WSJ Contest – Friday, November 3, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Head in the Clouds”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 11/3/17 – “Head in the Clouds”

Two theme entries seem apparent in this week’s WSJ contest:

  • 27a. [Singer/songwriter of 42-Across], JONI MITCHELL
  • 42a. [Popular song also called “Clouds”], BOTH SIDES NOW – called that by whom? I only knew of the original title.

Oh, and there’s a little fillip sitting down at 56d. [“___ love’s illusions I recall”] for IT’S, which are from the lyrics of this song:

So how do these lead us to a weather phenomenon? I immediately thought of El Niño, and based on the title alone, wondered if these six letters could be placed above the grid (“in the clouds”) to extend some of the first set of down entries. LUNG could become FLUNG, OLE could be SOLE, but others didn’t lend themselves to that treatment.

I then thought of the song title and wondered if “both sides” would be involved in the meta solution, so then I looked at the bottom of the grid (to complement the “head” part). Again, not a lot of luck there. Finally I hit on looking at common letters on the left and right sides of the grid, giving me the TORNADO depicted in the grid above.

I have mixed feelings about this one–on the plus side, it happily reminded me of a Patrick Blindauer meta puzzle (from a Puzzlefest of many years ago) in which you actually had to divide the grid in half vertically and see which letters were in the same position on both halves. (I remember printing out the puzzle, cutting it out of the page, folding it in half and actually holding it up to the light!) On the other hand, I think the title of this one distracted from the solution more than pointed toward it, as no “head” was involved (unless if you think of a tornado as some type of “storm head”?) and the clouds allusion is just to the song lyrics, not any position on (or above) the grid. I also thought perhaps cloud types (cirrus, stratocumulus, etc.) might be involved, but that was another dead end.

Finally, I found the fill a bit wonky, particularly with the vague cluing in the SW and terms such as NODDY and the less frequent spelling of MOSLEMS. Given the lack of a lot of theme material in this one, I wonder why these were chosen. I found some inspired cluing, though; in particular I enjoyed [Diamond edge] for BASE PATH and the also baseball-related [Call at home] for BATTER UP!.

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9 Responses to WSJ Contest – Friday, November 3, 2017

  1. ben says:

    maybe someone can explain how the puzzle’s title hints at the solve – clouds refers to “both sides now” I suppose but head?


  2. Scott says:

    I was on the right track, looking at the sides, but never got the rest of the way.

  3. JohnH says:

    I focused too much on the title, looking for the names of clouds, maybe rising vertically so that I’d get something else from, I don’t know, maybe their crossing with the long across answers or their initials. But so it goes. I guess it’s a flaw when the title is a distractor rather than part of the solution, but I should have noticed the TO to each side. Or maybe I always take things too literally for meta puzzles.

  4. Bob H says:

    I agree that the title did more to cast doubt on the answer than confirm it. I also noticed that the word “clues” sat right in the middle and crossed both theme answers. Starchy shindig was on both sides of that word, with batter up one column to the left. I figured these were leading to some kind of party with deep fried food and lots of potatos, but that never planned out. I’m disappointed that this puzzle didn’t hold together better.

  5. Icdogg says:

    I had “double Tornado”

  6. Amy L says:

    I didn’t get this either. That CLUES right in the middle was not fair! You always find weird congruencies when you’re looking all over. For a while I thought that GNAW, which is WANG upside down, very close to VERA, might be involved.

    Bob H: Love your party idea!

    • JohnH says:

      Have to admit I spent a long time trying to find more convergences like the Vera Wang clue near GNAW. I don’t know whether to call that a flaw in construction or a clever distraction. Maybe it depends less on what you think of difficulty than of style and neatness.

  7. coreen says:

    I saw “snow” in Both Sides Now” and hastily thought that would be an easy answer. Shoulda known better….

  8. Amanda says:

    I found the tornadoes right away but I thought it had to be much more complicated. Why the “Head in the Clouds?” Why the two tornadoes? Finally on Sunday night, I send in TORNADO. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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