Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Out of Order”—Raul Ellaray and Sally J. Reese’s review
This week we (and we’re using the plural pronoun deliberately, since regular blogger Raul Ellaray is herein joined by solving partner Sally J. Reese) are looking for a two-word phrase. Let’s start with the nine starred entries:
- [1a: Seeking change, perhaps]: BEGGING
- [8a: Star centers, e.g.]: ALL PROS
- [15a: Want very badly]: ACHES FOR
- [30a: Not even slightly]: IN NO WAY
- [39a: Polyphemus, for one]: CYCLOPS
- [49a: Socks]: WALLOPS
- [69a: Love expert]: AMORIST
- [70a: About 3.16 gigaseconds]: CENTURY
- [71a: “Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World” author]: BILL NYE
And that center long down entry seems relevant: [21d: Indiscriminately]: ANY OLD WAY.
Raul: Your solving team was stymied by this one, following many loose ends and rabbit holes thither and hither. It may have been the combined mental fatigue from … how many metas were we solving this week, Sally? It felt like at least a dozen, what with a Week 4 MGWCC, a literal handful of year-end GNU YORE KIRK ROSS WHIRRED — er, New Yorker crossword puzzles, an AVCX contest, contests from Andrew Ries and Will Nediger, and BEQ’s mega-meta in the NYT’s Puzzlemania which in my house has mostly functioned as a cat-sleeping mat.
Sally: You’re ahead of me, Raul — my cats can’t even get to the mega-meta, because it’s sitting under a stack of other puzzles I haven’t solved yet.
Raul: Plus all the emotional energy expended this time of year on various celebrations and families and visitors and friends near and afar. (Side note: Thank you for that holiday card with your adorable family, Sally!) But let’s get back to the puzzle — we tried anagrams, we noticed shared letter strings, we tried putting all the starred entries in alphabetical order….
Sally: Did you notice CHEF inside ACHE FOR? Chefs take orders, just like, um … well, there’s nothing else in the other entries. Never mind.
Raul: At that point, I was all THAT’S ME — FAILURE. Right there in the grid. And we were both already on the board for the MGWCC (see very long post on that after the deadline) so it was weird. Speaking of CHEFs, I decided to take a break to cook and host a seven-course dinner party for ten people, and a splendid time was had by all.
Sally: I used my break to take my daughter to see A Night at the Opera — and she complained that it wasn’t Duck Soup, so I guess I’m raising her right. (Not that either of those movies provide any help with the meta.)
Raul: You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause! Uh … okay, back to the puzzle. At this point, did we ask for a hint?
Sally: We did indeed.
Raul: And one of our solving buddies very patiently counseled us to consider the title, and the concept of order. A very basic type of order, that is indeed often clued in crosswords as [The basics, e.g.]. And we’re thinking, uh, would that be like alphabetical? Is that an order?
Sally: But we tried that! And AAABBCCIW still isn’t a word, no matter how many times I look at it!
Raul: ABACI? ABACAB? WICCA? So we went back to our friend to ask for more hintage and I could just feel the schadenfreude emanating from the internet. Lol, Sally and Raul can’t get this!
Sally: Seriously, if the answer involves DARTMOUTH again we’re going to have to quit metas all together.
Raul: Sally is referring to an unfortunate incident in my past. Let us never speak of it again. Okay, where were we? Sanity clause? Look more closely within the themers, not among them, said our friend.
Sally: Hmm, the letters in CYCLOPS are basically in order except for the Y. I wonder if the other theme entries might follow that pattern.
Raul: Hey I wonder that too? And whaddayaknow:
IN NO WAY
Sally: GO HAYWIRE?
Raul: Don’t mind if I do! And there you have it, folks. As we kiss the ass-end of 2018 goodbye, best wishes from Sally and me for the new year. Happy metas, happy megas, happy solving to you and yours. We’ll see you in 2019.
Hey, Raul and Sally. Excellent write-up. As for that meta . . .
I leave you with the words of the inimitable, albeit confounding, Otis B. Driftwood: “Everything about you reminds me of you. Except you.”
I didn’t come close, as usual, and can only wish I could change my mindset somehow so that I have a decent shot at Shenk’s (or Gaffney’s) themes. (I’m good at all sorts of puzzles and reasoning, honest, just not “metas,” I guess.) Seems fair enough, though, much as I dislike seeing his pseudonym.
As a cryptic fan, I had from the title to look for anagrams, perhaps of the initial letters of the starred fill. Since those answers are often incomplete phrases, like ACHE FOR, I also wondered if I could reorder them so that they fell into self-contained phrases that mean something or other. But nope. Obviously it’d be more satisfying if I came closer, but once again so it goes.
The actual way it is supposed to work is very subtle and clever — I wish I had noticed that.
Before I could, I understood the title to indicate that the order of the letters or even the starred entries would need to be manipulated somehow (so I was close in a way).
But I felt there must be some other hint. I noticed after a while that there were four places in the grid or the clues that involved implicit or explicit sexual desire. So I looked at the first four theme fills (in order) and the. was able to pick one letter from each that spelled GREW. That word is also in the grid.
Looking at the remaining five and rearranging their order I was able to get the word LUSTY. It is not in the grid, but it is the first word of one of the clues. That is as far as I got. Grew Lusty
paging dr. freud lol