WSJ Contest — Friday, February 7, 2020

Grid: 8ish; Meta: 7ish  


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

This week, we’re looking for a college founder. Are college founders common knowledge to people who haven’t attended the college/university in question? (Or to people who haven’t attended college?) If you solve many crosswords, and you likely do if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard of Elihu Yale, since he ends up in more than a few grids. But … well, here’s an open secret: many universities are named after the dude (in the history of American higher ed, yes, most often a dude) who gave the most money, not the one who actually taught classes and designed curricula and built buildings. Turns out, that’s actually the case with Mr. Yale, who sent Cotton Mather a bunch of books in 1718 and got the place renamed after him.

Okay, the puzzle. No themers pop out immediately, but we do have a hint in the center:

  • [26d: Colleges]: SCHOOLS

Yeah, we knew it had something to do with education … which is in the title, “Continuing Education” … so, oh! The names of six institutions of higher education continue over two across entries, with an additional letter in the center:

WSJ Contest - 2.7.20 - Contest

WSJ Contest – 2.7.20 – Contest

  • [1a: One shot in the pub] + [5a: Beat in the Home Run Derby] = DART + M + OUTHIT
  • [17a: Ears for eating] + [18a: Andean carriers] = CORN + E + LLAMAS
  • [28a: Windsurfing site] + [31a: Source of answers] = BAY + L + ORACLE
  • [47a: Office aide] + [48a: Sign up] = TEMP + L + ENLIST
  • [61a: Myrna of movies] + [62a: Sumptuous] = LOY + O + LAVISH
  • [71a: Corsetiere’s creation] + [72a: Jefferson and Voltaire, for two] = BRA + N + DEIST

If you take the letters needed to complete the university names —

DARTMOUTH (founded by Eleazar Wheelock in 1769; named after William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who gave money) [Full disclosure: I work there, and I had an easier time recognizing it than the last time my place of employment appeared in a Shenk grid]
CORNELL (cofounded by Ezra Cornell in 1865 with funds from the Morrill Act)
BAYLOR (cofounded 1841 in the independent Republic of Texas by Baptist minister and judge Robert Baylor)
TEMPLE (founded 1884 by minister Russell Conwell in the basement of a Philadelphia Baptist temple)
LOYOLA (There are a number of Loyolas [Loyolae? Loyoli?] in the US; the one in Chicago was founded in 1870 by Jesuit priest Father Arnold Damen [also the namesake of a major north/south avenue in Chicago] and named after St. Ignatius Loyola)
BRANDEIS (founded in 1948 as a non-sectarian Jewish university by Israel Goldstein and George Alpert; named after Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis when Albert Einstein declined the honor)

— you get MELLON, who is indeed a college founder, and our answer. Andrew Mellon, banker, industrialist, and all-around rich guy of the Gilded Age, him of the foundation that underwrites much in higher education and the humanities, with his brother Richard founded the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in Pittsburgh in 1913. In 1900, the other rich Pittsburgh guy named Andrew, steel baron Carnegie (who also funded an expansion of local public library building in small American towns, including mine), founded the Carnegie Technical Schools. In 1967, the two Andrews’ namesake institutions merged to become Carnegie Mellon University.

It was interesting to have all the themer/meta content on the left/west side of the grid, leaving the right/east side relatively open. A friend writes that [15a: Where the NCAA’s Anteaters play]: IRVINE was a bit of a red herring, as was [23d: Register]: ENROLL and [59d: Brown building]: DORM.

I gotta give you a song, tho! So many to choose from but let’s go with this classic. “California tumbles into the sea/ That’ll be the day I go back to Annandale.”


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26 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, February 7, 2020

  1. Seth says:

    Ugh. I submitted Andrew Carnegie, because that’s who everyone actually thinks of when they hear Mellon. No one knows the school Andrew Mellon founded. Everyone knows Carnegie Mellon, which, if you google it, is founded only by Andrew Carnegie. I hope they accept that answer too.

    Also, this meta has two very glaring inelegances: UC Irvine in the second row, and UCLA in the middle row. I stared at MCELULON for a while before it clicked.

    Also, the fill/cluing in a few places are kind of bad. I can understand the bottom left because it’s so constrained, but what’s with GASCON/COS in the middle? And OMAR/ORSON with two super obscure clues on the right? Those two crosses are not great.

    • I also submitted Andrew Carnegie since I couldn’t tell which member of the Mellon family would be considered correct, if any.

