WSJ Contest – December 23, 2016

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Presidential Suite”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 12/23/16 – “Presidential Suite”

A rather timely meta this week as we’re in search of a position at the White House. So if it’s not the POTUS himself (too much of a giveaway with the title), than perhaps it’s the First Lady (or First Daughter, who apparently will assume the offices of the outgoing Michelle Obama). Let’s take a look at the theme entries (starred again this time, so we won’t miss the middle one I guess, shorter than the two adjoining non-themed 9-letter entries) and see:

  • 17a. [*They’re chewed by the Quechua], COCA LEAVES – I imagine the ADA would not approve of what these do to their choppers
  • 23a. [*Ramones classic], I WANNA BE SEDATED – okay, time for a musical interlude, no?
  • 36a. [*“Very well done!”], I LIKE IT – that’s a heckuva lot of punctuation in that clue!
  • 45a. [*Hit the detonator], BLASTED DYNAMITE – ok, technical foul here, this is hardly a standalone phrase, unless it’s something a Brit might say when her TNT fails to explode
  • 53a. [*Impudent fellow], JACKANAPES – pretty hard to hide Jack otherwise

So, presidential nicknames are the order of the day, and we have in order: CAL, ABE, IKE, TEDDY and JACK. Hmmm, is there some type of job that’s a CAITJ or some anagram of that? Nope, back to the drawing board. Instead let’s look at their full names:

  • Calvin Coolidge
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Aha, CADTJ doesn’t work, using their first names, but CLERK sure does using their last names. Though I’m sure there are clerks in the presidential administration, I doubt many of them hold positions at the White House itself. (Most are probably squirreled away in some dark ’70s office building, like the one I used to work at when I was a contractor for the EPA in DC, destroyed 10 years ago.)

Fun meta, too bad “Dutch,” “Bubba” or “Dubya” weren’t as amenable to being hidden in longer phrases. Clues I enjoyed included [Solution from an optometrist] for SALINE, [Mobile location] for ALABAMA (though I’d prefer a clue that referenced Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home” there) and [Piece of silver?] for ATOM (we’re talking Ag here). I also learned that COBRA is Portuguese for “snake,” which makes me wonder if they don’t have any other type of snake native to their country.

Until next week!

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9 Responses to WSJ Contest – December 23, 2016

  1. Frank Costanza says:

    It’s a good thing this WSJ puzzle ran on Festivus, because there are gonna be grievances. Why is PRESIDENT not the “correct” answer? It ties the five hidden things together, it’s a position in the White House (actually, moreso than a clerk, which can be, um, in pretty much any office) — if the only rationale for rejecting PRESIDENT is “it’s too obvious”, then this is a really flawed meta.

    • Evad says:

      I dismissed president out of the gate due to the title. I suppose if the title had not mentioned presidents and the instructions been more vague (an elected position, perhaps), I’d had gone with US president too.

  2. Scott says:

    Well, I liked it.

  3. Robin says:

    I agree with Frank about PRESIDENT being the more appropriate answer.

  4. JohnH says:

    “President” felt wrong to me because the subset of 5 presidents was then too arbitrary. Indeed, one thing that slowed me down was looking to find anything connecting them, perhaps in time (per “suite”) or maybe in place in the White House, like the Lincoln bedroom (again her “suite”). But, like others, CLERK felt richly unsatisfying, as no particular relationship to the White House, and some clues not so hot either.

    I see that some commenters at the WSJ thus tried “Executive Clerk,” but then it’s way too arcane, and the first word feels plucked out of thin air or, at best, the puzzle’s theme. Better just to admit it’s the obvious and accept that it’s a tad weak.

    FWIW, as meta puzzles go, I let myself, with some regrets given its immensity, work the huge puzzle from last week’s puzzle supplement. I haven’t been able to arrange the eight unclued answers into the homonym for a phrase. I keep trying, but so far too many of them sound like word endings and too few like beginnings. Oh, well.

    • JohnH says:

      FWIW, I finally got the NYT monster puzzle meta. The sound-alikes hadn’t really worked for me, but I’m cool with them as an answer.

      Oh, and Interior is no doubt not right and never occurred to me, but ingenious and sure brought a smile to my face. My admiration.

  5. Stephen McFly says:

    I spent so much time looking for a cabinet position that also featured another presidential nickname. I should have known better to build out the nicknames I found as another avenue of possible solution. Bah, Humbug!

  6. JRS says:

    I submitted Secretary of the Interior, since all of the presidential nicknames are “interior” to their full clue answers. “Clerk” seems too generic to be a position limited to the White House.

  7. jps says:

    I quickly hit on “clerk” but it seemed very unsatisfying. I guess there might be clerks in the WH but I was expecting someone like “speechwriter” or someone else more particular to politics/government. “Clerk” could be an answer for just about any business.

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