WSJ Contest – Friday, October 28, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Three of a Kind”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest - 10/28/16 - "Three of a Kind"

WSJ Contest – 10/28/16 – “Three of a Kind”

So my good friends the asterisks are back this week, serving again to denote the four theme entries, but there is an additional theme entry without an asterisk that we are in search of this week. Here are the four identified theme entries:

  • 17a. [*”Here’s what I think’ll happen…”], PREDICTION – I wondered why the shorter [*Guess] wasn’t used to clue this entry and put that in my meta memory bank
  • 55a. [*It’s capital is Baku], AZERBAIJAN – we believe that one of Matt’s other sites,, was hacked by Azerbaijanis once. Luckily they were only holding out for the pen and notepad set that Matt awards his weekly winners.
  • 11d. [*Shakespearean title character], CLEOPATRA – here, I started to wonder if her co-title character (Antony) would be important to the meta. A couple of clues below for a co-author and a co-star sent me a bit further down that road.
  • 33d. [*Bronx-born judge], SOTOMAYOR – she is one of eight justices now, but along with Ruth and Elena, one of three female justices, which called to mind the puzzle title.

Looking more carefully at the other clues, we have five that aren’t starred, but have an enumeration following them in parentheses. These are:

  • 15a. [Island visited on “The Brady Bunch” (9)], OAHU – I could only remember this episode when they went to Ohio’s King’s Island amusement park
  • 24a. [“Over the Rainbow” singer (7)], DOROTHY – the more recent cover by israel Kamakawiwo’Ole has become almost as famous
  • 37a. [“The Elements of Style” co-author (118)], WHITE – as in E.B.
  • 41a. [Co-star of 1995’s “Nine Months” (12)], GRANT – as in Hugh.
  • 48d. [Sydney who knew his zodiac signs (12)], OMARR – a rather oddly-worded clue that made me a bit suspicious

So my first assumption was my missing theme entry would be paired with one of these five other clues and I needed to match four of them with the theme entries that I did know about. My first step down the meta path was to recognize that a rainbow has seven colors (including RED), which might explain the seven in parentheses after that clue. Here are the others:

  • The cast of “The Brady Bunch” has 9 (regular) actors, including JAN
  • There are 118 known elements in the Periodic Table (I bet if joon did this puzzle, that was his entry into the meta solution!)
  • There are 12 months in a year, including MAY
  • There are 12 signs in the zodiac, including LEO
Gordon Sumner, whose real name contains no elements

Gordon Sumner, whose real name contains no elements

Next I had to pair these with each theme entry, taking into account the “Three of a Kind” title. Would three of each set lead me to an entry? This didn’t seem likely. How about finding in each set a member that has three letters? These are highlighted in each entry above, leaving a three-letter element. TIN came to mind, and I found it (appropriately) hidden in the center down, 28d. STING, our meta solution.

A really nice meta–Matt had to find sets where there was only one three-letter member and find a way to include them in clues for entries unrelated to the set. My only nit is that the clues refer sometimes to the collective set (“The Brady Bunch,” rainbow and zodiac) and other times to the individual member names (months and elements, although each is at least pluralized). I had a couple of missteps in the fill–choosing GOT OVER before GOT PAST and SEETHING for FROTHING–but both were quickly corrected with the crossings. SHIITAKE is such an interesting spelling, I had an initial idea that would be our meta solution. SUNSHINE was another possible entry, given its connection to representing all the colors of the rainbow, but I have learned not to trust my initial solutions without taking all the meta data into account.

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4 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, October 28, 2016

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    I liked this one quite a lot, particularly the unique 3-letter member of each set, as Dave mentioned. There was a nice bit of misdirection with Jan, which looked like a month’s abbreviation for a while until I realized each component must be a complete three letter word. Given Matt’s elegance and the near symmetry of the other four, I should have just looked at the central entries in the first place to find TIN, but it only took an extra minute to check out the whole grid. 4.5 stars from me.

  2. Eric L. says:

    I thought the answer was SHIITAKE. Given the title “Three of a Kind,” I noticed that the theme answers all had three different vowels in them (if you count ‘Y’). The only other answer to have three different vowels was SHIITAKE. I completely didn’t notice the numbers at the end of those clues though…

    • Jonesy says:

      I thought about that too, Eric. Unfortunately there are many other answers with 3 vowels apart from SHIITAKE. Like HOISTED, RAYE, IHEAR, SUNSHINE

  3. Jeff G. says:

    I really enjoyed this one. Multiple levels with lots of associations to figure out. Very entertaining, thanks Matt!

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