WSJ Contest — Friday, May 24, 2019

grid 7ish, meta an hourish 


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

WSJ Contest - 5.24.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 5.24.19 – Solution

Really whiffed on this one at first. (“Whiffed” means “failed utterly,” right?) Saw the five cities in the longer themers —


— and tried a bunch of things like mapping them on a … uh, map, lining up re longitude and latitude, comparing location re rivers and other bodies of water and/or geographic features, yadda. No luck. Lined up the states in which our cities featured — CO, TX, NC, RI, NE — and found them represented elsewhere in the grid, which seemed promising until it went everywhere and nowhere. Flailed. Asked for a hint from solving pal Heather and received:

… ok, so we have:


So the set follows a patter of either:

CITY CITY, STATE (three entries)


CITY, STATE STATE (two entries)

… which, given that our answer is a U.S. state capital that should be in this grid, but isn’t suggests that we’re likely looking for a state capital that is one word (CITY) in a state that is two words (STATE STATE). But how to find it? Here’s where it gets funny in my notes:


[23d: Media-monitoring org.]: FCC
[47d: Held a session]: SAT
[62d: Mandela’s org.]: ANC
[8d: Mex. ruling party from 1929 to 2000]: PRI (not familiar with this, but have heard of Public Radio International)
[65a: Clear spirit]: GIN

And there we have it:

[16a: Random amount]: ANY … or ALBANY, NEW YORKa U.S. state capital that should be in this grid, but isn’t — and our answer.

I liked this one, despite its stumping me for far too long. You?

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28 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 24, 2019

  1. Jon says:

    Not even close.

  2. Jaye says:

    The clue and answer for 12d put me on the right track for the solution.

  3. Brian says:

    Note that the three letter meta related entries are symmetrical in the grid, so ANY had to be the one that led you to the meta answer.

  4. Barttels says:

    When you have to read the explanation three times before you fathom it, probably a safe bet you weren’t going to get it.

    Speaking for a friend (cough).

    Definitely “Gaffneyesque.”

  5. JohnH says:

    Could you explain that one more time? I still don’t understand. So you’re saying that we disregard the cities in prominent entries and try to find something else that has three components, which for some reason have to be not three locations but of one of two forms, interpreted so that either city or state takes two words rather than two locations? And then we see A as an abbreviation of Albany, which I can’t recall here in my own state? And that this has something to do with other three-letter entries in the puzzle except that it doesn’t? I’m lost. (As someone else said, if I’m still lost after rereading the explanation, no wonder I wasn’t going to get the answer. I won’t call it a criticism, since I don’t know whether it makes sense.)

    • JohnH says:

      Oh, wait, now I see. Took more grid hunting. Just wish those were valid city/state abbreviations.

    • Jaye says:

      The puzzle is concerned with INITIALS (per 12d), not abbreviations.

      • JohnH says:

        Good point. It would have required, after focusing on three-letter fill as initialisms, to look back to the clues that once for confirmation on what one already had as a focus, but it does hang together.

  6. Bob says:

    I saw PRI as Providence, RI, but I was looking for capitals, not for representations of the other four cities. I finally landed on three of the theme clues capable of yielding other cities. Denver is certainly a city on the Front Range. The clue said “Where the Spurs play” not “Where is the Spurs home.” The Spurs play in Denver and other NBA cities. And Brown’s home could have been Cleveland, and there’s also the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. “Denver” does not occur in the grid but could have been the answer to three clues! Oh well.

  7. Eric says:

    Saw the three letter abbreviations of theme entries and ANY pointing to Albany, NY but as my feeble brain failed to see the connection to Locationx3 I punted on the principle that I avoid guessing answers.

    BTW was anyone else distracted for a while by finding Denver inside Providence, Lincol(n) inside Fort Collins, Ral(e)ig(h) inside Grand Island and A(u)stin inside San Antonio. What’s Matt’s famous reminder? “Be not let astray by words intended to deceive”.

    • Jaye says:

      I didn’t see that. But I was certainly led astray by the word MAP in the exact center of the top row!

  8. Tony Santucci says:

    Not that I would have solved it but I think the puzzle would have been more “elegant” if all the cities were capitals, not just Providence. If Montgomery, Phoenix, Atlanta, Augusta and/or Raleigh had been used, suitable 3 letter answers elsewhere could have been placed i.e. MAL, PAZ, AGA, AME, and/or RNC. Using one state capital and 4 non-capitals in the grid felt a bit sloppy to me.

