WSJ Contest — Friday, March 20, 2020

Grid: about 6 minutes; Meta: same  


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

Short post because I am completely exhausted after a week of trying to figure out working and schooling from home, and after a Saturday of helping to run the entirely awesome Crossword Contest From Your Couch — if you missed #CouchWord, you can still get the puzzles to solve. No charge, but please donate to COVID-19 relief in your area, perhaps a local food bank.

Quick plug also for an article that Matt Gaffney wrote about the WSJ contest, and some profiles of solvers. (Hmmn, no mention of the Fiend?)

WSJ Contest - 3.20.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 3.20.20 – Solution

This week, Mike challenges us to find a ten-letter word.

  • [18a: Collateral for a loan, at times]: HOME EQUITY
  • [20a: Vampire repellent]: HOLY WATER
  • [39a: Pilot program, of a sort]: FLIGHT SIMULATOR
  • [56a: Vanilla quaff ]: CREAM SODA
  • [61a: Show]: THIRD PLACE

And there, in the final themer, is the key: Take the letters in the THIRD PLACE of each word in theme entry:


… and we get MULTIMEDIA, which is a ten-letter word for, I suppose, the metaphorical “variety show” of the title, and our answer.

That’s all I have this week. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.


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12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 20, 2020

  1. Barry Miller says:

    Yes, as I read that WSJ article I did think that failure to mention this website was an unfortunate oversight. Seriously. Especially as I’ve noticed and appreciated Mr. Gaffney’s comments on the site. Best to everyone.

    • Matt says:

      As some who’s been blogging at Fiend since 2012, I take any opportunity to promote it when I can. But this article (and its companion piece) dealt specifically with the “Muggles” and their crossword forum, so mentioning Fiend as well would have been out of place.

  2. David says:

    I can’t believe that I was making it so much more complicated then it was. At least now I’ll have a new mindset in the coming weeks of other methods to consider of approaching it. I was noticing the third place but I was way overthinking it.

  3. jefe says:

    I couldn’t find in the interface what was being asked for. Eventually I saw on the PDF that it was looking for a 10-letter word.

    I also figured out what makes it go across or down when you click in the grid (if it’s the first letter of a Down entry, unless it’s also the first letter of an Across entry, it goes down, else it goes across – very annoying). Can you get the Couch folks to sell/donate their online interface to other venues such as WSJ?

    • Michael says:

      When I saw no meta clue, I thought we were going for nothing or nil or nada or zilch or the empty set. Should have looked at the PDF.

  4. Seth says:

    UGH I can’t believe how simple this was. I thought the fact that “Show” was repeated was odd, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I was stuck trying to figure out what “Variety” meant.

    • Joe says:

      Same. I spent the better part of what seemed like a decade trying to make PRISM be important. All sitting there in the smack dab center going “look at me and the varieties of light coming out.”

  5. Amy L says:

    Message to Laura: I want to send a giant virtual hug and many thanks to everyone who worked on the Crossword Tournament from your Couch. I loved it. I also want to thank Amy Reynaldo for posting it on this blog, which is where I learned about it.

    This may be off topic, but I don’t know where else to send my thanks.

  6. Jon Forsythe says:

    The clue for ACRE could also be seen as a clue for EQUITY or HOME EQUITY which sent me on a rabbit hole that delayed me for a whole day in my solving.

    I also bypassed the “SHOW” clue for THIRD PLACE because it felt “too easy” to me. And because MLMDA looked like nothing. (d’oh!) When I didn’t see “VARIETY” in any of the clues, I also took that as being a side that “third place” wasn’t the route since only having half of the title as a clue was inelegant.

    So I made this meta WAY harder on myself than I needed to.

  7. Stan says:

    I am new at trying to solve the puzzle contests, so this may be a basic question that is obvious to others. Why were the words home equity, holy water, flight simulator, cream soda and third place chosen to solve the contest?
    I don’t understand the connection of those words to variety show. Thanks

    • D B says:

      When clues aren’t marked with an asterisk (*) to incidate importance, or some other indicator, then the “theme” answers to a puzzle are often used in the meta. Most theme puzzles use the longest answers in the grid for this, so that is why the five longest across answers were the ones to use for this one.

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