WSJ Contest — Friday, December 27, 2019

Grid: 6ish; Meta: 12ish  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Ringing in the New Year”—Laura’s review

Happy Eighth Night of Hanukkah, folks. There are enough candles on my menorah to set off the fire alarm (and that’s not a euphemism). This’ll be my last WSJ review of the decade, but not my last meta review, since I’m covering for Joon for the last MGWCC of the decade, which will be posted after the deadline at noon on New Year’s Eve. Yeah, I know technically the new decade doesn’t start until 2021 but whatever. Starting things off in Year Zero has a nice ring to it.

WSJ Contest - 12.27.19 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 12.27.19 – Solution

So. For this one, we’re looking for something associated with New Year’s Eve. For the last 15 years, I’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve with some friends who have kids the same age as mine. When they were littler we’d put them all to bed and then drink and play board games; as they got older we used to have a pretend countdown around 8pm and then put them to bed. And now most of them are old enough to stay up until midnight and play board games with us. Excuse me a moment while I muse upon the inexorable passing of time and listen to the most melancholy holiday song of ever, 1970s soft-rock legend Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne.” (If you want to listen to the traditional “Auld Lang Syne,” how about a cover by a drunk Scottish punk band dressed in kilts? [Editor’s note {The editor is me because I am editing myself}: The band, the Real McKenzies, are Canadians from Vancouver who are credited with helping to start the second wave of the Celtic Punk movement.])

And so to the puzzle. Made quick work of the grid despite NEUME there in the center. No standout themers except one:

  • [55a: Does a New Year’s Eve ritual starting with “Ten…”]: COUNTS DOWN

With that, I remembered that a handful (literally two handfuls, it turns out) of the clues had numbers in them, in a sort of odd (and even, it turns out) way. Here they are in “countdown”:

  • [55a: Does a New Year’s Eve ritual starting with “Ten…”]: COUNTSDOWN
  • [10d: She plays Stephanie in the film “Nine”]: KATE HUDSON
  • [16a: Making a figure eight, say]: ICE SKATING
  • [47a: Winner of seven Wimbledon titles]: SAMPRAS
  • [41a: Metrical line with six feet]: HEXAMETER
  • [33a: Faith with five pillars]: ISLAM
  • [5a: Spout four-letter words]: SWEAR
  • [15a: Like a three-dollar bill]: FAKE
  • [46a: “___ for Two”]: TEA
  • [62a: One of the weapons in Clue]: ROPE

Let’s see — the first letters of those entries spell out CKISHISFTR. Well, of course! Everyone knows CKISHISFTR, that beloved New Year’s Eve tradition. Maybe try anagramming? I get … FISH TRICKS. Maybe that’s something associated with New Year’s Eve? Somewhere? At this point I even googled fish tricks new year’s eve just in case there was some tradition with which I was unfamiliar. Nope. What else could we do with a bunch of words and some associated numbers? (Is … that what the person who invented crossword puzzles said??) Turns out, the length of the entries sorta “count down” … what if I indexed the entries by their associated numbers? Namely, take the 10th letter of the COUNTS DOWN, the 9th letter of KATE HUDSON, etc.

  • FAKE
  • TEA
  • ROPE

And there we have it: NOISEMAKER, which is something associated with New Year’s Eve if you don’t have to worry about waking up the sleeping kids in the next room who thought that the countdown was a few hours ago.

Let’s make some noise and ring out this damned decade with those bards of old, Messrs. Horovitz, Yauch (of blessed memory), and Diamond:

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10 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, December 27, 2019

  1. sharkicicles says:

    I can’t complain about some beastie boys. RIP MCA.

  2. Jack Sullivan says:

    Great job by Mike on the decade ending meta. I didn’t solve it so I’ll resort to arrant pedantry.

    A decade is a ten year period. When we define decades, we typically use cardinal numbers (‘70’s, ‘80’s, 90’s). The last day of the ‘70’s was 12/31/79, the ‘80’s 12/31/89, etc. The decade of the 2010’s will end on 12/31/2019. Each new (defined) decade begins in year ‘x0 and ends in ‘x9.

    Centuries are defined by ordinal numbers (first……..nineteenth, twentieth). Since there was no year zero, each new century begins in year ‘01 and ends in year ‘00

    In non-specific terms, a decade (10 year period) or a century (100 year period) begins and ends every day.

  3. Garrett says:

    Ha ha — fish sticks. LOL.

    Connecting COUNTSDOWN with the ten clues that had a unique number of ten to one wasn’t too bad, but seeing the indexing part of that was not immediately obvious!

  4. Howard says:

    I googled FISH TRICKS too! Then my son discovered the backwards countdown word. I think I’ve seen a similar extraction mechanism before.

  5. okanaganer says:

    Hands up for FISH TRICKS. I guess you put a little stick across the top of the aquarium and watch the Tetras leap over it? For several minutes I tried to make FIRST KISS work (it almost does.. FIRSCHT KIS, as the drunk German said).

    It took me ages to get there. Early on, I COUNTed the DOWN answers: there are 37, then I took 37 down OLEANDER and discovered it anagrams to DELOREAN!!!.. some Back to the Future thing?… and that was as far as that went.

  6. BarbaraK says:

    I wonder if there’s a google employee looking at last week’s searches who’s trying to figure out why there was this surge in interest in fish tricks.

  7. cc says:

    Ha … last year I created a NYE-themed meta that used the same letter counting mechanism:

  8. Seth says:

    Ugghhh I hate metas that involve the clues. I solve on an app that only shows one at a time so it’s hard to see patterns. But more importantly, clues are so versatile that a good constructor can basically get the clues to do anything they want, no matter what the grid is.

    Or maybe I’m just bitter I didn’t solve it.

  9. Barry Miller says:

    Lovely commentary. Thank you. Happy New Year!

Comments are closed.