    • J B says:

      Only one of those alternate answers fits the pattern in this puzzle.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Tony —

      That was my first thought, and it’s entirely possible. I decided the way I did it was more interesting because I liked the nudge towards three-letter words the solver received from realizing that each of the five theme entries is city/city/state or city/state/state, but always three words. Seemed to me more logical and less arbitrary than just a bunch of one-word state capitals (which is the great majority of them) + two-letter postal abbreviations (which is all of them). But your way way certainly possible, and would have kept them all as capitals. I still like my way better but I admit yours is entirely logical as well.

      Oh yeah, I also liked that I was *not* using state postal abbreviations, similar to how it was unusual to not use chemical symbols in the COBALT meta earlier this month.


      • Tony Santucci says:

        Thanks for the reply. I’m sure if I had solved the meta I wouldn’t be so interested on how the puzzle would have been more logical for me. One reason I do puzzles with metas and cryptics is to force myself to see things differently.

  9. Ellen Nichols says:

    I forgot to solve this before the deadline to submit the meta (I have visitors!), but solved it very early this am (or late last night). I found it one of the easiest metas in a long time, no paperwork required. I’m not bragging, I have been struggling with the metas lately.

  10. DD says:

    @Tony: I thought I clicked REPLY to you but this is posting as a new entry …
    You make a good point, but it must have been impossible, or else he would have done it. Four of the cities you mentioned don’t work because each is one word in a one-word state — the puzzle specifically uses a two-worder (either the city or the state) in each of the five long answers.

    Matt had to
    1. make sure that every answer had a two-worder (either the city, or the state)
    2. make sure that each could form a 3-letter acronym, initialism or word (FCC, PRI, ANY) that we would recognize
    3. make sure that he found 2 pairs of the same length to keep rotational symmetry
    4. make sure the grid could be filled, which doesn’t always happen with letter combinations in names because they can create long consonant strings that are hard or impossible to cross (look at FORT COLLINS, which has the RTC string in the middle, which forced the yuk crossing HDTV — making a grid that works with those long consonant strings can be almost impossible, which I know because I made a puzzle with some 4- and 5-letter consonant strings)

    So with all those constraints, it was probably impossible to make all of the long answers consistently capitals, or not.

    • Tony Santucci says:

      Not that I’ve ever constructed a puzzle but you could have symmetry with Augusta, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Raleigh being 7 letters and either Providence or Montgomery being the odd one in the middle. AME, AGA, PAZ, RNC and either PRI or MAL are all possible crossword answers. I have no idea how the rest of the grid would work; I guess I expect the impossible sometimes because Shenk and Gaffney do the impossible so often.

      • Bill Katz says:

        But Augusta is in Maine giving AM which is only 2 letters. The same for Atlanta: AG. All of the theme entries need to be THREE words, not two. I made a list of capitals that worked, and there are not 4 other good 3-letter combinations.

        • Tony Santucci says:

          Using the 2 letter postal abbreviations for each state preceded by the 1st letter of the state capital gives you 3 letter crossword-type answers. I know that doesn’t give you 3 distinct words for each entry but so what? The puzzle would need a different title but a Gaffney-type brain could come up with a clever enough one.

      • DD says:

        Tony: Again, you’re not paying attention to the actual puzzle that he created, titled “Location Location Location” — 3 elements. There is zero point in your continuing to insist that other theme answers were possible when in fact they don’t fit the bill, as at least three people have pointed out.

        Please respect the constructor’s intention. And maybe try to construct at least one puzzle, so you can get some idea of how difficult it is — your comments will be very different after you try.

        • Tony Santucci says:

          That’s a good point — I don’t think for a second that constructing puzzles is child’s play. I respect Matt Gaffney, Mike Shenk, the Cox/Rathvon duo, and Patrick Berry quite a bit.

  11. DD says:

    @Laura, thanks for walking us through this — it was my first WSJ meta, and I was stumped. I solved the puzzle but wouldn’t have gotten the meta on my own.

  12. Milan Pradhan says:

    PRI is Mexico’s ruling party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party)

  13. CFXK says:

    Yes. But… the name of the state is “Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations”

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