WSJ Contest — Friday, March 27, 2020

Grid: about 7ish; Meta: untimed  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “What Not to Do”—Laura’s review

WSJ Contest - 3.27.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 3.27.20 – Solution

This week, we’re looking for a ten-letter word describing the theme entries. Here are the theme entries — all of which seem appropriate for our socially distant times:

  • [17a: Parent’s reprimand]: DON’T START WITH ME
  • [21a: Warning at a contentious political rally]: DON’T TOUCH ME
  • [38a: With 54-Across, Grammy-winning song by the Police]: DON’T STAND
  • [54a: See 38-Across]: SO CLOSE TO ME
  • [59a: Common outburst from Judge Judy]: DON’T INTERRUPT ME

I noticed right away that there were other entries in the grid that had the letters ME, and figured that the themers, even though they began with DON’T, were instructions as to what to do. What I assumed were the first and last portions of the meta answer seemed pretty clear:

DON’T START WITH ME == [10a: Staff note]: MEMO … starts with ME
DON’T INTERRUPT ME == [69a: Stuart Little, e.g.]: MOUSE … OUS interrupts ME

I knew I was looking for a ten-letter word that began with MO and ended with OUS. Not MONSTROUS? Not quite.

Okay, at this point I was frustrated and decided to backsolve, so I did a regex search and figured the answer was likely MONOTONOUS. But how did I get there? Friend Austin gave me a nudge:

DON’T TOUCH ME — [37a: “She Believes ___” (Kenny Rogers* hit): IN ME … the letters N, O, and T “touch” ME
DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME == [41d: Abbr. in black church names]: AME (i.e. African Methodist Episcopal) … the letters ON “stand so close” to ME

Yep: MO-NOT-ON-OUS. That’s a ten-letter word that describes the theme entries because it’s a bit MONOTONOUS, I suppose, to keep telling people DON’T.

*Kenny Rogers (August 21, 1938 – March 20, 2020).

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40 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 27, 2020

  1. David says:

    That’s insane. I still don’t even fully understand the touch me clue and the stand so close clue. I thought the answer was as simple as “distancing” because it’s relevant to the time and describes the theme entries and is 10 letters

    • Amanda says:

      Each long clue has its corresponding ME nearby. N-O-T is touching me. O-N is literally standing next to ME.

      I solved it, but forgot to send in my answer. So annoyed with myself this week.

    • Dan Murphy says:

      I submitted the same. My wife came up with Quarantine.

    • Joella D Hultgren says:

      I don’t understand what the title “What Not To Do” has to do with Monotonous. Got all the parts: ME-MO, M-OUS-E, etc, and how it all combines to form Monotonous. But what does Monotonous have to do with the title. And, DON’T tell me it’s because the ADMONITIONS are monotonous.

    • Billy Boy says:

      #DISTANCING as well

    • Harry says:

      I think you have to view these as a double negative: The title says don’t do this, so do not stand so close to me; i.e., do stand close to me.

      • Amanda says:

        If you “don’t start” MEMO with me, you get MO. If you “don’t interrupt” the ME in MOUSE, you get OUS. Etc.

        • Harry says:

          yes but if you don’t stand so close to me, you shouldn’t use NOT. And if you don’t touch me, you shouldn’t use ON. That was really confusing and doesn’t really make sense for the theme.

  2. Tim Mitchell says:

    MADE BACON had me thinking that that was a interrupted M-E also. Since it was such an odd phrase, I figured it was forced in there for the sake of the theme. Other than that, I thought this was a good and tricky meta.

  3. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    Undoubtedly influenced by Matt’s meta on his website last week, I was totally hung up on the fact that all of the themers began DO and ended ME, so they must all have been under a DOME of some sort. Obviously, this got me nowhere!

  4. Torridd says:

    Supposedly, Monotonous relates with the message of each of the themes. I think it’s a bad answer too and I did not get the answer.

  5. Jeff M says:

    Wow, I’m pretty bad at metas but I got this one immediately and I thought it was great!

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the title led to eliminating the “MEs” thereby getting to the parts of the meta answer and MONOTONOUS referred to the overall tone of the puzzle (don’t do this, don’t do that).

    I’m not always in sync with Matt’s meta (feel like I’m getting warm on week 4 but still nothing solid) but I thought this one was pretty straightforward.

  6. Seth says:

    Wish I’d gotten this one. I really like the mechanism. But I think I was stuck just trying to think of a 10-letter word describing DON’T ___ ME (like DISTANCING), likely influenced by the MGWCC last week. I think if the directions had just asked for a “10-letter word” without specifying “describing the theme answers,” I would have looked around more instead of getting blinded like I did.

