WSJ Contest – February 24, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


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

WSJ Contest – 2/24/17 – “Brush Strokes”

Today we are in search of a well-known artist. The grid is a bit unusual in that the only entry greater than 8 letters is the central one:

  • 35a. [You can easily impose your own point of view on one], BLANK CANVAS

So what are we to do with that? When thinking about blanks, I started thinking about the blanks that might be in some of the clues (commonly referred to as FITB’s or “fill-in-the-blank” clues). Often, beginning solvers are encouraged to start with these type of clues when trying to crack open a puzzle, as they tend (but not always) to be the easiest. (Saturday’s NYT had [“Get a ___!”], which I put in LIFE and GRIP before the correct and a bit more prurient ROOM.)

Anyway, back to these FITB clues. There were just six of them, all acrosses:

  • 13a. [“No ___, no gain’], PAIN
  • 22a. [Lawrence ___ (Mr. T’s real name)], TERO – there’s some serious trivia for you!
  • 34a. [“___ can take interesting men and thrust mediocrity upon them”: Bowie], FAME – was he saying this about himself?
  • 44a. [Puerto ___], RICAN
  • 45a. [“___ milk?”], GOT
  • 64a. [___ jacet (epitaph)], HIC – “here lies…” as it might appear on an old headstone

So my first inclination was to read down the first letters of each of these entries, but PTFRGH wasn’t much help. It wasn’t until I saw that the entries themselves can be concatenated into a phrase: PAINTER OF AMERICAN GOTHIC, or the well-known Grant Wood.

I thought this meta was excellent, “Marie” (really editor Mike Shenk) took it up a notch splitting a phrase into individual smaller entries that could be clued as FITB’s. I just don’t follow the relevance of the title–I wonder if the “strokes” are the lines that appear in the clues in place of the blanks? Anyway, it’s a small concern in the context of a great meta concept.

I’ll close with my favorite clue, [Source of inflation after a crash], thinking of stocks and markets at first, but it’s a car’s AIRBAG instead.

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8 Responses to WSJ Contest – February 24, 2017

  1. jps says:

    pain / tero/ fame/ rican/ got/ hic

    for the strokes perhaps?

    At first I thought the incongruous black squares (cheater squares?) were to be our canvas. CHIC and ELMO maybe – but that went nowhere.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Like Dave, I also thought this was outstanding. My entry into the meta was TERO, since Mike is really meticulous about fill. I’m pretty sure this is the only time it’s appeared in a WSJ grid. So I had to ask myself what purpose it was serving. The other neat thing I learned from this puzzle was that the woman in American Gothic is sometimes interpreted as the farmer’s daughter. I’d always assumed she was his wife.

  3. Armagh says:

    Odd, Mr. T’s last name is listed as “Tureaud,” not “Tero” according to IMDB and Wikipedia.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      The Wikipedia article cites this quote from Mr. T’s autobiography: “The name that appeared on my birth certificate was Lawrence Tureaud (my father later changed it to Lawrence Tero.)” Maybe we can all retire it from our word lists now.

  4. Scott says:

    Grant Wood is famous? I never heard of him. But I am not into art so it’s probably just me. Anyway, I got the meta answer from Googling the painting. And I thought the meta mechanism was excellent.

  5. Amy L says:

    I loved this puzzle! It took me a while to get it, but when I did, it was a fun aha moment. I was thrown off by the PAINT (PAIN and TO LET), and the PEN and INK that fall into the N and K of the BLANK CANVAS. I also looked around for brushes for a while (like AIR brush from AIRBAG), and for strokes.

    Grant Wood is very famous and much has been written about this particular painting. The woman is the artist’s sister and I think the man is the artist’s dentist. You can visit the house in Eldon, Iowa.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    I liked this one a lot as well. Meta took me about 15 minutes. With just one obvious theme entry I search for patterns in the grid for a while, but couldn’t find any. Took a step back and said “What could BLANK CANVAS mean?” and then *aha*.

  7. Garrett says:

    I liked it too.

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