WSJ Contest – Friday, March 17, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Now You See It, Now You Don’t”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 3/17/17 – “Now You See It, Now You Don’t”

Today we’re looking for a seven-letter word you always see in crosswords. Intriguing, since I can’t think of any word, seven letters or not, that I’ve seen in every crossword I have done. But perhaps I’m taking the instructions too literally, which seems to be a common complaint these days. Anyway, we’re once again presented with a grid with no obvious theme answers (long acrosses), but as I began to solve, I did find some curious rebus action going on, all clued in a similar way as the meta instructions:

  • 1a. [That Great Lake you always see in crosswords], MICHIGAN – I wanted the four-letter ERIE at first, which is a much more common crossword entry
  • 10a. [That Nevada city you always see in crosswords], LAS VEGASRENO is the more common entry
  • 25a. [That Will Smith movie you always see in crosswords], I ROBOT – actually I do see this entry a lot (but perhaps not “always”). Following the pattern above, my tentative replacement was MIB, but once I put these all together, I realized Matt was looking for ALI here.
  • 29a. [That district of Manhattan you always see in crosswords], FLAT IRONSOHO is more common
  • 46a. [___ Mountains (that Europe-Asia-straddling range you always see in crosswords], CAUCASUS – well, I see the four-letter URALs a lot more frequently in my crosswords
  • 59d. [That spaghetti sauce brand you always see in crosswords], CLASSICOPREGO doesn’t fit in four letters, but RAGU does
  • 62d. [That quarterback Manning you always see in crosswords], PEYTON – though more famous for his football prowess, Peyton’s brother ELI outshines him as a more common crossword entry

So, if we read from the top the first letters of the entries that one certainly more frequently (I’m still not ready to commit to “always”) finds in crosswords, we have ERASURE, which is actually a pretty uncommon word in the crosswords I solve, but I suppose helps in those cases I need to change an entry. I get that the title is implying that a solver would put the more common entry in first and then need to erase that to put in the rebuses, but it still seems I’m missing how this answer fits the meta instructions (or that I don’t have the right answer!)

I enjoyed the meta, and thought it a jaunty wink at those of us who see many of these entries daily in our puzzles due to their length and felicitous consonant/vowel alternations. As far as the “regular” fill in this one, I enjoyed ACID TRIP and the mini-theme entries of ONE VOLT and TWO-TONE.

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15 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, March 17, 2017

  1. Gerd Holstrom says:

    About the meta – I think you’re reading too much into it – in puzzles like this you put erasure into it because you write one thing, notice it doesn’t fit then have to erase it. So it’s a little word play – a common word for something put into crossword puzzles: ERASURE.
    It’s not that you commonly put the word ‘erasure’ in the grid.

    That plus the puzzle’s title made for what I thought it was a very fun and clever solving experience.

    • Martin says:

      I think Dave got that. He’s mainly asking how “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” describes ERASURE. The title fully makes sense only after you solve the meta. You entered the wrong, but obvious, entries and then erased them. The title describes that process, which you did seven times.

      A title that helps only after you solve the puzzle — is that a meta-title?

  2. kaes says:

    Made sense to me, but only once I interpreted the “always” as a hyperbolic statement, which was not my first instinct. (My first instinct was actually that the answer would be, quite literally, an anagram of letters from “crosswords” or something like that.) It would be more precise to say “…often seen in crosswords” in both the clues and the meta instructions, although that might undermine the “jaunty wink” feeling of it all.

    I really liked the rebuses in this one, all neatly 2x the length of their crosswordese counterparts. Especially enjoyed figuring out CAUCASUS and LAS VEGAS.

    (Incidentally, does anyone know how to enter rebuses in the WSJ online solving interface? Or… how to switch between across and down using the keyboard rather than a mouse click? Can’t seem to figure it out and it’s causing quite a few ERASURES/backspaces as I solve…)

  3. Scott says:

    A really nice and clever puzzle.

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    I loved it, too. But I agree with Kaes that “often” would have been a better phrasing than “always.” Personally, the only crossword I ever solve in pencil (and thus have the ability to erase, rather than crossing out mistakes) is #5 at ACPT.

  5. Norm H says:

    Fun meta. Matt is the best. Since I did this one on paper in pen and wrote in ERIE immediately, for me it wasn’t “erasure” but “scratch-out”.

  6. sharkicicles says:

    I didn’t get the meta, but I thought the construction and gimmick was brilliant!

  7. Garrett says:

    As I always solve in pen, I don’t write anything in — however obvious it seems to be — unless I can check it through a cross-clue answer. And I was immediately stumped by 1A and that area, so I moved on to the top-middle (and drew a blank), then to top-right. There I was thinking either Elko or Reno, and neither worked. More problems in the mid-west, and mid-east. Got Swede and GRR, then Forest, then moved diagonally down to the south-west, and nailed that. Got One Volt then stuck again in the middle-south. Stuck again in south-east corner. By this time I was sure this was a rebus, so I went back to square one. I saw how Michigan could work, and from there it was easy, because every rebus square was two letters.

    Thinking about the rebus letters was no help, so I thought about what could have been the non-rebus answers. I came up with ERIE, RENO/ELKO, MIB (just like Evad), SOHO/NOHO, URAL, RAGU, and ELI. So I have this: E(RE)M(SN)UR and I’m thinking I’m barking up the wrong tree. I set it aside and slept on it.

    The next day I thought of ALI as an alternate for MIB. That is all it took. Bang, I had ERASURE. But I did not feel the lock. So I thought about the title for a bit and I realized that had I been working in pencil I would have boldly written-in ERIE at the git-go, and then would have had to erase it. Then I felt the lock.

    I liked this puzzle a lot!

    • Jeff G. says:

      I fell for this one hook, line, and sinker. I boldly pencilled in Erie then couldn’t get any down answers to work. So I moved to NE corner and quickly pencilled in Reno. Couldn’t get any down answers there either so my meta radar was finally catching on. Excellent puzzle and meta! Very entertaining!

      • Art Shapiro says:

        Always anxious to outsmart the puzzle, I put in ELKO for the city.

        I don’t pay much attention to the metas, but concur with the assertion that this was an outstandingly clever puzzle.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks for the review, Evad. I was aiming for solvers to both put ERIE at 1-A and then ERROR at 1-D; did anyone do that? Going for the humor of having ERROR be an ERROR (and an ERASURE).

    And yes I wasn’t meaning “always” literally anywhere. Like “She’s always talking about that restaurant,” e.g.

    • dbardolph says:

      Yes I did, thanks for asking. Sadly, the humor was a bit too subtle for me… Great puzzle, though, and I’m pretty pleased with myself for getting there. Thanks, Matt.

    • Sally says:

      I loved the construction of this puzzle if only because all the “always” answers turned out to be more like “never!” So that was a little challenge. And then the Snap! Second step of, “OK, what ARE the always (usually) answers?”

      Highly amusing grid + meta.

      I actually had to Google Great Lakes because I couldn’t think of anything BUT Erie. In spite of a couple of years in Chicago!

  9. Jane Lewis says:

    I still do crosswords on paper – can’t seem to think straight doing them on the computer – and I use erasable pens – it can get a little messy sometimes but it’s only for my enjoyment.

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