WSJ Contest — Friday, October 4, 2019

Grid: 8:08; Meta: 1:25  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Leading Men”—Laura’s review

WSJ Contest - 10.4.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 10.4.19 – Solution

This week, we’re looking for a four-letter noun.

  • [16a: Walk]: BASE ON BALLS
  • [29a: Jets, before they were the Jets]: TITANS OF NEW YORK
  • [45a: 2002 Keith Urban hit]: SOMEBODY LIKE YOU
  • [59a: Memorial words]: REST IN PEACE

There are four themers, and four letters in the answer, so it’s likely we’ll get one letter generated from each themers. As is usual when the themers don’t have any referential meaning in common, we’re likely looking for a letter pattern. In this case, since each themer is a 3+-word phrase, I guessed correctly that the letter pattern might come from the starting letters in each phrase’s words, like so:


Hmmm, we got some guys’ names, and the title is “Leading Men,” so likely we’re looking for some famous people with those first names. And right up there at the center-top of the grid (what some crosswordy-minded folks might call the grid’s “north”), is HOPE. There’s a famous guy named BOB HOPE, right? What else can we find?

BOB == [6a: Optimistic desire]: HOPE. Performer, singer, actor, etc. who defined mid-20th-century middlebrow entertainment.
TONY == [52a: Magic location]: ORLANDO. Singer most famous for “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” with the band Tony Orlando and Dawn.
SLY == [13a: Sculpting medium]: STONE. Funk-soul-psychedelic rocker known for many awesome songs with Sly and the Family Stone, including “Everyday People.”
RIP == [68a: Of two minds]: TORN. Legendary actor Rip Torn died this past July at the age of 88.

The first letters of those entries spell out HOST, which is a four-letter noun and our answer. At least one of those Leading Men has been a HOST, Bob Hope most famously, having hosted the Oscars multiple times. Tony Orlando had a career as a Vegas emcee/HOST in the 1970s and he now is a fixture in the theaters of Branson, Missouri. It’s not clear if Sly Stone has done much as a HOST; seems like he has in fact struggled a bit since the 1980s but has had some success in tribute and reunion concerts with other funk legends. Rip Torn wasn’t necessarily a HOST that often but he did play Artie on The Larry Sanders Show, which starred Garry Shandling as a talk-show host. This played about 1.5 metaweeks on the Gaffney Scale for me; how about for SOMEBODY LIKE YOU?

Note: “Somebody Like You” has also been a song title for the likes of .38 Special, Lil’ Tweety, Marshall Crenshaw, Atomic Kitten, and the feathered-hair synth-pop god of the 80s, Daryl Hall (sans John Oates):

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16 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, October 4, 2019

  1. Conrad says:

    Not related the meta, but here’s my favorite Hall and Oates cover:

    • pannonica says:

      Inara George is the daughter of the great Lowell George (of Little Feat). I can imagine the above as an answer song to (also a cover):

  2. GlennG says:

    There’s another famous guy called Bob Elliott (famous comedian, Chris’s father, Abby’s grandfather)…which I took for the answer on that part… sooooo…

    • Joshua Kosman says:

      +1 on this. I also spotted “Bob De Niro” but that was an obvious red herring. Bob Elliott, though — come on, one of the greatest comics of all time, and 20 times the talent of his son

  3. Jon Forsythe says:

    Fun meta. Though at first I thought maybe the themer’s fill also pertained to the famous person. Rest In Peace for Rip Torn since he recently died. Tony Orlando was born in New York and popular once; so perhaps Titan of New York could apply. Then I found a Bob Elliott was a baseball player. So “base on balls” would work here too. I searched and searched for how “somebody like you” might apply to a Sly [blank]. But when I found Stone I saw that EOST didn’t make much sense. Then DeNiro as often Robert DeNiro is called Bobby or Bob by some that work with him. DOST? And then I saw HOPE at the top of the grid and it clicked.

    • Dave S. says:

      I actually got caught by Bob Elliott of the famed Bob and Ray. I guess I show my age. Nowadays, he’s mostly known for being Chris’s father.

  4. Jeff says:

    Funny – I submitted, SHOT, thinking they were all shot on tv.

  5. JohnH says:

    I got the right answer, but with real misgivings. For one thing, while Rip seemed to me too obviously TORN, as Rip is such an unusual name, I see in the Times today there was a Rip Taylor new to me. Of course, that doesn’t change the answer, but maybe loosen its logic?

    More important, while Sly also seemed obviously just one person, Bob and Tony are pretty common as first names go, so couldn’t we come up with people to make all sorts of four-letter words? Given S and T, some words related to performance could be CAST (and immediately I then thought of Bob Crane) and, although requiring reordering the letters, STAR, even closer to a leading man. I started to think of more names, and the WSJ often requires Googling for its themes, so I just stopped and lived with HOST.

    • WhiskyBill says:

      That’s interesting–because at first, I was sure it was Sly Stallone, and it took a few minutes to realize that the last names of the “chosen” leading men should/must all appear in the puzzle.

  6. David Roll says:

    Bob Hope is the only legitimate “host” of these four. Meta was a real stretch.

    • The four men don’t have to be hosts themselves for the meta to work. It’d be a cool extra touch if they were, but all that’s needed is the “leading” letters of those long phrases to hint at the first names, and a leading man could very well be a host.

  7. Belle says:

    You guys! the other answer is CEOs!
    Above the “leading” letter of BaseonBalls is an S
    Above the leading letter of TitansofNewYork is an E
    Under the leading letter of SomebodyLikeYou is a C
    Above the leading letter in RestinPeace is an O
    Then. . . there are exactly “four” connected CEOs chains attached to the themers: start with the C in 20A; the C in 37 across; the C in 51A; and the C of 62D

    • GlennG says:

      Illustrating the exact logical problem with meta puzzles. Depending on how one construes things, the solution to any meta puzzle can be any number of things. So then determining the “real solution” involves reading the constructor’s mind as to the answer in order to see how the constructor construed things. Not all of us possess ESP (several do evidently), so this becomes an impossible venture. I could say the same of crossword puzzles in general, but at least most of those are more logical and sensible than the average meta puzzle.

  8. Steve in PS says:

    And wouldn’t this solution be a little difficult for …um…a younger solver?!
    These leading men are/were pretty old school (also half of them are dead)

  9. mj says:

    I got stuck on the idea of “Bob DENIRO” and came up with DOTS. Feeling pretty silly now.

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