WSJ Contest – Friday, March 31, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Name That Species”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 3/31/17 – “Name That Species”

This week we’re looking for a familiar life form, so let’s get into it, shall we?

Lots of theme material in this one, five traditional (longest across) entries and then another five shorter entries that are starred:

  • 17a. [Sign in a takeout restaurant], ORDER HERE
  • 23a. [All creation, religiously], KINGDOM OF GOD
  • 36a. [Dignify], CLASS UP – I consider this a partial unless “the joint” is added to it :)
  • 48a. [Original version of Trivial Pursuit], GENUS EDITION – pie wedges, anyone?
  • 59a. [Peter Griffin’s title], FAMILY GUY – I recognize the reference, but not the name, so I first thought Peter was some member of royalty

And here are the starred entries (with enumerations), all anagrams of a “life form”:

  • 41a. [*Mechanical fixture (1)], PINHOLD – DOLPHIN (order: Cetacea)
  • 15a. [*In the doldrums (2)], LOW – OWL (kingdom: Animalia)
  • 43a. [*Butcher’s cut (3)], LOIN – LION (class: Mammalia)
  • 66a. [*Common vacation destination (4)], SHORE – HORSE (genus: Equus)
  • 1a. [*Dramatically illuminated, in a way (5)], UPLIT – TULIP (family: Liliaceae)

So the first level of this one is to recognize that the theme entries all begin with a traditional taxonomic level (phylum and species are noticeably missing, but the latter is in the title). The second step is to find the animal/plant anagrams of the starred entries, but after that I was rather stuck. My first stab was to look up the genus and species of each of the starred entries (encouraged by the “species” in the title), but there are a heck of a lot of different dolphins and tulips, etc., so there were no unique entries to come up with here.

“Guess what day it is!”

I then thought to perhaps find out a higher level of each, maybe look at their families and use their beginning initials, but again this didn’t lead anywhere productive. Finally I hit upon matching up the theme entries (in order) with the enumerations and found the entries above. (Kudos to anyone who knew these without having to look them up online!) Take the first letter of each and you get CAMEL, a familiar life form to anyone who’s ever been to a zoo (or on a desert caravan).

I found this a pretty tough meta as the WSJ contest puzzles have gone of late, what with the multiple steps needed to reach the final meta solution. The entry LUNULES is completely new to me, and I strongly wanted PINHOLE before PINHOLD. Finally, I’m surprised I’ve never heard of the “simple board game” of LUDO, anyone played it before?

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11 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, March 31, 2017

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    This was good and I enjoyed the challenge. But as a biologist, I would have preferred if instead of the enumerations, some knowledge of the proper order of life’s hierarchy had been involved. I used to teach the mnemonic “King Phillip Came Over From Good Stock,” for students to remember Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. (I’ve also heard “King Philip came over for good soup” and “King Philip came out, for goodness sake.” With the addition of Domain to our understanding of taxonomy, I’ve made it “Dear King Phillip…”

  2. Eric Conrad says:

    I spent way too much time going down the parenthetical number rabbit hole, trying to match the first letter of kingdoms, classes, orders, etc., with a specific letter of each clue/answer.

    I learned a lot about mosses and lichens along the way :)

    Finally bailed on that approach, and got the ‘aha’ moment.

  3. JohnH says:

    I didn’t come close, and I can only admire those who did. First I had to finish the puzzle, which was a slog. I didn’t recognize UPLIT, CLASSUP, or PINHOLD and frankly wondered if they were even idiomatic. I didn’t know GENUS EDITION and wondered if it didn’t drop the I in GENIUS, which led me down my first wrong path.

    Then I looked at the words that followed the taxonomic words, reordering the answers first to start with KINGDOM. They seemed to have nothing in common, but that also got me what looked like a found poem (God up here guy), except that the last word (edition) spoiled it.

    I next tried to take the first letter from the clue ending (1) and so on. That got me close to TAPIR, making me even wonder whether the (2) shouldn’t have gone with the immediately preceding answer, but I decided not, especially since it wasn’t making use of the five long entries.

    Next I kept telling myself that the omission of PHYLUM had to mean something. Was it hidden in the grid? (No.) Was there a phrase with it that worked with the other phrases so that the words following PHYLUM would give me the species? I’m still uncomfortable that aspect of the puzzle.

    Since the numbers ran 1 to 5, I ordered the answers and set them besides the long answers, again starting with KINGDOM. It never occurred to me to keep those answers in the grid order since I was reordering the numbered ones. To go then to anagrams, to think of looking for their taxonomy, to grab the resulting first letters . . . Well, never did.

    And I hate using Google in a puzzle anyway, other than at the end to confirm my answers. I just refuse.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      At least in my metas, Googling is not only permitted but will in some cases be expected. I certainly didn’t expect others to know the classifications of these life forms off the top of their head (and didn’t know them myself).

      • Sally says:

        This is the mostest biology I have ever learned in my life. Quite the process!

      • ant says:

        I truly believe that the research done for these metas is sometimes more rewarding than the answers themselves.

  4. Scott says:

    Wow, this one came easy to me for some reason. But it balances out because other puzzles that may actually be easy take me an inordinate amount of time.

  5. Garrett says:

    I started out matching the starred entries to the first word of each theme entry in the order the theme entries occurred, using the number following the starred clue. That did not yield anything so I looked up the KPCOFGS taxonomy order (because I could not recall it) and then made this table:

    1. pinhold kingdom
    2. low class
    3. loin order
    4. shore family
    5. uplit genus

    It occurred to me that #1 could be made into kingpin, and LOW CLASS (serf, peon, and perhaps others) seemed good the way it was, as was LOIN ORDER (rack or chops). After a while I thought that SHORE FAMILY could okay the way it was, too, because there are all kinds of families of things at the beach, like sand crabs, petrels, seagulls, etc. So I was thinking the trick was to take these things and extend out to another word or phrase for each while I was still thinking about what to make of UPLIT GENUS. And then I fell to sleep! Had to be up early early and off to work, so that was that. It never crossed my mind to anagram the starred clues’ grid fill.

  6. Tony says:

    For whatever reason, the app I normally use to solve WSJ puzzles had the parenthetical, but not the star for the anagrammed animals. I didn’t even see the parentheticals until reading this post, but when I looked at the answer, they were definitely there, so I really don’t believe I can complain.

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