WSJ Contest – May 5, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “The Secret Word”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 5/5/17 – “The Secret Word”

This week we are looking for a seven-letter secret word. The “secret word” seems a bit superfluous to me; aren’t we always looking for a secret word? Here, though, the meta hint is a lead-in to the sole theme entry found in the center of the grid:

  • 34a. [“This is a secret, but…”], BETWEEN US

I first considered 17a. [Only member of the Supremes for the group’s entire run], MARY WILSON and 56a. [“Sounds plausible to me”], I’LL BUY THAT as theme entries as well, but I couldn’t find any connection to that middle entry, so I just focused on that at first.

Taking that middle entry on a wordplay level, I set out on a search for U’s and S’s in the grid and wondered what I might find between them. As you’ll see in the highlighted grid, there are 7 letters that can be found between a U and an S, reading from top-to-bottom as PRIVATE, indeed a secret word. Though I like that the U and S are always in the same order (UxS not SxU, in both the across and down directions), I’m bothered particularly by 41a. SUMOS, where an M and O are wedged between the U and S, as the directions don’t imply that the letters in the meta solution have to only be single letters between the U and S. One might also argue the letters could pass word boundaries (across black squares), but that’s more of a pedantic stretch IMHO.

This wasn’t my favorite meta, I don’t see BETWEEN US as a standalone phrase, “between you and me” seems the more common way to begin the divulging of a secret. Also, the meta didn’t give up much of a fight: once I dismissed the other two long acrosses from having meta significance, I quickly glommed onto the meta gimmick. I am a big fan of [Savory snacks], or NIBBLES and the verb form of GULL, which means to [Hoodwink] someone. I think the theme constraints (making sure there were no outlying UxS or SxU strings) probably forced the unusual partial A RUSH as well as the awkward A STONE; the latter I might clue as how this artist might sign her name. Finally I enjoyed the briny geographic references to PAPEETE and TENERIFE.

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10 Responses to WSJ Contest – May 5, 2017

  1. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    I see absolutely no reason to drag French into the puzzle, but might we feel better if we thought of “BETWEEN US” as the equivalent of “entre nous”? So sophisticated! ;>)

    • Paul Coulter says:

      ENTRENOUS/BETWEENUS was one of the theme pairs in my LAT “French Connection” yesterday, both clued as “Confidentially…”

      I have no problem with the phrase as being in the language, but for the reasons Dave stated, I agree this wasn’t my favorite of Mike’s usually excellent metas.

  2. JohnH says:

    I don’t have a problem with “between us” as a phrase. I was bothered, though, and slowed by U(MO)S, although eventually I shrugged it off as not consistent with the other one-letter finds.

  3. Neil B says:

    I agree that sumos was not good as I was looking to add mo into the meta until I saw that private was there without the mo.

  4. pannonica says:

    Just between us
    I think it’s time for us to recognize
    The differences we sometimes fear to show
    Just between us
    I think it’s time for us to realize
    The spaces in between
    Leave room for you and I to grow


    • Bob Kerfuffle says:

      I see from Google that these lyrics come from a group unfamiliar to me. But, really, “Leave room for you and I to grow”?

      The only lyrics I know that use “for you and I” appropriately are from the song “True Love”: “For you and I have a guardian angel . . . “

  5. Abby Braunsdorf says:

    The letters in the answer also alternate between being across and down USes. That’s finesse.

  6. Amy L says:

    It seems to me there was a recent MGWCC that had the phrase “Between Us” in it, and I was looking for letters in between U and S. I wonder if that’s where Mike got the idea.

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