Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Mismatch”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upRather long instructions in this week’s WSJ Contest puzzle: “One of these eight teams shouldn’t be playing today. Which one is it, and what team should replace it?” So let’s see what these eight teams are; we have matchups from each of the four major league sports in the US and Canada:
- 17a. [NBA matchup], RAPTORS V. BLAZERS, the Raptors are from Toronto and the (Trail) Blazers are from Portland.
- 27a. [NFL matchup], EAGLES V. BROWNS, the Eagles are from Philadephia and the Browns are from Cleveland.
- 45a. [NHL matchup], CANUCKS V. STARS, the Canucks are from Vancouver and the Stars are from Dallas.
- 59a. [MLB matchup], ORIOLES V. DODGERS, the Orioles hale from Baltimore and the Dodgers from L.A.
I wouldn’t say I know a lot about professional sports (some of these teams I had to look up where they were based out of), but sometimes a lot of knowledge about the theme entries actually gets in the way of seeing the meta solution. Since I don’t have the solution yet as I begin this post, let’s start with some general ideas about how to approach this one:
- It’s not clear which matchup has a team that doesn’t belong, so we have to be careful when trying to find the pattern that we are using incorrect data in one case. That incorrect team may be “close” to the correct one, or just a random one in the same sport that meets the length constraints of the theme entry.
- I have a feeling it’s telling that the cities of these teams aren’t mentioned–if you consider major league sports in general, where they are based is something that all teams have in common. (Since we’re dealing with all four sports here, the meta has to rely on something that isn’t specific to just one of the sports.) Other things are arena names, uniform colors, logos and mascots, all of which seem a bit obscure to be used as meta material as they require a lot of online research.
- It’s possible that the order of the matchups is pertinent–three of the first teams are birds, but there is more than one NHL team that is named after a bird–the Anaheim DUCKS and the Pittsburgh PENGUINS. The group of second teams doesn’t seem to have anything in common, so this is likely a wrong turn away from the meta solution.
- Some of these cities are capitals, some are not. Some are the largest city in the state/province, but others aren’t. Some of these cities are quite far away from each other, but Philly and Cleveland, for instance, are not all that far apart. If we are to substitute one team for another, distances between cities would be hard to use as something to find the correct one.
In 3 of the 4 cases the first city is east of the second city, so that might be something.
- I don’t think what division these teams play in within their sport is of importance, as that doesn’t uniquely identify a team.
With a nudge from a friend, I began to look at the three-letter abbreviations used for each team, based off of their cities:
- TOR + POR = torpor
- PHI + CLE = phicle?
- VAN + DAL = vandal
- BAL + LAD = ballad
So I’m guessing the idea is to find a word that can be made up of PHI+ something or something +CLE. CHICLE is a word, and in fact, I remember seeing it in the grid! In fact, the other three words are in there as well. So that makes our meta solution substituting the Bears for the Eagles.
I have to admit not being good at solving metas when other words in the grid are involved, as I often just write the theme entries in a separate notepad and try to use just that info to solve the meta. CHICLE is such an unusual word, it did bring my attention back to the fill in the grid.
Thanks to my he-who-will-remain-anonymous friend who showed me the light!
Well executed. Beautiful symmetry. 5 stars.
Didn’t get it…but I should have.
Nice puzzle and nice meta.
Well, I was wrong but I think my answer is as good as the apparently right one. All but one of the team names is or includes the name of a car sold in the U.S. (OK I will grant that BR is a stretch; it is technically the Honda BR-V.) Only Canucks does not. The only other NHL team that has the name of an automobile is the Rangers. So although that is not the accepted answer, it seems just as good to me.
The last Ranger sold in the US rolled off the line in late 2011.
“it seems just as good to me”?? If you need that many stretches to make your answer even a little bit plausible, it’s not just as good.
All the teams play in different conferences and would meet in the championship except the Canucks and Stars. All the first teams are flying creatures and play in the Atlantic or East divisions. The only bird that plays in the Atlantic division for hockey is the Red Wings, so simple.
Except that it ignores the requirement that the answer is the team that shouldn’t be playing _today_. That meant that it had to be something specific to the grid, not just general stuff about the teams.
I am embarrassed to ask this. Often in the post-meta write ups, there will be a letter or two highlighted in the grid. This week, the word “ogre” at 12D is highlighted in gray, and the R in that word is highlighted in red. Why?
Loved this meta!
Hi Kaille, my version of AcrossLite highlights the last entry I put in in gray and the last letter I enter in red. It’s just where I finished filling the puzzle, no meta import.
If I had more time this weekend, I would’ve highlighted in red the four words in the grid that were related to the theme entries, but I was pretty busy with my non-crossword life.
Thank you for clarifying! I have long been puzzled by this. *groan* :)
I had a real knowledge problem, given sports, but I should have got it anyway because of the matching words in the grid. I did not know all the teams, but they fit, and while I don’t use the Web to solve, I do use it to verify that I have the answers (especially when answers won’t otherwise appear for 3 days). I did not know some cities either, but with my usual huge reluctance I looked those up.
I wrote them at the ends of the grid, mostly abbreviated. It didn’t occur to me that there were expected 3-letter abbreviations for those who know such things. Thus, I wrote “Phil.” for Philly and “LA” for Los Angeles, because they came naturally to me. I wrote out “Vancouver” because nothing came naturally. Still, this was close enough to matching the corresponding entries that I should have guessed. So overall not at all a friendly theme for me, given my lack of interest in sports, but a nice fill given the paired long and short entries.
You guys are too smart and should all be working for the NSA but there’s another answer for us slow folks that’s legit.
All match-ups have teams with the same amount of letters with one named after an animal except Canucks v Stars. Therefore, the Canucks should be playing the Coyotes.