WSJ Contest – June 16, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “One, Two, Three, Four”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 6/16/17 – “One, Two, Three, Four”

A belated Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there; I lost mine when I was in my early 30’s and still miss his intelligence and encouragement in my life. We’re counting off in this week’s WSJ Contest puzzle and looking for a group of four. Appropriately, there are four theme entries, each ten letters long with enumerations in the clue:

  • 17a. [Song sung by Marliyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” [4, 2, 1]], BYE BYE BABY
  • 30a. [Spice-yielding evergreen of Peru [1]], PEPPER TREE – I assume that “spice” is the ubiquitous black pepper?
  • 38a. [Like halter tops [2]], SLEEVELESS
  • 51a. [Trials that are often televised? [2,3]], TASTE TESTSPepsi v. Coke seems the classic one of these

It was pretty obvious that each of these entries had many repeating letters; in fact, of the ten letters of each, one finds only 4 unique letters and those letters occur one through four number of times in the entry. The enumerations refer to the letters that occur that many times in the entry; so, for instance, the [4, 2, 1] for BYE BYE BABY refer to the B (which occurs 4 times), then the E (which occurs twice) and finally the A (which occurs just once). Reading from top to bottom, you get BEATLES, otherwise known as the “Fab Four,” an apt solution for this puzzle of fours.

If I hadn’t seen who the constructor of this puzzle was, I believe I would’ve guessed it was Patrick, as this is familiar territory for someone who seems to find letter patterns like this us mortals could never encounter without the use of software and a large database of possible entries. (Does anyone know how much, if at all, he relies on software?) My nit to pick is how obvious the meta technique was here as well as the relative blandness of entries with so many repeating (and common) letters. These kind of puzzles highlight the skill of the constructor, but at the expense of a rich solving experience.

I enjoyed the fill in this one–SLAM BIDS was particularly appropriate as I’ve become a weekly bridge player of late (but have yet to bid a small or grand slam). I’m not familiar with “sweetheart cakes,” but apparently there is MELON in them. (Better that than RAT POISON, huh?)

See you next week!

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6 Responses to WSJ Contest – June 16, 2017

  1. Bret says:

    Coming up with four 10-letter words that fit the 4-3-2-1 pattern strikes me as witchcraft. I will never grasp how constructors make puzzles, just appreciate the art.

  2. JohnH says:

    Tough fill, impressive construction, easy answer given the additional spur of the bracketed numbers on top of theme entries, title, and instructions.

  3. Alan Matson says:

    Love the beautiful simplicity of this puzzle. To make the 4,3,2,1 connection to 10-letter words requires a puzzle-master-worthy leap. (5,4,3,2,1 anyone?) And then…the answer is probably most people’s first guess given the hint and the title, so we ‘know’ the answer, but how are we going to get there? An entirely different sensation than the usual ‘click’ but one I enjoyed. Five 51 (3) (4) 17 (1) 30 (2) 38(4) from me.

  4. Amy L says:

    All Together Now – The Beatles

    One two three four
    Can I have a little more
    Five six seven eight nine ten
    I love you

    A B C D
    Can I bring my friend to tea
    E F G H I J
    I love you

    I loved this puzzle. It was fab when, as I was working out the numbers, the “Beatles” appeared. I enjoyed the solve thoroughly.

  5. Jon says:

    I was trying to find a 10-letter band with the 1,2,3,4 letter construction for a good while before I was reminded that the clues offered a hint to the formation of the meta word.

    Out of curiosity, did the crossword constructor try to find a meta answer that was also 10-letters long, composed of just 4 letters of the alphabet, appears in that word 1,2,3,and4 times?

  6. Amy L says:

    I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles

    One two three four: Well, she was just seventeen…….

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