WSJ Contest – June 8, 2018

untimed (Evad) 


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

WSJ Contest – 6/8/18 – “Border Crossing”

Timely theme this week in the WSJ Contest puzzle, we’re looking for a U.S. state that’s not one of the twelve already in the grid. Let’s hope all of our crossings are legal, and since we’re remaining in the U.S., it looks like they will be.

I’m just going to list the 12 states in the grid from west to east: OREGON, NEVADA, IDAHO, MONTANA, ARIZONA, UTAH, WYOMING, TEXAS, NEBRASKA, IOWA, ILLINOIS, and INDIANA. Impressive to fit all twelve of these in a 15×15 grid, but how do they point to a (lucky) 13th?

Well, my first thought based on the title was to highlight the letters which are shared by two crossing states–that gives us NEOAMIA, which doesn’t anagram to anything, but tantalizingly has all of the letters of the state o’ MAINE in the set. I tried to justify not including two of those seven letters, but I was also troubled by lonely UTAH at the top of the grid which didn’t cross any of the other states.

So to a map I went and drew a line around the states, wondering if they all would be contiguous. Indeed, 11 of them are; here only TEXAS is the outlier. So what if New Mexico were included? Then you could draw a line around all 13. I’m not completely sure about this strategy, but it was helpful to see that no other one state could be added to the set to accomplish this continuous line.

This meta reminded me of this week one puzzle from Matt’s site, I believe geography is one of Matt’s favorite go-to disciplines for meta inspiration. I’ll close with what seems an odd clue to me, [Question to a person using binoculars] for SEE ANYBODY? as we more often use binoculars to pick out distant birds or boats on the lake as opposed to people, but this is Vermont where I believe there are more cows than people!

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38 Responses to WSJ Contest – June 8, 2018

  1. RPardoe says:

    Don’t know if its correct, but if you take ONLY the crossings that are by states that share a border (hence Border Crossings) – one has only MAINE as the letters. The O from Iowa/Idaho and A from Texas/Indiana don’t qualify. That is how I justified MAINE as my answer.

  2. bergie says:

    I took all the intersections of state names in the grid, and took only those states that share a border, resulting in MAINE:

    M – WY/MT
    A – NE/IA
    I – IL/IN
    N – AZ/NV
    E – OR/NV

    There are other state names that cross but those states don’t share a border::
    O – ID/IA
    A – TX/IN

    Anyone else go down this path?

  3. I ended up with MAINE, but for a slightly different reason.

    Take the intersections of the states that cross each other in the grid AND share a border in real life (NEBRASKA/IOWA, NEVADA crossing ARIZONA and OREGON, WYOMING/MONTANA, ILLINOIS/INDIANA). In grid order those intersections spell out ANEMI, but they can be anagrammed to MAINE.

    I did feel like I’d missed something, though, since some of the cities in the clues were odd choices (Teton Village, WY with a population of only 330?), plus STREET VIEW and SEE ANYBODY were *so* unique as answers that they seemed like they should be relevant.

    (Edited to add: Now that I realize it, maybe SEE ANYBODY was a way of hinting at the phrase SEE ME, meaning the postal abbreviation of Maine ….?)

    • Bill Katz says:

      The 9 states you list are clued by cities on their borders, the other 3 by interior cities.

      • Jon says:

        Well, almost all clued by cities on the border: Terre Haute is close by doesn’t actually rest on the border like Calumet City does.

  4. RPardoe says:

    As for the cities – most were border cities or close to a border. Only San Marcos, Texas wasn’t as it is close to Austin. But do wonder the rhyme/reason behind the city selections.

  5. Bill Katz says:

    From the Monday pdf:
    The contest answer is MAINE. Taking the five grid
    crossings only of pairs of states that border each
    other in real life yields WYOMING/MONTANA,

  6. RPardoe says:

    And MAINE confirmed by the posting of the Monday Puzzle:

    The contest answer is MAINE. Taking the five grid
    crossings only of pairs of states that border each
    other in real life yields WYOMING/MONTANA,

  7. Matt says:

    OK, this appears to be a clunker of a meta. Two totally different but, looks to me, equally valid solutions. That shouldn’t happen.

    My intended solution was the one outlined by RPardoe and Bergie above.

    But the New Mexico idea that Evad illustrated is convincing as well (though completely unintended by me) and I believe (not sure though) that the WSJ is going to count that one as correct.

    • Harry R. says:

      Matt, you are a gentleman as well as a puzzle master. Thanks for the honesty.

      • Matt says:

        Writing this meta drove me crazier than any other in recent memory. It went through several incarnations and took about 20 hours to write, time mostly spent discarding ideas that weren’t going to wind up working. But I just became fixated on the idea of a meta where you only bordering pairs of countries/states/provinces/whatever to spell something out, and even without the alternate NEW MEXICO answer it still just turned out to be an OK idea in the end.

        The most promising one, which eventually didn’t work, was having a string of geographical entries overlapping each other in the long entries; then you just used the ones that bordered, like here. It began with LUXEMBOURGERMANY and some others I had in there were SONORARIZONA and MONTANALBERTA. But it took up too much space in the grid so I couldn’t make it work.

        And then after all these discarded ideas I got the MAINE one to work, which I thought was cute since Maine uniquely borders only one state. Not an A+ idea, but amusing, even if having only 7 crossings plus random unlinked UTAH didn’t hide the answer that well. But I didn’t anticipate the New Mexico thing at all. Ugh. Apologies to anyone who found both and couldn’t decide; like I said, this shouldn’t happen in a meta.