  7. JohnH says:

    My praise to those who got this one. Not only didn’t I, but I had to read the post here twice to come close to understanding it. Even then, until I thought some more, it felt like we were asked to take some of the letters in the grid near ME, but not others, just whatever you need to make a word with arbitrary relationship to the theme. I think I got it now, but whew.

  8. Jon Forsythe says:

    Two inelegances are the AD between ME in MADEBACON & the fact that the N in NOT for the meta answer MONOTONOUS is not in grid order. (grid order would be MOOTNONOUS).

    I also think “monotonous” being a descriptor of the themers is a bit of a stretch. A rare construction misstep by a usually perfect Gaffney.

  9. Nancy lobb says:

    I didn’t get this at all. In fact I had to sit down and go through the puzzle for 5 minutes to understand the explanation. I did see all the “me’s” but never made those very vague (to me) connections. I can’t believe anyone got this!!

  10. Silverskiesdean says:

    I sent in “quarantine” as well, since it was like Week 3 meta on Matt’s puzzle site. Can someone tell me where to look for the WSJ answers other than this site. I’ve never known where to go.

  11. cyco says:

    Man, that was a tough one. Did not come close to getting it.

    Fun (?) fact that I learned recently: Stuart Little is *not* a mouse, but rather “a mouse-like human boy.” Take note, constructors!

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Hmm, sorry to hear this didn’t work for so many. I knew it was a little offbeat, but I thought I’d left enough hints for solvers to get there. Maybe not though.

    Laura went over most of it but just to put into my own words: idea was that you find the letters that are disobeying the four DON’T…ME commands (hence the title “What Not to Do”). So:

    the MO in MEMO is disobeying “Don’t start with me” by starting with ME
    the NOT on the right is disobeying “Don’t touch me” by touching the letters in ME
    the ON on the left is disobeying “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by “standing” next to ME (“standing” since the letters are vertical)
    The OUS in MOUSE is disobeying “Don’t interrupt me” by interrupting M-E

    Yielding MONOTONOUS, fitting since the theme entries are repetitive and also because it has NOT in it.

    Also I put each M-E entry near its theme entry to help match them up. Agree that MADE BACON shouldn’t have been there in retrospect. I think I figured MADE isn’t the full entry but in hindsight should have removed.

    • Jay Miller says:

      Matt-Don’t feel bad about MADEBACON. If you went sequentially you were down to needing three letters, eliminating MADEBACON and pointing toward MOUSE. Great puzzle!

  13. Bill Katz says:

    Was FOOT standing on top of INME just a coincidence?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Haven’t had my coffee yet so…explain what the connection would be?

      • Bill Katz says:

        FOOT was standing on top of INME – For a while I thought that was the ME that went with “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” before I found the vertical AME…

  14. Matthew Frumess says:

    When something clicks, it clicks. I thought this was quite straightforward and got it quickly. I even asked on the muggles blog if this were really a week 4 meta. Someone pointed out that the WSJ metas do not get more difficult throughout the month. A fun solve nonetheless. Thanks Matt!

  15. David Roll says:

    I thought the correct answer and much better than the one given was “Admonition.” A very tortured explanation in my opinion, but for those who got it, kudos. I would like to know if any significant number of people came up the same answer that I did.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      How did you derive ADMONITION?

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Ah, using the AD from MADE BACON, as here.

        I have to admit that that’s very clever and understandable. If this were a MGWCC I would count ADMONITION as a correct alt-answer based on this.

        That’s quite remarkable that my MADE BACON inelegance could lead to another answer like this. True, the fragments aren’t in order and you have to randomly use two of them backwards, but still. That’s just an amazing set of circumstances.

        • Ron S says:

          I think admonition is the better answer because all of the main clues are admonitions ( much better link to the What not to do title than monotonous while each pair of two letters in admonition is found in the clues not touching or similar)

      • David Roll says:

        Simple, I thought–perhaps too much so–All of the long answers say “Don’t” which is, of course, an admonition.

  16. Streroto says:

    I really liked this one. Challenging but doable and it all clicked very nicely in the end. Nice job Matt and thank you even more than usual for helping keep our minds off that other thing.

  17. Steve Thurman says:

    This was one of those instances where I wasn’t at all sure of my answer at first, but liked it more and more as I kept returning to the puzzle. I felt the same way about the construction; what maddened me early on became rather elegant eventually. I wasn’t as put off by “MADEBACON” as others seemed to be, if only because all of the other entries were stand-alone words.

    Of course, it helps that I got it. I’d probably be furious otherwise. :)

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