      I didn’t notice UCLA but I did notice U(C) IRVINE in the second row and that gave me pause, though all the other schools start flush with the left edge of the puzzle. I didn’t have a problem with the COS/GASCON or OMAR/ORSON crosses, but I was confused by the tiny northeast corner containing POS and SOPH when it was seemingly unconstrained by the theme.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Ditto. I solved, found MELLON, and submitted CARNEGIE as my answer since it pairs with MELLON and refers to a single identifiable individual, whereas there were two Mellons who founded. The clue calls for a single-person answer, and so I would argue that CARNEGIE is not only an acceptable answer, but an objectively more correct answer.

    • Steve says:

      “No one knows the school Andrew Mellon founded.” Right – because it wasn’t a school!

    • Justin says:

      I’ll just leave this here. Take that CMU :>.

    • Amanda says:

      I did too and I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one!

  2. Hector says:

    So is there a reason why the answer is Andrew as opposed to Richard Mellon? Because he’s more famous?

  3. okanaganer says:

    My least favorite topic is US colleges, so this was pretty much a non-starter for me. I have heard of Cornell!… and that’s about it. Brandeis??

    To paraphrase whats-er-name from Jerry MacGuire: you lost me at IRVINE.

  4. Jon Forsythe says:

    So Mellon points to Carnegie Mellon University. There are 2 Mellons & one Carnegie, and all are the founders of that college. So there better be 3 valid answers. If not, then how do you decide on which Mellon brother? If the contest only took 1 Mellon brother as the answer, then this is a very poorly designed meta. For the record, I submitted Andrew Carnegie as he’s the most famous founder of the three.

    • Martin says:

      IMHO, everything past “So Mellon” is overthinking. I recognize that a lot of solvers went down the Carnegie path, but a MELLON is a founder (even if another Mellon and a Carnegie are too) and it sure seemed like we were done.

  5. Alex says:

    I did find and submit the correct answer of MELLON. If I were to create a meta about Andrew Mellon, I’d title it “The Art of Philanthropy” with the answer “a museum founder” and clues for names of famous paintings in that museum. Andrew Mellon unambiguously and solely founded the NGA. Fascinating story here:

  6. JohnH says:

    Googling got me the wrong answer. I must have misread Wikipedia, but I could swear I learned that Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Mellon with an assist from Andrew Mellon’s money. (FWIW, I thought right off of the latter and didn’t realize there was a second Mellon.) That made sense at some level, since Mellon was right there (well,, as an absence) in the grid, and Gaffney loves extra steps. I dislike puzzles that require Google, but Gaffney likes those, too.

  7. Seth says:

    I wish Mike Shenk would respond to these comments like Gaffney does. I want to know what he has to say about MELLON vs CARNEGIE and UC Irvine/UCLA.

    • JohnH says:

      I dismissed IRVINE as a red herring because there are also several other school-related entries (and because UCI is a public university, so not likely to have a founding donor).

  8. sharkicicles says:

    I didn’t get the meta, but I live a block away from Damen Avenue and I love Steely Dan so this post gets 5 stars from me.

  9. damefox says:

    A very frustrating meta. A lot of the frustration could’ve been resolved by simply having a better prompt, “college namesake” or “family name in higher education,” perhaps.

  10. Joanne says:

    From WSJ’s Mike Miller:

    Greetings–we had a big turnout this week: 1739 entries. Here at contest headquarters we have discussed the debate over whether CARNEGIE is an acceptable answer and concluded that it is. Anyone who submitted Carnegie clearly cracked the code of this puzzle and then added an additional, logical step.

    Like other solvers, we’ve been catching up on the history of CMU, and we see that the university’s own website names both as founders. The details of the history (Carnegie started a school, Mellon started an industrial research center, and then they merged) also helps support Carnegie as a reasonable answer.

    We had 1274 submissions for Mellon and 306 for Carnegie (including submissions that offered both names). Congrats to this week’s winner (on Team Mellon): Janna Walker of Fall City, Wash.!

  11. cyco says:

    It’s fine that the WSJ accepted both, but I’m a little baffled at how many people submitted Carnegie. The name MELLON is literally spelled out from the missing letters in the puzzle.

    • Seth says:

      I’ll explain my CARNEGIE thinking. I got MELLON, googled “Carnegie Mellon founder” and got, in big unambiguous Googleness, “Andrew Carnegie” as the only founder. I thought that odd, so I went to CMU’s Wikipedia page, and there, it also names AC as the only founder. I also went to Wikipedia’s list of university and college founders, and Mellon is not on the list, but Carnegie is. Also, if you google “Carnegie Mellon named after,” it says it’s named in honor of the Mellon family, and named after its founder, Carnegie.

  12. Jack Sullivan says:

    It is interesting to note that CMU lists Carnegie and Mellon as its founders.

  13. Paul says:

    I did not find a solution

Comments are closed.