WSJ Contest – May 12, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Driving You Crazy”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 5/12/17 – “Driving You Crazy”

This week we’re looking for an automotive no-no. Texting while driving came to mind at first, let’s see if that’s the direction the theme entries point us.

There are four obvious theme entries, with a possible fifth in the center:

  • 17a. [Boxer’s target], SOLAR PLEXUS – when I saw this entry and knew we were thinking about cars, it brought to mind a Sunday-sized puzzle I created many years ago called “Rear Wheels” that ran in the Tribune family of newspapers.
  • 61a. [Rocketry substances], PROPELLANTS – here, I abandoned the idea that car makes finished each theme entry and went instead to a rhyming scheme. The only thing I could come up with here was BENZ, which isn’t a very close rhyme
  • 11d. [Has room for in the budget], CAN AFFORD – this satisfied both trains of thought I had: it ends in a car make (FORD) and rhymes with a car model (ACCORD)
  • 34d. [Electronic “Jeopardy!” champion of 2011], IBM WATSON – this one really threw me as I was sure the meta relied on the rhyme between Watson and Datsun

I then looked at that middle entry, ALBANIA, and even that could be considered to rhyme with KIA, so I was quite sure rhymes were the order of the day. Even so, I was left with trying to piece together the first letters of the car makes (or model in one case, which was disturbing too), getting an LB(F or A)KD, which got me nowhere fast.

I put the puzzle down and came back to it the next morning and thought I needed more letters and that there might be other rhyming (shorter) entries in the puzzle. Finding SAUDI and SHONDA, I knew I was onto something. Indeed, rhymes weren’t involved at all, but car makes are embedded in longer entries, and not only that, they abut one another as highlighted in the attached grid. For a time I also considered DASHER (clued in the reindeer sense) part of the theme set (I actually owned a VW Dasher back in college), but its symmetric entry, STEERED was only obliquely related to car makes.

Now that I had my four pairs of car makes, I wondered what “automotive no-no” they may represent. “Parallel parking” was my first thought, but unless you’re as bad at it as I am, it’s not generally considered something to be avoided (or would drive someone “crazy” as in the title). I then hit upon “Passing on the right,” which is indeed something that does bother other drivers and perhaps in each pair, one can envision one car passing on the right of the other. (Now, to be fair, the one on the left could also be seen as quite reasonably passing on the left.)

I had no other idea, so I went with the passing idea, but felt a bit unsure of it. It seems justifiable, but perhaps not the best (or intended) meta solution. Perhaps in the comments someone will share something more definitive.

I’ll close with being quite familiar with 40d. [Dr. Seuss’s real name], Theodore GEISEL, as nearby Dartmouth College has named their medical school after him.

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to WSJ Contest – May 12, 2017

  1. Stephen McFly says:

    I went with “Double parking.” We shall see!

  2. I went with DOUBLE PARKING. It didn’t feel like a definite click for me either since the title made me think it would be a moving violation (not a parking one), but I figured it’s two cars next to each other, so that must be it.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I was surprised that a not insignificant % number of solvers didn’t get the click — all other answers seemed much worse (PARALLEL PARKING is in no way a “no-no,” for example, and “Passing on the right” I didn’t even consider (only two of the four entries have a left-right orientation, and the theme/non-theme car alternate left-right in these).

      In retrospect a less vague title would’ve helped from my end, though.

      • Sally says:

        The discussion on the wsj blog illuminates the head-scratching. Even long-time solvers were scratching heads. Even AS they had the right answer!

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          A few, but also a lot of “the answer jumped right out at me and I knew it had to be correct” as well. Seems some solvers there didn’t think a puzzle could be solved with only a visual element, like this one had, and were searching for a secondary wordplay element.

          Also not seeing what alternate answer could have been acceptable. Will be interested to see when Mike Miller posts the % correct results later today.

          • Sally says:

            Fewer than usual, more tentativeness than usual. I loved my wrong answer because it made me laugh. I wanted to singularly own it. My brother sent in the correct one. That *I* came up with the day before!

            Where we live in Oregon, jaywalking is epidemic and double-parking unseen AFAIK.

            At any rate, you broadened the horizons here!

          • Garrett says:

            That’d be me — searching for a secondary wordplay element, or something to do with the word length for each pair (5, 4, 4, 3). Gazing too deeply into the abyss, I guess.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Sally — what was your wrong answer?

          • Sally says:

            Jaywalking! I knew it would be wrong but I liked that it could be etymologically derived from the word automotive. Self-moved. And a pedestrian no-no! ?

            I think I should get a booby prize.

      • Cindy says:

        Just curious for future info. What do you mean by theme/non-theme car?

      • To be fair I did get a click — seeing the cars not just in the longer theme answers but the adjacent ones too was neat. But I thought there might be some additional work to do in the grid, like maybe the first letters of the cars spelled out the violation, etc.

  3. Toby says:

    Double parking?

  4. Kaille says:

    I submitted “Double Parking” as well. I didn’t have that 100% feeling that I was correct, but the inclusion of “no-no” in the instructions gave me a little nudge.

  5. Dave C says:

    DOUBLE PARKING it is!!

  6. Cindy says:

    Someone found the Monday pdf and says it is in fact double parking.

  7. Eric Conrad says:

    Per the Monday PDF: the answer is double parking. Details below.

    I submitted the correct answer, but never got the meta “radar lock”, due to the title. I was not sure until reading the Monday PDF.

    The contest answer is DOUBLE-PARKING. Each of the four theme answers contains a make of car (LEXUS, FORD, OPEL, BMW) parallel to which runs another make of car (HONDA, AUDI, MINI, KIA), suggesting the contest answer.

