Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “No Presents, Please”—Laura’s review
Matt challenges us to find an eight-letter adjective this week. So whadda we got? Eight longerish entries — maybe they could lead us somewhere?
[14a: Emerge from the ashes]: RISE AGAIN
[17a: Punish deservedly]: STICK IT TO
[20a: Use PayPal, e.g.]: SEND MONEY
[35a: Do a farrier’s job]: SHOE HORSES
[44a: Reach dry land]: SWIM ASHORE
[55a: Start over from scratch]: BUILD ANEW
[65a: Wound]: DRAW BLOOD
[68a: Add up]: MAKE SENSE
At first, with that title, I had children’s birthday parties on my mind — you write “No presents, please” on the invitation (or “Your presence is your present!”) if your house is already so full of crap that you can’t bear the thought of more toys/books/stuffies/Nerf guns/Pokémon cards/Star Wars Lego sets to clean up. And Matt has a newly one-year-old, so maybe that’s what he’s thinking too? But I couldn’t make that MAKE SENSE, so I decided to BUILD ANEW.
What do we have in our theme entries, listeners? Eight phrases, each beginning with a verb that is … hold on! … in the present tense. Hmmm, no present tenses, please? Let’s past-tense-ize these babies, and see if anything emerges:
STUCK IT TO
And there we have it: an eight-letter adjective: OUTDATED. I thought this would’ve been a textbook “week 2” Gaffney had it appeared in the MGWCC; in the WSJ it’s also slightly to the tougher side of easy, in that it took a leap of insight — but even then, it’s a classic meta that relies on lateral thinking. If I were teaching people how to solve metas (which I kinda am in these posts — I hope you’ve learned something), I might use this one as an example.
Ahem, Mr. G, [26d: Sister of He-Man]: SHE-RA is a hero in her own right, not just in relation to her male relations (#includemorewomenandfemalesuperheroes). Some of us are inordinately excited for this:
This one could have been more challenging with a less blatant hint. Knowing the answer had eight letters and seeing eight odd phrases pointed directly to the answer. A slightly less revealing definition might have been: What your grandparents gifts sometimes are.
I finished the grid on Friday. No instant idea on the meta. Put it down. Saturday I look at it and it clicks.
It seems like that pattern happens often for me.
I liked this puzzle.
Putting the puzzle down never works for me. I either get the joke or I don’t, mostly don’t. This time not, but it does make sense.
Just a note to Matt (since I’m pretty sure he reads this) – make sure you look back in the WSJ comments to see where Eric Eisenstadt wrote an ode (to the tune of the “Modern Major General” song) to Matt proclaiming that “Matt’s the very model of a modern Cruciverbalist”
I did see it — thanks, Bill! It certainly made my day.
Now we just need to get Pete Muller to perform it ;-)
No presents? In a puzzle with OVID, ORSO, VITA, DECEM, ERGO, SEI, ENOS (all Latin, Italian, or Greek) plus a Spanish CERO, I fell into the trap of “beware Greeks bearing gifts” and there was even a HORSES in there! Flamed out, big time!