Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Divide and Conquer”—Derek’s review
This is my first time on Fiend blogging a contest puzzle, but here goes! This one played tough for me. The puzzle was not so bad to solve, but I had no idea what was going on until I picked Dave Sullivan’s brain. Here are the theme answers, and then I will feebly attempt to explain what is going on:
- 17A [Winner of seven Wimbledon titles (4 letters, then 4 letters)] PETE SAMPRAS
- 26A [“Presumed Innocent” or “The Firm” (5 letters, then 5 letters)] LEGAL NOVEL
- 41A [Glaucoma symptom (8 letters, then 3 letters)] DECREASED VISION
- 51A [Bail money source (6 letters, then 5 letters)] SECURE BOND
- 62A [Woman typecast in horror movies (6 letters, then 3 letters)] SCREAM QUEEN
So what do all these letter counts mean? I had no idea either, until I contacted Dave. The title “Divide and Conquer” is a huge hint. If you “divide” the theme answers, the first and last parts make up a word that can go after “split,” which means divide. Hence:
- PETE SAMPRAS – They say SPLIT PEA here.
- LEGAL NOVEL
- DECREASED VISION
- SECURE BOND
- SCREAM QUEEN
Here is where the leap is needed: the second letter count is the enumeration of that the “split” phrase is. And it isn’t readily clear, at least to me:
- SPLIT PEA is a type of SOUP
- SPLIT LEVEL describes a HOUSE
- SPLIT DECISION seems to indicate the IBF, the International Boxing Federation?
- SPLIT SECOND can also be called a FLASH
- SPLIT SCREEN is a feature on some TVs, but is a phrase more often used describing a computer display. But that may just be my perception.
The first letters of these five descriptors spell SHIFT, and SPLIT SHIFT is the answer I submitted. While this may not be my favorite Matt Gaffney contest puzzle, this is still clever with a few levels to peel away. I also like on Matt’s own MGWCC site where you know if you’re right or not within a short time, but on the WSJ site you just have to wait and see on Thursday night if they are going to send you a mug! (For the record, I have NOT received either a mug OR a MGWCC pencil set!!)
I think overall this is a phenomenal idea, but some of the mental jumps seem to be a little hard to process. But bear in mind: I am not the greatest at solving crossword contests, although this month I DO have 3 out of 5 solved on Matt’s site! I have never completed a month there, and that is on my bucket list of things to accomplish!! Anyway, what do you folks think? I will still give this 4.3 stars.