WSJ Contest – July 6, 2018

untimed (Evad) 


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

WSJ Contest – 7/6/18 – “Fall Reading”

Good Monday morning, folks! Today I’m starting with an announcement–this will be my final WSJ Contest Puzzle commentary here at Crossword Fiend–co-reviewer Laura will be taking the helm from me beginning next week. I’m not going anywhere and you will likely find me back in this chair subbing for Laura in the future, but for now I’ll just be solving less publicly at home. And I hope you will enjoy her savvy commentaries as much as I do. So let’s do this thing, yes?

We’re in search of a famous literary work. Very obvious thematic material this week, we have four entries where the word EDEN has been removed:

  • 17a. [Blazes new legal territory], SETS A PRECT – as this fell into place from the crossing, I first (as likely most of you) suspected a rebus, so I tried to shoehorn CEDEN or EDENT somewhere without success
  • 28a. [Attendee at Nobel Prize ceremonies], THE QUEEN OF SW – I know in The Wizard of Oz, there is a witch for each direction, but I’ve never heard of queens of compass points
  • 46a. [Best Actress nominee for 1992’s “Indochine”], CATHERIN EUVE – fabulous movie, one of my faves, so much so it made me want to take a trip to Viet Nam (but haven’t yet). I’m also hankering for some pho right now!
  • 60a. [It contains an Oscar winner’s name], SEAL VELOPE – I wondered if this hinted at the theme idea; Matt once had a memorable meta I believe where ENVELOPE “sealed” letters by surrounding them

So when it became clear that this was not a rebus puzzle and the same four letters were removed from each theme entry, I began to think about famous literary works with the word EDEN in them. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden was the first to come to mind. Could it be that these letters EDEN have moved “east” somehow, perhaps off the grid? Nah, that didn’t seem to jive with what was going on. Next idea came from thinking about the (clever, in hindsight) puzzle title, Fall Reading. When I think about the story of Adam & Eve, I’m reminded of the “fall” of humanity, when Adam took a bite of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. (Would be great to grow one of these in our backyard–it would certainly come in handy in some of the more gnarlier metas I run across!)

So what work deals with this kind of “fall”? Well, Paradise Lost by John Milton came to mind, and indeed the more I thought about it, the more appropriate it felt as we have “lost” paradise (represented by the idyllic Garden of Eden in the story) with the removal of EDEN from these entries. Nice that the meta involved a bit of brainwork as our “work” (in this case, an epic poem as opposed to a novel) didn’t have the word EDEN in its title.

So fingers crossed I ended this run on a high note. Looking back at the fill, I wonder in retrospect if EPODE and SAGA are there intentionally? I enjoyed Amy Poehler’s recent autobiography but have only seen P&R once or twice, so my answer to knowing her character’s surname was KNOPE is nope indeed. Finally, I was impressed to learn that the architect I.M. PEI is now 101. May we all live as long.

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10 Responses to WSJ Contest – July 6, 2018

  1. Harry says:

    what about the book Lost Eden? Same idea but a more exact fit.

  2. bergie says:

    Anybody go with “The Secret Garden”? I thought about it but Paradise Lost seemed like a better fit.

    • Abide says:

      It’s such a good choice it probably should have been the title!

      • Matthew G. says:

        I actually suspected “Paradise Lost” would be the answer from the puzzle’s title alone, because the word “fall” appears so frequently in the opening pages of “Paradise Lost.” Then I laughed when I saw the missing EDENs and realized that it really was the answer. So to me the title was perfect.

        The only thing that slowed me down a bit was the coincidence of the curving letters DENT from the end of EPODE and beginning of ENTREE. I thought that the DENT somehow gave us the missing letters from PRECEDENT, and that they were “falling” off a cliff. Spent some time trying to find the E. Then gave up and continued solving the rest of the grid and realized it was all much simpler.

      • Jeff Mizrahi says:

        I sent both in…seems to me that Secret Garden is just as apt.

    • MattG. says:

      I did, gleefully, without thinking of anything else

  3. LauraB says:

    I loved this! Nice work, Matt. If you know the poem (or maybe recall it from an English Lit survey), you’ll remember that the “loss of Eden” is right there In The Beginning:

    OF Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
    Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
    Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
    With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
    Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
    Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
    Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
    That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
    In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
    Rose out of Chaos:

    And thank you, Dave, for your years of expert meta coverage!

  4. Garrett says:

    I also submitted “Paradise Lost,” using the same logic that Evad used. Do we know if that is, in fact, the correct answer?

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