WSJ Contest – July 14, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Initial Reaction”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 7/14/17 – “Initial Reaction”

This week we’re in search of a legendary character. I’m assuming the “character” is fictional (King Arthur and Robin Hood come to mind); however, the theme entries are all real people:

  • 17a. [“Never Gonna Give You Up”] singer [S]], RICK ASTLEY – gees, I’ve never heard this song, have you?
  • 21a. [Emmy winner for “Breaking Bad” [O]], ANNA GUNN – Tim Gunn, I have heard of, but not Anna
  • 40a. [Four-time Indy 500 winner [F]], AL UNSER
  • 53a. [“April Love” singer [W]], PAT BOONE – there’s a name from the past, I believe his daughter Debby had a singing career as well
  • 60a. [Co-star of the three “RoboCop” movies [P]], NANCY ALLEN – I’ve never seen any of these, but I wonder if she’s related to the great Joan Allen, whom I’ve loved in anything she’s been in

“Make it work!”

So what’s going on here, particularly with the letters in brackets at the ends of each of the clues?
And why brackets instead of the more common parentheses? With a nudge from the title, I began to wonder if all these letters (as well as the initials of the famous people) were chemical symbols? And sure enough we have:

– Ra-S Radium-Sulfur (88-16) Radium sulfide
– Ag-O Silver-Oxygen (47-8) Silver oxide
– Au-F Gold-Flourine (79-9) Gold fluoride
– Pb-W Lead-Tungsten (the Pb is from the Latin “plumbum” and the W is from its alternate name, wolfram) (82-74) no reaction, both are metals
– Na-P Sodium-Phosphorus (11-15) Sodium phosphide

I wasn’t 100% sure of this track, but it was encouraging that the two-letter symbols were all pretty familiar ones and all metals. So now what? I first wondered if their atomic numbers had any significance (in parentheses above), but a few of them exceeded the highest number in the grid (70). It seemed hopeful then that the first element (based on the initials) had a higher number than the one in the brackets, so perhaps I could subtract them (to get a number in the grid), but the last pair did not fit this model.

Then I started to think more about the title and wonder if these elements “react” with each other. By the end of each entry above, I wrote the compound name of the combination of those two elements.

Lead and Tungsten, both metals, seemed like the outlying pair. Again, if I still was on the right track, I needed some way to get the name of a legendary character from this pair. Is there a famous character who is known for “not reacting”? I think of Rip Van Winkle, who slept for 20 years or perhaps Sleeping Beauty. Neither seem indicated by this pair of elements. Guess I’m going to have to leave it there; I’m sure I’m down a rabbit hole a bit too far to crawl my way back out at this point! Looking forward to reading the correct answer in the comments.

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13 Responses to WSJ Contest – July 14, 2017

  1. Icdogg says:

    Radium Radius
    Silver Solver
    Gold Golf
    Lead Lewd
    Sodium Podium


  2. Icdogg says:

    The single letters do not represent elements, they are letters to be replaced in words already in the grid.

    • Icdogg says:

      For example Ra is Radium. RADIUS is in the grid. The S in the clue is what needs to be replaced, the replaced letter is M. Collecting the replaced letters in order you get MIDAS.

  3. Dave C says:

    I submitted MIDAS.
    For each of the five elements noted, there is an answer in the grid that’s one letter off:
    radiuM – radiuS (43A)
    sIlver – sOlver (33D)
    golD – golF (65A)
    leAd – leWd (10A)
    Sodium – Podium (23D)

    Substitute in the changed letter that corresponds to each element (and also matches the bracketed letter in each clue from which the element was derived), and you get MIDAS. Yikes, did that make sense?

  4. Evad says:

    Thanks for the clarification–I got hung up on the “reaction” part of the title and didn’t scan the rest of the grid for related entries.

  5. DaveB says:

    This one was a gem. Great aha moment when MIDAS emerged. The HEX variety cryptic in the Saturday WSJ was also brilliant. These two puzzles had me in solving delight all weekend. Thank you Mike S!

  6. Tony says:

    I went the same route as Evad, and never went back to look later.

  7. Scott says:

    What a great puzzle. But I failed to get it. Still very clever though.

  8. bunella says:

    Yes Dave, I have heard that song and it’s one of my cheer me uppers.

  9. Garrett says:

    Right over my head, but brilliant.

  10. jagoandlitefoot says:

    Holy crap, I got this one completely by luck. I figured out the elements part, and then took a wild stab at the only five-letter legendary figure I could think of who had something to do with metal.

  11. JohnH says:

    I was too flustered by the trivia theme fills to go further. Who in heck are they, and what associations might they have in common? Yuck. Still, now I admire that the puzzle managed 10 theme entries, so great.

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