WSJ Contest — Friday, January 3, 2020

Grid: 8ish; Meta: 20 seconds  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Who Says?”—Laura’s review

SCENE: Darkened auditorium; speaker on stage wearing business casual and a headset mic.

SPEAKER: What if I were to tell you [pause] that [emphasis] crossword puzzles were a way of making yourself [pause] [emphasis] smarter? [slide: picture of brain] And that there was an even better way of growing your brain? [slide: picture of larger brain] And that way is [pause] [emphasis] metapuzzles? [slide: galaxy brain; pause for audience gasps] Yes, that’s right. Metapuzzles. [slide: the word “metapuzzles”; audience applauds]

WSJ Contest - 1.3.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 1.3.20 – Solution

This week, what if I were to tell you that Matt is challenging us to find a series you can find on YouTube? There are a couple of noticeable themers:

  • [20a: “Hitting is fifty percent above the shoulders”; “I work for 26 million Texans”]: WILLIAMS CRUZ
  • [38a: “Frankly, I don’t mind not being president”; “Never set goals you can reach in your lifetime”]: KENNEDY TURNER
  • [54a: “I am forever grateful for ‘Cheers’ ”; “I took bets with everybody we’d go at least five years with the Mary [Tyler Moore] show…and I won”]: DANSON KNIGHT

First observation: These are the last names of six guys whose first name is Ted. Second observation: The clues are quotations, so the Ted guys are talking. Third observation: I solved the puzzle. The series you can find on YouTube is TED TALKS.

If you’re unfamiliar with TED Talks, they’re series that captures short lectures from the annual TED Conference; TED is an acronym for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design.” The conference has been going on for about 30 years and while it has had some cultural influence, the aesthetic of many of the lectures has become synonymous with a sort of tech-bro glibness. There are also separate TED conferences for women and for the youths. An offshoot of TED called TEDx, which is open to anyone who wants to use the TED name with the caveat that they have to prominently state that they are not affiliated with the official TED conference. Crossword Fiend’s own Jenni Levy, who is a palliative care physician, gave a talk on making end-of-life decisions for her local TEDx conference. David Kwong gave a TED talk a few years ago on the connection between crosswords and magic tricks. Maybe you know someone who has given a TED or TEDx talk.

The TED talk style has provoked many, many parodies, to the extent that the TED organization has an article on speaking tips for TED talks that you can learn from the parodies. The best parody IMHO is from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight:



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14 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, January 3, 2020

  1. Harry says:

    OK maybe this is too nit-picky, but I think the answer should be TedX Talks, which is a closely related series on YouTube. After all, there are 6 Teds in this, and 6 quotes, so any one of them is coming from Ted X, X being the algebraic symbol for an unknown quantity == hence X stands for each of the various Teds being quoted.

  2. Barry J Miller says:

    Yes, twenty seconds or less on the meta, then 3 days worrying that it couldn’t be that easy. Btw, I have nothing against easy. Easy can be fun. 18 across worried me because close quote gives you the last word and that seemed too oblique. Anyway, I’m batting 100% for the new year, so I’m considering taking the rest of the year off to nurse the average. As if.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    Near-instant Meta solve, really weird since most times I’m completely stumped.

    Indecision until the answer was confirmed in the paper just now.

  4. Mister G says:

    While I saw the meta quickly, I found solving the actual grid to be more challenging than normal, especially in the NW corner. Between ANI and Y’KNOW, I got stuck there for a while. If this were a non-meta, I wonder if the editor would look kindly on an entry such as “yknow” (which seems avoidable from the perspective of this non-constructor).

    • Amy L says:

      I remember when ANI was always clued as “Cuckoo” or “Black bird.” I like “Alex and Ani” much better, even though it too is something I know only from crosswords.

  5. David Roll says:

    I think the answer should be just TED not TED TALKS–the series is most often referred to as the former.

  6. okanaganer says:

    Rats, I was really hoping that TED TALKS wasn’t the answer.

    Halfway thru putting in the second long answer I thought “multiple quotes from Teds, might have something to do with TED TALKS”.

    Like Barry J Miller, after solving I noticed CLOSE QUOTE and its coy clue, and thought that must lead to a further step of finding a “last word”. But no. Sigh!

    2 weeks ago it was so hard I couldn’t get it. This week it was so easy I couldn’t get it!

  7. Derek Benedict says:

    Can anyone explain 44D? I don’t understand how “Having zero native speakers” means “Dead”.

    • Andrew Bradburn says:

      I believe that is referring to a language that no longer has native speakers, thus it is a dead language. A strange way to clue the word.

  8. okanaganer says:

    Hey forgot to mention that OCCAM crosses WILLIAM!

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