WSJ Contest — Friday, July 3, 2020

Grid: 7:30; Meta: an hour +  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Stress Test”—Laura’s review

This week, Matt challenges us to find what you’ll get for a correct answer. And, wow, did I find that tough to find!

WSJ Contest - 7.3.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 7.3.20 – Solution

We have three long, funny themers:

  • [17a: Soother of achy African animals?]: ANTELOPE MASSEUR
  • [37a: Scopes out Senator Graham?]: EYEBALLS LINDSEY
  • [58a: Guy who writes wittily while smoking a cigar?]: TOBACCO WORDSMAN

I worked on this for a while collaboratively, and yet fruitlessly — we thought maybe the title, “Stress Test,” had something to do with pronunciation (it did) and that there were some odd entries (such as [42a: Island off the coast of Cebu in the Philippines]: SULPA).

Another friend confirmed that yes, the “stress” of the title refers to pronunciation, so I poked around a bit more … hmmm, what if …


And how about …


… or instead …


… and …


… thus: ANSWER ISLAND BACKWARDS — suggesting that the odd entry, the [Island off the coast of Cebu in the Philippines]: SULPA, should be read backwards, giving us A-PLUS, which is what you’ll get for a correct answer.

This one confounded me a bit, since I couldn’t grok (as we say in the business) which parts of the themers were supposed to be stressed in order to produce the new words to lead us to the solution, and they didn’t seem consistent in each entry (i.e. not the same corresponding syllable in each set). Looking at them again now, I see that the syllables that make up the words pointing to the solution are the ones that are stressed in a standard English pronunciation of the words: ANtelope masSEUR, EYEballs LINDsey, toBACco WORDSman. Not my favorite of Matt’s metas, but, hey, I’m usually very much on his wavelength, and you can’t win ’em all.


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10 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, July 3, 2020

  1. Joe says:

    Ugh. I got as far as SULPA, but then assumed that pronunciation was still the key, so I pronounced the syllables backwards. And said, “PU – SUL? Oh! PUZZLE!” Done and done. Ah, well.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    No wonder I got zero progress on this meta. WOW

    Had to use Maps for the Island to be 100%

  3. Torridd says:

    Ha! Yup, I wasn’t getting this!

  4. Jeff Jardine says:

    Ha, I expected to drop by and see complaints that it was too easy!
    This was a rare puzzle where I got the meta faster than the grid and I believe the first time ever getting it faster than our kind host. One never knows, do one?

  5. Bill Katz says:

    I got the accented syllables pretty quickly, but got stuck for a while seeing JAPAN as the only island, and trying to find another backwards in the grid. After a gentle nudge that the island wasn’t backwards, I found the island clue and finished it.

  6. James says:

    I liked it. I had a red herring to chase down a rabbit hole or two — and let me tell you, that gets smelly! But when I saw figured out the phonetic “answer island backwards” I knew why SULPA was in the grid. And I read it backwards, phonetically, as “applause!” Because, of course, that is what one expects when getting the answer to one of these metas, and just about what “aplus” would sound like. Alas, seconds after sending in my answer I revisited the grid and had a “D’oh!” moment, realizing that it was not applause I’d be hearing, but a Bronx cheer.

  7. Nancy lobb says:

    I don’t complain about answers but I really think the answer should be applause. There were anseur, bacword, and eyelind. So the answer should follow the same pattern. Therefore aplus would be applause.

  8. Steve Thurman says:

    Enjoyed it and felt pretty good about myself for getting it.

    I’ll never compete with the fast solvers, but I’m starting to feel like I may have a place in this crossword universe.

  9. RAD2626 says:

    Did not get it but think it is a terrific puzzle and meta and don’t get the low ratings thus far. Got as far as accented letters in the theme which were gibberish. Not quite sure why I did not play with syllables. Oh well. But enjoyed it thoroughly.

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