WSJ Contest — Friday, May 1, 2020

Grid: 8ish; Meta: maybe a half hour or so  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “King Me!”—Laura’s review

Super quick post tonight! Use your imagination to fill the post with witty ripostes; I’m fresh out, post-weekend.

This week, Mike would like us to find a(n) historic monarch.

No marquee themers, but given that the title is “King Me!” one would expect that this entry:

  • [57a: It has roughly the same shape as a checker]: THE LETTER O

… might be important. And indeed it is — right underneath that entry we find:

  • [61a: React in surprise]: START

… and up in the northeast, there’s:

  • [19d: Wrap up]: FINISH
WSJ Contest - 5.1.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 5.1.20 – Solution

How do checkers move? Diagonally! (Pretty sneaky, sis!) If we start at START and finish at FINISH, hopping between the “checkers” (i.e. the letter Os), we get a king:


… who was certainly a(n) historic monarch, and our answer.

What is your favorite bit of trivia about Richard III? I like that he is most remembered for being a Shakespeare villain who said “My kingdom for a horse!” and then in 2012 his remains were discovered in a carpark.

Who is your favorite King Richard? Public opinion about Richard I isn’t great, even considering he was called “The Lionhearted” (which is indeed kind of cool), because he was only in residence as king for a few months, and otherwise wandering around crusading. Richard II was, like, the Robert Baratheon of the fourteenth-century England and died in prison after being deposed, setting in motion the rivalries that led to the Wars of the Roses. To this day I am not sure if my understanding of fifteenth-century English history is from Shakespeare’s history plays or a seminar I took in college or Starz’s The White Queen starring Max Irons (the hawt son of Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack) as Edward IV or 1066 and All That. I have a better handle on the sixteenth century; right now I’m reading The Mirror and the Light, which is the third book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. Gee, I wonder how it’s gonna end — lemme guess: a wily political operative like him must’ve lived to a ripe old age in quiet country retirement after serving his monarch with honor and wisdom for many, many years. No spoilers, please!


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15 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 1, 2020

  1. pannonica says:

    Really well-made meta.

  2. Jonesy says:

    I’m sad to say I missed the START and FINISH. Just worked around the Os until I found Richard III. It’s a much better puzzle with the start/finish idea – I was originally thinking it would’ve been better going from one edge to the other but I think the start/finish makes up for that.

  3. Matthew G. says:

    Very nice meta!

    It’s “a historic,” though. “An historic” drives me nuts.

    • Joella D Hultgren says:

      I’m okay with “a historic” or “an historic”. What drive me nuts is: “So, my brother and me, like, graduated from Harvard”.

    • Amy L says:

      “An historic” drives me nuts too. Also, we say “parking lot” not “car park.” When I hear Brits say “car park” I wonder if they think that’s where cars go to play.

      • Joella D Hultgren says:

        And a car “bonnet” is the hood, the car “boot” is the trunk, and a “car boot sale” is a flea market. In the USA, “pants” usually means trousers, but in the UK, “pants” means underpants. In England, the back yard is the concrete area where one parks one’s car, and the garden is the area with grass and flowers. The “garage” is the place (like a service station) where one repairs cars.

  4. Seth says:

    Loved this one. Didn’t see start or finish, but once I figured out to jump over the O’s like a king in checkers, it only took a few seconds to figure out where to start and end.

  5. Mister G. says:

    I didn’t see the “start” and “finish”, so I stooped at Richard II (who I guess wasn’t as historic), because there was a connecting “k” in the top row in “hulks”. This makes sense to “king” the piece as it gets to the last row. I think to have the sequence end in a “k” would actually have been a better execution of the checkers theme.

    • Joella D Hultgren says:

      I would have liked to see the “checker” moving from the bottom row to the top row to show the full importance of “King”.
      There were 4 ME’s in the grid, which were meaningless, but the title of the puzzle seemed to point to them as being significant. Wrong!

    • Hector says:

      I had initially thought so as well, but in order to make the “backwards” jumps legally, the piece must already have been a king to start with.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    Another excellent one. I saw the START but not the finish, even after arriving there.

    As with his previous one, a nice series of hints along the trail to a great final aha.

  7. Streroto says:

    Got it quickly without seeing the start and finish, and then reading posts over at the muggles forum I realized there probably was going to be something additional. Very enjoyable, clever design

  8. Garrett says:

    Two curious artifacts of the grid are:

    — MANI + CURE at 12 and 1 down

    — CAST and NAST in diagonally opposite locations in the NW and SE

  9. Bob says:

    For those who submitted King Solomon as their answer …

    That was presumably because the grid’s O’s look roughly like the letter S, and the only vowels in Solomon are O’s. But that certainly has nothing to do with the game of checkers, so why, of all things circular, would the THE LETTER O clue specify the checker?

    Turn to the Bible. To the most relevant version thereof in this case, the KJV, the King James Version. The word “checker” occurs exactly once therein. Specifically, in 1 Kings 7:17. What is that about? See . It’s about the building of King Solomon’s palace.

  10. jefe says:

    This was fun, but it didn’t say (except in the PDF) what we were looking for.

Comments are closed.