WSJ Contest — Friday, May 28, 2020

Grid: 7ish; Meta: a day  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Sound Off”—Laura’s review

We’re looking for a five-letter word …  is it tough? That’s a five-letter word that describes this puzzle.

WSJ Contest - May 29, 2020 - Solution

WSJ Contest – May 29, 2020 – Solution

I solved with Jesse and we had some trouble identifying the themers at first, but settled on this set of five:

  • [18a: Queen’s servants]: WORKER BEES
  • [20a: Carnegie and Hunt, for two]: STEEL MEN
  • [35a: Exorbitant]: SKY HIGH
  • [52a: Shoulder feature]: ROAD SIGN
  • [56a: Concertmasters’ tools]: VIOLIN BOWS

We thought that both STEEL MEN and VIOLIN BOWS seemed kinda roll-your-own, so they were likely part of the theme mechanism. We both pondered these separately at several hundred miles’ remove, and then Jesse send me a text:


Aha! Breakthrough! We were then able to suss out the entire set, along the principle of: take the final sound off (per the title) of each themer and match it with another entry:

WORKER BEES –> [30a: “The Fair Maid of Perth” composer]: BIZET
STEEL MEN –> [16a: Course listing]: MENU
SKY HIGH –> [29d: Orphan of Swiss literature]: HEIDI
ROAD SIGN –> [60a: West edge of the Gulf of Aqaba]: SINAI
VIOLIN BOWS –> [17a: Doofus]: BOZO

Then, step two: We applied the same principle to the second set, taking the final sound off (i.e. the sound that you add to the original themers to generate those entries) like so:


… which is a five-letter word, and our answer. That was pretty fun, but I suspect it will play pretty tough for most solvers. What’d you think?


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9 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 28, 2020

  1. jefe says:

    So obvious in retrospect…

    I noticed MEN/MENU and the curiosity of having two Z’s (BOZO and BIZET), but wasn’t able to make further connections, being distracted by various irrelevant sound words in the grid.

  2. Reid says:

    So, AUDIO is obviously correct, but damn if i wasn’t sure on the answer I came up with. HIGH/HEIDI was the last one I found, so I already had A, U, I, O, so i though to myself, oh look, I’m just missing an E and I’ll have all the VOWELs.

    So once I settled on the idea that SKYHIGH was a theme and found HEIDI with the long E sound at the end, I had it! Submitted VOWEL feeling not quite 100%, but damn near it.

  3. BrainBoggler says:

    Eventually solved it, but was initially stuck in the mindset of violinBOWS sounding like BOSE, leading me to concentrate on speaker manufacturers. Felt good that worKERBEEs (Kirby) was going to get me somewhere regarding sounds/noises for other appliances (like Kirby vacuums). Even noticed OBOSE was BOSE+O, luckily I stayed more focused on BOZO to draw the connection to the other theme entries.

  4. John says:

    I submitted “troll”, which jumped out at me after about 30 minutes of looking for something else, and seemed like what was happening to me….

  5. JohnH says:

    My first thought, in line with the title, was that STEEL MEN inflected the same vowel in two ways, so maybe some sounds would be “off” like that. Then SKY HIGH seemed wrong for that, as the rhyme was perfect, and other theme entries didn’t match either one. Still, they’d set me off enough that I never got past looking for more near sounds.

  6. Torridd says:

    Every time I see the answer of one of these that I missed I always think that the answer was harder than the one I was looking for! I never saw the connections in those five themers so I looked at “noises” within the puzzle like h Horn and Yelping. It got me nowhere. Then I thought I had it when I found “er” in worker bees and “ow” in violin bows. Nothing.

  7. JerryM says:

    I got hung up on the “Russian” words: Olga / Igor / Stoli / Cossack / Reds. Was nowhere near solving this one.

  8. Garrett says:

    I saw the men menu thing but was not able to credibly move on from there. BEES : BIZET just leaves me cold on the side of the road.

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