WSJ Contest — Friday, September 6, 2019

grid: 7ish minutes; meta: oy  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Squeeze Play”—Laura’s review

This week, we’re looking for a four-letter verb. Well. I was expressing several four-letter words as I tried to solve this meta.

Step 1: See that big marquee entry in the center:

  • [36a: Setting for some round trips]: BASEBALL DIAMOND

Steps 2 through, like, 14: Be mystified, then spend an hour texting with a friend trying to co-solve. Gently tease said friend for writing a few lines of code to find entries that were one letter off from MLB team names (on the logic that [16a: Name in an Eliot title]: MARNER is one letter off from MARINER and [68a: Regarding]: ASTO is one letter off from ASTRO). Trade sophomoric jokes with friend about BUTT and ASS both being entries clued with [Behind]. Unwisely dissuade friend from following a lead when he suggests that there might be something important in this clue:

  • [48d: Slugger who, in ’61, hit 61 (a good place to start)]: MARIS

Step 15: Give up for the evening. Friend on the west coast goes out for a drink. Me on the east coast has some ice cream and goes to bed.

Step 16: Return to puzzle around lunch on Friday while waiting for the MGWCC to drop. Remember friend’s idea about the clue for 48d. Decide he’s pretty smart after all, and maybe I should “start” at square 61. [61a: Lunate shape]: CRESCENT doesn’t seem relevant, but what if I just start there? Poke around, looking laterally … and … ohhhhh. There it is: Starting at square 61, proceed northeast to the O in DIAMOND. Turn northwest and proceed the same number of squares to the A in COLOMBIA, then southwest to the S in BASEBALL, thence southeast back to the C in CRESCENT. The letters read:

WSJ Contest - 9.6.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 9.6.19 – Solution


Get it? It’s a baseball diamond! And the first letters of those teams spell out C R A MCRAM, which is a four-letter verb and our answer. I later apologized to friend for so rudely shooting down his suggestion of there being something important starting at square 61, and there was joy in Metaville.

Clue edit from the Department of Historical Accuracy:

  • [27d: Filmmaker Nazi propagandist Riefenstahl]: LENI


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17 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, September 6, 2019

  1. Jon Forsythe says:

    I wish I had found that mechanism. I had looked at the whole grid as the baseball diamond and never thought about starting at the 61 like the clue suggested. Now in retrospect is seems so obvious. Question about the final answer though, is CRAM a baseball term?

  2. Oh, that’s weird. I didn’t even see the R of GYMRAT as the start of ROYALS. I thought ROYALS began with the second R in NRA and then proceeded up and to the left on its own single diagonal line. It didn’t make sense since I didn’t end up with an exact diamond shape, but I guess it was diamond-adjacent and I knew the teams were the right ones.

    The other weird thing for me (as Jon mentioned above) was the meta answer itself. I get that CRAM is a synonym of “Squeeze” in the title, but it’s not really a baseball term. There may not be a ton of apt baseball-related terms that can spelled out using the team names’ first letters (and with the team names in a diamond shape), but CRAM is still an odd endpoint for a baseball meta.

    • I meant “I thought ROYALS began with the R in NRA …” not the second R, obviously.

    • Barney says:

      I bet that “second R” is exactly why a lot of people said something seemed slightly off.

      Cram doesn’t need to mesh with the baseball theme; syncs with squeeze in the title.

      (I didn’t solve this.)

    • Matthew G. says:

      What makes it an odder endpoint is that there was so much baseball in the clues. I’m surprised that neither Laura nor the commenters have mentioned that almost every entry that could conceivably be clued in a baseball-related way, was. Even though most of them had no relevance to finding the meta answer (other than putting you in a general baseballish frame of mind). I really liked that as a way of concealing where the actual path to the meta answer was, but then when I found CRAM it just sort of hit with a thud because it was a non-baseball answer in a puzzle chock full of baseball.

  3. DRC says:

    Maris is actually 48d

  4. Oh…… I kept trying to start at the M in Maris and couldn’t get to a diamond shape no matter how hard I tried. DOH.

  5. Mortimer P says:

    I eventually figured this out, but for a long time was completely hung up on MARIS –> MARLINS with the LIN in ILLINI just sitting there. It’s almost as if he deliberately put that there to be tricky :P

  6. James says:

    Brilliant. Loved it. Answer hiding in plain sights. Minimal need to google things. Clever. The kind of meta I’d show to friends who wonder what these things are that I spend hours a week solving.
    Thanks, Mike!

  7. Jim Schooler says:

    Without the 61 nudge, I hopelessly created a number of “diamonds” in the grid, but nada. I did notice the B in COLUMBIA could be combined with UNT in AUNTS to make BUNT, and that little dog leg suggested a batter’s stance while bunting, and bunts often lead into “Squeeze Play”s, so I submitted BUNT. Bummer.

  8. JML says:

    I was thrown by all the baseball reference clues that were all ultimately red herrings, except for 48-Down

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