WSJ Contest — Friday, February 15, 2019

6ish grid; 10 minutes meta (Laura) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Placement Test”—Laura’s review

WSJ Contest - 2.15.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 2.15.19 – Solution

This week, Matt asks us to find an 11-letter word. Easy! I mean, how many could there be? Let’s check out the themers:

  • [17a: Middling or worse]: SUBOPTIMAL
  • [22a: Where you might put the cart before the horseradish]: SUPERMARKET lol
  • [52a: Vestibule]: ANTECHAMBER
  • [60a: Like Derrida’s views]: POSTMODERN. Hmmm. Not to, shall we say, Paul de Mansplain, but … I’d call Derrida’s philosophy of deconstruction poststructuralist but not necessarily postmodern (maybe postpostmodern). A better clue here would be [Like Cindy Sherman’s art] — and then you’d have another woman’s name in the puzzle.

And a bonus entry that we’re told is relevant:

  • [41a: Good language to know for this puzzle]: LATIN

With that information, I made a list of the themers, translating the Latin prefixes:


Could these be instructions telling us to look for something else in the grid? Signs point to yes:

{BELOW} OPTIMAL = 10a: BEST means OPTIMAL, and below that is RANS
{OVER} MARKET = 44a: AGORA means MARKET (in Greek!), and over that is LATIN
{BEFORE} CHAMBER = 56a: GROOM has G before ROOM, which means CHAMBER
{AFTER} MODERN = 6a: NEWT has T after NEW, which means MODERN

Put RANS + LATIN + G + T in grid order and we have:


That’s an 11-letter word that is our answer, and also the instructions for the meta, in a lovely postmodern act of self-referentiality.


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22 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, February 15, 2019

  1. Maggie W. says:

    I liked the puzzle a lot, but I was a little thrown by the presence of HOUSE, half of our bicameral legislature. (I got over it right quick.)

  2. Tim Mitchell says:

    I submitted PREPOSITION. All of the prefixes translated from Latin are prepositions (over, under, before, after), and all of the Latin terms are in the front (pre) of the phrases. Since it fit the title of “Placement Test” by parsing the term differently (PRE POSITION), I thought it was the correct answer. It is obviously not what Matt was going for, but I would think it’s a valid alternate answer. I did start to go down the correct path, but it fell apart when I couldn’t find synonyms for chamber and modern. Didn’t think to look for those words as part of longer words.

  3. Barttels says:

    Too tricky for me, but my partner got it. I predict a lot of wrong answers this week, & disappointed or crabby people!

  4. e.a. says:

    my favorite meta (wsj or elsewhere) in ages. everything about it is perfect except for having LATIN play double duty as part of the meta answer which is better than perfect

  5. Scott says:

    I really enjoyed this puzzle. Thanks!

  6. Justin says:

    Didn’t get to do this one, but one more note that may or may not have been intentional (Matt?): The final answer is also somewhat thematic since TRANS is “Across” and all the themers were across in the grid. Maybe reading too much, but quite a nice meta.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I was wondering if anyone would notice that! Yes, it was intentional. Which is to say, when I was deciding what the revealer would be, that TRANSLATING started with the Latin for “Across” (with all relevant entries Acrosses) and then LATIN itself and then my last initial (a little corny but if there’s one letter left over, that’s the one) I said, we gotta make this work.

  7. Will Nediger says:

    By god, this is brilliant.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Nediger and Agard both liked it, my day is 100% made (in no way kidding about that)

  9. pannonica says:

    That’s really clever and well-executed. Wish I’d remembered to return to the meta after my initial grid-solve.

  10. Jim Morgenstern says:

    being a math/physics guy i would NEVER equate optimal and best. many best solutions are not optimal. and some optimal solutions might not be the best given that optimal could be theoretical and best practical or pragmatic. so i missed the whole solve. frankly too many technical terms in crosswords — when used– are given incorrect definitions for colloquial reasonings.

  11. AaronB says:

    I didn’t get the need to take the prefixes literally.

    I noticed some loose contrasts, but didn’t get anywhere.

    agora (greek) is an open marketplace, in contrast to a supermarket
    eudora (greek) is a true gift, one that would not be suboptimal
    prius (latin) is coming before, as opposed to being postmodern

    elena (greek) is bright and shining, and not opposite to antechamber

    so I was looking for something connecting them, maybe something dark after a vaulted something else – night skyish

  12. Lee Sammons says:

    With over, under, before and after translated, I submitted “Omnipresent “. A simple, but plausible solution. Since the WSJ doesn’t have a monthly progression of difficulty like Matt’s own metas, i didn’t look for anything more complex. Pretty cool now that I see it.

  13. Mary Flaminio says:

    I submitted equilibrium, a latin word for balance or poise. Poise was an answer so I thought it fit. Wrong! Great puzzle.

  14. sharkicicles says:

    So last week, Matt had us doing Spanish, and this week it’s Latin… I’m digging it.

  15. Tom Marturano says:

    This was a great puzzle, topped only by the MGWCC this week, which was even more brilliant. Gotta love double Gaffney weeks!

  16. Bill Katz says:

    I got the theme idea pretty quickly, but spent a very long time (after finding AGORA) looking for other synonyms in the grid as full entries. Both HOUSE and CRIB were tempting me as almost synonyms for CHAMBER. I needed a nudge to look at partial words, and then it all fell into place.

  17. Jim Schooler says:

    This puzzle reminded me of something my mother advised me: Semper ubi sub ubi.

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