WSJ Contest – Friday, February 10, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “By the Numbers”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 2/10/17 – “By the Numbers”

An impressive grid design this week for the WSJ Contest puzzle, with two stacks of grid-spanning 15-letter entries. Those four entries and the one in the middle of the grid will hopefully lead us to a two-word phrase with a total of ten letters. So what are those entries?

  • 16a. [*Tootsie Woodley’s best friend], BLONDIE BUMSTEAD – I’ve heard of the answer but not the best friend. It’s interesting to note that Blondie’s maiden name was/is Boopadoop.
  • 19a. [*Where to view Calder’s “Vertical Constellation with Bomb”], NATIONAL GALLERY – see below. Looks a bit like ARA to me.
  • 32a. [*Monopoly token choice], SCOTTISH TERRIER – I’d forgotten if this was the token recently replaced by the cat, but that was the iron
  • 46a. [*It led to Batista’s overthrow], CUBAN REVOLUTION – I’ve read that Fidel’s brother Raúl (who is now 85) will not seek reelection in 2018. Are there any Castros left to rule?
  • 52a. [*Really abysmal], AS BAD AS BAD CAN BE

I first wondered if years related to the theme entries may have some bearing on the meta, but the last phrase is clearly unrelated to any particular year. So how else could numbers (referenced in the title) be involved?

One helpful idea is that since we’re looking for ten letters in total and we have five theme entries, it’s a good bet that each contributes two letters to the meta solution. All but that last entry are two-word phrases, so the hope that the initials of these words could be used is a dead-end. Thinking more about numbers, I wondered if the clue numbers themselves (the numbers the theme entries are “by”) would help? If you parse each theme entry’s clue number as two separate digits and grab those respective letters from the entries themselves, you get the letters colored in red above. Read in order you get BINGO CARDS.

I have a feeling Matt has offered up a similar meta in the past, but unlike joon, my memory isn’t good enough to have a hope of finding that in the MGWCC archives. Bingo cards as a solution has a pretty nice connection to numbers being called, and I see here that the range of possible numbers spans all the ones used by the theme entries (1 ~ 75).

I have mixed feelings about all of the theme entries being 15 letters, though. Certainly it’s an impressive feat of construction and has a nice visual appeal, but since the constraints on the entries are only two letters somewhere between the first and ninth position, I guess I would’ve preferred a bit of variety in their lengths, or (if possible) something that would make them feel more of a cohesive set.

As for the grid, it seemed a bit name-heavy, with CASS, BUSTA, ABBAS and ISAACS just in the lower left and TAMA and GATLIN elsewhere. I enjoyed the clue [Family that brays together] for ASSES, but balked a bit on the entry IV BAG, but what else you gonna do with ?VB??

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12 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, February 10, 2017

    • Evad says:

      Yes, that’s the one. I emailed Matt yesterday and he pointed me to that one as well. Similar idea but a bit different in how the digits were interpreted.

  1. Scott says:

    I spent way too much time with this one going down various blind alleys. Finally got it Sunday evening. Nonetheless, an enjoyable solve!

  2. Dave says:

    For too long, I was intrigued by using the last word in the clue as a hint, not an abbreviation. Then, I finally decided to dumb down and it was there.

  3. JohnH says:

    You sure about “read in order”?

  4. Brian says:

    “I have mixed feelings about all of the theme entries being 15 letters, though.” -Evad

    My guess is that Mike did this because each letter in BINGO covers a group of 15 numbers.

  5. Garrett says:

    I kept looking for things in the fill of the grid. I finally set it aside after an hour of looking at it, solved the MGWCC, and went back to it. I idly thought about the digits being indexes into each fill and there it was.

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