WSJ Contest – February 2, 2018

untimed (Evad) 


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

WSJ Contest – 2/2/18 – “Mi Señora”

“Mr. Meta” Matt asks us this week to discover a 12-letter proper noun starting with S that would complete this puzzle’s theme. Careful meta solvers will pick up on the word “complete” in the instructions–counting six starred theme entries, we’re looking for the seventh and final member of a set. My first thought after looking at the title was that notes of the scale might be involved (do-re-mi…) and we might be looking for a Spanish singer, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

The theme entries:

  • 17a. [*At the age of six months, they were cast as Michelle Tanner], OLSEN TWINS – the reference is to the TV series Full House, I wonder (in retrospect) if the reference to their age in the clue is to push the solver toward thinking about numbers. Here the reference is to the number 2 (in Roman numerals II)
  • 24a. [*Figure on blue-and-white flags], STAR OF DAVID – I’m quite partial to this answer! :) Anyway, here the reference is to the famous Jewish six (VI) pointed star
  • 36a. [*Word used for two different sports, either of which works for this contest], FOOTBALL – I recall a guest puzzle on Matt’s site (perhaps Paul Coulter’s?) where the number of players on a sports team led one to a meta solution; here there are both 11 (XI) members of an American football and European soccer team.
  • 42a. [*Element used in batteries and bullets], ANTIMONY – atomic number 51 (LI); I wonder if Matt considered as an alternative a timely reference to last year’s Super Bowl?
  • 50a. [*It’s often filled with freshmen], INTRO COURSE – I waffled between 100 and 101 on this one, but saw that the latter fit into the theme sequence (CI).
  • 61a. [*Clothing since 1873], LEVI’S JEANS – I normally drop the possessive on this one, I wonder which is more common? Anyway, their original jeans were referred to as 501’s (DI). I thought this page might explain the origin of the number, but it’s only a page where you can buy them.

So as you can see, each entry has an association with a number, and if you convert that number to Roman numerals, you notice that each is two characters, with the second character being I. Which one is left? Well that would be 1001 (MI), hence the MI in the title. And what woman/proper noun is associated with 1001 you ask? Well it would be Scheherazade, the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights and our meta solution.

An excellent meta–it’s quite an art to come up with entries that imply numbers but not so much so that there’s a bit of work involved. That, and that they increase from smallest to largest from top to bottom and you have the high quality level of metas we’ve come to expect from Matt (and the other WSJ constructors). Now back to my TOSTITOS and guac as Super Bowl LII begins!

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11 Responses to WSJ Contest – February 2, 2018

  1. B Hamren says:

    I wondered how many would put down Superbowl XII since it starts with S and has 12 letters.

    I got the right answer but in a different way – I never even noticed the roman numeral connection. These answers (2,6,11,51,101,501) went in order by:
    times 5, minus 4
    times 2, minus 1
    times 5, minus 4
    times 2, minus 1
    times 5, minus 4
    So the last one must be times 2, minus 1, being 1001 which leads to the answer
    Fortunately Roman numerals have the same pattern as the sequence that I found.

    • Evad says:

      1001 doesn’t “complete” that series, though, it would go on ad infinitum.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I took “complete” in the instructions to mean complete the series of letters used in the basic set of Roman numerals. There were of course other letters and symbols used at various points in history, including dots and superscripts, but this was the basic set.

  2. Garrett says:

    The 1001 meant nothing to me.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Really? It surprises me that anyone could get as far as figuring out that we needed a 1001 to finish the set and then not think of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Is there anything else more prominently associated with 1001 than that?

      Now, getting to the 1001 itself, that was harder. I initially thought that FOOTBALL referred to the ball itself rather than the game, and was trying to find something that an American football and an Association football had in common — maybe the number of seams matched the number of hexagons, or something, but no. But once I had the other numbers in the series, I was able to backsolve the XI.

  3. Harry says:

    A title like Latin Ladies would have led to more correct answers.

  4. Heidi says:

    I totally misread this one. I submitted SMS Language. There were text abbreviations in each of the clues, and the title. NTW (not to worry), ROFD (rolling on floor dying), OTB (off the boat), OCO (one cancels the other), and ISJ (inside Joke). The title was ISE (it’s so easy). The submission spells out Slang, too. So I thought I nailed it. (Heidi)

  5. Bill Williams says:

    Mi senora is Spanish, not Latin, so where’s the Roman connection?

    • Matthew G. says:

      The Roman connection is in “Mi,” which resembles the Roman numeral MI, and then “Senora” hints that we’re looking for a woman. So who is an MI woman? Scheherezade!

      It’s in Spanish only because that’s a language in which MI happens to make a word.

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