WSJ Contest – November 17, 2017

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Inexact Science”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 11/17/17 – “Inexact Science”

Science is the order of the day as we are on the hunt for a famous scientist. Let’s put on our lab coats (oops, spoiler alert!) and begin our investigation. Seven theme entries can be identified by an asterisk imbedded in their clues:

  • 17a. [They enable u*rs to open and print], FILE MENUS – “se” is missing from “users” and SE is the chemical symbol for the element SELENIUM. That anagrams to the answer with the addition of the letter F.
  • 21a. [Time when a bond is due for repa*ment], MATURITY – Y is YTTRIUM, leaving an A.
  • 27a. [Scandal-plagued e*rgy giant], ENRON – NE is NEON, leaving an R.
  • 40a. [Chemist’s *verup?], LAB COAT – CO is COBALT, leaving an A.
  • 49a. [His “The Gates of Hell” depicts a scene from Dante’s “In*rno”], RODIN – FE is IRON, leaving a D.
  • 57a. [Island group off the co*t of Africa], CANARIES – AS is ARSENIC, leaving an A.
  • 63a. [T*tful question on the dance floor], MAY I CUT IN? – rather tough way to get an “ac” in there (I thought maybe it was a “thoughtful” question at first), but AC is ACTINIUM, leaving a Y.

He’s probably thinking “How the hell did I end up here?”

Read those left over letters from top to bottom and you find our meta solution, English scientist Michael FARADAY. I thought this was a nice meta, although I associate FARADAY more with electromagnetic theory than the chemistry used as the meta device in the clues. I’ll close with my favorite clue, 23a. [Old timer] for SUNDIAL. Truly inspired!

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10 Responses to WSJ Contest – November 17, 2017

  1. Icdogg says:

    I meant to rate this a 5 but I accidentally gave it a 3.

  2. Tony says:

    Totally drew a blank on this one. Very gettable in retrospect.

  3. BrainBoggler says:

    Wow — I didn’t get to spend much time on the meta portion, but in what time I did have, I was too bent on finding the number of occurrences of the elements’ abbreviations in the grid and trying to use that number in some way (either as an index or direct translation to a letter). I can’t believe the anagrams were right there in front of me, especially EN(R)ON and RO(D)IN. Nice puzzle!

  4. Scott says:

    I liked this puzzle and gave it a 5.

  5. JohnH says:

    I was impressed that the anagrams (plus a relevant letter) yielded so much fill. I also appreciated one week without having to Google for an answer.

    • Tim Mitchell says:

      Puzzles like these point out that everyone has a different set of knowledge when it comes to solving a meta. I do not know the elements very well at all, so I Googled the chemical symbols to find the related names. However, with last week’s meta, I did not need Google, as I am familiar with the board game, but a lot of solvers seemed to need Google for that one. I’ve posted something similar before, but I think constructors can use whatever information is out there to make a meta, as long as the clues are these to lead the solver to the answer. The fun of solving a meta using an outside source isn’t plugging search terms into Google; it’s realizing what you should be searching for.

  6. Eric says:

    Clever, fun and apt. Faraday was a chemistry professor.

  7. Garrett says:

    I got the element abbreviations pretty quickly as I was solving the grid. Was a little stuck on ‘T*tful question on the dance floor’ for a bit until I got the fill, then it came to me.

    My first idea was that the atomic numbers would yield grid coordinates to get letters from, but when I got to ACTINIUM I knew that could not be what was required.

    I was staring at the various answers trying to think about where to go next when it hit me that Maturity looked a lot like YTTRIUM. That got me pretty excited, and I quickly began parsing the rest, and there was the answer! A very pleasing experience. I gave it a 5.

  8. Garrett says:

    Yeah, [Old timer] for SUNDIAL was very nice. I was trying to think of what that could be with some of the letters I already had (I had no clue, really) when my subconscious pattern matcher fished-out SUNDIAL, and then I got the clue. My fave clue in that puzzle.

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