WSJ Contest — Friday, December 20, 2019

Grid: 9ish; Meta: maybe 10 after a hint  


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

Super quick post since I have guests and it’s the first night of Chanuka Channukkah Hanuka Hanukkah.

WSJ Contest - 12.20.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 12.20.19 – Solution

This week, we’re looking for something you can buy at 34-Across. What’s 34-Across? Why, it’s a nationally known convenience store chain!

  • [34a: Chain with Big Bites and Big Gulps]: SEVEN ELEVEN

The chain was originally called Tote’m Stores but the name was changed in the 1940s to reflect that the stores were open from 7am to 11pm, as I just plagiarized from Wikipedia. There used to be a chain in New England called Store 24 (which I always called “Store 18” because it was only open 18 hours/day) that was renamed Tedeschi Food Shops (which I always called Tedeschi Food Trucks Band Shops [being friends with me is so fun because I have extra names for everything]) and is also being taken over by 7-11.

Where were we? Right. One of these where I couldn’t get any traction right away (I try to solve the WSJ metas on Thursday afternoons if I am not out somewhere) so I put it aside and then bugged Jesse about it on Friday when I figured he wasn’t getting any work done either. Apparently this was a pretty simple one but I couldn’t make any sense of it even with him saying, patiently, “what do the numbers SEVEN and ELEVEN suggest?” (Oooh! I know! Retired New York Giants football player Phil Simms! and … some other guy!) No, look at the grid. Do you see anything that SEVEN and ELEVEN might suggest? (I was beginning to sense some impatience through the series of internet tubes.) Are there, like, seven things and then, like, eleven other things? Does seven + eleven = something? Do they sell beer at 7-11, because I could use one? Anyway, I hope he was laughing at me because I got hoist with my own petard as it were.

Ohhhhhh. Need more h‘s in that oh: Ohhhhhhhhhhh. If you take the first letters of all the entries that are SEVEN letters long, and also the first letters of all the entries that are ELEVEN letters long, they spell out, in order of grid placement:


Namely, the candy bar … which is certainly something you can buy at 34-Across 7-11. My favorite mainstream candy bar of late is the Milky Way Midnight, a dark chocolate version of the standard Milky Way and which I claimed as a parent tax from my kids’ Halloween hauls this year.

Two WSJ metas in a row that go to eleven. Why didn’t they just make the metas that go to ten a little harder?

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13 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, December 20, 2019

  1. okanaganer says:

    Well, no wonder I didn’t get it. What’s with the ‘Counting calories’ title? Counting, yes; calories, no. I thought maybe it had something to do with Es because SEVEN ELEVEN is notable in that every second letter is an E. And ‘Slurpee’ ends with 2 Es.

    At least THREE MUSKETEERS has a lot of Es. And one U.

    • JohnH says:

      I kept looking for CALORIES, too. Of course, there’s NOCAL almost right in the center, although its paired by puzzle symmetry only with SIDEA, which is no help. There’s kinda sorta CAL in CHAPEL, but that was clearly a dead end. And then I gave up.

  2. pannonica says:

    I tried counting Ks in the grid, then Cs as well. Looked around those areas, got nowhere, never returned.

  3. Barney says:

    Deceptively simple, diabolically clever, deliciously elegant!

    How can anyone not bow down before this, once they see it, solved or not?!

  4. Barry J Miller says:

    Nice one except the theme, Counting Calories, makes little sense to me.

    • Barney says:

      Counting suggests numbers

      Calories correlates with candy bar

      Often only one word in the title is instructive as a pointer to the solve

      If you look for numbers in the grid, how many are there? And then the next step is the meta solve. All the words comprised of either 7 or 11 letters.

      In order!!!!

  5. Nancy lobb says:

    What’s with the counting calories theme? Oh well, I always figured chocolates have no calories!!

  6. David Plass says:

    RED/BLUE on the last row convinced me it was SLURPEE

    • JohnB says:

      This was exactly my thinking, but I couldn’t back solve to make anything work pointing to Slurpee.

      How can ROSERED and BLUESKY have nothing to do with the meta???

  7. NonnieL says:

    I noticed immediately that the grid was unusual for a meta: Triple-stacked 7’s in every corner (crossing triple 6’s in two of them) and three 11’s (along with a 9 and two 8’s) make it look more like a themeless grid. Then when I saw the SEVENELEVEN entry it was clear what was going on.

  8. Thomas says:

    It took me a bit to notice that SEVEN ELEVEN is itself an 11, and also I wanted to do the 7’s before the 11’s.

    “THREE is good, THREE METER S… sub? Can you get a 3-meter sub at 7-Eleven? That sounds questionable. THREE METER SUK, something is wrong here.”

  9. bwouns says:

    Anyone else try to backsolve CHICKEN (7) CHIMICHANGA (11)?

Comments are closed.