        • Cindy says:

          Thanks for the transparency Matt. You are a great constructor. When I first saw New Mexico, it felt like a Two and a Half Men meta to me….just something you see.

          I had already seen the letters for Maine. But at that point had not decided what to do with the extra o and a.

        • Amanda says:

          I thought it was quite elegant. I sort of reverse-engineered the solution when I noticed Maine in the crossings. I circled the letters of Maine and it was obvious that they were only in the states that bordered each other. And the added layer of the cities being on the state borders was cool.

        • Frank Ho says:

          I looked at the overlapping letters but didn’t think of finding ways to eliminate the extra letters of O and A for MAINE (plus I thought there never was an answer in previous WSJ contests that required using anagram). I also wondered about the choice of interior cities vs border cities but didn’t pursue further. I went with NEW MEXICO, but thought that the approach to arrive at this answer is most unlike what you would do. Now MAINE would fit your modus operandi.

          Now whether WSJ would allow NEW MEXICO to be an acceptable answer, all you have to do is to tell Mike Miller, and then I would still have a slim chance to get the mug. :-)

        • Evad says:

          Hey Matt, thanks for chiming in here, I sort of suspected that New Mexico wasn’t the intended answer (your technique fits the title much better for one) and if I had spent some more time looking at where the city/towns were in each state’s clue, I think I would’ve submitted MAINE instead. I did enjoy seeing how the states laid out on a map though, so it’s all good.

        • Barttels says:

          Woulda coulda shoulda. I saw New Mexico but didn’t really like it, even though I was sure tons of people would send it in. I saw the other crossings but never figured to pair them down to the five that bordered each other. In the immortal words of Maxwell Smart, missed it by that much.

    • TeriL says:

      I concur with Harry. You are a Master and and Gentleman.

    • Tyrpmom says:

      I see the logic for Maine, but Utah hanging out all by itself swayed me to New Mexico.

  8. Harry R. says:

    I respect the logic behind Maine, but the logic for New Mexico seems just as good. This one seems pretty arbitrary (a level that is very rare in this series).

  9. Stephen McFly says:

    Count me down as one of the “New Mexico” submissions.

  10. TeriL says:

    Saw Maine… but went with New Mexico… alas … love the META!!!

  11. Bill Katz says:

    I was able to come up with a pro/con list for both New Mexico and Maine. I think either would pass the Gaffney test of “When you find out the intended answer, do you find it better” I finally went with Maine as it seemed slightly less likely to be accidental.

    • Les Yonce says:

      This logic tipped the scales for me, too. New Mexico seemed more likely to be an unintended consequence of how to get Maine as an answer than vice versa. Although I did see NM first, and thought for a while Matt might have been setting up a “watch out for the tip of the Oklahoma panhandle or you’ll pick Colorado” thing.

  12. Michal Koren says:

    I don’t usually post here (just found this site), but see my post directed at you at the WSJ blog.

  13. Abide says:

    I went with New Mexico over Maine because it would seem a more difficult construction to fit 12 states in a grid with only one missing within the path of crossing borders, as Evad’s map shows. Maine seemed like a coincidence.

  14. MarkR says:

    I found both solutions, but the geographical loop of states just seemed too arbitrary to me. I preferred the Maine solution, which is more elegant. But I guess many do not agree.

  15. JohnH says:

    I didn’t see Maine, and I don’t much like the reasoning behind it as too convoluted. Take some crossings of one kind and some crossings of the other kind, but not both. Also hard for me to picture. And the instructions suggested looking for an addition to the 12, not for a way to exclude half of them before taking crossings.

    I got New Mexico and felt confident in it, although it required more knowledge than I like in a crossword. I first eyeballed the 12 to see if anything stood out as a commonality and then wrote the two-letter codes to see if a pattern appeared, but no. The idea of border crossings had me then thinking of geography.

    First, I thought more modestly, maybe they’d form pairs of adjacent states with some outlier missing, although 12 as an even number made that unpromising. But as I wrote them down, I could see that most or all were touching as a block. And sure enough, only Texas stood apart. Moreover, it was way too convincing for coincidence that it could connect to the rest in only one way, via NM.

    So I’m calling this contest just plain awful and giving the puzzle a 1 as unacceptable. Besides, like most Friday WSJ puzzles, the fill was painful, because weighted with trivia and garbage. And now Gaffney will weigh in with his usual utter disdain of criticism to tell me I’m a sore loser. But then maybe he’d be a better setter if he took criticism. I know all NYT setters are used to it, from their editor.

  16. Austin says:

    i submitted Maine, but wouldn’t have been surprised if you needed to take it another step and the actual answer would have been NEW HAMPSHIRE, the only state to border Maine. glad it wasn’t that devious.

  17. Sheik Yerbouti says:

    New Mexico seemed like the stronger answer to me — I actually thought it was quite elegant to be able to trace a line through all the abutting states, with only one missing. At a minimum, the case for Maine does not strike me as meaningfully stronger than New Mexico.

  18. Mary Flaminio says:

    Let’s move on to next week. Matt Gaffney explained it in detail. Further criticism just isn’t necessary.

  19. Diana says:

    I submitted New Mexico with great confidence. I thought it was clever that Matt chose Texas as the state that had to be crossed into since it has the most border crossings of the ones that border Mexico. I actually don’t know if that’s true, but it seems right and I thought that was his clever “click” for the title.

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