WSJ Contest – May 18, 2018

untimed (Evad) 


Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Clued In”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 5/18/18 – “Clued In”

We have a guest constructor this week for the WSJ Contest Puzzle, probably the most accomplished constructor on the planet, Patrick Berry. He asks us to find a fictional detective. Given the title (“Clued In”), I immediately thought of the Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau, what with that “clue” sound in his name. Turns out I had the wrong detective, but on the trail to the right meta device, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Four theme entries seem apparent in the grid:

  • 17a. [Shows some sadness], SHEDS A TEAR
  • 22a. [University in Jonesboro], ARKANSAS STATE – never heard of the town or the school. Looks like their football team is named The Red Wolves; I would think the University of Arkansas’ Razorbacks are the most popular college team in the state.
  • 45a. [Anheuser-Busch brew introduced in 1978], MICHELOB LIGHT – as I’m becoming intimately familiar with the Vermont craft beer scene, I’m amazed how many calories are in a pint of 8% beer. You don’t want to know.
  • 53a. [They mind their manors], LANDOWNERS

So the title is a big hint this week, and it didn’t take me long to notice that each of these entries has a word imbedded within which is also the clue to another entry. Thusly:

  • 28a. [Sate], FILL
  • 53d. [Sass], LIP
  • 9d. [Blight], MAR
  • 48a. [Down], LOW – notably crossing two theme entries!

Put them altogether and you get FILL-LIP MAR-LOW or Philip Marlowe, the fictional detective created by Raymond Chandler in the ’50s. I liked this meta a lot, but I was a bit surprised to find other one-word clues that didn’t relate to the meta. Would’ve seemed a bit cleaner to have these 4 be the only ones, but who am I to question genius? I’ll close with a clue that had me scratching my head for a while, but finally understood that [A positive donation] for PINT was referring to a particular (and my) blood type!

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12 Responses to WSJ Contest – May 18, 2018

  1. Burak says:

    The beauty of this puzzle lies in its simplicity. “Clued in” is already a meta title because detectives work with clues, but then just like solving a case, you need to get lucky with one of the clues and the solution is suddenly available to you. Solid grid, a fresh idea, I liked it a lot.

  2. Jon says:

    My guess as to why there were other one-word clues not related to the theme was to camouflage the route.

    Excellent puzzle and meta.

  3. Bob H says:

    I found the four words in the across answers but didn’t go the extra steps to get synonyms and put together the sounds, so I wasn’t really ever that close. One thing that kept me from going down the right track was the two long down answers which apparently had nothing to do with the answer but kept me trying to fit them in. Oh well

    • Lance says:


      You didn’t need synonyms of the words in the across answers, per se; you just needed the answers to those clues in the puzzle. (So: SATE in 17a; the clue for 28a is “Sate”, and its answer is FILL.)

  4. B Hamren says:

    I think from now on I will print the pdf of the puzzle and work from there. Lately I have been doing them on my laptop and if I don’t get the answer right away I screen shot the puzzle, but not the clues. Nice meta but my brain cells don’t remember the clues on Sunday of a puzzle I did Thursday.

    • Matthew G. says:

      This is why I never solve meta puzzles on a device. You just risk missing too much that’s been presented to you.

      • Scott says:

        Agreed. I do these on my mobile and that can often be a serious hindrance in solving a meta.

  5. bunella says:

    I have never done any puzzles on a device. Always print them; for better or worse you can scribble, highlight and erase and take notes on the back.

    Loved this puzzle.

  6. Garrett says:

    I loved this puzzle, too. I stared at the obvious theme fills for quite a while before I locked on DOWN. I might not have done this had I not felt that the answer LOW for the clue [Down] seemed odd to me while solving. So when I saw DOWN in LANDOWNERS I remembered the clue, got really excited by that and went looking for others. My last was BLIGHT.

    Then I was looking at the four clues — nothing to spell with them, and then the fill for those. I had written them down in the order I found them and I had


    And then I had it. Fun, fun, fun!

  7. Lance says:

    I particularly liked the casual inclusion of AFOOT, right there below an across entry that starts SHE…. When I had SHEDS A TEAR, even before I saw AFOOT, I thought, “Is SHERLOCK HOLMES too obvious?”. (Glad I didn’t spend a lot of time convinced it had to be right and trying to justify it!)

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    If I was still writing my Crossword of the Month feature, this would probably be the winner for May. The month isn’t over yet and I haven’t surveyed the entire previous three weeks, but this would be an above-average winner.

    The “Clued In” title + needing to find a fictional detective + the way the “clues” (crossword clues and mystery clues) lead to the ‘culprit’ and the irony of the detective being the quarry = extremely elegant meta.

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