WSJ Contest – February 3, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


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

WSJ Contest – 2/3/17 – “Fraternal Twins”

Given that this contest spans Super Bowl LI Weekend, I wondered from the title if our “twins” would be no strangers to the grid-iron, Tom and Matt, but I resisted submitting that until I delved a bit further. The instructions have us going long for the two grid entries that, when combined, would make a good sixth theme entry. Well, what are the five we are starting with? They are conveniently starred:

  • [17a. *Cherish every moment], ENJOY LIFE
  • [40a. *Took a load off], SAT DOWN
  • [62a. *Payless, say], SHOE STORE
  • [11d. *JPEG or TIFF, often], PICTURE FILE – I would say “always” here
  • [26d. *What some binoculars provide], NIGHT VISION

Nothing came immediately to mind with this set, so I thought more about what the title implies. “Fraternal twins” are two siblings from separate ova who gestate together, but saw no similar connection between the pairs of words in these theme entries. I did notice that many of the individual words have an antonym (night/day, sat/stood, enjoy/hate, life/death, down/up were the most obvious), but that didn’t seem to lead anywhere as well.

“Fraternal” also means related to fraternities, so Greek letters came briefly to mind, but I couldn’t find any of these in the theme entries either. I finally hit on something realizing that a synonym of VISION is SIGHT, which is just one letter off from NIGHT. Could the others work this way?

My next discovery was SHOE can change to SHOP, a synonym of STORE. A synonym of DOWN is SAD or EAT (in the sense of “downing” a meal), both a letter off from SAT. But I got a bit stuck after that, although I felt strongly I was on the right track. I then realized the other two worked by changing a letter in the second word, so LIFE became LIKE (ENJOY) and FILE became FILM (PICTURE). Et voila!

So with this pattern in mind, I went looking for two words in the grid that combined to a two-word phrase, where one word was the synonym of the other after changing a letter in one of the words. Even before I started, I was thinking of submitting IRISH POUND, since there can only be so many pairs of words in the grid that make reasonable phrases. However, I couldn’t seem to get this pair to work like the other theme entries, but I was on the scent to the meta solution, DOG POUND, since POUND can change to HOUND. It’s telling that Matt clued DOG as [Bother consistently] as perhaps a way to throw us off the scent of it’s canine reference in the solution.

Are those government plants?

This is a beautiful and intricate meta, and this sixth entry balances the pattern of having 3 use the first word and 3 the second. It would be interesting to hear which one was Matt’s “seed” entry, my guess is the one that I found first, NIGHT VISION.

I’ll close with my favorite clue in the fill, [Plant in a government office, maybe], where we’re not talking about ferns, but a SPY.

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13 Responses to WSJ Contest – February 3, 2017

  1. Abide says:

    Matt did use a similar device in MGWCC#159, where the two words were antonyms:

    I only wish Matt could have snuck a few two word red herrings in the grid. DOG POUND was the only two word stand alone phrase I could find, and if you latched on to that logic, you could guess the right answer without grokking the meta. LORNA to VERNA would have some submitting BEN VEREEN.

    • DOG POUND was my desperation guess, but I felt it had a pretty good shot for two reasons: 1) Like you said, it was one of the few solid standalone phrases available, and 2) OYE/LYES seemed like a major red flag since it could easily become OIL/LIES with some minor tinkering, but not so with DOG in there.

      Seeing how it works, though, I am very impressed with this. I’m glad I got it right but I wish I had grokked it during the weekend.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        DOG POUND was going to my desperation guess as well (but I sussed it out with 2 hours to spare). Taking a peek at the comments on the WSJ site, others were planning on resorting to it too.

        Very slick puzzle! Thanks, Matt!

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    I liked this one a lot. For me, the mechanism was the easy part – finding the phrase that worked this way took longer. Super job, Matt! As I went through, I was thinking it would be so cool if you spelled out an appropriate word – bet you hoped to find an I that changed so you could spell out FEINT. I’d love to know how you found all these great phrases. Which one was your seed entry?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Thanks, Evad. The seed entry was NIGHT VISION, which was a theme entry in a meta I test-solved for someone a while ago. I saw the sight/vision connection and my first thought was “I hope this isn’t it because that would make a good meta.” It wasn’t it, thankfully.

      Paul — just good old-fashioned brain-scouring and list-combing. I don’t know if there’s any other way for this. Spent a long time on it since I didn’t want to leave any good ones on the table, but if anybody has one I’d like to hear it.

      Jim — I had IRISH POUND, IRISH ALE, and DOG POUND in there on purpose. I can’t remember whether it was difficult to fit more plausible wrong answers in or whether I thought three was enough. Although in retrospect neither makes sense since three isn’t really enough and it shouldn’t have been testing to include a couple more.

  3. Hugh says:

    VISION to SIGHT did it for me after a long, long time. The rest went very quickly.

  4. Scott says:

    I found the pattern early but then got stuck. On Sunday, I made an Excel sheet with the 75 non-theme words combined with the same words (75×75) and looked for a common pair. Fortunately, early onto my slog through 5625 combos, I saw DOG POUND and figured it out from there.

  5. Garrett says:

    I got the correct answer, but I got it in a totally different way. I noticed that where NIGHT and VISION meet you have TV, and that went with PICTURE. So then I looked for anything else like that, and there wasn’t, so I decided that it must be pairing the a word of one fill with a word of another. Here are the pairs I made:

    SHOE LIFE (like, how long a shoe lasts)

    That left SAT DOWN, and as nothing went with SAT I went after DOWN and found POUND. POUND DOWN made sense, so then I just looked for something that made sense with POUND and found DOG. The actual correct way of solving it is much more nuanced, and very clever (and I like it better :-)

    Still don’t really have a clue about the title of the puzzle, though.

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