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!