WSJ Contest — Friday, April 3, 2020

Grid: about 7ish; Meta: not much longer, after a nudge  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Look Inside”—Laura’s review

This week, we are informed that “the answer to this week’s contest crossword is an 11-letter answer.” Okayyy, that’s a little recursive? Is there something to that?

WSJ Contest - 4.3.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 4.3.20 – Solution

I made short work of the grid, and noted that the center entry …

  • [35a: Reserved]: SELF-CONTAINED

… was likely important. What does self-contained mean in the context of this puzzle? I thought, maybe there are letters “contained” by the letter I? or other letters “contain” the letter I (i.e. the “self’). Meh. I then set the puzzle aside for two days. Not feeling inspired, I asked Austin for the tiniest nudge, and he mentioned that the clues had a role to play. Was that where I was to “look inside”?

Ah! I knew some of those clues were weird. The first one I noticed was:

  • [47d: Weapons of our medieval ancestors]: LANCES

(Not all of “our” ancestors likely hailed from medieval Europe, but that’s neither here nor there.) Then, because I just happened to be messaging with my friend Ken Stern, I noticed:

  • [23a: Area of a two-master near the rudder]: STERN

Essentially, we need to “look inside” the clues to find their clued entries SELF-CONTAINED within them, like so:

[4a: Another word for a scalawag]: RASCAL
[17a: Stadium personage]: UMP
[23a: Area of a two-master near the rudder]: STERN
[26a: Any of the multitudes of the addlepated]: SOFTHEAD
[46a: Fire in the blood]: IRE
[51a: Made amends for what one did]: ATONED
[52a: Pitcher’s position in the lineup, typically]: NINTH
[10d: Idea that terrifies thanatophobes]: DEATH
[34d: “Season of Glass” singer]: ONO
[47d: Weapons of our medieval ancestors]: LANCES
[58d: You shouldn’t believe it]: LIE

Those all spell out RUSSIAN DOLL, which is our 11-letter answer. Also known as a matryoshka (Russian for “little matron”) doll, a RUSSIAN DOLL is also SELF-CONTAINED, in that it contains increasingly smaller versions of itself.

This was fun! But as Nadia Volvokov says, “Fun is for suckers.”


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22 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, April 3, 2020

  1. jim mor says:

    Russian Dolls are — aside from two words — Matrushkas, so the meta should have spelled out Matrushkas and not the american equivalent. sheesh

  2. Barry Miller says:

    Brilliant. Solved and enjoyed the puzzle but didn’t solve the meta.

  3. jefe says:

    Oh that’s pretty clever. Had no chance at it.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Great one. I was stuck for a long time until I was sitting down without the puzzle in front of me, but thinking about it. I remembered the weird end of the clue for ATONED: “…for what one did”

    …hmmm and then aha!!

    • Matthew G. says:

      For me it was the weird phrase “our medieval ancestors” that turned on the light bulb.

      Agreed that this is one of Mike’s best metas.

  5. Streroto says:

    Took awhile for the aha but when it did it was sweet. Really loved the 26a set. Wow. This was a really inspired meta!

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    This was a good one. The wording of the prompt doesn’t bother me. I suspect it’s phrased this way so as to avoid indicating whether the answer is a word, phrase, or hyphenated construct.

  7. I was totally off on this one. I got stuck on “self contained” meaning body parts – SOFT HEAD, O LIVER (liver), DA NEC OO K (neck) H EARS T (ears), A TO N E D ( toe). Forehead slap this morning (pardon the pun).

  8. JohnH says:

    Not bad, but I was nowhere close. I did notice the wordiness of the clue for RASCAL and the redundancy of the answer being an answer, but after that I didn’t look back at the clues.

  9. Seth says:

    The only reason I got this was because I knew Mike Shenk often uses the clues in his metas.

  10. Billy Boy says:

    “Look Inside”
    Went down a Rabbit Hole over NINTH, it didn’t work, never went back to it

  11. Nancy lobb says:

    Due to the current situation, I got hung up in a rabbit hole with the disease-related words in the puzzle: Lister, enol,aerobe, sore, cure, strain (of a virus), and death. After narrowly escaping, I noticed the word “auto,” synonym for self. So then I looked for a 7 letter word for quarantine and came up with isolate. In fact, the letters that spell isolate are nicely quarantined in 4 corners of the grid and a bit socially distanced in the corner. So I submitted auto-isolate. After all, if you are isolated you have to look inside to find things to do… Whew! I can’t imagine finding those words hidden in the clues to find the right answer! Congratulations to all who did! Stay safe everyone!

  12. David Roll says:

    Who the hell is Dane Cook? Not that it matters, since there was no way I was going to solve the meta.

    • Joella D Hultgren says:

      Exactly. Who is he and why is he in this puzzle? Isn’t it interesting the ONO (Yoko) appears in about 1 out of 3 puzzles of all kinds. And her only fame is once being married to John Lennon.

    • Tim H. says:

      Standup comic and actor. His stardom as a standup was brief, but he sold out Madison Square Garden.

  13. Streroto says:

    Yes maybe it’s time for constructors to give us different clues for ono ie wahoo sushi… Would be a nice change of pace!!

  14. mkmf says:

    Was hopelessly stuck in the rabbit hole of the three IN/IN crossings in the grid. Letters to either SIDE of two of those crossings spelled encouraging 4-somes like NAME and DENT. Kept thinking the crossings weren’t accidental and kept churning.

    I can see that this great meta would have produced a fabulous CLICK upon finding that first hidden answer in its clue. BRAVO!

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