WSJ Contest — Friday, September 21, 2018

9ish minutes grid, 15ish minutes meta (Laura) 


Marie Kelly Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Bound for Space”—Laura’s review

Here’s my “syst” (h/t Fill Me In) for solving WSJ metapuzzles: 1. solve on the (ugh) WSJ’s webapp; 2. screenshot the grid (since I’ll need it for the Fiend post); 3. print out the screenshot and a pdf of the entire puzzle with clues, stare at them, and wait for something to emerge. Five-letter word, huh? My mind is wandering, and I think, What a funny coincidence! We have [1a: Thing that you need to cross space to reach]: MOON, and also right there in the center of the grid, we have the name of one of Mars’s moons, Deimos, separated by a space in OPUS DEI and MOSAICS. That must be a rabbit hole — I mean, I probably have moons on my mind since I’m currently reading book seven of James S. A. Corey’s fantastic space opera, The Expanse (also three seasons of a fine television drama on SyFy, and picked up by Amazon Prime for a fourth season), in which humanity climbs out of the gravity well of Earth to colonize the moons of the solar system, with mixed results. Oh!

If you take each of the entries for which there is a clue with a parenthetical number, the first part of the name of a moon is hidden in that entry, and “you need to cross space” to the second part of the name. The parenthetical number is the length of the moon’s name.

WSJ - 9.21.18 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 9.21.18 – Solution

  • [17a: Carefully calculated (8)]: TACTICAL LISTON
  • [23a: Flasher in a dance club (6)]: STROBE RONDO
  • [38a: “The Da Vinci Code” organization (6)]: OPUS DEI MOSAICS
  • [49a: Starbucks order (6)]: MOCHA RON ELY
  • [58a: Fielder’s cry (5)]: I GOT IT ANGELICA

Callisto, Oberon, Deimos, Charon, Titan — doesn’t spell anything. Following Metasolving 101, if you have a list of things, think about whether the list of things suggests another list of things (Metasolving 101, Lesson #925: Research is your friend), and write down that list — in this case, let’s see if we can find anything by listing the planets that these moons orbit:


Taking the first word of each planet, in order of the moons’ appearance in the grid, we have JUMPS, which is a “five-letter word” suggesting what solvers do to get to each moon in the grid (hence the title, “Bound for Space”), and our metaanswer.

Because I didn’t get to talk about Magritte enough yesterday

Solving group pal Gideon writes: “There is a glaring flaw in the WSJ meta — 16a. You jump across space and land on LUNA.” The term Luna often refers to Earth’s Moon, particularly when distinguishing it from other moons in our system. It could be, as solving group pal Conrad suggests, that the enumerations in specific clues were meant to rule out 16a from the set. What do you think, listeners? Flaw? Or Easter Egg? Bug or feature? Was this meta the [64a: Overhead point on the celestial sphere]: ZENITH of your solving experience? Or just more [16a: Extreme folly]: LUNACY to round out the week?

*Note: So not here for your “Pluto is not a planet” bullshit. Take it somewhere else.


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14 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, September 21, 2018

  1. Jon says:

    I’ll go with Easter egg since the themers were noted with parentheses.

    • janie says:

      ditto. did not crack the meta, but also liked the MOON / SKYY bookending.


    • Matthew G. says:

      I still lean toward bug, not feature, because there have been plenty of metas with enumerations or asterisks where you had use the marked clues in combination with unmarked clues.

  2. Scott says:

    I should have gotten this. But I didn’t. Nice enough for me to give it 5 stars anyway.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Funny story: so I moseyed down to my local bar on Friday afternoon to solve “Bound for Space.” Met a couple from Long Island who were visiting town and saw I was solving a crossword; they’re crossworders too so they joined in. Vaguely familiar with contest crosswords but I had to give them some tips, at which point the bartender chimes in with “he writes crosswords for a living, including contest crosswords.” So the bar is set high.

    We solve it together, and then I’m pointing out to the couple how the title, instructions, clues with enumerations, etc. are all hints, but the biggest hint of all has to be LUNACY. “That can’t be a coincidence,” I tell them with confidence.

    Long story short: 20 minutes later of my trying to connect LUNACY to the theme entries, they tell me they’re about to leave so I text a friend for the answer. I looked like an idiot since LUNACY had nothing to do with it…

    • BarbaraK says:

      LOL! Welcome to the other side.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I love this story both because it is funny and because I, too, never contemplated the possibility that LUNACY could just be fill. Also, POLARIS. Words that long in a space-themed meta and they aren’t thematic? Not ideal.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Oh, and ZENITH! These just had to be intentional red herrings.

      • LauraB says:

        Right! POLARIS is in the North Star position in the grid. I meant to mention that. Yeah, I’d consider all of these to be Easter Eggs.

      • Mary Ellen Price says:

        CHARADE positioned directly below POLARIS made me doubt whether the meta answer even had anything to do with all the celestial references. I tried to keep an open mind that “SPACE” in the title might have meanings other than outer space. In the end, SPACE and BOUND each had two meanings … we had to jump over black spaces and bind words together to find the names of moons. Very clever! You might even say deep. Deep space. :)

    • Bob S says:

      Uh-Oh – you will lose your “awesome” status with your wife

  4. Amy L says:

    Never saw “Luna.” I thought the parenthetical numbers were more of a hindrance than a help. I accept them only if they were to serve to rule “Luna” out.

    I liked this puzzle, especially with the Moon and Sky. I also love Matt’s story.

  5. bwouns says:

    30-Down/46-Down. Feature, bug or neither?

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