WSJ Contest — Friday, October 18, 2019

Grid: 7ish; Meta: quick after hints  


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

Short, sweet post tonight! Got a lot going on!

This week we’re looking for a pair of well-known characters. Clearly the entry at 65-Across is a big hint:

  • [65a: Start on the first letter and finish on the last after 23 moves]: KNIGHT
WSJ Contest - 10.18.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 10.18.19 – Solution

It’s possible that I had a hangover from Rich’s MGWCC guest month puzzle a few weeks ago, which used a similar mechanism, but I needed a nudge from a solving pal to figure out that the clue meant the first and last letters of the word KNIGHT and not the first and last letters of the grid. But from there it was a cinch.

Start at the K in KNIGHT, and make 23 “knight moves” to spell:


… who are a pair of well-known characters and our answer this week. Does the shape the moves make look like a horse? Maybe kinda?

Bonus video — The Muppets take on [38d: “Mack the Knife” composer]: WEILL‘s famous song:




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16 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, October 18, 2019

  1. Barry Miller says:

    Stupid me. I tried to dodge the black squares and got nowhere. Clever puzzle.

  2. I knew exactly what I had to do but just got weary of trying to find the path and I knew to not dodge the black squares. I should’ve just guessed because I had the king to start. AND I just was at the Tintagel Castle ruins a few weeks ago!!!

  3. Mr. G says:

    I too understood what needed to be done, but interpreted the “first” and “last” letters to be the top left and bottom right of the entire grid. It did eventually occur to me to try it with the first and letters of knight, but by then I was too cranky from spending too much time getting nowhere with Plan A to even bother.

  4. Barney says:

    Current rating of 3.39 for this genius puzzle is ridiculous. And I say that as someone who also failed to solve it.

  5. Jim Schooler says:

    Brilliant. Simply brilliant. 5 stars for me. And I did not solve either.

  6. Harry says:

    I saw the trick immediately but had zero motivation to trace the seemingly infinite number of paths.

    • JohnH says:

      Exactly. Of it not infinite, not inviting. The first step had two choices. Others could have as much as eight. Take that over 23 steps and I fear to do the math.

      • ant says:

        When a Constructor puts in the work and effort to create a grid like this, we should put in the effort of solving it. Yeah, we all saw the gimmick, but take on the challenge of seeing it through!

  7. Tyrpmom says:

    Just want to mention that the central black squares are in the shape the knight moves which was a nice touch.

  8. Jon Forsythe says:

    Not sure how people got how “first” and “last” were for KNIGHT and not the grid. Even if I had known that, the shear number of possible directions felt like too much of tedious task to even start. KI vs KS, so KI is obvious. Then it’s KIN (two directions) vs KIT. Could be either. KITG or KITA off KIT. KINS or KING or KINS (again) or KINO or KIND from the 1st N. From the 2nd N it could be KINA (twice) KINH, KINM, KINT, or KINS. I’m already exhausted from just writing that out.

    So hats off to the folks that stuck it out and figured the route.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    I saw KING, and then figured if it’s two people and this is all about knights, Arthur and Lancelot are good guesses, so took less than a minute. But if you tried to brute force it then, yeah, those possibilities skyrocket in a hurry.

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