WSJ Contest – Friday, June 2, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Checks and Balances”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 6/2/17 – “Checks and Balances”

Good morning, folks! We’re in search of a noun related to checks and balances. No obvious theme entries to speak of, except for perhaps two 10-letter across entries:

  • 18a. [Like moisturizing sunscreens], DUAL PURPOSE – this reminds me of how you can’t find any toothpaste now that doesn’t whiten, freshen breath and fight cavities while being gentle to sensitive teeth and gums. Where’s our old crossword friend IPANA when you just want to brush your teeth? (It probably comes as no surprise that the book on my nightstand right now is A Man Called Ove.)
  • 53a. [Hero of the Yom Kippur War], ARIEL SHARON

Not much linking those two entries, but I did notice when solving a whole lot of X’s and there are those two entries at the bottom right that seem promising:

  • 63a. [Checks], XES
  • 49d. [They’re balanced symmetrically for most crosswords], GRIDS – and here’s the balance

I first wondered if this particular grid was not symmetric, but a quick check confirmed that it was. Subsequently, I hit on the idea to look at the letters that are symmetrically opposed to each X, and I’ve highlighted them in the grid above. They spell out DEPOSIT, which has something to do with checks and bank account balances. In hindsight, I wish there were only the symmetry clue and not the XES one, as I think having both gave too much away. But given my meta solving track record of late, I don’t have a lot of ground to stand on.


As for the grid, I detected a bit of our recent political climate with the clue for LIES, i.e., [Alternative facts]. When I still thought DUAL PURPOSE might have some meta import, I thought perhaps I was in search of portmanteau words, such as PLEATHER, which comes to us from “plastic” and “leather.” (I figured SPORK and SKORT weren’t far behind.) MAD DOGS and Englishmen remind me more of Joe Cocker than Noël Coward, likely due to living through Woodstock in my formative teen years.

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7 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, June 2, 2017

  1. Small Wave Dave says:

    Dave, you say you want IPANA?
    Look no further than 106D in Sunday’s LAT. (And be sure to brusha, brusha, brusha! )

  2. TheDopeFromHope says:

    Please explain how those letters are symmetrically opposed to each X. I can’t figure that out. Also, there are six Xes and seven letters in “deposit.” How does that square?

    • Tim H. says:

      There are seven Xes; if you rotate the grid 180 degrees, the Xes and “deposit” will have switched places.

  3. JohnH says:

    I had trouble with the grid, especially PLEATHER, SARDONYX, and BAI, but the answer came almost instantly. I saw that X appeared unusually often and remembered that a clue described them as “checks.” They didn’t have an unusual feature such as crossing a different letter (to spell something), words with more in common, or even symmetric placement. But then I remembered that “balance” appears in a clue, too, pointing me back to the grid, and it was no big deal to circle them all and look to complete the symmetry.

  4. Scott says:

    Really nice puzzle!

  5. Sam Levitin says:

    Oh, so close. I had the idea to look for what letters were a rotation off from each X, but I made 1 mistake rotating the X in NEXT. My candidate letters were TIS_G_PED.

  6. jps says:

    So why the specification for a noun instead of just a word?

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