WSJ Contest – June 1, 2018

untimed (Evad) 


Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “You Can’t Break Me”—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

WSJ Contest – 6/1/18 – “You Can’t Break Me”

Welcome to the month of June–we’re looking this week for what this puzzle demands from you. Patience? Intelligence? A love of trivia? Let’s find out.

No obvious theme entries, but there are 6 starred entries of various (some quite short) lengths:

  • 18a. [*Be worthy of merit], RATE
  • 35a. [*Boxing pro], MOVER
  • 55a. [*Proctor’s call], TIME
  • 9d. [*Service man], MINISTER
  • 35d. [*1911 Kentucky Derby winner], MERIDIAN
  • 48d. [*Teases], RIBS

All of these can follow the word PRIME, but what to do with that information? I began to look for some other word that could follow “prime” (“suspect” was the most obvious suspect that I suspected but couldn’t find), so that became a dead end. My aha moment (after setting the puzzle down for a bit) was to look at the letters that are in squares with prime numbers as indicated in blue in the grid above. From top-to-bottom, they read UNDIVIDED ATTENTION, something I would say isn’t “demanded” by the puzzle (I had to put it down and come back to it to get the answer), but a great connection to prime numbers, which can’t be “divided” (or “broken” as the title implies).

A fabulous meta–just when you think you’ve seen every possible interpretation of prime numbers applied to meta puzzles, a refreshingly new idea comes up like this one from Mike. Bravo! I knew there had to be some reason for entries like ONCE I and A RUSH, and with all this theme material and constraints, it’s quite amazing that the grid was as smooth as it was. I’ll close with my frequent confusion with [Matriculate], thinking it means to graduate from a school, but instead it’s to ENROL in one.

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6 Responses to WSJ Contest – June 1, 2018

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    Totally agree that this was brilliant! I was stumped for quite a while trying to see if the numbers of the starred answers were related to primes. I also wondered why most of the starred entries were to the right in the grid. Your image makes it abundantly clear why.

    My only nit to pick is that while I was stumped, I had decided that if I was going to guess at the meta answer, it would have been UNDIVIDED ATTENTION based on the phrase “what this puzzle demands of you” and the title “You Can’t Break Me.” I was relieved and elated that I confirmed my guess, but I bet there will be others who get it right without understanding why.

  2. Scott says:

    Never came close. But I’ll give it 5 stars because it was a great meta nevertheless.

  3. JohnH says:

    Never occurred to me, and I’m sure I just go about these the wrong way, but I’m impressed.

  4. Austin says:

    i, too, thought this was fantastic and then had it pointed out to me that this meta is VERY similar to an early gaffney (not that it detracts from its fantasticness):

  5. Matthew G. says:

    This was solid. My only ding is that the title and instructions pretty much gave the answer away: I guessed that it was going to be UNDIVIDED ATTENTION before I even started solving the grid. Because what something “demands from you” plus “you can’t break me” basically gets you all the way there.

    That said, the meta itself was great and it did take me a while to find my way to the prime numbers in the grid itself.

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