 33a. [*Unscrupulous rogue], REPROBATE
  • 38a. [*Bugsy Siegel was one of its founders], MURDER, INC. – Bugsy I’ve heard of, but not this term given to the crime syndicates operating in the ’30s and ’40s
  • 53a. [*All things considered], BY AND LARGE – I read here that this phrase comes to us from sailing lingo

I suppose it’s helpful to know that the 2 10-letter downs, the somewhat odd ABLE SEAMAN (related to the origin of BY AND LARGE?) and AGGRAVATED are not related to the meta solution, so maybe my reservation on asterisks can be a bit moderated this week.

While solving, I found a few other clues (not with asterisks) that seemed a bit off, like cluing RUM as [Peculiar, to Brits] and LAGER as [Storehouse, in Stuttgart]. Why not clue them more simply as a type of drink? And then I thought, I wonder if there are other drinks in the fill and sure enough we have PORT, SAKE (clued trickily not as a drink), BEER, ALE, BRANDY (clued as the singer), CIDER along with RUM and LAGER. It can’t be a coincidence there are so many drinks in the fill and that some are clued in a way to make them less obvious.

Looking back at the four theme entries, I noticed LARGE is an anagram of LAGER, but no other word in the theme entries worked like this, except perhaps for the LAKES / SAKE connection with that extra L thrown in. But since we have 8 drinks in the fill and four theme entries, I tried to pair them up and found (to my great delight) the following:

  • GREAT LAKES = SAKE + LAGER leaving T
  • REPROBATE – BEER + PORT leaving A
  • MURDER, INC. – RUM + CIDER leaving N
  • BY AND LARGE – ALE + BRANDY leaving G

Tang is indeed a mixed drink and I remember it as advertised as “what the astronauts drink” on the Apollo missions. (I found it rather disgusting when I tried it though, so I assumed i was ill-suited for space flight.) I thought that the discovery of these theme entries with the extra letters reading down in order was a master stroke, and rather awe-inspiring. That, plus the addition of eight extra entries related to the theme packed in the 15×15 grid means some pretty high theme density as well. I do wonder if these other drinks weren’t in the grid, how many solvers would have discovered them in the theme entries anyway.

I’ll leave with my favorite clue in the puzzle, [Subjects of savings accounts?] for RESCUERS, as we’re talking about tales (from the sea?) not banks here. Arrivederci!

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7 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, October 21, 2016

  1. Scott says:

    This was a great puzzle, on so many levels. I saw BYANDLARGE and instantly saw LAGER at the end and I was on my way to solving. Only a few minutes later I realized that this was where ALE is, not LAGER. Cool. I found TANG quite easily and thought it was clever since it truly is a Mixed Drink. A full day later, I realized that all of the unscramble drinks appear elsewhere in the grid. I had not picked up on that earlier. This was really a nice puzzle. Thanks!

  2. Scott says:

    I was actually going to volunteer to do the writeup about this puzzle because I found it so cool. But Evad did a much better job than I would have done. Thanks!

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Earlier in the year for Matt’s mixed drinks meta, I was one of the people who submitted TANG. (The method involved counting by 14s to get those letters in the grid, due to the central answer SEVENANDSEVEN.) I remember arguing that Tang is indeed a mixed drink, to which Matt gave me a well deserved Come On! It gave me a good chuckle to find it as the actual answer of a mixed drinks meta.

  4. Scott says:

    Paul, I think I remember the situation you describe.

  5. John Lampkin says:

    And each entry is an anagram of an across and a down. A nice touch on top of an already spectacular puzzle.

  6. Garrett says:

    I noticed SAKE in LAKES first when I was filling SAKE in the bottom middle of the grid. I had thought the fill of RUM awfully odd for the clue, and so — having gotten the SAKE, thought of RUM in MURDERINC, and got all the pairs. I’m like, “So not what?” A couple of minutes later I realized the T in GREATLAKES was unaccounted for and I had it. I liked this puzzle.

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