WSJ Contest – July 21, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “U Can Find It!”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 7/21/17 – “U Can Find It!”

Coming off a fail last week, I definitely didn’t want to make it two weeks in a row, so let’s see if I can come up with this week’s meta solution, which is a famous monument. This one’s a bit tricky in that my hunch is that the theme entries actually run vertically instead of horizontally. From left-to-right, we have:

  • 23d. [Apple-assisted computer?], ISAAC NEWTON – calling Isaac a “computer” seems a bit stretchy to me, but of course he did make some pretty slick computations
  • 6d. [Fast food in boot, ball, bow-tie and bell shapes], MCNUGGETS – I had no idea that they came in anything other than rectangular shapes. Amazing what they can do with chicken, isn’t it?
  • 35d. [Words once spoken by James Earl Jones], THIS IS CNN – I’m hearing a lot of that lately as I continue to be entranced by the news coming out of the WH (not in a good way, like not being able to take your eyes off an accident on the side of the road)
  • 11d. [Seating for alfresco diners], PICNIC TABLE – looking at this entry calls to mind how Yogi Bear would say “pick-a-nic basket.”

My first thought, even before considering the down entries to be thematic, was to look for the letter U in the puzzle, based on the abbrev. in the title. There are 7 of them, oddly placed with only one to the right of the horizontal line of symmetry. I thought this was significant and wondered how to get the name of a monument from the letters perhaps around these U’s. Rather frustrating dead end, though.

Switching gears to looking at the down entries, I noticed repeated letters in MCNUGGETS and ISAAC and the repeated two-letter strings in PICNIC and THIS IS. Again, not much help, but it did get me looking at them for embedded words, or, in this case, two adjoining letters (CN) in each entry. Why would they be vertical, though? Well, I took it as a hint towards what I hope is the meta solution, the 553-meter tall, CN Tower in Toronto.

Creepy mascot, eh?

I struggled a bit with this meta–that U business in the title really set me off on a wild goose chase. I still wonder why Matt put that in the title; my working theory is that it’s an indication that “Can” is an abbreviation of “Canada,” the country of the monument in question. I hope this monument is familiar to most Americans; I’ve actually been up on the observation deck when I was living in nearby Rochester, NY. [Edited to add, apparently I am 0-for-2, I didn’t notice the UA consistently next to the CN, and these four letters stand for the four states that make up the Four Corners Monument (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico). I’ve never seen them abbreviated like that, so I wouldn’t have come up with it even after noticing the additional letters. I guess that explains the title better and also my slight unease about considering a communications tower to be a monument.] Continuing with my original post…

Now that I see there are just four theme entries, I’m a bit surprised with fill like WAS BORN, ROSTI, NLER, INK PEN, SUCKS (thankfully clued as [Siphons (out)]) and GLATT. I’m hoping that doesn’t mean I have the wrong answer! I did enjoy the fun fact that more RYE is produced in Germany, Poland and Russia than here in the USofA.

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

26 Responses to WSJ Contest – July 21, 2017

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks for the review, Dave. Interesting idea, but I don’t think that by any stretch the CN Tower qualifies as a “monument,” and as you point out it doesn’t fit in with the title.

    Must disagree with you on flagging SUCKS, WAS BORN, INK PEN or GLATT as bad fill, and also note that the four theme entries each include a set 2×2 box, which required very careful placement here to accommodate.

  2. Mike W says:

    Clever puzzle. I saw the 4 UCANs but did not make the Four Corners connection. I submitted the Love sculpture (once the answer to an MGWCC meta) as the answer, as the shape of the sculpture has the same positional four letter pattern to match the UCANs in the puzzle.

  3. barttels says:

    I thought the puzzle was brilliant. Four boxes, each containing same four letters, each with four corners, holding initials of the four states. Somehow I finally savvied the particular Gaffney genius to get it before it got me.

  4. Solved it, but the result didn’t make any sense…soooo…

  5. Mark D says:

    the UCAN’s in little blocks of 4 could not be a coincidence. You were close with red boxes around the CN, just a little wider focus and you would have seen the 4 boxes, meeting at a single corner in the middle, just like the Four Corners. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

  6. Pete Muller says:

    Dave – I had a similar misfire

    I found the UCAN and immediately googled four corners. I missed the letters (oops!) so I didn’t see an appropriate monument, and kept going until I found the Four Freedoms Monument, which has four pillars placed similarly to the grid locations of the UCAN boxes.

    Knew something wasn’t quite right…kept thinking I was missing allusions to worship, want, fear, and speech in the grid!

    • Evad says:

      It’s funny when I initially was focused on the 7 U’s in the grid, I noticed many of them were followed by C’s, but since not all of them were, I abandoned that thread. I wonder if I had seen the UA’s by the CN’s if I would’ve even realized they stood for state names leading to the Four Corners Monument.

  7. JohnH says:

    Alas, I couldn’t make anything of the blocks. I wanted to parse it as U. Can., as if there were a University of Canada, but of course that’s silly. This was out of my knowledge base. I don’t Google for puzzles, but I see now that searching for UCAN wouldn’t have helped.

    • Katie M. says:

      I didn’t need to, but actually, “UCAN” google to find the answer.
      Google: ucan monument. The first hit is “Stand in four states at once at Four Corners Monument”. This site doesn’t specifically mention UCAN.

      But this one does. (I googled ucan famous monument): It’s an article from 1922 about a man who thought that spot should be named UCAN.

    • I realize that others have mentioned this to you before, but it’s not only okay to use Google if you need it to solve a meta — it’s strongly encouraged.

  8. Amy L says:

    I saw the UCAN and four corners, but I had no idea there was a monument there. I thought it was just a spot on the ground–maybe with a sign. So I spent some time looking for something else to emerge from the crossword. I eventually sought Google help. Now that I’ve seen pictures of the monument, I really don’t expect to ever make it there.

  9. Amanda says:

    I guessed Four Corners just based on the fact that the letters UCAN were at the four corners of each group. It wasn’t until two hours later that I realized they stood for the positions of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. A bit embarrassing! I thought this was a lovely, elegant meta.

  10. pannonica says:

    [Apple-assisted computer?], ISAAC NEWTON – calling Isaac a “computer” seems a bit stretchy to me, but of course he did make some pretty slick computations.

    That’s the pre-electronic sense that we’ve become so accustomed to. For example: the women who were unsung heroes as per the recent book and film Hidden Figures were called computers. Also, there’s a question mark in the clue.

  11. Sarah says:

    Unconvincing meta answer, in my opinion.

  12. Russ says:

    Not to pile on, but the “ewe” was another dead end.

  13. Jim Schooler says:

    Brilliantly conceived!

  14. George says:

    I was completely off. I found the UCAN, and the first thing I thought of was the love statue in philadelphia. Didn’t think about it hard enough I guess.

  15. Jon says:

    The meta was brilliant, in my opinion. Constructing 4 UCAN squares in the exact order as the Four Corner Monument states? Wow. Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico. Just brilliant I say. And when you attempt at backsolving – Googling famous monuments, the Four Corners Monument (it’s official name, btw) doesn’t come up. Very well done, Matt!

  16. ant says:

    I connected the “U” dots in the grid, and the resulting picture looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I found it! – so I submitted that. Then I realized I left out a “U” (from INURE). Once I added that “U” to my picture, it no longer looked like the Leaning Tower. Oh, well…

  17. GR says:

    The GLATT/ROSTI crossing was wicked hard at least for me (guessed correctly fwiw)

    Figured all the U’s were involved somehow, never even thought about UCAN

Comments are closed.