WSJ Contest — Friday, March 1, 2019

7:01 grid; an hour meta (Laura) 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Puzzle People”—Laura’s review

WSJ Contest - 3.1.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 3.1.19 – Solution

Matt wants us to find a famous singer. Let’s see if the themers are any help:

  • [17a: Feature of a tabloid newspaper’s offices?]: LURID DECOR
  • [24a: Language spoken by someone flipping out in Cardiff?]: MANIC WELSH
  • [35a: With 37-Across, Ivy Leaguer who studies by moonlight?] & [37a: See 35-Across]: LUNAR YALIE
  • [52a: Evil spirit who backs his favorite candidates?]: DEMON DONOR
  • [59a: “Let’s everyone live together peacefully on Earth,” maybe?]: HUMAN MOTTO

Whenever the theme entries are that nonsensical, you know something is up in terms of hidden letters, encrypted phrases, anagrams, or what-have-you. So, what have we? Turns out, the themers have something to do with the title, “Puzzle People” — each contains a three-letter famous person’s name that often appears in crossword grids:

LURID DECOR == URI Geller, Umberto ECO
MANIC WELSH == ANI DiFranco, Ernie ELS
LUNAR YALIE == UNA Merkel, Muhammad ALI
DEMON DONOR == EMO Philips, Yoko ONO

Famous might be stretching it for some of these folks, if you don’t solve zillions of puzzles. One might argue that a couple of them enjoy continuing fame only from appearing in puzzles, and their notoriety for other reasons (psychokinesis, 1930s movie musicals, standup comedy, pre-WWII baseball) has passed.

That was the first step. Now let’s look at this list again:

URI Geller, Umberto ECO
ANI DiFranco, Ernie ELS
UNA Merkel, Muhammad ALI
EMO Philips, Yoko ONO
UMA Thurman, Mel OTT

Note how the first column is all first names, while the second is all last names. What else can we do with these names? I’ll note that it is a very common meta mechanism: when you have a string of letters, look for something to which they might correspond in the grid. In this case, we have:

Geller, Umberto == G U
DiFranco, Ernie == D E
Merkel, Muhammad == M M
Philips, Yoko == P Y
Thurman, Mel == T M

Can we find these in the grid? We sure can! Each corresponds to a three-letter entry:

G U == [51a: Atlanta sch.]: GSU
D E == [45d: Word on bills]: DUE
M M == [61d: “Delish!”]: MMM
P Y == [30a: Fork over]: PAY
T M == [22d: Cable channel that shows old flicks]: TCM

The central letters in those corresponding entries spell out SUMAC: that would be “Peruvian songbird” YMA Sumac, herself no stranger to crossword grids. If you’ve never seen or heard her sing, she’s pretty impressive, much like this puzzle!

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11 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 1, 2019

  1. Bill Katz says:

    If only there was some way he could have worked Eero Saarinen into this…

  2. Joella D Hultgren says:

    From above you wrote: Thurman, Mel == M M
    Thurman, Mel actually leads to == T M, NOT M M.


  3. B says:

    I couldn’t get past the following puzzle peoples:
    lURIDDecor = DRUID
    mANICwelsh = INCA
    luNARYAlie = ARYAN

  4. BarbaraK says:

    I’m surprised by the ratings on this one and wonder about the distribution (though there really aren’t enough to mean much). Is it a bell shaped curve with most people finding it average? Or about equal numbers who loved it or hated it?

  5. AK37 says:

    I thought this puzzle was incredibly good and clever. To each their own, but I’m not sure how you’d possibly rate this 1 star.

  6. Adam Thompson says:

    Wow! Very clever and hard puzzle. I saw the 3 letter names but I didn’t get the next steps.

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