WSJ Contest — Friday, April 26, 2019

Grid: 8ish; Meta: half that 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Closing Numbers”—Laura’s review

More of a recap than a review today because I did a lot of cooking this weekend, and boy are my arms tired.

WSJ Contest - 4.26.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 4.26.19 – Solution

This week we’re looking for “the two grid entries that would complete this puzzle’s theme.” We have some nonsense-y theme entries:

  • [17a: People who are awesome with words like “she” and “them”?]: PRONOUN GODS
  • [27a: Someone who teaches people the difference between flan and crème brûlée?]: DESSERT EDUCATOR
  • [46a: Vows made with very few words?]: LACONIC PROMISES
  • [61a: Dog who’s also your closest friend?]: BESTIE POOCH

And, a mucho grande hint:

  • [12d: A friend from here might be helpful today]: MEXICO

We know from Metasolving 101 that nonsense entries are a big hint that the mechanism is orthographic instead of referential (i.e. something to do with spelling or letter patterns rather than meaning) and 12-Down suggests that some knowledge of Spanish is key. And given that the title is “Closing Numbers,” I started looking for numbers — and found them in the “closings” of each word of the entries:


There we have the numbers one through eight in Spanish, so we’re looking for entries that will have NUEVE and DIEZ anagrammed within them — and there we have them:

  • [47d: Madison in Manhattan, e.g.]: AVENUE
  • [66a: Took by force]: SEIZED

I thought this was a perfect 2 Metaweeks on the Gaffney Scale. Your thoughts?

Here’s [13d: Pete of folk]: SEEGER (who was my dad’s camp counselor at Camp Woodland in the Catskills in the 1950s) singing in Spanish:


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12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, April 26, 2019

  1. Jon says:

    “We know from Metasolving 101 that nonsense entries are a big hint that the mechanism is orthographic instead of referential” We do? Not me; I just learned this.

    Is there a metasolving 101 class I can take? Or at least a blog that lists out helpful mechanics of metas? Also, this feels like a 201 or 301 class level tip.

    I got nowhere near this solution. So it felt like a week 4 to me.

  2. Stukmn says:

    This forum just started about a month ago when the WSJ changed how long comments stayed up. There is some really good info on meta solving somewhere within one of the forums, as well as conversation about the puzzles. :) Hope that helps and happy solving!

  3. Norm says:

    This was fun, and I generally stink at metas, so it was nice to solve one. My only gripe/puzzlement is that the four entries in the grid all followed an adjective-noun pattern [as wacky as they were] and I can’t see how AVENUE SEIZED “completes the theme” in that respect. I can see AVENUE as an adjective [e.g., avenue shops?], but SEIZED is never going to be a noun. Is that not an element of this type of meta puzzle?

  4. JohnH says:

    I don’t know why, but I still can’t get better at contest themes. I should have thought of the MEXICO clue as a hint, even if only an oblique one, to think in Spanish (not a strength of mine, although I could probably come up with the numbers). But alas at the time I entered it I just thought of its odd wording as one of those obscure references that the setter runs to in his fill, and I’d forgotten all about it by the time I finished the grid and turned to the theme.

    I got nowhere. I hoped that the eight words of theme fill might each be a part of some phrase ending in a number or that the four theme fills would hide numbers. But then seeing partial anagrams in Spanish never occurred to me. It is, after all, a leap or two. Oh, well. A pity, but guess I’ll never learn.

  5. David Roll says:

    A big rotten tomato for “yeabig.”

    • Matthew G. says:

      I always thought it was “yay big,” but it turns out there is a spirited debate over whether the correct spelling is “yay big” or “yea big”:

      I actually put YAY BIG into the grid and I don’t think I bothered to correct it. In a conventional crossword I would probably have checked my work, but with a meta I tend to go straight to solving the meta, and if I get it quickly (as I did with this one) I often don’t look at the grid again to hunt for errors.

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