WSJ Contest – September 15, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Head Count”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 9/15/17 – “Head Count”

This week we’re in search of a well-known European landmark. The Eiffel Tower came to mind at first, but I wisely decided to actually solve the puzzle before submitting that answer.

So what are the theme entries this week? Seems we have four that are arranged in a pinwheel fashion around the grid:

  • 17a. [No indication of a systematic problem], RANDOM ERROR – I’d prefer the more pithy clue [Noise] here
  • 64a. [It displays the going rate], SPEEDOMETER – I had taxi cab meters on the mind at first
  • 11d. [“I need some help”], DO ME A FAVOR – just this weekend I reached out to our blog hostess and speedy meta solver Amy for some help with Matt’s other meta this weekend
  • 31d. [Fishy entrées in Basque Country], COD OMELETS – I’m sorry, eggs and fish are not meant to be on the same plate with each other

As you can see above, each of these entries has the word DOME inside of them, nicely split in four different ways. But are there more? The title hints at counting them, so there may be more than four. Indeed, observant solvers can find five more occurrences (I’ll omit the clues):

  • IDOMENEO, named after the King of Crete, mentioned in Homer’s Iliad
  • RADOME – say what?
  • GOOD OMEN – a bit of “green paint” that one
  • KING DOME – slight demerits for this actually being a “dome”

So what European landmark has nine domes in total? Well, it’s none other than St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, famous for its ornate nine onion domes which apparently are arranged like a star when viewed from above.

A fun meta, and nicely executed with almost perfect symmetry of the nine dome occurrences. The entry AMNIOTOMY threw me for a bit of a loop (I’ve heard of “amniocentesis” but not this). Having it cross the similarly obscure (to me, anyway) RANDOME seemed a bit unfair, but it was helpful that I guessed the crossing entry was theme-related.

Until next week!

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17 Responses to WSJ Contest – September 15, 2017

  1. J B says:

    When I google “nine domes” I don’t see St. Basil’s anywhere on the first page of search results. Was anyone else stymied while trying to find the answer via google? I’ve seen pictures of St. Basil’s before but I’m not familiar with it by name nor was I aware that it’s famous for having nine domes.

    Feeling kinda stupid over here.

    Also, the WSJ puzzle page was displaying the answer to the meta at 11:55 ET. I was going to submit a guess at the last minute but apparently the online form was closed. Anyone else experience that?

    • Evad says:

      Are you trying to submit your WSJ answer at Matt’s MGWCC site? That online form closes at noon, but not until Tuesday. The only way that I know of to submit to the WSJ is by an email to

      • Amy L says:

        If you complete the puzzle on-line, there is a little submit box at the bottom. You can click there and submit your answer.

    • Garrett says:

      I googled ‘nine domes europe’ without the quotes and saw it in the text of the second hit (Wikipedia on Onion Domes “Eight of the nine domes featured on St. Basil’s Cathedral represent each attack on Kazan.”) and on the third hit — Saint Basil’s Cathedral – Wikipedia.

  2. pannonica says:

    I wondered—and queried in my submission—if the Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Annunciation would also be an acceptable answer.

    Not mentioned in the write-up but which I found helpful in confirming the location are 22a RUBLE and 26a SQUARE (as in Red Square or Cathedral Square).

  3. JohnH says:

    Seems a long way to go just from the number 9 to anything tangible. Even if I had any idea that a landmark I didn’t really know has nine domes.

    I was thrown by SPEEDOMETER, where the letters without DOME looked a lot like ST. PETER’S + E. Its relevance to a basilica or dome seemed too striking not to matter. So I kept looking at other long DOME entries to see if a similar dropped letter would appear, spelling out something. I also looked at the single unpaired DOME entry in the grid, directing me to OH I SEE, but that wasn’t helpful. Finally I wondered if maybe ST. PETER’S was unique on purpose, because it was the answer, but I wasn’t convinced.

  4. Amy L says:

    I tried to find the answer without Google. I first counted 7 domes and looked up St. Mark’s in Venice in an art history book, as I knew it had a bunch of domes. On the opposite page was a picture of St. Basil’s! I went back to the puzzle and found two more domes, then I did confirm on Google that St. Basil’s has 9 domes.

    St. Basil’s, with its onion domes, is very well-known. I don’t think the Cathedral of the Annunciation is.

  5. Scott says:

    Wow. Nice puzzle (very Gaffneyesque) but I failed to solve the meta.

  6. Since when is Moscow in EUROPE? If this is to be the answer, the proper question is a well-known ASIAN landmark.

      • Okay. This is a relatively recent change (like the demotion of Plut0) and not what I was taught throughout all of high school and college. I was always taught the Ural Mountains was the dividing line, making Russia predominantly an Asian country.

        • pannonica says:

          “European Russia makes up 38% of Europe’s total area. Its eastern border is defined by the Ural Mountains and the border with Kazakhstan. European Russia includes Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the two largest cities in Russia.”

          It’s what I was always taught, not seemingly a recent thing.

          Geographically, Russia may be a predominantly Asian country, but its two largest and politically significant metropolises—Moscow and St Petersburg—(among others) are firmly in the European part, well west of the Urals.

          • Garrett says:

            Also, that point (that part of Russia is European) was key for solving one of the MGWCC puzzles, if I recall correctly.

        • Matthew G. says:

          There has never been a time when Moscow was not in Europe. This is not comparable to the demotion of Pluto.

    • Eric Conrad says:

      Given all of the esoteric knowledge crosswords require, knowing that Moscow is in Europe seems more than fair, IMO.

  7. Sarah says:

    Needs more hints than just “9 domes” to be an acceptable meta. Don’t have the time to go through 4 million ******* Wikipedia articles to find something with 9 domes.

  8. Brickle Dee says:

    googled 9 domes european landmark and some variants, found nothing then quit figuring the meta couldn’t possibly be that simple

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