Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Parts of Town”—Dave Sullivan’s reviewHowdy, folks! Evad back in the critic’s seat for this week’s Wall Street Journal contest puzzle. We’re looking for the two-word name of a U.S. location. . With only 2 9-letter and 2 8-letter entries, I turned to the clues to find our theme material. I found 7 that follow a similar pattern (and also echo the puzzle’s title):
- 40A. [Part of TP], (Toilet) PAPER
- 49A. [Part of BK], (Burger) KING
- 61A. [Part of PM], (Post) MERIDIEM -I tried MINISTER and then MERIDIAN first.
- 10D. [Part of UN], UNITED (Nations)
- 26D. [Part of CE], COMMON (Era)
- 28D. [Part of GM], (General) MOTORS
- 48D. [Part of AD], (Anno) DOMINI
So my first stab at the next step was to look for the other half of these two-word phrases in the grid. I came up short, but pretty quickly noticed some anagrams of the words I was looking for; in particular, LOTTIE for TOILET and GRUBER for BURGER. Hoping these weren’t just serendipitous accidents, I looked for the others. Sure enough, I found all seven:
- TOILET > LOTTIE
- BURGER > GRUBER – I felt the MAGOG/GRUBER crossing a bit cruel
- POST > STOP
- NATIONS > ANISTON
- ERA > EAR (for some reason, the hardest for me to find!)
- GENERAL > ENLARGE
- ANNO > NANO
Rearrange those 7 starting letters, gets you to ANGELES, which is indeed “part” of a two-word location in the U.S. It did bother me that the accompanying LOS wasn’t part of this mechanism, but after a nudge from a friend, I saw that 13D. [___ Lobos, “La Bamba” band] clued it. Not only did this make the meta feel more complete, it also added the two-letter abbreviation, LA in the clue (albeit with a minuscule “a”).
I’ll close with my favorite clue, 14A.’s [Dip in the Mediterranean], which didn’t reference a geographic feature, but the dip for pita (most commonly found in hummus in my culinary adventures), TAHINI. Happy 2019 to all!
One other small piece of it that (obviously) wasn’t necessary to notice: The initials of the seven anagrams in grid order (i.e. row by row) spell SENEGAL. Nice touch.
This sunk me. I submitted “SENEGAL EMBASSY” has a Hail Mary. XD
Huh. I found all those, and looked at their locations on the grid and it spelled SENEGAL. One of the biggest cities in Senegal is named Saint Louis. So I put in St. Louis as my answer.
I think my mechanism is as solid as “oh let’s just grab LOS from the grid.” OK, maybe not as solid but solid enough?
A common meta extraction method is to perform the theme gimmick one more time, which is what happened here. So LOS is not just randomly grabbed from the grid as you suggest — it’s part of LA, the way each of the seven entries that formed SENEGAL were part of their two-letter initialisms.
The eighth-biggest city in Senegal (St. Louis) is not likely to be useful in a meta.
Upon further reflection, I like the meta more and I see the strength of the construction.
I was misled by SENEGAL, because in the past we’ve had metas when you definitely had to Google stuff and got totally disconnected from the grid.
All of these mechanics on the meta answer (Part of LA; the LOS in the grid while the other half being a SENEGAL/ANGELES anagram; that SENEGAL was in grid order) make this a 5-star crossword, in my opinion. Well done, Matt!
PS. I accidentally clicked rate it before moving the ranking to 5. Can an administrator change my rating from 3 to 5 stars?
I don’t think we just pull LOS from the grid to make the solution. There is a nice symmetry at play here.
Each of the original two word phrases from the clues was in the grid as one correct word and one anagrammed word.
For the meta solution, we were looking for another two word phrase, Matt has put that phrase in the grid again as a correct word (LOS) and an anagrammed word (SENEGAL).
Unscrambling the anagrammed word of the pair would then get us to the answer of LOS ANGELES.
Hmmm….and ANG is right next to LOS in the grid as well.
I was being semi-serious, and I thought “OK, maybe not as solid” made that clear but apparently I failed.
LOS serves as a confirmation once you have the solution (and it’s a sound one) and I get the symmetry thing (although it’s not perfect) but you still kinda pull it from the grid, no?
I also forgot to add that the letters S,E,N,E,G form an arch, so I thought “hmm, maybe that’s the final nudge.”
Personally – don’t buy the arch support. Good meta construction would use ALL the letters of Senegal to make the arch if that was intended. Picking and choosing bits and bobs of the puzzle is just confirmation bias trying to support an answer.
When I’m solving, if I only use part of the information, I realize I am on the wrong path, so drop things and try again. But understand how hard it is to change thoughts when fixated on a single path/answer you want to work.
I totally agree with what you said… except that in the past we’ve had a couple examples of shaky meta construction so I thought this was another one of those. The comments on WSJ blog questioning the last step didn’t help either.
Gee, I wonder why the vast majority of constructors don’t bother commenting here…
I have admitted that my initial comments were tougher than deserved and I have stated my support for the puzzle, like right above this, as a reply to your comment.
I don’t know what else I am expected to do. I guess I will simply stop commenting.
I generally appreciate all commentary, positive and negative, but I can’t expect people to have the same attitude as I do. I guess this blog is not the place for me.
Thanks for the puzzle anyway.
Anagramming the letters in the order they appear in the grid brought me to SENEGAL, and thus “Saint Louis”… seemed like a plausible solution to me.
I need some help (and nope, didn’t come close). I know ANISTON played a popular character on TV, but is LOTTIE someone familiar or just a first name I hadn’t heard in a long while, and who or what is GRUBER?
Oh, wait. I see now: we were supposed to look for anagrams (not sure why) already in the grid.
Oh, wow. Blown away by the fact that the anagrammed words you are looking for are actually in the grid as well. Wow.
For anyone else wondering –
“Lottie” is a nickname for Charlotte, as in Charlotte Moss. I hadn’t heard of her either and had to guess from crosses.
Hans Gruber is the name of the villain in the movie Die Hard, played by Alan Rickman.
This was a beautifully layered puzzle. I loved the multiple “AHAS.”
I did also like as additional confirmation (though perhaps unintended?) that LA is associated with “parts.”
I too tried MINISTER and then MERIDIAN first. Actually, I wrote down MERIDIAN, but later saw that was not working and then remembered that MERIDIEM is the Latin for noon. I’ve confused these two words before.
I’m pleased to see that all of my guesses for what the two letters stood for were all correct. I did not think about anagramming the non-grid partners, alas.
I wanted the airlines to go somewhere. 68A clue [Pan Am rival] with answer TWA, and the fill of UNITED for [part of UN] had me looking for more, but there was nothing else there.
It’s been a while since I’ve see the term ‘savoir faire’. I was introduced to it by an American woman who had lived in France for a number of years. To explain it, she told me this joke: