WSJ Contest – August 18, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Who’s Missing?”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 8/18/17 – “Who’s Missing?”

Let’s jump right into the theme entries, starred (and double-starred) for our convenience:

  • 1a., 70a. [*With 70-Across, 2012 Best Picture nominee], ZERO DARK (THIRTY)
  • 20a. [**Six-time Wimbledon champ (1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973)], BILLIE JEAN KING – I first thought maybe one of those five years she won as a doubles partner as well. Here, though, we’re missing her final win in 1975 in the clue.
  • 38a. [*Band fronted by Jared Leto], (30) SECONDS TO MARS – I’ve heard of Jared Leto, but not the band. Before I realized the full name began with “30,” I was trying to figure out what band would be called SECOND STOMARS.
  • 57a. [**Five-time World Series champs (1919, 1940, 1976, 1990)], CINCINNATI REDS – again, 1975 is missing from the list in the clue.

So the clues with one-star are missing 30 in the entry and the ones with two stars are missing the year 1975 in the list of years. The one-star clues are both in the entertainment world (movie and music) and both obliquely reference a time of day. (Oh-dark-thirty references sometime between midnight and sunrise in the military.) The clues missing the year are in the sports arena, a tennis player and a baseball team. Since we’re looking for a famous 20th-century American, those missing 1975 references must point to something remarkable that happened in his/her life that year (perhaps died, if he/she is missing?)

Looking a bit further into the grid, I did notice a lot of specific months in the clues:

  • 19a. [Don January’s sport], GOLF – nice way to hide the month name there
  • 46a. [Flowers for February], ROSES
  • 63a. [“The Gladiator March” composer], SOUSA – again, a nice hiding place for a month name
  • 52a. [Count with the album “April in Paris”], BASIE
  • 56a. [“May ___ fourth be with you”], THE – I liked this occurrence better than 45a.’s [It may be fragile] due to the leading capital
  • 42a. [June Cleaver’s husband], WARD
  • 32d. [Some August births], LEOS
  • 15a. [Director of “Sleeper” and “September”], ALLEN
  • 1d. [Country whose Independence Day is October 24], ZAMBIA
  • 43a. [Waits who sings “November“], TOM
  • 47d. [Christmas ___ (December, roughly)], SEASON – perhaps the most awkward of the bunch

So it looks like we’re missing the month of July. So perhaps something of note happened on July 30, 1975? Sure enough, this page lists “US Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa disappears in suburban Detroit; Hoffa was legally declared dead in 1982.” And in terms of the canon of missing persons, Jimmy Hoffa ranks right up there as one of the most famous.

Fun meta–I do wonder a bit though why sports was used for 1975 and two arts- and time-related entries for 30 (for a time I considered the event happening at 2:30); and not only that, why are those missing twice whereas the month of July is only missing once? (Perhaps the answer to this latter question is just to confirm what is missing is “on purpose” and not a typo, as well as needing more than just 2 theme entries in a puzzle of this size.)

Anyway, see you next week!

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13 Responses to WSJ Contest – August 18, 2017

  1. Amanda says:

    Drat. I didn’t catch the missing July. From Googling I was thinking about Jimmy Hoffa, but without the July, it didn’t seem right. Should have sent it in as a Hail Mary.

  2. Hugh says:

    The clincher for me was his middle name: RIDDLE

  3. Neil B says:

    Also Jack Nicholson was in Reds, Mars Attack and King of Marvin Gardens and played Jimmy Hoffa.

  4. JohnH says:

    A good puzzle for those who really like Google for crosswords. Count me out.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Required about 2 minutes of Google total. Well within bounds of metas.

      • Tim Mitchell says:

        Googling to complete a crossword grid is usually frowned upon. The constructor should make a puzzle that is solvable by using the crosses rather than knowledge of arcane words/places/people. Googling to solve a meta is typically part of the solving process. If you have to look up what happened on July 30, 1975, you’ll get the answer easily, as Matt said, plus you learn something you might not have known. I’ve seen a lot of shade thrown at metas that require Google, but I have always been of the opinion that the additional step to search for outside information is part of the fun of the solve.

        • Paul Coulter says:

          Agree. After the date emerged from the meta, I suspected it was Jimmy Hoffa, perhaps the most famous missing person ever, but I did visit Wikipedia to confirm this. Took an extra fifteen seconds. I liked the meta a lot. I also agree with Scott below. It required just the right amount of time investment to be enjoyable…. Now, to go see about that missing sun.

    • Popping by to respond to you again since you make this complaint a lot.

      Besides building puzzles all the time, I’m a very good solver. I can finish solving the grid of any American-style crossword you throw at me without needing to Google a single answer.

      But I use Google to either help me solve or help me confirm the answer to maybe 75-80% of the metas I solve.

      Stop complaining about using Google to help you with metas. There’s nothing wrong with it.

    • JohnH says:

      Let me put it this way. First, I needed Google to confirm a ton of answers, like Tony / Meadow. Then I needed it to make sense of Zero Dark and the long central answer, neither of which run a bell. I felt I’d already cheated, even if I hadn’t used it to find the answers.

      Then I had to use it once I (if I may so so, to my credit) noticed that there was one more date to be found for the other two theme answers. And then I thought, well, who died in 1975. Elvis maybe? (Nope.) And at that point, another layering of Google was possible, but I’d had enough. Maybe I could have found the motivation to stare and spot the months, but I was sick of this puzzle. Hated it passionately.

      • JohnH says:

        To put it another way, how about (although I know it’s not WSJ style) a puzzle that requires you to use your friggin head. Maybe once every two months.

        • PuzzleCraig says:

          Ignorance of who Tony and Meadow are (and until I just looked, I didn’t know) shouldn’t have stopped you from getting it from TABU, ATONE FOR, BELGIANS, and TRY on the crosses. It seems just a bit ridiculous to suggest that knowledge of HBO’s most watched program until Game of Thrones is somehow off-limits or not fair game.

          Like Evan, I don’t need to resort to Google to complete an American-style crossword, and it’s been a long time since I’ve needed to use references. That said, I certainly did use references in high school and even college when I solved, back B.G. (before Google).

          I suspect the many of the people responding to you here didn’t need to use Google for this puzzle either. You might consider that your complaints simply suggest that you need to keep increasing your knowledge, even of things trivial.

  5. Scott says:

    This was a really good meta. Took me just the right amount of time.

  6. Matt M. says:

    Wow — wish I’d seen the months in the clues. This is a really great meta and I’m not sure why there are not more 5-star reviews.

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