WSJ Contest – September 29, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


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

WSJ Contest – 9/29/17 – “Waterworld”

We have five actors in this week’s contest puzzle which will hopefully lead us to a Best Picture-winning movie. Tentatively assuming each one contributes one letter to the meta solution, I might just start looking for 5-letter Best Picture winners, but let’s look at each theme entry first:

  • 17a. [He played Smee in the 1991 movie “Hook”], BOB HOSKINS – Smee and Peter Pan were on the “Jolly Roger”
  • 25a. [She played Rose Sayer in a classic 1951 film, casually], KATE HEPBURN – did she play the role casually or did she make a firm commitment to the role? :) Anyway, it’s telling that the clue doesn’t mention the name of the movie which was The African Queen, also the name of the boat she and Bogie rode
  • 38a. [He played Commander Dwight Towers in 1959’s “On the Beach”], GREGORY PECK – just the year before my birth, it depicts Earth after WW III predicted in 1964 (!). Luckily it still hasn’t happened 53 years later. Here the “boat” was actually a submarine named the USS Sawfish
  • 50a. [He had the famous line in “Jaws”: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, ROY SCHEIDER – boat was called “Orca”
  • 60a. [He played Captain Nemo in 1954’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”], JAMES MASON – boat was called “Nautilus”

I started by trying to find the names of the bodies of water or countries in which each of these movies was set (I knew Africa was the lead in the second themer), but then figured the names of the boats featured in each movie would be more consistent. That list becomes:


  • Jolly Roger
  • African Queen
  • USS Sawfish (I thought the Sawfish part was more important)
  • Orca
  • Nautilus

Taking those first letters, I got JASON. Hmmm, what famous Jason was associated with water? Well, good ol’ Jason of the Argonauts fame, who searched for the Golden Fleece in their ship named Argo, which is also the name of a Best Picture winner (from 2013). Though some of these movies date back to before I was born, I would say most of the boat names are pretty memorable with the definite outlier of the sub in On the Beach. (I probably don’t have to ask readers to chime in if they feel differently.) I did like the consistency of the solution being the name of a boat as well, though since I never saw the movie, I have my doubts if a boat featured in it as it dealt with saving hostages in Iran.

I had the hardest time parsing E.R. NURSE in the upper right, especially with its non-hospital clue of [Stressful position]. Though having BRACES as an adolescent, I never heard anyone (to my face anyway) refer to them as [“The tin grin”]. Finally, I feel entries like THE JOB are a GRAY AREA, but I enjoyed its clue of [You shouldn’t lie down on this]. No indeed and my job is done here now.

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5 Responses to WSJ Contest – September 29, 2017

  1. JohnH says:

    I didn’t come close. I found a film-themed fill hard. (I mistakenly had Rob for Roy.) I could see that these films had to do with water settings, although I needed the puzzle’s title to think of “The African Queen.” I never thought of looking of asking what the boats were, and I wouldn’t have known any of them except for “The African Queen.” To be honest, I saw “On the Beach” only as a boy maybe 50 years ago and couldn’t have told you a boat was involved. I remember only a lot of standing around lamenting nuclear war.

    I tried to come up with other films set by water, like “On the Waterfront,” “Titanic,” and “Bridge over the River Quai.” I didn’t think of “Argo,” which I realize has become regular crossword fill, like just this past Saturday (my last to fall, in fact). But knowing that didn’t need the fill and didn’t help me choose one. Since the fill asked for actors, I tried to see whether other actors were hidden in the grid pointing to one of those three movies. That failed, and I quit.

  2. Matthew G. says:

    I spent a lot of time focused on which body of water the films were set on (or in). Even to the point of rifling through my son’s copy of “Peter Pan” to see if it gave a name for the bay where Hook sailed. Then I noticed the curious absence of the film title on the Kate Hepburn clue, and it all clicked.

    • ant says:

      I did something similar at first. Apparently, the body of water in Peter Pan is Mermaid Lagoon – though I couldn’t tell you if that is actually in the Barrie book, or has been ret-conned by Disney.

      EDIT: Yes, it’s in the book…

  3. Scott says:

    Another good puzzle that I failed to get but should have.

  4. Tony says:

    Late to the game. Fairly easy for me, especially with the wording of 25-A.

    Quick history of Scheider’s classic line is that “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” was coined early, and was initially used because the film was in trouble.

    Scheider apparently ad libbed the line in several scenes, and it made the cut in the most appropriate of times.

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