  8. Evad says:

    No mug for me this week! I agree “double parking” better represents the orientation of the car makes, but I guess I too was more focused on a moving violation.

  9. Scott says:

    My original thought was TAILGATING because the cars were close together. The better thought I had was SIDESWIPING because the cars were side by side. Finally I settled upon the best thought, DOUBLE PARKING and sent it in. The phrase “automotive no no” rather than “driving no no” also helped me decide which was right.

  10. JohnH says:

    I thought of DOUBLE PARKING, too, without being all that confident. I can accept other guesses, so I wouldn’t call it a great puzzle. Actually, I wouldn’t call it a halfway decent puzzle anyway, not with fill like SHONDA.

    Ironically, I’m always saying that these puzzles are less like problem solving and more like being in tune with the setter’s sense of humor, which clearly I’m not, but this time I got it right. (And here I was thinking that a puzzle about cars is going to be impossible for a New Yorker.) As usual, in line with my thought there about what it takes, I get it quickly, as this time, or I don’t. Struggling or setting it aside never helps me. I wish it did.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      You need a better Exhibit A. Shonda Rhimes is hardly obscure, and worth knowing:

      • Inca says:

        For what it’s worth, I thought it was a perfectly good meta and puzzle. I did have trouble filling the grid, but that’s because I always have trouble with the proper noun clues/words. The only bone to pick would be with the title….not as sharp as I have come to expect.

        But kudos and thanks to you for providing me with these great puzzles every week!

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Thanks, Inca. I admit I’m a bit mystified by the reaction. I haven’t seen a plausible alternate answer, either here or on the WSJ board, and I’m not sure how an experienced meta-solver could see “double-parking” and not know right away that it was correct. Oh well — human wavelengths are different.

          • Scott says:

            I tend to agree with Matt here. While I did not experience the usual “click” there was no other answer that seemed better.

          • Evad says:

            It could have something to do with those who live in more urban areas or not–I haven’t had to deal with “double parking” in many years, but see “passing on the right” on the highway quite frequently.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Evad — passing on the right is a pet peeve of mine. Don’t get me started.

          • jps says:

            This was a fine puzzle and works perfectly. I had no doubt about the correct answer. 5 stars.

            But re wavelengths: I’m staring at this week’s MGWCC and seeing nothing.

          • ant says:

            I think a lot of the reaction has to do with that Monopoly puzzle. A lot of us saw an obvious way to move (around the board) is CLOCKWISE, so we submitted that without looking further.
            We now all see DOUBLE PARKING as the obvious answer, but were worried that there was an additional layer to wiggle into…

          • Sally says:

            Whenever someone says “Don’t get me started,” I want to get them started.

          • Kaille says:

            Matt, I am amazed that you continue to construct these gems week after week. Do you have a stash of puzzles that you draw from, or do you simply come up with one or two new puzzles every single week?

            Also, are you a math guy?

      • Garrett says:

        I’ve never heard of her before, but she’s in my clues file now! Also, can you come up with a good clue for ShondaLand (her production company)?

    • DRC says:

      We’re with you, JohnH. My spouse always checks who wrote the Friday puzzle, and doesn’t even try when it’s Matt…not in tune with his thinking at all.

  11. Jon says:

    I didn’t put the gerund form; will “double parked” be accepted as well?

    • Jon says:

      Also, before “double parked” clicked in my head, I thought the no-no was parking so close to the next car in a parking lot space that you can’t open your car door. But since I couldn’t figure out how to distill that concept down to a 2 or 3 word phrase, I kept searching for a better car related phrase.

    • Matt Gaffney says:


  12. Dave says:

    Matt, it was a fine puzzle and Meta.

  13. Eric Eisenstadt says:

    It was a terrific meta. But I learned an important distinction via this discussion and the contest answer explanation in the WSJ today. Theme vs. non-theme answers. Not sure that would have helped direct me to the answer but it does provide me with a heightened awareness of a dimension I paid no attention to this time around as both theme and non-theme answers looked like theme answers to me.

  14. Shawn Pichette says:

    I did not see the second set of cars, and using the 4 main themers (Ford, Lexus, Opel, BMW), went with FLOB.

  15. Bob says:

    I thought it was a decent and fair meta, even though I didn’t get it. It made me realize that having lived and worked in suburbs pretty much all my life, I almost never see anyone double parked, although I expect it is a pretty common occurrence in downtown driving. I’ll bet my kids have no idea what it is. Anyway, if I have a complaint it would be that I see little connection to the title. Based on the title, I wanted it to be road rage–driving you crazy, an automotive no-no. Since I found the eight car makes, and road rage has eight letters, it seemed like a good possibility. Obviously there was no connection.

    • Kaille says:

      Hi, Bob,

      While I didn’t find the title particularly helpful, I did think that the term “no-no” in the instructions was because it was a double word, if you will. I took that as affirmation that my answer (double parking) was probably correct. Not everyone agrees, but it definitely gave me confidence in my conclusion.

      I have to say, it was kind of fun discovering the other auto makes above the ones hidden in the long answers. I thought it was a nice little puzzle.

  16. joon says:

    1. this was a beautiful meta.
    2. as someone who lives in boston, i envy you people who never see double-parked cars. i can distinctly remember once going to visit friends in the north end. in front of their apartment on commercial street, there was, quite literally, a quadruple-parked car. this was back before every phone had a camera, but i wish i’d taken a photo, because it was amazing.

Comments are closed.